Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Dog walkies and Autumn rains

Saturday, October 25th, 2014
When I go on longer dog walkies, we go to the end of the driveway, turn left and head either to this duck pond (no ducks at this moment) or to the corner where the blueberry field is.

When I go on longer dog walkies, we go to the end of the driveway, turn left and head either to this duck pond (no ducks at this moment) or to the corner where the blueberry field is.

Just a quick post to share yesterday afternoon’s dog walkies.  I think many of you on the other end of my ether live in cities, and don’t know how many of you get to hear things like this little video, so thought I’d share the glorious sound of life in Maine when it is soggy.  Here’s the little video, followed by a couple more photos.  I think I need image stabilization in my phone…not as crisp as I’d like in terms of photos.  There is a culvert under the road which you can see in the lower right.  When I pan to the left and zoom, you can see the blueberry barrens at the end of this part of the road (at the corner).

IMG 0032 2 from Sarah Ann Smith on Vimeo.

I head to Houston well before dawn–as a matter of fact I may be taking off as the sun rises!  Will try to Facebook from Houston, and have several posts scheduled to publish while I’m away.  Have fun everyone, and hope to see some of you at International Quilt Festival Houston 2014, the 40th anniversary.

 

My usual view on dog walkies....good thing I love the curled tail!

My usual view on dog walkies….good thing I love the curled tail!

More of the duck pond

More of the duck pond.  Right click for larger view.

Two of Us: published again in Inspired by the Beatles

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Looking back on it, this has been an exceptionally good year for getting published!   It has also been a bit of a challenge as I’ve had to keep three quilts and one watercolor unpublished for an extended time while jurying of exhibits was done or waiting for books to be published.  The first of the quilts was the one of Eli running during Cross Country season, which I wrote about here.   This is the second:  Two of Us,

Two of Us, (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2014.  Part of the Inspired by the Beatles challenge and an anniversary gift for my husband of 33+ years.

Two of Us, (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2014. Part of the Inspired by the Beatles challenge and an anniversary gift for my husband of 33+ years.  Of course, as soon as I gave it to him (late) I then told him he had to give it back for two years because it was going in an exhibit and book!

part of the art quilt challenge organized by Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto.  The recently released book is Inspired by the Beatles:  An Art Quilt Challenge.   You can read more about the challenge here and order the book or read more about it here.  Even better, if you are lucky enough to be going to International Quilt Festival in Houston this year, selected works from the exhibit will be on display there, including mine!

Donna asked participants to choose a Beatles song title, then make a quilt with that same title, inspired by the song perhaps, but careful NOT to use any copyrighted lyrics, images, etc.   I had been wanting to make a quilt like this for Paul as an anniversary gift for a couple years–he is notoriously hard to get gifts as he always says he doesn’t want anything.  I wanted a scrapbook feel to this quilt, similar in some ways to the kimono quilt (you can see it here) that is pictured in one of the photos on the bottom right which I gave to Mother for her 80th birthday.

Detail of Two of Us, by Sarah Ann Smith (c) 2014.

Detail of Two of Us, by Sarah Ann Smith (c) 2014.  These photos include the only two grandparents who were alive for  the boys to know, Paul’s dad and my mom.

I went through our photo albums and boxes of photos, picking pictures of us from the time we met until just recently.  Beginning in the top left corner, you can see photos of Bissau, in the west African nation of Guinea-Bissau, where I met Paul.  A bit of our wedding invitation, a wedding photo, our home on Capitol Hill in DC, from Canada, Bolivia, Machu Picchu, Gabon and our first generation of cats run across the top.  Moving clockwise down the right you can see our home in Arlington, Virginia (I still love this architecture more than any other home we’ve had), me preggers with Joshua, with the boys when they were little, pregnant with Eli, in the hospital when Eli was just a day old then the first ferry ride home, to our home on San Juan island in the bottom right corner.

Moving right to left on the bottom, pictures of the boys when little and life at home.  And up the left side, the boys as they grew,  moving to Maine, Joshua with his beloved guitar (and boy is he GOOD) and Eli, honor student and exceptional athlete.  Can I just say, Life is GOOD!

