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LONDON HIGHLIGHTS
 
[The Flight] [Long Walks] [London Zoo] [Cambridge] [Museums] [Hampton Court]
Baby on a plane
The flight and stopover in Thailand

Liam is seven and a half months old and is already a "veteran" flyer having been to Melbourne and Adelaide since Christmas. But the flight to London is a much longer flight and there is a sense of trepidation about how he will cope. Although Liam is a generally happy and smiley baby who likes to meet new people, he is also teething and can be grumpy.

We set off from home in a taxi and arrived at Sydney Airport which was bustling with people and littered with construction sites. We lined up at the checkin counter and when it was our turn to checkin the woman at the counter said that she would try to get us a spare seat for Liam (I think she liked him!). After checking in Anthony went to change some money while I filled in our immigration cards - under occupation I wrote "mother" for myself and "baby" for Liam for a laugh. We then headed off to the departure gates where we arrived with only a few minutes to spare. They called for people with babies to board first but by the time we got to the gate they had made a general boarding call and people had started to push in front of us. We still had our stroller but noone seemed to want to take it and in the end we carried it onto the plane and placed it in our overhead locker.

By this time Liam was tiring of his new adventure but he perked up a bit when we placed him on a seat with his toys. Then he tried to eat the safety advice card and rip up the inflight magazine. His perkiness didn't last very long and this coincided with the taxiing and takeoff so by the time we were levelled off in the air he was not a happy-chappy. One of the flight attendants assembled the Skycot for him and he quietened down once he was in his own seat. Liam was a hit with the flight attendants and even received a small toy from one of them. We were seated just outside the galley and so he watched them as they worked, smiling and babbling with them which won their hearts! He also managed to sleep quite well in his seat but also spilled half a tin of mixed fruit all over his mum just before our descent!

It was hot and balmy when we arrived In Bangkok. Once off the plane we began to experience rock star treatment due to our little man. At the immigration counter we were pulled out of the long queues and taken to an express counter and everywhere we went people came up and said hello to him. He just smiled back at them and acted like it was all normal! When we arrived at our hotel we had several staff members fawning over him and when we went up to our room we found that we had been given a huge suite complete with a kitchenette.

Saturday and Sunday 4 & 5 March 2000
Long walks in London

Liam woke early so we were up and eating breakfast by 7am. But true to form he was back in bed after an hour! After he woke again we dressed in our coats and set off for a walk. It was bright and sunny but still quite nippy outside.

We walked to Leighton House near Holland Park. This was the house belonging to a British painter. The front hall is decorated with Arab tiles in brilliant blues and greens. We took Liam inside and carried him about in his Kapoochi and he had a great time - even entertaining a tour group!!

After leaving the museum we walked through Holland Park towards Notting Hill Gate. Joining the crowds of mainly Swedish tourists we walked down through the famous Portobello Road Markets. The masses of people made it almost impossible to browse but it was still an interesting place and I managed to find a pair of mittens for Liam's cold little hands.

By this time Liam was getting cold sitting in his stroller and so we headed home on the Tube which ended up being a free trip as the guard let us through the gates without taking our tickets.

We had planned to spend the next day exploring the National Gallery but Liam changed our plans around! We packed a lunch and took the tube to Leicester Sq to visit the gallery. We saw a couple of the rooms but Liam was becoming ratty and upset so we found the parents' room and fed him some lunch. After his meal we tried to see some more of the Gallery but Liam continued to cry and whine so we cut short our visit.

We ate our lunch amongst the feral pigeons in Trafalgar Sq and then decided to walk down through Whitehall to the Thames. Once there we thought that we would take a look at Westminster Abbey, but as it was a Sunday afternoon it was closed to tourists. We took a walk around the back of the Abbey to the cloisters where we found a coffee cart (and some inscriptions!!) and stopped for a coffee to warm ourselves.

Liam woke up shortly after we sat down and so we decided to keep walking through St James' Park, past Buckingham Palace and into Green Park. By this stage we were nearing Hyde Park and thought that we may as well walk back to Kensington as it didn't seem too far away. But as we were walking Liam was becoming quite sooky and we took turns carrying him in the Kapoochi. We discovered the reason why he was upset when we got home and discovered that his little legs and hands were ice cold but after a nice warm bath he was happy (and warm!) again.

