Buckingham Palace

08/05/13

We are told to always expect the unexpected when it comes to weather in London. No disappointment there!!!! I did not pack with London’s weather in mind at all. Cold one minute; hot the next. It rained several times this Monday, but the rain did not stop the sheer excitement for Buckingham Palace which was our main sight of interest today. Awesome Palace! The children were looking forward to the changing of the guards which is at 11 a.m. everyday.  Would you believe, they did not do the changing of the guards today of all days. There were several signs in bold letters stating, “THERE WILL BE NO CHANGING OF THE GUARDS TODAY”. (They apparently forgot to send me the memo knowing I’be be bringing the children today especially after traveling so far. A simple phone call from one of the Queen’s aids would have sufficed). No, I am not kidding!!!!!  Jordan finds the guards absolutely fascinating. Ever since we went to Windsor Castle and saw the guards, he has been imitating their statuesque movements. He attempts to stand very still like them with a serious face. We all find it quite amusing. He was very upset until he noticed what kind of menace he can get into outside the Palace. We were three families sight seeing today which brings the number to 12 people including 6 children, 2 young adults and 4 adults. You are constantly counting heads. N’diaye’s friend Nora from Paris was also visiting London this week with her two children. We decided to meet at Buckingham Palace. Nora has an 11-year-old Imane and a nine-year-old BOY. Four hyper little boys under 10…….did I remember to pack my Tylenol?  They wanted to climb up and down on all of the statues. My nerves were constantly on edge thinking that they might fall. The last place I wanted to be in a foreign country was the emergency room. Alexandra and Imane were just quietly and patiently observing the chaos that is “the boys”.Please don’t forget to add to the mix  A POUTING TEENAGER!!!

Janel is not happy at all. She pretty much pouted all day long.  She wanted things to move on her pace. Her demeanor was such. She wanted to see Buckingham Palace.  But mostly, she wished that she did not have to deal with the children. She did not want the all-inclusive package of chaotic children. She wanted the freedom to go places with the adults; laugh and take pictures; shop around for this & that; walk at her pace; not always having to wait on children; hearing & seeing the cries; dealing from a distant with the tantrums; tasting great supple dishes everyday; and definitely not having to eat fries and pizza everyday.  (You go ahead and try to come up with a plan for lunch with three families). Not an easy task at all especially when the menu has to also include pizza and fries) . She was miserable with the rain. She had her umbrella with her. However, it was raining this day just to spite her. She was getting a cold which did not make her mood any better. Did I forget to mention that we were in London with another teenager?  N’diaye’s 18- year-old nephew was with us. The difference is that he has three younger siblings ranging from ages 16-6. So he did not come from the entitlement mentally of typical teenagers.  He was very grateful and happy to be on this trip with us. He lives in France, but had the opportunity to go to London until now. Bottom line, you better have the patience of a SAINT to travel  with children no matter what the age.

From Buckingham Palace, we had lunch around 1:30 p.m. More often for lunch, we had very happy children, unsatisfied teenager and the adults were satisfied as long as the children were happy. We made our way to the Science Museum for children. It lived up to it  reputation. One of Jordan’s favorite places to be in NJ was Liberty Science Center. Just about every Sunday afternoon, Christopher took him there to explore. Now Alex loves to go. They each have their favorite floor. The Science Museum in London was very similar to Liberty Science Center except they did not have a floor dedicated to insects & reptiles. We spent over three hours exploring. We were able to take in a live interactive experimental show on rockets. Children were able to answer questions and be part of the experiments. The children were riveted to their seats. A long tired and satisfied day for the children. We said so long to Nora and her children before heading home around 5:45 pm.

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River Thames Cruise…….

08/04/13

Cruising all over London on Sunday was so much fun. We did the Hop on Hop off cruise tour.  N’diaye is very familiar with London. Once again, we appreciated having the London Pass. We did not stand in line. Those lines can take over an hour to buy your ticket. Our children do not do well in long lines.

