A few weekends ago Gabriel and I went on our first ‘mini-break’ together. Since Willow was born, I’m very aware that whilst its great to spend time as a family unit, it’s also good, useful and refreshing to spend time in ‘twos’ (or, alone!!!) too. I often take Willow shopping, for walks in the pram or to friends and Gabriel stays at home playing trains with or goes to play football with his Daddy. This arrangement works well as I love having Mummy-Daughter time with Willow, but I also want to have time together with Gabriel. So, when an opportunity came up to travel to London and review the In the Night Garden Live tour at the 02, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to do just that. Although I was sent a family ticket, Dave and I agreed that Willow was too young for the train and the tubes without the pushchair. So, it was decided.. Gabriel and I would go it alone!
We booked the 7am train to London (this one is direct for us, saved pesky train changes at Leeds, plus we needed to be at the 02 for early afternoon) and sat at the station awaiting our train Gabriel was very excited! We perched on the bench waving at passing trains and some very grumpy commuters! We had our trolley case, but Gabriel also had his dinosaur Pink Lining rucksack with him to carry all his ‘essentials’ for travel. (Note: essentials for toddler travel include Cbeebies magazine, my mini iPad and two packets of mini cheddars). As we waited, we decided to pose for a quick ‘Team Piggle’ selfie too.
The first few hours were fine, Gabriel was very excited about the prospect of being on a ‘choo choo train’ and as we’d bumped into a very old friend of mine (whom I have not seen since the years of dancing around to Samantha Mumba, age eighteen) at the station travelling to Leeds for work, we sat and chatted to her for the first twenty minutes, which was good. Gabriel became slightly restless for the last forty minutes, so I was glad to arrive in London! We made our way to the tube at Kings Cross. Gabriel did really well, and apart from insisting climbing and stepping down each (and every single) step by himself, it was actually a rather quick and effortless journey. Well, it was until they shut the Central Line. Cue spending about two hours hopping on and off tubes trying to make our way to the 02! It felt like everything was against us, at one point I considered jumping into a taxi (sorry, cab!) but the possible cost frightened me too much! So after two DLR trains and a short walk, we eventually (and thankfully) made it to the 02 on time!
We had about forty-five minutes before the show started so I decided to go to Zizzis, after a quick scout of the menu and spying a suitable kids menu (which was excellent for vegetarians!) we took a seat and relaxed for the first time in hours. I ordered wine, not entirely responsible, or appropriate but after the morning’s stress, I felt essential. Gabriel did really well with his lunch, I was impressed! He’s not the greatest water in the world, so well done Zizzis, my son is obviously a connoisseur when it comes to Italian dining!
We made our way to the show dome and had a fantastic time. We reviewed the show here but Gabriel really enjoyed it, I had thought he was growing out of In the Night Garden, but it turns out he still very much likes it if the singing and dancing along with the characters is anything to go by! (Our full review is coming to the blog soon!).
After the show we went to Starbucks for coffee and for, as requested by Gabriel chocolate cake. Sure enough, he ordered and put away the hugest piece of chocolate cake! Sat with a face full of smiles and excitement we had loads of chatter and fun.We were sat watching the Emirates cable cars outside, so I asked Gabriel if he’d like to ride on them. He responded with a very excitable yes, so off we went to queue and after a scan of my Oyster card we climbed on-board. The ‘ride’ travels over the Thames (from Greenwich to the Royal Docks), and as it was a gorgeous day, the view albeit rather industrial, was beautiful! We waved at passing cable cars and watched the trains and boats travelling below. Gabriel LOVED it! Being a soon to turn three year old, who loves all types of transportation, you can imagine the squeals of excitement!
Another reason for heading down south that weekend was that I wanted to attend the Baby Tilda Barn Dance which was a charity event being organised by my lovely friend Jennie in memory of her daughter Matilda Mae, in order to raise funds for The Lullaby Trust. The event was held in Kent, and having done some research (and asking Jennie) I worked out that we could catch the train from Victoria to Hollingbourne in Kent, and stay overnight there, so we could attend the barn dance. So that’s what we did!
So, after a couple DLR trains and then a tube to Victoria Station it was time to head to Kent to our hotel. It was Friday peak time, and so very busy, but we managed fairly well. We boarded the train to Hollingbourne and after an hour or so, and a short taxi ride, we arrived at our hotel. We stayed at the Great Danes Mercure hotel, and I was really impressed, it’s a gorgeous hotel with good facilities for toddlers. The room was spacious and suitable for our running- out chasing each other needs!
After a quick bath, we went to bed ready for the next busy day ahead. Gabriel told me as I tucked him in that the day had been ‘fantastic Mummy’ and I may have cried a bit, but perhaps I had something in my eye. We went to sleep in true Bert and Ernie style. It was a great day, and I went to sleep feeling pretty happy!
I woke up the next morning to a giggling Gabriel tickling my feet. After a few laps of the room attempting to convince Gabriel to wear his t-shirt for breakfast, we went downstairs to eat. I was extremely pleased to see the Nutella on the breakfast bar, as it’s Gabriel’s favourite thing (you may remember the chocolate toast post!). We sat as ate our breakfast like a married couple. It was bizarre and brilliant all at once.
We went to get ready, and we waited outside in the sunshine for Kip to pick us up. We arrived at the barn dance in the sunshine and had a lovely afternoon catching up with (and meeting!) my lovely blogging friends, eating a delicious afternoon tea, playing in the sunshine and also winning (yay!) some fabulous prizes on the raffle. (My post coming up about the Baby Tilda Barn Dance explains more about that!).
Soon it was time to leave, we had a wonderful afternoon and after our goodbyes we headed back to the hotel. I had planned on taking Gabriel swimming, but it was too late unfortunately, so we went for dinner in the hotel restaurant instead. We sat by the windows and during our meal were visited by the most gorgeous peacocks and rabbits, it was lovely!
The next few hours were sadly horrendous. I won’t dwell on this too much other than to thank profusely the lady at Victoria tube station that possibly saved Gabriel’s life by scooping him up for me and lifting him high, and onto the packed tube whilst I struggled with my bags. He was being stamped on by people that can only be described as animals, that were too impatient to wait two more minutes for the next tube. I must have been emotional as I think I cried most of the journey to Kings Cross! Gabriel had calmed down quite a lot by this stage and so we went and located a strawberry milkshake to encourage the bruises on his arms and legs to go ‘bye bye’ quickly. We boarded yet another manically busy train back to Leeds, and after a quick coffee we caught our final train home. Here’s our last mini-break selfie. Knackered, emotional but grateful and happy.
Thank you to my little man for one of my best weekends ever! Next time, we’ll avoid the tube maintenance dates though..