At the airport, we were so excited to be getting on our way. Observe the joy!
There were a few snags* along the way, including our luggage not making it onto our flight with us, but we were still determined to enjoy London.
Picnic dinner by the Thames? Okay.
Walk across the Tower Bridge? Sure.
Crawl around and get all dirty, because who cares, we're dirty already anyway? No problem.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel. The shower gel provided in the shared showers worked just fine for Zinashi, and she was asleep in the pajamas we'd brought on the airplane in no time. Jarod played a little game of "Will this make our luggage come?" by going to the Tesco next door for shampoo and laundry detergent and found out that the answer was yes. If you go to Tesco at 10:45pm for supplies to get you through your luggage-less existence for at least ten more hours, your luggage will arrive at 10:55pm and be waiting for you when you walk back into the hotel with your bag of goods at 11pm. Feel free to use this method in your future travels, and no need to thank us.
Our intention was to get up the next morning and get a solid start to the day, but we didn't have a visible clock in the room, and by the time I finally dug up my watch, I found that it was 1pm. Good thing Spitalfields Market runs all day. Otherwise Zinashi wouldn't have gotten this way cute bunny rabbit bag.
A late wakeup means you can stay out later, so we ambled over to Covent Garden to peer through the windows at the new Apple store. (If you are married to an Apple enthusiast who also happens to work in an Apple store, this will be the story of most trips you take. Is there an Apple store we haven't seen yet? Or has one we've seen before been remodeled? We should go look at it!) Jarod discovered that there was, as usual, a good WiFi signal right there, so we took full advantage of it, while Zinashi took full advantage of being herself. There was singing, there was dancing, there were funny faces.
We returned to the hotel to pretend to sleep so that we could pretend to be awakened by our alarm the next morning. We had plans to visit Claudia the next morning, and we were not going to miss out on that, jet lag or no. Of all the days at the front end of our trip (and all the days of our trip, actually), this was one of our best. Who wouldn't love seeing these three together and chatting in real life with a blog friend?
After all the travel and waking at funny times, this was just the kind of day that all three of us needed. It was laid back and relaxed, and Claudia was a perfect hostess, giving our poor daughter space to take a nap and giving us a grown-up lunch. Zinashi likes to talk about that day as the day we visited her friends. I will say, "when we visited our friends," and she corrects me. "MY friends, Mami. Those are MY friends," she insists. What this means is that she had a very good time.
The next day, it was already time to fly out to Nice. I think we lost a lot of time to both jet lag and hotel location; those days are a blur of riding the Tube and feeling a little bit dirty and strangely tired and hungry. In my travel dreams, we have smoother flights and a little bit more time to adjust to the time difference, perhaps arriving on Friday instead of Saturday. It broke my heart a little bit that we missed the best vendors at Borough Market on Saturday and wasted so much of our Sunday by accidentally sleeping in.
For this part of the trip, we stayed at Hotel Formule 1 in Barking, and while I wouldn't say that it was horrible, I would like to note that it is a little bit too far from the Tube stop for a family traveling with a young child, and a little bit too far out of Central London to make it easy to get to places of interest. Those two factors put together definitely had an impact on our trip, and we didn't find the hotel to be very refreshing, which one definitely needs when luggage is missing and there is a long journey to get back at the end of the day. The vibe was a little bit too 1983 Fluorescent Lighting for my taste, and the shared bathrooms left a lot to be desired. I tried to like it and to be fair--it is a no-frills, budget hotel, and we knew that going in--but there are just better options, as we found out on our return trip to London.
Zinashi did surprisingly well through all of this. She loved riding the trains--both Tube and overground--so that helped a lot. Her sleep was off, and I had forgotten to pack the melatonin, so we ended up with a very tired girl on our hands by the time we got to Gatwick, and that affected her ability to behave herself. One thing that I recommend keeping in mind when you are traveling with a small child is that lack of sleep will make it very hard for your child to have self control of any sort. In our case, we also found that exhaustion heightened Zinashi's security issues, and putting her in the Beco or cradling her close was the best remedy for poor behavior and general angst. This held true throughout the trip, and I am very glad that we had the Beco with us. I do wish that we had brought a stroller as well, but more on that when we talk about the Nice portion of the trip tomorrow.
*Our issues with Air Canada on our outbound flight have still not been resolved, and thus I don't trust myself to try to write about them without going on and on about it. We're going to try to contact a couple more people to try to clear things up, but at this point we would caution anyone against flying with Air Canada. The staff was very kind for the most part, but the issue is that when there is a problem, they give their staff little power to correct it or make amends. I want to know that if I fly with them in the future and experience difficulties, there is a way I can have it taken care of as opposed to being blamed for the problem (which I assure you I did not cause).