Here's to book, a 176 page hard-bound whopper.  Each quilt gets its own page (some get two), with a fun and extensive commentary written by Donna from our replies to her questionnaire that tell about our lives, inspiration and methods.  Click on the links in the first paragraph to learn more.

Here’s to book, a 176 page hard-bound whopper. Each quilt gets its own page (some get two), with a fun and extensive commentary written by Donna from our replies to her questionnaire that tell about our lives, inspiration and methods. Click on the links in the first paragraph to learn more.

The quilt is made with fused collage.  For the house, Paul, the pug and me, I sketched us on white cloth with colored pencils.  I hate to admit but since I made this over a year ago, I don’t recall for use WHICH pencils I used–either Prismacolor or Inktense.  I have since learned that some of the Inktense colors are not colorfast, so I HOPE it was prismacolor!  Total finished size, as required for all quilts in this exhibit, is 24×24 inches.

This is a typical two-page spread.  The book is organized alphabetically by title.

This is a typical two-page spread. The book is organized alphabetically by title.

And a shot of "my" page!  Artwork (c) Sarah Ann Smith.

And a shot of “my” page! Artwork (c) Sarah Ann Smith.

And since we are quilters, I must show you the back.  I did the threadwork at the top stage and did simple outlining around the photos.  But it is the letter and photo I want you to notice:

Paul and me on our wedding day outside the church, and a photocopy of the very first letter Paul ever wrote me.  Yes, we wrote snail mail.

Paul and me on our wedding day outside the church, and a photocopy of the very first letter Paul ever wrote me. Yes, we wrote snail mail.

You see, Paul was working in West Africa and I was in grad school at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy near Boston when we met.  The letter is hilariously “State Department-ish.”  Paul was acting Ambassador (Charge d’Affairs, ad interim) for the first time, so for his first letter to me, he wrote to thank the American (me)  for her part in improving morale at post, in particular that of the admin officer (that would be Paul).  Then he added a note saying this would probably be suitably framed in something tacky and hung in the bathroom.  I vowed upon receipt to do just that–in his first apartment when he was back in the US.  Little did I know that in less than 10 months, his first apartment would be OUR condo as newlyweds.  The original letter still hangs in a tacky metal frame from the drug store (which is sorta falling apart, appropriately), over the toilet in our bathroom.  The signature on the letter has faded to near invisibility.

So that’s the “Two of Us.”  Plus kids, cats, pug, and assorted stuff from all over the world.

England 2014: the 13th, Stonehenge

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

This late afternoon visit is one of the memorable moments of my life.   If you stick with me and go through this post, you’ll not only see photos, but two short videos I took while walking inside, so you get to walk along with me!

On the perimeter path at Stonehenge at about 7 pm

On the perimeter path at Stonehenge at about 7 pm.  On a typical summer’s day, some 3000 tourists visit Stonehenge, which is located on the Salisbury Plain.  They must keep to this walkway around the stones because they were being loved to death, with folks compacting the soil so much it was disturbing the structures.  But with our after-hours tour, we got to go inside.

The tour Eli and I took, with Premium Tours and here, visited Bath, Lacock and Stonehenge (first part of the day blogged about here).  For a considerable (but worth it!) sum, a few companies are allowed to bring a tour bus in at either sunrise or sunset, before or after the general public is allowed in, so you have the grounds to yourself.  Since at least when I was in school in England in 1978, you couldn’t walk near to the stones but on a path a distance away (where I took this first photo).  Now, these groups are allowed (in groups of 25) INSIDE the CIRCLE!  Keep reading…the best, longest video is toward the end of the post in sequence.

The Salisbury Plain as seen from the grounds at Stonehenge.

The Salisbury Plain as seen from the grounds at Stonehenge.

Eli on the approach road toward the stones, which are to the left of his face.  The new wonderful visitor's center is some distance removed so you get a feeling for the vastness of the plain and the size of the stones as you approach the circle, as people would have eons ago.

Eli on the approach road toward the stones, which are to the left of his face. The new wonderful visitor’s center is some distance removed so you get a feeling for the vastness of the plain and the size of the stones as you approach the circle, as people would have eons ago. Just to the left of Eli’s head, about the level of his chin, you can see a structure beyond the fence post…that’s it.  Seems small on the broad horizon.  Just wait!

