Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's not like he's innocent

Day 9 found us at the Museum in Docklands, a museum exploring London's history as a port city. I know, I know, this hardly sounds like something to get out of be for, but, in fact, the museum was one of the best we visited and the children's play area turned the trip into fun for the whole family. The Docklands are reached via the DLR or the Docklands Light Rail, a train that starts below ground but quickly becomes elevated. This train is also operated by an attendant that does not ride at the front of the cars, meaning that children seated in the first two rows of seats on the first car can act like they themselves are driving the train around. Sitting there was a huge hit with Baby J.

The museum is filled with interesting displays, such as a scale model of one of the older iterations of the London Bridge and video of the bombing and subsequent fires set off in the port during the War. In addition, showing impressive attention to detail, the museum also hosts a replica sailor town display, complete with cobble stone walkways, appropriate sound effects, cool breezes, and, most amazing of all, accurate smells (of urine, sea air, body odor, tobacco, that kind of thing) piped in. Really. The effect is stunning...and slightly odd. There is more to read in the displays there than can possibly be tackled in one day, but that isn't even the real draw of the place. In addition to the more traditional offerings, the museum also hosts the Mudlarks play area for under 12s. Those over 5 can learn about ballast and damming rivers and building bridges through hands on stations. Those under 5 can romp in the maritime themed "soft play" area, which was really a jungle gym covered in thick, gymnastics-like mats. Parents were not allowed in, so we watched from 15 feet away as Baby J learned to negotiate his first stairs...and fell down his first stairs...and climbed back up like a pro after watching his fellow children and following their example. He absolutely LOVED playing here; I wouldn't doubt it was the highlight of his trip.

That afternoon, after much playing at Mudlarks and riding the DLR back, we headed to Bethnal Green and Brick Lane, an Indian section of the city. We saw some beautiful and outlandish saris, had some amazing Indian food (though we don't really understand the appearance of coconut in so many Indian dishes, even those from very different regions, in English Indian food destablishments. We bought some fabulous mandarin oranges and found and used a giant Tesco, a large grocery store for which we'd been searching, in order to find a better selection of baby food. Even so, we ended up buying such delicacies as tomato, bean, and bacon and rice pudding (with huge amounts of sugar, just for fun) and one interesting invention, squeezable baby food, this one pumpkin, blueberry, sweet potato, and some other fruit flavor. I couldn't decide at first if this invention was the most useless thing I'd ever seen or absolute genius. On the plane, when we squeezed it into Baby J's mouth with a minimum of mess or fuss and he actually enjoyed it (or would have if the flavor hadn't been so odd), I decided it was BRILLIANT!

The next day, we spent the morning doing laundry and coping with a very out of sorts baby. J was a trooper for much of this trip, but he was also, we later discovered, cutting numerous molars and regular teeth all at once. This morning, all that discomfort was more than he could take so we took it easy for a while. But, undaunted, in the afternoon we visited Sir John Soane's museum. Or, at least, we attempted to visit Sir John Soane's museum, and some of us were successful. Baby J fell asleep on the walk over, so I stayed outside walking him around until he woke up and the husband started in on the museum. Unfortunately, when J woke up, the officious attendant at the museum informed me that buggies were not allowed. Umm, okay, so we'll just kill some time...out here, in the cold. Eventually, we went to the local Sainsburies and bought groceries for dinner (gnocci and filled tortellini--chicken and bacon--what is the obsession with bacon?). When we were too cold to go on, we went back to the museum and hoped that the husband would be out early (which he was, thankfully).

After dinner, my parents offered to put J to bed, so we went out to see Jersey Boys at the last minute. It's the story of the Four Seasons, filled with loud music and oddly endearing dancing and Jersey accents. I had no idea how many songs were originally Four Seasons tunes that have subsequently been covered by a gazillion people (including lots of girl groups and Billy Joel). It was a fun show, even from the very high, very cheap seats. Good day!

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