Tours, Palaces, Jubilee, an Eye…Oh My!
Yes, that is really what I wanted use as the headline to this installment. But, I cringe at what that impact would have on my son as he’s learning to read. Entirely too well.
A quick entertainment AND travel tip? Getting to London and doing the Hop on Hop Off tour is a must in ANY major city and London is no exception. Being “creatures of habit” we did the “Original Sightseeing Tour”, which we do everywhere. It is like Starbucks to us (side note: Costa coffee in London is much better). For the first portion we went with the Live Guide and he was Amazing. Now, that is not to dismiss the audio tour, but I really appreciated some of the inside history the gentleman gave, specifically of the Beatles. The good thing was is that we did upgrade and get the 24 hour pass, as there was no way we could do a full London tour in a single day with a 4yo…
We knew we wanted to see the London Eye and go on the Thames River Cruise, but we were not in the waiting mood. I bought the combo pack of the River Thames Guided Cruise together with the London Eye. You could schedule the tour on any date you wanted, I selected the next day for the river and got the “Fast Pass” to the head of the Queue for the London Eye. The line snaked around several times, I was thankful I did. The London Eye, was fab and completely worth it. At 4, Shane “qualified” for a small gift bag which included small binoculars. He carried them around everywhere after that, everywhere. More on that one later. We got to take our guide Thames River Cruise, while nice and full of great information, on a day that felt more like early March than late May.
With the imminent Jubilee and the Olympics, things were buzzing in London. Union Jacks were flying and the Queen’s face was in too many faces to count. My son liked walking by the Olympics count down clock in Trafalgar Square. Yet the next question he asked was justified as he had just seen “Queen Elizabeth II 1952-2012”. He said, “mom, when did the Queen die?…” I had to quickly explain that she was alive and well, probably knitting and playing with her Corgis.
Next, what will this boy think of his mother desperately wanting to take him to Palaces? Can you think of anything more boring than being 4 and walking around musty old bedrooms and looking at dusty chandeliers with your mother tiptoeing around like a wide-eyed lunatic? Even at four years old you would know she has seen too many Disney movies and her unhealthy obsession with Prince Harry has got to be stopped.
Kensington Palace was on a large sweeping area of lush greenery in the middle of London. The palace was not musty, nor dusty. Divided into four areas displaying a typical Queen’s apartments with the theme of Queen Mary and King William, the King’s (James I&I) apartments, an area with tribute to Princess Diana and, lastly, Queen Victoria Revealed. We started with Diana and were able to view 3 of her dresses. We saw several photos of her, specifically ones with her boys. I loved when my son asked about them and where they were now. A guard spoke up, after I told him that Prince William just got married, “we are preparing a portion of the palace for he and the new Princess Catherine to live her, maybe his brother, Prince Harry, too”. My son got such a smile of relief on his face, so sweet. There were all sorts of interesting nooks in the palace, things to look at up close. We I liked the whispering window seats the best. You sat on a window sill and then could hear whispers begin of all the gossip from the former Kings and Queen’s members of the court. Just as my son could “palace no more”, we came across the kid’s coloring station. He was able to make a Royal crown for himself, King Shane!
Not to be out done, we needed to go see the infamous, Tower of London. What went down in that crazy place? We had an excellent guide, one of the Beefeaters, and I was glad to see many other children in our tour group. I was concerned about the whole bit about Ann Boleyn and company’s fates being described. But he made it actually comedic. Because, quite frankly, this many years later, what can you do?
What kid does not love a good playground? The best, in my opinion, was the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Playground. However, my son prefered a very simple space. It was set in St. James Park, with a gigantic sand pit, great shade and, oh, a nearby Ice Cream stand. It was a stone’s throw from the Palace and across the street from Wellington Barracks and Guard Museum. It seemed that each afternoon, when we were there, Soldiers were marching and playing music. Any time my son heard this, with the loud drumming, trumpets, tubas, etc, he would say, “Hey mom, it’s the Star Wars Music again”. It could have been “God Save the Queen” and he was likening it to the “Star Wars” theme… But hey, he loved the place and it was a beautiful set up.
Lastly, yes we did go cruising through Covent Gardens, the Seven Dials, Regent Street, Chelsea and the Legendary Harrod’s. On the days I had the jog strollers we learned had to use the Handicap elevators, they were tricky and you need to keep the button pressed the entire time. Oh and those binoculars? He was a few steps away from me in a store and decided to “look for me” by using them to look up into dressing rooms with them. Fortunately, I turned around and no “knickers” were viewed in the process, just empty rooms.
So my little traveling buddy and I became expert users of the Tube and aces of knowing where we were going. He knew Underground travel etiquette and when to start nagging me to get out my Oyster Card. The Oyster Card is highly recommended! We started to scuff at taking cabs, we were Tube takers and just focused on taking it all in. Honestly, nothing is easy, you have to know your 4yo’s limits. Because when a Preschooler is unhappy–ain’t nobody happy! But, if you are looking to save some Quid coming from the Airport to the hotel, look into taking the some riding train to Paddington Station, then getting a cab from there. You avoid traffic, certain times of the day, and get to your destination much quicker after a long flight.
Leaving London, we were a bit bummed. But, we wish a “Happy Diamond Jubilee” to the Queen and go from Cheers to…