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10 Days in London with Tween Boys

My two sons (13 and 10) and I visited London the second week of October. We were there for ten days. We were “aggressive” travelers, meaning we packed in so so much into our trip. This forum as a rule usually frowns on doing such a thing ;) so I thought I would share our experiences in encourage those of you wanting affirmation that it can be done, or to reiterate to the rest of you that it sounds exhausting. ☺

Day One/Two (Thursday and Friday)
Having gotten $500ish Air New Zealand tickets LAX to LHR, we flew out from Tucson to LAX in the early morning. Air New Zealand was fabulous. My boys were occupied the entire time they were on the plane. We all three slept for parts of the time, but their onboard entertainment was fabulous. The food was great; they gave us blankets and pillows.

Air New Zealand is very serious about the weight of your carry-on. I like to bring all of my luggage on board with me, out of fear it will disappear, and of course I don’t want to stand around and wait for it when we arrive. For those of you that share this worry, let me say that by the time we got through customs (both into London and into LAX) everyone’s luggage was pulled off the carousel and lined up neatly for us to grab. If I had known that, I would not have worried about checking my luggage.

Customs took at least 75 minutes, which was more than I thought. What a mass of humanity!

We pre-booked our Heathrow Express tickets a month out, which saves lots of money. There is a long walk from to the Heathrow Express “gate”. I guess we were walking 15-20 minutes.

Heathrow Express was quick and easy. You get on the train directly at the airport and they come around and zap your ticket on your phone. Some people bought their ticket directly from the lady on the train.

Teenagers in London can get a discount tube card. It cost 15 pounds and I had to order it ahead of time. Still not sure how much money I saved, but I know it cost us 45ish minutes at the airport to pick it up – which in itself makes me question if I would have done that again. Time is money, especially after traveling for so long and just wanting to GET THERE. The tube office was easy to find, and we were fifth in line when we got there. By the time we left there were about 12 people behind us. They had my son’s card, and also helped me purchase the right amount of travel money on both our cards (my 10 year old traveled free!!).

We stayed at the Waterloo Hampton Inn. It was perfect for us in many, many ways. First off, we stayed on points. They allow three people to stay in a room. And it is maybe a five minute walk to Waterloo Station which was amazing. From Waterloo we went everywhere, with few connections. I had been looking to stay near “a tube stop,” but now knowing the value in staying in a bigger hub tube stop, I say there is tremendous value in that.

After check-in I dragged the boys out of the room as fast as possible. Those beds looked so tempting, but it was only 3:30ish and I knew we had to stay awake a few more hours. We took the tube to Westminster and were just tourists – taking pictures of everything and feeling like we were really in London. It was a fun little moment. Of course if I had been with my teenage daughters it wouldn’t have been a moment, it would have been hours of selfie-taking ;)

From Westminster, we walked to the Abbey and then over to St. James Park. We walked through the park, which is so lovely, on the way to Buckingham Palace.

I should say that the boys were as prepared for this trip as I can imagine them being. They knew the history of what we would be seeing, they read a history book that gave them the backstories of things, and were so excited. Which is why some of their reactions were interesting to me.

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Buckingham Palace was not nearly as interesting to them as climbing on the statue of Queen Victoria. It is apparently just a big building they felt like they had seen before, but with many people officers with machine guns. And their fingers were on the triggers of the machine guns.

We went across the street to Green Park to get an ice cream cone (big note: food always perks up kids!!). I had been planning on going down The Mall, but instead found one of my favorite parts of the trip: there was a tiny little alley way that led from Green Park to Stable Yard (look on google maps to find it). It looked like a gate from someone’s garden, and was so small that the shear number of people coming out the hole in the wall reminded us of Harry Potter, so we wandered over….and then decided to wander through ourselves!

It basically took us to the north side of St. James Palace. They were having a fancy dress event that night, and the juxtaposition of my ice-cream-covered goofy boys and the men and women in fancy dress was funny to me.

