Barefoot in London

It has been four years since we made a bold decision to venture out to travel to Europe. We had a one year old and a three year old then. Tagging them along seven different countries in a span of eight days was incredible to say the least. I don’t know how we managed it all. The planning, the preparation, to book a ten hour flight to London, take a train to Paris and embark in a journey to seven Cities in a bus. It was an amazing ride. I was made the most resilient parent in a very short span of time compared to the other three years that preceded. I will get you checked in with us as we fly to our destination together and embark in this journey in the next four weeks. Re-collecting these wonderful memories are nothing short of disbelief but incredibly a joy for me. Only my wanderlust wife who has the heart for travel can convince me. And of course she did. I absolutely have no regrets. Only sweet captured candid memories. I am glad my family can tag you along this special journey to the rich country of Europe and beyond! Our first destination – London England.

Rinse, pre-heat, filter paper, grind beans, open window shades.. I mean, keep them open. I usually keep them open overnight. Ambient light you see., and then the the final critical step- ground coffee to water ratio. To this day it is still a “feel” and not so much the quantity. I need my coffee. Then I can start to pack. But where do I start. Where do you start?! It started with a leap of faith. I guess it’s all about the “feel” or spur of the moment. Grab a note quickly and jot down what comes to mind. Brain storm with your spouse. Grab a sticky note and put them up as you find ideas. Here is a link to my ABC’s of flying internationally with a baby. You’re welcome!

Let me take you back to 2018. A year of an incredible travel feat as a family of four. India was shy over a year old. She was cuddle and sleep and thumb sucking in between. It was a year of baby carrier and counting baby bottles and formula., insert- international travel (!). While Joel was accustomed to transit travel and quick naps, India was just opening her eyes to the hustle and bustle and bumpy rides.

As we arrived to Heathrow International airport I time checked not to my watch but how the kids were- 9pm pacific coast. Groggy, dry sticking hair and red eyes. I made my way to the stands and asked for a guide. We all made it to a ten hour flight. I now needed to find a way to get to our hotel. And we did. Uber app is an incredible friend and companion. Joel and his map assured me that I at least have a map handy. Just in case.

Our cab driver- a very friendly middle eastern man with a complete transformed english accent you would never know that he’s migrated only six years back. He points to the London eye as we made our way around a turn. A tight turn. His precision and mental awareness of his proprioception was incredible. Never mind the zigzag lines on the street. This is different driving. I noticed he had not used a GPS. I was not worried. He was incredibly knowlegable about the streets of London as he detailed them coming around every corner. I held on to India tighter and smiled at her. She was comfortable in her warm overalls. It was a grey sky afternoon. It looked like rain was eminent and the tree tops were all flattened by local winds for several days.

As we made our way up to our hotel room on the eight floor we all gravitated towards the generous window that introduced a nice dispersed flat light inside. We all looked out to the busy street below- brick walls on every structured building and an almost idle smoke on neighboring chimney that confirmed a drop in temperature. We made a small adjustment to our sleep cycle. I brewed some coffee and decided to take a quick nap. Yes. Coffee then a nap.

Freshened up the kids and we were off to see the last daylight of the day. Dusk settled quickly and we increased our pace.

We strolled a few blocks. Got acquainted to the narrow streets and the uneven side walks that transitioned to cobble stone pathways. It was a little challenging to maneuver the stroller but ,alas!

We made it to Westminster bridge and the Big Ben just across it. The thick sky of clouds above illuminated the night in pink and magenta hue from its nearby street and neon lights. It blanketed over the entire Thames river but was somehow a comfortable walk with not a hint of wind. This was an easy and lovely 20 minutes stroll from the hotel and the wonderful London sky greeted us with the most majestic mist of early settling fog. Everyone in their trench coats and soft silky scarf walking in steady stride seemed to stop time.

I inhaled a crisp cool air and affirmed that this was gonna be an incredible journey. My daughter on my chest in her baby carrier. She seemed to not mine at all the chilly evening. My son got up from his stroller running after the flock of pigeons on the streets. He released some giggles and came around Joycee to hug her from the side. Welcome to London everyone!

That night we planned our route and booked our big bus hop-on-hop-off tour. This seemed to be the best way for our introduction to London as it gives us the tour across many landmarks and attractions with easy commute, on our own pace and take our time exploring places. Hop on again as the many buses make its way every 15 to 20 minutes interval.

