Not for the faint at heart!

That is what went though my mind about traveling alone with three children on a plane across an ocean! If you have any concerns with your levels of patience, tolerance, organizational skills, not to mention sheer stamina and ability to push through sleep deprivation and starvation, don’t even consider it! We did make it home last night and everyone was very excited to see papa again!

Where to start? Back on Thursday, where I left off the last post is probably the the best place to start. Warning…this is a long post!

We noticed that Willem had a bit of a fever and some spots around his mouth on Thursday evening. By Friday morning, it was full-blown spotty face and it was obvious that there was something up. He was immunized against chicken pox, but he had been around Julie (Roel’s daughter) just at the end of her chicken pox when we first arrived. Hmmm. Phone call to Oom Frans, and a call to our doctor at home, and it was confirmed that the immunizations only work about 85% of the time, so he could have chicken pox. Just what one who is traveling internationally wants to hear! And if anyone from KLM asks, it was an allergy to kiwi that got infected!

The good thing is that he seemed fine and wasn’t laying around sick. Jet said that I shouldn’t cancel my little trip to London for the weekend and that she would be just fine since there isn’t much that can be done for him anyways aside from perhaps Tylenol. So I left on Saturday morning for two of the busiest days of sightseeing that anyone has ever done and even with that, I’ve only just scratched the surface. For one, it is impossible to fathom how big London actually is from just looking on a map. There was so much more that I wanted to do, but just ran out of time! I’ll have to go back with Chris, but I am definitely not taking the kids there until they are much older. For one, it is hugely expensive. Even Tokyo didn’t seem to be on the same level as this. $7 for an apple juice just to give you an idea!

I started by catching the Heathrow Express which takes you in to Paddington Station which seemed to be a good place to start. At the station, which was bustling at 7:30am, I asked and found out that you can get an “Oyster Card” which you fill and use to get on the tube and busses. So card and map in hand and I was off for my first experience of this amazing city.

Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Picadilly Circus, Leicester Square… I decided to go against my instinct to not take the tube and walk everywhere when I realized how far everything is. Also, keep in mind, that the whole weekend was a bit of a blur because everything happened at such a fast pace, so I skimmed through the sights just to get a sense of the city. I also decided that I would eat lunch at a nice restaurant and not worry about dinner. So off to find Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen where I enjoyed the most amazing rib-eye steak topped with arugula and gorgonzola. I don’t have the words to describe how it melted in my mouth! So delicious.

Followed lunch (in no particular order) with London Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben, Parlaiment buildings, Camden Locks area, Covent garden, dinner at Wagamama (noodle place) and a pint at one of the hundreds (if not thousands) of pubs! I can’t reven remember the name!

After a good night’s sleep, I headed off to the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and Globe theatre. I ventured to a very far away place for lunch (via a big red double-decker bus), and it was more than worth it even though essentially, it meant that I had to skip out on some other major sights. I ate fish and chips like no other at the Narrow (Gordon Ramsay’s pub on the Thames). Another fabulous meal!

Then the fun began. I wanted to head back to the main area to walk around some more and then make it to Hamley’s Toy Store to pick up a few things for the kids. As I got on the tube, I noticed that there were notices of closures and delays. Where I wanted to go, I couldn’t get to which meant an hour of navigating through various closed tubes to get there. Conscious of the approaching deadline when I had to make my way back to the airport, I began to get a bit nervous and actually took a cab for the last leg! Finally Made it the toy store where I dashed around (wish the kids could have seen it – they would have gone crazy!!) and then tried to get back to Paddington station. A soccer game had just let out and thousands of Arsenal fans flooded into the stations. The tube line-ups were 20 deep and I HAD to get to the train. So sorry to everyone who I pushed and bowled over to get onto the train, but I couldn’t miss the flight! Made it to the airport with a bit of time to spare and back to Holland where I was very happy to see Jet and the kids again!

OK, back to the flight home. Jet took us to the airport with lots of time and I was a bit disappointed to see that we were in the last row, in the middle three seats. Fortunately, however, this turned out to be the best place for us – close to assistance, beside the bathrooms, and a big area beside the galley where we could jump a bit! Said a tearful goodbye to Tante Jet and then headed off to the gate, Willem on my back and Bas and Ineke riding on the luggage cart. Got to the gate and saw that boarding had started, so I stood in the Priority line hoping to get through with some assistance as this is the part of the trip that I was dreading the most. Just as everything seemed to be under control, Ineke screams and leans over and I could see that her nose had started to gush blood. So with a baby on my back and trying to make sure that Bas stayed close to us, I quickly grabbed a pile of tissues and tried to stop the bleeding and calm Ineke down. People were concerned, but hesitant to help out. So now, with with three kids – one with a bleeding nose, one with chicken pox and and one who won’t stop talking we made it through the massive line (there was no one even around whom I could ask about skipping to the front of the line) to the security check. Thank god, Bas was very charming and they took pity on me and didn’t make me take Willem out of the baby carrier! Phew!

On the plane, everything was challenging but essentially do-able. The attendants were there to help if I needed it (which I did when Bas threw up and was hysterical while at the same time Willem was crying and trying to crawl over the seats. Ineke fell asleep before take-off so one kid down was a good thing! Eventually, Willem fell asleep and I put him on the floor under our feet and the other two fell asleep, although they had trouble getting comfortable and their sleep was perforated by bouts of crying for each of them. So I couldn’t eat or sleep during the whole 10 hours, and was busy catching falling apple juices simultaneously with changing movies and holding a squirmy, heavy baby. But we made it. Everyone was incredibly happy to see Papa. No one more than me!!

We had such an amazing vacation! Kids were so well-behaved and easy to travel with that I have the feeling that this is the beginning of a new chapter for us where we can start to venture out to see the world with kids in tow. It is a different type of travel and while museums and historic building tours and meals in fine restaurants are not in the picture for now, we are sure to find every playground, zoo, farm within reach!

Saying that, it is always nice to be back at home again!



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