kissams in london- day 6- 1

we must've approached this lovely park from three different angles before understanding where the corner of it was- along with the museum at the corner of it which we wanted to visit.  charming park with some cute and playful dogs running around. 

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this is the exterior of sir john soane's museum.  we knew it was closely located to our hotel, but we didn't know it was a mere block away until we found a hidden gem of an alley that we were smacking our foreheads for not finding early in our vacation.  sadly i can't include any pictures from the interior, they aren't allowed.  if you are familiar with the isabella stewart gardner museum in boston you can use that as a jumping off point.  take that museum, add a compulsive desire to collect everything everything possibly and display it in your house, then possibly ramp it up with some crack. . . that was what this museum was like. 

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could a more stereotypical british store exist?!

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yes, yes there could. 

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so, i decided to head over to Pollock's Toy Museum.  i don't think i could've counted the rooms if i tried, and i'm not talking about a big building.  but the oddly shaped rooms, the twisty stairs, and the onslaught of toys turned this place into a practical maze for me.  lots of fun!

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nifty science sets.

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so many paper theatres.

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attack of the matryoshkas!

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where else are your dolls supposed to get their doll clothes cloth, but at a doll drapery shop?!

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shelves and shelves, cabinets upon cabinets,  and room after twisted room of toys.

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obligatory creepy doll room.

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later in the afternoon i got back to the british museum where mom, dad, and dan had been for a few hours.  i opted for the special highlights, hour long tour.  i was nearly speed walking through the exhibits in order to hit all the star attractions in an hour.  i kept getting sidetracked by egyptian artifacts and shiny timepieces.

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i guess we could start a conversation about why the british museum has so many things that don't come from england (and i guess that could be said for so many museums.)  i get that they are trying to be a repository for human achievement, but just seeing the size and extend of their artifact. . . it was amazing, and sort of odd.  i wonder if there are empty museums in countries that no longer have access to their own heritage. 

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not only are the pieces amazing, but the layout of the whole museum makes everything seem even more jawdroppingly gorgeous.

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this dude's got an intimidating gaze.

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love me some stamps and seals.

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shiny. . . 

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eyes of horus are protecting this box!

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it was like reliving my favorite childhood book about mummies. 

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some beautiful time pieces in a gorgeous room.


kissams in london- day 5- 1

this day was a bit in the making.  when we started discussing london as a real option for the holidays dad and i started looking into day trips to stonehenge.  as weeks passed in september i checked for prices and schedules for tour buses and started to notice that each time i checked fewer and fewer were available.  (kinda forgot how popular the winter solstice would be.)  then dad started looking into it.  he started directly emailing some of the travel companies and got into a lengthy back and forth of other options.  (anything other than a packed tour bus starts to get pricey, but dad seemed to be on a mission.)  

we ended up with a private tour (could've had eight people, but only had us) that included a sunrise in the inner circle.  since the tour company offered a whole day package with a guide, we had a choice of several other places to see.  our tour guide (from now on known as 'st. nick' for reasons that i will explain later) from 'the stonehenge travel company' picked us up from our hotel early in the morning.  he helped us plan out other places to go after talking about the kinds of things we wanted to see.  

here we wait outside the new tourist center (would've liked to walk around inside, but we left before it opened for the day) while 'st. nick' checks on transport to the henge.

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this is the view most people will get when they come to see stone henge.  they seemed to be still beta testing the tourist center and new bus system and we heard later in the day that it was problematic and perhaps buses of tourists were waiting hours to get up to see it.  however, nothing was quite open when we got there and since our tour guide knew the guards we drove in and walked right up.  the inner circle isn't open to everyone.  from what i understand, that's something you can do if you obtain the right permissions (part of what was included in our tour.) but we ran into a handful of people there for the sunrise. 

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upon entering the inner circle, 'st. nick' pointed our a spot where the sun lines up with a notch in a rock.  here dan tries to get a shot of it.  though his caption for the picture is pretty good.  he refers to it as the 'help me obi wan' picture.  throughout the day things would fall into place that made it feel more and more special.  one of the earlier things was that even the guards were taking pictures of this particular morning.  the clear sky wasn't a norm, so to have a golden ball of sunlight appear over the horizon was really amazing. 