The official sign near the visitor's center

The official sign near the visitor’s center

From that perimeter pathway.  As the sun began to set and the clouds began to disperse, a rainbow appeared!

From that perimeter pathway. As the sun began to set and the clouds began to disperse, a rainbow appeared!

I moved a bit around the path so that it looks like the end of the rainbow is in the middle of the stone.  Just looking at this I am transported to the cool evening air, the rustling of the strong breeze....

I moved a bit around the path so that it looks like the end of the rainbow is in the middle of the stone. Just looking at this I am transported to the cool evening air, the rustling of the strong breeze….the hush as we all stood looking.  There were the 50 people on the bus, our tour guide and two security guards.  LOTS better than a throng of thousands like during the day!

The site allows only 25 persons at a time inside the circle, and you are not allowed to touch the stones.  Luckily, Eli and I got ourselves into the second group.

At one of the signs on the perimeter path--yes, we were really there!

At one of the signs on the perimeter path–yes, we were really there!

Even a teenager could be impressed, getting out his camera and checking the photo.

Even a teenager could be impressed, getting out his camera and checking the photo.

Metering the camera on the sky led to this stunning silhouette as the sun started to go down.

Metering the camera on the sky led to this stunning silhouette as the sun started to go down. Notice the guard on the left, to give a sense of how BIG these stones are!

And Eli, moving away from the path and the circle to get a wide angle shot.

And Eli, moving away from the path and the circle to get a wide angle shot. Just by the trees on his right is a major road, the equivalent of a US interstate.  They are working on relocating that major road farther away from the site.

After the first group, it was our turn to go inside.  The guide (the guy in black pants and white shirt on the left) had the kids go first and pretend to push the stones apart.

After the first group, it was our turn to go inside. The guide (the guy in black pants and white shirt on the left) had the kids go first and pretend to push the stones apart.

From inside the circle.

From inside the circle.  That tallest stone in the center has a nipple on top:  at the top of each of the standing stones is a nipple with a corresponding divot on the under side of the lintel / cross-piece.  Amazing to think considering what tools they had when this was built.  

At the top, where the cross beam rests atop a post, a bird's nest.

At the top, where the cross beam rests atop a post, a bird’s nest.

And about five feet above my head, a stray bit of wool blown from a sheep somewhere, stuck on the lichens.

And about five feet above my head, a stray bit of wool blown from a sheep somewhere, stuck on the lichens.

Here’s the first video, me turning around inside the circle; if you click on the four arrows at the bottom of the screen it will go full-screen (then press escape to go back to regular view):

Stonehenge 1-Inside the Circle from Sarah Ann Smith on Vimeo.

 

Decided to lay down on the grounds--no, didn't feel any deep vibrations or c ommunication from the other side!

Decided to lay down on the grounds–no, didn’t feel any deep vibrations or communication from the other side!

Eli at Stonehenge.

Eli at Stonehenge.

And me, carefully NOT touching the rock!

And me, carefully NOT touching the rock!

The sun begins to set on the Salisbury Plain.

The sun begins to set on the Salisbury Plain.

And the second video, walking around the stone circle.  Remember, if you click on the four arrows at the bottom of the screen it will go full-screen (then press escape to go back to regular view).  Come walk with me and listen to the wind and sigh:

Stonehenge 2–Outside the Circle from Sarah Ann Smith on Vimeo.

 

Then the sunset began to glow…OH MY!

Sunset at Stonehenge, August 13, 2014.   SIGH.  Contentment.

Sunset at Stonehenge, August 13, 2014. SIGH. Contentment.

Sunset, again, at Stonehenge, August 2014.

Sunset, again, at Stonehenge, August 2014.

And it seemed the horizon was ablaze...Stonehenge, August 2014.

And it seemed the horizon was ablaze…Stonehenge, August 2014.

