Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Trains, Planes, and a Tube or Two

Of all the great cities I’ve visited around the world, London stands out as friendly, cosmopolitan, adventurous, and comfortable. So it was with great anticipation that I boarded our Delta flight for ten days abroad with our expanded families. The trip was a gift to Sharon for her Seventieth birthday. She got to choose whichever place she wanted to visit anyplace in the world. Past trips to London with our two kids sealed the deal. Sharon decided to spend seven days in London and three in Paris with her family.

My first introduction to London came in the form of a folk song by Tom Paxton, one of my favorite singers back in the day. It was called ‘Leaving London’ and it emitted all the angst and emotions of a young man traveling through the city and missing his girl back home. Part nostalgic, part hooky, yet very effective in bringing back lots of memories from a similar period in my young life.

I first traveled abroad in 1967 after graduation. A second trip in 1968 sealed the deal. I loved foreign travel and losing myself in the cultures, traditions and various forms of foreign living. We took our kids to London twice while they were in their teens. This time it was different. A twenty-year gap had changed a few things. In many ways London was now a very different city. Yet in so many other ways, it hadn’t changed at all.

The kids found an Airbnb online, located in the heart of Paddington. It was a four story, six-bedroom townhouse with its own back patio and enough room for all three families to spread out and relax.

Outside of the townhouse

Nana's art class
Out our front window

Brian noticed the fancy cars parked around the block so I had him do a little research. The neighboring townhouse sold for four million dollars several months earlier. Our unit sold for over two million in 2014. Now I understood the all too familiar refrain about London housing being out of reach for the average millennial and worker.

Rehearsing to put on a play

Eleven people living together under the same roof can present a challenge sometimes, especially when those eleven include very independent children and mostly alpha personalities among the parents. It was a good test and we all passed with flying colors.

Back patio

I sequestered myself on the back patio each morning and read ‘The Evening Standard.’ It was refreshing to be away from the media circus back home. Ten days absent the clowns and magicians and carnival barkers. All those curious forms of life that have disrupted distracted and confused the workings of government here. Of course, I wasn’t entirely free from political intrigue. Theresa May had her own battles going on with Brexit and Emmanuel Macron had his own battles with both the left and right political elements in his own government. But aside from local politics like train service being interrupted to Wimbledon, it was a week relatively free of political distractions.

Paddington Station

With our Oster Card (all day pass) we were able to navigate the Tube all over town. We swung through various museums, along the Thames for our river walks, to the Tate Modern Museum, up on the London Eye...

Then it was on the Eurostar for a quick trip through the Chunnel into the heart of Paris. I forgot it was the height of summer travel and large groups of students on field trips crowded the train stations and every venue around. Europe was experiencing a heat wave and The Metro (subway) and most hotels aren’t air-conditioned. Fortunately ours was.

A ride up to the top of the Eiffel Tower proved to be the highlight of our French excursion. With only three days in the city of lights, there was a lot to pack in. Our last meal at a corner bistro was our quintessential Parisian experience.

Unfortunately, our last Parisian experience at Charles de Gaulle Airport was the cancellation of our flight back home just ten minutes before boarding. A challenging ending to a picture perfect first trip abroad with the grandchildren.

But that’s another blog entirely.

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