A few weeks ago, we took a quick trip to London. Can you believe that we have lived in Dublin for over three years, but hadn’t been to London yet? My sister and mother were going to be in town, and my brother-in-law would be passing through London on his way back from the middle east, so we decided to take a long weekend all-together in London (minus Brad, who was in the US for a conference). We flew out on Friday, and back on Monday, so we didn’t have a ton of time, but we certainly packed in the sights! A few highlights:
We took in Hyde Park. I love urban parks in Europe. Quiet, sophisticated, relaxed…there is just something about the parks in Europe that is missing from US parks. We had lunch at the Lido Cafe near the Serpentine Lake, and then found a chicken coop, playground (shocker!), and then an adorable ice cream truck. The weather was cool, but felt so much warmer than Dublin without the brisk wind off the Irish sea!
Did I mention that we forgot that it was a three-day weekend in London? Ooops. Luckily, the kids wake up at the crack of dawn (and the dawn cracks early this time of year…) We made it to the Natural History Museum before 10:00am. We had to walk through what felt like miles and miles of empty queues, but the museum staff said they queues would be filled before noon. We spent about 2 hours looking at their awesome dinosaur exhibit, and their life-size model of the blue whale. There was so much more to that museum that we didn’t see – I’d love to go back. As we left, I looked back towards the entrance, and sure enough, there were people queued to enter.
In the afternoon, we went back to Hyde Park to visit the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. If you are visiting London with kids, I can’t recommend this playground enough. (And we have been to plenty of good playgrounds.) It had an enormous pirate ship in the middle of an even bigger sand pit. It also had play structures for older kids and little kids, plus picnic areas, a cafe, toilets and changing facilities.
We got a later start on Sunday, as we had brunch with Taylor and Evan, and then decided to take the bus from Marble Arch to Westminster. It was a regular London bus – I can’t remember the route number, but it was like a mini-tour of sights in London! We saw Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square – where we saw one of the more memorable sights of our trip. As we were making our way through the square, a group of men came running through the intersection clad in nothing but multicolored briefs. “Look!! Mom!! Those men are running in their UNDERWEAR!” And to every person who has asked, “What did you see in London?” my kids have answered, “Men running in their underwear!”
We saw the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben, but the crowds were absolutely HUGE. So we quickly decamped to see the Tower Bridge, which the kids really enjoyed. We ate lunch at a wonderful restaurant – Perkin Reveller. Great food, lovely design, and wonderful service – especially for the kids. Near such a major landmark, and in the height of tourist season, I had decidedly low expectations, but it was a great stop. Highly recommended!
Sunday Evening we rode the London Eye. Naturally, it hadn’t rained all day…until about 30 minutes before we rode the Eye. Sigh. The views were still great, and the kids liked riding in the pod. (Pro tip: Paying for the “Fast Track” tickets is worth it. Instead of waiting in a loooooong line, (in the rain!), we collected our tickets and waited about 15 minutes before boarding.)
So there you go – a very quick trip to London! We packed in a bunch of sights, some good family time, etc. One thing I realized over the course of the weekend is that the kids are not ready for a “walking” city like Rome or Paris. I had to haul the stroller up and down the stairs of the Underground, and as much as Patrick insisted (loudly!) that he could walk, he just isn’t ready for walking-sightseeing. A few more years perhaps!