Everyone was just awed–we were all walking around smiling and awed from ear to ear.   It was a long day, and at about 8 pm we began the trip back to London and our hotels.  Worth.  Every.  Penny.   Expensive, but worth it.   A memory for a lifetime, and so glad I got to share it with Eli.  SIGH.   Contentment.

England 2014: the first Tuesday, London

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Back in 1989-91, Paul and I lived in Libreville, Gabon, where he was the deputy US Ambassador and, since I wasn’t allowed to work under him according the State Department rules, I was on leave without pay (which was fine by me).  Our nearest neighbors and dear friends were the British Ambassador and his wife, Mark and Lynn Goodfellow.  Mark passed away years ago, but we keep in touch with Lynn.  We were to meet her on Tuesday afternoon, so in the morning Eli and I did the hop-on, hop-off tour of London (which took HOURS), then met Lynn for the afternoon and evening.  It was if 23 years evaporated–such fun!

With Lynn and Eli at Lynn's home in Putney Heath, near WImbledon, after a lovely day

With Lynn and Eli at Lynn’s home in Putney Heath, near WImbledon, after a lovely day

And I apologize in advance for so many photos, but gosh, this is maybe five percent (or less) of the photos that I took–things to remember and design inspiration EVERYWHERE!

Some of the things I noticed:  how CLEAN the air is compared to 30 years ago.  Gone are the diesel-spewing lorries and busses.  The vehicles have much stricter emissions, many are hybrids, and the air is actually CLEAN!  No more coughing on choking exhaust.  And the building–there were huge construction cranes and building and upgrading going on EVERYwhere.   Alas, I had told Eli to expect people to queue up nicely, no pushing, to wait for lights and so on.  At least in London that is no longer the case–it’s more like a big city anywhere.  And the dress:  in 1978, Americans looked American, Brits looked British, the Germans German and so on.  Now, MAYBE some of the French flair will pop out at you, but otherwise  from Japanese to American to British to generic European we all dress alike.  Except for the Muslim women in veils, but even there is a wide range!

Imagine, design inspiration even on the double decker buses.  Loved this take on steampunk!

Imagine, design inspiration even on the double decker buses, here on Regent Street in the heart of London. Loved this take on steampunk!

This beautiful building reinforced the dictum to "Look Up."

This beautiful building reinforced the dictum to “Look Up.”

Look at that cool critter up on top and the ornamentation in the base.

Look at that cool critter up on top and the ornamentation in the base.

I wish I had thought to switch the camera over to video, here on Regent Street at Oxford Circus.  A "Circus" is a roundabout or traffic circle.  This was about 10 am on a Tuesday  morning.  Talk about a swarm of humanity...it made me laugh, and really glad I was on the bus and not IN the swarm!

I wish I had thought to switch the camera over to video, here on Regent Street at Oxford Circus. A “Circus” is a roundabout or traffic circle. This was about 10 am on a Tuesday morning. Talk about a swarm of humanity…it made me laugh, and really glad I was on the bus and not IN the swarm!

SWOON--that half-timbered building is Liberty, as in Liberty of London, as in all that glorious fabric and more.   We did get back there but only for half an hour.  Just as well, if I had stayed longer I would be even more broke and have needed a suitcase!

SWOON–that half-timbered building is Liberty, as in Liberty of London, as in all that glorious fabric and more. We did get back there but only for half an hour. Just as well, if I had stayed longer I would be even more broke and have needed a suitcase!

Coming up on Picadilly Circus, traveling on Regent Street.  Notice the done on the building on the corner.

Coming up on Picadilly Circus, traveling on Regent Street. Notice the done on the building on the corner.

Look at that utterly amazing sculpture up near the dome, a woman diving...way cool!

Look at that utterly amazing sculpture up near the dome, a woman diving…way cool!

So much of the old architecture is laden with inspiring ornament, but even new buildings proved interesting.  Think how dull this modern building would be without that design up the front.  Hmmm...that could get translated into a really cool thermofax screen now that I think of it....

So much of the old architecture is laden with inspiring ornament, but even new buildings proved interesting. Think how dull this modern building would be without that design up the front. Hmmm…that could get translated into a really cool thermofax screen now that I think of it….