The next morning we packed a day bag of snacks, food, milk bottles and extra day clothes for the kids. I carried a duffle back pack and my fuji x100F camera while navigating Joel around in the foldable stroller. Joycee held India on her chest in the baby carrier. We made our way around many key places. The buses have headphones available so you can listen to the history of London as it passes by the many buildings, attractions and historical sites. We enjoyed the bus and skipped a few bus stops to get us settled and feed the kids snacks. There are more than 20 bus stops on the red line tour, close to and or a walking distance to popular tourist landmarks.

We started our journey from the bus station just across the Big ben and the house of Parliament. This was the same route we took the night before. It took us some time to find the bus stop as we sifted through tourist, rush hour and crowds surrounding guards of red tunics and 18 inch tall bearskin hats.

Our first stop, St Paul cathedral. The awe inspiring English Baroque designs can be appreciated as you walk in the cathedral floors. A tour up the many spiral stairs take you to a different angle of view from the top with an incredible acoustic echoing across its dome. I had the baby with me in the carrier on my chest, Joel and my wife tagging along taking those stairs like champs. I know I gained an incredible amount of leg muscle that day. A great exercise and an intro to the bus tour we were going to embark on the next few days to seven different countries in Europe.

We quickly learned few valuable steps as we gained accustomed to the hop on hop off mentality with a baby and a toddler.

The bus took us over the London bridge and around the other to Tower bridge to where we decided to hop off the bus and strolled down to the Tower of London. An incredible medieval castle that takes you a path down cobble stones and red palace guards performing ceremonial public duties. This is a wonderful welcome to the history of London with the children.

Just around the circular Wakefield Tower is a picturesque view of the Tower Bridge over the Thames river. A beautiful skyline of London can be seen contrasted by old brick walls and castles that tower over you.

Buckingham Palace, Victoria memorial, St James Garden and Hyde park are a walking distance from each other. This is a nice stroll, break from the bus and a breathe of fresh air as you enjoy the blooming flowers and lush greenery fields in early spring. Take a picnic here with the kids, play in the open fields, hydrate them and continue on an easy and inviting walks to the Italian Garden and the Kensington Palace. These parks are stroller friendly and benches are all over. Make sure to find the nearest bathroom for a diaper change.

My most favorite of them all was the Princess Diana Memorial Playground within the Kensington Garden. I had to go barefoot on this playground., on the clock towering the garden is embedded ‘time flies’. The sun was out the whole day unusual for London and I just had to treasure this precious time with the family.

This place was bustling with children. This is one of the places in London you cannot miss. You can enter through Hyde park and see the ducks, buy ice cream and enjoy the walk. You will pass through Princess Diana memorial fountain, Peter Pan statue, and find the lovely Italian garden.

Moving forward to our bus tour we stopped at our final destination. Trafalgar Square and its enclosed design courtyard captures the two large fountain in the middle you cant miss, the centre guarded by four lion statues and the famous Nelson’s column standing tall. If you have remaining spare time visit the National Gallery. It’s completely free for the public!

The tube system

The next few days before traveling to Paris we decided to take an adventure into the London Underground. And what an adventure it was. Many of the ‘tube’ system in London are tunneled underground. The platforms can get overwhelming. Prepare to take the stairs and don’t wait for the lifts. I was glad we had the fold up stroller easy to transform from hand carry back to a stroller. We made sure we found the Paddington station for my son Joel who was then a big fan of the movie.

We made sure we spent a whole day just to get the feel of a railway and subway travel with the kids. Found most of our way to McDonald’s for breakfast, a grocery store to pick up a kinder joy egg and milk for the baby. Of course no adventure is complete without the mis-adventure.

India who was nursed and formula fed was introduced to her first lactose milk. On our way getting back home she let out a big one. We scrambled out of the train just in the nick of time before myself, the last out, almost didn’t make it out of the train- with the baby full of diaper surprise(s)!. Most of the bathrooms had no baby changer in them so you know how that day ended.

What an incredible introduction to our Europe travel it was. It was a night full of laughters as we recalled on the days trip sipping my coffee watching the miniature London from our hotel window. What an incredible memory it is. I still laugh about it as I sit here and write about our adventure. Love your family. Create memories and surprise each other with the unplanned adventures.

Thank you for the coffee!

catch us next week as we continue this journey by train to Paris to catch our tour bus and tour a few countries in Europe.

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