This summer London was calling - and my family and I answered the call with open arms. Together, we jetted off across the pond for our second family trip abroad.
Last year, we spent several weeks soaking in the people, places and foods of Paris. This time, we had our sights set on the United Kingdom capital and its bounteous bevy of cultural and historical offerings just ripe for us to explore together as a family.
Happy to Be Back Across the Pond - This Time with the Whole Family
It had been a few years since my husband spent time in England for work, and even longer since we had last vacationed there together back in 2004. And, it was the first time there for our two sons. While my husband and I were excited to relive and revisit some of our favorite London experiences and places, my sons were anxious to set foot in the land of Harry Potter and English football. So, with much excitement and great expectations we set off to London.
We arrived one morning with heavily laden eyes and tired bodies yearning for a good night's sleep in a real bed. But, from the moment we walked off the plane, we shook off the jet lagged-induced sleepiness, and were ready to absorb all that London had to offer us.
Pinch Me - We're Really in London
It seemed to hit us in waves that we were really in London and about to experience amazing new and different things this summer and build memories that will hopefully last a lifetime.
Here were the first six tell-tale signs that we were were indeed in London:
1) Taxi ride on the "wrong" side of the road. There's nothing quite like stepping out of Paddington Station and stepping into an iconic black London taxi - with the driver sitting on the "wrong" side of the car. Once we shook the sleep from our eyes and realized we weren't seeing things, we climbed into the cab from the left-hand passenger side ready to be taken to our rented "flat" for our trip.
2) Tales of "hen" parties by our "flat" manager. We were met at our "flat" by the rental manager who was beyond cheery and happy to welcome us to his city - and our home away from home for the next 10 days. After a tour of its rooms, he regaled us with tales of the best local shops and stores, and even of recent "hen" parties held at another flat. Of course, he did pause to ask if we knew the term "hen party" (known in the US as a bachelorette party), and I quickly nodded an empathic yes. I mean, I've read all of the Bridget Jones's Dairy books, flipped through many issues of OK! and HELLO! magazines, and watched the UK-version of Coupling so, I proud to not be a stranger to the term or concept.
3) Told to "Look Left" or "Look tRight" when crossing the street. After washing the travel grime and weariness from our faces, we headed out for some food and to explore the surrounding neighborhood. From the first time we ventured across the bustling Tottenham Court Road, we were struck by the painted "Look to the Left" or "Look to the Right" signs at the crosswalk. Of course, those two words often proved to be helpful reminders of which way to look before stepping out into the street and potentially into the way of an approaching car heading in an unexpected direction (at least to us).
4) A light rain makes you itch to grab a table in a pub. It seemed only fitting that a light rain descended upon us our first afternoon there. Being that we were in London, we were hardly surprised or unprepared for rain. In fact, it only seemed fitting - and made my husband and I yearn to step into a warm, inviting pub and enjoy fish and chips or a local libation.
5) Reminded to "mind the gap" while in the "tube." After a good night's sleep, we began to more fully emerge from our traveler's fog and adjust to London time. With new energy taking over, we began to more fully venture out into the city and took to the "tube" to do so. We couldn't help but smile the first time we were told to "mind the gap" when our train first pulled up to the Tottenham Court Underground station. It was like music to our Anglophile ears.
6) Tempted with "royal" souvenirs everywhere. No matter where we went in London, we saw royal-themed souvenirs featuring the smiling faces of the Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince George. From the time I walked by my first souvenir stall, I began to make a mental list of the various trinkets that I'd need to clear room for in my suitcase for the trip home to Chicago.
And, I had to add one more to the list...
7) Constant comments about the "football" jerseys my sons wore each day. My sons are huge Manchester United fans, and they proudly wore their jerseys (and newly acquired warm-up jackets) practically every day. But, they're general fans of the game, and were glad to wear their Chelsea jerseys too. No matter where we went, people (mostly men...) commented on my sons' jersey du jour, giving them a cheer (or a good-intended heckle) based on where their allegiance lay within the English Premier League. I enjoyed each and every comment - especially when my sons were referred to as "good lads."
This is the first of a several blog posts inspired from our time in London. It was a remarkable experience for my family and I am glad to be able to share it with you here at Raising World Citizens. You can find other posts based on our travels to London here:
Have you been to London? What signs helped it sink in that you were really there? What other things do you strongly associate with your time in London? Please share your stories in the comments below.