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Surprise trip to London by Ann Treacy
March 8, 2014, 5:57 pm
Filed under: London

Lily and I got to take her Irish Grandma to London to see Lily’s Uncle John. I have to tell the funny story on Irish Grandma, although it’s not really an apt reflection of her. Irish Grandma is very smart and usually on the ball – but I think she gets a little tangled up when traveling. We flew to London in the morning. Took the Underground to Earl’s Court, since I knew that’s where John lived. We get up on the street and Irish Grandma tells me she forgot the address and phone number in Dublin. Hmmm. It’s noon in London, which means 6 am in Minnesota. Irish Grandma suggests we ask a police officer. I think if the police know where Uncle John lives we are definitely turning back. I can’t make a call from my phone out of London (hadn’t planned on being in London and therefore hadn’t marked it as a possible call-from city) but my data plan works. Unfortunately there’s only one person I know who’s up at 6 am and he’s not on Facebook.

So Lily learns how to make a collect call. We find a phone box, reverse the charges and make Grandpa think he’s gone into a time warp. But Grandpa is able to reach Patrick who is able to get us John’s address and within 10 minutes we’re back on the road to Uncle John’s!

We have a nice lunch and then Lily and I are turned loose on the city for 4 hours. We have a fun afternoon with a couple of art galleries (snuck a peek at the David Bowie exhibit) and a walk around some of the fanciest secondhand stores we have ever seen. (Think Sloane Square!) It was a fun day.



The boat to Dublin by Ann Treacy
July 3, 2011, 5:55 pm
Filed under: Dublin, London

I don’t have any pictures. I should have made some attempt to catalog it – but we got on the train at 7:00. We couldn’t get reserved tickets so we were watching the train station board to get the platform. And when it finally showed up we were quick. We had to be about the first people on the train. We settled into primo seats around a table. Sat back to relax and realized that we were in reserved seats. There was nothing on the outside of the train to indicate reserved seating – and by the time we realized it we have lost our first to the train advantage. SO we sat where we were.

There was a couple who walked by us – and I’m pretty sure we were in their seats and they took pity on us. So we waited for any other potential seat takers. And we waited. Eventually we realized that the train was overbooked. People were sitting in the aisles and we weren’t the only ones in reserved seats who hadn’t really reserved. But we got lucky and we got the seats, which was super lucky!

So we had a nice ride on the train all the way to Holyhead (Wales). We arrived around 11 – but that was OK because we had plenty of time to get on the boat. It left at 2:40 am. Really it was us, the mail and about 8 other foot passengers. We and the mail were sober.

The girls mostly remember people telling jokes on the way from the train station to the boat. I was getting afraid on the walk to the boat that we would be walking onto a boat from 20 years ago with benches for seats – fortunately it was a very nice boat. It was just a terrible time to travel. We were very happy to get off the boat in Dublin (no hassle in immigration), into a taxi and walk out into Cabinteely!



Actual London Sites on our Tour by Ann Treacy
July 3, 2011, 5:39 pm
Filed under: London

I’m glad that I was pretty good about maintaining the blog while we were traveling – now we’ve been in Ireland for a week and I’m working to remember what we did in London. We decided that we’d try a mix of sightseeing and shopping. (I thought we’d get our shopping done day one – but apparently that only whetted the appetite and the girls had things they wanted to go back and actually buy.)

We started on London’s South Bank. It’s a great place to see Big Ben, London Eye, the Thames – and there was some sort of festival going on so we got to see fun sculpture and arty, mini-houses, which were very much like the arty ice fishing houses we saw in Minnesota a few years ago – only not so cold. There was a huge hay fox. I took a close-up and a picture with Kate in it for perspective. Also we had a really nice lunch. Much nicer than we should have had – but we were making up for McDonald’s the day before.

Then we headed back to the other side of the River. We walked by Big Ben, Parliament (where you have to say – look kids Big Ben, Parliament – from European Vacation). It was a beautiful day and we took plenty of pictures. There’s a great picture of Aine in front of a horse at White Chapel.

We were going to walk to Buckingham Palace – but we decided we’d seen it before and Trafalgar Square would be better. Our timing was perfect – we got there, got some cute pictures and were able to duck into the Tate Gallery for the 10 minute rain shower. From there we headed back to Picadilly Circus, the toy store and up around Oxford Street. It was kind of fun to walk around that area since I used to work on Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road so I’ve done the walk a lot.

Eventually we made our way down to Covent Garden. We’d been there before but it’s always fun to see the people and the buskers. Then we decided we’d wind our way back to Euston Station – where we planned to get the train/boat to Dublin. Our funny bonus sight was walking by Pineapple Express. I shouldn’t even admit that we’ve watched it. I can’t even tell you where it is – but suddenly everything looked a little surreal and I realized I’d seen the street before – on TV.



