The Ipes Go on a London Holiday – Wednesday – Day 2 of the London Pass and I think we made up for Tuesday

It was our day to try again everything we missed on Tuesday. Take 2!

Up early on Wednesday, and we made it back out to the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre around 10 AM. Success! We got in, and it was a cool tour. The Globe Theater is a recreation of the original Globe from Shakespeare’s time, and it’s a working open air theater. It was pretty cool. We even got some souvenirs there.

After the theater, we got lunch at Borough Market, then went in for the London Bridge Experience and London Tombs. The London Bridge Experience is this history of the London Bridge led by actors acting rather dramatically through these small sets. The London Tombs is a mini haunted house experience where these actors now scare you as you walk through crowded spaces. It was fine. Everyone had a good time.

We walked across the Tower Bridge again, got admission into the Tower London (finally), and we walked around. It really reminded me of the locations in the first Naughty Dog Uncharted game. We also checked out the royal Crown Jewels on display within the Tower of London, and the various weapons and armor in use from back in the day. All interesting.

We could have spent much more time walking around, but we hoped to still make it to our final big destination for Wednesday – Kensington Palace. They were beautiful grounds, and much like Buckingham Palace, open to the public for the people to picnic and hang out in. Huge grounds, I’m telling you. Inside, we checked out a Lady Diana exhibit about her fashion, history, and her charity work. Back outside, we checked out the Sunken Garden and all the flora.

In the evening, we walked out of the palace grounds and grabbed dinner at The Ivy Inn Kensington Brasserie, which was nice. We were in the mood for gelato afterwards, so we grabbed a train to Notting Hill Gate to Amorino Notting Hill. Fancy gelato.

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The Ipes Go on a London Holiday – Tuesday – Day 1 of the London Pass and we were late to nearly late to everything 

Tuesday was our first full day in London to use the London Pass. We purchased the 3 day pass, which means we had to use it for a consecutive three days (no breaks.) We unfortunately got a late start. We took the Underground to near the Southwark Bridge, walked around, and made our way to our first stop at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theater after 11 AM, and they were no longer accepting walking tours. Okay, postponed to Wednesday. Sigh.

We checked out the Shard, and success!, we got tickets to our first use of the Pass, the View From the Shard. There are two viewing floors. While the first one on Level 69 is indoor and fully enclosed, you can walk up to the Level 72 Open Air Skydeck. I didn’t even know it was open air — it was so nice. We loved the sunlight coming through, and the fresh crisp air. We spent an hour up here.

We were pretty hungry, so we walked into the Southwark area, and ate tapas for lunch at Jose Tapas. We ate, we drank, we relaxed and took in the atmosphere. Oh, nice to relax.

We walked across the Tower Bridge, used our Pass again to get admission into the Tower Bridge itself to learn the history and walk above to look down below. You know, I always thought that the bridge with towers in London was the famous London Bridge. But no! London Bridge and Tower Bridge were two different bridges.

We moseyed over to the Tower of London, but we were too late (again) to get admission. So we had ice cream instead, checked out the gift shop. We tried to catch the next City Cruises boat ride, but we were (again!) late. We did hang around to catch the next and last cruise to Westminster Pier. It was a slow little boat ride east on the Thames river with a guide on a mic pointing out the visible sights.

It had been another long day of walking around, so we took a bus to visit the famous Hamleys store on Regent St. I think it was 6 or 7 floors of toys, so it was pretty cool. Josh and I were impressed with the huge Gen 1 Optimus Prime statue.

We weren’t up for a big dinner out, so we stopped by High Street in Kensington, and picked up some Japanese fast food from this place popular Wasabi chain restaurant. We grabbed a cab back to the hotel and ate back at our hotel.

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The Ipes Go on a London Holiday – Monday – First full day in London

We were up early Monday morning (a bank holiday BTW) for breakfast and to get on the proverbial road for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. It only happens 3x a week and Monday was a best day. We used Google Maps on our phones to efficiently navigate the London Underground subway. Good old Earl’s Court Station to St. James station. I think we got pretty good using public transit that whole week.

