Gold and Green Ghosts!

We attended the Gold and Green Ball which is an annual institution here, even though to us it seems so old school from the forties! The decorations were beautiful with mist and moving lights. We left when the live band started however, they always want to be so loud! Then Thursday evening we went on a night ghost tour of London. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound at all like us, but one of the senior missionary couples had bought tickets when their son and daughter-in-law were here but they weren’t able to fit it into their itinerary. So they invited us. It was a 2.5 hour walking tour, and we sure got sore feet. Partway through we took a tube ride, and at the end there was a very short boat ride down the Thames from Big Ben to the Tower of London. That was the very best part! It was so beautiful at night, all lit up with various colors. The London Eye was going and the most beautiful thing of all was the Tower Bridge. We need to go back and see all these things during the day and do some tours, but I am so glad we got to see them at night first.

We went to dinner before the tour at a nearby restaurant offering 2 for 1 steak dinners. The chateau briand steak was the best I have eaten, and the “chips” or french fries were fantastic and they kept bringing fresh hot ones! And right outside the restaurant we found this car that all the men passing by were drooling over and taking pictures of:

IMG_2061

and you could see the engine through the back window!

 

IMG_2062

The London Eye and waterfront area

IMG_2080

Tower Bridge from the boat

IMG_2087

A lot of the pictures didn’t turn out because it was so dark, so we will post more when we go back in the day time! We spoke in church yesterday at Royal Tunbridge Wells, a city south of us that is the most expensive part of this area. We went to lunch to a member’s home and learned more about the education system over here, which has been quite confusing to us, especially with some of the recent changes. The traditional A level exams have been replaced with modular exams (although they are thinking about going back to A levels) and as of this year students have to pay £9,000 per year in tuition, where it used to be free. That has really hurt some of our students here who do not have that kind of money to attend. In the past, if you had the grades you could attend any school of your choice and study for free. That is no longer the case.

We have broken down and purchased a large dining room table. The main purpose it will be used for is a desk, we have it pushed up against the wall and both can study there. When we have guests we can pull it out into the middle of the room and bring in the extra chairs from the little garage we have and actually feed people! I think we finally have the flat laid out the best way for us, we have moved furniture around several times trying to get it the most functional for us.

The weather cooled off and was rainy for a while, then it warmed up this last week, sort of an Indian summer. We are getting morning temperatures in the high 50s and afternoons in the low 60s, so it is still pleasant but we have had to start wearing sweaters (they call them jumpers over here) and jackets. We haven’t had a really cold day yet, so we are very much enjoying it!

Buckingham Palace

IMG_1685

Our very first senior missionary outing was lunch and a tour of Buckingham Palace. It was a chilly and rainy day — here most of us are posing for a picture in front of a giant vent giving out warm air. There were so many people waiting to tour the palace. It is only open for two months in the summer, and they run tours every 15 minutes. You each got a headset that played an explanation of each room. It was interesting to see the differences from the castles and palaces we have seen in other countries. Probably the best part was some of the ceilings which were very ornately and symbolically decorated. At least we didn’t get thoroughly drenched, it only sprinkled all day. We feel like we have the train system into London figured out, too.

Tomorrow we have the opening social for Institute which begins the next Wednesday. We are putting on a Mexican fiesta in a very simple way. Elaine made papel picado to hang up, we are eating chili con carne and then busting a pinata. The part we are most looking forward to is the skits. We will give each group a bag of four disparate items, and a theme sentence (like “are there tigers in the jungle?”) and they have to come up with a 3-minute skit using all four items and their phrase. We have done this before with youth, and we think there will be some very creative ideas.

Mama Mia! We saw the ocean!

We finally found a free day to go into London to see a play. We took the train for the first time and it was a pleasant, if warm, 20-minute trip. We walked around the West End theatre district, eating lunch in a nice park. It was a beautiful sunny day. We then found a museum which was a home of an architect who collected real or cast architectural objects. The home was filled with Roman, Greek, and other art pieces that were hung up and down the walls. It was so interesting — and free! We will definitely go back. We were also told about a museum at the Royal Surgery. We did a quick walk-through but there was so much we will have to do it on another trip. We only took a quick look at the bottom floor, which had hundreds of specimen bottles. It was the national collection of artifacts and included lots of animal fetuses, dissected body parts, tumors that had been removed, and skeletons of people with bone diseases. I know this sounds awful but it was very interesting! Basically it was things that doctors could study to learn more about animal and human bodies.

IMG_1534

A home with an amazing architectural collection

IMG_1573

A bakery in London — these are meringues, which were about 8 inches across

IMG_1582

A mathematically-interesting 2nd floor connection between two buildings

Then it was time to see Mama Mia! It was a great musical — the singing and acting were phenomenal, far above what we are used to in the community plays. Afterwards we walked around and found ourselves in Covent Garden where there were tons of food booths. We chose Polish chicken skewers for dinner. We headed back by train and got home before dark. This type of trip to see a matinee will work well.

IMG_1566

 

West End theatre

IMG_1576

Covent Gardens food booths

IMG_1648

We made our first visit to the ocean this week. On Sunday we traveled to Hastings which is a coastal town. You can see the beach (which is all rocks) and the cliffs. We spoke in the Hastings Ward and then taught the YSA Sunday School class. We then took the sisters home to make a flat inspection. They have a big beautiful flat on the 3rd floor with a small balcony which faces the ocean and a stunning view. We then drove their version of Ocean Drive and took pictures before driving home. Along the way we made extensive notes of places to visit on our next trips, as we will be doing flat inspections each month. Next time we will bring one of the other (car-less) senior couples and have a “holiday”.