london in five days (III)

Well, the curtain thing did the trick and on our second full day in London, both Raspberry and Ares did not wake at a ridiculously early hour. Yay! Of course, I’m sure all the activity the day before had something to do with it.

This was the day we’d planned go to South Bank and walk along the river. I remember walking from the Design Museum to the London Eye back in 2004 and holy crap, my feet and I remember how long a walk that was. But, that was then, when I didn’t walk nearly half as much as I do now, and when it comes to exploring a different city, I’m always up for a challenge like this (well, if you call it a challenge).

Our first stop upon leaving the apartment was the post office. Raspberry had written a postcard to her friends who lived in the building across from us. They were moving back to Malaysia on the day we were to return from London, so we needed to get the postcard to them as quickly as possible. I wanted to buy some stamps for my yet-unwritten postcards too, and collectively, Raspberry and I confused the lady behind the desk at the post office about exactly what stamps we wanted. After we left, I realized she’d given me some regular international, non-postcard stamps that were more expensive, so I saved them for my regular mail instead.

We took a short tube ride to Monument station. While the train was approaching Tower Hill station, Lucas asked if we ought to get off there instead and walk from Tower Bridge. Initially, he’d said that he didn’t really care to walk on Tower Bridge and was happy just seeing it from afar. Hence, our plan was to walk across London Bridge, where I’d read there was a rainbow path and move westward from there. As the train pulled into the station, I said that maybe should just stick to our original plan, so we stayed on the train until the next stop.

Arriving at London Bridge however, the rainbow path was nowhere in sight, much to our disappointment. This is clearly a case where I should’ve read and researched properly and realized that it was a one day installation, rather than slightly more long-term. Oops. But we crossed the bridge nonetheless and can now say that we’ve been on London Bridge, though not the original one.

Following our anti-climatic bridge-crossing, Lucas suggested that perhaps we could take a walk to Tower Bridge, since it wasn’t too far, and since our bridge experience had been sub-par. So we back-tracked, taking a leisurely walk along the river.

We stumbled upon The Navigators, a steampunk sculpture of a ship in Hay’s Galleria. I remember seeing this in 2004, but not up close, as I vaguely remember it being quite busy. This time, we went right up to it and Raspberry tossed a penny into the water (I wasn’t sure if she should at first, but Lucas pointed out all these other coins hiding slightly under the ship).

Raspberry and Ares take a brief look at the HMS Belfast.

As luck would have it on this hot day, we came across a fountain. Well, Lucas spied it while I was busy taking pictures of tourists taking pictures. Along our walk from London Bridge to Tower Bridge, Raspberry had chanced upon a small fountain and stood there basking in the mist. Little did I know then that that would set the tone for the rest of the day.

Raspberry had a fantastic time in the water. Eventually, her dress came off, because it made running around the water so much easier. I stripped Ares so he could experience the water too, but he didn’t last very long and preferred hanging out under a tree, snacking with Lucas. A couple of feet away, a tall. well-dressed security guy in shades looked over the action. He clutched a neon yellow vest rolled up in his hand, as if he was too cool to wear it (he probably was). It looked like people who live nearby frequent this fountain with their kids, as some people came prepared with bathing suits. A toddler became quite enamoured with Raspberry and from a short chat with his mom, I learnt they live nearby. At Lucas’ suggestion, Raspberry soaked her dress and sunhat, so that she could stay cool for longer.

I remember these giant balls from before. My favourite, the elliptical one, was nowhere in sight though.

We finally made it to Tower Bridge. Ares was getting really fussy at this point and demanded milk (it was also naptime for him), so I sat on a ledge to nurse him while Lucas and Raspberry went up onto the bridge. I was antsy sitting in the direct sun and wanted Ares to hurry up and finish so we could join Lucas and Raspberry but of course, he had other ideas. After they returned, I went up with Raspberry and Ares. I was going to leave Ares with Lucas so he could walk around, but Lucas suggested I take him, so he could say he’s been on Tower Bridge (ha!). Raspberry was excited to lead the way.

