Europe,  Travel Tips,  UK

The three worst places for strollers: the bronze medal.

Prams, strollers, pushchairs… Those bitter/sweet objects that may be so comfortable or such a nightmare when you travel. After parenting, you begin noticing things that you had been ignoring since forever. Like the physical barriers making that nice, relaxing walk you used to make, completely unviable with a pushchair. Anything, even the simplest thing you were doing before kids, like getting on a cable car, may imply a couple of step to jump or some alley that results too tiny. In which case, let’s go straight to the point: either it’s two adults, or you ask for help, or you are f****d up. After some experiences that turned up to be a horror movie starred by my hubbie and myself, we now travel with our baby carrier in the backpack, no matter what. This means that I’d leave my favourite trousers home and even my favourite body cream, in order to have enough space for Princess’ baby carrier. It’s very important to figure out in advance if you are about to enter a no-stroller zone. Of course, the perception of unconfort may vary a lot, depending on the kind of stroller you have, the age of your baby, the time of the day you visit. Still, there are at least three situations where going with a stroller is the same as having fun on Christmas lunch: you better switch to plan B. Here you find #3 in ascending order, by “degree of risk in pushing a stroller”.

The Bronze Medal goes to …………

The oldest underground stations are worse than a crossfit training if you carry a stroller. Advantage being that you can definitely indulge on confort food after a couple of trips.

The Subway

Nothing best than the subway when you don’t have kids, nothing worst when you do. At least, when it comes to the oldest stations in London, Paris, New York, Milan. The first lines in Europe date back to the late XIX century: this is why, at least in London and Paris, some stations are masterpieces of architecture. But, of course, back then you wouldn’t have expected to have mechanical stairs and elevators to facilitate strollers and wheel chairs. The newest lines and some bigger stations underwent works to include these facilities. Still, the central areas, where the underground railways arrived first, are normally served by low-accessibility stations . On our first trip to London as parents, we took the subway the tuuuuube (oh, and no elevators there: just lifts) on day one. I swear I repent not to have attended some crossfit classes before we did. We experienced a three-leg journey to visit Camden market, Tower Bridge area and back to our Airbnb. Of course, I had faced the very complexity of the whole “subway with a baby” thing in Milan, where we are currently based: though I have the chance of being close to the nineties-built yellow line, which has elevators at every station, I have been avoiding it. Still, in London we thought that being the two of us would have made it very easy. Plus, when you are on vacation you tend to overestimate your physical resilience, at least I do. Here is what you can expect from the beginning to the end of a day commuting underground.

First trip: from Westminster to Camden Town via Embankment. We were freshly starting our day, off in London. It wasn’t raining, which is quite something. And, we had just had one of those rich breakfast that in Italy you cannot even dream of. Last but not least: the night before we had found some baby food that Princess was appreciating. That was just great eehhmmm gorgeous!! We arrived at Wenstminster station full of energy and in such a positive mood that we didn’t realized we could take the elevator on the street to get to the platform. So, we began our marathon of steps, until we were almost arrived to the train, when a clerk kindly pointed out the elevator “You might use the lift, Ma’am”. “Wow, thank you”. It goes without saying that when we changed at Embankment for the black line, we found out that the station is not served by facilities. So, we began our day with a considerable amount of steps, while, by the way, Princess was sleeping a siesta as if nothing was going on. Already panting a bit, but still in a very positive mood, I’d categorize this first trip between “It’s easy, just a few steps” and “S**t, I might have taken the baby carrier, but no problem. Bye, bye, baby belly, yeah!”. If you carefully look up on the internet, you find information about accessibility at any station. If you don’t want to end up like we did, do check this link in advance .

In the Tuuuube. On our way to Camden, still smiling and still having my nude-look lipstick somehow on.

Second trip: Mornington Crescent to London Bridge. After having fun and shopping in Camden market, we had the great idea of heading to London Bridge. By tube. After having our Sunday lunch in a pub and a couple of pint of stout. The nearest station at that point was Mornington Crescent. The station was not working for strollers that day, because the mechanical stairs were out of work. We’d have been allowed in only if we could fold the pushchair and carry Princess in our arms. I guess we are watching too many American movies, or I had had too much beer, but at that point I began to have troubles in understanding the British accent. We told her that we could manage without folding the stroller as it is a two-piece equipment, but the subway clerk was very strict: she didn’t let us carry Princess, or any other child, on a stroller down the stairs. She warmly suggested to reach Euston station on foot. In that very way that you cannot say no. It turned up to be at a quarter of an hour far away, but indeed the station there has the elevator and we could finally reach London Bridge easily. We were in the area between “My parent and mother and woman rights are being violated” and “Jeeee, I wanna go back to the pub”. I have to say: in the afternoon we went up the Shard building, in the London Bridge area. This is very baby friendly and totally worth it. Note to self: as your baby is growing older, say as she/he can sit, it is a good idea to consider an extra investment and get a light stroller that you can use for travelling only. One of those models that fold easily and even fit in the overhead compartment of the plane: in this specific case, for example, we wouldn’t have lost time going to the other station. I’m looking for my deal now that Princess doesn’t need to lay all the time! Here you find a nice overview about models and prices.

View from the Shard

Third trip and last journey of the day: London Bridge to Victoria via Euston while being way lost. We went back to our area from London Bridge when it was already 7 p.m. and Princess was showing clear signs of hunger. We indeed made the great mistake of thinking that we were near Victoria station area in terms of distance. Yeah, of course, if you get a bike it’s a nice short ride. If you want to go by subway it turns out to be quite a trip. We ended up passing through Euston station again: I still need to understand how on earth we couldn’t find a shortest way, but still. I couldn’t remind of something more difficult: the amount of steps done underground at that point was around infinity^infinity. Princess decided that she would cry unless we sang her favorite lullaby. In the train. I’ll let you imagine the faces around us. By the way, the more tired we were, the less we understood people. The main feeling was “Why is everybody talking like The Crown actors? Do I seem Her Royal Highness or what?”. When we got off at Victoria, around 8 p.m. By the time we arrived at our flat, Princess was crying like a desperate and we had to face three floors. On foot. Yeah: no elevator in the building!! That was the moment where we stirred at each other and try to make the most of the last training about motivating yourself, your peers and your direct reports done at work. We both came up with something like “Hey buddy, that’s nothing, we are in London, with our baby, we are so cool. The first of us that makes it upstairs pays the drinks tonight!”. But we were infact thinking: “I’m not travelling anywhere but to Florida for the rest of my life”. If you are just landed in Paris, London or Milan and you forgot your baby carrier: relax, we have a solution!! The day after and for the rest of our stay and most probably until Princess turns sixteen, we took the fab buses! They are very stroller friendly, less crowded, you can see around while traveling. Total comfort, no stress. You can pay either by Oyster card or with your contactless credit card. The only inconvenient is the limited number of places for strollers per bus: only two can travel at the same time. In London, they stick to the rule: if you are the third, you need to wait for the following bus. The good news is that frequency is very high, at least downtown. I think the same rule applies in Paris and almost everywhere. If you are in Milan: official places on the buses are two. Yet we find the way to fit up to five (just joking, but not so much, rules are a bit more fluffy). Quick hint if you are actually in Milan: the old cable cars maybe tricky, because they have a couple of high steps to get in. There are new models that now serve the main lines, totally or partially. Ask the driver if the line is served by stroller-friendly means or for help getting up. Last but not least: always look for the flip side of the coin. We easily found ours.

Out and about in London