We had a lot to see this day. We started around 10 a.m. The children were wide usually by 6:30 a.m. As if they had a job to get to on time. They just want to have fun and play. They went to sleep thinking about playing. It was the first thing on their mind in the early morning. It was no different on the cruise. Lucky for us, it was not crowded. They were able to roam and play easily. For this day, we visited the London Eye, Big Ben, and London Bridge. They were all in proximity of each other. London Bridge is massive and impressive. We also got to see the Prudential RideLondon. The children thought that was super along with walking in the middle of a major streets in London. They had certain streets blocked off to accommodate the race. That was the coolest thing ever…..right up there with the guards.

This day was also N’diaye’s Birthday. So you know she had to have a cake or two. Why two? Christopher’s children dictated of course. Jordan only eats vanilla & Alex is partial to chocolate. Et Voila!!! Christopher will go out of his way to make his children are happy. If it means he has to buy two cakes. Guess what, he will!  We had more than enough people to have our own private party. We were tired, but children think a birthday is not a real birthday without cake. So party on…..

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Windsor Castle

08/03/13

I can’t begin to tell you how many (thousands) romance novels I read from age 14 on. Most took place in England in some remote castle with Lord so and so and King whoever. I could not possibly go to London without seeing Windsor Castle. The very first adventure on our to do list was Windsor Castle. It was definitely worth seeing. I fell in love with Lord so and so all over again. My favorite romance novel of all time is The Hawk and The Dove. I imagined myself  in Queen Elizabeth’s court.

“The Dove…
She’d been bought for a strip of land, then abandoned: a bartered bride, married by proxy, determined to wreak revenge.  As innocent Sara Bishop she’d paid dearly for freedom from her cruel, mocking  .  As flame-haired, jade-eyed Sabre Wilde, she would scandalize Queen Elizabeth’s court as she set out to seduce her unknown husband, become his mistress–and make him her slave.

The Hawk…
The Queen’s favorite, called The Sea God, his white teeth flashed in his bronze face as his deep, virile voice boomed orders to his men. He branded Sabre with his searing kiss and his masterful touch, not even aware she was already his wife. Captain Shane Hawkhurst knew how to command, how to subdue and ravage an enemy, but was he prepared to be caught in passion’s merciless snare by a fiery beauty who ruled his heart and inflamed his senses?”

The castle was magnificent. It was enormous. Of course, thoughts like, “Why does one Queen need to have so much land?” “What does it take to upkeep such a castle?” “Is the gold all around the castle real?” “Can the Queen claim me as a long lost relative?” I could not decide which room was my favorite. I don’t care for England’s weather, but I would come back just to visit Windsor Castle again. By the way, as you walked from room to room or pretty much anywhere around the castle, it was very silent. People are not even whispering. Now you know the Queen is not there. Why the silent treatment? Ohh, you were also not allowed  to take pictures inside the castle. Remember, they did not want me to take pictures during custom. I’d say they have issues with wanting & needing a certain amount of privacy. Ahh, The British! You just have to take my word for it.  WINDSOR CASTLE IS BREATHTAKING!

Good day with the children: They had their usually whines & fits throughout the day, nothing that we couldn’t handle. All four children had endless energy even when they were exhausted. They’d prefer to aggravate you rather than admit that they were tired. They did a lot of walking. We had one stroller that we alternated between the two younger children. Most of the time it worked well that one wanted to walk and the other wanted to sleep (briefly).

N’diaye and I are both early risers. All of a sudden being with her, we are all on morning schedule. We left the house by 10:30 am. Children loved the train, underground subway and bus. Back in the US, I purchased the London Pass and Travel Card to keep us from having to stand in those long lines. So worth it…… We had easy access to everything.  Children were not excited about the castle, but they so loved the guards. I was looking forward to the trip to Buckingham Palace. Their sheer joy of seeing the guards will be infectious.

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London, Here We Come…….

Long Day of Travel…..  08/02/13

We were out of house by 9 a.m. The children still had bags under their eyes even though we had a later start then usual. Our flight was at 11 a.m., but was delayed for over an hour. My children and other children were confined to the aircraft. Lucky for me, I never travel empty handed. Between Ipads, coloring books, DVDs,  we were covered. They were kept busy. I was even able to close my eyes for a minute. We were finally on the way to London. Children were so excited. They couldn’t contain themselves, “Are we there yet?” Where is Jibril and Noe?” It was the first time that we  had to go through (grueling) costume. The line was 45 minutes long. We were not allowed to take pictures. That seemed a bit odd to me.  Somebody finally asked who Janel was. Why was she with us. Did we have papers for her. We had to provide legal documents for her or else. Thankfully we were prepared for anything. After countless questions, we were free to go and enjoy the city of London. Well not quite……

