What would you see and do if you had only a day and a half to explore London with 3 small kids?
Man, I really need to catch up with my Travelogues. I mean a lot has happened in the last few months. Ok, so we left off the last Travelogue when we arrived in London and made our way to our little victorian hotel (The Hampton Court Palace) in Elephant & Castle in Southwark. If you read that last Travelogue you know that we hit a few stressful and costly bumps in our flight from California to London. Proper planning will help you avoid a lot of those unexpected stressful and costly mistakes that can occur while traveling. (if you are planning on traveling to the UK in the near future with kids I recommend reading my post on the Top 11 Things to Know Before Traveling With kids to The UK to avoid some of those potentially stressful bumps.)
Alright so now we are in London, a place I have longed to visit for many years. I wish we could have stayed for a few days at least, but due to airplane ticket prices going up each day due to the Christmas Season, we only had a day and a half for this stopover. We decided that all we could do was to go see what we could in the time we had, and then try to come back again before coming home.
In hindsight, I should have booked an Airbnb for our 2-night stay in London instead of a hotel. The hotel I found was an old victorian hotel which had a certain charm to it and actually had a room large enough for a family (As in more than just 1 bed) for a decent price. However, now that I am more familiar with Airbnb I am sure I could have found something cheaper, more central and with a kitchen through Airbnb. (Next time we will go that way for sure. If you use my referral link to sign up for a new Airbnb account you can get a $20 credit on your first booking of $70 or more. You are welcome!)
Once we found our hotel and lugged our tired bodies and all our luggage up the 2 flights of stairs to our room we all just wanted to climb in bed and go to sleep. As much as I wanted to do this I knew that the 1st thing you needed to do after getting to your lodging when traveling (especially when traveling with kids) was to find FOOD. It was still relatively early (not yet 5 pm London time) and we hadn’t eaten for several hours so I dragged us all from our hotel room to hunt for sustenance. Thankfully we were just a block and a half away from a couple supermarkets and fast food places.
Erring on the side of familiarity we ended up getting the kids food at McDonald’s while Rory and I opted for sandwiches from a sub shop. Then we hunted our a grocery store to pick up some fruit, water, and small snacks for the morrow when we planned to explore the city. In the end, it was a very refreshing outing which we all enjoyed before heading back to our hotel for some much-needed sleep. The next morning came all too soon and like San Francisco, we were eager to get out and explore! After all, I was excited to see London at Christmas time. Knowing the propensity England had for sudden rain storms we brought both of our umbrellas (which we totally ended up using so I am glad we brought them), and then packed water and snacks in our backpacks and headed off.
Knowing the propensity England had for sudden rain storms we brought both of our umbrellas (which we totally ended up using so I am glad we brought them), and then packed water and snacks in our backpacks and headed off. We weren’t too far from the London Bridge so we started walking in that direction. Along the way we stopped and explored the Borough Market which was an amazing vendor market right next to the gorgeous Southwark Cathedral. Of course, we were a bit disappointed ith the London bridge it was just a basic bridge with a small sign that said London Bridge. The Iconic Bridge was more to the east and is the Tower Bridge (note to self that is the one we want to visit when next we are in London). We did get some fun pics of the Tower bridge though so it’s all good.
About this time the temperature dropped and it started to rain. I am so glad we thought to bring the umbrellas with us. The kids wanted to just go back to the hotel but I knew that if we did the odds of us going back out were really low so instead, we found the nearest subway station (just .a few feet from where we were standing when it started raining) and took a ride over to Westminister. The first thing we saw when we exited the subway was Big Ben in all its glory. That and the famous Westminister Abbey. There was soo much to see in the area that we walked around snapping pictures every which way as we slowly explored.
Rory had to get a picture taken in a British phone booth and my 4-year-old son insisted on posing for a photo as well. I have to admit those pictures of my son are some of my favorite. By this time the kids were getting hungry. My 6-year-old daughter informed us that it was cold and wet which meant we needed to have a nice hot soup for lunch. So we whipped out cell phones and googled cafes to find somewhere that served soup. My husband found one and off we went. Unfortunately, we got turned around with the GPS and ended up lost.
I say unfortunately because the kids were really hungry. I didn’t mind so much because it meant we ended up walking the streets of Westminster school, Dean’s yard finding the Library and even Church house the main office of the Church of England. As much as we all enjoyed exploring the kids were glad when we finally found a soup house. Unfortunately, they only had 1 cup of soup left which happened to be Chicken Noodle Soup. We bought it for my daughter and hunted down a fast food place nearby that had chicken strips and french fries. Traveling with kids always has it’s not so perfect moments. Our happened while eating lunch. Our daughter turned to offer up some of her soup to her brother in exchange for one of his chicken strips when she accidentally knocked over her steaming hot soup all over herself. She had soup all down the side of her body and all over the floor. We spent the next 25 minutes cleaning up the mess. We were too far from our hotel to go change clothes so she had to live with it for the rest of the day. Thankfully she wasn’t burned and we managed to wipe off most of the thick creamy soup from her coat, pants, and boots.
Our next stop was Buckingham palace (we didn’t go in just enjoyed the view from outside) and St James park before heading off to visit the British Museum before it closed. Most of the Museums in London are free and I really wanted to take the time to go through this icon museum while we could. To get there quickly we again took the subway. This time, however, we ended up traveling during rush hour. NEVER AGAIN! Seriously, the subway at rush hour is CRAZY! Every other time we took the subway during our stay in London we had plenty of room and were able to push our small umbrella stroller youngest and all right into the car no problem. At rush hour we had to fold up our stroller and wait in line ready to jump on the subway car as soon as the door opened. It was a mad house of packed bodies where I desperately tried to keep my hands on my three kids and my husband so we wouldn’t be separated and wondering how we would make our way back off the car when our stop arrived. We made it to the British Museum just under an hour before closing. While I could easily spend way more time exploring this museum, 45 minutes was the perfect amount of time for 3 small kids attention spans to enjoy.
We had a bit of a stick moment passing through security on the way into the Museum. My husband always carries on him a small knife (for utility and safety purposes) We knew pocket knives were fine in England. Unfortunately, the style of my husband’s was not. Though his knife was small, it had a locking blade (it was the same knife he used at his old job at the print center to cut open boxes with). Yeah, locking blades are apparently illegal. Who knew? We sure didn’t. The security officer told my dear hubby that according to the law they were supposed to confiscate the knife, call the police and detain my husband until they turned him over to the said police. However, since we were there with kids and obviously visiting from out of the country they decided he must have just been ignorant of the law and so they confiscated the knife and let us go. Yeah, we were both a little sick from this experience and very grateful for the mercy shown in letting us go when it was obviously a mistake. (One we will never make again. If you are like my husband and usually carry a small knife and want to visit the UK make sure that the knife you bring is a small blade standard issue swiss army knife (non-locking blade)
My favorite rooms in the British Museum were the ancient Egypt and Greek rooms filled with artifacts. I would love to go back sometimes to explore more. After we left the Museum rather than just hopping right back onto the subway to go back to our hotel we continued to walk around London enjoying the old buildings and night scenes. Eventually, we were all exhausted. we had walked over 10 miles that day and the kids who had done fantastic were ready to be home in bed. We found the nearest subway and headed home.
Stay tuned for my next travelogue where I tell you all about our flight out to GREECE where we spent the next 2 1/2 months living!
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