Raspberry wanted a picture on the bridge. Hence, this.

Having been on Tower Bridge, we resumed our original plan, to walk along the river. But we decided to take a different route, instead of retracing our previous steps. We walked between the office buildings at More London, and Lucas made a joke about there being a place called “Much More London.” Groan. It being lunchtime, the office workers were out on full force.

Without meaning to, we found ourselves smack in the middle of Borough Market. I thought it was so cool that it was right under the bridge, under the train tracks, but unlike Raspberry, who always likes investigating stalls, I didn’t have much interest in taking a slow walk through the market on this particular day. I think I was just hungry and wanted to get to our destination. While Lucas went off to figure out which direction to go, I waited on the edge of the market and Raspberry went off to look at a vendor selling alcohol.

We passed a shop that made cheese!

The beauty of London is that there are maps everywhere, so it’s not too hard to find your bearings. Lucas was able to locate a park where we could stop for lunch. It was located in a residential area, among some well-kept houses. Lucas and I set ourselves up on a picnic bench in the shade and Raspberry ran off to the playground. Soon after we arrived at the park, an older Indian woman in a muumuu and a toddler emerged from one of the backyards. The woman sat on a plastic chair and had a phone conversation while the little girl pushed around a toy bubble lawnmower, which Ares was eyeing. The woman kept telling the toddler to not to wander too far from her, which made me think that she might’ve thought we were dangerous strangers.

Raspberry found a broken plastic toy stroller in a pile of garbage by the entrance to the playground (odd, since the neighbourhood seemed nice). She’s been wanting a toy stroller for ages, but I’ve been hesitant to get her one because they’re often so flimsily made and as an exclusive babywearer, I have to say “WTH” to her wanting a stroller. This found stroller was crucially missing a seat, but that didn’t seem to deter Raspberry, who said she could fashion one of her own. Lucas was reluctant to have her take the stroller, but I shrugged and told her that she’d have to be responsible for it and carry it on her own, as we had more than enough on our hands. Aside, I told Lucas that I didn’t think she had the determination to carry it all the way home (and back to Liverpool) and that she’d probably ditch it partway.

Lucas arranged the egg salad and tomato, egg salad and cucumber, and jam sandwiches in a cool pattern. He’s since said he’s unable to replicate it.

Ares pilfered the lawnmower for a bit.

After lunch, we attempted once again to get back to our planned route by heading toward Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Modern. Before our trip, I’d downloaded a brochure about South Bank, detailing interesting sights like art installations and green spaces and the night before, I’d made a list of what I thought would be cool for us to see. Many of them were in the vicinity and without a precise location on the map, we attempted to track them down.

We stumbled upon the location of the original Globe Theatre totally be chance. Lucas really wanted to see the Globe Theatre, but he didn’t seem too impressed by this.

We were trying to find the Smarties lights, but alas, they were behind scaffolding as there was some intensive construction happening. Boo. Across the street, there was some cool graffiti though. Oh, it was around this time that Raspberry decided to ditch the stroller, as predicted, after asking me to help her fold it. She left it beside a garbage can.

As luck would have it, we didn’t end up seeing any of the art installations I had on my list, as they were out of the way (or behind construction — bah!). There was one behind Tate Modern that we could’ve seen, but Lucas wanted to go to Shakespeare’s Globe and said we could come back and see it after. We forgot about it.

Tons of people enjoying the British heatwave, just outside Tate Modern.

We did get to see Shakespeare’s Globe quite briefly, and Lucas was happy. Following that, we retreated into the Turbine Hall in Tate Modern so we could get out of the sun and off our feet for a little while. Thank goodness for the huge space for the kids to run.

Ares stuffed himself with pasta. The past two days, he hadn’t really been eating much, so we made pasta for him for lunch, knowing that he’d at least eat that. And he did.

