Tired as get-out but great memories and pics

I cooked tonight for the first time in twelve days. That's the longest I've gone without time in the kitchen in at least fifteen years.  

We are all pooped today, just tired as get-out. Amidst the laundry and cleaning and playing and marketing, I made a gumbo because it sounded so comforting and good to us all.  

Tomorrow I hope to wrap up my London posts with final thoughts on eating while there, parks, markets and other tidbits, but tonight wanted to simply share a happy picture of my little family.  

All in the charming red London phone booths. 

All in the charming red London phone booths. 

Sleep well friends! 

Victoria & Albert Shoes exhibit, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben

The Victoria & Albert Shoes Exhibit: Pleasure and Pain

Monday, after a morning spent at Westminster Abbey and Borough Market, we took the boys to the Science Museum for some exploration. Near the front of the computer age exhibit floated half of Charles Babbage's brain. Oliver was transfixed. Babbage, as you may know, invented the first 'computer.'

Anyway, after a while at the Science Museum, Tom said he and the boys would stay on and then head to the Natural History Museum so, if I wanted, I could leave them and go to the Victoria & Albert, just across the street, for some alone time in the Shoes special exhibit. Um, yes. I hauled ass over there. 

I love shoes. You probably already know that. Fashion and shoes make my heart sing. I could literally shop for days and feel zero need to eat or drink. The artistry and dazzle in a beautiful pair of heels never ceases to make me gasp.

This show was one repeated gasp. I loved every bit of it and immediately purchased the exhibit book to take home. You entered a darkened room bedecked with lush purple velvet surrounding huge glass cases full of purple pedestals. It looked like a ritzy boudoir.

Atop each pedestal was perched a shoe or pair of shoes. The oldest was circa 500 and was a leather and gold leaf pair from Egypt. Outrageous slides with foot-long and curled toes; ancient leather moccasins; ludicrously tiny silk slippers for women with bound feet...  

There were towering geta, sandals worn by geisha or wealthy Japanese women or girls coming of age. These, called Raven, were the most stunning.

'Raven' geta

'Raven' geta

Stilettos ranging from the most basic to the most serious "fuck me" left me mouth agape in front of the cases. Some were so beautiful I can't imagine ever wearing them, lest stain or scuff mar their perfection. A pair of Louboutins -tragically, these are not featured in the exhibit book or online that I can find- were magical. Red feathers and silk and bows. The closest approximation is this:

There were go go boots and towering wedges, shoes that no one could strut and the purple Vivienne Westwood's in which Naomi Campbell famously fell from the catwalk.

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain runs through January, 2016, so if you are in London and enjoy fashion and/or shoes, GO! There is some great non-shoe fashion outside of the exhibit too.

Westminster Abbey and Big Ben

We also dragged the kids to Westminster Abbey, by way of an exterior tour of Parliament and Big Ben. "Look kids, Big Ben!"

big ben

big ben

parliament

parliament

I have to say that Big Ben really is beautiful. Twice we made it by on the hour, and it's wonderful to stop for a moment and listen to the deep bells chiming the time. 

Then on to Westminster and all the stained glass, graves and history therein. Newton! Kings! Kipling! Dickens! Queens! It's almost too much to see at some points- it's wildly ornate and old and packed to the gills, and behind every corner is yet another nook, chapel or vestibule. 

Spent the morning at the Science Museum and leave for the airport in an hour; boy are we spent. Great trip but it'll also be nice to be home!

Windsor Castle, Runnymede, and Magna Carta at the British Library

Today, our penultimate here in London, I find myself tired. It's chilly and rainy, gray and "English." We've been so lucky with the weather while here- mostly sun and blue skies or rain just when we'd arrived somewhere. We have packed an incredible amount of things into each day, so really, it's no wonder I feel pooped. We all are, but boy have we maxed out this trip!

Windsor Castle

After Stonehenge on Sunday, we went on to Windsor Castle where we toured the State Apartments, saw the famed Queen Mary's dollhouse and climbed the Round Tower (which is actually shaped like a D). The Queen often spends at the Castle but is in Balmoral, Scotland, now and so the tower is available for visiting. The view from it are gorgeous.

view from the Round Tower of the Long Walk, a 2.65 mile pedestrian road leading out from Windsor Castle. Only royal carriages can drive on it.

view from the Round Tower of the Long Walk, a 2.65 mile pedestrian road leading out from Windsor Castle. Only royal carriages can drive on it.

We didn't have quite as much time at Windsor as I'd have liked and many parts of it are off-limits, but it's a beautiful place, and I'm glad we went. It's amazing how old things are here; really gives you a sense of awe and humility. And the craftsmanship of these things put many modern constructions to shame!

Magna Carta

On the way back to London, we drove through Runnymede where, in 1215, King John met with the rebel barons to negotiate the Magna Carta. After signing it, John promptly reneged on most, but after his death in 1216, the Magna Carta (or Great Charter) was renegotiated several times. Finally, in 1225, King Henry III (John's son) signed, with his Great Seal, the definitive copy.

This year marks the 800th anniversary of the first charter. Of its original 63 clauses, three remain enshrined in British law. The one of primary import decrees that all 'free men' have the right to a fair and just trial which in essence diminished the space between king and subjects and made the monarchy subject to laws of the land. 

I've always been fascinated by the Magna Carta which has greatly influenced many documents since, not least the American Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights as well as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights following World War II. 

This morning, we spent a marvelous couple hours at the British Library's special Magna Carta exhibit. It was one of the best collections and presentations of incredible artifacts I've ever seen. The BL has two of the original 1215 Magna Carta's plus at least four of the later versions. They're in various stages of decline but for being so freaking old, I found their degree of preservation awe-inspiring. Several still had the King's Great Seals attached. And on the Papal Bull that nullified John's first Magna Carta, you can still see the Pope's seal. Amazing. 

If you click the link I provided, you can see pictures of everything!