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had we been here on the actual solstice, the sun coming up over the horizon would've been in the center of the notch in the rock on the left.  still. . . not too shabby!

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us at a stonehenge sunrise.

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here 'st. nick' points out marks on a rock the might suggest how it was moved, or what was used to move it.  hour by hour he proved to be such an amazing catch as tour guides go.  he knew all the security guards by name and talked about stopping by later with them for drinks.  he was one of the first people through the gates of the new stonehenge tourist center.  he had done some archeological work and study of this area as well as a nearby woodhenge.  he worked as an ambassador among archeological societies and scientists in the area.  on top of that he was wonderfully friendly and funny. 

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dad, dan, and 'st. nick' looking off into the sunrise.

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an incredible morning.

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shot from a rock thought to have hosted sacrificial ceremonies.  possibly because there a great spot for blood or rain to pool.  directly behind me is another large stone and the ceremonial path that would've been taken by people coming to celebrate the solstice.  (honestly, i have no idea if any of that is historically accurate.  i doubt i accurately remember half of what we discussed with our tour guide.)  'st. nick' and dad had great chats since dad had recently watched several specials about new theories of how these rocks were moved. 

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i copied dan trying to take a shot of a shadow of the rocks on the rocks.

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as we walked around 'st. nick' would point out different things like how this one shadow (towards the center of the photo) looks like an easter island head profile.  he pointed to where famous people (like christopher wren) carved their names into the rocks.  now, of course, you aren't allowed to touch the rocks because the oils and acids in your hands might degrade the rocks. 

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casted shadows of dan and i.

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scale- mom and stonehenge.

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for the first half of our stay here, there were 15 to twenty people coming and going.  but for the last half hour we were completely alone with the guards and 'st. nick.'  it was incredible, magical.

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nearly impossible to stop taking pictures.  as the light changed some new angle or feature would pop up and beg for attention.

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our second stop for the day brought us to bath.  'st. nick' continued to impress us with his wealth of history and general knowledge. 

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even a panoramic shot doesn't do this area justice.  here is some of its famous georgian architecture. 

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looking down into one of the main baths.  there was a labyrinth of hot rooms for men and women and while looking down into this one area we had no idea of the size of the museum below.  again, impressive and wonderfully overwhelming.

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great display created with actual pieces from the roman baths and projections.

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ancient curses/ prayers thrown into the fountain.

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can almost see the steam rising up. you can't bathe here, but you can 'take waters' at a nice restaurant next door.  we all tried a small glass- not so much something i'd drink regularly.

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the roman baths were (again) larger than i thought, so our walk around bath was just long enough for a lunch (pie- of course) and a walk around the main street.

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more from the photo line of 'gorgeous chapels that you can't photograph on the inside.'  loved the ladder to heaven on the outside of this one.

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the last leg of our tour brought us to castle combe.  it's been used as the backdrop of several movies.  it was a lot of beautiful countryside and dirt roads to get there, but the time passed easily while we chatted and joked with our tour guide.

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we didn't have a long time there.  maybe an hour, but plenty of time to walk up and down the street.  to see the river and walk through the chapel.  'st. nick' also knew the man who left bread and cakes by his door for a few pounds each (honor pay system). ps- yummy.

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so lovely.

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dan and i took an evening walk to get to the eye.

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dan and i get to the eye and don't see a place to cue up- turns out it closed 15 minutes before we got there.  doh!


kissams in london- day 4- 1

even on a miserable day, hampton court makes for a great visit.  neill spent the day with us and we were blessed with his encyclopedia-tic knowledge of history.  as we walked in we were impressed with a special historic castle/ palace pass he possessed.  in turn, he was impressed with how many places we had access to with our london passes. 

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in a courtyard of hampton court.  dan ran ahead to get us a couple of audio guides (we ended up not needing them- neill was by far the best guide.) dan beckoned us into a room where one of the morning events was happening.  two men were being undress, checked for weapons and sickness and getting redressed.  it was really crowded so we moved through quickly.  i figured it was something we might have a chance to see again later. (wrong)