Tag Archives | sightseeing

Bon Voyage

Tomorrow we leave London and go to Abu Dhabi.  We’ve been talking and planning and worrying and wondering about this move for months…and now it’s finally upon us.

We left our apartment six weeks ago, almost to the day, and we’ve been floating every since.  A rather grand tour—Paris, Provence, London—but still, floating. Haven’t read a newspaper, haven’t read my New Yorkers (I’m hoping they’re stockpiled for me in AD); it’s both exhilarating and disorienting to be so out of touch with what’s happening in the world.

Six weeks of no deadlines, no appointments, no responsibilities (other than tracking down the nearest Pizza Express or noodle-selling grocery store for my kids’ dinner).  I’ve been hauling around drafts of writing projects in what I like to call the bag o’guilt (writing projects, syllabi for upcoming fall course, Important Nonfiction Book) and have done…none of it.  Made my way through most of the Jo Nesbo detective stories (brilliant! amazing! Makes you think “Stieg WHO?”), read a lot of wonderful blogs (Marinka! Kelcey! Varda! Stasha! Empress! Wendi! The Bloggess! Shari! but mostly? Floating.

The upside of this discombobulated floating is that we’re all ready to go. Ready to Get There, Be There, Get Started. Hell, we all just want to unpack.  It’s been six weeks of “oh yeah, that book/lotion/important file/power cord/folder is…well, it’s in one of the suitcases. We’ll find it in Abu Dhabi.”

Both boys have had some serious bouts of whining (okay, pretty much every day has had at least one or the other or both snarling and mewling about the hell that is his life) and there have been a few sobbing sinkers, but overall they’ve held up pretty well. Five different perches in six weeks, almost no soccer, and a LOT of walking, which Caleb claims is incredibly boring, because when you’re walking you’re not really doing anything. I guess we’re lucky they’re still speaking to us.

Tomorrow morning we head for the airport with our eighty-five thousand suitcases, carry-ons, backpacks, and shoulder bags, trailing cords and plugs and wires and chargers, like a kind of techno comet tail.

Tomorrow night we sleep in another hemisphere.

When we wake up, it will already be about 95 degrees and Ramadan fasting will have begun.

We won’t be in Kansas any more, Toto. And as for over the rainbow? Well…we’ll just have to see.


*the picture of the boys is taken at the Royal Observatory, in Greenwich. They’re straddling the Prime Meridian, which marks the divide between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.  That whole GMT, Greenwich Mean Time? That’s the line, right there.  Seems appropriate, yes?



Continue Reading · on August 11, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, expat, family, Travel, UAE

In which husband gives me a gift

Here’s what he did: he took both boys to Legoland Windsor for the entire day. Without me.

I hear there’s a castle in Windsor too, but as far as my kids are considered, it’s all about the Pirate Flume, baby.

We’ve been living out of suitcases now for a month, with another week to go, and while I love my children (especially now that they’re asleep), we’ve had a whole lot of together time in the last four weeks. A whole lot. A whole, whole, whole lot. Like they’re attached to me at the hip, shoulder, hand, elbow, neck, and knee. That kind of a lot. Think limpet.

So when Husband saw the ad for Legoland, he took pity on me and off they went. The boys planned their attack:

(That’s hot chocolate in Liam’s hand, btw, not coffee. I hope. But when you’re traveling with Daddy, anything can happen.)

They arrived to this:

and this:

Lots of lines, lots of crowds, lots of noise.

I got:

Cycles for hire all over London, modeled after velolib in Paris. Do you think Mayor Mike can implement such a thing in NYC?

I pedaled through the park, dropped the bike at the top of Regent Street, and walked along the shops. Why is it that in other cities we do things we’d never, ever do at home? Because in New York, on a beautiful sunny day, the last thing in the world I would elect to do is wander down, say Fifth Avenue from 59th Street to Madison Square. I hate shopping, mostly, and department stores make me anxious. Too many choices! Too many escalators that never, ever, take you where you want to go!

I made my way down Regent Street, through the ghastliness of Piccadilly Circus, and roundabout to Somerset House for art at the Courtauld Gallery. Paintings that I got got look at without someone saying “can we go yet? can we go now? are you done now?

There was an exhibit called “Falling Up”:

And the only thing I saw that came even close to a roller coaster were the stairs of Somerset House:

After I was done at Somerset House, I found another Cycle Stand, grabbed a bike, and pedaled back to our friend’s apartment through the late afternoon sunlight.

A day alone. Funny how ten years ago, in PKL (pre-kid life), a day alone didn’t seem like any big deal. Now? What a gift. More than atones for Husband’s evening ritual of carefully placing his dirty socks on the coffee table.

And hell, Windsor Castle has been there for umpteen hundred years. What’s the rush?

*the image of “Falling Up” is a piece by Catherine Parker, entitled “Neither From Nor Towards.” The stones are from the shoreline at Dover.