Soon we came to Trafalgar Square, with the National Gallery, St. Martin in the Fields church, Lord Nelson's column, and this blue rooster.   This plinth (base) has been the home for some rotating art.   I'll let you google to find out more about it... but a big blue....ummm...let's go with rooster.....someone has a sense of humor!

Soon we came to Trafalgar Square, with the National Gallery, St. Martin in the Fields church, Lord Nelson’s column, and this blue rooster. This plinth (base) has been the home for some rotating art. I’ll let you google to find out more about it… but a big blue….ummm…let’s go with rooster…..someone has a sense of humor!

National Gallery on the left....

National Gallery on the left….

And take a look at the design work on that dome.  What a great quilting pattern or background design!

And take a look at the design work on that dome. What a great quilting pattern or background design!

Next we went into the City of London, the original small city.  This clock is at the Inns of Court, the justice departments.

Next we went into the City of London, the original small city. This clock is at the Inns of Court, the justice departments.

Here's the fairy-tale-like building to which the clock is attached:.

Here’s the fairy-tale-like building to which the clock is attached:.

Next we drove along Fleet Street, home to the London press.  LOVED the dragon!

Next we drove along Fleet Street, home to the London press. LOVED the dragon!

And for my friend Jacquie who loves owls, this clock on a building on Fleet Street.

And for my friend Jacquie who loves owls, this clock on a building on Fleet Street.

One of the old narrow b uildings next to the raised light rail lines--if you look up a bit, you'll see the trains.  I used to take the train in from Lewisham when I was in school in the 70s.

One of the old narrow b uildings next to the raised light rail lines–if you look up a bit, you’ll see the trains. I used to take the train in from Lewisham when I was in school in the 70s.

The old and the new:  the Tower of London (another place we regretfully decided to skip because it was wall-to-wall people), with the modern building called the Gherkin behind it.

The old and the new: the Tower of London (another place we regretfully decided to skip because it was wall-to-wall people), with the modern building called the Gherkin behind it.

Going across Tower Bridge.  The Bridge is a stunning architectural beauty!

Going across Tower Bridge. The Bridge is a stunning architectural beauty!

A neighborhood (Belgravia or Chelsea I think) in London

A neighborhood (Belgravia or Chelsea I think) in London

A most stunning artwork-in-progress at The Tower to commemorate those slain in World War 1, as this is the centennary anniversary of the start of that war.   Learn more about this Fields of Blood installation here.

A most stunning artwork-in-progress at The Tower to commemorate those slain in World War 1, as this is the centennary anniversary of the start of that war. Learn more about this Sea of Red  installation here and here.  Red poppies, which grew in Flanders Fields, are traditional in the UK to commemorate those lost in war.  These are ceramic poppies; the last will be installed on November 11th, 2014, armistice day (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, our Veterans’ Day).  The Smithsonian article (the second link) said “All told, 888,246 poppies will flood the Tower’s moat, equaling the number of British and Colonial soldiers who perished in the war.  The project, titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, comes from the creative minds of ceramic artist Paul Cummins and state designer Tom Piper.”

At 1 pm, we met Lynn at Westminster Pier.  She said she'd have on a hat.  Well, as we walked up I saw a woman in a hat with her back to me in a stance that looked SO familiar, so I called out and indeed it was Lynn!  We went on a cruise ship up the Thames from Westminster (home to Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey) to The Tower and back.  It was tons of fun!

At 1 pm, we met Lynn at Westminster Pier. She said she’d have on a hat. Well, as we walked up I saw a woman in a hat with her back to me in a stance that looked SO familiar, so I called out and indeed it was Lynn! We went on a cruise ship up the Thames from Westminster (home to Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey) to The Tower and back. It was tons of fun!  Lynn on the left, Eli wishing I would stop taking pictures with him in them.

I also  had a lot of f un taking pictures of chimney pots everywhere.

I also had a lot of f un taking pictures of chimney pots everywhere.

The Golden Hind, a replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship.  Depending on which side of the sword you were on, he was either a hero of Britain or a miserable marauding pirate.  He explored the San Francisco bay area and the main artery near where I grew up is called Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and the public high school is Drake High School.

