It’s been a while since we were in London, Caitlin was a baby when we visited for the day with Karen – it’s still busy! Helen had hoped to join us for the day but was still recovering from a very nasty stomach bug which had knocked her out for the previous couple of days (we were extremely sympathetic but, by the same token, followed her around diligently with antibacterial spray in hopes of avoiding germs – no one else succumbed, so I suppose we succeeded.).
We decided it would be cheaper to drive to a tube line, rather than get the train from Letchworth Garden City. Unfortunately, parking around the Stanmore tube line was rather challenging, we ended up finding a cheap lot a little further away, which worked out so much better in the long run – funny how that goes!
We got the Jubilee Line (kids were fascinated by the many interlinking lines on the tube map, it was good for them to figure out where we needed to go and which lines we needed to take.) to Green Park and walked to Buckingham Palace in preparation for the Changing of the Guard. We were rather surprised at the number of people already waiting, in many places 6 lines deep. It was exciting to see the Royal Standard flag flying, indicating that the Queen was in residence, although Caitlin was disappointed that we wouldn't actually be seeing her! We found a pretty good spot and were able to see the New Guard coming in, led by their dog mascot and followed by the band. We waited in a different location to see the Old Guard coming out, complete with kilts and bagpipes. We followed them down Pall Mall to St James’ Palace. Nathan was enthralled by the horse pooping, who continued to walk, while going to the toilet, too funny, happened to get it on video as well so we’ll be able to relive that again in all its glory!
Dave had read online that the best place to get photos with the guards was at the front of St James’ Palace as it is typically not crowded. Once again, he found great info, well worth a bit of researching in advance. We got some good pictures standing next to the unmoving guards, lots of chatter about that afterwards: how often are they allowed to move, exactly how long do they have to stand still, what happens if they need to scratch an itch – you get the idea??!
We got back on the tube to Westminster, coming out of the station across the street from Big Ben and right next to the River Thames. We had a wonderful view of the London Eye from across the River. We bought lunch from a vendor and wandered across Westminster Bridge towards the Eye, looking back to see the Houses of Parliament.
Although it appeared to be busy, we had no trouble getting tickets for the Eye and climbed aboard our ‘pod’ for our ‘flight’. I have to admit, once again, my fear for the kids’ safety left me riveted to the middle of the pod! They, conversely, remain totally fearless, leaning out against the windows and calling out and pointing to sights they found fascinating. ‘The Gherkin’ is a new addition to the London skyline since we last visited, we knew exactly what it was, having just seen its Lego version in Windsor! Becca’s most exciting (to her and Nate anyway) was a playground near the base of the Eye – guess where we were headed upon ‘landing’?!
Other than the playground (which was actually pretty cool, a few different playthings and obstacles to hold their interest), we also saw the London Eye 4D movie, free with the purchase of an Eye ticket. It was short, only about 5 minutes, but gave a neat overview of flying across the city.
Rather than take the tube to Tower Bridge, we caught a river taxi which took us along the Thames, past various famous sights – it was rather chilly but a good way to see some sights quite quickly, Caitlin was more interested in locating the heater. Our approach to Tower Bridge took us past an enormous battleship, of course, Jake’s interest was piqued.
Tower Bridge is such a spectacular site, we were excited to get off and see the Tower of London too. Rather than spend time going in and taking the tour (the kids were beginning to flag somewhat), we wandered around the outside, reading all the informational signs and figuring out where the moat would have been, who lives there now and playing: who can spot a Beefeater (the protectors of the Tower). We did manage to see one of the Beefeaters along the drawbridge into the Castle. It was very interesting to read where prisoners would have been taken all those years ago, where beheaded heads were placed on spikes, the infighting within the families in power at the time. London has so much wonderful history and although Jake really loves to read more and more and absorbs everything, the younger ones were getting to the end of their patience levels for the day.
We opted to leave the city center and get the tube back to Stanmore before rush-hour really started, particularly as this was the night England were playing at Wembley Stadium. Along the main street, we stopped for dinner at a Pizza Express – what a great kid’s menu: 5 mini courses, including a Bambinoccino at the end of the meal! They were all thrilled: a cute tiny cup and saucer, filled with frothy milk and sprinkled with cocoa – they felt quite grown up, sipping their ‘coffee’.
It was another late night by the time we got back to Mum and Dad’s but well worth it. An enjoyable day out with, hopefully, quite a lot learnt.
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)