Visiting London with kids

london

london

Changing of guard at Buckingham Palace

Changing of guards

friends

brighton

London

The last ten days, we’ve been whizzing around the south of England. Surrey, countryside, Brighton, Guildford and three days in London. I lived in London for about a year, eleven years ago. Gregor lived there for six. And with me being half English, we had lots of friends and family to catch up with.

We were welcomed into many homes during our stay. And people were so generous. Each home came with not only a bed, and warm, delicious food, but at least one new best friend for the girls. And in some cases, two or three.

I loved that once through the door, bags down, bed selected, the girls virtually made themselves at home; holding hands with their host, accommodating to their hosts’ way of life, and chatting incessantly.

How lucky I am to have not one, but two adaptable, easy going girls to haul around various parts of Europe. Soon, it will be them hauling me, as they rush to catch up with another new and wondrous friend.

Generally, I like England. I had to convince Gregor, though, that the fields were green {not brown}, and subways are not that terrifying.

As we neared each subway station, his clutch on our girls increased. I could almost hear his heart beat faster.

I wonder how suited we are to London life. Maybe it’s a life you become accustomed to over time.

We wandered through busy London streets, dropping by Queen Elizabeth, to see if she’s home {she wasn’t, but she kindly arranged for a marching band and a bunch of guards to walk in formation, when we arrived}.

There was no dog poo on the streets, like there tends to be in The Netherlands, but still, the streets were fairly grimy.

My girls stuck close, thankfully, but their sweet little bumpkin selves were in slight contrast with a certain abruptness on the streets. My eldest would enthusiastically smile and wave at passing red buses. She was very disappointed when no-one waved back. Or even smiled.

Skipping and singing up the stairs of the subway, a rough English un-gentleman almost pushed both kids over. He was so mad to be stuck behind such frivolity.

On streets, drivers wagged angry fingers, and grimaced, if we crossed roads incorrectly.

When my daughter ran across a busy Brighton street, on a red light, I nearly chocked. Thankfully, she was okay.

Having said all that, we really did make the most of our time there, visiting the blue whale and the almost live t-rex at the Natural History Museum, and wandering through spaceships and various other awesome inventions at the Science Museum.

We ate curry, and almost visited the Queen. We ran through daffodil gardens and restrained from feeding hungry birds in St James’ Park. We paid our respects to Big Ben.

While my husband was perhaps a little anxious about losing small children, and aggressive punters, I felt fairly relaxed in the big smoke.

I think if I had to write a guidebook for country pumpkins visiting London, or any equivalent city, I would include this:

Bring child carrying equipment

I ended up carrying my youngest most of the way around. At some point, I remembered to bring the sling, which she has completely grown out of, but I have to say, made my life easier. Even if it meant I had one less child to think about. A pram or stroller could be even better.

Spend time in gardens

If the weather is reasonable, there are plenty of gardens to puddle about in, and escape from the big smoke and the grime. We spent hours hanging with the birds in St James’ Park. For a moment, I didn’t have to worry about a child getting run over. And they can get their fill of chlorophyl and possible vitamin D.

Use GPS

I have done quite well not having a sim-card whilst in Europe, and relying only on wifi. But in England, I am really glad I had access to Google Maps. I used it to find subway stations, get my bearings, and find my way home. Driving in London would have been impossible without Maps.

Visit museums

If you are like us, and struggle with the weight of the pound upon your shoulders, possibly give up converting currency, and also hang around the wonderful {free} museums. I cannot believe these amazing collections are fully subsidised. There is so much to see, and of course every punter on the streets is thinking the same thing {so keep sight of your children while you are there.}

I recommend dropping by the incredible blue whale and the t-rex in the Natural History Museum. We didn’t make it to the mummies at the British Museum, but I know that would have gone down well too.

Make a back-up plan

On the subway, I was haunted by a Louie episode, where one of his daughters gets left on the platform as the train door closes. It has to be a parent’s, and child’s, worst nightmare.

We were paranoid such a thing would happen to us, so talked about what would happen if it did. Our plan was to get off on the next platform, and wait.

Avoid peak hour

Not only do trains get more expensive at peak hour, they get hectic. It made our trip twice as long, as we stood among hoards of busy commuters waiting for a space in a packed train. Way more chance of losing a child.

Try not to do too much

If I was on my own, I could have made a dense itinerary of Liberty visits, independent bookshop visits and meandering through Chelsea. With kids though, we tried to minimise our mission. And when kids were too tired, we knew when to quit.

Sing Disney songs

Actually, this is my trick for travelling with kids anywhere. Singing Disney songs, like Colours of the Wind, and Whole New World is not only my personal pleasure, it is to the delight of my children. When children are tired and grumpy, and you are struggling up the hill towards home, I recommend belting out a rendition of Hakuna Matata.

Have you been to London with kids? What are your tips?

  • Tigerlilly

    Wow! Is that Rosie in the green parka? They’re growing in size as well as experience. Wonderful to see you are having an amazing trip.

    • No that’s Elka. She insists on wearing a three-year-old jacket though! x

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