The question was always key to our travels abroad. How much would the youngest in our group really pick up and understand from foreign travel? If she was too young it would be wasted on her. Too old and a hundred thousand other distractions might take away from the excitement and educational value of being aboard if only for a brief moment in time.
We pondered that question when Sharon decided that as a gift from her children she wanted to return to London with both families. How would the youngest in our entourage handle traveling abroad?
A precocious and very intuitive seven-year-old Charlotte passed the test and our respective families were off to London and Paris. Her brother at nine years old and their cousins at nine and twelve years old respectively were all well equipped to ‘get it’ as we foraged our way through the customs, culture and excitement of both London and Paris.
At first glance, it might seem like privileged travel for my five grandchildren. I was twenty-one before I took my first plane ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a turbo-prop airliner. I didn’t travel abroad until I was twenty-four. My own kids took that up a notch by traveling to England twice when they were both in their teens.
Privileged yes, but without apology. We hope to impart on my grandchildren ‘real world’ experiences instead of material things. Experiences they can use as life lessons for a lifetime. It’s hands-on grand-parenting instead of the Daddy Warbucks approach. It’s about giving them our shared wisdom learned over a lifetime and a respect for other people and places around the world.
So how did the grandchildren do during their time abroad? Just fine, thank you, just fine. Travel is always an educational experience in more ways than one. It brings out the best and sometimes the worst in people. Unexpected delays, different customs, strange foods, other beliefs and a change of routine can test even the youngest and certainly the oldest in any group. Our gang passed that test with flying colors. And in the process we all learned just a little bit more about one another.
Nana held classes most evenings. There were lessons in charcoal sketching, rehearsing for a short play, playing poker and journaling their daily experiences, impressions and thoughts of that days excursion around the city.
I watched the boys play ‘Exploding Kittens’ on the back patio which brought forth gales of laughter and glee.
We ended up taking the tube everyday everywhere.
We watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
The kids loved exploring the Tate Museum, especially the photography exhibit for Maya.
Exploring the National Gallery of Art was interesting but playing paddy cake in the grand plaza was more fun.
The London Eye gave us an unprecedented view of the great city.
Borrowing from their parent’s generation all the kids had to retrace those famous Beatles crossing Abby Road.
One of the most satisfying experiences for Sharon and I was taking our kids to ‘School of Rock’ in the West End Theater District. The play was loud, ambitious, fun and exhilarating even for the seven-year-old. It has set a new standard for us when we have the grandchildren all together again. A love of the theater is something they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
The Eurostar through the Chunnel was uneventful except for the card games.
A River cruise on the Seine was only topped by climbing the heights of the Eiffel Tower.
The card games and sketching continued through our last meal in town.
In the end, the long time spent waiting at the airport, over 8 hours on the plane then a rush to transfer to a last minute flight from Detroit to Minneapolis proved too much even for an ardent traveler among us.
The same could be said for the Colorado cousins. But Sharon and I are confident that a good time had by all…especially doting grandparents who see even more adventures in our collective future.