In the 3 1/2 years we've been married, and the 2 years we've had Aviel - even with all the traveling we done - this was actually the first family vacation we've had! It was a wonderful and much needed experience!
We started our adventure in London.
Before we left, I did tons of research and planning to help things go more smoothly. Since Devin would be working during the day, it would be just Aviel and I out and about by ourselves and I wanted to be able to anticipate what our travel needs might be.
The first day, Aviel and went by bus, then train into the city to visit the Natural History Museum where we saw giant rocks, learned about earthquakes and volcanoes and the best part... DINOSAURS! I planned this outing first because it was easy on the Underground! I wore Aviel in my green peanut shell sling so I could get him in and out easily through out the exhibits. It worked great and we had tons of conversations with others about babywearing (or at this point... twoyearoldwearing!)
I'm sorry I don't have any photos to share... with just the two of us, I wasn't able to take any!
We went back to the hotel for a rest and met up with Devin. Then the three of us headed back out to Westminster. We rode the train back into London and when We walked out of the train station, we immediately looked up and saw...
Well, actually Big Ben, but if you have a little boy... you know the Cars reference! Aviel was pretty excited about this stop. He looked up and said, "Holly, Mater, and Fin McMissile in there!!" He knew exactly what it was!
Here's a few photos of things we saw in Westminster.
After site seeing a bit, we ate a lovely dinner, (I had lamb and mash pototoes, Devin had curry... Aviel ate both), then headed back in for the night.
The next day, Aviel and I ventured to Borough Market and Tate Modern. I think I would describe Borough Market as a cultivated or well groomed version of our Jerusalem Shuk. It was full of a variety of different food stands and vendors, many of whom offered free samples. We ate our fill and even bought Abba a container of Fenugreek, a spice used for making curry. Then we headed down the street to Tate Modern.
Pre-trip, I found out that Tate Modern has quite a few family friendly initiatives in place. On Weekends, they offer an art studio where the kids can create, and all week long, children eat totally free in the cafe. They are trying to make a family friendly environment and encourage conversation rather than a quiet viewing experience. Still, though, I was a bit nervous about how a two year old would fare in an art museum.
My concerns were put to ease when we first walked in the building. The design of the bottom level includes a giant concrete ramp in the bottom level interior. The ramp was full of kids riding up and down on scooters! I love when architecture/interiors can be used in such a playful way... especially in such an intellectual environment. Also, a man at the information desk informed me that the 5th floor has a little play place for the kids between exhibit halls.
It wasn't a slow paced, read every info sign about every piece, sort of visit. I went back and forth between letting Aviel walk on his own and carrying him in the sling. We flew through some places, and others we lingered a little bit. There were a few works I wanted to make sure he saw, particularly some by Matisse. I mostly was interested in seeing what he was drawn to, and what sparked his interest. Of course it was the more spatial projects, whether it was actual sculptural projects, or the ones that simply made use of the space they were in. He especially liked one that was a series of red rectangles on two walls, meeting in the corner. I wish I had noted the artist.
Being the architect that I am, I wanted to help Aviel learn about critical review. I asked him questions, like "what makes this one special?" He made comments such as, "Its red." Or "the circles." He tends to make drawings with with circles, and quite a few of the paintings looked like giant versions of his art. LOL. At one point he looked at one and said "That's scary!" But he wasn't scared... just commenting that it was scary! I thought it was funny and honest, because modern art can be pretty scary looking!
After our adventures through the exhibits, we went downstairs where we made a visit to the gift shop. I purchased a copy of This is London by M. Sasek. Sasek was an architect who wrote and illustrated a serious of travel books for children in the 1970's. I love how his books capture what we designers call genius loci (spirit of place), and hope to collect the entire series for my children. After shopping, we went to the cafe to eat where we both had glorious Fish n' Chips. Then we headed outside on the lawn to play for a bit. Aviel needed to have some freedom to run!
Just beyond the law is the Thames River, where we stopped to look at all the boats. Then we crossed Millenium Bridge and headed back to the hotel.
That evening the three of us went to Kensington Gardens where Aviel played at the Diana Memorial Playground. This playground is designed around a Peter Pan theme, complete with a giant pirate ship.
Devin and I thought the pirate ship was great, but Aviel was a little more interested in the sand!
The next day, Devin went down south to Cirencestor, and Aviel and I headed up north to Bedford to visit some very close friends of mine, the Dwights. Many of you who attended our wedding might remember Faith and Simon who performed our music. Faith was one of my roommates while we were in school together at UNC-Greensboro. She ended up in England after she Roped an Englishman while studying abroad. I was blessed to be able to spend a few days with her, Simon, and their precious son, Adlai. What I will remember most from our visit is how full their home is with the presence of the Lord. It was great to catch up! I didn't take my camera, due to back packing with a two year old, but hopefully I can get some photos from Faith and add them later!
After our visit with the Dwights, Aviel and I took three buses down to Cirencestor to catch up with Abba. We saw all sorts of sheep and horses on the double decker bus ride down. Then we stayed in the most glorious hotel, The Fleece. I could have stayed a few more days at the Fleece! It was one of my favorite hotels, ever!
After a few relaxing days, we headed back up to London and boarded our El Al flight back home to Israel.
England, we miss you dearly.