I spent a semester in London in undergrad, so not only did I have to think long and hard about the best itinerary for 7-year-old boys, but I also wanted to share the area I lived, South Kensington, and take them to many of my old hang-outs. London, of course, is crowded this time of year, so I also needed to think about how to travel with young boys, trying not to lose them. We brought walkie-talkies with us, and I armed them each with my business card, and directed them on what to do if we got separated: “If we get lost from one another, don’t panic, everything will be fine. Go into the closest store and direct someone in there to call my cell — they call it ‘mobile’ in London.” That was the best plan I had.
The first day, I had them walk right in front of me, and I spent the time like at a tennis match, watching them back and forth like mother hen. It just wasn’t feasible to walk around London with all of us holding hands. By the second day, however, we were all pros and the boys were doing what my twin boys do – dancing and singing through the streets, never ever walking in a straight line. The only thing that kept me sane was that they were so comfortable in this foreign land, so I sure as heck wasn’t going to be panicked. The song, “London Calling,” kept replaying in my head, so I guess in some way we were all in sync.
Being in sync also meant that each of us took on a role. Dominick, my very serious son who is a man in a little boy’s body, was the timekeeper, making sure that we got everywhere exactly 12-22 minutes ahead of schedule. If you think I am kidding, just spend a day with Dominick, and know that you will never be late, nor on time for that matter – always early. Dominick also said to anyone who would listen to him, “I am from California, and I am going to eat at the Eiffel Tower.”
Drake was the compass, getting us from point A to point B. We named him after Sir Francis Drake, the famous Antarctic explorer and the Drake Passage, so – perhaps – he has navigation in his blood.
I was the wallet – need I say more?
My husband and I have become accustomed to the “celebrity” of having twin boys. People were always stopping us to admire them when they were young. We thought surely it had to end when they were older, but it hasn’t due to their unique personalities. I have to say that our boys are gentlemen, but it is Drake’s outgoing “no problem” attitude and Dominick’s manhood trapped in a little boy’s body that makes the experience of traveling with them so unique. They also never complained, not once, even though I had them walking between five and eight miles a day. (Our last day in Paris, we walked over 10 miles and even I was cranky and wanted to jump in a taxi, but didn’t because I feel that you miss the whole experience if you just transport everywhere.)
A friend of mine insisted that I take them on the Tube, London’s underground metro, and let them navigate me to a place they wanted to go. I was terrified to take them on the Tube as I just thought that was the best chance of losing them, especially during the work rush. However, after the second day, we were all over the Tube — it’s the best way to travel around London when going long distances. Plus, the fun of going on an underground train was “cool” within itself.
Stay tuned for part two and the perfect London itinerary for small children!