Originally, I booked our flight with British Airways arriving in London City Airport. We were only 20 minutes from the rental house. Weeks later, they changed the airport to Heathrow. Now we were two hours away. There was nothing I could do at this point. So we had to endure driving across London in serious traffic. As luck would have it, the children slept most of the way. Now, let’s talk about my impression of London. I’ve been here before. N’diaye worked in London years ago and I came to visit her for a month. We visited many sights and just had fun being young and carefree. Somehow, I forgot everything about London especially the weather. I was truly not prepared for temps in the 60’s with cool wind; don’t forget rain. I was looking for my jacket as soon as I stepped outside. It has gotten colder everyday.

Although it was a breezy afternoon, the sun was shining. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue. I was feeling grateful to be given the opportunity to have this awesome adventure and experience. Just the morning I woke up in Barcelona; tonight I will be sleeping in London. I was living one of my dreams. As young 6, I always envisioned traveling everywhere. I had no idea where “everywhere” was at the time, but I longed to get on one of the airplanes flying in the sky everyday. To actually get to travel around the world as an adult with my children is an amazing feeling!!!! I cannot even begin to explain the magnitude of that feeling.

So back to London:  I was too tired to take pictures along the way. But I did admire the red doubledecker buses. I always liked them. No they are not “tour buses” Those are London’s everyday travel buses. I couldn’t wait to get on one or two. We finally arrived at the house.  Did I mention that my friend N’diaye and family were meeting us in London? Yes! I rented a big house in Greenwich for all us. We were spending the 8 days together (among us, there were four children under seven and two teenagers…..MADNESS). I will be yelling and giving the evil eye all week….neither will faze the children. Both N’diaye & I will be a lot greyer upon our return home. They were already at the house waiting for us. My babies barely had time to allow the driver to stop the car. They were bouncing with excitement at seeing Jibril and Noe. And that was the beginning of a never to be forgotten visit to London, England.

Very Happy Janel……

08/06/13

Last night Janel and I had a talk. I already knew her problems (the children).  She had to understand for this vacation, that the children and her were a package deal. She had to play the part of a big sister and not an added headache. However, I do understand her very well. What young person does not want things their way, always?  I often ask for her input. For every country, I’ve asked her for one or two particular sights she would like to see and what she would like to do. She does not always have an opinion. Also the sights, that I’ve picked are often popular for children, teenagers and adults alike. if it were up to her, we would sight see evenings and nights. Then she would sleep during the day. No way!!! That schedule does not work for younger children. She has to unfortunately go with the flow. Every so often Christopher and I will do something  just for her. That ‘s not always easy to do. That usually meant that I would be missing out. That was okay with me. I wanted her to have the best experience.  I don’t doubt that she will come back on her own to these countries. The problem being a teenager (where it is all about ME), the moment is forgotten just as quickly and she is ready to be catered to once again. We can’t possibly just accommodate Janel. You know that would not work.

Originally, we were planning to take the children to the London Zoo  today. After my talk with her last night, N’diaye and I decided to make today about her. I was not able to tell her the plans last night before she fell asleep. She went to bed very early in a funky mood. This morning once I heard her moving in the room, I gave her the news. TODAY WAS ALL ABOUT JANEL. Yes, I know she was behaving like a brat yesterday, but come on…..we’ve all been there as teenagers wanting everything to be about us. She is no different. I always wanted my way. (I did not get my way, but that did not stop me from wanting it). I told her she was going out all day today with N’diaye, Halimah and Hadja on a shopping spree. Her eyes lit up and her body tense wanting to hear more. The ladies were going to cater to her. The children were staying home. This was her time. She asked, “What about you?” I replied, “What about me?” I needed to stay home with both N’diaye’s and  my children in order to give her the day. Christopher and I stayed home with the children. I kid you not….instantly her mood changed. She was all smiles. She moved with purpose. She had energy. My teenager was no longer feeling the affect of a bad cold. Imagine that!!!  She had breakfast. She got dressed quickly. Her strides had flair.  They took a bunch of smiling pictures before leaving. I guarantee you, she will not remember today come tomorrow. You see, in order to make the day about her, I don’t get a chance to window shop. I don’t get to admired all of the things that I can’t afford. Of course, I wanted to go as well. Christopher, blessed his soft heart, insisted that I go also. But I declined. I did not think it was fair to leave him our four children. He would gladly do it. He and I are a team. We do it all together or we don’t do it all.

