France Friday

This morning we woke up at 4:15am. I actually went to bed at 10:30pm last night and was asleep by 11pm. However, at 11:30pm Natalia knocked over an empty glass (didn’t break) and I jumped up. Wouldn’t you know that I couldn’t fall back to sleep until after 2am. Nikki picked us up at 5:15am and drove us to the train station where we took the Eurostar to France. Arriving at about 10:15am we were trying to figure out how to catch the open-top tour bus which was our only real plan for the day. Ady is so good with languages! She used her French to ask a vendor in the train station who pointed us to the street where we found the bus. It is once again hard to comprehend the price of things when doing the exchange to dollars. The dollar is so weak in London and Europe. The tour bus for the four of us for the day was 88 Euros which comes out to just under $200 in dollars. We rode the bus for a while and then took advantage of the hop-on/hop-off all day part of the tour to grab some lunch. Natalia ordered some eggs, Claudia, Ady & I all got sandwiches, and we had one bottle of water between the four of us … 50 Euros … $100 for lunch! CRAZY! We also stopped later in the day and had 2 lates, 2 hot chocolates, and one crepe … 27 Euros … about $55! INSANE!!! The only thing I can liken it to is what people from Latin America must feel like when they come to America and realize how weak their money is to the dollar. I have had to stop doing the math, get what we need, and just enjoy the cultural experience. Otherwise we wouldn’t do anything & I would be in a psych ward. The good news is that our friends in London were gracious enough to let us stay in their flat so we saved a ton of money that would have been spent on hotels. Anyways … the bus tour was absolutely incredible and worth every stinkin euro! We saw just about everything; so many incredible sites! What an awesome, historical, culturally-rich city! We took the yellow and green circuits and saw the Opera House, Musee du Louvre (cool after reading and watching the DaVinci Code), Notre Dame, St. Michel, the Trocadero, The Arc de Triomphe, the Place Vaaban, St. Louis, The Concord, The Madeleine, and of course, The Eiffel Tower. It was spectacular! We got to walk through Notre Dame and see many sculptures depiting Christ and figures from Church History. It was an absolutely magnificent sanctuary! To have visited two of the most famous churches in the world on this trip was very special. I was really happy that we had that experience – especially the girls. Perhaps one day we will be able to come back and spend several days really soaking in the city rather than the drive-by. I was telling Ady that the more I visit other cultures, the less attractive the American dream/culture becomes. What other countries lack in media and technology, they more than make up for in rich history and tradition. There just seems to be a much deeper sense of friendship and community – something unnatural which takes so much intentionality and effort to instill in people and achieve in America. Just an observation. On the way home we rode first class. No, I didn’t splurge! For some reason it was cheaper to get first class coming home. Perhaps they needed to fill seats. We enjoyed a nice 3-course meal on the train. We were just enjoying our coffee when a bottle of water slid across the table and knocked Ady’s coffee on her lap. She got a nice, big brown spot on her tan pants. Bummer! She was a good sport, though. We arrived back to the flat around 11:30pm. Ady and I packed up our luggage. Tomorrow we’re off!

New York Saturday

Just a quick note to say we are home safe. Had a good flight. No problems at airports. When we got home, Pedro unleashed a massive shoe lace drool in excitement. So happy to see us he was shivering. When we saw Princess her face was so swollen it was flat. Ady had to take her straight to the vet. It seems she had an allergic reaction to the pesticides used to treat our yard on Friday. They washed her face and gave her a shot and the swelling has gone down significantly. Other than that, just unpacked and slept like babies last night. We did all wake up before 6am, though with the time change. Feel very rested now. Thank You Jesus!

