Happy new year! In lieu of a TBT scorecard this week, I will be posting about our trip to….London!
With five kids, and a big span of ages, not all trips work well for everyone, and I’ve been wanting my older kids to experience international travel, even though it’s very hard with the little ones. So, twice this past year we’ve split the family for trips. I took the big three kids to Paris over spring break, and now I took the big three to London for the week after Christmas.
It all seems somewhat like a dream now that I’m back at my desk on a Monday morning, but we made a lot of memories and had a good time. We flew over last Monday night (the 26th) and landed on the 27th. I half-slept a few hours on the plane — in the middle seat, lovely enough — though I’m not sure the kids did. We had booked one of our hotel rooms for the night before so we could go straight there upon arrival and we all slept for 2-3 hours there. (We had to book two adjoining hotel rooms, as almost no hotel rooms in central London will fit four people!).
We stayed right on Green Park, so very central. The first night we went to see A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic theater. This turned out to be one of the kids’ favorite activities of the week. It was a theater in the round, and you felt quite immersed in it. The actors played handbells and added a lot of actual carols to the Christmas Carol story, and so we quite enjoyed ourselves.
The next day we went to the Churchill War Rooms, and got a private tour of the map rooms. My 13-year-old and I found this fascinating (seeing the push pin marks where they’d noted where ships were!) though I think the others mostly tolerated it. After, we got fish and chips, and then did some (legal!) spray art in a tunnel known for such decorations. With a guide (who knew how to spray paint well!) we all created some pretty stellar letters. Then it was to a pub with board games for some Telestrations fun.
The next day we went to Harry Potter Studios — about an hour away in a London suburb. The 15-year-old and 11-year-old are massive Harry Potter fans (they’ve seen all the movies and read all the books) and so we enjoyed seeing the Great Hall, and Gringots, and the various costumes and props. Everything was decorated for Christmas, which was particularly festive.
The next day we had high tea at Browns — apparently where Rudyard Kipling used to hang out. Then that evening we went out exploring Christmas lights — the decorations at Fortnum & Masons, the tree and Christmas market in Trafalgar, and the lights at Covent Garden.
Then New Year’s Eve brought a baking class at the baking teacher’s apartment — we learned how to make scones, and sponge cake, and shortbread, which we then ate with tea. A more normal tea experience than Browns, I imagine! After that, my 13-year-old and I toured the British Museum (mummies and marbles…), and we went to the Winter Wonderland carnival in Hyde Park to spend the evening. The kids went on the giant Ferris Wheel there, but I stayed on the ground! We saw the fireworks from near Buckingham Palace and rang in the new year there.
Then it was a long long trip back home — but I watched BBC documentaries, and read two issues of The Economist, which feels like a very British way to spend a flight on British Airways. I’ve got some more photos from the trip posted over at Instagram (@lvanderkam).
International travel — and travel with kids — is never exactly easy. I’m spending today mostly recuperating. But I think it’s good to do, and as these things go, London was a relatively easy destination. I was also much more relaxed than I was with the Paris trip where we had the return-to-US Covid testing protocol hanging over our heads. I think within the next year we will start trying to travel with the younger kids too. The little guy just turned three, which means next winter he will be four. We went to London in spring of 2018 with the older three, when my daughter would have been 6, and I recall it being doable. So, we’re getting there…