Raspberry went to the bathroom on her own and took longer than one might expect. After she returned, a woman came up to me to check that she was with me, as she noticed Raspberry wandering on her own down a long hallway.

Raspberry made a friend and they ran around, playing hide-and-seek. She thinks the girl’s name might be Charlie. They waved to each other when we encountered them on the escalator later.

We spent a long time unwinding in the Turbine Hall before we decided that we really ought to get moving, since there was still so much to see in South Bank. If I had my way, we’d spend hours in Tate Modern and I’d leisurely go through each of the galleries. But that wasn’t in the books today. Since no one else had any preference for art to see, I picked two areas to look at — portraits by Rineke Dijkstra, and a section on pop art.

I typically don’t care that much for portraiture, but I do especially like Rineke Dijkstra portraits of new mothers. There were only three, but I focused on these images in the gallery, while Lucas and Raspberry browsed the shop next door, where I later picked up some postcards.

This is my favourite element of the above portrait. My sister’s taken a similar shot of my leg, following Raspberry’s birth.

The pop art section was small and the work was uninspiring, partly because we’d already seen some of it at Tate Liverpool, and partly because the other pieces weren’t all that exciting.

Raspberry made her mark at the Drawing Bar while I went out on the balconies to take pictures of the view.

We left Tate Modern after sending a video message to my sister and browsing all the very cool stuff in the gift shop. I attempted to recreate a picture that my siblings and I took almost eleven years ago. It didn’t work out and I thought it might’ve been because the Tate had moved things around. When I returned home and looked at the original picture, I realized I was in the wrong spot. Oops.

We’ve now seen all the dazzle ships in Liverpool and London. I’d forgotten about this one until we saw it.

These guys climbed over a locked gate to get to the edge of the water. Raspberry wanted to do the same and we had to explain to her why we said no.

She may not have been able to get to the river’s edge, but she got to climb some sculptures. There were some she wanted to climb but couldn’t too.

I don’t think she’s aware that she’s got her hand on a breast.

We chanced upon a commercial being shot, where a well-dressed, bespectacled man gets roughed up by some well-dressed hooligans.

There were tons of books being sold under a bridge. Raspberry found a copy of Amelia Jane, but I thought it was a bit pricey, at £2.
Not to mention, I have copies of the series from my childhood.

We arrived at the Southbank Centre where the bulk of our time there was spent at the Appearing Rooms fountain. Well, Raspberry’s time was, anyway. She stripped down to her skivvies as soon as she saw the fountain and spent a long time dashing in and out of the water. With it being so hot, I’d have loved to have run through the fountain, but Ares had finally fallen asleep on me. Instead, I took the time to wander around, seeing the enormous slides as part of Carsten Holler’s exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. When we were planning our trip, I’d put this on our list, but when I realized it was a paid exhibition (and £13.50 per person, at that!), I nixed it. I watched a couple of people go down the slides. I looked around for the main building, accidentally stumbling on a private function to which a security guy barred me from entering, and found the reception desk, where I picked up a copy of 67 Small Acts for Big Change.

Understandably, Raspberry was reluctant to leave the fountain. As before, she got her dress soaked, but gingerly stuck her hat in the water, as she now had her shoes on. Lucas had to do it for her.

We ducked into the Southbank Centre for a bit, where Lucas refilled our water bottles, and an older lady thought I was looking for the baby change and helpfully directed me toward it, even though I didn’t need it.

We left the centre, going down a set of stairs encased with colourful plastic flaps. Raspberry loved it, while Lucas, in his usual practical way, said it just made the stairs hot. Pssht!

This family seemed trapped by the water.

We made our way to the Jubilee Gardens, at the foot of the London Eye, where there was a cool wood-based playground. Raspberry climbed some criss-crossing logs and an older boy struck her in her arm (and maybe her head) while climbing over her and just stood there staring as she howled in pain. As Ares was still asleep, Lucas went over to rescue her. Thereafter, she gave up on the logs and hogged a bouncy swing for a really long time, bouncing with whoever went on the other swing.

