London and back!

An upcoming 10 day trip to London prompted this blog on the flight to London via Dubai. I’ve posted this after we got home so I’ve added a bit about our thoughts post the trip too.

Thursday, 6th July 2017.

We are 6 and a half hours into a flight via Dubai to London. We are going to spend some time with St.John who has been there a week already and, of course get to explore London. This is Charlotte's first time to London and I think she is very excited and has a list of places she would like to go, including the Smiggle shop and a climbing park like City Rock in Cape Town. The last time I was in London was almost 10 years ago, I did not even know at the time that I was probably about 2/3 weeks pregnant with Charlotte. So technically this is her second visit!

Charlotte has travelled internationally many times I realised when doing her application for our UK visa. Having aeroplane time gives one uninterrupted reflection time. Thinking about her international trips to date, they have been mostly with a singular activity focus, to a beach resort or skiing in Italy. The exception is parts of her first international trip to Thailand in 2011 where we did 2 weeks of sightseeing and saw many a temple before heading to an island to get some beach time. She was 3 ½ so does that really count? When she sees photos, she does remember little bits of places she saw and things she did, like feeding the carp at the water taxi station in Bangkok and petting the baby tigers at the sanctuary.

This is the first real international trip that Charlotte has been on where the aim is to see interesting places both modern and of historical significance and is old enough to get involved in the planning of our activities. I guess in a way it is a bit of a trial run for next year. Some places will relate to certain things she has learnt in history class - Term 2 history was about the Tudors so hopefully the Tower of London and a few castles will be even more interesting for her. I think the Natural History museum is going to blow her mind considering her love of all things prehistoric and palaeontological. We have a list of places and things to do balancing culture and some 9-year specific stuff. The questions I am asking myself as the biggest fan of list making and planning are:

  1. Will we stick to the list we’ve made?

  2. Should we try and stick to or just play it by ear? As an aside for a planner like me the “rolling with the day as it unfolds” option is quite daunting so not sure why I’ve even asked myself the question my nerves tingle at the thought!

The result of my navel contemplating on flight EK773? A stern reminder to myself, of the planner personality, and a nudge to my partner in planning and logistics, St.John: In between all the planning and logistics required to be ready to leave on the 10th January 2018 on our amazing adventure we mustn't lose sight of why we are doing this. It's the adventure of a lifetime to explore, learn, discover and enrich our lives for a year as a family and grow together. We must remain present and focused on that, and not get too caught up on the minutia. As long as we have internet access occasionally, our friend Dr. Google & Maps for on the road logistics, oh and of course some very fancy financial planning footwork by the Minister of Bungey Finance, St.John, we will be all good!

20 July 2017

We’ve been home in Cape Town for 2 days and I’ve got some time for a little reflection on the trip. It was great, we have a fantastic time as a family once Charlotte to settled into the busy summertime vibe of London. She very succinctly put it when asked about the trip “I saw lots of butts and backpacks!”.

So, answering my question about the planning. We did some of the list and some things we didn’t plan. My biggest lesson, it was slower to move around a city with a 9-year child than I anticipated as well as my underestimation of crowds and queues, we picked the Spanish and French school holidays to be in London it would seem! Despite this we managed to see a lot of things and had a load of fun together, even getting a little lost was fun…. mostly! Hyde Park became out favourite place to spend some time each day. Charlotte enjoyed seeing the major sights and got into the vibe of London. She became adept at taking pictures, on her iPhone, of things that interested her or she liked and we will soon be putting these on her Instagram account (@narwhalgirlct) to start her on her electronic diary keeping journey ahead of 2018.

Quick summary of what we learnt:

  • She like being involved in some of the planning but also happy to go with the flow as long as we were not getting frustrated or annoyed

  • Having independence is key. We gave her one of our old iPhones to give her the freedom to take photos as she wanted (& some great ones she took too!). We also added a few audiobooks and games for longer train trips – this was a good idea and allowed her to shut off the noise and retreat in the world of Harry Potter or puzzle solving for a little while.

  • Don’t try and squeeze in too much ‘culture’ in one day – plan time in parks and playparks each day. She learnt as much about history walking around Hyde Park and Roman ruins in St.Albans as in any museum.

  • Charlotte has a sweet tooth and London is her best place ever because of the number of patisseries and ice-cream stores, never mind discovering Ben’s Cookies and the waffle shop around the corner from the apartment!

We had such a great time as family in London and are so excited for next year’s adventure. Both St.John and I feel like this trip to London was a great trial run for us and gave us a small taste of what next year holds for us!

Now back to some logistical stuff like flights for major legs of the trip, visas and train tickets for travelling from Beijing to Europe because there are only 174 days until we leave!