I should first explain that I have an aversion to subways. This began back in the 80’s when a group of 8 or 9 of us went to NYC to see Phantom of The Opera. It was Good Friday and we all had the day off from the bank. We went into the city early to spend the day there before the show. At some point during the day, we had to take the subway. We started through the doors and because there were so many of us there was not enough time for all of us to get in before the doors closed – my friend Linda was left on the platform as the doors were closing. Two other friends, Lee and Michael pried the door open so she would not be left behind. That was it for me! I am still to this day terrified that the doors will close leaving someone behind…. So my complaints about the Underground may be just my problem…..
My intention was to write another installment in the “Everything is Related” Series from our most recent vacation, and I will do that next, but there were so many other things I wanted to say about our trip that I decided to put those off for now. There were tips I found and received before we left that came in handy and I wanted to pass them on along with some of my own observations for anyone else that may be heading out to Paris, Disney and/or London.
Really, the only thing that I did not like about London were the trains. Trains, Trains, Trains. They really were the hardest part of our trip for DC as well. The trains and stations were just so very crowded. He did not like having to stand, he did not like having to go from train to train. He did get a bit anxious about it after a day or so. To lighten the mood, I started repeating his “Done” video to him inserting the word “Trains” each time he started looking like he’d had it. “Done” is a video I took of him in Las Vegas when he was “Done of Walking! Done!” – he still remembers it because he was so mad at the time. Making a joke of something he is upset about can help at times.. I can guarantee that if you asked him right now, he would tell you he was “Done of Trains”. He really did not like it at all.
I, of course was anxious from the beginning. I do have rules in place for trains and elevators anyway (did you really think I wouldn’t?) – Due to my train terror explained above – DC has to get on and off arm in arm with me. If the door shuts at least we will be on the same side of it – together. I have elevator rules as well. DC never gets on an elevator first or last, always in the middle. If there are only two of us, then again – it is arm in arm with me. If the door should close, he will be with me on whatever side we end up on and not by himself. Also there’s the Rosalind Shays elevator scene that still haunts me to this day (20 points to anyone that gets that without having to google). So yes, I have always had rules about elevators and trains.
The stations were all very crowded as well. Paddington Station actually holds people at the top of the stairs behind a rope when the Underground gets too crowded. DC really does not like it when I hold his arm, but it was just so crowded everywhere that I had to. It wasn’t up for discussion.
“Mom! My arm is bothering you!”
We did get Oyster Cards for the trains – I believe they can be used for buses as well. They can be pre-loaded for as many days as you wish. The cards need to be swiped to get in and to get out of each station. They are available at the stations, but you can also purchase them on-line ahead of time.
Below are three posts from Autism-Mom with some good information about traveling to London with a child on the spectrum – including a link for the Tower of London “Visiting with children on the Autistic Spectrum”, believe it or not!
THE AUTISM CONNECTION – #1000SPEAK
Tripping Across the Pond. What I Learned from Autism Mums in Other Countries
Autism-Mom also tipped me off to Fast Passes or “Fast Track” tickets. I would not have thought to even check for something like that. As the name suggests, the passes will get you into the attractions or sights faster – no lines. They can be purchased for one site or in packages of many different combinations. We purchased ours ahead of time on-line and they really worked out wonderfully. I’ve heard that the line for the London Eye could at times be a good 45 minute, if not longer, wait so I was especially thankful for the Fast Track. We used the Fast Track for the London Eye and the Tower of London, it was very simple.
I was really concerned (as I was in Paris) about finding food DC would eat. This really did not prove to be a problem at all. He did, every once in a while, have a difficult time understanding that chips (“NO Chips! French Fries, PLEEEESE!”) were French Fries. I explained this to him many times before we left on our trip and he seemed to understand it for the first few days. As it turned out many restaurants called them fries or potato wedges. After a few days of reading many different descriptions, I think he just became confused and would no longer understand that chips were French fries.
The train ride from Paris to London was about two hours long. The ride from London to Cardiff was a good two hours as well.
I won’t say much here about the Dr. Who Experience because, you know…… “Spoilers, Sweetie” but I will say that DC had no problem with it. I did, after we came home, for informational purposes, check to see what if any accommodations they might have in place. I was able to find some accessibility information – most of it was for wheelchair access and mobility.
There were a few loud noises and flashes and some yelling of directions and a few scary areas but he did well. The explosions at Charlie and The Chocolate Factory – The Musical, a play we saw later in the week in London upset him more than the explosions in the Dr. Who Experience. Below is a list from the website of what one may have to deal with inside:
Low light levels throughout
Light effects with variable light levels (no strobes or lasers used but occasional flashes)
Special effects (moving floors, smoke and haze)
Involves walking and standing for up to 30 minutes
Various floor surfaces including optional steps
Interactive and static exhibits
Loud audio soundtrack with speech, music and effects
Afterwards there is a walking tour which was maybe a mile, if that. The route was all flat paved surfaces, no hills and really no traffic to contend with.
Back in London…..Camden Market, Piccadilly Circus and Portobello Road are all very crowded areas, Camden Market being the most crowded. I would have liked to have spent more time there, but DC was really having a hard time and then it started to POUR, so back to the train we went. DC is used to walking in NYC but this was much more congested and hard to maneuver because of all of the vendors out on the sidewalks. He did well and made it longer than I expected he would.
Restrooms: Unlike Paris, there were public restrooms to be found, most of which are “pay” Water Closets. They seemed to run anywhere between 20 and 50 pence – so always carry change with you.
The flight home: Vowing that I would never do this again after our flight in to Paris on Open Skies in my crabby post from France, the flight home on American was like night and day. The seats were normal size and there was no juggling involved.
But really, other than the crowds on the trains, DC did well in London. He found food he liked. He saw places he recognized (We will talk about that more in “Everything is Related” The UK (and Paris) Edition. People were friendly and…… they did not put foam in my coffee.