We tried to get to the palace by 10 AM to beat the crowds, but there were a lot of people there already. We pressed up against the gates and watched this slow buildup to the big changing. It goes slowly for 40+ minutes, then a band and men on horses arrive to switch. It was a lot of pomp and circumstance but meh.

We walked through the park and grounds to pick up our 3 day London Passes. Turns out, you have to use them on consecutive days – no taking breaks, so we decided to wait until we had full days beginning Tuesday. We walked around London neighborhoods checking out the sights. We tried to get fish and chips at some restaurant that Lily picked out in Marylebone but it was a long way there. Arrived and it was closed for the bank holiday! We walked back looking for another restaurant. We found another place but out of fish. More walking. Finally found a bar that had burgers and fish. Phew!

We did more walking then made our way back to Buckingham Palace for our 4 PM walking tour of the palace. It’s a self-guided tour of the main floor using these portable listening devices and screens. Very fancy in there.

We took the bus later to the Westminster Abbey area for coffee, snacks, and another walking tour of Harry Potter filming locations, with a little bit of history sprinkled along the way. Around 9 PM, we got a bit tired and hungry, so we tipped our tour guide, left the tour early for an Indian dinner as The Delhi Brasserie in SoHo. I also had to go to the restroom (or “toilets”) before the tour started before I caused an international incident. It was epic. 😉

Very good food, but we were done for the night. Lots of walking and all still suffering from jet lag. We took the subway back to the hotel.

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The Ipes Go on a London Holiday – Sunday – We have arrived!

In the morning, we woke up only slightly rested. Come on, who truly enjoys sleeping on a plane in Economy class? It’s never comfortable. We had a croissants and yogurt for breakfast, and landed at Heathrow 20 mins early at 9:40 AM local time. Our driver was late so we grabbed coffee and tea and an inaugural fruit scone at a cafe in Terminal 2.

Btw, I learned the Europeans don’t appear to drink half & half or cream in their coffee. I spent a week asking for “full fat” milk like a weirdo.

It was raining most of the day, which gave me a slight sense of foreboding. Many times, our big long-awaited trips have been slightly ruined by extended periods of rainy weather – I’m looking at you 2013 10th wedding anniversary trip to Cancun and road trip to the Outer Banks! Thankfully the weather forecast improved the rest of the week.

The hotel wasn’t ready for us to arrive before 3 PM check in time, so we put our luggage into the store room, but couldn’t go very far with the rain coming down. We walked around the corner to a nearby Italian restaurant for a late lunch. I don’t know if it’s more authentic, but garlic bread was a pizza with butter and garlic.

??

After lunch, we walked back and hung out in the hotel lobby for another two hours. Tired to be sure. Our room was only ready by 4 PM.

We all showered and Nums and the kids rested briefly. I realized that I forgot to pack my belt. It was a little after 5 PM, so I took a pants-slipping-down-almost-had-a-wardrobe-malfunction 15 minute walk in the drizzling rain to High Street in Kensington to find a clothing store with belts before they all closed at 6 PM. I found an H & M, bought a belt, walked outside, found it pouring rain, went back to buy an umbrella, and walked back to the hotel.

I loved the architecture. Really different and cool.

When everyone was rested, we took a 20 minute walk to another part of Kensington for a Japanese dinner at Kappa. After, we walked a bit further for a unique dessert experience at Four Winters where they prepare your ice cream with liquid nitrogen. It was very cold but no ice!

Finally we walked back to the hotel in the rain again. It was time for a good night of sleep. Big day on Monday, starting with Buckingham Palace.

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The Ipes Go on a London Holiday – Saturday – Are we gonna make it?

Before you leave for any trip, isn’t it always a little crazy? There’s often so much to wrap up at work, to set up at home, trip planning, etc, just so you can go relax for a while. It’s exhausting, and you really hope the trip (for business or leisure) is all worth it.