From there we wandered up Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square. We looked at the chalk art, and then the boys took off to climb on the Lions. Happy boys. From there we headed around the back of the National Gallery on the way to Piccadilly Circus. I noticed that the National Portrait Gallery was open, so I dragged the boys in to see the Tudor portraits. We were in and out in half an hour, and it was fabulous. I am so glad I got to see these paintings that I have seen in books my whole life, yet now they were bigger than life and beautiful. And I’m not an art fan!

Back out of the museum, and we wandered through Leicester Square. There was a gypsy street performer setting up to do his routine, and my 10yo wanted to watch. I am so glad we did because it’s the first thing he tells people about and the things we laughed at that night became inside jokes that still make us giggle two months later. It’s the moments, folks. The buildings are great, but the moments are priceless.

I had planned on dinner in Piccadilly, but the lights are getting re-done and so it was just….blah. We took the tube home and I think we actually grabbed Burger King for dinner. I know, bad mom. But the kids were asleep 45 minutes later – we were ready to be done for the night!

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Saturday

I took the boys to Kensington Palace first thing. I (rightly) felt it would be their least favorite thing, so I put it at the beginning so they’d forget it about it by the end ;)

Tube from Waterloo to Notting Hill, easy walk through the park. The Kensington Palace line can be done so much better. We had our tickets, but we still had to stay in the same exact line with everyone that did not. Security was slow, and then waiting for the tickets to be converted to paper was slow. Sigh.

I really liked KP. The boys, despite knowing the Victoria history, were struggling with jet lag, so they were kind of lagging. And they didn’t really care one iota about Princess Diana’s dresses. I thought it was great fun to see the dresses, and I really loved the Queen Victoria section. They had a wonderful lady giving color commentary, and there were costumes for the kids to try on, and Victoria’s dresses to look at (she was beyond tiny). We did not eat at KP.

From KP we wandered down to the Natural History Museum. The boys loved it. A lot. We ate lunch in their café (not knowing there was an actual restaurant. Not sure which we would have picked if we had known.) Thus began our ongoing conversation about differences between American and English food, and the lack of “junk” that they put in their food.

The museum is beyond beautiful. The great hall alone is reason to visit. They have an exhibit, however, in the human body section where they actually have a plastic, 3-D model of how exactly a man and woman come together to make a baby. I just stared, jaw open. The boys laughed. I took pictures for the kids science teacher, asking her how she’d have like to have been on THAT field trip!

While we were in the museum, a man plowed his car onto the sidewalk outside, injuring eleven people. We didn’t know anything was going on until we left, when we were sent out a side door and out into a swarm of yellow-coated police officers everywhere. We’ve all seen pictures of this kind of thing, but it was a surreal experience being surrounded by all of these machine guns, and the yellow is so bright that you can really feel the police presence.

We were supposed to go to dinner, and then way across town to the O2, but the tubes around the museum were closed. We got in a cab (mistake) for a 20 minute, 4 block ride until our cab driver suggested we get out and go to a tube station around this corner and that. So we RAN like crazy fools (we had a specific O2 reservation time) to the tube, got across town, and RAN to the O2. I then collapsed on the floor of the Climb the O2 office. They were very kind and got us rescheduled.

Climbing the O2 was so much fun. You put on special gear that locks you onto the cable that goes to the top of the building. There is a special walkway that goes over the top of the building, with a cable running through the center of it that you lock yourself onto. You cannot fall. I never once felt scared. At the top you unhook yourself and can look around at the beautiful business end of London. We got to the top just in time for the sun to go down and the lights to come on. You can only bring your iphone with you, so my pictures are not the greatest, but you definitely see the huge smiles on my boy’s faces. Going down the other side, the skies opened up and we were DRENCHED. It turned out to be the only real rain of our entire trip, so I’m glad I laughed and had fun with it. Hooked to the side of a large dome, with buckets of water being dumped on our heads. How can you not laugh??

The biggest mistake of our entire trip came at the Five Guys hamburger place we stopped in for dinner. They have one of those soda machines that you can mix/match whatever blend of soda you want, and my boys had a field day. We had the best time laughing about our day, that it didn’t even cross my mind that they shouldn’t be drinking soda at 8:00 at night. With caffeine.

