This week I took the children to London for three full days. We stayed in a somewhat suspect airbnb near Waterloo Station as we'd just come off a cruise and couldn't really splurge on anything too nice. It was actually a convenient area to stay, even if the front door had only a flimsy lock and the neighborhood seemed a little sketch (shhh don't tell my mom).
Day 1-Monday Afternoon
Train from Rotterdam-London
Any truly decent International vacation as the only adult responsible for four young children should, of course, begin with an abundance of sugar and shoe shopping at the train station. Because what is a 4 hour train trip including a changeover in Brussels without sugar highs, sugar crashes, and extra, unnecessary baggage?
Two little girls already tired on the way to the train station.
Cookies n Cream Brownies because mommy isn't allowed to buy coffee without getting the kids a snack.
We had an hour before our train left so the girls ended up with new shoes- Well played Rotterdam Centraal Station. Well played.
Hour 1- So fresh. So full of patience.
During our train change in Brussels I stopped to get us these crazy expensive (and delicious) vegetarian Thai wraps for dinner. Turns out doing so almost made us miss our train. We were herded through security (I didn't know there would be security...) by a few scornful train station personnel only to arrive in our fancy seats and discover that our tickets included a hot meal. This poor, delicious, $12 Thai wrap ended up in the trash can when my kids opted for train food.
The scenery was gorgeous!
We arrived in London at 6:30pm. An hour later, with prayers that the front door lock would hold up against a boogie man sneezing down the hallway, we snuggled up in our beds and fell fast asleep, eventually.
Day 2- Tuesday
Changing of the Guards, Tower of London & a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Themed High Tea
Sam, our tour guide with British Tours, picked us up at our Airbnb (with a little bit of dismay at our chosen location) and took us to see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. Like any good, true, London tour guide, he did not take us to the palace to wait with the crowds. No, he took us to the warm up locations of both regiments and had us RUN ALONGSIDE them as they marched towards the palace for the ceremony.
Now you may think that running with a toddler the size of a preschooler on your shoulders next to a man you just met holding your other little girl on his shoulders while your two little boys trail along behind you doesn't exactly give you the happy, relaxing vacation vibes. To you I say where's your spirit?! Where's your adventure?! I dare you not to smile and enjoy yourself when standing three feet from a regiment of uniform clad Brits donning bearskin hats and playing French horns. Just you try it.
The kids got a chance to play on the playground in St. James Park by the palace before we took off for the Tower of London with our lovely, surprisingly swift and agile guide, Sam the man.
The Tower of London has a lot of interesting history that I'm not going to share here. It also houses the Crown Jewels which we did go see. Watch a documentary if you want to know more about it. But here are our photos which is really all that matters for this blog.
After the Tower of London, I Am Sam raved about my kids so I'd give him a good tip then dropped us off at 1 Aldwych for the kids' favorite part of our day- a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed High Tea!
Day 3- Wednesday
Double Decker Bus Ride, Sky Garden, London Eye, a cool playground, Rainforest Cafe, and Matilda the Musical
The children welcomed Wednesday's cloudy dawn with cries of "I'm hungry!" and "give me the remote!" So, I quickly hustled them out the door to begin our rainy day in London. I shelled out a couple bucks for a double decker bus ticket and we all piled in for the ride of our lives. The boys each grabbed a sister hand and popped right up to the top front seats. They enjoyed their view loudly and happily while groggy, work-bound bus passengers stared in a mixture of amusement and annoyance.
Once they tired of that, we hopped off the bus and discovered we weren't too far from the Sky Garden- a rooftop garden and cafe in one of the City of London's highest sky scrapers. The entrance was free and the kids *forced* me to take pictures of them.
I shuffled the kids over to the London Eye where we boarded one of the little pods straight away and took an electrifying 40 min journey around the largest ferris wheel in the world. This was the first time I can ever remember hearing Jane say, "I'm not having any fun doing this." LOL The other kids enjoyed it though. It was definitely a morning of great views!
Big Ben all covered in scaffolding.
I paid a couple extra bucks a ticket for these little binoculars that they loved.
The boys are looking at Buckingham palace in this photo. You can see it there surrounded by trees.
At the base of the London Eye was this great little playground. We would have stayed longer but it was time for lunch! We made our way toward a fish and chips restaurant I'd read about online, but along the way we passed a Rainforest Cafe. I decided the kids would really enjoy that experience, so we ducked in out of the rain for a lunch with elephants and gorillas and jaguars that the kids thought was absolutely magical.
Finally we sat down inside the Cambridge Theatre to watch the kids first live musical performance! Matilda was such a great show for their ages. The girls even made it a little into the second act before we had to go out and play in the lobby. I'm really glad we got to do this!
Day 4 - Thursday
Kensington Palace and the Diana Memorial Playground
After a quick viewing of Kensington Palace and its Sunken Garden, we were the first kids in the Diana Memorial Playground when it opened at 10am. We didn't leave until 5pm. I only got one photo of the kids, but I did run around to take a few more of the grounds before we left so I could share with y'all how great it was. There were so many more little pockets of play areas that I didn't take photos of. They played happily all day long. After 7 hours I had to drag Jane away kicking and screaming.
Day 5 - Friday
Train DIRECT!!! London to Rotterdam
We woke up at 5am to catch the train home. We were all tired and grumpy.