In light of the fact we have never taken the boys to our Capital, I thought we should get a wriggle on.
I managed to convince 2 lovely friends in Leyton that they wanted my 2 boys and me to crash on their sofa one Tuesday night; the first hurdle was won. They wouldn't find out we were a nightmare till it was too late! I tentatively packed 2 days worth of gear for all 3 of us in my Adventure Pack. Clean pants (check) Toothbrushes (check).
I booked stuff:
National Express return from Bristol (£37)
'Original Tour' open topped London bus- with Tower of London (£87)
We set out early to get the most out of our London adventure, leaving Daddy to go back home and to work to finish his remaining 8 days of employment.
The bus was fine- I wondered how the boys would cope with 3 hours sat in a seat... They surprisingly turned their nose up at the David Walliams audiobook I had downloaded- but thank goodness for their playlists. I was actually grateful for Justine Bieber: It had to happen at some point, I guess.
When we got off the coach at Victoria it was 31 degrees. So hot! It was like we stepped into a furnace- a very crowded, tourist riddled furnace, where there were no road signs or shade. It was all sort of ok so we headed to Buckingham Palace as it was so close from the coach station- we happened to see the changing of the guards! Whoop!
It was a baptism of fire and quite stressful but the antidote to this was to get on our tour bus. It was lovely, after the stress of Buckingham palace to just sit and be talked to about the history around us. The boys were too hot to complain and it was exciting to see all the famous landmarks. F was most keen to see the 'GOVERNMENT'. At school last year he told the teachers all about Guy Fawkes. The true comedy was that he wasn't sure whether Guy Fawkes was a goody or a baddy for trying to blow the place up. I think we've involved him in too many discussions about bombing Syria (oops) and we have a 5 year old anarchist in our midst *proud*.
We fought our way through The City where the traffic was stationery, we were bored and hot. Finally we reached the Tower of London where we had a massive Ice cream for lunch. It was really too hot for anything else, and well, I fancied one too, we deserved it. Cold, creamy deliciousness!
The staff at the tower of London were amazing, from the security guards talking in rhyming slang to the actors in character representing historical figures... right up to the old guy in the 'Royal mint' who helped us press a coin. We explored the grounds, saw Henry VIII chamber and of course the Crown Jewels which was F's favourite. The boys LOVED it- they could see the fortress, the moat (we avoided the dungeon.) the Armoury. So much to see and F even got pecked by a raven when he tried to stroke it so it felt like a truly authentic experience.
Naturally we had to try to engage the Scots Guard in conversation, and I consider the almost imperceptible nod of his head to be a victory. F kept saying how sweaty he looked and there was a glimmer of a smile.
After the Tower, we had another Ice Cream (win!) and caught the tube to Leyton to see friends we hadn't seen in ages. We all coped ok with the tube at rush hour- i had 2 hands free to keep hold of the boys and they were briefed- stay close and do as I say. The Underground staff saw us and beeped us through the turnstiles each time which was helpful. The smell of the bodies and the sound of the scraping metal when the train was moving got a bit much for F, so I put the earphones in and played the audio book so he couldn't hear the noise. A was a protective big brother. We found a corner on the train by the hand rail and they felt safe- in actual fact it was easier than I anticipated as the boys are quite used to crowds. Glastonbury has been good training.
Onwards to Kev, Sam and Seb's- lucky for us to have home comforts in the midst of our London adventure; it was the perfect contrast to all the touristy nonsense. Oh and they had a snake- a Ball Python called Rosie who was a friendly soul and the cherry on the top of a big adventure cake!
We got the tube again- this time we were practised and handled it like pros. We stopped at Russell Square for A to feed the tame squirrels and F to chase pigeons which is his favourite pastime, then caught the tour bus again (2 days for the price of 1 in September. yay!).
We drove around enjoying a nice sit down and looking at beautiful buildings. We made it to the Natural History museum. They LOVED the Red zone- even more so than the dinosaurs, surprisingly. We spent the morning hanging out and playing interactive games and built our own volcano. The earthquake simulator was too realistic however, F was terrified so we quickly moved on....
It was 31 degrees again. Sweltering hot- I googled 'splash parks in London' and Timeout came up with the V&A. As we were right next door, we went in to the museum and stripped off to make the most of the cool water. Sounds idyllic doesn't it?
Well, it was I guess until we got told off 3 TIMES for being too enthusiastic. Apparently you aren't allowed to sit in the water, lay in it or block the jets so that they spray the other visitors... it seemed unreasonable to me, to assume that all these impeccably dressed beauties would mind a bit of water splashed on them in this heat, but there you go (sarcasm alert btw)
With our well told-off tails between our legs we headed indoors and keen to see a bit of the V&A for myself (whatever next) we stumbled upon a Glastonbury bin. In fact we found a whole exhibition in the Theatre and Performance section. It was like seeing an old friend and as refreshing as our all too brief dip in the overly posh water feature.
Ironically, a kind member of staff approached us and asked if we had discovered the splash park downstairs... I explained our experience and she called her colleagues spoilsports. She assured us we were very welcome BLESS HER.
After 2 days of London exploring we headed to the coach station again, on the tube. A busker playing the harp stopped and let the boys have a go which blew their minds. We felt great, like we took on the Big City and came out on top!
I was chuffed, feeling safe in the knowledge that the boys can cope with heat, crowds, tubes in rush hour and a diet consisting almost entirely of ice cream- I think we will manage to survive Asia. I think we will be ok! I was relieved and smug- until we got on the coach and I realised my phone was dead.
A kind passenger saw my panic and leant the boys his phone for the duration of the journey- they could listen to Justin Bieber all they liked. The smugness faded a touch but we still made it home without too much drama. Thank you London! We had a blast.