London: Day 2

After allowing ourselves a little time to adjust the first day, we hit the ground running:

1. Churchill War Rooms 


We’ve heard the war rooms are even cooler if you watch Skyfall right before going. For some reason I remembered this having a grand entrance, so it took us a few minutes to find the opening to the bunkers. Also, book online ahead of time to skip the line. I don’t get why people still wait in lines.


Doing some serious name research.

2. British Library 


One of our favorite experiences of the whole trip! You walk into a normal, public library (free!) and then off to the left is this room full of amazing documents all right next to each other.  A few of our favorites: A Gutenberg Bible, original drafts of The Beatle’s lyrics, Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings and scientific observations, the Magna Carta, and a draft of Handle’s Messiah. Oh, and Anne Boylin’s handwriting is better than Mary Queen of Scotts,

3. Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross 


Apparently a few years ago you could just walk up to the wall and take a picture. Now there is a huge line and a ridiculous fee. This shot was taken from afar and we ended up turning around and heading to lunch. Also, I rubbed my eye the wrong way and nearly lost a contact. So our king’s cross experience mainly consisted of frantically asking people where I could buy contact solution. There are so many Harry Potter sights around London, this one can definitely be skipped.

4. The Globe: Taming of the Shrew the-globe


We finished off the day at The Globe Theatre, but I couldn’t end the post with it because it was such a terrible experience. The Globe itself is pretty cool. Jane’s mother warned us that the last row are the only seats with a back, and I’m glad we listened to her. The interpretation of the play was terrible. In hind sight, I wish we’d walked out during half time. I was especially disappointed because I genuinely like Shakespeare and Spencer hasn’t had much positive exposure to it. This play didn’t help. Lesson learned: do your research and stick to more familiar plays.

5.  The British Museum 


Our wonderful tour guide.


Oh hey, a piece of one of the seven wonders of the world.


Rumor has it J.K. Rowling drew inspiration from the Lewis Chessmen.

When my family lived in Greece we often took visitors up to the Parthenon. I can remember passive-aggressive signs all over the place saying, “If the British would give us back x, then you would be able to see it here where it rightfully belongs.” The Greeks are dramatic, so I didn’t think too much about it until this trip to the British Museum. Now I realize that you really don’t need to go to Greece to see a large portion of the Parthenon. It is safely stored right here, and probably in much better condition than if it was still on the Acropolis. In my opinion, the British Museum is one of the best museums in the world because of the shear depth of its exhibits. It is also free, which I definitely appreciate after growing up on the Smithsonian. But the Greek exhibit had me wondering how a lot of these artifacts from around the world ended up in this particular museum. Winning and imperialism at its finest? Politics aside, my feet are thankful all this history is under one roof. 

London: Day 1

Big Ben

Day 1 was mainly spent getting into London because some of the roads/trains were closed due to crazy flooding the from the previous day. Once we got into town, we lucked out and had near perfect weather our whole visit. Spencer and I ended up getting in a little earlier and headed to the Imperial War museum. After a couple of wrong turns, and then locking our luggage up to the stroller rack and praying nothing got stolen, we ran through the WWI section (underwhelming) and the espionage section (much cooler–the best part was the footage of the British SAS breaking into the Iranian Embassy of London to free hostages). Apparently the best part of the museum focuses on the Holocaust, but we’d just been to the Holocaust museum in DC and were on a time crunch. We were planning to catch an uber to our Airbnb to meet up with Jane and Kesler, but “newsflash” our phones only worked on wifi and we couldn’t find wifi anywhere. We ended up panicking and taking a taxi which was wayyy overpriced, but ended up being totally worth it because the cab driver went on an interesting spiel about how he hoped the UK would vote to leave the EU the next day. Then he turned the questions back on us, and the current election season. My favorite question was “If you could vote for President Obama for a third term instead of voting Clinton or Trump, would you do it?”

London Menu

Nothing says “welcome to London” quite like this cute menu

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory London West End

Because no visit to London is complete without a West End show. Also, an evening play happens to effectively combat jet lag.

West End

When you’re about to spend two hours watching amazing candy creations, you clearly have to bring some chocolate.

