So last Saturday, we all got up with Doodle at 6 (instead of the bit of a lie-in I usually get until 7) so that we could be out the door by 7:30 to give us loads of time to get to the train. We got there stupid early, but that’s fine, gave us time to chill and have a muffin. The train ride was nice and uneventful. I would have liked to have a forward facing seat as it’s harder to enjoy the scenery going backwards, but it was fine. Doodle nursed and got a bit of nap before we got into the city. I found it interesting how as we got closer to Paddington station, the area began to look an awful lot like the train ride from New York out to New Rochelle.
Mommy left this attached to my coat, but that’s okay, I can make it work.
Some things that we noticed right off the bat. Everything is a lot closer than you think. I’m used to looking at maps of Chicago and what looked like very loooong blocks were in fact very short blocks. What that means though, is that you let yourself walk a lot farther before you realize you’ve passed what you’re looking for. Happily though, it also means that when you think you’ve gone about 10 minutes too far, you’ve actually only gone, like, 2.
So we went at first looking for a couple stores, and thinking that we were a ways from Picadilly circus we originally were planning to take a bus or the tube, but it was a nice morning and we thought if we walked instead we would get there around lunch time. So 10 minutes later, we’re there and it’s not quite lunch time. The restaurants aren’t even open for another half hour even though we’ve been up since forever and are just about starving. Oh well.
We strolled around the circle and took pictures and stopped in a souvenir shop and got a union jack tank top for me and our first fridge magnet. It looks so lonely. I can’t wait for our stuff to get here. We did a totally un-London lunch: TGIFriday’s. I know, I’m sorry, but it was kind of nice to have something familiar that we knew we liked and that was sure to have a highchair and changing table. Don’t worry, the rest of our day was nice and British.
After lunch we walked down to Trafalgar Square and did the whole touristy picture taking there. There was a performer by the steps who was very funny and had a big crowd. Unfortunately we missed most of his gig but were right up front for the big finale. There were lots of people climbing all over the lions despite the sad little railing that I’m sure had at one point been put up to keep people from getting up there. Doodle loved the fountains and was greatly disappointed when we didn’t let him jump into the pools.
After that we walked across the pedestrian bridge to the promenade by the water and the London Eye. Along the promenade were tons of street perfomers. One group of breakdancers, and the rest were either characters from history/tv or those strange silver painted people pretending to be statues. I really don’t know why this is so popular. Some were painted silver, some were painted gold, and sure, the first time you see one you think wow, that person is standing really still, I wonder if their nose itches. But when there are 8 dozen of them it just kind of gets boring. There were 2 worth mentioning. One man actually was painted up in what looked like bronze and his clothes were done really well so the folds were somewhat exaggerated and stiff. I actually had to look to see if he was breathing or if this was a statue. He was the only one like that and he was brilliant. I would have given change to him if I’d had some. The other one that was fun was the ‘invisible’ one. It looked like the head and hands were invisible with this crown and glasses suspended in midair above a seated figure and no hands coming out of the cuffs. You realize right away that the body is a bit oddly sized and shaped and that it’s just a person slouched down int the clothes and the crown/glasses/etc are taped to the chair, but still, points for originality. That is until you walk another 20 feet and realize there’s another one exactly like it only painted gold instead of silver. You get no points. There was one other, but it was kind of sad. It was an incredible, I would dare say authentic, Darth Vader. His sign said, “Labourer made redundant in the London work force, trying to support my wife and two kids.” It’s not an exact quote because I didn’t want to take a picture of him without being able to put something in his tin. It was a bit sad.
So then we come to the Eye. The line to get tickets was longer than the line to get on, go figure. I think the Rocket Scientist was in the ticket office for almost 45 minutes and it took us maybe 10 to get on. But I didn’t mind, this was my whole reason for coming to London. I know, there are far older and cooler things to see I’m sure, but for me, it was the Eye. I want to go back now and do it at night. Or maybe sunset. It was an awesome view and we took a bazillion photos up there, half at least of Doodle walking around the pod hanging on to the lower railing and charming the pants off all the other passengers (very embarrassing in mixed company). I managed to not freak out too much at the height, I have a mild phobia of heights. I got a bit nauseous in line and had to work at not hyperventilating as stepped onto the still moving pod. But it’s big enough inside to not really be an issue.
