London Day 5: Gardens and Parks and Museums, oh my!

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On our last day of touring London we decided we should go see Buckingham Palace. The tour guide on our hop-on-hop-off bus tour had told us we shouldn’t miss it and we were in luck because while the Queen was on vacation, the staterooms were open to the public. So off we went!

We got there a little early so we took a stroll to a nearby park. The girls were enthralled. They wanted to stay there all day. In fact during the tour all they wanted to do was go back to the little park we’d been there earlier. They weren’t impressed with the gold banisters or gifts from Africa, Princess Diana’s cassette collection or even tea cakes from the Royal Cafe. Nope. They just wanted to go back to the park. That park in particular.

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Which I can’t really blame them. It was pretty cool park but I get the feeling that all parks in London are like this. They make our parks seem like boring weak sauce. There were woven swings, see-saws, wooden snail sculptures, metal chimes that you could hop on Dance Dance Revolution style, AND GET THIS!!!! Coffee shops. I’m not even kidding you.  I’m sure it has something to do with the proximity to the royal palace and the fact that Princess Diana probably brought her children here but still!!! How many days had I pined for an iced coffee in the park while I pushed toddler bug on the swing hour after hour. Oh man. Raising kids in London seems like a walk in a much better park!

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We couldn’t take any pictures inside the palace which was kind of refreshing for me since my life is ruled by whether or not I can capture a moment on camera. Does it really happen if I don’t instagram it? That is the question.

We walked from room to room (some of them even un-airconditioned!) and listened to little headsets telling us this and that about the royal rooms. It was pleasant. The girls seemed to enjoy it too.

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But we were all happy to get to the end and grab a quick bite of princess cake and princess ice cream. The cafe was so cute. I would love to be the graphic designer that designs the queen’s merchandise. Everything is in baby blue with white scallops and dainty script. All pretty and twee.

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The kids reluctantly posed for me in the “kiddie” area. But they weren’t too old to both want stuffed corgis. I swear these girls will be fussing over stuffed animals when they are teenagers. They LOVE anything fluffy and stuffed and create elaborate imaginary lives for their pets that include making special voices and who’s knows what else. It’s sweet though. It makes me happy that they have each other and aren’t doomed to only-child adult activity for the rest of their lives. Bug has always been an old soul. I mostly attribute it to the fact that she’s only had adults around her her whole life. So it’s refreshing when she acts like a kid with her “stepsister” by proxy.

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After Buckingham Palace I forced everyone to the go visit the Design Museum near Kensington Gardens. The kids were not into it at all and just wanted to go back to the park by the palace already. I convinced them that the Design Museum was next to a really big park that was being dedicated to Princess Diana herself and if anyone loved children and would have a really great park to pla,y in it was Princess Diana. They were not convinced.

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The Design Museum is in a really interesting building that used to be The Commonwealth Institute and has quite a history that you can read about here. I can’t say that I have read everything and completely follow it but I will say that the space itself is the most interesting thing about the museum. The exhibits not so much.

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The whole reason I wanted to visit the museum was to see Deb’s dishes!!! You remember Deb and her adventure in Bone China? The restaurant in the museum serves their food on her dishes and you can buy them in gift shop. It’s all part of their exhibit on California design. It’s kind of cool to go all the way across the world to learn about design originating from your own neck of the woods. Let’s just say that Californians aren’t too shabby and have contributed some huge twists and turns in the history of design. Apple, the driverless car, video games, surfboard design… it was pretty cool. Not as captivating as parks though.

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After The Design Museum we went directly to the nearest park we could find. I thought we would make our way to Kensington Gardens somehow since we were so close but we got stuck in Holland Park instead which was magical in it’s own way. We never made it to Kensington Gardens which by the way was being dedicated to PRINCESS DIANA ON THE MEMORIAL OF HER DEATH THAT VERY SAME DAY!!! We totally missed Kate Middleton, Prince William and Prince Charles all because we decided that Holland Park was way too much fun. Pfft.  Oh well. It was probably way too crowded for us anyway. But we did see another movie being filmed in Holland Park. We seem to have a knack for finding that happening along our way.