We had been planning this London trip for months, and only finally found a way to make it happen a few months ago. We made plans to take a red eye United flight Saturday, arrive Sunday morning, then sightsee the heck out of London for an entire week, then return in a week before Labor Day. We tasked Joshua and Lily with developing their list of top activities, locations, and restaurants. We purchased a 3 day London Pass with the hope to save money on admission to many attractions. We also bought tickets to see Les Miserables at Queen’s Theatre in the West End.

In the two weeks before we left the country, the kids did their normal stuff. They had been home all summer, apart from the summer trip here and there. It was a good life for them. On the other hand, as the adults, Namita and I were in a crazed panic to take care of work stuff (including my business trip to Boston in the final week), ordering trip supplies, like power adapters to use in the UK, a new Kindle for Lily, a new 64 GB SD card for my Nikon camera, etc.

Before we knew it, the big day arrived. We had to finish a lot of work stuff in the morning and early afternoon, and our Lyft driver would be arriving around 5:30 PM to drive us to Newark. We considered driving and parking like always, but we ultimately decided it would be more economical and easier to get dropped off. Check-in was a breeze, had time to sit around and waste time before the flight.

The flight itself was uneventful. We watched a little TV on…. the little TVs in the seatbacks (what a wonderful convenience), and ate surprisingly decent airplane Indian food for dinner. I don’t know what time it was, but we all nodded off somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean….

 

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This was a rough 24 hours traveling to Boston

I’m landing in Newark after a rough 24 hours traveling to Boston and back. It’s been a rough week. It’s been many long weeks while I’ve been leading my audit, but this has been a long week. By the time I suffered the full list of indignities, I felt ready to crack emotionally. 

I left home Wednesday afternoon with what I thought would be plenty of time to catch my flight to Boston. Between one errand, traffic to and around the airport, closed and full airport parking lots, and a well-meaning but helpless United Airlines agent, I missed my 5:20 PM flight.  

I sat around Terminal B waiting for my next flight – 8:50 PM. Had a cheapo burrito bowl for dinner, then made my way to security. It was a long line, even with TSA Pre-Check. Turns out I forgot to take out my nice swiss army knife from my laptop bag, so TSA confiscated it. Asked me what to do, and I said I don’t have a place to go and had to catch a flight. They dumped it. I kept the case though. 

Halfway to the gate, I got a notification that my flight was delayed two hours and moved to a new gate at Terminal C. Where my car was parked! Oh I completely forgot my car was parked here! I could get my knife back, drop it off to the car,  and still make my new (now delayed) flight. I hustled back to TSA, but both the agent and the supervisor said nope. It goes into a locked bin and I can’t get it back. A $40 knife gone. And more than three hours to sit around Newark.

At this point, while walking out, I felt tired and, I’ll admit, slightly emotional. Tired. Angry at myself for missing my flight, losing my knife, forgetting about my car. 

I caught my new flight, took a Lyft from the airport to the hotel, and checked in. My shampoo had opened up in my toiletry bag, but at least this was the last indignity of the trip. And nothing got on my clothes.I went to Terminal C (again), went through security (again), and decided to sit at a bar, get a drink, and just try to relax. Later I tried to get some hot snack and a coffee from Starbucks but the oven was officially off. And I guess they don’t turn them back on. I was starving at this point, but oh well. 

Thursday morning, I woke up feeling slightly better. I ran for 25 mins at the hotel gym, got ready, had breakfast, and had a decent day in the office site. Made my flight, and now we’re landing back at Newark. 

So happy to see Newark.

Lots of work to do still, but the Ipes leave on holiday in 48 hours. Work still be there, so I’ll do what I can for now, and park the rest for when I get back. I’m very much looking forward to some sightseeing with the family, trying out new foods, and being a stupid American abroad.

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The Get Smart (2008) film reminded me of the old Naked Gun series

When I was growing up, I was a huge fan of the old reruns of the 1960s Get Smart television show. Starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon, and created by Buck Henry and Mel Brooks (never heard of this Mel Brooks guy), I thought it was great. Sharp writing, funny sight gags, what was there not to love?