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Sunday

At 3:00 that morning I discovered the boys were still awake due to the caffeine/sugar of from dinner. We were due to go to the Tower of London in the morning, and I decided getting to the Tower first thing (as planned), and then coming home for a nap was a better idea than giving them some Benadryl and leaving the hotel at ten or eleven.

So we watched Night at the (London) Museum, and got out of the hotel early enough to wander around the Tower of London before the crowd. Except that there wasn’t gong to be a crowd because it was Sunday and the Tower opened at ten, not nine. (So we could have slept!! Ahhhh!! How did I screw that up??)

A little mini adventure….At least point I had not gotten any cash at all. Just used my credit card (bc of the better exchange rates). My son had to use the rest room, and the only one around the area outside the Tower requires coins. So we wandered around through the closed shops looking and looking for a solution. Eventually a non-English shopkeeper took pity on my gesturing and confusion and gave us a coin for my son to get into the bathroom. I think we only had moments to go before disaster struck…..

I have wonderful pictures of the kids in front of the Tower Bridge, with a sort of hazy sunrise behind them and not a person in sight (and it was 8:30 in the morning). The place really goes from empty to full quickly because my 9:30 the line had started.
The Tower was lots of fun. Being a little groggy, it was a different adventure than I thought it would be. The boys were half-impressed with the jewels. We had the White Tower to ourselves, yet I was surprised that all the military stuff wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be. The boys were also disappointed by the “torture chamber” exhibit – it’s only one room and I think they were expecting more.

So, what was fun then? Getting them outside and climbing around the perimeter of the Tower perked them up. There are lots of little rooms along the way, and they seem to each tell a different story, which got us talking about different things. Personally, the last time I was there I passed by the rooms where the Princes in Tower lived. That got me. Going places and visiting “where it happened” kind of places can be hit or miss – sometimes it’s just a place, and other times one can really “feel” it. Having recently read a book on the topic, I really found myself just standing there imagining. We skipped the tour (which is fabulous, having done it before, but it wasn’t in the cards that day). We were there about three hours.

Things I am glad I saw with the kids: the big roman wall on the way out of the tube station. They really liked it, and actually wanted me to take pictures in front of it. The beautiful artwork in the tunnel leading to the tube. I actually googled the artist to see if one could buy prints of the artwork….sadly, no.

Napped until 3:45, got the boys up and we went to dinner at Zizzi, which is along with river with a beautiful view of St. Pauls. We got off the tube at London Bridge, which I just looked up on the map to double-check. It seems like it was a long walk, but looking at the zoomed in map, I remember walking by all the different shops/restaurants/attractions and the beauty and joy of the walk has just come right back. They obviously want people walking along that path, and I felt safe walking on it even after the Globe Theatre got off.

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Zizzi was a disappointment. Had a OpenTable reservation for 5:00, which they didn’t have. Was glad to have printed it out for my trip book before I left. We got a window booth, next to the table of servers that were eating before they began serving that night. So we just sat there, and sat there, and sat there waiting for them to get done eating before they came to serve us. It booths also have a very low ceiling over there, and it was very hot. We actually blew out the candle on the table to see if that would cool us down! The food was good, but the rest…. I wouldn’t go back, especially once I saw all the other little places we could have eaten at.

But the Globe Theatre!! Oh, what fun! We saw Much Ado About Nothing. Loved it. The boys were troopers. As I teach Shakespeare, going to the Globe was a must. The boys were a little squirmy during the first half, but really perked up for the second. We had watched the movie before we left for the trip, so they knew the plot, which is essential. We were supposed to have visited the museum earlier in the day, which was scrapped for the nap. I don’t feel that I missed anything. The Globe didn’t disappoint – just being there and taking in the details was enough. Great night.

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Monday

The next day was our Hampton Court Palace day. HCP gets interesting reviews on this forum. I don’t know why because it is fabulous. My husband and I loved it years ago, and it was my boys’ favorite day. Why? Because HCP changes direction every time you turn the corner. First you get to wear a cape. So fun. And the headsets are easy to use and are interesting. There are the kitchens to explore. Then the Tudor Great Room. And the costumed characters wandering around. And the ghost story of Catherine Howard running down the hall. And then you’re in the William and Mary section, which is so different. And the gardens. And the tennis court. And the maze. And the grape vine. Etc. The boys weren’t given a chance to get bored.

