|Stella went to school dressed as ladybug.|
Getting to London was an adventure alone. Unlike other European countries that we live near London requires you to go through an obnoxious immigration process much like an airport. This also requires you to arrive at least thirty minutes early, remove belts, keys, show passports. We were not prepared for this and my ticket with this information printed in French didn't not convey this information (Seth didn't peruse it either). So we missed our train. Luckily they booked us on the next one without penalty but it had us getting to London later than we wanted.
The country was beautiful, especially for February. The kids loved being able to be understood and used every chance they could to chat it up. You know the British are known for loving strangers who talk to them without being addressed first. Oh, wait. They were kind nonetheless.
What to Do With Small Children (when its February)
1. Victoria and Albert Museum They do a really good job keeping kids interested in what I thought would be a stuffy museum. When we went they had an exhibit based on a spider that spins gold silk and they created these beautiful tapestries. They had the kids make their own spiders and decorate them based on what inspired them in the museum. Stella and Tiger loved it.
|Stella was inspired by the tile floor more than the exhibit. Here she is coloring her golden spider.|
We also gave Stella the camera and let her snap away. Looking at the photos seeing a four-year-old's perspective looking at classical statues is pretty funny. We saw her snickering a few times but it was only when we saw the photos that we realized why.
|Art at child level.|
|Stella's view of the classical nudes.|
2. Natural History Museum Crowded but free, they have a great dinosaur exhibit. The human biology exhibit is stuck in 1979 so stick to the dinosaurs, whales, and other crowded exhibits.
3. Parks, parks, parks. We somehow packed Stella's small Razor scooter and she scooted around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Regent Park has a great playground area for kids.
4. Buckingham Palace Forget the palace hit the park across the street. They have a nice playground towards the Royal apartments. Our kids could have cared less about the changing of the guards.
5. Harrods A high luxury department store that has EVERYTHING. It is a fun place to look at but the prices are crazy expensive. It is a gorgeous store and it has a great little family cafe with ice cream when you become overwhelmed after looking at childrens designer Chloe and Prada. They had custom made race cares for the small price of 10,000 GBP.
6. Theatre (with an RE)
If I could do it all over again I would go and see Matilda. I tried too late to get tickets for me and Stella but the word on the street is this is the show to see in London right now.
The other place great for kids is called Little Angel Theatre. They have marionettes and shows geared towards kids. You can get there with via tube.
7. Carnaby Street Shopping
This was my favorite place to visit by far. The kids loved running and I wasn't worried about them getting hit by a cars driving on the wrong side of the road. It had such a fun energy. What does it say that shopping is more fun to me than museums. Be sure to hit Hamley's. It is a great toy store. Not hoighty toighty like Harrods but packed full of all sorts of reasonably (relatively) priced toys with demos on every corner. Pretty much a child's heaven packed in four stories.
We didn't escape too many restaurants under $50 (including breakfast). It was and is expensive and I don't see that changing. However if you are going to be dropping bucks you want to at least be comfortable. We went to Giraffe's and they had a very family friendly atmosphere without serving microwaved nasty food (ala Rainforest Cafe'). Giraffe's is near Sherlock Holmes' place (right off Baker Street) and had good food at a reasonable price and a great place for the little ones.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the London Hilton Metropole Hotel because it had the cheapest rates and it was nice. We got two conjoined rooms which was much cheaper than a suite. The hotel also had a pool so every night we had swim parties. The kids loved it but the pool was small, there were so many people wanting to use it we had to sign up in 30 minute increments and by the time we left the water was cloudy with a tint of green. Either way, it was nice for the kids. The concierge loved both of my babes and gave them balloons every night. They were so excited to come home every night and get their balloons.
My big complaint about the hotel was they failed to inform us they would be having a fire drill. We woke up from a nap at 4:00 in the afternoon thinking the building was on fire and that we had to go down 13 flights of stairs with two small children. The kids were screaming, scared to death and we were frazzled trying to get out of room before we burned to death.
Of course I was upset when we finally got to the ground floor to discover it was their WEEKLY fire drill. I am grateful that they have practices in place to make sure they alarms are working but they did NOT do due process in informing their guests. The rarely unleashed Fury of Sunny came out and I was livid. My mama bear came out. I was so upset and the manager did nothing to make me feel better. They felt that the 14 pt three paragraph sign in the elevator was more than sufficient. It wasn't. I feel that they are in my room every day and I really just don't see why a note or even a message on my phone the night before could not have been done. Poorly done Hilton, bad form. The manager kept repeating what I was saying, just like they learned in Hotel school but nothing other than repitition was done. So if you are thinking about staying here, I say skip it and go for a smaller hotel where they can manage their girth and let you know that no, you are not going to burn to death it is just a drill.
Overall, London was great. For me, it was a mental vacation where I got to hear the greatest language on Earth spoken. My ears were singing with comprehension. At the same time, the second we got to the Queen's island coins and bills bearing her image were drained from our pockets and my purse. It was PRICEY. Europe is pricey, London is super pricey. I am grateful we were only there for a weekend I don't know if we could have afforded much more time than that. We loved it and I hope to go back before we leave Brussels.