“Charles Dickens routinely walked the streets, in 10 or 20-mile stretches, applying his inimitable powers of observation to its blustery rush, its incoherence and inconsistencies.
In sight and sound and smell and touch he conjured the perfect tapestry to weave his stories of love and loss, regret and reward into. It leapt from the realm of the workaday to the wonderful.
London was his muse. It was what really inspired him to write his great works. But his relationship with it was a love/hate one. He explored its dark as well as its colourful side.”
Our Month Itinerary
Amsterdam - Day 6
Geithoorn - Day 7
Haarlem + Leiden - Day 8
Munich, Germany - Day 9
Salzburg, Austria - Day 10 + 11
Berchtesgaden, Germany - Day 12
Hallstat, Austria - Day 13
Venice, Italy - Day 14 + 15
Nice, France - Day 16
Rouen, France - Day 17
Normandy, France - Day 18
Mont Saint Michel, France - Day 19
Paris, France - Day 20-27
Disneyland Paris - Day 28
Fontainebleau, France - Day 29-30
After a bumpy, out-of-our-hands-start to this experience-of-a-lifetime trip we woke up on a few hours of sleep, determined to adjust our bodies and see the wonders of London! (It took about 33 hours from leaving the house to get to the airport to arrival at our London hotel, instead of the supposed 12-13. Our airline didn’t offer wifi, and we tried to get in touch with our hotel, but we couldn’t and they canceled our entire reservation… so when we arrived at 2 am the following day, we had to figure out for an hour where to go. Anyways! We were wiped, and didn’t know we’d be hitting out-of-our-control-snags often… far more often than normal during travel and life, at least in our experience! It had the effect of both making the trip require more of us than we anticipated, but also made room for us to seeeriously “taste the flavors” of what was good. We made some of the best memories of our entire lives, and KNEW it. And sat right there in it, like a bathtub with the drain open… letting all the water run out before we moved, delighting in all the splashes and play we could. Until next time. And there was always a bubbly, exciting next time to wait for!)
Our first stop of the day was the 10:45 am Changing of The Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a distinct and impressively performed event that is very worth seeing! Not just a “tourist trap.”
I had brought along in our suitcase a homemade, burned-edge Pirate’s Map with directions to Neverland, fairies I ordered from Amazon, and sparkly pixie dust I found in my mom’s closet. We told Rue and Jo that Neverland used to be up in the clouds, but Captain Hook captured it so now it was in London, where he ship-wrecked. They watched “Peter Pan” daily leading up to the trip, and we wanted so much for their little imaginations to run wild of the story. My sister, Katie, was super helpful in subtly sprinkling dust along our walk, and I would set fairies in various places nearby. “We MUST be on the right track, guys! Keep following the signs to Neverland!”
The fairies led us to Hyde Park, and Princess Diana’s Memorial Garden - a quintessential, peaceful, and oh-so-lovely nook on the earth.
“Peter Pan: The boy who would not grow up.” We told the kids that Peter Pan watched over Neverland during the day, and came to life to fly around London at night. Once we could find Peter, we KNEW we were close to the fantasy world, where Captain Hook’s REAL ship was still hiding!
“Time Flies.” When we weaved our way through the paths and hedges to get to the Princess Diana Memorial Park, all Peter-Pan themed, Rue was glowing. He kept saying “I just cannot even BELIEVE we really found it! Can you even believe??” He had the place to himself for a full hour, and it was just what my mama-heart hoped would be (of course memory-making doesn’t always go like you envision! So it’s sure sweet when it really does.)
The playground is near Kensington Palace, and the darling Notting Hill and Portobello Market area of the city. We wandered through colorful cheery lane after lane, ate a needed lunch of big-burgers and piles of fries, and soaked up as much dearness as we could.
Then we took the world-famous Tube trains to the Tower of London. We missed the early afternoon crowds, and had a mostly-quiet atmosphere to see the crown jewels, the ravens, interact with those delightful beefeaters, be mesmerized by old things like “The Bell Tower, 1020,” and even breezed through the Torture Tower (not visually gory by any means). I will repeat, as I post about this trip, what we repeated many times a day on this trip: it is impossible to not be impacted by the real history of generations upon generations of lives and stories that came before you when you’re in places like these. Places hundreds, thousands!, of years older than our entire established country.
“There was no electricity! No motors! No cranes! These were hand-dug from the ground, hand-loaded to a cart, hand-built and carved into this building. And, 1000 years later, here we are touching it. HOW did they do this? HOW did they figure it out? HOW did they work so hard?” How many stories we know of that happened here, and how many have been lost to the silence of Time Past? How meaningful, how blessed, to be able to come with our eyeballs, and fingertips, and dreams, and take in history before our eyes.
This little scene brought me tickled-joy. Two grown kinds giving gifts, and being clever and funny about it. 800 years ago. Just love it.
We were sluggish and ready for sleep by early evening, so we took a red double-decker bus back to our hotel… and as we neared our stop, we saw the reflections of a Mama Bear Pink Sunset on every window and car-mirror. I turned around to see this sight, after an entirely grey, sunless day… we ended Day One with what is the equivalent of our family’s Promise By Rainbow. Filled with peace, gratitude, and eagerness for rest and all the adventures to come, we slept hard.