Their café is also delicious. Food helps everything, doesn’t it? But no soda ;)

So, we left for HCP on the 9:06 train. Got there right before the doors opened. Went back to London at 3:24, heading to Charring Cross, where we stopped at St. Martin’s in the Field church to do the rubbings.

The rubbings are part of the London Pass. The church is right next door to the National Gallery, and the rubbings are in the basement’s gift shop. They basically give you piece of wood with carvings of a picture on in, a special crayon-like stick, and some paper. It’s more labor intensive than one would think to get the rubbings to come out beautifully, but they actually did. We were there for about an hour. I brought them home and am planning on framing them.

There was a delicious-smelling cafeteria next to the gift shop, and next time I may eat there, however that night we went to Steak & Co. which is right behind the National Gallery. You order steak and they bring it to you seared and raw, and you finish cooking it on steaming hot steak stones. You pick a flavored butter, a flavored salt, and a dipping sauce. It’s not only delicious, it’s fun. The boys loved it so, so much.

After dinner we wandered back towards Piccadilly to catch the tube, and ran into “our” gypsy doing his thing in Leicester Square (next to the lego store). My son was so excited. We stayed to watch. Happy memory. Amazing day.

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Tuesday

This is the day that the “it’s too busy a day” folks will go bananas ☺

Today was our Windsor Castle day, but I desperately wanted to fit Westminster Abbey in while we were still on our London Pass. So we got up early and were 2nd in line at the Abbey. That meant we were on the tube at 8:55, so it wasn’t early, early. I knew my boys, and I knew what I wanted them to see, and they did enjoy it….for about 15 minutes. And that was ok because I have been there and have looked at every single everything before. On this trip I did manage to find where Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth Woodville) lived when she sought sanctuary when her husband Edward IV was in exile, and later after he died. Again…just looking around filled in all the blanks in the history books. Loved it. The kids liked the coronation chair. We were there a little over an hour, and then left for Windsor.

My ten year old loved Windsor. He fell in love with his headset and kept telling me all sorts of information about every room and every picture (keep in mind I had on the same headset, and was hearing the same information…..). The 13yo was not as into it, because it IS a lot of rooms that are very similar, with a lot of paintings, etc. He was a trooper, and found a spot to sit in many rooms while his brother and I looked at everything. We visited all three gift shops. I think the gift shops and food are what really kept the entire trip moving along happily. ☺

Took the train back to Victoria Station, where we had dinner at a restaurant called Giraffe. Fun, quirky place with interesting food that my boys actually tried and liked!

Went to see Wicked. Loved it. Having agonized over which seats to buy six months before I left, I was surprised that there were so many great seats available the night of the show. Which shouldn’t have surprised me because the same thing happened on our first trip to London years ago. Knowing myself, I would agonize again. But I point this out in case you are less of a worrier than me – there will probably be seats available at the play you want to see when you get there, so definitely stop by the box office. Wicked was not selling via TKTS, but the box office was bustling the night of the show.

It was a happy day, and although we got home late, I did not feel dead on my feet. We did take a cab, just to save the extra 15 minutes of walking/riding/walking.

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Wednesday (aka Harry Potter Day)

I needed cash this day, to pay for the Harry Pottery shuttle. It is so disheartening to change your money. Sigh.

First off, the Harry Potter studios are great. But, they are not Harry Potter World like they experienced at Universal Studios. The studio tour is full of everything that went into the movies (costumes, props, etc.), an expensive chance to ride on a broomstick (well, riding it’s free, but the pictures are expensive), a few interactive stations, and BUTTERBEER. My 13yo loved it, my 10yo had thought it would be different. I had explained it to them ahead of time, repeatedly, but there was a picture he had seen of people in front of a MODEL of Hogwarts, and because of the angle he thought he was going to actually see Hogwarts. I throw this out because it’s a conversation that really has to happen before getting there. However, butterbeer cures everything and it was a very fun day.