Continue Reading · on August 5, 2011 in Children, family, marriage, Travel

it’s not the sights, it’s the skort

We dragged the boys visited the British Museum the other day. We did the “greatest hits” in the morning: Rosetta Stone, Peat Bog Man, Elgin Marbles—then broke for lunch (Pizza Express again. At this point, I should probably buy stock in the damn company), and went back in the afternoon: Husband took Caleb up to Egypt because the boy loves him a mummy; Liam and I went to China and looked at jade, porcelain, and big stone Buddhas.

To their credit, the boys loved it. They brought their little notebooks and sketched things they liked, read all the info cards, argued about how Bog Man died. Murder? Execution? Murder! Execution! MURDER! EXECUTION!

But the next day: sightseeing hangover. When plans were announced in the morning we got “I hate history!” and “please please NOT another museum!” And because we are wise and wonderful perfectparents, we listened to our darling children and their reasonable requests. Plus it was a gorgeous sunny day and no one really wanted to be inside. So off we went to wander Hyde Park.

Despite much mockery of her during her lifetime (sorry, sorry, sorry), I now change my tune: love that Princess Diana, yesssirree.  That memorial playground with the Pirate Ship? Brilliant!  And the fountain? Fantabulous.

The sign outside the fountain says we’re welcome to “paddle hands and feet:”

Funny. Does “paddle hands and feet” mean “immerse self fully into ten inches of water,” in England-speak?  Because that’s what most of the kids were doing.

Here’s what it looked like inside the gate:

But actually, this post isn’t about sightseeing overload, or even the beauty of Hyde Park, where, perhaps due to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (what! you haven’t read it yet? get thyself to a bookstore or e-downloader, now!), I could see the ghosts of Hank 8 riding to the hounds through the tall grass, hunting wild boar.

Nope. This post is about the virtues of the skort. Or culottes, as I think they used to be called. Before I left New York, I ordered me a skort from Athleta. The skort is great, although buying it did not turn me into a mountain-climbing-make-my-own-surfboard-yoga-studio-owning-incredibly-fit-mother-of-two-who-also-speaks-Mandarin-and-is-learning-Sanskrit-just-for-fun. I remain my vaguely Midwestern somewhat squashy self.  Nevertheless, the skort is flattering, it’s flexible (wear it with your grown-up shoes to dinner or your flipflops to the beach), it’s lightweight, and it dries easily (really important when two soaking wet boys hurl themselves into your lap). And best of all, when you find yourself at the playground watching your kids, you don’t have to do that weird skirt-sit, where you end up looking like Laura Bush, ankles demurely crossed, knees to the side, in order to avoid flashing the entire park your bottom-of-the-suitcase undies.

Get yourself a skort. It may not make your kids love sightseeing but it will make everything else a whole lot easier.

Full disclosure: no skorts were sent my way in return for this post, alas. I had to pay for my own…and now I have three.  If Athleta would like to send me a skort, however, that would be just grand. (And by the way, they’re on sale now)

Continue Reading · on August 5, 2011 in Children, family, Kids, Parenting, Products, Travel

Too Cool for School, or, NYC Kids See the Sights

A beautiful London evening: soft breeze, gentle sun coming through impossibly fluffy green trees. Every now and then a black cab trundles by on the wrong side of the street and I swear to god Mary Poppins will be twinkling up the sidewalk at any minute.

We’re staying in a friend’s apartment—I mean flat—marking time until we go to Abu Dhabi but I forget, almost daily, that we’re going further east when we leave here and not heading back home to New York.

We’re here because we had to be out of our NYC apartment in early July and were heading to a family reunion in France mid-month, and so it made sense (with the gift of a free place to stay) to perch in London for a bit before heading into 110 degrees and Ramadan, which is what’s waiting for us in Abu Dhabi.

Husband and I thought the boys would love London: castles, bloody history, soldiers in funny hats, weird old buildings, Harry Potter! What’s not to like?  I got a great guide book– Frommer’s London With Kids–but as helpful as that book has been, there are two books that need to be written:

A guide book written FOR kids, not for parents traveling with kids. This guide book would take into consideration things like ice cream availability, gross-out factors, what friends back home will think about these activities, and relevance to some particularly bloody/gory/romantic historical event.  (This book would also include a section for teens on “where the cute kids are.”)

The second guide book needs to be written for kids from New York who are visiting other cities.  The Frommer’s guide talks about all the street performers in Covent Garden but to kids used to the variety show that is Union Square? Yawn.

Big huge parks with ponds? Been there, done that.

Throngs of people speaking many languages waiting for the train? Meh.

People with bleached blonde Mohawks and multiply pierced faces sitting next to us in the café? Yep, we see ‘em in the Astor Place K-Mart all the time.

The boys concede that the Tube is more comfortable than the NYC subway and that the chocolate bars are better, but other than that? They refuse to be moved by ancient buildings, tiny winding streets, thousands of years of history.

I can see it now, can’t you? An entire series marketed to NYC Kids. We could call it something like “New York Doesn’t Have THIS, Dumbass.”

Although I guess if the series is aimed at kids, maybe I should leave off the “dumbass?”

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Continue Reading · on August 4, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, NYC, Travel

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