See this girl right here?
And see where she is pointing?  
Yeah, she walked all 528 stairs to get to that little balcony (called the “Golden Gallery”) at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
For reals. 

This after walking all the stairs in the to the second platform at the Eiffel tower and in between countless stairs up and down in every metro/subway/tube we came across and up and down rough-hewn castle steps and huge flights of steps in museums and up and down mountains and behind waterfalls in Iceland (our next stop).

No big deal, right?

But it’s a really big deal for Lucy because that kind of thing is a little harder for that girl.  Her feet turn out quite a bit and she can’t see in some of the light in those darker stairwells.  So many were uneven or worn from hundreds of years of use and varying heights in small little places in dim light where she couldn’t see well. And she did all that with flying colors.  
So we celebrated.

And celebrated again and again because she was the best travel companion ever on this trip.  She cracked us up over and over again, she was so pleasant to go with the flow, stayed up late with us to play cards without being grumpy the next day, was the only one to do a proper “report” on the place she was supposed to research.  I could go on and on.

That was a huge deal for all of us.  We are at the stage where we can all walk…no strollers or baby backpacks or tantrum-throwers laying on random sidewalks kicking their feet.  That youngest girl of ours can sometimes be a wildcard, but she wasn’t.  Not even once.

Now, coming home and starting school have been a different story, but there in Europe?  Angel child.
And for that we were so grateful.  Especially in light of the tough BBS conference we headed to when we got home. 
She saw and soaked in things she may never see later in life as her vision continues to decline.  And because we know this…deep down we all have a heavy spot in our hearts for her future…we rejoiced at her ability to soak it all in with us.  Especially since it was the happiest “her” we’ve seen in a while. 
She thrived on this trip.
Ok, had to take a little detour to say that.  Because I’m so dang grateful.
Now back to regular scheduled programming. 
We went to church on Sunday at Hyde Park.  Kind of fun to see this there: 
We took an afternoon and took a train to visit CAMBRIDGE
…where we went “punting” on the River Cam.
In the rain.
Grumpy tourist loved the rainy part:)

Claire took the little tour quite seriously.

Grace, not so much 🙂

It was gorgeous despite the rain.

After our little (very quick because we didn’t have much time) river boat tour we walked down to see a few of the colleges from the other side.
This guy was playing a guitar and singing in the “litter” can…interesting talent…

Cambridge is gorgeous, and I don’t have time to tell much background which it deserves.  If you want to know more, try clicking HERE.
We had quite an adventure getting back to the train station because we ran out of time to walk.  So we grabbed a taxi that got stuck in traffic.  Like, bumper to bumper traffic right before the train station.  We had minutes until our train was set to depart so we got out and RAN our hearts out to catch it.  It was the wildest dash and I’ve never seen Lucy run so dang hard, but we made it so that was kind of exciting.
We made it back to London in time to pick up a picnic for Charity since it was her birthday and we were joining back up with her and got to meet the CROFTS (the family Elle stayed with last summer for our internship who have since become great friends with Charity and Ian) for the first time.  (And yes, the crofts aren’t a place like I’ve been using bigger colorful font to set apart, but they’re important enough to merit the bold huge type because they are pretty special to our family.)
These girls of mine had heard SO much about these Croft girls of theirs that they were over-the-moon excited to meet them.
Can you tell??  Ha!  
Elle has talked about these girls so much that my girls have even started singing the little songs they sing that Elle taught them and felt like they knew them when they met.
We went to REGENT’S PARK (Queen Mary’s Rose Garden) all together to celebrate Charity’s birthday as the sun sunk in the sky.

Then we took a double-decker bus through Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus willed with British Flags to get back to Covent Garden.
And gifted Charity with a few things for that baby-on-the-way en route.

Next morning we headed out and were lulled into this awesome antique market at COVENT GARDEN :

These girls and I emerged with antique rings as souvenirs which we were all pleased as punch about.

Lucy was pretty excited about it too as you can see…


We took one of the only fifteen older model double decker busses left to get to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

…and saw this along the way, which I had to take a picture of:


We sat there in awe of that gorgeous place for a little bit…

…then headed up to the “Whisper Gallery” where some of us were lucky to figure out how to make that thing work.

Then up a little more to the first look-out:

Then up to the Golden Gallery on all these crazy steps.

a little peek into what was clear down below us:

Can you see those teeny-tiny chairs down there?

Then we got to the top.

Lucy was pretty interested in her cool audio tour.

Lots more about St. Paul’s Cathedral over HERE…it’s one of my favorite spots in London.

Next I headed to fight the tourist lines to get tickets for the London Eye (I knew they could be tricky)…

…and sent Dave to TATE MODERN with the girls.

They loved this spot.

…and I’m so glad they took some pictures for me.

Meanwhile I had to laugh because I was fighting a SERIOUS wind/rainstorm with an umbrella that kept getting blown up into a “U” in the wind.  It was the craziest thing!  But I made it to get our tickets for the LONDON EYE and met up with everyone right as the rain stopped.

I love that thing.  Such gorgeous views through the London drizzle.

We headed to CAMDEN TOWN next.

…where we picked up some great dinner…

…and nestled curled up together in the only dry spot we could find to eat it up.

Then we took a beautiful walk…

…up to PRIMROSE HILL which had a beautiful view of the city.