The Golden Hind, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship. Depending on which side of the sword you were on, he was either a hero of Britain or a miserable marauding pirate. He explored the San Francisco bay area and the main artery near where I grew up is called Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and the public high school is Drake High School.

American theatre impresario Sam Wannamaker is a hero in England for his successful efforts to reconstruct Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, complete with thatched mossy roof, on the banks of the Thames.  We didn't get to any plays...maybe next trip?

American theatre impresario Sam Wannamaker is a hero in England for his successful efforts to reconstruct Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, complete with thatched mossy roof, on the banks of the Thames. We didn’t get to any plays…maybe next trip?

London Bridge is not falling down, and is still in place.  It is also NOT the beautiful Tower Bridge, but this rather bland thing.   At least I can now say I've been under, over and ON the Thames.

London Bridge is not falling down, and is still in place. It is also NOT the beautiful Tower Bridge, but this rather bland thing. At least I can now say I’ve been under, over and ON the Thames.

Eli recognized this building immediately as having been the location for MI6, the spy agency, in the last Bond movie, Skyfall.  Luckily, it did not really blow up, as it is the new Charing Cross Station (rail and tube).  The boat guide told us there was a design competition with the goal to design a building that has train-like...I can see the hint of the old engines in this--can you?

Eli recognized this building immediately as having been the location for MI6, the spy agency, in the last Bond movie, Skyfall. Luckily, it did not really blow up, as it is the new Charing Cross Station (rail and tube). The boat guide told us there was a design competition with the goal to design a building that has train-like…I can see the hint of the old engines in this–can you?

And our next day, the first Wednesday, was a day to remember for a lifetime….stay tuned!  I’ll blog about it in two parts…..

England 2014, Here we come!

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Some of you may have already seen some of these photos on Facebook, but many of you haven’t.  So in the interest of re-living a trip of a lifetime, here’s the first of many posts with our trip, inspiration, visual feasting and whatnot!  We left the house about noonish on Sunday, arrived at London Heathrow at 6:30 am (3:30 body clock) and kept going until just past supper time in London.  Going on adrenaline!

Some years ago I wrote a blogpost titled "This is not a minivan."  It is still not a minivan:  this is the view from the inside of the 9 passenger prop plane we take (Cape Air, love them!) to Boston, from which point we can get anywhere in the world.

Some years ago I wrote a blogpost titled “This is not a minivan.” It is still not a minivan: this is the view from the inside of the 9 passenger prop plane we take from Owl’s Head–about a half hour’s drive from home– (Cape Air, love them!) to Boston, from which point we can get anywhere in the world. That’s Eli up in the co-pilot seat.  One does not put feet on footpedals!  Seat assignments are by weight so that the plane is balanced.

Here’s an aerial view of Maine as we left midday:

The Maine coast just south of Owl's Head/Rockland as we headed East "across the pond."

The Maine coast just south of Owl’s Head/Rockland as we headed East “across the pond.”

Methinks Paul was a tad nervous watching us head off on our great adventure.  He didn't want to go to England, so he stayed home and minded the house and critters so that Eli and I could have fun.

Methinks Paul was a tad nervous watching us head off on our great adventure. He didn’t want to go to England, so he stayed home and minded the house and critters so that Eli and I could have fun.

First and foremost:  thank you to Paul and Eli.  Paul for minding the home front, Eli for actually WANTING to go on a trip with his old mom!  Joshua and Ashley, you’re next.  Edinburgh and points beyond, the Smiths are returning to the UK–probably not for a few years (gotta teach and earn enough money to save up and pay for another trip like this!), but we are coming back!

Compare the cabin and view above and below:

Very clearly, this is NOT Cape Air, but in fact the British Airways flight nonstop to London.  The cabin was warm, and tho I dozed an hour or two, Eli didn't on this overnight flight.

Very clearly, this is NOT Cape Air, but in fact the British Airways flight nonstop to London. The cabin was warm, and tho I dozed an hour or two, Eli didn’t on this overnight flight.

I LOVE the in-flight maps.  Here you can see the big picture, from Boston to London.  I was tickled to see Vigo, Spain.  I'd not heard of it before recently, but a classmate in the Sketchbook Skool has shared some of his drawings of Vigo.  Fun to see it on the map!

