Thursday, 27 October 2016

London, baby!

One of our real hopes for Oskar is that he will enjoy travel as much as we do. Whether it's a short weekend away or a 3 week long holiday, we absolutely adore packing up our things and heading off on an adventure together. So as soon as Oskar was here, and we got over the newborn fog that clouds your mind and means you can plan little further than the next half an hour, we began to talk about where we could take him first, and where we might go as he gets a little older. 

This time last year I was 5 weeks pregnant with Oskar and we visited the baby show for the first time. It gave us ideas of what we might need for our little bundle, allowed us to compare prices and think about what we buy, and when. While we were there I couldn't help but dream of "this time next year" and returning to the same show with our precious little being. So when we were talking about where we might take Oskar for his first adventure, we decided to show him our beautiful capital city, and re-visit the baby show once more too. 

We set off on Saturday morning with a small bag of things for the three of us, and a sling for Oskar. Many people had told us that we were crazy for not taking a pram, but honestly we thought they were crazy for suggesting it. Many new parents struggle to get away for the night without packing the car full of baby paraphernalia and lists of items for "just in case". But as we were catching the train we had to think minimal, and so for Oskar took clean clothes, two muslin cloths, 8 disposable nappies and a small pack of wipes. We figured anything else was not a necessity and if we absolutely needed something else we could buy it there. 

The train journey was smooth and easy. Oskar sat on our laps and watched the world whizz by outside the window. We drank coffee and ate croissants and chatted the hour and a bit away. On arriving in to London Oskar was secured in to his Ergo carrier and we set off on foot to the very beautiful Kings across St Pancras railway / tube station. We often walk down to this station to catch the tube as it saves you being crushed in the busiest place in the world AKA Euston underground station, and it is a really beautiful place. Nestled amongst the arches of the railway station are beautiful little shops and cafes which are good to have a wander round, and then it's easier to catch the tube in to central London from the slightly quieter tube station. 

Our first stop was Oxford Street, where we were surprised to see the Christmas lights already hanging in rows, and then on to Veggie Pret, an all veggie and vegan Pret A Manger that has opened just off it. It was lovely to visit one of our favourite chains for lunch knowing that we could have anything we wanted as it was all vegetarian, and get to try some new things that had been created especially for this store. It also gave me chance to sit and feed Oskar, although he has reached a rather annoying phase of being too distracted by what's around him to feed properly, so we gave up, but at least he'd had a little something to keep him going too. 

With Oskar snuggled back in his sling we continued to wander until we reached Covent Garden, and from there took the tube to our hotel, which was in an area we haven't stayed in before, the City. After checking in we took the opportunity for a cup of tea and decided where to go next. We weren't very far from the beautiful Tower Bridge, so decided to walk the 25 minutes or so down to the famous bridge. It was a pleasant and relaxing walk, with Oskar asleep with his head against Sarah's chest, happy to be carried around next to his Mummy, we were able to walk, hand in hand, and talk and laugh and admire the city around us. Tower Bridge was huge and imposing and beautiful and interesting. We walked over it and stopped for a while to admire the view. The Shard to one side, the Gerkin to the other, and HMS Belfast straight ahead. The sun was beginning to set, and we just stood for a while and took in the sights in front of us. When we were ready, we set off again, having crossed the river and this time walked along the river bank. It was beautiful, peaceful and just what we needed. Time together, away from every day life, away from work and house work and family dramas and stress and uncertainty. It was just us, the three of us, on an adventure together, and it was perfect. 
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Having walked for quite a while along the beautiful River Thames we got the tube once more back up to Kings Cross, to go for dinner at a place we had been to before. Mildred's is a beautiful vegetarian restaurant in Soho, who had recently opened a new branch in Kings Cross, and we were excited to visit. The staff we brilliant, and accommodated us and our little person so well, by putting us in the corner table so that we had more space. Our food was impressive, artichoke crostini with aioli to start followed roasted romano peppers with puy lentils for Sarah and vegetable and black bean burrito for myself. Accompanied by cocktails which were absolutely delicious. I suppose it's a different kind of experience, dining with a four month old baby on your lap, but we both agree that we want him to learn how to go out of dinner and we able to sit and converse and engage, and if need be quietly entertain himself with a book for some colouring, and so it was good to go out as a 3 with him being so young, and be reassured that all was well. Oskar was happy watching the other people around us and looking out of the window, having a breastfed when he was hungry and then falling asleep on his Mummy's shoulder, and we got to each incredibly delicious food, drink cocktails, and enjoy spending time together. 



