Mom and 2 teenagers, 2 days in LondonAuthor: Leah Diaz
Date of Trip: March 2012
Mom and 2 teens hit up London for 2 days. This could either be a great adventure or an epic fail. My itinerary was pretty lengthly and I really did want to make the most of our time there.
Arriving in London in the morning our first stop was the Tower Bridge. To get there we walked on the Thames walkway enjoying sun and scenery. The London Tower was a sight to behold and really hard to imagine many of the horrible things that happened here. History is great isn't it? Sitting by the river and eating a soft serve was a moment that I will always remember. We headed across the bridge by foot so that we could enjoy this great monument displayed in every movie about London. We boarded a city transit double decker bus that was included in our travelcard. No need for expensive tours just hop on the public transport however remember that the bus stops are reversed since you are in England and the cars are on the opposite side of the road.
Our afternoon consisted of a visit and tour of Shakespeare's globe which turned out to be a great stop. To make their study of Shakespeare more interesting I wanted the children to see the theater and relate it to their studies. There is something about having a tangible experience to help them learn easier. The tour was great and busy however if there are any play's during your visit I think they would be truly amazing. After feeling a bit enlightened we headed over to the London Eye. I know you are thinking it's a bit touristy and it is but there are reasons some things are visited by so many. Thank goodness it was not a busy time and we only waited for about 1 hour. We have heard that the wait time can be several hours. If you are in a hurry then it would be great to pre book your time online. There is a lot of things to do around the "eye". There is a café, gift shops, loads of picture opportunities, a great indoor arcade called Namco with super fast bumper cars and much more to keep yourself busy. The actual ride is a little slow but if it is a clear sky then you truly can see a lot of the city. Next a walk across the bridge to see Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament.
I tried to book a hotel that was close to everything and yet safe since mom and 2 kids alone with Canadian accents stands out and I wanted to blend in. Look for a hotel room with the washroom in your room. This is standard in Canada and the US but not here. Since safety was important I didn't want us to walk down the hallway in the middle of the night. We had a breakfast included as well which saved us valuable time and money. The breakfast was really only cereal, muffin and juice but it did the trick. Again don't expect a full out meal.
Dinner at Nando's was okay, nothing too amazing but it was quick and did the trick. Dining can be expensive but also time consuming and since we had a lot to do in a few days we spent most of our time on the attractions and less on the dining experiences which suited us just fine.
If you have never been to the London theatre than you are truly missing out. There are so many plays to see and all at very reasonable prices. For example tickets to see Wicked the Musical cost us $26 each. That is only a fraction of the cost to see it in our hometown when it came through here. Now I did book us tickets that said they had a limited view but when we got there we found out that they were great seats and we could see everything so I think I kinda lucked out on this one just a bit. My teenage son who is more into sports than music was complaining a lot about having to waste his time here but guess what he loved it. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone just a bit.
Not much sleep and we checked out of the hotel to head on down to Stamford Bridge home of Chelsea FC. I figured this one would really please my soccer loving son. We enjoyed the museum while waiting for our tour. Imagine my daughters surprise to find out that our whole tour was soccer playing teenage boys from various countries. Let's just say she didn't mind it one bit. The tour guide was fantastic and we loved to see how much rivalry there is between clubs. Even though my son doesn't cheer for Chelsea he did enjoy seeing himself in the opposing team's mirrors as his favourite players would have admired their hair one last time before hitting the pitch. Overall a great stop for us all.
Next stop was the Natural History Museum. Let me first say that the building itself is worth a stop. The staircases look like a scene from Harry Potter. Almost all museum's are free which is a price that I can't pass up. We checked our backpacks for a fee so that we could enjoy sometime without them. It is a good idea to map out your visit because you can spend a lot of time in here. Our highlights included the rocks, minerals, gems exhibit with an amazing variety in the collection. Take a look for the diamonds.
After hearing that London is a great city for shopping my daughter wanted to give it a try until she picked up a shirt at a store recommended to her. She then decided to forgo shopping since her budget was quite small. If you are interested in shopping then I am sure there are deals to be had but be prepared to spend some time finding them which is something that we just didn't have much of. Lunch it was.
A tour of London would not be complete without a visit to Buckingham Palace which didn't disappoint. Although not open to visitors at the time, you can still take your picture by the Palace. If you want to see the Changing of the Guard it is done almost everyday, check their website to make sure it is happening on the day you want to visit. We made our wishes in the fountain and took pictures of "the mall". Not an actual shopping center but that long road leading up to the palace lined with flags and in every movie depicting London.
Visiting London would not be complete without a picture inside a phone booth, on a double decker bus, a ride on the tube with it's announcement of "mind the gap", and getting a bit lost. With it's free museum's, many options for food and diverse hotel prices, London can be done on a budget. However you will need to be creative and pick a few different attractions to provide variety. Do your homework before you go and cluster together the attractions you want to visit so you don't spend too much time back tracking. Remember that just because it looks close on the map doesn't mean it is. We visited London Tower, Tower Bridge, Shakepeare's Globe, London eye, Namco arcade, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Stamford Bridge, Natural History Museum, Wicked the Musical all in 2 days. Busy but worth it.
Biggest budget saving tip: We were in England visiting family, we took the train into London using our tickets I was able to also get us some great deals for 2 for 1's to many of the local attractions saving us a lot of money. Follow the link for more info on how to save yourself a lot of money. You can also use the paper travelcard for the tube if purchased at a railway station to get this deal. http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/
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