As I sat on a bench beside the Thames, looking out at Big Ben with the Eye beside us, nursing Doodle, I realized how much I missed the big city. London isn’t all the skycrapers that Chicago is, but it is a big city, with all the hustle and bustle and traffic and people that that implies. And I miss it. I was instantly more comfortable in London that I have been in Oxford. And it’s not that Oxford isn’t nice, because it is, and the people are nice and there’s nice stores and good public transportation. It just…moves at the pace of a smaller town, or suburb maybe. London has a different energy to it. One that I miss.
So after our stop to nurse and have a snack, oh, and change Doodle in the McDonalds basement from hell, A) it was hot, B) it was crammed with people and you could barely walk let alone maneuver a pushchair [stroller], C) it was stupid hot, D) there was only one baby changing room and no place to queue [wait in line] except right behind the door which left you doing a strange dance when the door had to open and you had to change spots with the person on the other side of the door, and E) OH MY FREAK, it was hotter than the bowels of hell down there. Anyway, after all that, we crossed over the river again to take our pictures of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.
By this time, I’m looking at my map thinking we have quite a ways to walk to get back to Trafalgar Square to catch a train back to Paddington so we should really get going. And of course, 15 minutes later we’re suddenly there. I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to that. Of course I’m sure I will and then I’ll be back in Chicago and I’ll be like, oh it’s not far, lets just walk, and 2 hours later I’ll realize we’re still not even halfway there and I’ll likely just say screw it and go home.
We got back to the train and would have been in plenty of time if it hadn’t been for trying to find change to use the toilet. That’s right, 30p to use the toilet in Paddington station. As it turns out, we needn’t have searched so vigourously for exact change as the attendant was pretty much letting anyone in if you at least looked like you were trying to find it. Nice bathroom though. Unfortunately by the time we got to the train it was close to departure and quite full. We found a seat for me facing forward but it was next to other people, there was a table, the Rocket Scientist was sitting across from me, so we were both sitting next to someone strange. The people next to us were irritating me, especially the guy who insisted that he and the person he was saving a seat for sit across from each other and not side by side. I don’t know why, he clearly wanted to get into her pants.
The happy part of our trip back was the other couple sitting across the aisle (the people that were sitting over there were nice and let them have their own side of the table unlike ours, but whatever). They were also heading back home to Oxford with their 18 month old daughter. We got to chatting and found we have quite a bit in common. They are also crunchy, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, attachment parents. We talked slings and cloth diapers and playgroups and what neighborhoods were the most fun (ours being on the somewhat ‘bleak’ end but oh well). Doodle and I were going to drop into a toddler dance/play group on Wednesday but then his ear infection happened so I’m hoping to get together with them next week.
So all in all, it was a very good day. We had our moments of starving long before lunchtime and trying to maneuver the bowels of hell disguised as a McDonalds and maybe I had a minor meltdown getting onto the train because it was so cramped and the seats were sucky, but we really did have a great time. And hopefully made some friends along the way. Granted I was pretty sore the next day and the bike ride to church just about killed me, but I’m sure I’ll do it again. Soon in fact. My friend Janet will be here in just over a week and we’ll likely do a couple days in London, we’ll visit Stonehenge, we might even make it out to Cardiff the Doctor Who fans that we are. But I’ve learned my lesson. Post it right away, while it’s still fresh. Maybe even make it stretch over a couple posts. You can always put pictures up later.
By the way, if you’re still reading, A) congratulations and B) I’m really sorry the pictures are all stacked on top of each other like that, I couldn’t figure out how to make them go side by side and it’s now 11:49 and I’m so going to pay for staying up this late tomorrow. And I’ve totally remembered like three cool things that should have gone in the story but it’s too long and too late, so now I’m going to have to do a London II and by that time I’m sure I’ll have gone again and will have more cool stories to tell. Ugh. It’s now 11:51. Good. Night.