Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Year in Review - Part One

... 2010 ...

On December 13th my parents arrive at the Heathrow Airport. I booked the first three days they were here off so I could show them London and spend as much time as possible soaking up their presence. I did see my mum back in May when she and a friend surprised me a week after my birthday, but I had not seen my dad since he left me at the airport to board my flight to London on January 7th.

I fully appreciate that I am one of very few who would choose to have their family in their life even if they weren't related by blood. Any abilities I have to know my own mind, pursue my dreams and try without fear of failing have come from my adoring parents and wonderful brother. Skype has not been a suitable substitution and I was so very much looking forward to seeing my parents again and showing them all these things I've discovered about London whilst also discovering new things for myself.

Day one we caught a cab from Heathrow to their apartment, which was equidistant between Russell Square Station (Piccadilly) and King's Cross St. Pancras (Northern, amongst others.) We explored a bit of their new, temporary 'hood, stopping for lunch at Giraffe. They got some groceries, where my dad was able to marvel over the abundant and incredible cheese selection and the high fat content in the cream, in Waitrose and then headed back to their apartment. At this point the jet-lag, long flight and altitude change caught up full-force. Whilst they napped I made tea and squidged myself into a corner of their kitchen where I could read a book as they had a rest. It was lovely having them in the next room, let alone in the same city.

The entire time they were over my days were packed. We had a wonderfully fancy dinner with my partner on that first night, which took us down by Holburn. I showed my dad the viaduct and began pointing out all the incredible architecture of London I have come to love.

On Tuesday I got to show them both my very favourite view of London, one I discovered when I first came to 'test' the waters back in November 2009. This time round it featured the Norwegian Christmas Tree.

We also stopped into St. Martins in Fields and went down into the Crypt, both places my partner showed me over a year ago now.

It was a chilly day so we made our way past Leicester Square and up Charing Cross road and then over to the British Museum. This was a museum I'd been to ages ago but not spent a huge length of time at. Unlike on my last visit, we started from the top and worked our way down. My favourite bit was the Japanese artifacts, where I discovered Netsuke.
The next day we met at High Kensington and spent the morning in the Natural History Museum and the afternoon in the Science Museum. Again, both are museums I've been to before but both were ones I couldn't wait to show to my parents.
In the Natural History Museum we spent most of our time in the whale room of the Mammals wing, a room which has been closed when my partner and I came back in the Spring. Of course there was also the Mineral wing and the Dinosaur wing, which I had yet to discover. We did manage to pop into the Mineral wing, which stretched so far back I suspect one would have to spend an entire day there if they wanted to see all it had to offer.

After a nice lunch and a quick stop at the Gift Shop we headed around the corner to the Science Museum. This museum has become a favourite of mine ever since I discovered the ever-so fun SMLates on the last Wednesday of each month. I have made a special effort to explore the museum as little as possible when I go, instead focusing on the activities and lectures provided for the SMLates themes. I did this because I knew my dad would be the best person to see this museum with. I loved his face when he saw the Apollo 10 Moon lander and the Rocket. He was giddy like a little kid when the Wells Cathedral Clock struck the quarter. It was difficult to pry him away but fortunately the museum closed so we were asked to leave.

I didn't see them all day Thursday as I had to go back to work and had a few things to do in the evening, like updating my blog with the newly imaged work my parents had brought over on a disc. It was quite difficult to go an entire day without seeing them, but just knowing they were in the same city was really, really lovely.

Friday was another work day but I arranged to go to Borough Market when I was off and meet my parents at Southwark Cathedral. During my November visit my partner introduced me to Borough by taking me for breakfast at Roast. It is a gorgeous little market which I have come to adore. Where else can you get fresh hand-dived scallops with bacon bits for breakfast? It was also where my mum surprised me back in May. I was happy to finally show it to my dad, who paid for the photographer's license so he could take pictures of the glorious interior of Southwark Cathedral, most notably the Shakespeare stained glass.

Afterwards we caught the train to my end of London and met my partner for dinner in one of the city's best Indian restaurants. Nothing like a curry to give my dad a taste of an authentic London pallet.

The weekend was spent shopping in Wimbledon on Saturday and entertaining friends who dropped by for a Christmas Warm-Up on Sunday.

On Monday they met up with me after work at Tate Britain. I was giddy to share the incredible Fiona Banner instalment there with my dad, as he is a huge airplane nerd. It was also fun to show them Chelsea, where I took my digital design course in the autumn.

We caught the bus behind the Tate and my dad got to sit on the top deck for the first time. It was a great first-time ride as it took us up through winding narrow roads and popped out right next to Westminster Abbey. Then we went up Whitehall, past the Houses of Parliament and assorted lovely memorials to Trafalgar Square.

We got out at the square and met my partner for dinner at the National Gallery Restaurant, one of the best places to eat in the area. We had a delicious filling meal before going over to the Wyndhams theatre, where I saw Avenue Q in the autumn, but where Bill Bailey is currently performing Dandelion Mind. It was a brilliant night and a lovely way to start the week and a fabulous final show for to take in on the West End in 2010.

Tuesday was another day during which I worked and did not see my parents. They managed the National Portrait Gallery, where I used to go for the free friday drop-in sketch classes, and then met some of my dad's book forum friends in Leicester Square and went book shopping up Charing Cross Road.
On Wednesday I took the train to Elephant and Castle and walked up to the Imperial War Museum, a museum on my list of To Do's that I'd been holding off on until my dad came over. It opened at ten and I was a bit early so I wandered around out front as I waited for the museum to open and my parents to arrive. I discovered a stunning Tibetan Peace Garden installed when the Dalai Lama came to visit London. Further up the path was a graffitied piece of wall. As I approached it I realised it was a section of the Berlin Wall and for a moment I was so awe struck I couldn't really move. These moments were more frequent when I first came to London. Every day was a discovery of something new and wonderful that I'd always dreamed of seeing. Things that took my breath away because of their beauty or because they were so rare and wonderful.

When my parents arrived I showed it to them and they seemed as delighted as I. But it was what we found indoors that truly was a wonder. Airplanes hung from the ceiling, a rocket, miniature submarine and assorted cannons littered the floor. We decided to start from the top and work our way down as we had in the British Museum. The uppermost floor and lower most floors held my two favourite things in the whole building. At the very top is a new exhibit which features men and women awarded the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. I have always loved the look of different medals and it was incredible to read the stories of the people awarded them.

Downstairs were two 'experience' exhibits: The Blitz and The Trench. The Blitz involves sitting in a bomb shelter and then being shuffled out into the burning streets of London. The Trench is one you walk through, which was similar to the trench exhibit at the Memorial War Museum in Calgary. Both exhibits were very well put together and I really can't recommend them enough.

And then there was Thursday, my last day at work and the day my partner and I surprised my parents with their first Christmas gift: Tickets to a Christmas Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. This was just as much a treat for me as for them as I'd not yet been to this glorious venue. It really was marvellous, the most wonderful bit being when the fantastically huge organ would play it's loudest notes. I relished the vibration as it came up through my feet into my chest.

The final very English and very special treat to my parents (after presents and a fantastic Christmas lunch, of course.) was on Boxing Day. We went to a pantomime, a long time English tradition which none of us had ever experienced before. My partner secured tickets to a pantomime at the Wimbledon Theatre, starring the infamous David Hasselhoff.

Glorious. A glorious way to discover new things and a glorious way to revisit my favourite bits of London, this time with my parents next to me.


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