I LOVE the in-flight maps. Here you can see the big picture, from Boston to London. I was tickled to see Vigo, Spain. I’d not heard of it before recently, but a classmate in the Sketchbook Skool has shared some of his drawings of Vigo. Fun to see it on the map! Can I say again how much I love the internet?  How I have met people and learned so much?

As the plane ducked under the cloud cover we got a spectacular aerial view of London, with the Thames, South Bank on the Left, more of the mass of London on the right, The London Eye (the big ferris wheel), Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower, and so much more in clear view

As the plane ducked under the cloud cover at just past 6 am local time, we got a spectacular aerial view of London, with the Thames, South Bank on the Left, more of the mass of London on the right, The London Eye (the big ferris wheel), Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower, and so much more in clear view.

The fields and hedgerows of England on the approach to London.  A bit more countryside!

The fields and hedgerows of England on the approach to London. A bit more countryside! Let there be quilting!

Rather a difference, eh?  One of the things Eli most wanted to do was run at Olympic Park, in the stadium if possible.  Alas, it was under major re-construction, but he got to take a refreshing trot.  That’s him coming around the corner next to the pink sign post. The velodrome is in the background.  The skies would look like this pretty much every day:  blue with clouds, some of which would sprinkle on us momentarily but–with the exception of one day–no real soaking rains.

We got exceptionally lucky and were able to check in early.  So we ditched our bags and set out to see the sights.

We got exceptionally lucky and were able to check in early. So we ditched our bags and set out to see the sights, starting with Olympic Park.

This ended up being the only real running Eli got to do.  I don’t think he counted on Mom’s ability to go-go-go when on the road with things to do, people to meet and sights to see!

Eli under the Olympic rings after his run.

Eli under the Olympic rings after his run.

Then we took our Oyster cards, re-loadable fare cards for the London Underground (Tube / subway) and light rail system.  WAY easier than the old day of buying paper tickets!  After a bit of lunch, we headed off to King’s Cross.

King's Cross Station, site of the somewhat-imaginary Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter/Hogwarts fame.

King’s Cross Station, site of the somewhat-imaginary Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter/Hogwarts fame.

The above is the old part of the station, but with the old funky platform signs swapped out for the modern ones that report what train is coming in at which platform and when.  Easier for travel, but not as much character.  The photo below is the VERY new part of the station.  Beautiful, but…sigh…. I miss some of the old stuff.

The new part of King's Cross station.  Both the Tube and rail lines come in here.  King's Cross is the departure points for points north, like York, Leeds, Edinburgh and the fictional Hogwarts.  Thank you to J.K. Rowling for giving such a wonderful world to all of us!

The new part of King’s Cross station. Both the Tube and rail lines come in here. King’s Cross is the departure points for points north, like York, Leeds, Edinburgh and the fictional Hogwarts. Thank you to J.K. Rowling for giving such a wonderful world to all of us!

I had read in my guide book that you could visit Platform 9 3/4 at the station, which is why we went.  WHAT a disappointment!  It was on a wall between two shops, not the actual platform.  Of course, given the queue, I can see why they couldn’t put it between platforms 9 and 10, but…. it was the back half of a luggage cart with old suitcase.

Platform 9 3/4 is under that white tube thingy, on the other side the crowd waiting to take pics.

Platform 9 3/4 is under that white tube thingy, on the other side the crowd waiting to take pics.

If you wanted to stand in line–on this day about an hour–you could wear a Gryffindor scarf and take your picture there.  Since Eli and I had been going for about 36 hours, that was SO not going to happen, but we snagged this photo instead.

Me, with some of the crowd behind me and the Platform sign barely visible.  Happy to be there anyway!

Me, with some of the crowd behind me and the Platform sign barely visible. Happy to be there anyway!

Our next stop that day, just about as we hit the wall from tiredness and collapsed, was the British Museum.   As we would discover about all of London in August, it was PACKED with tourists.  But I’ll save that for the next post because the reason was one of my major reasons for taking this trip.  And yes, it involves art and quilts!