Mother-Daughter Weekend in London
Travel teaches us all kinds of lessons. Unexpected lessons and new lessons and lessons we need to relearn time and time again.
Like sometimes the least expected adventures are the best.
Or that walking, even on a cold day, is the best way to see a place.
A long meal with good food and better company is the best time of the day.
Oftentimes we are disappointed by the flashy things that people try to sell us.
At the end of a great trip, it is still better to go home to the people we love.
And that London is always, always a good idea.
To celebrate our birthdays, Charlotte and I took a big girl trip to London over the long weekend dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. It was such a fantastic time getting away with her, as we looked forward to so many of the same things. Our goals were to do some shopping, enjoy tea, and take in a few sites. We took a short flight directly from Jerez to London Stansted, and hopped the train to our hotel in the heart of the city. I couldn’t recommend Hub by Premier Inn St. James Park more for those traveling in a small group. The rooms are super tiny but so smart in their use of space and the location could not have been more wonderful. Directly across from a tube, we were also less than five minutes from Westminster Abbey by foot.
We spent so much time walking to and from our destinations, and rarely opted for public transit. It was relatively cold for us, but we would grab a hot chocolate or coffee and cut through the parks to arrive at our destinations. We were able to see so many neighborhoods in our adventures by foot, and so many streets that I look forward to wandering down in another few years when my travel companion is more likely to enjoy the same shops as me.
Charlotte did spend a lot of time shopping and fretting on how to spend her birthday money. We spent more than enough time at Cath Kidston and Hamleys and John Lewis, debating purses and lip glosses and toys galore. She is such a mature shopper, so would talk herself out of most purchases. Unfortunately, she fell for several of the toys being promoted in the sensory overload that is Hamleys, only to get them home and realize that there was a lot of showmanship behind them in the store.
Another key stop was Kensington Palace, where Charlotte eagerly looked forward to viewing the collection of Princess Diana’s dresses. She was not disappointed in them, however, did expect a greater number on display. And after some of the amazing castles we’ve explored – most recently Chateau de Chillon – the more livable Kensington did not seem to fire up her imagination much.
After our tour of the palace, we stuck our head briefly into the Victoria & Albert Museum before whiling away a couple of hours in the Natural Museum of History. This was something we hadn’t planned, but that so amazed her. She loved to touch the rocks as she learned what water does to them over millennium, and to feel the ground shake in the earthquake simulator, and to see real life dinosaur fossils. This place was mobbed with families of young children, and it was obvious why. They were just so happy to be learning.
Due to our unexpected enthrallment, we then had to rush our walk to the Victoria Coach Station, where we hopped on a historic double decker bus for a B. Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus London Tour. This was the most anticipated stop of our trip. It was the perfect tea for young ladies, as there was constantly something moving by outside the window, and perfect in that we got to see so many of London’s most famous sites. The food was good, and Charlotte was quick to enjoy both savory and sweet treats. We were the only table not to need a take away box! We did have to take a bit of a stop to let the pro-Brexit protesters through, which was a great moment of democracy, watching these pleasant people voice their concerns. My girl seemed a bit underwhelmed by the end of the ride, but I think she was actually lulled into a completely relaxed state. After walking nearly four miles already that day, she was finally warm and very full and being driven around. While it was exactly as I imagined, Charlotte did mention that she thought it would be fancier. But by the end of the trip, she was mentioning it as a true highlight of our trip.
Another highlight was the British Museum, which we wandered to Sunday morning after mass at Westminster Cathedral. I had planned the British Museum because Charlotte has long been interested in Egypt and mummies. And that wing did not disappoint. But the real highlight was the Samsung Learning Centre. In this interactive room downstairs, she learned first about artifacts from the Ice Age. She then learned about animation, which she put into practice. Each child was given a tablet and movable Ice Age creatures and a backdrop to make their own animations. She absolutely loved this experience. And for me it was just another reminder of how much I appreciate cities. There is always some new experience, some new opportunity to learn and grow.
We’ve been given such a great gift, living in Spain, to see so many new cities and countryside. But there is also so much to be said for returning to known and loved places. I’ve been to London a handful of times now. I’ve repeated attractions and wandered many of the same streets. But I’ve learned something new each time, and I’ve come to appreciate it much deeper than I ever could have in one visit. Even at just two visits, Charlotte is able to talk about London more familiarly, to remember certain aspects of this place over time. She remembered the spot where Henry wasted a roll of her film, and the table where we had tea outside. She was confident in saying her truth that London is her favorite city. It was true after one visit and still true a year and a half later. Some places grow us and grow with us, always able to give us something we need in that moment. Whether we’re flu sick or homesick or just excited. A little girl, a college coed, or a young mom. And that’s an important part of traveling, that lesson that there are places that love us around the world.