We all slept fitfully last night, and I must say that out of the many times we've travelled as a family to Europe sleep was actually 'less than stellar' for all of us last night.  Bad is a relative term, I know, but let's just say that all four of us saw very small numbers on the clock when we didn't want to.  I was awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night (thank goodness for iPads!) and Chloe actually slept great from about 8:30 - 3:30 and has been up ever since!  The fact that she was pleasant and still on her feet by the end of the day is incredible.  As I type this it's 9:30 pm here and she is sitting on the couch reading Teen Beat magazine.  Impressive.

By the time we all roused ourselves out of our pyjamas it was 10:30 am and we were starving!  Thank goodness we had a few provisions to get us through (the kids each had a yogurt drink, lychee juice, and some strangely dry crackers - prison rations?).  We headed out with breakfast on our minds but no actual known destination in mind.  Usually this works out for us in the form of a cute café, but we are currently in a residential area with a pub across the street and not much else.  We wandered in a disoriented fashion until we reached a major road where a lot of McDonalds wrappers were scattered about. We took this as a sign of life nearby and followed the garbage as though we were Hansel and Gretel in search of a magical cottage.  We found it in the form of a large grocery store and bought some fresh baguettes, cheese, peaches and juice.  Instead of retracing our steps we went the opposite way (the unintended long-cut) but found a delightful little area of butchers, bakers, and coffee shops.  Low blood sugar and heat exhaustion were achieved, but at least now we know where to go tomorrow morning!

After scarfing down our food (we were very hungry!) we only had a short time to wait until Jeff's cousin Stefan and his friend would meet up with us.  For those who aren't familiar, Stefan is from Holland and is Jeff's youngest cousin.  He lived with us for 2 months last year and has been travelling around Australia until a few weeks ago when he returned back to Holland.  He had the opportunity to meet up with us here and it's been so nice to see him again - it's really amazing how much a person can change in one year when they are 20 years old and travelling the world!  (Sigh... to be young again...!)

Stefan and his friend Valentijn  joined us as we took the 20 minute walk from our apartment to the Tower of London.  Six years ago we paid to go inside, but this time no one really cared and the heat and line-ups were prohibitive to us going into it again.  I took a few obligatory photos of the outside of it and then we sat down in the shade for a cool drink.  It's another scorcher here in London - even the grass has turned yellow!  From here we took the touristy (but fast and clean) boat to Westminster.  The boat had A/C and the captain was informative and cheery; we learned a few interesting facts while drinking a nice cold beer (and juice for the young ones) before disembarking right in front of Westminster Abbey.  After more picture taking we headed towards Buckingham Palace.  Our path was slightly off course (who looks at a map?) and we started to get hungry and slightly cranky.  An oasis appeared in the form of what we thought was a sushi restaurant due to it's sleek booths and bamboo window coverings.  It touted itself as 'Asian Cuisine' and was just what we were looking for.  By the time we were settled in and looked at the menu we realized there wasn't .  actually any sushi on the menu, but instead had various set meals for Chinese, Japanese, Seafood, and Dim Sum.  The prices were reasonable and I must admit that absolutely everything we ordered was very, very good. 

Fully refueled we went in search of the Queen!  Buckingham Palace wasn't quite as busy as I'd expected (though not empty by any stretch of the imagination) and after watching the guards march around and dipping our feet in the fountain it was time to move on. An interesting side note was the large 'camp' of foreign media anxiously awaiting the royal baby; they've been there for weeks and are obviously quite bored on "Operation Placenta Watch".  (Yes, I made that up.)   At this point we temporarily left the company of Stefan and Valentijn when they met up with some friends from the hostel they're staying at.  With a meeting point later, the 4 of us headed to the train station to buy tickets for our Saturday trip out to Salisbury.  On the map it didn't look too far, but about 5 minutes into the walk Julia mentioned that her feet may actually catch on fire so Jeff hailed a cab and off we went.  I'm so glad her feet were close to igniting, because until we were sitting in that cab I didn't realize how tired I was!

We purchased our tickets and figured out all the pertinent details then used the bathroom where you have to put coins in the turnstile to get into it.  The kids were outraged when they saw a lady hop over the barrier to 'pee for free'.  Seriously, if you have to go and don't have 30 pense I am not going to call the cops on you!  I hate paying to pee and am glad we don't have that at home.  (Maybe they should have a one cent pee tax on every bottle of water sold?)

We went to Trafalgar Square (our meeting point with Stefan) and went into Canada House while we waited for them.  After proving our citizenship (okay, not really, but we said we were from Calgary) we enjoyed the beautiful air conditioning and padded benches while admiring some Inuit art.  After reuniting with the boys (and their newfound Australian friends) we went to a pub for some beer and fries before realizing that we had some extremely tired children with us.  Julia actually fell asleep on my shoulder on the metro ride home, while Chloe's eyelids seemed heavier than usual as she had a very difficult time keeping them up.  We went straight to our apartment while the boys all went out in search of take-out dinner (easier said than done!).

___ many moons later___

The boys came back with authentic Italian pizza for everyone and the girls ate it with gusto before running off to bed.  It was delicious and there, quite literally, isn't a crumb left.  This was a surprise considering the amount of boxes they walked in with… granted it's very thin crust, but still - these boys were overly ambitious with their pizza purchasing.  (I say this as though there were mounds of pizza left, but in actuality there isn't even a single crumb left.)  Well done!

Now after excessive pizza eating and beer drinking it seems like the two young men are fading faster then us 'oldies'.  So we need to either kick them out or get them blankets… time will tell.  Good night from East London!


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