London! We took a short trip to visit London (not to visit Landon, which the kids kept thinking we were going to see their friend Landon) last week.
London is a great city to visit. You get all the charm and excitement of Europe without any of the language barriers and strange customs. Yes, London has its own set of customs but you are able to walk around without the fear of offending someone at each turn.
We took a train from Brussels to London. It took a little under two hours and is way less stressful than air travel. Jason was already in London earlier in the week so I took Zane and Lily so we could all meet up. The three of us almost didn’t make it however. When reaching the border agent, he asked to see our passports. I smiled and handed them over. He glanced at our Visa entry dates and asked to see our Belgian residence cards. EEK. I did not bring them. I stupidly thought that our passports would serve as enough identification to allow us into London, I was wrong. The man gave an accented, I am so sorry madame, go get them and then I will allow you on the train. The Brussels-Midi train station is a 20 minute walk and two metro trains from our house, we never would have made it back in time for our departure time. Perhaps it was the tears in my eyes or Lily sniffling, “But I want to see Daddy”, or Zane slamming his backpack into the desk over and over in anger, but something gave the man a change of heart. He called a manager who called a supervisor who called someone else who approved us to go through, but not without a tough lecture on border security.
After our super-fast train ride under the English Channel we finally arrived on UK soil and were ready to hit the town. We made our way through the Underground during rush hour (don’t do that) and navigated our way to the hotel without a map (really don’t do that).
(Calm down Val, they are fine…but what if the glass breaks and they fall through!!!)
The view from our top-floor hotel room was fantastic, although terrifying for this mom who doesn’t like heights.
We went for a walk along the muddy Thames and passed out coins to street performers.
We stopped to eat dinner at a fun little pizza place that served rather large beers.
That night, we barely slept. Lily was up crying with full-on blubbering. She had a fever and could not calm herself down. First lesson, always carry children’s medicine on your trips. We (I) forgot to pack it. In the morning, we were able to get ahold of some adult ibuprofen, after a quick calculation of mg/kg dosage, we crushed up the tablets, divided it up and with a spoon full of sugar the medicine went down. We waited 20 minutes and all was well with Miss Lily. No time to wallow, time to go!
A must-have picture of a Red Telephone booth.
Westminster Abbey, or to Lily, “Where the Princess got married”. A word to future visitors, you must pay to enter and the lines are long. We did not go in.
Buckingham Palace. We were too early to watch the Changing of the Guards but we did get to see them march around the square.
After Buckingham Palace we walked to Hyde Park. The wrong way. You can either go to the right at Buckingham Palace and walk to the park which is about a 5 minute walk, or you can go to the left around Buckingham Palace which is about a 30 minute walk. We went clockwise when we should have gone counter. Oops.
By the time we go to Hyde Park we were starving so we stopped for elevensies at the Serpentine Café. Pictured above is my ‘Traditional British Breakfast’. You will notice at the 3 o’clock position there is a black thing called “Black Pudding”. After I ate it I learned it was Pork blood mixed with oatmeal. It wasn’t bad, but on pure principle, I don’t think I’ll eat it again.
Lily had a non-bloody breakfast consisting of fruit topped pancakes with honey.
This is what a little boy running through Kensington Park looks like.
This is what a little boy who didn’t listen to his daddy when his daddy said, STOP WAIT, DON’T GO THERE, IT’S MUDDY!, looks like.
Zane landed splat first into a giant hidden puddle of mud in the deep grass. He was soaked and squishy. At the time we were on our way to the Princess Diana Memorial Park but we didn’t make it. We hailed a cab and learned our second lesson of child travel, ALWAYS have a spare change of clothes for the kids when backpacking through a city.
As things often do, it turned out to be a blessing because the kids were tired and desperately needed a nap.
After naptime, Lily and I got all dolled up and went to Sketch for High Tea. It was delicious and what a cool restaurant. If you go to London, you MUST visit Sketch but make sure to make reservations, they will not let you in the doors without them.
After Tea, we went to Hamley’s Toy store and met up with Zane and Daddy. As soon as we walked into the building they had a fire alarm go off. Everybody out. Everybody back in. Kids screaming, parents mad, staff confused, pure chaos. We walked across the street to The Gap, changed out of fancy Tea clothes and set off to see more sights.
St. Paul’s Cathedral. Or where you “feed the birds” with tuppins from Mary Poppins. We got there just in time to catch the tail end of the Choral Evening song.
From St. Paul’s, we walked across the Millennium Bridge.
And here we ended our day. Zane was on the cusp of a classic “Zane Meltdown” so we decided it would be best to head back to the hotel, order some room service and catch an early bedtime.
The next morning we set out trying to find a place that could do my hair for dinner that night. The plugs in our hotel were not cooperating with our adapters and if I can’t blow dry or straighten my hair, it ends up in a frizzy ponytail. Not exactly the look I wanted for Jason and my adult-only dinner. The above picture was taken for Pop.
Ah, the Ferris Wheel. Since the moment Lily saw it, it is all she wanted to do. When are we going on the ferris wheel, is it time to go on the ferris wheel, I have an idea! Let’s go on the ferris wheel, look the ferris wheel!
Zane shares my lack of love for ferris wheels.
Is it time, is it time when is daddy going to get back from waiting in a ridiculously long line to buy the ridiculously expensive tickets!
Zane started out not being so sure about this whole “ride”.
But quickly warmed up when he realized he could see trains and boats.
Westminster Palace from the left hand side of the wheel.
One of the places that was on my “must-see” list was Harrods, particularly Harrods food halls. Amazing! I did not take any pictures because I didn’t see anyone else taking pictures and too often I have people running after me asking me not to take pictures.
Harrods has 32 restaurants inside. We chose to dine at the “Family Friendly” Treehouse Café. What it should have been titled was Screaming Madness Treehouse of Hell. I was proud to say our children looked around at the other children with a sense of confusion. Why were all of these kids acting like heathens? Zane seemed like he was getting a headache, but Jason and I did just fine. They served alcohol.
After lunch we tried once again to make it to Princess Diana’s Memorial Playground. Along the way we ran into the Peter Pan statue; erected in 1912.
After walking what seemed to be around half an hour, we finally made it!!!!!
Only to find a HUGE line and this. Wally World was closed.
So we gave up and found another playground in the park. We can just say we “saw” the huge amazing pirate ship containing awesome Princess Diana Memorial Children’s Park.
As an added bonus, we got to see a helicopter land in a field.
That evening we hired a babysitter and Mom and Dad hit the town. We ate at Gaucho’s Steak House. You can’t get good steaks in Belgium, so this was a huge treat. We gorged ourselves and then went for a walk around the town.
Look at those cakes!
All in all London is a fun town. However, I must give my uncensored opinion that it is just SO busy. WHY are there so many busses (look at the picture with ALL the busses!). Half the busses I saw were completely empty! I have a theory that they are just preparing for the 2012 Olympics. At least I hope so. People are everywhere, the streets are overly congested, not that I do not realize I am a tourist myself but the shear number of tourists is overwhelming. At times you feel like you are in a amusement park in Londonland rather than a functioning city. Had we had a few more days to spend there, perhaps we would have gotten a deeper flavor of the real underground. But I have to say that the people of London are incredibly kind. When we first stumbled onto the subway three people offered to give up their seats to me and the kids. One lady held Zane’s hand to help get him across the gap. Doors were opened for us and the cab drivers were all chipper and smiles. That does not exist in Brussels. You are on your own and damned if you get in anyone’s way. So overall, it’s a busy city, with kind people and it remains a classic city.