Around 1:30 pm, we took children to a nearby park with lots of snacks for about two hours. On the way to the park, Noe stepped on a huge pile of dog poop. YUK!!!!!! We were walking and then all of a sudden the smell came out of nowhere. Jibril noticed the poop first. It was not funny at the time. I started to clean his shoe, but then realized it was all over his socks. I always carry baby wipes with me. I would have done it, but you know my loving husband stepped in and patiently cleaned the poop. 25 minutes later, socks in the garbage (had to keep the shoes….lol), we continue our walk to the park. It was just what the doctor ordered…..two hours of complete freeplay. Christopher (the big kid that he is) joined in the fun.

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L’aquarium BARCELONA

7/31/13

You cannot go to Barcelona and not see the Barcelona aquarium if you have children. It is a must! You have sharks swimming on top of your heads, literally. And all you hear are the laughter, giggles, and delight of the children around you.  They are mesmerized by the sea life. You get on this slow moving walkway that takes you through a tunnel in which you are separated from marine life by just a few inches of glass.  You appreciate the feeling of being so close, but yet feel secure in your safety. Of course, the signs said not to touch. You know my son wanted to bang on the glass.

I do have a couple negative comments.

Shortest visit ever! Still worth seeing! The aquarium is really not that big. You spend a small fortune and just when the excitement is really building, it’s over. You are at the end. It seemed as if it only took us 45 minutes to go around. Jordan and Alex do not move fast when they’re intrigued. They have to stop at every exhibit, ask a lot of questions, and try to see what they can touch (which is usually not many exhibits). They will try to touch anyway. Jordan is the ring leader. Alex will follow suit. I will fuss at them to no avail. I say all of that to explain that we could have been done with the aquarium in less than 20 minutes. Again, it is still worth seeing! Jordan talked about that aquarium for hours after leaving it. He was going to become an architect just so he could design a house for his Dad with a huge aquarium with sharks and other fish floating above our heads in the bedroom. He thought that seeing the sharks above and around him was the coolest thing ever. He was even concerned about the foundation of the house just in case there was a natural disaster like an earthquake, tornado, flood, etc. He would not be able to save Christopher from the sharks. He kept saying that the house had to be very strong to protect his Dad. Now I know you’re wondering, what about me? I guess, I’m included in the plans…..somewhere. Perhaps Alexandra will design some fabulous mansion just for me. I don’t need sharks floating above.

We had a fabulous lunch right after. I forgot to mention that we actually made it out of the apt. by 11 a.m. We walked to Plaça Espanya, where we once again got on the tour bus. Our destinations were L’aquarium Barcelona, Las Ramblas, and Anella Olimpica (which is an Olympic Park located in the hill of Montjuïc, Barcelona that was the main site for the 1992 Summer Olympics). Now ask, Did we make it to three sights in one day even we were out earlier than usual? Of course NOT!!!!

I was so impressed with all of us for getting out early. I did not want the children to be out late yet again. I also needed to start packing for our next stop, London. After the aquarium, Jordan noticed trampoline nearby. We had to try them. You were basically strapped to bungee cables. Then you had to see how high you can jump on the trampoline. I couldn’t let my Baby do it alone. So I had to do it also since no one volunteered. That was exhularating, but I don’t need to do it again.  Minutes after getting, back on the tour bus to go to Anella Olimpica, Alex fell asleep. The only thing to do was go back to the apt. Christopher made dinner and I started packing. Children were in bed by 8:30 p.m. Making Progress! We had one more day to visit Las Ramblas.

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Las Ramblas……

La Rambla is the most famous street in Barcelona. The wide boulevard connects the Plaça de Catalunya, a busy square, with the Columbus Monument and the city’s waterfront. We had to go to Las Ramblas today. Janel and I wanted to see it, be in it. We wanted to know why it was famous. Las Ramblas did not disappoint.