We pulled out the snacks, which the kids devoured, since it’d been a couple of hours since they last ate. I’d stupidly packed a bar of chocolate in my backpack and you can guess what it looked like in this heatwave. Raspberry and I each took a bite and I promptly stuck it back in my backpack, to stick in the fridge when we returned to the apartment.

While the kids played and/or wandered around (Ares was picking grass), Lucas and I barely got anywhere deciding when we should have a meal out. Prior to our trip, we’d said that we’d have one meal out while in London (Raspberry was really excited about this, as we hardly ever eat out). Except I failed to do any research into good places to eat. Not that it mattered much at that moment, since we couldn’t even figure out when we’d go out to eat.

Don’t let this picture fool you. Ares wasn’t that amused by the chickens.

…or the sheep. I think it’s because he doesn’t really know how to straddle them, and sits in a W fashion instead.

This is part of the lineup for the London Eye.

Rather than pay more and get crammed into a stuffy train like we were the day before, Lucas suggested we wait until the peak hour was over before hopping the train home. He located a park by the Houses of Parliament and we crossed the Westminister Bridge to get to it. One side of the bridge was busy, full of commuters and the other side was practically empty in comparison, so we walked under the bridge to get to the other side. While coming up the stairs, Raspberry spied a fountain and obviously she hadn’t gotten enough of the water so she wanted to go into it. Except that it was a private function, full of important-looking people dressed up in nice clothes. I think one of them gave me the evil eye as I happened to make eye contact.

I took a couple of pictures of the lion statue, for my lion-loving baby.

The park was wonderful. If there’s one thing I love about London, it’s the fact that they have so many green spaces amidst the bustle of the city. And this one had a really cool playground too, with a hand-activated fountain, xylophone squares and a spinny circle to stand on. Clearly, other parents loved this park too, as there were quite a few other kids there, with parents who looked like they’d just gotten off work.

Ares, who loves balls, took it upon himself to borrow another kid’s ball.

And another kid’s rake.

Raspberry found a claw! (“I was walking and stepped on something sharp and thought it was a branch, but it was a claw!”) Both of us were ridiculously excited by her find. We wanted to bring it home with us, until Lucas reminded us that it would decompose. That quickly burst our bubble. I had it on the bench beside me and within minutes, a fly descended upon it. Shortly thereafter, Raspberry tossed it into a grassy patch to decompose, but we’ll always remember the claw she found.

Ares loved the water. He kept signing “again,” to have me turn the water on. I was glad for the fact that we could clean all the sand off the kids’ hands and feet before leaving. I’m such a parent.

As we were leaving the park and walking toward the tube station, I noticed a Canadian flag atop a building that may or may not have been Westminister Abbey. I asked a police officer at the Houses of Parliament if he knew what that meant, and he said he wasn’t sure, but that they often have different flags up. And then it hit me. The next day was July 1st, Canada Day. Maybe they’d put up the flag in preparation for that? Lucas wondered if that was the case, would they do it for all the Commonwealth countries?

I was so busy taking pictures of tourists taking pictures that I nearly forgot where we were going and just about walked right by the entrance to Westminister station. Good job.

Once again, we stopped at Sainsbury to pick up some food for dinner — pizza, this time around. As I balanced the pizza on one hand while walking back to the apartment, Ares kept signing “food” and I kept telling him it needed to be cooked first, so he kept signing “cook.”

We had the pizza (topped with added mushroom and zucchini) with our leftover noodles and pasta and homemade pizza. Lucas had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to fit the pan into the oven and finally gave up on it and just used the rack instead.

After Ares and Raspberry fell asleep (and Lucas was passed out beside me on the bed), I penned off a couple of postcards to Clare and Aurelie. I could probably have stayed up longer but we all know that after a long day, with another to come, that’s just crazy.

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