London – glad to be in a town I know! by Ann Treacy
June 25, 2011, 8:51 pm
Filed under: London

After our ups and downs (mostly ups) it was great to land in London. People speak English, which is a boon when you speak English. I lived in London for years, so I kind of know it. And as soon as we got out in the train station I saw a big ol’ sign for free wi-fi. Nothing could have made me happier.

I called Patrick (via Skype) and learned that he had secured the apartment I had tried to book. That too was good news since a search earlier in the week indicated that there were no hotels rooms in London for less than £600 per night. Apparently there was a big tennis match in town – and that may have hurt my chances for accommodation. But as I said, in the end, despite my utter lack of responsible planning we got a nice place in Hammersmith. Actually it was a good size bedsit, which means everything was in one room (shower right next to the stove) and the toilet was outside the front door (luckily right outside the door for us). I’ve included pictures.

We took it easy in London. We had visited before and we had 2 full days so we didn’t feel like we had to see anything so we could just do what we wanted. Aine wanted to go to Hamley’s, the big toy story. Lily wanted to go to the Times Square of London and the street where Austin Powers went shopping. Kate was up for anything.

So we started by taking the Tube to Leicester Square, a quick jaunt to Piccadilly Circus, en route we popped into M&M World. It was a big highlight for the girls; me not so much. We walked by Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which also drew great interest from everyone but me. This time I pulled the meanest mom ever card and we didn’t go in. But we enjoyed the ambience of Piccadilly.

Then up Regent Street to Hamley’s and Carnaby Street. We bought some things and made plans to return the next day for others. Then we walked down Oxford Street to Marble Arch. I made my usual side trip to find the Banksy picture in the Tube station but realized that the girls didn’t share my passion for a graffiti boondoggle. We walked through Hyde Park – just hours before Kings of Leon were slated to play an outdoor concert.

Then we scooted to Chiswick to meet an old friend of mine – Alison. It had been nearly 20 years since we last met. It was great to meet her, her gorgeous daughter Millie and partner Matthew. We had a fun night. Years ago Alison and I used to go on big hikes in London. We’d stop to get Wotsits (a detail I had forgotten) and then pooled our pennies for a pint. My favorite thing was how often people asked if we were sisters. As the pictures probably indicate we don’t look much alike – except that we both have always had long hair.

It was a great, easy day!



Wednesday in London by Ann Treacy
March 30, 2008, 7:52 pm
Filed under: London

Wednesday was our last day in London. It was a fun but hard vacation. We were all a little sick, which made things hard. Our room was tiny – a double bed and a single for 5 of us. The hotel was farther away from the Tube station and the action than we wanted.

On the flip side we saw a ton! And I know it won’t be 15 years until the next time I’m in London.

Wednesday morning we went to the Natural History Museum. It rocks! Again I was amazed by the numbers of people going through the door. There was a steady stream of going through the door the whole time we were there. But the place is huge so, it didn’t seem too claustrophobic.

We took some video and pictures so I won’t say much more about it. We want our cousin Molly to know that we thought of you the whole time.

After the museum we had a final lunch with Patrick’s brother John.



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Tuesday in London by Ann Treacy
March 30, 2008, 7:15 pm
Filed under: London

On Tuesday we went to the Tower of London. It was a huge reminder to me of just how many tourists visit London. It was packed – and while it was during the Easter Break, it was hardly the height of tourist season. In fact the number of people was kind of overwhelming for me.

Patrick took the guided tour of the Tower. The girls and I walked around on our own a little more. We saw the crown jewels. The girls really enjoyed that part. We also toured the torture tower. We were surprised to learn that Jane Grey was beheaded on Kate’s birthday – February 12, which is also Lincoln’s birthday. Jane Grey was married to Henry VIII for nine days. She was 16 years old.

We also learned that there is a superstition that says that the Tower will collapse if the ravens leave the Tower – so they clip the wings to keep them local. I included a video of a raven because I was surprised to hear that they sound like pigs!

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Tuesday night Patrick’s mom kindly watched the girl and we headed out. We went to the Absolut Ice House off Regent Street – pretty touristy but fun. It’s entirely made of ice. It’s like getting a drink at the ice castle. After that trekked all over the city and landed at the Old Vic, a theater where Guthrie was involved.

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Monday in London by Ann Treacy
March 29, 2008, 7:05 pm
Filed under: London

All day on Monday we took the Hop On Hop Off Bus tour in London. If you are ever in London for a short visit and want to get a good lay of the land I strongly recommend the on-off bus tour. You can see a ton – plus you can stay pretty warm and dry is the weather is less than perfect.

We did see everything. I will post the pictures and videos below and spare you the laundry list. Here are a few of the things we got of the bus to see:

  1. An abridged view of the changing of the guard – abridged because it was too crowded to see too much and it was rainy so they didn’t wear the big beefeater hats.
  2. Speaker’s corner in Hyde Park. A fun area on a Sunday where self-selected speakers literally stand on their soap box waxing eloquently on whatever strikes them.
  3. We walked from Trafalgar Square to Picadilly Circus, down Oxford Street to the Disney shop – a big highlight for the kids
  4. We had an almost OK lunch in a pub called Sherlock Holmes. Kate loved the custard dessert.
  5. The National Gallery – we saw Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Virgin on the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci.

