Saturday, July 23, 2011

Six Lessons I Learned in Europe: Back in London, Day 16

Back in London, it was great to see the kids again. We wanted desperately to take them to Hyde Park today to enjoy our last day on a lawn eating Walkers shortbread and throwing a tennis ball. Unfortunately, our last day would be a typical rainy London day, and the park was a muddy mess.  Took the tube back to Wimbledon Park (one stop from our Wimbledon stop) and got off there, as the rain had subsided by then. Did get a little play time here, but still muddy, and Vacation Heather was gone already as I heard myself telling the kids to "don't run too fast, you'll slip," "don't sit there, you'll get wet/muddy." Crackers.

6 LESSONS LEARNED IN EUROPE

1. THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE.
You can take the children to all the touristy places and spend a small fortune on entrance fees (especially if you let your mother book you on the London Eye). But it's true what they say, "the best things in life are free." No matter what country you visit, all the kids really want to do is throw rocks on the beach (click arrow to watch video--that's for you, Dad, because I know you wouldn't figure it out otherwise):

chase pigeons in the park (yes, in this park the pigeons were so tame you could actually catch them and pick them up--ew),

 tour a "haunted" cemetery
ride a see-saw at a London playground with mom and dad

enjoy nature and "booby trees" at grassy, Green Park,



 and make goofy faces in front of cultural landmarks.

2. PREPARE YOUR CHILDREN FOR CULTURAL DIFFERENCES WHEN YOU TRAVEL ABROAD.
After several days in London, my son cautiously asked, "Mom, how come all the ladies here wear those hoodies?" He was referring to the hijab head covering and modesty clothing of all the Muslim women in London. Hoodies... love the innocence.

3. FRIENDS IS A REALLY GOOD TV SHOW.
The TV in the house we stayed in in London only had a few channels, one of which had constant re-runs of the 1990's hit show Friends. My son fell in love with the show (despite all the sexual innuendo that he hopefully did not pick up on) and went on a Friends bender, if you will, parking himself on the couch for hours to learn all about Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler and Monica.

4. ALWAYS HAVE HAND SANITIZER AT THE READY.
What do kids of all ages love? No, not the circus--GERMS! That's right. Children (or at least, my children) are powerless against the mystery and romance of hand railings, public benches, subway poles, loo doorknobs and floors in general. Something about the germiness calls them, and they must rub their hands across them as they pass, grab them and swing from them, and in some cases, press their lips against them. Immediately afterward they desire to hold your hand and/or wipe their hand on a face (yours or their own). The only saving grace here is "hanitizer" (as my daughter calls it). Lots and lots of hanitizer.

5. VACATION HEATHER NEEDS TO MAKE MORE FREQUENT APPEARANCES.
I worried that when I got back to real life all the calmness that I had embodied in Barcelona would dissipate. But I am happy to report that so far, I have not let the little things at home get to me. I actually left a basket full of clean laundry sit for two days without folding it (or nagging hubby to fold it). I have not rushed to read emails right away. I have truly not given a rats ass about the tumbleweeds of dog hair that blow wistfully through my hallways.  OK, it may be the lethargy of jet lag at play, but for now, I'm giving myself credit for having learned a valuable lesson in Europe.

6. (MOST) EUROPEANS DRESS REALLY WELL.
I love the way Europeans dress (minus the Germans--sorry). The men and the women--they have no concern for matching. It's all about layers, comfort, and mixed patterns and textures, yet somehow they still look chic. They're not concerned about what's in style (or so it seems), and they're not afraid to take a chance and try something av-ant guard. They make their own style and I'm envious of their closet creativity. I am inspired--now back at home--to go through my own closet and purge the Ann Taylor, the JCrew and the Old Navy; the fashion equivalent of Corn Flakes. I don't want to wear Corn Flakes. I want to wear Tapas. Who needs Vogue? Just spend an afternoon on La Rambla in Barcelona or walking Oxford Circus or Portobello Road in London and you'll have all the fashion inspiration you need. Or check out my favorite blog The Sartorialist for examples of European fashion bravery.

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