Tuesday 7 March 2000
London Zoo

After Liam's long morning nap we set off for a day at London Zoo. It was quite mild and the weather forecast said that it would remain that way so I had thought that it would be a nice way to spend the day. However, after negotiating the Tube (including changing lines twice) and arriving at Camden Town, the sky had turned grey with clouds and the temperature had dropped several degrees. Instead of catching the bus with the stroller we walked to the zoo. Of course it started to rain as soon as we reached the entrance but I figured that we should stay having made such an effort to get there!

Once inside we headed straight to the children's zoo where they were having a pig feeding session. But Liam seemed more interested in the other kids than the pigs!! We went into the petting zoo where he looked at the goats and sheep with bemusement. We watched the pigs again and looked at the penguin pool. But Liam was starting to whinge and it was cold so we headed to the cafe for some lunch. After a lunch of hot chips and coffee and a nappy change we headed back into the zoo.

The zoo is not a very large area to cover and we managed to see most of the animals and birds. Liam liked the little golden tamarins and enjoyed seeing the fish in the giant aquarium while being carried about in his Kapoochi. He had a sleep in his stroller before we left the zoo. I decided to walk across Regent's Park to the Tube so that we wouldn't have to change trains. I didn't realise how big the park is and it was beginning to get cold and windy so it wasn't a particularly nice walk especially with Liam deciding to start crying about half way across. To top it off, when we reached Regent's Park station I saw that it was on the wrong Tube line and we had to walk another kilometre to Barker St station for the District and Circle lines. By now it was 430pm and peak hour was beginning and the train was crowded but we made it "home" in one piece.

Friday 9 March 2000
Cambridge

We had planned to make an early start to our trip to Cambridge but somehow managed to sleep in! Still we rushed about getting organised and caught the Tube to Kings Cross station where we purchased day return tickets to Cambridge. After a spot of confusion and wandering between platforms we found our train. Luckily it was an express service and so it the journey only took about 50 minutes. I travelled facing backwards for most of the journey which made me feel a bit sick and my ears kept popping which was a strange sensation.

When we arrived in Cambridge we boarded a double decker bus bound for the city centre. We had no idea where we were going and so when the bus seemed to terminate at one of the busstops and people started piling out we followed suit. It turned out that there was some sort of taxi strike and the bus had been stuck behind a convoy of taxis in the main street. We walked into the main square where it was busy with midday shopping crowds and tried without much success to locate the tourist info office. Anthony was running late for his lunch appointment and so we parted company and arranged to meet up later.

Liam and I explored the main shopping square and tried to find somewhere quiet for lunch. However, every cafe I passed seemed either too full or baby unfriendly and so we ended up in Burger King for some really disgusting food. After lunch we headed back out in to the streets and wandered about. I was asked to help with some market research by about 3 different people but they didn't want to know me once I told them I was Australian!!

Anthony was about 15 minutes late meeting us and we went straight to a cafe to warm up when he arrived. He had been wined and dined at his luncheon which made me feel jealous! He had been given 150 pounds to spend on books by CUP and we decided to pick them up from their bookshop. We had a lovely time wandering about the store choosing books and even Liam got some kids books and I got a new organiser. The only drag was that we needed to carry them around with us!!

After we left the CUP shop we walked through the different colleges. Crocuses and daffodils were in full bloom and so the college grounds were alive with colour - it was quite beautiful. Once it started to get dark we thought it best to get some dinner before setting off back to London. We went into the first restaurant that we came across and had some pizza. After an early dinner we headed off on foot back to the railway station, of course we passed numerous restaurants on the way - most reasonable priced too, typical!!

At the station it was a bit confusing and so we just missed a train and had to wait for the next one. Once on the train we found ourselves seated across from some Cambridge uni students and judging from their conversation it seems that even students in such a prestiguous institution skip classes! They were obviously headed for a big night out in London whereas we were headed home to Kensington to bed.

Monday 13 March 2000
British Museum and National Gallery

Jetlag had well and truly worn off and we managed to sleep late again. After breakfast we took the Tube to Russell Sq so that we could revisit the British Museum and see some more of the exhibits. It was still full of people and school excursion groups. This time we only looked at things on the ground floor but it turned out that this was where many of the major exhibitions were located anyway.