One funny story about the picture of the girls in the phone booth, which I insisted on getting… I pushed them into the phone booth completely forgetting who advertises in the phone booth – let’s just say it’s the kind of girl you could call for a visit day or night. That ought to cinch my mother of the year award!



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Easter in London by Ann Treacy
March 29, 2008, 2:36 pm
Filed under: London

We woke up to snow on Easter in London. It was actually quite a good snowfall, but nothing stuck. We had a nice visit with Patrick’s brother John. He lives near Earl’s Court, which is a nice area. It was fun to see John; he hadn’t seen him in probably 5 years.
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After visiting with John we headed to Camden Market, which was the one thing (after the Tube) that I really wanted to while we were in London. The market, if you haven’t been, is a big old market with tons of clothes and other trendy items. The big girls and I trekked around while Patrick, Irish Grandma, and Aine enjoyed soup in a nearby pub. (I should mention that the weather was not stellar and we were all sick during our trip. Aine especially seemed to lack a lot of energy, which meant we carried her a lot!) Lily got a couple of very unique pins. I liked checking out the fashions. We saw a couple of good Mohawks.

There was a big fire in Camden a couple of months ago – so a portion of the market that (as I recall) had antiques and furniture was closed but we didn’t mind.
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After Camden we went to Covent Garden- a whole different scale of market. It’s not so markety or affordable but there are plenty of buskers (street performers) that are fun to watch. We were pretty tired hungry and very crabby in Covent Garden. We tried to find a place where we could all eat (no kids allowed in several places) when we finally found a very nice restaurant – Tutton’s. It ended up being the nicest place we ate in London – and it was very nice.

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After Covent Garden we trekked up to Trafalgar Square, which was a fun walk. The closest thing we cam to church was the sermon in the background of the video below. I have to say that I appreciate the fact that no one mentioned this even though I know at least one person would have gone to Mass if left on her own.



Going Underground by Ann Treacy
March 29, 2008, 12:18 pm
Filed under: London

If I could spend my whole vacation on the Tube, I would. I love the London Underground. I love the fact that you can get from one place to another with very little hassle. I love watching the range of people who take the train.

Unlike the bus in Dublin – loads of people from all walks of life take the Underground- because the traffic on the road is generally so bad that it’s slower to drive or take a taxi.

It took about 2 minutes of looking at the Underground Map for it all to come back to me. It’s like a great game: you’re in Fulham Broadway. Only the District line runs through Fulham. You need to get to Camden on the Northern Line. What is the quickest/easiest way to get from A to B.

To make the challenge even more fun for me I had a couple of barriers added to the route planning. Several of the main lines were shut during the Easter break for engineering improvements. Some of the closures were well marked; some weren’t. Also Patrick’s mom won’t go down escalators. Up is OK; down is a no go. I won’t go beyond the second rung of a ladder so I say nothing about her lifestyle choice here.

One particularly challenging moment came in Great Portland Street. We had all just gotten off a bus tour. Patrick and the girls were woken up to get off. So he was carrying Aine. We couldn’t get to the Bakerloo or Jubilee lines because that required a down escalator. We asked the young and huge Underground worked what our options were. He didn’t seem to understand that walking the 5 minutes to the next station was not an option for us. So, I found a way for us to take the one train that didn’t require an escalator, avoid the closed lines and get home in fewer than 4 trains! I was dismayed when the next station we visited didn’t have an elevator either – but they closed one of the 3 escalators so that Patrick’s mom could walk down to the platform.

You may think that I’m being sarcastic but I’m not when I say I love the Tube so much that this was all kinda fun for me. (I may have been alone on that one.)

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Arrived in London by Ann Treacy
March 23, 2008, 10:06 am
Filed under: London

We arrived in London late on Saturday night. They don’t give out any free drinks on Aer Lingus – none. When I asked for a Diet Coke, he stewardess explained this since she noticed I had an accent – which she noted as if my accent indicated that I was stupid – which of course annoyed me since I thought it was their policy that was stupid, especially after we left an hour late for an hour-long flight.

We got off the plane, onto a train to Paddington, Tube to Embankment, Tube to Earl’s Court, taxi to the hotel. It was too late to get food so we ordered terrible food from some takeaway. (I think it was called shoe leather burgers.)

Everyone is sick. Everyone is tired. We have a double bed and a twin bed for 5 of us. We woke up Easter morning and it was snowing!!

We just had breakfast and we’ll be heading to Patrick’s bother’s place in about 20 minutes. After that the girls and I are hoping to head to Camden Market – but Patrick is vying to get us all to church. We’ll see who wins that one. I’m trying to convince Patrick that stopping by Speaker’s Corner would be like church since I’m pretty sure there will be a minister of something there.

But things are looking up since there’s a Sponge Bob marathon on TV this morning. It’s all Sponge Bob, all the time.
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