Loved getting to know these people so much.  What an impact they have had on our family.  Love you, Crofts!

Back at the apartment we had one last hurrah for Charity’s birthday (the day before) since Ian felt she needed some candles.  What a guy.

Then it was on to our LAST MORNING in London.

We headed here:

…for a tour of the HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT with the nicest blog reader who works there who reached out to Charity to offer to show us around.  We love you Marguerite!!

We learned SO much about the history of London government and how it all works in this beautiful spot.  Such a great little gift for our family.

When we left it was POURING with rain.

…and I mean, POURING.

We walked through it past TRAFALGAR SQUARE


…where we met up with Charity and immersed ourselves in the art for a bit.

This was my favorite painting of the day:

It’s called The Adoration of the Shepherds.

Check out those beautiful expressions of awe and wonder.

Some more favorites:

I had a print of that one (above) in my bedroom growing up so I have an extra attachment.

The National Gallery is where we met up with our friends the Linfords who we adore who we hadn’t seen for a couple years.

They’re the ones we met up with in South Carolina a few years back (HERE).
They were just at the beginning of a two-and-a-half month adventure in Europe and we were so excited we were going to be near the same place at the same time so we figured out how to meet up.
We had a great Indian food lunch (where those great friends of ours spilled out the funniest stories of the crazy things that had happened to them on their trip thus far…they are total troopers traipsing around Europe with their SEVEN kids and all the adventures that come along with a trip like that. 
After lunch we headed to the BRITISH MUSEUM to check it out together.
We saw things like the Rosetta Stone:

Portions of the Parthenon:

…and the Ancient Egyptian section.

…complete with mummies.

We had a wild ride on a double decker bus all together which broke down, and because of a comedy of errors our family ended up on the tube:

While they ended up in a taxi to get to WESTMINSTER ABBEY to be there for the Evensong service (which was beautiful I must say).

We bid goodbye to our friends, then also to dear Charity who had taken such great care of us, and headed to the airport for the last segment of this adventure.

More on that before too long (I hope!)

And if you made it this far, congrats for making it through that mass of pictures!  I just like those memories too much to skip them!

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  1. FABULOUS! We are so proud of that lovable Lucy! It was so great to see England through the eyes of these kids who haven't been before! Our second home is dazzling which is captured here so beautifully! Thanks for the time it takes to post all those pictures! Every one is a treasure!

  2. Shawni: I LOVE this! You are adventurers! I love how you make it a priority to help Lucy experience as much as you can! You value every moment. It's beautiful and inspiring! Thanks!–M

  3. I loved reading every word and looking at every picture! You had such an amazing adventure in the best city in the world! We miss you guys and love you!!

    xoxo Rachel

  4. Shawni I love all your posts of your adventures,thanks for sharing. So happy that you can give those memories and beautiful sights to your children especially Lucy she will remember them in that beautiful brain of hers even if she doesn't get to see them again.😊Amy

  5. I loved this post and the several previous! I studied at BYU in London 10 years ago and looking at all of your pictures took me right back. Thank you for sharing all of your photos and experiences.

  6. AHHHH! I love all of this!! We are headed to London TODAY. We need Charity and Marguerite to show us around!! haha. Cna't wait to get there!

  7. Great memories and posts about your trip.

    Just a mom observaTion…
    You know how you shouldn't give a compliment then use the word but, …

    It sounds like Lucy deserved all of the praise and excitement from your family but you should have expressed it just as her behavior was–awesome!

    It seemed like you emphasized the fact just as much how she can be challenging..can't all children? I felt badly for Lucy that in the same paragraph you expressed her more challenging side which doesn't need to be written about ….she was great on the trip…end of story.

    It would be like Lucy writing about you and saying "my mom was so great today, but you should see her normally…she yells all the time." You would only remember the negative part she said.

    "That was a huge deal for all of us. We are at the stage where we can all walk…no strollers or baby backpacks or tantrum-throwers laying on random sidewalks kicking their feet. That youngest girl of ours can sometimes be a wildcard, but she wasn't. Not even once. "

    "Now, coming home and starting school have been a different story, but there in Europe? Angel child."

    I just don't think you should have taken away that moment for her that's all.

    1. Thank you for the constructive advice. I'm sorry you felt like what I wrote took away from her accomplishments. This is just my way to keep it real as a record for our family. The fact that sometimes we don't know what we'll get is part of why it was so celebrated so I wanted to include that part. I hope the bottom line that comes across to blog readers (and to her in the future) is that we are just so proud of her and all she is accomplishing despite her syndrome and the difficult things that come along with it.

  8. Loved this post, Shawni! Love everything you said and the way it was said. Love that you keep things real and beautiful!

    Send my confratulations to Lucy, she deserves it. I know how trips like the one you did (all the walking) can be hard. She is a such a trooper!


  9. Oh my goodness! You went to my hometown of Cambridge. We went back there this Summer, (now living in Utah), and we miss it, and our family lots. So glad you were able to experience just a little bit of it, there is lots more to explore if you have more than a day there.

  10. Hey Shawni! I don't know if you read past blog comments, but I thought I would try. First of all, thank you for sharing your family with us! My family (9 adults and 2 babies) are planning a trip to London, Paris, and Madrid at the end of July. I am on the hunt for places to stay. I saw you stayed in an airbnb. We would love any pointers you have on how to find a decent place to stay. Thanks in advance for your help!

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