Peter Segal (of Naked Gun fame) directed this 2008 film remake of the old television show. Steve Carell stars as the modern day Maxwell Smart, a desk-analyst-turned-agent (Agent 86) at CONTROL, a secret U.S. government counter-intelligence agency based in Washington, D.C.  He’s not a good agent by any means, so he’s paired up with Agent 99, played by Anne Hathaway. They are up against KAOS, an international criminal organization devoted to…. evil.

Side note: You know, I originally didn’t think much of Anne Hathaway when she started out. I didn’t watch her early films. I’ve recently seen her in The Dark Knight Rises (ridiculous film, but her Selina Kyle was the best part), Oceans 8 (so-so plot, but good characters like Daphne Kluger), the movie version of Les Misérables (she played Cosette), and now this film. I think she’s really good. I’d gladly watch any of her movies.

Back to the 2008 Get Smart film. The film is basically about Max and Agent 99 being paired up after CONTROL’s office is attacked. They go on the road to stop KAOS from executing whatever they’re up to. The plot is threadbare, but it’s there so they can do sight gags, the supporting cast can make jokes, and I don’t know, it felt a little dated to me.  If it was the Nineties again, then this film would have fit in. It’s very similar to Naked Gun. There are some good bits, but I was only mildly entertained. The kids laughed a lot though.

Get Smart (2008)
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I’ve waited about four years for this – functioning backyard patio lights

Does four years seem like a long time? In hindsight, it sure sounds like it. I think it was summer 2015 when I discovered the backyard patio lights didn’t work for a real reason. New house, lots of tasks and stuff to figure out. Unpacking, decorating, figuring out how the sprinklers worked.

2014 – Why don’t the backyard patio lights work? More importantly, I hate the this Rainbird sprinkler system even more. And this thing here too. 

I physically dug around, and discovered we were missing the power pack converter thingermabob. Did the previous owners take it or did it stop working years ago? 

Fine, whatever, new house, higher priority items on the list. Lights later.

2015 – Okay, I’ve purchased a power pack. Wait, how does low voltage landscape lighting work? Erm, can someone help me? Everyone is busy? Okay. I’ll do it myself.

Discovered the wiring is bad and realized the original lights are all rusted. I’m better off replacing them all. Need a hammer drill to put new screws into patio stone. Purchased new drills but no luck. No time, deal with it later.

2016 – Made some excuses, didn’t get around to it.

2017 –  Tried to get some companies to do the whole house, still lots of money. 

2018 – Fed up with the excuses. Found a new local handyman contractor who was willing to help fill in some stupid horseshoe pits and help me drill and install the patio lights. Last Saturday afternoon, me and the handyman removed the old non-functioning lights and hooked up the lights to the new wiring the kids and I installed a month ago.

Finally! 

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These stupid horseshoe pits are finally gone

The previous owners of our home were into playing horseshoes. No, you don’t understand. They were really into playing horseshoes. We had these two large horseshoe pits taking up space in our backyard. We have extra horsehoes in the basement (and why didn’t they take it with them?)

I tried removing them, but the original owner built them tornado-ready. I tried digging out the first one, but after an hour of digging, found four 2×4 boeams above ground, and four more 2×4 beams buried underground. And the simple stick in the ground (as seen above) is actually about three feet of construction rebar staked through another 2×4 beam, a layer of sand, and then additional layers of soil and rocks. After an hour or so, this was as far as I got:

I eventually got tired and gave up. I ran out of time last month, and never went back to remove the rebar, or to work on the 2nd horseshoe pit. My wife got a great idea to hire a local handyman to do the heavy lifting. Great idea. I found a guy willing to do it, and he did a nice job in record time to remove the pits, refill with top soil, and even seed them.

Eureka! Job done. Eventually, the grass will grow back, and we can use this side of the yard again.

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“Form feet and legs! Form arms and torso! And I’ll form the head!”

The kids started assembling the Voltron Lions this week. I thought I’d be working alongside them but I’ve unfortunately been extremely busy with work. They’re doing a pretty good job on their own. Red and Green lions are done, and they’re working on the Blue and Yellow lions now.

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