Sandra Tsing Loh goes it alone.
So, between staggered work obligations and a Saturday stayover, I found myself in London with a couple of days off. And no children -
Which felt almost criminal to me. Here were enriching cultural experiences I could be forcing my two teen daughters to endure! But, they were already in art camp, and two more high-season plane tickets would be prohibitive. My partner Charlie had come along, though, so at least I'd have someone to hector.
My first morning off, I tapped the map. "Today's itinerary? We're going to the British Museum to see the Elgin Marbles, then we'll cross town to see Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and then Buckingham Palace." Charlie looked up warily. We were having a full English breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans, toast, salty fish, blood sausage, and curry wurst - At least I think that's what it was.
Charlie had several newspapers open in front of him -
Then, I remembered what Charlie enjoys about travelling. Sitting in cafes, and reading. If a place is known for a famous destination - Paris, the Louvre; China, the Great Wall - that's exactly the spot he plans to avoid due to, quote unquote, "the crowds."
"But, the British Museum will be crowded!" he complained.
"No, it won't!" I insisted. But, of course, it was, and all the tourists - including chattering French children - were touching all the statues! I was actually slapping their hands back in menopausal indignance.
Then, we start walking and, while I try to plot the most direct course, Charlie likes to explore interesting alleys - even if they're taking us off course. Like, say, towards a café and a beer and a newspaper. It's like being linked together in the dullest of three-legged races.
It put me in mind of a girlfriend who'd booked herself a week in Paris while her husband was in Germany for a conference. Suddenly, he announced that due to a schedule change, he could join her! And, her first thought was, "But there is no 'u' in Paris!" She had pictured herself dreamily wandering alone in museums, in the rain, and he wasn't in that particular movie.
Hm! What if I followed her lead and tried to do London alone, at least for a day? With no one to badger, I realized I didn't want to do anything educational. I wanted to go to the touristy Tower of London, and listen to a guy dressed in period costume tell hammy, violent stories. I wanted to stop at every other Pret a Manger, and eat a baguette sandwich. Followed by cake.
In fact, alone and carefree, I wanted to do just the first third of Eat, Pray, Love.
In short, in London, it was good to be Queen! At least for a day.