Mind the Gap.

Years ago a family friend told me the story of the three boys who lived miles from town on a farm that ran along the side of the river. Their weekends were often spent fishing or on motorbikes, heading in to town was a time-consuming and expensive exercise.

Their parents saved for years for a once in a lifetime family holiday and took them to the US where they traveled from one side of America to the other. Highlights included a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, a visit to the top of the Empire State building, and a broadway show starring a well known actor.

When they returned home, someone asked them what the highlight of the trip was.

“When we went fishing in a creek”.

Their highlight was something they could have done at home.

My feet are burning. I have walked the entire length of Hyde Park three times. Did you know Hyde Park is bigger than Monaco? My feet do, they remind me every time I take another step. The little travelers have been to Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, The London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Hamleys toy store. The highlight of the trip so far?

The park with the pirate ship.

G and I have spent a lot of time over the past few days explaining monuments and discussing history, today I watched the little travelers stand in poets corner in Westminster Abby desperately looking for Shakespeare’s statue so they could fill out the details on the children’s visitor guide. I read out names to them like Dickens, Browning and Tennyson, but I’m not sure if they really understood the magnitude of where they were standing. Nor should they, they are five, eight, nine and eleven.

London has an overwhelming supply of fascinating spots to learn and discover, finding the delicate balance between a “must see” or “must do” while making sure you enjoy the holiday aspect of the holiday is tricky. Will the children remember which Henry beheaded whom? Maybe not. Will they remember that Mum and Dad were available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that no-one stopped mid sentence to leave for the office, no-one pleaded “just give me 5 minutes to finish this and then I’ll answer your question” – I hope so.

During the changing of the guards ceremony today I watched a very highly strung mother abuse someone for blocking her child’s view. As she made her way through the crowd pushing people out the way she looked almost on the verge of losing her marbles completely, her holiday was looking like a lot more work than a busy day at the office. I wondered if her son felt as strongly about the situation as she did?

Over lunch today I asked the little travelers for their holiday highlights. “When we stopped for the gingerbread biscuit and the hot chocolate” said the second little traveler. “I liked it when we were counting the tube stops and we all said ‘mind the gap’ with an English accent” giggled the third little traveler. The fourth little traveler is hooked on the pirate park, he also counts accidentally rolling in duck poo outside Buckingham palace as one of the highlights of his trip, “you can’t roll in duck poo in Doha”.

None of the above is in my London guide book. Have I not shown them the right things?

“After the museum tomorrow, can we go back to the pirate park?” the fourth traveler asks. I think about all the other places we could take them and then remember the word “holiday”.

If the memory the little travelers have of London is playing in the sunshine on a pirate ship in a playground dedicated to a Princess, while their parents watch on, that’s okay.

It’s possible they won’t remember the statues, the monuments or the dates, but they’ll remember we were both there, that we spoke in silly accents, stopped for hot chocolates and had time to sit in the park.

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Best or worse family holiday? What do you suggest to avoid or do you have a “must do”.

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