We awoke on Sunday morning feeling peaceful and refreshed. Oskar is going through the four month sleep regression (more on that in another post), so had woken up to feed approximately 8 times through the night, but being able to lie in bed with out tiny boy giggling and squealing until breakfast time is enough to brighten anyone's morning. After breakfast we set off for the tube, and our destination for the Sunday - the baby show at Olympia.

It was a surreal moment, walking back in to Olympia, hand in hand with my wife, baby snuggled in to her chest in his sling. I couldn't help but be transported straight back this time last year, 5 weeks pregnant with our so much longed for, wanted and dreamt of baby. It was quite a full circle moment, to be back there, with him. He really is all of my dreams come true. 

Once in to the show it felt busy and crowded, so we made a strategy plan so that we got to see everything, and set off. The first stand we came across that really interested us was Babease, a company who are fairly new, but extremely innovative. Their slogan, "food for babies not baby food" sums up their ethos - they aren't interested in producing tasteless mush, but offer interesting, vegetable based products to tempt your baby's pallette rather than sweet fruit based items. We spoke with the founder of the company at length, and have agreed to test their products and report back once Oskar starts weaning, so watch this space! 

At this point Oskar wanted feeding, so we found somewhere quiet we could sit and feed him. There were large over hanging signs pointing is in the direction of the feeding area, and made our way over. There was an open area with tables and chairs, a water machine and bottle warmers, and a sectioned off private feeding area. I am more than happy to feed Oskar in the public eye, but was intrigued to see the difference, if any, so we headed to the private feeding area. Inside were about 10 or so soft rocking chairs. We were the only people in there, and the open area had a view of the stage where you could see the speakers, so we headed back outside and sat down so we could see too, and Oskar had a good feed. The nice seats were the only real difference between the two areas, and we were happy to see many breastfeeding mums feeding in the open feeding area. 

The next stop was to talk to an amazing company, Cheeky Wipes. We love love love our Cheeky Wipes, having used them on Oskar since he came home from hospital. We have chatted to the staff, the lovely Jo in particular a few times - she always remembers us and is so genuinely friendly, as well as very knowledgeable about the brand. As every time we'd met Jo previously Lauren had been pregnant, it was really lovely for her to finally meet our little one, and hear how much we've loved using the products! Cheeky Wipes are reusable baby wipes, which are so soft on baby's bottom, use only water and a few drops of essential oils so no harsh chemicals on your baby, and are easy to clean. They smell amazing, and having also used disposable wipes at times, can vouch for their efficiency in getting off the yucky stuff! If we didn't already have pretty much all of their products we would've  bought more, but it was so lovely to go back and show off our little bundle to the people at this amazing company. 

From there we continued to weave our way through the stands and see what was on offer. You can buy anything and everything at these events, but we have noticed they are definitely becoming more dominated by the big pushchair companies, who often offer big discounts if you order at the show, so it's worth holding off if you need to buy one. You also have the benefit of seeing lots of products from lots of different brands, not just with prams but also car seats and nursery furniture.
Unfortunately the stands we are most interested in - cloth nappies, baby carriers, and eco friendly toiletries seemed few and far between this year, and the stalls seemed to offer quite generic items rather than innovative products. We would definitely recommend The Baby Show to new parents as it's probably the best way to see so many different products and brands in one place, combined with so many people to offer advice. 

After seeing everything there was to see, and buying a few bits and bobs for Oskar, we left and headed in to Kensington for a little sit down and a coffee. The walk there was autumnal and warm and relaxing, and we reflected on the fact this will be the last time we visit unless / until we have baby number 2. Seeing the baby show through the eyes of a couple with a 4 month old you realise that there is a lot of stuff out there that is marketed as something you absolutely need, and with hindsight you realise that you don't! Luckily we have always been quite chosey about what we do buy so don't have loads and loads of things that we realise were a mistake purchase! 

After enjoying the beautiful Kensington in the warm autumn sunshine 
we headed back in to central London for dinner, before heading to get our train home. Tibbits is a firm favourite of ours - good quality vegetarian and vegan food, buffet style! You pay for the weight of your plate, so you can have as much or as little as you fancy. Again Oskar was an absolute superstar and happily sat and watched us eat. A little too happily at times, trying to get the food off our plates, someone is getting ready for food we think!

And then with a heavy sigh we returned back to our home city, ready for another week. Our life is beautiful, because we make it that way. Maternity leave doesn't leave you with bags of spare cash, but we are big believers in finding the beauty everywhere, and that having fun doesn't have to cost the earth. Our weekend away was peaceful, beautiful and relaxing, and brought memories we will treasure forever. It was a beautiful reminder that our time together is time to be treasured, that stresses of work and babies that don't sleep and what the future might bring shouldn't define us, time together should. Now we just need to plan our next adventure with our little superstar, I can't wait!

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