London Thursday

Today we headed out with the London ladies. Also joining us today was Sue, one of the teens from the church I met last year. She was in a very serious accident, falling from over 30 feet out of a hotel window while on a school trip in Italy. We thank God that she is alive and able to be with us today. We went to Kensington Palace where Princess Diana lived. We enjoyed a picnic and the girls played on The Diana Princess of Whales’ Memorial Playground. It is a great playground that truly honors Princess Di and reflects her heart for children. Complete with a pirate ship, tee-pees, small log cabins with little picnic tables inside, musical instruments, games, a story area, and reflection benches, all of which truly inspire the imagination. It was well done. After a couple of hours at the playground we walked through the gardens and around the outside of the palace. It was a very relaxing day. We are now back at the flat chilling, waiting for Nikki and Pam to join us for dinner. We are turning in early tonight for tomorrow we are taking a day trip to France and we have to leave very early in the morning.

London Wednesday

On Wednesday we decided to head out and spend the day just as a family. Clare wrote out some directions and we were off. Our first order of business was a promised return trip to Battersea Park. We rented some bikes. Ady and I got a tandem and the girls each got some cool little 3-wheelers. After circling the entire park we headed to the playground. The girls were able to jump on an inflatable this time as well (it was closed last time we were there). Following lunch we jumped on the bus and tube (subway) headed downtown. We walked down Whitehall Street and got our picture taken with one of the guards. We then went to Westminster Abbey to attend the 5pm service. Arriving a bit early gave us a chance to look around a bit and talk to the girls about the service which would be different than they had ever experienced. The service was very pleasant. The liturgy was nice and really allowed us time for contemplation. This was made more meaningful for me personally as I just finished reading Tony Jones’ book Soul Shaper. In the book he goes through various spiritual disciplines from many traditions giving the theology behind them, and encourages the readers to experiment with them to see what works in enhancing the individual’s personal as well as corporate connection with God. Two things I really enjoyed about the service in particular were the reading of the Word – a passage from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament – without any exegesis or explanation. They simply gave each person the space to hear from God in a personal way. The other thing I liked was how during the closing prayer (which was mostly focused outward) the minister brought us back to the readings and guided us into prayerfully considering their application in prayer. It was quite a special experience for us, and I am so glad we (especially Claudia and Natalia) got to experience a different expression of the faith. After the service we still had a couple of hours to kill before sunset when we would be able to see the city at night, so we took the tube to Tower Hill. We decided to walk on the opposite side of the street than we had walked previously, and we were pleasantly surprised to find some really cute restaurants tucked in amongst the hotels surrounding a small inlet filled with boats and yachts. We decided to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant. We sat out on the deck and enjoyed a beautiful view of the Tower Bridge and the inlet. After dinner it was dark and we took many pictures of the bridge which was absolutely spectacular! We also returned to Westminster and took some pics there before returning home.

London Tuesday

Last night I finally, finally slept good. In fact, I slept so good, I decided to keep going through the entire morning. When I woke up at 1pm, the girls had gone to the park with the London ladies. Ady was taking a nap on the bed. After showering, getting ready, and having some breakfast, I enjoyed some peace and quiet reading from two books – Soul Shaper by Tony Jones, and a few readings from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. I also spent some time journaling. When I finished Ady and I spent some time talking, and then I decided to walk down the street to get a coffee. As I was walking out the door, the girls returned from the park. They had a really good time. I walked down to main street and enjoyed a latte at Cafe Nero while I read a paper. I then walked down the street to continue sipping my latte and reading outside on a bench. After about 10 minutes a guy sat down next to me and straight away began rolling a joint. It was comical to me how nonchalantly he just rolled it up and started smoking it right on a busy street. After a bit I returned to the flat where the girls were watching the movie Nanny McPhee. We are now just chilling out. Clare and Abigail have gone to the store to pick up some items for dinner. We are having sausage and mash for dinner. Looking forward to continuing this relaxing day.

