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10th July 2017

Joann Chia, Freelance Editor and Writer based in Singapore

It’s my first time back in London since becoming a mum. Oh, that feeling of nostalgia when the familiar grey cityscape came into view from the windows of the A380. In many ways, London has been like a second home to me. And as the pilot eased us towards the concrete runways of Heathrow, the fond days of past adventures as swinging singles darted fleetingly in my memory, good times – now interrupted by the fidgety fretful toddler who sits between my husband and me. We always knew that travelling to Europe with a toddler in tow would be demanding. The 14-hour flight from Singapore gave us a preview of the three weeks that ensued. Still, we were determined to reclaim some of the freedom we’ve lost since Jimmy entered our lives. You may have us at your beck and call, young man, but some things, like our wanderlust, cannot be extinguished!

 

I’d say this though, that seeing London through the lenses of a newly minted mother, offered a kaleidoscopic view that stretched far beyond my wildest imagination. It’s true that children see things that we adults often overlook, like the numerous airplanes that whizzed past our heads throughout the day; the countless pooches out for their daily walks; and an even larger population of pigeons that bob and coo coolly at every standstill.

Before we had completed our check-in at The Athenaeum, Jimmy was already well acquainted with Heath, the black canine who sits loyally by the hotel entrance. And the moment we stepped into our stunning Park View room (complete with floor-to-ceiling windows), Jimmy wasted no time greeting Arthur, the resident brown teddy bear, followed quickly by the queen’s guards, artfully encased in a clear box as part of the room’s adornment.

In our past trips to London, it has never crossed our minds to stroll into the royal parks and frolic on the grass. This time round though, the parks were a regular fixture on our itinerary – some much needed open spaces for our little critter to expend his energy. Call me a visionary or a #goodmother but we certainly picked the right location for our stay in London. Staring across to Green Park and a short 10-minute walk to Hyde Park, The Athenaeum was perfect for our little family. And imagine our delight when the hotel thoughtfully left a pack of bird food (together with a ball and Frisbee) for some added motivation to visit the nearby parks. Needless to say, several of Jimmy’s favourite London memories include running havoc on the lush green plains and feeding (some rather forceful) feathered friends down by Serpentine Lake.

A part of me misses the good ol’ days before the kid came, the liberation and privileges afforded to the energetic traveller with no strings attached. But there’s something refreshing about exploring a different city with a mini-me in hand. The senses are awakened, and we start seeing things we normally wouldn’t see. The whole experience is fuller and more purposeful, and although it’s a lot more exhausting as well, the joys of globe-trotting have most certainly quadrupled. London is no longer for me about the late night pubs, fangirl moments down at football games, or hours of retail therapy along Oxford Street. It’s about the homecoming of a girl all grown up. I’ll grateful that Jimmy has helped me to rediscover this beloved city in a different light. And at the heart of it, The Athenaeum was our little hideaway, a home away from home.

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