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from eye on london

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I was up at 3:30 this morning, after having gone to bed before 8 last night. Guess I'm still on London time...but that 3am ride to Heathrow combined with "gaining" 5 hours made for a long day.

Landmark of the Moment
London Eye was one of the coolest things we saw in England. It's a giant "observation wheel" (like a ferris wheel, but bigger) set right in Westminster, by Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. They built it for the Millennium celebrations, but then British Airways stepped in to run it full time. (Supposedly they might be looking to sell it...I certainly hope it remains a permanent attraction.) It takes about half an hour to go all the way around, and it generally doesn't have to stop to let people on and off. Anyway, it's such a cool thing to have built, I thought it deserved a photospread of its own...

Distance shots from tourbus, from two different days. Big Ben (well, its tower) is visible in the center of the second. I love the asymmetrical architecture of it, how it juts over the Thames, only supported by a few beams on one side.

Artsier shots, including a nearby elephant statue.

Here's an idea of what its capsules were like. Clever design, so views are never blocked by the infrastructure.
And of course there were some great views up there, including Mo in a tanktop. "Those people look like ants!"

Link of the Moment
(Trying to get back in the hang of non-vacation-related updates...) WayTooPersonals is a gathering of real personal ads that definately fall into the realm of "Too Much Information" about the people who posted them.

from home again home again

Travel Photo of the Moment
Me, Mo, and wacky giant Lego thing, at Legoland Windsor, 2003.06.02.

Travel Wrapup of the Moment
So, just for my own future reference and to make some of you green with envy, here is what we did on our Summer Vacation:

Fly into Frankfurt Airport, rip a Euro 50 clean in half. Figure out how to get a train to the city of Cochem. Take a skilift thing to top of a very tall hill, hike back down.

Take a ferry up the Mosel river (passing through a lock which explains why all the boats on that river were skinny) to Beilstein, where a ruined castle sits on top of a hill. Get a bit sunburned. Return to Cochem, climb up to its castle (These days were marked by lots of climbing up and down things, including the 5 or six floors to our hotel room) and manage to catch the last tour.

Take the train to Aschaffenburg. Get met by Veronika's future brother-in-law-in-law Mark, though because of a later planning mixup we get a cab to hightail it at the last moment to Veronika's wedding. A terrific reception, where I have a bit much to drink. I only had one glass of wine, but it kept seeming to get refilled...

Go to Veronika and Volker's for cakes and coffee with the family. Hang out with Anja and Jan and their two lively sons Tjark and Jorin. We eat pizza and once the other family is gone we play Pictionary.

Veronika and Volker have to pack for Mexico, plus we help them count and organize some of the money they received as wedding gifts. (The Germans are less shy about cash wedding gifts: sending cards, attaching them to plants as money trees I guess you'd say, and in V+V's case, embedding them in cinder blocks, symbolic of their plans to buy or build a home.) Then we drive into Frankfurt, eat at an African restaurant, and have desert and cocktails elsewhere.

Fly to London (after seeing V+V on their way to their Mexico honeymoon) via Ryanair, an incredibly inexpensive airline... $36 for both of us, including taxes and what not.

Wander London. Happen to catch some of the changing of the guard at Buckingham--amused to hear the band play "One Moment In Time", the song that dare not speak its name in high school (after an assembly where we had to repeat it about 5 times longer than we had planned.) We see Hamley's toystore and a number of other shops around Piccadilly Circus and Trocadero.

Take the "Big Bus" tour (open roofed double decker) around London. Go to the Tower of London, take the tour by a "beefeater" yeoman guard, see the crown jewels. Then we take a ferry ride down the Thames.

Back to Westminster. Ride the London Eye, a giant "observation wheel" (ferris wheel, but more amazing than that, I'll do more on that later.) Saw some modern art at the Saatchi Gallery, including Damien Hirst's (in-?)famous stuff, and Richard Wilson's amazing waist-high perfectly reflective room of sump oil, "20:50".

Go with my mom over the Millennium (or "Wobbly", based on what happened opening day) Bridge to the Tate Modern, a terrific collection of all types of modern art. Then to Covent Garden, I rode one of those odd "put your self in a gyroscope" contraptions.

After a leisurely morning we take the train to IKEA. Man, Boston really needs one of these, it would totally kick Jordan Furniture's butt. Great inexpenive couches and chairs and everything, that we could only look and drool over. Fun time figuring out detours around Tram station, since there's a fire blocking the road and the line in East Croydon. In the evening we head out for a surprisingly dull Jack the Ripper tour. (We probably should have gone with the main writer guy, not be woo'd by the prospect of a smaller group with the other lady.)

My mom's anniversary gift to us is a trip to Legoland Windsor. Obviously geared a bit young, there was still cool stuff there. Mo and I did the Mindstorms workshop, made our ping pong ball carrier bots race.

Visit my mom at the Salvation Army's International HQ (temporarily housed at William Booth college while its building is being rebuilt near the Millennium Bridge.) We even get to shake hands with the General, the Salvation Army's equivalent of the Pope... (well, roughly speaking.) After lunch there we head to Parliament, wait in line to see the House of Commons (reasonably interesting talk about the National Health Service got more interesting when the opposition did a "Point of Order" asking "when is Blair going to explain this whole WMD coverup?" to which the unflappable answer from the Speaker of the House was "tomorrow, as scheduled") and the House of Lords (quite a bit drier.) Had a fancy dinner at The International restaurant by Trafalger Square.

Took the Evan Evans tour to Stonehenge and Bath. Saw the ancient Roman Baths and sampled the (rather blood tasting, thanks to the Iron) water there. Most people took it as a day trip but we were on the overnight tour, spent the evening at the very fine and amusingly named "Pratt's Hotel". That's where we also had a very good three course dinner.

Explored Bath a bit more, and took the excellent free walking tour, run by volunteers. Lunched at a great Vegetarian restaurant. Took the bus back to London.

Actually, I'm writing this now. We're a bit weary and Mo has come down with a cold, so we'll probably have a very leisurely day, maybe I'll just get some "Take Away" (their term for "to go"/"take out") here in Beckenhem. Plans for dinner tonight, Italian chain called "Ask". Fly home tomorrow via Frankfurt.

Saturday Pre-Update
Grr, Lufthansa sucks...they rearranged our flight from Frankfurt so it leaves many hours earlier than our one from London arrives. We called them to get a new flight, so now instead of a reasonably relaxed midmorning bus ride to Heathrow, we have to have a cab pick us up at 3:15am. Grrrrrr.