We have made it a family tradition, as part of our Bar-Mitzva present to them, to take our grandchildren to London. This began about ten years ago, when we did this with the two oldest ones, the son and daughter of our son Ariel. A few years later we took Ariel and Galit‘s third child, Nir, together with our daughter Dana’s eldest son, Nadav. The two cousins have grown up together and are good friends. And last week we returned from the third sortie, this time with Dana and Itzik’s second child, a boy, Eyal, and Ariel and Galit’s youngest, a girl, Lihi.
We have also made it our habit to stay at the LSE students’ residence known as Bankside House in London. The accommodation is adequate but not luxurious, and the breakfast which is included in the price is generous by any standard. It is located just behind the Tate Modern Museum, on the south bank of the Thames, a stone’s throw from the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the pleasant riverside promenade. A few minutes away lies the Millennium Bridge that spans the Thames and leads to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The area is well served by underground and buses, with restaurants and cafes at hand, making life easy for both tourists and locals.
Each trip with our grandchildren gives us a new insight into their characters and interests. On this occasion, we also found ourselves sharing our rooms with them, which was a new experience for us. It was a pleasant surprise to discover what kind and understanding room-mates both youngsters turned out to be, and altogether their behavior was exemplary throughout the week.
London’s skyline has changed radically since my student days there, and the latest addition, the Shard, currently the tallest building in Europe, towers over the area where we were staying. Opinions are divided as to its artistic and architectural success, but it certainly makes its presence felt, and enabled our Hebrew-speaking grandchildren to learn a word in English that they might never have encountered otherwise. Of course, other relatively recent buildings and monuments are also much in evidence, notably, the Gherkin, the Egg, and the London Eye, not to mention Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.
As instructed by her ever-practical mother, Lihi bought herself an umbrella on her first day in London. This was an artistic version of the Union Jack and came in very handy when we found ourselves caught in typical London drizzle. We all developed a taste for fish and chips, indulged in ‘proper’ éclairs (not the inferior French kind), and wended our way inter alia through the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Tate Modern and the National Gallery, where we were treated to Yigal’s enlightening explanations.
As we were leaving the National Gallery, Eyal, who is already a seasoned traveler, spotted someone carrying a small yellow bag. ‘That’s m and m’s world!’ he exclaimed and, not knowing what we were letting ourselves in for, we asked where this wonderful emporium was to be found. We were sent in a general direction, and each time a small (or even large) yellow bag was spotted in a passer-by’s hand we were given more directions. Eventually we found the place, which is a paradise for children and hell on earth for grandparents, with loud music, hordes of children rushing around, an endless supply of merchandise (m and m’s clothing, m and m’s toys and m and m’s gadgets), and the actual m and m’s themselves in packaging of every shape and form. An attendant hands each child a basket as they enter, whereupon they disappear into the depths to stock up on the goods and the goodies.
Eventually we retrieved our two crazed shoppers, and emerged triumphantly with our own little yellow bags. Of course, as we made our exhausted way to the station to return to our accommodation, we were accosted by complete strangers asking where they could find the m and m’s mecca.
London and Leicester Square will never be the same. And in my personal opinion, good old Smarties are infinitely better.