1) moi, of course - in London on a business trip with the bright idea to bring my family with me
2) the husband, having traveled before in Europe but "mass-transit-hesitant"
3) one boy, aged 10 years, 8 1/2 months, armed with a digital camera
4) one boy, aged 13 years, 1 month, whining about homework he had to schlep with him
How do I begin? Cliche?
"A grand time was had by all..."
"Once upon a time..."... nope. wrong genre.
I'll just jump in....
By now y'all know that we have just returned from Europe, its having been the boys' first trip across the ocean. Here are the highlights and my random thoughts, some with pictures, some without. Deal.
- What was I thinking? Just kidding!! I have to begin by saying that my new system of printing out a packing list and getting the boys to pack for themselves, checking off the items as they proceed, is the best idea ever. I am positively brilliant; I don't mind admitting it. The husband did check to verify that the boys faithfully stuck to the packing list and did identify a couple of snafoos. For example, the item on the packing list: "4 pairs of pants" should have read: "4 pairs of pants with no holes in them." Live and learn.
- Knowing that World War III would erupt if both boys didn't have window seats on the plane, I chose window seats in the same row on the plane, one on the left side of the plane and the other on the right. I also snagged the two seats next to the window seats, so that our seating arrangement afforded us the 2 seats next to each window in the same row and 5 strangers inbetween family members. I wish I could draw a diagram here but you probably get it, no? The husband and I figured the boys could sit together and we could sit together. It worked out fabulously for us, but I think the people inbetween us fatigued of our leaning over and yelling across the plane to each other and passing things back and forth. Just kidding! We communicated with hand motions and lip-reading. Some versions of communication require no words, such as the 13-year-old pounding on the 10-year-old, and my mouthing to him, across the 5 strangers, "I will kill you..." Again, just joking. They were absolutely fine sitting next to each other while mom and dad enjoyed some nice red wine to put us to sleep for the 8-hour flight. I think the kids might have slept a bit, too, but who knows?
- Note to self: getting around is infinitely easier when one is by one's self. Articulated in a more detailed manner, it is both challenging and stressful to have 3 family members in tow when one is attempting to utilize the subway. Being the intrepid (and cheapskate) traveler I am, I forced the family to use the much more economical and vastly more efficient train and subway system to get to the hotel rooms and to and from airports. This is a bad idea when you're carrying suitcases and must go up and down stairs in the subway, but is nonetheless far cheaper than a taxi. The only issue, besides the unwanted weight conditioning workout, was that the 10-year-old was forever trying to hop off of the Tube (London subway) before it was our stop, so that my chief memory of Tubing with the kids is an image of pulling my 10-year-old back into the train by the back of his shirt just in time.
- Sharing a hotel room with 2 boys and trying to get to sleep unsuccessfully with two goofy boys bites the big one.
- French 3-year-olds speak better French than I do. That's just humiliating. I can, however, order a mean bottle of Bordeaux with 2 big-ass glasses (and a beer in myriad other languages).
- The boys mainly appreciated everything they saw very much, but they were just as goofy as they are on American soil; the husband had to remind me continually: they're only 10 and 13...
- The last day of the trip involved rising at 4:45 am in Paris, schlepping luggage to the Metro subway stop, down the stairs, onto the subway, back up the stairs, to the train station, onto the Eurostar, through the chunnel back to London, then onto another train to the airport. I was so proud of myself for having so well utilized the public transit systems (both bus and subways) in both London and Paris; we got around beautifully without ever having to take a taxi. We arrived at Gatwick airport in London with 2 hours to spare, when I motioned to the husband to stop so I could check which terminal for check-in. I looked at the piece of paper I had neatly folded in my carry-on and stared at the itinerary. We needed to be at Terminal 1 - IN HEATHROW AIRPORT. Many brownie points to the husband for keeping his cool. We got a taxi to the other airport and made our flight, thanks to the fabulous London taxi driver who drove 90 mph to get us there in time for 150 pounds ($180). so much for economy.
Here are a few photos for your visual enjoyment....
A study in contrasts. Above: The British guards: a model of decorum and propriety. Below: well... not so much. the boys frolicking near the English channel at the White Cliffs of Dover
Leeds castle in the English countryside, where Henry VIII escaped the city during the Plague. Tourguide: "Does anyone have any questions?" me: "yeah. uh. Does the drawbridge still work? And does the castle have keys? Can I lock my boys in there for awhile?"
La Tour Eiffel. "Can we spend $10 each and wait in line for 45 minutes to go to the top on a freezing day? Can we? Can we? Can we? Can we?"
La Tour Eiffel encore....
et encore une fois...
"No guys, turn around so I can take a picture of you..."
That's better. Ile de la cite in the background....
Preferred Caption: The husband and 13-year-old (and the hidden 10-year-old) sitting on a bench on the Champs-Elysee (pipe in pleasing background music)
Alternate caption: "We have been sitting here waiting for you for an hour!"
The fabulous view of L'Arc de Triomphe while waiting for mom to run and shower....
Beautiful window of Notre Dame. "No more cathedrals, mom, please..."
Young boys in front of something very, very old in the Louvre
View of the Arc de Triumph from Place de la Concorde
A fountain in Place de la Concorde, centerplace of the French Revolution, where Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, Louis XVI and 2800 others were beheaded with the guillotine. How can I get a guillotine for my house? I think they might make their beds then....