Christopher made a lavish breakfast for all of us. He made a dish specific for each individual taste. He does that sometimes. You have to love him. He does the sweetest, most thoughtful gestures. He made all members of his family happy this morning. More importantly, the children ate very well. We still made it out by 11:30 a.m. We took the metro from the Tarragona stop and then we walked for hours. The children were tired but enjoyed the walk. We purchased a few little souvenirs on side streets. We eventually had to take a cab home because the children had nothing left in them. We were home by 5 p.m., so they had plenty of time to play. Let me tell you how good I am getting. My beautiful children were in bed by 7:30 p.m. after calling their Grandma to say good night and give an account of their day. They also made sure she knew that they were flying to London tomorrow to be with Jibril and Noe.  Granted it was not all of my doing. They had an incentive. They wanted tomorrow to come quickly so that they can be with Jibril and Noe. The sooner they go to go sleep…….

I will be spending the night packing. Our flight is not so early as before. But, I can’t get anything done in the morning. We have to be out by 8:30 a.m. I will see you all in London.

Pictures to come:

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Tour Day…

Very Casual Day!!!!!

On Tuesday, we took a Barcelona Tour Bus. The tour was about 2 hours long. We intended to hop on & off to see one to two sights. You guessed it! Both children fell asleep minutes after getting on the bus. Janel even dozed off. The sun was extremely hot and they played before we got on the tour bus.  Christopher and I enjoyed the tour immensely. We listened to the audio. We admired different scenic attractions. It was great. Rarely do we get an opportunity to just talk to one another with no interruptions. We wanted to get out and explore, but that was not possible with two sleeping children.

We got off the bus, ready to head home. Thankfully, my wonderful children woke up full of energy. By 7 p.m, they were ready to eat, play, and see things. So we made an adventure out of the evening. We went to a beautiful mall nearby. We shopped a little. By the way, I finally broke down and bought a make up brush from Flormar for 6.95€.  It was still a bit expensive for my taste, but a far cry from 28.99€.  Children wanted to buy everything. I have one line: “We can’t buy anything because it will not fit in our luggage.” I did not say that “the line” stopped them from asking…..lol. We had dinner (pizza for children). Then we had a whole mess of ‘gelats,’ which is Catalan for ice cream. Delicious! There was a contest. Christopher is always coming up with things. Everybody had to describe the flavor and taste of their ice cream to the rest of us. Jordan only likes vanilla. Alex only likes chocolate. Janel will eat anything with chocolate in it.  Then we had the taste test to see whose ice cream was the best. Mine, of course! I’m doing the writing!!! We had the best evening.

Pictures to come:

FUN AND SUN AT THE BEACH……….

Beautiful day for the BEACH! Monday was made for the beach. We keep trying to get out in the early morning. We’re still working on that. By the time they do a bit of homework; Christopher works a little; I get them dressed and fed; we figure out our best route to the activity; I fuss at the younger children (you know they’re getting into things…i.e. jumping on the bed, toys everywhere), it is nearly 1 p.m. The good news is, we make it happen. We do eventually make it out. Once we do…..fun and adventure, here we come!!!!!

We took a cab to NOVA ICÀRIA beach. Beautiful day!!!! You should have seen the sky. Not a cloud to be seen! It was not too hot, just perfect. We even had a bit of breeze blowing our way every so often. We spend a splendid afternoon simply relaxing. I watched the children play. We met a wonderful family from London. They were so charming that we had to exchange numbers. Janel found that she had a lot in common with Brenda’s 18-year-old daughter, Tasha. They’ve been communicating ever since. I took most of the pictures this time. So far the friends and family members who wanted to see Christopher, he is in the water with the children. You will probably not see him again. As stated previously, Christopher likes to be behind the camera.

We were at the beach until 7 p.m. My son did not want to come home as usual. If it were up to him, he’d live inches from the beach. He would simple fall out of bed and into the ocean. I don’t mind visiting once in a while. We went home to quickly change and go to dinner. The children have no bedtime at all. It will be incredibly hard to restore order and habit come September first. No crises with dinner tonight. We did not order pizza (but he had fries and chicken with absolutely no sauce……just plain chicken).

I’m having some technical difficulties uploading pictures currently. I will post them as soon as Janel and I correct the problem. They are worth seeing.

Problem is fixed

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