Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A European Fall Break: Day One

When we found out we were having triplets there were a surge of emotions. We were simultaneously joyful, terrified, befuddled and overwhelmed. My husband & I are both planners, the kind of people who write family vision statements and talk about where we hope to be in 5, 10, 15 years. As you can imagine, a lot of plans and dreams had to be reconsidered with the reality of an instant family--and THREE same aged children.

As I lamented all the plans that would likely be on the chopping block, a triplet Mama a few years ahead of us on this journey offered encouraging advice: "Don't be so quick to put off and change everything you had hoped for your family just because it doesn't look the way you thought it would. If it is important to you, you will figure out how to make it work. It might be more complicated, but you will figure it out."

With her words our desire for travel and adventure felt like a remote possibility again. We started flying with our trio when they were 14 months old. They got their passports at 6 and have logged 7 countries since then--all in North America. At times, it has been complicated. We've been stranded in 107 degree Arizona--had 7 hour delays with toddlers and run out of diapers, arrived in a destination to find the airline lost one of our carseats...but this kind of unpredictability is part of what makes travel an adventure--and a learning experience. It has become a family hobby.

We have a dream destination list--and the planning is somewhat of a family bonding experience. We buy books for the kids about the places we are considering. We ask for their input. It is our shared interest and a huge way we disconnect from the stressful nature of my husband's job and retreat together to new places and learn about this big wide world. Adventure is a love language for both my husband & me.

When the children turned ten this Summer we felt emboldened to leave the continent. This week is their Fall Break and a milestone birthday for me, so we planned a big adventure to celebrate. As I type this I am in London--almost 24 hours in to our first family trip to Europe!

I hope to blog every day as a way of preserving our memories and in hopes other families planning an itinerary might glean from the successes and failures of our experience. So in no particular order...some highlights and low lights:

1- We flew Air Canada from Atlanta because led us to them for the lowest price fares. We did have to connect in Toronto, but it is a nice efficient airport--and we were very pleased with the airline. Our first leg was delayed almost an hour and they expedited us through customs and made sure we made our connection. The reality is, I still had to run about a half mile through the airport with 3 backpacks weighing a combined 30+ pounds and literally pulling exhausted children behind me. My lungs were burning. I was in a full sweat but we made it!

One of my favorite parts of yesterday (and much of travel really) was the comraderie from fellow travellers. We met two Canadian businessmen who were voluntarily googling all kinds of options for us when we feared we weren't going to make our connecting flight. They were truly pulling for us--strangers. It was a sweet blessing of kindness.
2- Flying red eye with kids is a gamble. Our party of 5 ranged from 6 hours of sleep to 1 hour stretched over three 20 minute increments. A key for us was to let the children know ahead of time there would be NO SCREEN use on either leg...they could read or sleep. I think this certainly helped...but it still was no guarantee.

3- With 45 minutes left to go on our 7 hour leg from Toronto to London, one of my children unexpectedly vomitted. While seated. Into their pillow. Unfortunately the stomach contents were a Varsity chili dog from the Atlanta airport. You can only imagine how well that went over in this ebola-fear crazed world. Vomitting on a packed international flight. Awesome. Making memories, right?

4- I didn't realize Heathrow Airport is actually almost an hour from the city of London whether travelling by car or by tube. We elected to try the Heathrow Express train. It was a clean, comfortable ride into Paddington Station in 12 minutes. We then took a taxi from there to the VRBO flat where we are staying. We learned that the express train shut down for a couple of hours right after we got into the city. Apparently this happens weekly according to our cab driver. We have made a note of that fact for our return plans to the airport next week.

5- I thought the kids would want to crash when when got to the flat due to their lack of sleep and jetlag. But crazy andrenaline fueled kid second winds kicked in.  They were fired up and ready to keep rolling. We went on a long walk that led us to lunch and the British Museum. It was a huge hit with the kids. Most of London's museums are free--which is wonderful, especially considering the quality of their exhibits.

History really did come alive for us. I LOVE this age and how our children are old enough to start really connecting geography, history, Bible study and other things they have read. Fun, fun, fun for this nerdy Mama heart!

6- It was a bit of a shock to our system to realize how many people still smoke cigarettes here! Walking up and down the streets with people who are 4 feet tall is fraught with lit cigs right at their eye/face level. My kids are getting pretty good at doging them already...but ugh!

7- Our completely random discovery of the day was this place...where ping pong was invented in 1901. Who knew?

They were pretty bummed out to realize it is now a bar scene not fit for 10 year olds, so an outdoor pic was the extent of their enjoyment...

8- It is now 1pm EST (6pm local time) so we have returned to take naps before dinner. We hope the light drizzle outside will subside for a nighttime ride on the London Eye...but we shall see. Today was an open day since I wasn't sure what to expect from these tired little bodies. I am grateful for some flexibility and time to adjust.

9- One more lesson learned for the night before I close. As much as I am glad for some margin in our schedule, I do regret not booking a bike tour in advance. There were two different highly rated companies I had been researching. I waited to book because advance reservations are not required. I tried to get something for tomorrow and both of them reported that they have been full for a week. Bummer.

Signing off as the sun sets on rainy London. Cheers!

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Have a great trip!! I love your blog and following along and you really are an inspiration!!!...and I hope your little who got sick on the plane recovered well!