July 25, 2011
Hayden took his first trip overseas, to London, at the ripe old age of 15 months! However, getting him a passport was a HUGE ordeal. They did not finish it on time to mail it (despite many urgent phone calls and admittedly some tears), so my dad was super generous and drove down to Houston with me to try to get it in person from the Houston Passport Agency, only ONE day before our scheduled departure. So we drove about 4 1/2 hours each way and got extremely lucky because they had JUST completed his passport about 10 minutes before we arrived and they were able to hand it right over. Talk about relief. So it was a long day, but worth it to be able to depart on time with no worries.
Despite being only 15 months old, he was just a dream child on the plane on the way over – it was like traveling with another fun adult. We did manage to get him his own seat, and they even had extra meals that they gave him. So he sat like a little adult all strapped in, and ate his grown-up airplane meal, played a little bit, ran the aisles for awhile, then fell asleep stretched out between my mom and I for about 6 hours! We didn’t sleep much because we were worried he’d roll of the seat, and we had legs and arms pushing on us, but the important thing was that he got sound sleep, and he woke up in time to have breakfast and look out the windows at landing. Unfortunately the ride home wasn’t so smooth…..but I’ll save that for later!
London suited Hayden – let me tell you. The sights, the sounds, the bright lights, the traffic, the taxis, trains, buses and boats – everything seemed to be custom made for his viewing pleasure! I cannot tell you how many “oohs” and “ahhs” were uttered by this child before we even got to our lodging! He was in toddler Heaven! He adjusted very well to the time difference, and managed to get good naps and night sleeps the whole trip, which was a huge blessing, and made the experience more fun for him. We did so much that first weekend there. My brother, Jeff, rented a car for all of us and we cruised out of London for a day of sightseeing in Kent and along the southern coast of England along the English Channel. Our first stop was Leeds Castle, which was beautiful and had really pretty grounds to wander through (and ducks for Hayden!), then we pushed on to do some hiking at Seven Sisters Country Park on the coast, which showcased spectacular chalk cliffs, rough seas, and a pebble beach. We finished out the day with dinner in Brighton, a sort of famous English seaside resort town, and a walk out onto the pier.
On Sunday, Jeff and Rebecca took us via double decker bus to Camden Market which was really crazy and fun. They had vendors selling everything you could imagine, and tons of yummy, ethnic street food. The most enjoyable part was probably the people watching; just people from all walks of life speaking every language you can imagine. It was a cool experience, especially for Hayden who was pretty mesmerized. We rode a canal boat home through some of the more posh parts of London, and got to see some pretty ridiculous city homes – even Madonna’s house in Regent’s Park. Hayden loved the boat, although not quite as much as the bus!
The rest of the week was filled with me working, and grammy taking Hayden on double decker bus tours of the city. He liked the bus so much that it was really easy for her to fill their time that way. They would ride it down to my office and meet me for lunch, and hop on and off at the various sights around town. Then at night we’d meet up with Jeff and Rebecca for dinner at various restaurants around town. London is not very baby friendly when it comes to dining, so our choices were limited, but Hayden did get to experience Indian food and Asian food, as well as a night at the Rainforest Cafe in Picadilly Circus, which was probably his favorite (scary but fun). Jeff also was able to take a day off of work and they explored the Tate Modern museum, walked the south embankment along the Thames and saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, and all those famous landmarks.
After a week of adventures, we packed up for our trip home. While the trip to London is overnight, the trip home is a very long day trip, and with Hayden in our laps, and the person in front of us reclined completely the entire 11 hour flight, it was pretty miserable. He had no seat of his own this time, and I felt sorry for him (and us), being so cramped up. We were able to get him to sleep for about 45 minutes at a stretch a few times, but really he was quite cranky and unhappy for the vast majority of the time. Let’s just say the lady in front of us probably didn’t get much sleep with him kicking and flailing in an effort to escape the seat. Yikes. By the time we hit customs in Dallas, he was just DONE, and the gigantic photos of travelers of all ethnicities and ages just scared him to death, and he just spent the half hour in line crying on my shoulder. Never were we so happy to grab our bags and see Daddy and poppy waiting to take us home.
Despite the minor drama of the ride home, all in all it was a wonderful trip!