It’s been about 3 weeks since we returned from England and I wanted to take some time to actually reflect on the trip before I put it on a post. This was a huge event for both Declan and I. I was absolutely terrified as I have never been fully responsible for him with no real means of support and I was convinced that at some point I would do something horribly wrong (such as lose him somehow). Luckily this never came close to occurring. I am sure that it has more to do with the fact that he is such an absolute joy and an amazing kid than my tremendous skills as a Father.
We arrived at the airport with Andrea and Rhys and waiting in line to check in. Andrea and Rhys stayed with us up until Security and I must admit that once we said our good-byes and gave our hugs and kisses I became a bit emotional. This was Declan’s first big trip and it felt wrong that I was going to be doing it alone with him. I wanted Andrea there to witness it all as well. Declan, not so much, he was just excited to see the “DC Airplane” (I found out that this is from a show that he watches called Mighty Machines. They show kids what goes on at places such as airports and they named one of the planes DC as it was a DC 10. Now all planes are DC airplanes!).
Security was a breeze and he was great with the scanner and everything. He was slightly worried about his carry on luggage as they took it to scan it but I told him that would be given back. Once he received it he was greatly relieved and we continued on. The departures lounge was great because he could see our plane and watch it being fueled and readied. We had to wait for about an hour and a half and killed time by Declan playing on my laptop. We were allowed to board first since I had a child with me which was convenient.
Once on the plane we settled in and waited for the imminent take off. Declan was reluctant to have his seat belt on and wanted to just play with the buttons on his seat arm but he calmed down pretty quickly. Once we actually went down the runway the excitement kicked in with a joyous “We’re flying Daddy!”
The flight itself was totally uneventful. We watched movies, talked and then he slept for about 4 hours which was what I was hoping would happen. We landed in London at 5:50am local time and luckily I was able to wake him up so that he could walk to passport control and luggage returns. I was congratulated by a number of passengers who marveled at how well behaved he was through the whole flight. I was incredibly proud of him.
At passport control they carefully scrutinized our documents as I had his Passport, Birth Certificate and a document that Andrea and I signed allowing me to take him out of Canada. We got our suitcase and made our way to the Gatwick Train Station and got our tickets for the Gatwick Express into Victoria Station.
I was amazed at how familiar everything felt immediately. I felt comfortable with purchasing what was needed without looking like a tourist which was nice. We got to London after a 30 minute train ride. Victoria Station was exactly as I remembered it 6 years before when Andrea and I were there on a visit to Victor when he was living in town. I love the station and its’ surroundings. You get out and are right at the theatres where Billy Elliot and Wicked are playing.
A quick walk down Vauxhall Bridge road brought us to Hatherly Street where we were staying thanks to the incredibly generosity of some friends who allowed us the use of their flat. We were let in and given the quick tour as well as an idea of what was in the area that we may need which I was very appreciative of. Luckily that area is full of vibrant little boutiques and shops that fit the bill perfectly for two guys on vacation!
I hadn’t slept yet and decided that since it was around 9:00am GMT I should try and get some shut eye. Unfortunately Declan was wired and awake so I set him up with a DVD on the computer and he watched it in bed with me while I slept. I was wakened 2 hours later when he told me the movie was finished. Luckily I was able to convince him to sleep for a bit as well. We didn’t wake up again until 1:30 in the afternoon.
Full of energy and excitement we decided to go for a walk. It was 18 degrees and sunny so we had a fantastic day to start with. Being in Victoria meant we were only about 10 minutes walk from Westminster Abbey and Parliament so we decided to go that way and see what we could see. It was so nice to see flowers and trees blooming. When we left Hamilton there was 20 cms of snow on the ground so this was like the tropics for us!
I was able to get some really nice photos on that first day of Declan just walking around and looking at things. We went to the tube for the first time and I purchased our Oyster Card for the rest of the week so that we didn’t need to worry about change ever. I started feeling like we belonged as soon as we had that because it is what everyone uses in London to get around. We took the tube a short distance from Westminster to Embankment and Declan got his first look at the “Big Ferris Wheel!”. The London Eye.
A quick jaunt up the stairs and across the Golden Jubilee Bridge brought us to the South Side of the Thames and face to face with the Eye. Declan loved seeing it and told me that it was just like the one at the fair (he was talking about the one at the fair in Erin that we attend every Thanksgiving). I agreed and asked if he wanted to go on it. He said that he did so we booked a flight on for first thing the next morning. We were both excited to do this.
We had a quick lunch and McDonald’s and then wandered aimlessly for a little which was great. It was interesting to see how he interacted with London. Everything became an obstacle to climb on or jump off of. Nothing was off limits as long as he wasn’t in danger of hurting himself or damaging property. I was fascinated to see how he viewed the City. It was one big playground for a 3 year old.
Eventually we decided to find a place to have dinner. We went to a restaurant called Garfunkel’s that was in the Victoria Shops attached to the Station. We just ordered pizzas and drinks and ate a bit and took the rest home. When we arrived it had been a long day and we decided to climb into bed, watch a movie and go to sleep. We were so tired. Day one was done and it had been marvelous. What a great start to our vacation.