West End Theatre

This wasn’t my favorite musical, but the pit and set were stellar.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory West End

Austin Graffiti Park

spray paint twoGraffit Park at Castle Hill 2spray painting

Austin Graffiti Park

six a clock

This girl just moved to Austin and I’m quite thrilled about it. We had to leave something in remembrance of our other college roommates. (Spencer laser cut a Weasley clock with our faces on it in college, and this later led to how we keep in touch).


Graffiti park at Castle Hill

baby graffiti

Brave parents. The rest of the couples with babies met us at Gourdoughs afterwards.

graffiti 3spray paint

Enchanted Rock

enchanted rock

My favorite part of Austin is that we get visitors. My cousin messaged us saying that her family was doing a multi-day camping trip and was going to be near Austin for a day. We jumped at the chance to meet up. I think we’d been warned ahead of time, but somehow my impression was that we were going on a short hike and then rock climbing with some of their friends. I should have known better. Her dad has a reputation for picking character building adventures.

slot canyon enchanted rock

We started off going through this slot canyon which was really cool because it isn’t on the park’s maps and is tricky to find. So you basically have to go with someone who has been before. Come visit us and we’ll take you now that we know where it is :). The rest of the park was really crowded, but we had the slot canyon all to ourselves. Which was good because between the three families we had about 15 kids to get up through those rocks.

slot canyon enchanted rock

The slot canyon probably wouldn’t have been tough, except that the little ones couldn’t reach some of the hand/footholds, and our backpacks were wayyy too bulky. Some of the children and I ended up creating an assembly line where we’d pass up all the backpacks, then help each other climb a little further, and pass up all the backpacks again. Meanwhile, Spencer and the parents were doing the same thing with the baby who was impressively happy and chill about the whole experience.

enchanted rock

We made it! Check out that view.

enchanted rock

Next up: the cave. Which was (obviously) pitch black and we left the camera outside, so I don’t have any pictures. In the middle of the cave, the baby finally decided he’d had enough of being passed back and forth in a cold, wet place. I think we were all a little relieved to see daylight. I was definitely grateful that the Benson’s shared their headlamps with us and that one of the other families knew and led the way.


We finished off the day in the shade.

climbing 2

climbing 3


texas flowers

On the way home I made Spencer pull over, so we could check out the wild flowers. Remember all the blue bonnets back in March? They were replaced by red and yellow flowers until the grass looked like it was on fire. Spring, please hurry back.

Sea Kayaking

sea kayaking

The last day with my siblings, we lucked out and found a few hours in between rainstorms for sea kayaking.

calm before storm

Usually this area is packed with boats, so it was fun to have it to ourselves with the storm rolling in. The worker at the marina told us to stay close enough that we could hear the horn to let us know we needed to come back if the storm got too close.

sea kayak

We looped around Spectre Island, stopped and explored, and switched kayaking partners.


kayak water fight

This pictures is a little blurry because once got back into the marina and let these two be in the same boat, they started a splash battle, but I love how it shows the drama in the sky and water.

kayak battle

It had started raining again and was time to head in, but P still didn’t think everyone was wet enough.

Destin Harbor


Photo cred: Aunt Janet

boats in harbor

Before heading to Spectre Island, we cruised around Destin Harbor admiring the boats and wildlife.

heron standing

This heron determinedly ignored us. A few minutes later we ran across another heron gulping down a fish. We watched it slowly fit the fish in its mouth, and for a few seconds I thought the bird was going to choke. Then we watched the lump of the fish travel slowly down the whole length of the heron’s neck and disappear.

heron walking

We always try to see how close we can get in the boat before the birds decide they’re done. This one clearly wanted nothing to do with us.


This pelican kept eyeing us and trying to decide whether or not we were worth the effort of moving. I love how his little webbed feet are gripping the railing.

on a boat

The cute crew.


10 years from now, this is what Spencer wants his life to look like. Well, mostly just the corgi part.

chasing dolphins

Spotted! Every time we’ve been on the boat we’ve seen dolphins.


These two played with a boat for a few minutes before speeding up and disappearing.

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