The first thing that we looked at was the Assyrian collections which are carvings from temples. There are several rooms full of the wall carvings which are intricate and well preserved. We then went in to see the Elgin Marbles which are in a huge room. I was surprised to see that most of them are missing features as they had either been vandalised or blown up in the 1600s. After leaving that collection we looked at the Egyptian material. I like the sculpture of the Egyptian cat the best. I was then talking to Anthony about the Rosetta Stone and asked him where it was held. He said he thought it was in the museum but it wasn't mentioned in our guide book which is strange because it is such a famous object. Anyway Anthony asked some old women who were manning a "Friends of the British Museum" booth and they pointed to a group of people behind us! I had a look at it but it was hard to get a good look as there were many people gathered around it. We then went to the museum shop where I bought a pencil, pen and a scarab for me and one for Elizabeth. Anthony bought a Rosetta Stone paperweight.

We left the museum in search of some food and went into a sandwich shop nearby. We ordered some sandwiches and coffee and muffins and took them back to Russell Sq to eat. We then walked to the National Gallery to see some more paintings as we had had to leave last time. Of course Liam became fussy straight away so I took him to the baby room and fed and changed him. We then looked at some of the paintings. I got into trouble from a guard for not keeping the stroller next to me and most of the guards gave Liam disapproving looks which annoyed me somewhat. In the end Anthony and I took turns looking at the paintings.

After we left the Gallery we decided to catch a bus home instead of the Tube. After much searching we eventually found the busstop and caught the bus. The conductor put the stroller in a storage area for us which was good. I liked the bus as you get more of a sense of the geography of the city when you travel above ground. We got off the bus at the Albert Hall and walked up to the outside of Kensington Palace before going home via Sainsburys. Liam had been sneezing all day and was a bit upset that night.

Wednesday 15 March 2000
Hampton Court

The day dawned bright and sunny with blue skies for once. This was lucky as we had decided to visit Hampton Court Palace. We were a bit slow in getting moving as usual. At the Tube station Liam was again the star of the show when Anthony went to get us tickets. He ended up getting a Family Travelcard for us all but I don't think that we really were entitled to it. We caught the Tube to Waterloo Station and arrived with 10 minutes to spare till the next train. We bought some coffee and croissants to eat on the train from a woman who thought that Liam was adorable.

The train took about half an hour. Liam got a bit restless but we sat him in his stroller and gave him a cold piece of toast which kept him happy and quiet. Once we arrived and got off the train we walked the short distance to Hampton Court. We bought tickets to visit the palace and the maze and went into the complex past the guards who were all dressed in top hats and bottle-green morning coats. In the courtyard we paused while Anthony went inside the info centre and booked us tickets to a guided tour later in the day. We spoke with one of the guards who was busy trying to watch (yet another!) group of French school students and he suggested that we first visit the Tudor Kitchens. We went inside and watch a presentation and then decided to get some headphones for the audio tour which I went and got from the info centre. The tour was good but it was progessing a bit too slowly and with Liam you can't really take your time examining things as he gets cranky. We had him in and out of the stroller and he enjoyed squealing at people while being carried. We toured the Tudor kitchens and then had a break while I changed and fed the baby before looking at the Georgian apartments.

It was past lunchtime but we had only another 10 minutes to spare until our prebooked tour so we wandered around the courtyard. The tour was taken by a young guide dressed in tights and a cape. We went up into the Henry VIII section but Liam was chatting away quite loudly so Anthony took him for a little walk. He then put the baby back in the stroller and by some miracle he fell asleep and left us to enjoy the rest of the interesting tour in peace. After the tour we went to find a phone booth so I could call Trish. I talked to her and we arranged to meet on Thursday night instead. We then walked back to the coffee shop and had tea and scones for a late lunch. It was getting late and so we decided to see some more of the rooms of the palace before they closed at 430pm. We whizzed through these sections and then went out into the gardens. Liam was awake again and Anthony showed him the ducks, swans and geese which he quite liked. We noticed some deer in the ajoining park but they had run away by the time we got to the gate. A strange older woman was surreptiously feeding the birds and scampering around which was funny to watch.

The gardens were immaculate and the crocuses and daffodils were in full bloom. It was quite beautiful. We went up to the maze but it had closed as it was now after 5pm. I fed Liam while sitting on a park bench and then we decided to try to catch the 539pm train and had to almost sprint to the station where we boarded the train at 538pm just before the whistle! We went straight home via the supermarket.

 
 
 
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