We just finished a week in London. We actually come here every year to visit family, but we always look forward to the trip. One year we spent time seeing the major tourist sites, like the Changing of the Guard, the London Eye, another year we visited the Science Museum and took a bike ride in Camden Lock. I’ve posted a about prior trips to London on Traveling Mom:
So, since we come here every year, I wanted my kids to see new places and experience different parts of London. I never come with a set agenda, I like to wing it, and inevitably we find ourselves experiencing London like it’s all new again. Here are some of the highlights from this year’s trip:
I wanted to take my kids to Kensington Palace this trip to introduce them to the Royal Family. We’d been outside Buckingham Palace last summer for the Changing of the Guard and this year I wanted them to truly experience the “Royal” side of Britain. Now that they are 7 and 9 and seem to appreciate the history more than before. Plus, it’s the year of the Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, so there is a lot to celebrate. There are four state apartments that we explored: Victoria Revealed – 10 lavishly decorated rooms that tell the story of Queen Victoria’s life, in her own words from letters and diaries, from her birth in the Palace, through her childhood, ascension, marriage, periods of mourning and her own Diamond Jubilee; The King’s Apartments – grand architecture telling the stories of the courts of William and Mary, George I and George II in the 17th and 18th centuries; The Queen’s Apartments – more intimate rooms, lifting the curtain on the private lives of Mary II and Anne and the decline of the Stuart dynasty; Diana: Glimpses of a Modern Princess – a selection of five dresses work by Diana Princess of Wales at different points in her life.
When the kids started to get tired, as did I, we headed straight to Covent Garden for some free entertainment by street performers. The area is worked by street performers nearly every day of the year. Many of these performers make the majority of their money working nowhere else. And likewise, many of them have been performing at Covent Garden regularly for 10 years or more. We actually caught one performer (the one pictured above) who we remember seeing last year. They’re all very good performers, as a matter of fact, they have to all audition to perform at Covent Garden. We always grab something to eat and camp out on a curb. My kids spent the afternoon laughing through magic tricks, break-dancing and comedy….all for free.
After spending a good part of the week trying to get tickets for Matilda the Musical to no avail, I was hungry for theater. Fortunately, one day we stumbled into a small children’s theater called the Unicorn Theatre near the London Bridge just before a show was about to start. It was called “The Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth” for kids ages 7 and up. About to rain, and all of us tired from our trip to the top of the London Bridge, we all opted for the show, and what a treat it was. Based on the book by Eoin Colfer and directed by Matthew Lenton, the show included all professional actors and involved a plot that revolved around pirates and a family on holiday. The actors were all excellent thespians and were all impressed with the quality of the performance. The Unicorn was definitely a find for us this trip.
Tate Britain holds the largest collection of British art in the world. The gallery shows work from the last five centuries, including contemporary British art, in a series of free changing displays. Their main collection includes masterpieces by British artists such as Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Millais, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Sargent, Sickert, Hepworth and Bacon. The extraordinary work of JMW Turner can be seen in the Clore Gallery. We looked around and headed to their special expedition, Picasso & Modern British Art. Determined to really focus on the collection, I purchased the radio tour for all of us. The exhibit explores Picasso’s extensive legacy and influence on British art, how this played a role in the acceptance of modern art in Britain, alongside the fascinating story of Picasso’s lifelong connections to and affection for this country. It brings together over 150 spectacular artworks, with over 60 stunning Picassos including sublime paintings from the most remarkable moments in his career, such as Weeping Woman 1937 and The Three Dancers 1925. It was fascinating to read about his rise in the UK, as well as his impact on so many of the country’s famous artists. Best of all, my kids seemed to appreciate it.
We had a lot of child-friendly meals on this trip, but the one that stands out in our memory is Issy’s Milky Way, a new 50s style shake place in Islington’s Camden Passage. It’s a 1950s soda fountain that serves cheese toasties,shakes and scrumptious cupcakes. The jukebox, the Felix the Cat clock on the wall, the Elvis memorabilia, the Homemaker China all take you back in time, and my kids loved sitting at the counter watching the owner make traditional toasties. Located at 28 Camden Passage, this is a real throw back in time and was a great stop with the kids.
Expect to hear more about this trip in the coming weeks.
Disclosure: I paid my own admission into every attraction and restaurant mentioned above.