For our second day in London, we wanted to hit some of the big highlights of the city–the things we’d talked about with the kids for months on end and they were really excited to see. We got late morning tickets for a tour of the Tower of London, and we got twilight tickets for the London Eye.
It’s always easier to buy tickets for this kind of thing online in advance, in my opinion. You may still have to wait in line to actually get in to the place, but at least you don’t have to wait in line twice — once to buy tickets, and then again to get in. Also, I feel like you’re more likely to find discounts and deals if you go the online route. When you’re standing in line with 30+ people waiting behind you, you don’t always have time to figure out the best deals.
We woke up pretty late that day, which we planned for, but it was 10AM when we all rolled out of bed — by far the latest our family has ever slept in anytime, anywhere! By the time we got up and dressed, breakfast at our little hotel was over. So we walked down the street and got breakfast in a patisserie. Matt got the full English breakfast, which was HUGE. It’s not my favorite combo of foods, though, so I stuck with eggs. The kids were all excited because they each got hot chocolate or decaf cappucinos and felt very grown up.
We headed to the underground — which we now felt we had mastered after our single trip the day before — and without issue or confusion got passes for the day and made our way to the Tower of London. Anyone who’s traveled on public transportation in an unfamiliar place with any number of children probably understands what a triumph that is — to not have gone the wrong way even once, to not have stood staring at route maps and debating the proper direction, to not have to ask for assistance in figuring out the appropriate fare cards for a family of six…well, it seemed like a major victory. Good start to the day.
The Tower of London was one of my very favorite places when I visited England on my single prior trip fifteen years ago. It is such a dramatic place, so huge and ancient against the relatively modern city that surrounds it, and so full of cool and gory stories of imprisonment and beheadings.
We did a guided tour so we could learn a little about what we were seeing. Our tour guide, while very funny and very informative, walked extremely fast, which I’m sure he has to do in order to get through the tour in a timely way, but that made it hard to keep up and keep track of all the kids. We basically speed walked between stops and then squished the children up to the front of the crowd each time the tour guide spoke — if they stood in the back of the pack, they simply couldn’t see anything or hear anything and got quickly frustrated.
After the guided tour, we walked the grounds ourselves for a while and there were some really cool hands-on demos of medieval weapons that the kids loved — including an archery station where they could see how difficult it was to pull back an arrow on a bow and then track how well they aimed on a virtual screen. There were tons of suits of armor and coins and clothing and weapons on display, including this dragon made entirely of weaponry and armor.
Unfortunately, we did NOT go in to the museum in the Tower to see the Crown Jewels, which was the part I was actually most looking forward to. The line was just too long — a 45 minute to an hour wait just to get in — and we were all getting hungry again at that point. We know we’ll be going back to the Tower though, just about any time we have visitors come over from the States, so we’ll be sure to go back on a weekday next time when the lines will hopefully not be so long.
We left the Tower and went straight to lunch at Pret-a-Manger, which was immediately across the road. I remember when I came to London in college and Pret was my favorite lunch place — I basically ate there every day and tried something new each time. Bridget immediately declared that it was her favorite place to eat, and the boys agreed. It’s my top recommendation for lunch with a big group because there’s so much variety that everyone can find something they like.
We took the tube back across the city to Leicester Square and walked a bit, then got ice cream again and sat in the grassy area in the center of the square.
As the evening closed in, we made our way back toward the London Eye, crossing the Thames on the Millennium Bridge again, and hit our new favorite playground while we waited for our time to get in line for the Eye. There was another ride near the playground that Bridget and Owen really wanted to go on. This one looked like it was going to be scary, but it was actually just kind of relaxing and cool.
Gabe definitely didn’t want to do that ride. In fact, he was a little scared about even getting on the London Eye because he doesn’t like heights and he doesn’t like fast rides. As we sat beneath it at the playground, though, he could see that it was moving so slowly you could almost not tell it was in motion. Then he felt a little better about it.
The next morning, we woke up, cleaned up, Matt picked up our rental van, we thanked our lucky stars that it was big enough for all six of us AND our 21 bags (just barely), and we made our way out of London to the countryside to begin phase two of our adventure: moving in to our new house!