PART 1: THE TODDLER TALES
I cannot think or surmise my trip to London without enough emphasis on what it is to travel with a toddler. Yes, this was Arjun’s first overseas trip (but not his first trip, that he undertook when he was 18 weeks old in my womb…), and though there was enough discouragement to travel all the way to London with a kid who will remember nothing of the trip, I wasn’t discouraged enough. For, one, I don’t think everything we do for kids is so that they remember it, and two, because I refused to go for another time to some pretty place in Asia that I did not want to go to in the first place, just because my baby isn’t old enough to make travelling easy for me. So, London it was!
An 8-hour flight, and 24 hours of non-stop travelling from home to holiday destination were only made easy by the company of both the grannies — Nani and Dadi, and Bua, apart from The Guy, of course. But lesson learnt: on trips out of town, there’s no substitute for Mamma. Mamma to carry around the baby, Mamma to feed, bathe, clean, Mamma to hug and Mamma to sleep with. Phew! You know, I need another holiday. But here’s what you should also know: that’s what I chose. I’m not leaving my little munchkin behind to go on a holiday till any such time as the little munchkin is really ready for it. I could do with a lot less travel, but no less than my complete bundle of joy.
So, what’s it like travelling to London with a toddler? Well, quite like what it is travelling to any place with a toddler. The child will eat, poop, sleep, laugh/cry when he wants to, whether you’re at the London Eye, or the expansive Westfield Mall; just be thankful there are diaper changing stations in close proximity to every place, and that the child can doze off in his stroller when he wants to. It’s a child-friendly place, extremely stroller friendly too, made even easier by friendly passers-by who will offer you a hand when you come to stairs that you want to carry your strapped-in-the-stroller-baby across. Of course, it is quite another matter that for the first 5 days of our trip, we had no stroller for Arjun because the airlines we were flying never put it on the aircraft from Delhi to London! So, for those five days, Mamma’s arms became accustomed to carrying the rather petite child over long walks across streets, parks, underground stations. Like the one across Green Park, while getting to Buckingham Palace from the tube. Or from the tube to our apartment (yes, we preferred an apartment over a hotel so that the little one could get his fav foods even in London).
We had to face all of one meltdown in 8 days, right in the middle of Bicester Village, and it lasted no less than an hour. But once we discovered the teddy bear cake and the play area around, things were so much better.
Yes, there was a lot we could not do because we had a 20-month-old in tow — like catch a musical, watch a play at the Globe Theatre, go for the opera, or just take in the night life, or clicking enough pictures (yes, that I really, really missed doing) — but like I’ve been saying, this is just my first trip to London. And anyway, 8 days there are just not enough to see everything and do everything. So, no regrets.
PART 2: THE ADULT EXPERIENCE
I love big cities. Unlike a lot of people who’re settled in smaller cities like Lucknow for good, I do not miss the comfort of knowing every street and every face on the street that Lucknow is for me. I love that in places like London, I can cease to be me. I can be anyone, just anyone at all. I’m not D. I like the anonymity that a big city affords you, the freedom that comes with losing your identity. I love that I don’t need to be this or that, I am part of a crowd. When I go to places like these, I ask myself why it is that I do not live there. Because I’d love to. It’s where my heart belongs.
A lot of Lucknow happened to be in London this summer, and we actually caught up with friends from here in London. But no, that’s not what I like to do on my holidays. I like to get lost on my travels, and to hibernate, so that I can come back with renewed energy.
But that’s not about London. That’s about me. The city is everything you’ve ever heard about it. It’s also everything you want it to be. I wish I knew better what I wanted more — to take in the sights and sounds of the place, which I partly did on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour, or to indulge in London shopping, which also I did at Oxford Street; whether I wanted to savour the local flavours, like I did at the Camden Market, more than to be the busy tourist, as I was at the Town Bridge Museum, where the MIL really wanted to go to see the Koh-i-noor, or the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum…
But between all those things, we walked around a great deal. I came home with blisters on my feet, even though I’d taken my best walking shoes. And my best walking shoes were no match in prettiness to the high-heels and ballerinas that the well-turned out Londoners were sporting. Yes, it’s a well-dressed city. So, even if someone’s wearing a bohemian look, they’re doing it in style. I mean, the girls almost always had their eyes done up, and they almost always were accessorised well. I miss that too where I live — having enough inspiration to get dressed up everyday. I’d love to, except that I feel like there’s no one really to notice it when I get into my car at home and get off 7 minutes later at work. And it’s not half as much fun to be all dressed up till someone sends you an appreciative glance.
Did I dress up in London? In the mornings, yes. By evening though, I didn’t care or know what I was looking like. I was just a trying-to-get-everything-done-in-a-day tourist then, who wanted to eat fish & chips every other day. We did, however, try other cuisines — from Lebanese and Vietnamese, to Italian, Indian and Chinese. And I think the Indian restaurant we went to on Bloomsbury Road was the worst, for serving moong ki dal for Dal Tadka! Utter nonsense!
PART 3: THE SHOPAHOLIC’S CITY
We were told don’t think too much about shopping in London, it’s very expensive. It is, considering that the pound to rupee rate was 1:91! But sales make the world just a tad better than otherwise. And we shopped like crazy. The Guy, not much of a shopper usually, had a field day at Harrod’s, shopping for perfumes; I’ve stocked up on Arjun’s wardrobe for I think a year, apart from getting him sundry books and toys from Hamley’s and John Lewis; I loved browsing through the tourist curios’ shops, and got one of those tea-leaves-in-interesting-tin-jars that you get in London. I also loved the Cath Kidston stores, and thank god I don’t have a girl, or I would have bought the whole shop for her!
Oh, the shopping subhead could be a whole post, in terms of what all I loved. But honestly, I’d hoped to shop a little more than I did, and I really want to go back, to pick up a few things that I should’ve.
Actually, I just want to go back. I’m not really enjoying too much this London-to-Lucknow transition. I want to be in a place which is big and beautiful like London was. I can’t wait to go back.
PS: I thought I’d do the pictures with this post, but that’s not happening because I write on a different computer, and the pics are on a different laptop. So pics later, ok?