London Monday

Today we headed off to visit downtown London and do some sight-seeing. First order of business was to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. After that we went to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the House of Parliament. The House of Parliament is by far my favorite, and the most beautiful building in London. After that we walked across the Westminster Bridge to The London Eye. After purchasing our tickets we all enjoyed the 30-minute ride on the massive Ferris wheel from which we could see all of London. We then walked down the boardwalk along Jubilee Gardens where we saw lots of street performers. Then over the Jubilee Bridge to the Tube we went to ride to The Tower of London and the Tower Bridge – both beautiful. I didn’t get to enjoy the Tower Bridge last year because our kids were so dead that we just looked at it from a distance and turned around. Finally, we went to Leicester Square where we had dinner and did some shopping. It was a very fun day, and we accomplished virtually all of our major sight-seeing. Now we are back at the flat laughing hysterically as the girls are playing charades. We’re also talking about our friend Stan, and although we are having a great time and more fun than he had when he was here, we are wishing he were here with us. He’s here with us in spirit … and in truth, hello! Whatever! lol

London Sunday

Didn’t have time to blog yesterday, so I’ll do it now. We headed off for church at around 10am. When I arrived we were greeted by several folks from the church, many whom I had met last year while here on my missions trip. One person I was glad to see was Babs – an 80-year old woman who knows my grandfather. After an opening liturgy and some worship, I gave a talk I called “Faith, Fellowship & Fruit.” After church we had tea, and the people bought me out of the 10 books I brought with me. We then headed off for lunch with Clare, Angela, Abigail, Sue, and Nikki at Nando’s. Good times! Following lunch we hopped on the bus and went to Hillsongs Church in the Dominion Theatre. It was a typical Hillsongs service, and the worship was great. After taking the bus back to Battersea we grabbed kebabs for dinner and ate them at the flat. Very yum! Definitely want to have them again before returning home.

London Saturday

Last night we went to bed by 10pm. We were quite exhausted from the jet lag. It didn’t take the girls but two minutes to be sound asleep. Claudia and Ady slept like babies, but Natalia kept waking up and freaking out. She would sit up and shout strange things, get up to leave the room, and kept pointing at the window. Ady and I kept laying her back down and she would conk our again. I woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I decided to listen to my iPod. Before leaving I purchased two audio books: Mistaken Identity and 25 Ways to Win With People by John Maxwell. Mistaken Identity is about the identity mix up of two students involved in the Taylor University van accident in 2006 when my dad worked for the school. I listened to several chapters of each book before going back to sleep around 5am. At 10am we all got up feeling much better than the day before. After breakfast and some reading, we watched a movie. After that I went into the bedroom and took another unexpected nap. I got up around 1pm and we hoped on the bus and went to Battersea Park. It was wonderfully relaxing to just stroll through the park and allow the girls to play on their wonderful playground. The girls did a small zip line as well as a tire swing. They both did so good and demonstrated tremendous bravery! We were very proud of them both. We also walked along the Thames River. I love that place! It’s the park I jogged in almost every day last year during our missions trip. After several hours in the park, we took the bus back. We went to the grocery store and picked up a few items after which we grabbed some fish and chips for dinner. It was delish! After dinner we walked down the street and got some ice cream. Now we’re just hanging out. It’s been a fun and relaxing day.

In London!

We arrived safely and on time to London at 7:30 this morning London time. Claudia got about 2 hours of sleep on the plane. Ady and I caught a little nap. Natalia stayed awake the whole time despite our pleas for her to sleep some. After getting through Immigration she was a live wire when we saw our friends Clare and Angela with whom we’re staying, running through the airport and joking during our ride on the tube to their flat. However, as I told Ady, she crashed hard after her jolt of energy. We all hit the wall at about 1pm which was 8am our time, but we went out to eat. Natalia didn’t make it. She was out in the restaurant. We came home around 3 and took a three hour nap. We’re exhausted, but we’re making ourselves stay awake. Well, Ady and I are making the girls stay awake. Natalia especially is having a difficult time. She keeps dozing off and whining when we wake her. She’s trying her best, but it’s so tough on her. Clare has just made some Shepherd’s Pie for dinner, so we’re looking forward to that! Planning our time together and enjoying one another’s company. Well, I shouldn’t speak for the London Ladies … perhaps they’re not having fun having us crash at their flat. I think they are, though.