With my tourist hat on and our bags packed we headed to the one destination everyone was looking forward to-London! A joy and a challenge because we represent a wide variety of interest and we must figure it out in 4 days or less.
An early morning flight and a bus ride later we arrived bleary eyed at our hotel. We were in need of a late breakfast or an early lunch. Perhaps we could get lucky and find one on our way to the first point of interest, or maybe I needed to change the first stop of the day to put us closer to a pancake house? Either way I needed to find an Underground Station Manager to help me change a couple of the Oysters cards we picked up-to reflect the child discount fare.
We ran into a helpful fellow at Archway station who not only let us know one of our kids rode free but also the best way to get to where we wanted to go. He was so helpful, I couldn’t help but ask him to look at my ideas for our visit for tips to get to other places as well. I mean while he was looking at my them, why not ask him his view on things? Which is how our trip drastically changed for the better.
Some of the places I had in mind were several art museums, but we were told a place nearby called Kenwood House would probably be more to our liking. He recommended it both for the authentic pieces of work there, the history of the estate, the lovely gardens, and an enjoyable cafe. When we arrived, we didn’t think we would spend much time there. What we weren’t expecting was Sunday brunch! I could not have planned a better way to spend the morning than to enjoy a genuinely delicious and authentic full English breakfast. Oh! If only we weren’t so full we could have also enjoyed afternoon tea here as well!
Happy as can be we skipped off to see the house.
We enjoyed learning more about each of the art displayed and finished our tour of the house with a quartet practicing for a later performance. Wandering in the gardens we found a milking house where we learned that this was a true refined lady’s past time. There was a tasting and an opportunity to purchase jellies but I decided not to carry anything heavy. Instead I opted to take home the recipe for strawberry scones and a couple of trinkets from the souvenir shop inside the house.
We returned to the hotel for a late dinner. Mostly because we were exhausted and it was convenient. It turned out to be a good experience that we later repeated. Neko even claims after trying 5 other burgers on our trip, that this restaurant makes the best. High praise coming from him!
The kids were tucked into bed with Neko to watch over them while we made our way down to the Tower Bridge to see the city at night. The wind blowing over the river is chilly at night, but the view is beautiful!
It has become apparent that this crew is unable to mobilize and function before 11 am. The boys look at us with mild contempt because they have been waiting in the lobby for two hours-quietly. I promise them that this morning was a fluke. It’s not. We are all getting used to sharing a small bathroom between 4 girls. Despite my best intentions the next day proves it wasn’t a fluke, by day three we accept that this is the way things are and the boys learn to sleep in.
Today we head into the Underground and make our way to the Tower of London where we were happily led through its gruesome history by the notable and entertaining Yeoman Andy. Who received this assignment after a long an honorable service in the Royal Marines. We learned that several Yeomen are living with Multiple Sclerosis, including Andy who actively advocates for MS and fellow veterans. Seeing veterans continuing to serve their country and cultural heritage in a meaningful way warmed my heart. It reminds me that we must leave no one behind and continue to look for ways to make veterans a part of our community, while doing our best to treat them better.
Thanks to Andy we learned about the history of London, which apparently, I didn’t know was lacking due to my American education! Of course being such a cool dude he shared our group photo on Twitter. Where are we? You would have to zoom in but we are in the rear on the left. If you can spot Neko the giant who has his hoodie up, then you might catch my red highlights standing to the left… but the rest of us are short so good luck!
— Andy (@toweryeoman) May 8, 2017
While picking up our Heritage cards we learn that the Hampton Court Palace is an all-day adventure. Leaving the Tower, we decide to make better use of our day by checking out Kensington Palace instead.
It turned out to be a favorite for any Princess Diana fan! A couple of us enjoyed looking at each of her outfits on display and reading about the design and the role each dress played.
Heading back to High Kensington station we came across a few places to eat reasonably. Our favorite was the Whole Foods which had a good selection for hot take away plates and several dining options upstairs. Between Whole Foods and Kensington Palace was an American Diner and a Mexican restaurant, but the train station itself was stocked with plenty of options! The only regret is I didn’t realize in time that the Diana Memorial Playground was north of Kensington Palace. We didn’t go far enough because we were distracted by the beautiful garden nearby and then darkness fell.
We begin our day at the Science Museum! It was deceptively bigger than anticipated and we were overwhelmed with choices for every area of science imaginable! When we finally forced ourselves to leave, the gift shop was loaded with books I felt we needed to take home! No one felt inclined to carry the additional weight. *sigh* The activity guidebook for the kids was a neat way to extend our visit. Doubling as a souvenir and an activity book!
Across the street we found the other museum recommended to us-the Victorian and Albert Museum! There was so much to see, we don’t know if they offered an activity book for kids. We were simply amazed at the different works of art, the different cultures represented, and the different time periods.
If you are hungry the cafe is absolutely stunning and a worthwhile experience if you have the time!
I think it is fair to mention I was juggling several dietary requirements for our party. The most challenging was finding vegetarian fare while avoiding tomatoes, cucumbers, and mushrooms. Attempting to find food with a bunch of snapping unicorns around is no fun. My notes for this area were a bust! Didn’t someone say there was a rooftop terrace that would be perfect for us? Apparently, I didn’t write it down. But oh, look, the map says there are two cafes in Hyde park! After a bit of walking it turns out their vegetarian offerings wouldn’t work for us. Hyde Park was lovely but better suited for bicyclists and lawn loungers. Cranky and delirious we hightailed it out of there to a place we knew could take care of us. Love, Peace, and Harmony was once again restored!
Revitalized we grabbed a bus to Wellington Arch and walked to Buckingham Palace, wrapping up the evening with a walk in St James Park and a look at Big Ben!
It’s time to experience the magical world of Harry Potter! Wake up! Wake up! In all of our excitement I didn’t understand that I needed to cross over to the London Overground and instead grabbed the Northern Line to Edgeware. Arriving at the end of the line there was nothing else to do at this point but take the bus 142 to Watford. It was an inexpensive mistake that afforded us another opportunity to ride the Double Decker bus. But who cares! It got us there and now we are ready to experience a little movie magic!
On our way back I found a direct train line that would cost us a little bit more for a quick ride back into London. We took the 20 minute non-stop ride to Euston and made our connection to Golders Green, where we discovered our navigation error from earlier. While waiting for our transfer to our next accommodation, for the safety of the group I began to predict when the next stabby unicorn would emerge. There was no restaurant near our next location so we scouted the area and was surprised to find a nice Korean restaurant that met our needs.
Satisfied, we turned in our Oyster cards and boarded our transfer to our cottage in the country side for a well-deserved rest before heading home to begin the next leg of our trip!
We had such a great time it is hard to a pick a favorite! We can’t wait to come and visit again!
Here are a few places we are keeping in mind for next time;
- Hampton Court Palace, Maze and Magic Garden
- Greenwich Observatory
- Fan Museum and tea in the Orangery
- Take in a Broadway showing
- Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton
If you like this London post and want a chance to win a Goody Box from our travels, enter the giveaway link below!