We arrived in London, looking like we had just completed the Bataan Death March, except we were well fed. I had purchased "extra leg room" on our Virgin Atlantic flight because my oldest son is 6'4", but I think they made a mistake and only gave us "extra," forgetting entirely about the "leg room" part.
My kids gave me the evil eye as we walked through Heathrow airport to the immigration counter. Obviously, we had never left the States because everyone was still speaking English and everything looked like, well, like the States. So, why did I force them to suffer in a little chair for 11 hours?
But then there was proof that we had indeed left America. TOILETS. It was just enough of a difference to announce that we were in another country. No one went to the bathroom in England. They went to the toilet.
"Why do they say, 'toilet'?" my youngest son asked me. He giggled his way into hysterics. I should have known the first cultural lesson for my boys would have something to do with poop.
As we stood in line to get our passports stamped, I provided some English vocabulary:
Elevator = lift
Umbrella = brolly
Apartment = flat
Fries = chips
Chips = crisps
And then... cheers, which has nothing to do with alcohol.
And English people did sound different, and they didn't understand us. Our American accents were the foreign element in the room. They kept saying, "What?" when we spoke.
Accents aside, the taxis were larger, the people nicer, and they drove on the wrong side of the road. And the flat we rented smelled bad, like it was hundreds of years old.
"It is hundreds of years old," I explained.
"Couldn't we get something newer?" my son asked.
Old is bad; new is good. At least that's how my kids saw things. London had changed since the last time I had been there. A lot of the old London had disappeared with the Olympics, making way for shiny, tall buildings. Glass and steel replaced stone and brick. My kids loved it.
But my evil knew no end. For the sake of getting on the right schedule, I didn't allow them to sleep. Instead, I took them to the Eye, the large steel and glass Ferris wheel in the center of London. On the way there, I pointed things out.
"Big Ben! The houses of parliament! The Thames!"
They saw the double-decker buses and the people not wearing flip-flops. It was almost like a different country. They rode on the Eye, and we got to bed early.
"They should make everything new," My youngest son said, as he fell asleep. "Cheers."
It was a start.