The little neighborhood we are in is known for it's wonderful Turkish food so we wanted to make sure we had a chance to try some. Just down the block was a sweet little patisserie with a kind Turkish man we got to know as Jorge and I went to grab coffee there every morning. We picked up some borek for the kids to try. Borek is a long savory pastry filled with potatoes, spinach or feta cheese. Really yummy!
The crew wasn't moving quite as fast that morning (i.e. Some people did NOT want to leave their beds, not even for London) so we started the day much more slowly. We eventually made our way to Shoreditch....ohhhh, Shoreditch. SO MUCH TO SAY.
I totally get why it's the hipster's paradise, it's any city loving person's JACKPOT. Street art, incredible food, shops...SO many places to wander. It was the tiniest bit painful because it was one of those moments when I realized I could have spent all 3 days there on a couples trip BUT that isn't the trip we are on and even just a few hours was awesome.
Just as as we realized the level of awesomeness we were in, Jorge looked at me and the time and realized all the dilly dallying earlier caught up with us- he and Jack needed to leave to catch a show at the science museum, like 5 minutes after we got there. I felt bad for them and also realized this meant tube navigation for me...which made me both a little nervous and excited. More about that in a minute.
So off they went, while Josiah, Lyra, Lucy and I checked out the Brick Lane Market. So while the sweet, local Broadway market felt all about community, the Brick Lane Market felt like you stepped into a GIANT world market. I loved both for different reasons.
People were shoulder to shoulder everywhere you went (even lining the streets), with literally food from anywhere you can imagine. It was like if you just threw a dart at a map, you could have food from that place and not just an okay version, the most beautiful, yummiest food from that place. It was so insane. I'm sure I sound like Pollyanna world traveler, but you guys, IT WAS TRUE, each place has been crazier than the last.
While this is all so amazing, what was tricky was keeping track of the kids in a big crowd with so many interesting things/people/food. You have to have your mama hawk eyes on at all times- and this is draining but also worth it.
Josiah went off to explore while the girls and I went to check out the art/clothing/maker booths in the back. It was a little quieter and easier to get through. We came across this tiny booth with leaves all on the wall. When we got closer you could see these very tiny little people carved from wood hanging from the leaves, like they were flying away...they were so enchanting and dear. Lucy and I were just sort of speechless together.
We started to ask the artist a million questions, we couldn't help ourselves! Irma, the artist, is from Argentina and has been making them for years. She said when she arrived in London she was sitting at a park one day, worried and had no idea how she was going to pay her rent. Irma looked up and leaves started falling around her, it was her sign and the little people were born.
Lucy (@lucysalgadoart on Instagram) wanted to show Irma her little people creations and she looked at each picture with so much interest and kindness. I WAS DYING inside. I think my mother heart was about to burst out of my chest because these are the exact kinds of experiences you hope/pray for when you are exploring the world with your kids- but you don't know how they will happen or what it will look like exactly. It was just really sweet, for all of us.
Irma suggested that she and Lucy do something together, and that we should exchange information. Lucy's eyes lit up so wide and big. Doing art with a fellow artist around the world? Yes please!!! We had to leave to go find some cash (which was it's own debacle but I will save you for the sake of this lovely story) but when we returned, Irma hugged the girls and we snapped a picture together.
Minutes later after we left I turned and said to Lucy, "Maybe we can be friends with Irma!" And my kid, already 100 light years ahead of me said, "In my opinion, we already are."
Yes, yes we are.
High from our experience and tired from the crowd, we finally decided on some food and retreated to quiet place to eat...but then the girls were done. I was SO not done. I met some young chefs making crazy delicious banana desert concoctions (called The Dirty Banana) and chatted about their new business for a bit... Dessert bought me some time but it was clear everyone wanted to go, so we went.
Up to this point, Jorge did all the navigation. I told him I felt like the Von Trap family, with Captain Von Trap leading us through the Alps, except in our case, the tube. You don't have to think too much, you just go where Jorgie tells you to go- tube, connecting lines, up these stairs , get on this bus- and he magically (and very smoothly) gets you there. My partner does this like breathing, I never looked at one single map.
This sounds great, no? Except I probably shoulda downloaded that app he mentioned AND looked at one map BEFORE we parted. ...but thank god for google. While I am so nervous in these situations, I also LOVE conquering my fear and the challenge. So after a bit of wrangling, and double, double checking (and conferring with Josiah who has his father's sense of direction) I got us on the right tube and took us on a lovely jaunt through Green Park to Buckingham Palace. The only problem was we could not find Jorge and Jack. After an hour of hilarious texting, "I am right here in front of the gates, where ARE you?!!", we figured out WE WERE AT THE WRONG PALACE.
We said Kensington, NOT Buckingham!! ....so at first I was all annoyed until I realized it was MY FAULT...in all my "I didn't upload the right tube app" shame and confusion, I missed the palace info. So then I was all "I am SO sorry!!!!" And Salgado was ever so patient. ...and now I had another opportunity to navigate- the bus system this time.
I felt strangely proud and was totally getting the hang of being Captain Von Trap for a bit. When we finally found Jorge and Jack at Kensington, it started to rain ....and the giant trip wall rose up out of the ground. We lost so much time, it was cold, the kids were tired....and the melt down began, mine included.
We had spent the first couple days doing fun/light/local things, thinking we would do a sweep of the cultural sites on the last day- but with the late start, the navigation mishap and then rain... It sank in. We would NOT be seeing the rest. Kids were whining for souvenirs and crying because their feet hurt and generally pissy about it all and I was thinking- WE ARE IN LONDON PEOPLE!!! Half way across the world, at these amazing places!!!! COME ON!
....and I instantly felt terrible that I hadn't thought this through better, and that we spent so much time on the cultural/local stuff and had not seen all the educational things and now I have difficult kids that just want stuff and aren't appreciating all that is here and why am I so intense about EVERYTHING, it's FINE and on and on in my head, you may know how this spiral goes.
So then *I* was sullen and pissy while we walked home in the rain, and disappointed in myself and my family....because sometimes you just are. World travel or no world travel.
But thank goodness for mundane jobs like walking to the market and figuring out what to have for dinner because it is required and gives you time to sort things out in your head, reframe, get perspective ....or rather think terrible thoughts and buy ice cream. ...and somewhere in all there (along with having the most even partner ever to listen to your ranting) I kind of realized this is how life and travel ARE. You are not immune to your own humanity because you are on an adventure- it only heightens it probably...which is why even more grace is required ...for everyone.
So after a weepy dinner and acknowledgement of all the feelings for everyone, rest was true grace and the best medicine. Sleep, it's always sleep.