We chose London as our first big adventure here in England. Since we learned we were moving here, all the girls have talked about is seeing London. Of course we will take many trips there during our time here, due to the vastness of things to see and do there, but these girls just couldn't wait any longer. When the base travel office offered a special one day trip down and back for the St. Patrick's Day parade, we knew that was our big chance. We overpaid for the ride, but knew that we didn't need to take on the task of finding our way by car, train, and foot within the first month of living here. We definitely don't regret this decision. We made a quick trip to find some green to wear and we were off. We were dropped off at Trafalgar Square and immediately headed to Buckingham Palace. Three girls must see where the queen lives.
We got lucky enough that we walked up to the palace just as the changing of the guard was happening. This is not a daily occurrence, so we felt very fortunate to walk alongside the horses leading up to the palace and then to see the changing over happen. As usual, the area was congested, so we played around the fountain and just enjoyed the sunshine.
With four women, we are always searching for a bathroom. We were so excited to find one so easily right up from the palace....until we saw we had to pay to go into the restroom. Fact: Nothing is FREE in England. Nothing. Luckily Nate had some change and we paid 20 pence to enter. I am quite sure that I was probably supposed to pay that per person, but since that was not explicitly written we got 4 for 20p. #ridiculous Then, of course, Nate had to pay as well. I have NEVER paid to use a bathroom in my life. I still can't believe that happened. Let me just tell you another fact about bathroom usage in England. They are not heated. Anywhere. Nate thinks this is no big deal. Of course.
London is beautiful.
The girls don't know what to think of the green grass and the flowers in abundance. We all just stand around and stare at it. A lot.
We headed back to Trafalgar Square for lunch. For this event, they brought in food trucks full of Irish meals and trinkets. We found it quite odd, that there was a start time of 12:00 for the food area. They did not allow anyone to sell food prior to that time. Then, right before noon, ushers made every single person leave the square and stand behind gates. Around 12:15 they finally opened the gates, checked every bag, and let you in. This was insanity. I have never in my life. Eventually we made it to all of the lines to satisfy 5 different people, ate cold food, and wondered around.
Our favorite entertainment was the bagpiper playing AC/DC. When the local police walked by he played police sirens. He was a hoot!
I am not sure what I expected this parade to be like, but it was heart-warming to see that some things are what they are. So far, no matter where we live, parades happen because creative people decorate everyday transportation. Granted, most I have seen are pulled by pick-up trucks or farm equipment, a semi-truck is just a small step forward without killing the vibe. ;) Truck after truck passed through these small streets, with kids waving and music playing. Due to this being the St. Patrick's Day parade, every Irish county (town? still learning the differences) was represented with their own float. Everyone was very well behaved until this turned the corner.
The streets became flooded with people. The crowd, literally, went wild. You need to see this like I did.
Hunchback of Notre Dame....my best guess.
Seeing quickly became a problem so the girls took to higher ground. Olivia was quite high up on this window ledge, with several other girls. Allye took to Nate's shoulders, and Addison and I stood on a box on the sidewalk. Eventually it got old so we moved along and came upon guards on horses.
Next, we tried to hit some of the most visited sites just for a quick look. The girls simply can't believe that they are seeing these things in real life. It is pure joy to see them live these moments. Of course, we had to see where the princess got married. It was closed, unfortunately, for a large event during the week.
As we began our dissent to the pick-up location we realized that we were passing the perfect spot for a picture with Big Ben. Several stairs later, minutes and minutes and minutes of passers by later, twenty-three pictures of the girls later, and we have a picture of ourselves. #parenting
It is still such a surreal feeling that we live here. To think about being able to see this again and again is hard to wrap my mind around sometimes. It is wonderful to not rush through these events because we may never see it again. I am working to not take one moment for granted and soak up each experience.
Our pick-up location was the London Eye. This is a great area full of sidewalk entertainment and fun. We couldn't resist a good carousel ride, even though Nate's heart stopped when he did the rate conversion, in his head, for what he was a about to pay for a single ride. (Note: At today's rate that would be $3.63 per person. England isn't cheap folks.)
As the sun was setting, we enjoyed our last few minutes playing on a beautifully built playground with the London Eye playing the backdrop. For the girls, there was no better ending to this fairy tale expedition. And when the you see your children so incredibly happy, full of bliss and joy, that is the perfect ending to any day.
See our day captured by GoPro.
My Dear Girls,
Never, ever, ever take this for granted.