May the 1st would have been the day we would be going on a weekend trip to London with our youngest. We’d done the same thing with his older siblings during their last year of primary school, as the change to high school came in sight.
While our youngest dreaded the trip at first, lately he was really looking forward to it: flying on a plane for the first time, seeing the famous landmarks for himself and having an English breakfast.
From the moment measures to prevent the coronavirus became clear in the Netherlands and travelling abroad was no longer permitted, it was pretty obvious we would have to postpone our trip. A month before we were supposed to go, we cancelled the hotel and about a week ago the airline cancelled our flight. As May 1 drew closer our youngest son let us know he’d rather not be reminded of what was supposed to be our departure date.
What he didn’t know, was that in the meantime I had prepared for an entirely different weekend. A weekend London from home. Not just for him, but also because I was pretty bummed out myself about the prospect of yet another uneventful ‘weekend in intelligent lockdown’, while we had been looking forward to our trip for half a year. There had to be things we could do to make it a memorable weekend after all.
I started to associate with all things London I could come up with and searched the internet. Surely someone had already thought up something to generate a subway map and if that existed there was probably also a page to design custom subway station signs. The internet did not disappoint.
After I had gone through our house, charting all important spaces and coming up with alternative names for them, I used Metro Map Maker to create a subway map for our home. For the subway station signs I used the London Underground Logo Generator. Of course, I included the ‘Mind the gap’ signs.
On the night of April 30th I put up part of the signs and copies of the map. I decorated a window with drawings of the British flag, Big Ben and a London bus, using chalk markers.
The next morning our youngest came to wake me up with a huge smile on his face. The signs were a success. Together we generated the missing signs. His sister decided that there had to be actual lines in the house in order to travel from one station to the next, and put up some strings in corresponding colours.
In English we pointed each other the way to the bedroom, the ‘ground floorloo’ and other places. At night we watched a play on YouTube, ‘Frankenstein’ by the National Theatre (at Home).
On Saturday we had home baked scones with clotted cream, croissants and scrambled eggs for lunch, inspired by the menu for a hotel breakfast buffet. After lunch I got out the LEGO Architecture building set I had ordered a few days before. We were going to explore London architecture: husband, son and I had to work together to build a miniature London skyline. The model isn’t very big, but we were entertained for quite a while building it and the result is amazingly recognizable.
Thanks to the website of the London Science Museum we were able to take a virtual tour of the museum. Google maps helped us explore the city and we pretended to stroll along Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. We visited other highlights such as Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral with the YouTube app on TV.
Not a lot of new things happened on Sunday. We were still using the ‘underground’, but I had pretty much used up all of my ideas. To close the weekend in style we decided to get moving and actually go and see something outside of our familiar surroundings.
We went for a walk in Heerenduinen, at about a 20-minute drive from our home. It was quiet, we hardly came across other people and we didn’t have to worry about bothering anyone. All according to the current regulations. We saw a deer passing, we saw grapevine snails and viewed the blossoms and fresh green leaves on the trees. We really enjoyed the quality time with the three of us which we otherwise would have had an entire weekend of.
On the way home we even managed to get ice cream – at 9:30 in the evening! Under different circumstances our plane would have just landed.
On a bench in an unfamiliar town we sat and had our dessert, quietly appreciating all we had seen and done. And that’s about as close as one can get to a vacation these days.