She Said Edition: London 2017 Highlights
While I didn’t count on falling to the flu on our first day in London, I did plan a great itinerary, I think. By sticking to just one main attraction each day, and lots of time allotted for getting to and fro and such, we were able to make sure we hit our priorities without any pressure. We were even able to squeeze in some extras. I’ll run through my highlights below, with a promise that Dennis is going to be back to round out all of the awesome stuff he did with the kids.
A month or so before our trip, we ordered a couple children’s books to help familiarize our kids with the sites we would be seeing. This is something we often try to do, and for once it was really very successful. The Tower of London is one of the attractions that was highlighted in all our books, and so we went into it looking forward to seeing Beefeaters and ravens in real life. Although the Beefeater who led our tour was very entertaining, he unfortunately was a bit too long winded for the kids, so we didn’t make it very far into his tour. We did participate in a great live show though, that featured reenactors from various groups who tried to storm the castle. Our kids loved the drama, and getting to help decide who was ultimately successful.
It really is amazing how traveling changes once you have kids. I was probably most excited to see the Princess Diana Memorial Playground within Kensington Gardens. The hype of this Peter Pan-themed playground got to me, but I was not disappointed. It was full of pirate ships and mermaid lagoons, musical instruments tucked into the woods and a pint-sized village for our smallest traveler. Our kids were entertained the whole morning, and only lured away with a promise of tea and sweets. We never lost a child, which did require some work on our part, given that there were secret entrances to each of the playground sections. But overall, it was an easy win for us parents.
Over the summer school break, the kids and I often had Friday Afternoon Tea. Even Henry had gotten very good at sitting nicely in his chair and drinking his tea as properly as a three-year-old boy could. Charlotte and I were so looking forward to putting all of our practice to the test with a proper tea in London. In my past visits, I had loved taking a tea break in The Orangery in Kensington Gardens, and so looked forward to sharing it with the rest of the family. Unfortunately, we discovered you can no longer pop in for an a la carte tea, but instead had to do the full afternoon tea. Instead, we opted to move across the garden and got a couple pots of tea from the Palace’s cafeteria, which we drank outside on the patio. While it wasn’t what I had planned, it was still a beautiful scene and about what we could handle. And most importantly, the kids said it was one of their favorite parts of the trip.
Another highlight of our summer teas was discussing one of the works of art from Katie's National Gallery Adventure, which follows a favorite storybook character through the famous (and free) art museum. I was so thrilled that we managed to squeeze in a quick dash through the gallery. While they didn’t have hardcopies of the book, I downloaded the book on my phone, and without hardly trying, we managed to find all of the pieces we had “studied.” And just as I had hoped, Charlotte and Henry recognized each painting, connecting them to our experience. If only Cora was more easily distracted.
All in all, advance planning paid off on this trip, and the kids were engaged through almost all of it. Not that we believe in catering to them in all that we do, but it helps on a family vacation if most everyone in the family is enjoying themselves. We considered which landmarks were worth touring, which requires a lot more effort on our part, and which we would be happy to just walk around (and save for a future trip). We pared back our itinerary a few times, but I think ultimately that allowed us to focus on the priorities with plenty of time for leaf fights in front of Buckingham Palace – easily one of my favorite memories from the fall. They won’t remember that moment, but I certainly will.