Sunday, August 11, 2013

London, Baby!

Olive exploring The Thames. Or, quite possibly, just her toes.

The French are known for being reserved, but the folks who helped me board my London-bound Eurostar were anything but. Seeing that I was traveling alone with Olive, a huge suitcase that United Airlines tagged as HEAVY, and a diaper bag large enough to fit a second baby, the woman who checked me in assigned a buff long-haired porter to me. This kind gentleman led us to the front of the passport line as well as the boarding line and then handled my luggage until I settled into my seat on the train. I wasn't traveling First Class, but it sure felt like it. Eurostar, this is a shout-out!

All this said, I was feeling pretty darn good when we crossed into the UK. "William, Kate, George and Lupo, we've made it!" Ahh, to be able to communicate again... in English. What a luxury. And to be able to reunite with le huz after being apart for two days apart (he was working in Frankfurt, Germany), priceless.

As was the case for Paris, I'd brought along a book covering London. But I barely referenced my copy of London with Kids, for I had guide in my friend Angie whom I've known since we were 13. A yummy mummy to a gorgeous one year-old of her own, she knew exactly where to take me and Olive. But I was alone on my first day, and had to call the shots. I selfishly took the kid to Tate Modern because I like art. Munchkin's meltdowns often occur in museums because I restrict her from touching the works. So imagine how lucky I felt when our cab arrived at the Tate and the little one was asleep!

An installation by Dan Flavin at the Tate.
Olive would've touched this.

Anyhow, rather than providing the play-by-play of our time in the UK, here are my suggestions for those trying to survive-and-thrive with a tot under 2 years of age while in London. They worked for me, and hopefully they'll work for you.

1) Do bring/borrow a stroller. At this age, these little ones weigh a ton, and you really can't enjoy a pedestrian city like London without walking a bit. Buses in London run everywhere, all the time, and are more accommodating for strollers than the subway/tube. And cabs, though pricey, are spacious and stroller-ready. It rained a couple times while we were walking around, and as much of a pain as it was to have to navigate the sidewalks with a stroller, it was nice to see Olive fully-protected by the stroller's rain cover, tucked away in deep sleep. Babies are happier when they sleep!

2) Do take your kid to Hamley's. It's the FAO Schwarz of London, and Olive's mind was absolutely blown when she saw the display of Thomas the Tank Engine. There are a lot of display toys laying around for kids to play with, and it's best to allot the little ones with plenty of time to sample them all. Olive had little more than a Kindle to entertain herself with back at the hotel room, so I let her roam in the store for an hour!

Olive & Sam at Hamley's. Same height.

3) Do visit Victoria Park in Hackney. Sure, it's all the way out on the east end of London, but if you're got a kid and you actually like your kid, a trip here is well worth it. A 25 minute cab ride from Central London or a one-hour ride via public transport is all it takes. The children's play areas at Victoria Park are AMAZING. There's a paddling pool, fountain, duck pond, man-made rocks to climb, slides, baby swings, miniature houses on stilts, free clean public toilets... never take anything for granted! Olive loved this park. And the Pavilion Cafe located on the north end of the park serves fresh and tasty food at a reasonable price. Angie and I had lunch there with the babes. I wish Los Angeles had a place like this.

Munchkin with twig "crayons"

Nice house, Miles.

4) Do go for a traditional Sunday pub roast. On the weekends, pubs are surprisingly family friendly. Le huz and I met up with friends at The Water Poet in Spitalfields for a really great meal. Olive enjoyed the food as much as she enjoyed her company. That's a lot! 

The Littles giving me baby side-eye. 
No photos while we're eating, Ma.

5) Do drop by the Spitalfields City Farm. If you're already in the 'hood due to your pub roast, stroll on over to the park and farm nearby. It's free, safe and fun for kids. Le huz and Angie's huz took a quick nap in the park while we showed the kids chickens, donkeys, ponies, pigs and more...


Strange reaction to chicken.

6) Do make time for afternoon tea at least once during your stay. I don't actually recommend bringing the little ones, as there is way too much china to keep away from them. That said, Angie and I, thick-skinned mums, braved public-judgment and brought Olive and Miles along because we had no sitters and our desire for sweets was just that great. We splurged on Pret-a-Portea the Berkeley hotel, and it was an incredible experience. (We made a reservation.) I busted out the baby crack (iPhone streaming Elmo videos at minimal volume) to keep the munchkin quiet and wolfed down a delicate collection of cakes and fancies, inspired by the world's finest designers. Angie and I had been touring the parks of central London with the munchkins all morning, and afternoon tea was the perfect remedy.

Earning her right to afternoon tea, she runs sideways in Hyde Park.
They do things differently here.

The Littles in London
Olive & Miles in Green Park.

Dolce, Oscar, Prada, Balenciaga, McQueen, Blahnik and more. 
All made edible!

7) Do allow ample time for wandering. Good stuff turns up when you're not looking!

Olive exploring Piccadilly. 
Adopted by Uncles Luke & Jasper for the day.

Whole Foods in London has quite the sense of humor!

Russell Brand in Neal's Yard.

The flowers that inspire Liberty prints outside of Liberty London.

Dancing in the street with mommy's dear friend, Auntie Jenny.

London, you were fun. No doubt about it, we'll be back.

All smiles post-dim-sum, with her doting Uncle Chuan. 


Madge said...

love, love! i love the photos of a little tiny olive next to very big things. where's olive? oh, there she is! so sweet.

lepetitdoodler said...

lol... :) my parents see those shots and ask, "did you actually leave her to shoot her?" um, yeah? mother of the year!

Madge said...

lolz. i didn't even think about that! meet the new mother of the year!


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