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Then it was back to our hotel (after another disastrous dinner in Soho–we don’t learn) to get ready for the next day: Off to Wales!

The Triforium! And a winner.

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Last weekend Payam and I tagged along with my friend Teri to tour an old art monument in LA called The Triforium. It’s a huge monstrosity right in the middle of downtown sitting on top of the LA Mall, that itself is a ghost town. It’s one of those malls from the seventies that was partially upgraded in the nineties and looks worse for it. I didn’t take any pictures of the ugliness of the mall but you can take my word for it. Sometimes I think we are better off just leaving things alone.

There is a group trying gather interest in the structure in order to refurbish it but personally, it feels a bit of a lost cause. It’s one of those sad old things that everyone has an opinion about but nobody really can get anywhere on because it is mired in politics.  It kind of reminds me of the Eiffel Tower and that museum that has all of it’s ducting on the outside of the building. Everybody hates it and then over time people begin to love it because it’s sentimental just because it’s been there so long being hated by everyone.

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The structure itself is kind of pretty. The glass tiles used to light up in synchronicity with bell music that was played from below.  But because it was built ahead of it’s time, it was rigged with a computer that was doomed from the get-go. It only functioned properly for about two years (maybe not even that) before it broke and became more and more of a problem.

At the time it was designed the artist had grand visions of it being interactive with the plaza around it. He wanted pressure points around the plaza to make it light up and play. Wouldn’t that be cool? Can you imagine the public music people could make? But the computer was twenty years ahead of it’s time and it never worked and he ran out of money before he got to the pressure plates…. So it sits doing nothing and everyone wonders what the heck it is. And then someone designed these really ugly speaker covers for it that look like giant ladybugs but that’s probably another story.

We were able to go below and look at the command center through a tour with Atlas Obscura. But it was kind of a disappointment because the room was so tiny and our group filled it up to sticky humidity levels. I could barely stand being inside because it was so hot and claustrophobic.

It was neat to see a room that hadn’t been touched since the 90’s though. They even had an old play-list scribbled on a pad of paper that included holiday hits from Pottery Barn and the soundtrack from Ally McBeal. The city used to pay employees from the local Sbarro restaurant to come down and hit play from time to time.

So that was kind of cool. But what is cooler was finding Atlas Obscura! I totally want to sign up for their mailing list and go explore other interesting things. Maybe some underground tours in London! (Which is coming up by the way, squeeeee!)

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After the tour we walked down Olvera Street because we were right there. I love LA and I always forget how bored I am of Orange County until I’m there. There is just so much more to look at and experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love my safe haven of a neighborhood and all the wonderful greenbelts but you can only take so much beige after a while.

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Sometimes you need some color and some Mexican food!!!

At the end of the street there is a plaza where they play salsa music out of loud speakers and everyone is out dancing. It was so beautiful with the sun going down. Slivers of golden light shot through the trees and broke up the long shadows on the painted pavement. Old women were dancing with old men, young girls in their shorty-shorts were waving their long skinny tanned arms above their heads… I felt like I was back in time in New York in the seventies, where it was hot and sticky and maybe there would be a fire hydrant somewhere that might shoot water into the sky for kids to play in.

I was so busy making instagram movies I didn’t take any pictures. But maybe that’s okay. Sometimes the memories are better with words and pictures inside your head anyway.

In other news! I have chosen a winner!

KRISTEN who commented with this funny joke: Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl when it goes to the toilet? Because the P is silent.

You win because I actually laughed out loud and your joke is totally appropriate for my gross and disgusting joke book. Check your email and I will send you a copy! Yay! Thank you for playing, all seven of you!

I know. Why do I keep this blog alive? It is dying a slow, slow, painful death. I am just unwilling to pay the mucho bucks it would take to make a book out of it and I’m too invested in my old stories and pictures to let it go. So I keep on paying for hosting and punch out a post here and there.  And I super appreciate you old-timers who keep on reading after all these years.