I am not sure when or how the fascination started. It’s most clearly linked to two sets of travelling grandparents, both of whom visited London and talked about their adventures there, bringing back London-related books, toys and other paraphernalia. Regardless of the source, to say our Adelaide is obsessed with the town is an understatement. From time to time – say if we are talking about holidays or sometimes just out of the blue – she’ll sigh dramatically and say ‘I’d just love to visit Yondon’. She holds no greater love than for that of Big Ben (for reasons which still remain unclear). She’ll frequently choose ‘Ruby Red Shoes Goes To London‘ as her bedtime story, pointing out the sights and carefully choosing which terribly English treats she might like to eat. We’d long hoped to get there soonish, but going for no other reason than the whim of a three year old seemed indulgent. However when we saw that Christo had a new sculpture in Hyde Park (you may recall we saw his ‘Floating Piers‘ some years ago), both Tim and I were keen to visit too. (Apparently travelling on the whim of 40 and 37 year olds isn’t quite as ludicrous.)
We only had a few days in town and knew it would be impossible to even scratch the surface of all we wanted to see and do (and, as always, eat). Our compromise: everyone got to choose two activities which would be prioritised, and that we all had to do the other people’s activities*. Anything else was a bonus.
Tim and I – communication apparently being our strong game – both chose to see the Christo sculpture. Positioned in the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, The London Mastaba is made of 7,506 brightly painted barrels stacked on a floating platform. It weighs over 600 tons (coincidentally the same weight of fish and chips Little Miss ‘I Yove Yondon’ put away over the course of the weekend). We wandered through a fair bit of the enormous – and unexpectedly brown – park before seeing it, but when we did all eight Purler eyes were in awe.
(Addie’s cos she loves purple the most, and although the photos show up a bit more pink and red there was a definite purple hue to the sculpture. Teddy’s as he was allowed out of the carrier for an ice-cream.) (What, you don’t bribe your kids to make art seem more attractive?)
We had intended after a day of travel to have a fairly quiet night however Addie had other ideas. Her two London dreams: to see the one and only Big Ben, and to travel on a double decker London bus. The evening was so lovely we opted to walk to Westminster – via the palace and the anti-Trump protest rally – to check out the giant clock tower. As we were on our way, our little London-lover squeezed my hand and said ‘Mama, I’m just so happy to be in Yondon’.
We had been warned that Big Ben was currently undergoing renovations (he’s having a face lift that won’t be finished for several years) but figured a rose is a rose. And our Addie did not mind one little bit. One of the two things she’d like to be when she grows up is a road worker (the other is a fire fighter) so when she saw Big Ben she was delighted. ‘Mama! Big Ben is a roadwork!’
We spent the rest of the evening not riding the London Eye (the queues!), instead preferring the cheaper thrill of the nearby carousel.
The following morning Tim got to enact one of his London choices: a trip up The Shard. On the clear morning we were able to see right over the top of our morning ice creams and across the city. (Just as an FYI, the toilets in the building have the best view, no question, of any toilet ever. Each private cubicle has a full length window looking out onto this.)
My second choice of activity: food. Like all the people, I’m a massive fan of Ottolenghi and regularly cook from his books and column. My mouth had been watering for days at the possibility of eating his food, and it totally delivered. (She chose a cherry cake. Her father and I ate far more sensible lunches, but I confess that chocolate number behind the cherry cake happily found an eternal home in my belly).
We met one of Tim’s uni friends – Lloyd, and his partner Jonno – for dinner that night in a pub in Chelsea (one of the scenes of the fish and chips crimes). Addie lived her second dream on the way home, where she got to ride on the upper story of a London bus. (We passed another red bus – a single story one – and she was still impressed: ‘It’s a double decker bus with only the downstairs’. Love, as they say, is blind.)
Our final day was more catch ups (Tim’s cousin and a school friend), an art gallery to see the Lee Bul exhibit (Tim and my other shared choice), a fountain to splash in for the kids, yum cha, even more ice cream, and playgrounds aplenty. Before we knew it we were heading back to the airport (admidst drunken cheering French World Cup fans, much to the apparent disgust of most Britons). As anticipated the trip passed in the blink of an eye, with so much left not done (the British Museum! The Tate! Trafalgar Square! More fish and chips!). But it’s close, and we’re huge fans, so we’ll be back. As we landed at Basel, bleary eyed on Monday morning after an early start, I warned the kids that we still had a bit of a drive ahead of us. My girl looked up at me, hopefully, and asked ‘Can we drive back to Yondon? Please?’
* You may have noticed that the youngest Purler’s two things are absent from this list. Unfortunately, the rule was only extended to those of us who can talk, so little Teddy didn’t get loads of say. However, he would call ‘toot toot!’ every time he saw a train and wave ‘bye bye’ every time he got off the tube, so I think it’s safe to say he was happy. That, and he got an ice cream pretty much every day.