Last week all of us spent a few days in London – although we live 30 minutes away, our children have not seen as much of it as I’d like so I wanted to show them some of the main attractions – Cutty Sark, the Observatory (where the Prime Meridian line is), Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, South Bank Centre, Big Ben, London Eye….you get the picture!
We drove to East London where our chosen hotel was (Doubletree Hilton, Rotherhithe) – on the river as we wanted to use water taxis to get around. Then our first stop was to Greenwich to see the Cutty Sark.
Now I have to ashamedly admit that I have never seen the Cutty Sark but I am so glad that we went. She really is glorious. History check: she is a British clipper ship built in 1869 and was one of the last to be built before sailing ships were replaced with steam ships. She was one of the fastest ships and carried different types of cargo across the world including tea and wool. My boys were not as interested in the history as they were in the structure of the ship and we spent a while just admiring her before we started on our uphill walk from the banks of the Thames to the Royal Observatory.
And boy was it worth it for this view!
The City skyline was a fantastic reward after the 30 minutes climb which wouldn’t have been so bad if it were not for the scorching 30 degrees temperatures! Once here, we made our way into the observatory for some welcome shade and to see the prime meridian, the point in the world where longitude is at 0 degrees.
The boys did the usual touristy photo of having each foot astride the meridian line and then were bored! After a tour of the observatory, we walked next door to the Planetarium where we watched two shows: Phantom of the Universe which explained the Big Bang and focussed on what dark matter is, and then ‘Meet the Neighbours’, which explored our neighbouring planets and stars. This was well worth the ticket price and we will definitely be back for more of these highly informative and entertaining shows.
The eventful few hours had made us rather ravenous, so we popped into Sticks n’ Sushi in Greenwich for some…sushi and meat sticks before heading back on the river taxi to the South Bank. I wanted to see the Nelson Mandela exhibition which was showing here and had read the South African leader’s biography to the boys before our arrival. The exhibition was smaller than I’d expected but was nonetheless fantastic, detailing each part of Mandela’s life together with pictures. We were all humbled by the journey of this incredible man and I hope my children took just a little bit of inspiration away with them.
This was a very long day packed with a heavy itinerary! So after a full English breakfast, with very full stomachs our first stop was the Tower of London. The last time we came here was to see the Poppy exhibition, back in 2014 which commemorated the centenary of the start of the First World War. On that occasion we didn’t go into the grounds but this time we did and our number one destination was to see the Crown Jewels, which were just as good as we though they’d be! We also managed to speak to and take a picture with one of the many beefeaters (ceremonial guardians of the Tower). We also snapped one of the the Ravens of the Tower – also meant to be protectors of the Crown and the Tower. Legend has it that if the ravens are captures, lost or fly away, then the Crown will fall and Britain with it!
Next stop was London Bridge which was a brisk walk down King William street – we also managed to stop off at the Bank of England Museum on the way where the boys partook in a kids quiz and were rewarded with two gold coins each (of the chocolate variety) and a gold bullion (pin badge!)
We saw Pudding Scene where the Great Fire of London started back in 1666 and saw the monument which commemorates it.
Then after a quick lunch at Brigadier Indian restaurant (a must do if you are in the City of London as it was divine!), we popped over the St Pauls Cathedral for Evensong and then walked across the ‘Wobbly’ Millenium Bridge. Throughout our walks through this area, both Tony and I pointed out to the boys all the building we had worked in during our 20 years here. It was quite nostalgic to be back here, and although many things had changed, it was still the same place!
Onto Trafalgar we walked, passing by the South Bank again, London Eye, and Trafalgar Square, stopping to see the pigeons of which there are not too many these days. I’m not quite sure where they went but I’m not sorry to see they’ve left either!
So a really busy day…but it still wasn’t over! We now split up – 2 of us went to the theatre to see ‘The Comedy about a Bank Robbery’ and my youngest and I went to see Aladdin – the musical. It was definitely the right decision to split up – there was lots of singing and dancing to keep my littlest entertained, especially as he knew a lot of the songs. In contrast the comedy play was totally up the street of the eldest! Lots of laugh out loud scenes, I am told!
So there you have it – two full days in London – great fun and entertainment and fully worth it. And as for Day 3, well we had a brief tour of Canary Wharf, where the big man used to work too, and then headed west in the car to Gordon Ramsey, Royal Hospital Road for some lunch – a reward for my eldest doing really well in his Year 6 exams. I’ll post a review of that soon!