We got back to Waterloo around 4:00, and decided to check out the Imperial War Rooms, which is close to our hotel. Best decision. It is so well done. We went into the WWI exhibit, which took us a good hour to go through. By the time we were done I was in tears and the boys were overwhelmed….in as good a way as one can be. We had the best conversations over the next few days, and in that one hour my view of London changed. I felt the pain of their war experience(s). I’ve been to Normandy, and it wasn’t quite that feeling, but it was truly close. We were out of time, so we didn’t do much else in the museum, but I find myself thinking about that hour a lot.

We had random chinese food from the restaurant next to our hotel that night.

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Thursday

Headed out to Stratford-Upon-Avon. (A-ven, not A-von. I didn’t know ☺ )

Left around 9:30am, beautiful train ride. Got to SUA around noon. Expected a quaint little town, but there was carnival-ride street fair in the middle of everything, which was surprising. They have none of the safety requirements that one finds in parking-lot fairs that one finds in the states ☺ A little bit scary!

Hired a Shakespeare-dressed tour guide from Tudor World. He toured us around town and it was nice. Learned some fun stories to share with my kids in school. It was bright blue sky, perfect weather. Beautiful day.

Afterwards the boys and I double-backed and visited a couple of the Shakespeare tour houses, plus the school he attended (different tickets, FYI). I felt good about paying the admittance fees – the upkeep on those places must be crazy, and they put interesting exhibits in them to keep you moving from room to room. Since it was October, they weren’t crowded, and the boys and I liked them. It was a happy relaxed day. Got a little lost on the way back to the train, and actually ran like crazy people when we thought we were going to miss it. Of course, we then wound up sitting on the train for 20 minutes because….well because isn’t that the way it always works???

The train to SUA had electrical outlets but was a slower train, the way home was faster but no electricity. The boys played on their ipads and then read the books I bought them in the gift shop; I watched the beautiful countryside go by. Trains are awesome. The train ride alone could have made the day worthwhile, but visiting a little town outside of London was a definite addition to the trip.

Got home around 8:00. Can’t remember what we ate, but I’d bet it was something we grabbed at the train station.

It was an easy day trip, and I’m glad I didn’t get scared off by the forums. Just sayin’. :)

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Friday

I was expecting Friday, our last full day, to be amazing. Of course, that’s when things go screwy ☺

We got up and went to the British Library, to see the Magna Carta and the other treasures. The 10yo loved it, and read the entire Magna Carta that is printed on the wall. 13yo wandered around and looked and stuff. And lounged on the benches scattered around. He turned 13 the day we left on the trip, and I swear “teenager” switched on somewhere over the Atlantic. Lounging, sitting, and eating were suddenly big deals. I digress.

We then wandered to the British Museum. I thought this was going to be amazing. Although full of wonderful things, the British Museum doesn’t tell a story like most of the other places we had visited, and I think all the “things” became overwhelming.

We got headsets for the 10yo and me, and wandered around the Egyptian and and Greek rooms. They were very loud – our first real crowds of the trip. We wandered into the special Alexander the Great exhibit, and they had coins from that time period that we could hold. The 13yo flipped it in the air and caught it. There was a collective AHHHH! and jaw drop among all the adults. We quickly left and the 10yo chastised his brother for a good 10 minutes. I didn’t even need to get involved. But two months out, it’s a fun story that captures the moment.

After a couple of hours, including food of course, we left to go to St. Paul’s. They were having a special mass that day, so we couldn’t get in. We sat on the steps as I tried to figure out what to do next. I really couldn’t think of anything. Eventually I decided to head to the Tate Modern, since it was so close. The boys nor I are particularly into art, so art museums were not on my list. The walk to the Tate was lots of fun. It is so close to the Cathedral (may eight minutes??), and you get to walk over the Harry Potter Millenium Bridge.

Inside the Tate they have a giant swinging pendulum ball that goes back and forth over the great hall, which is really a ramp from the basement to the first floor doors. The floor is carpeted in bright stripes, and is covered with people lying down staring up at the ball. Every kind of person imaginable, all lying on the floor together. I think we lay there for 15-20 minutes, just relaxing. Then we went off to try the oversized swings that took up the other half of the basement level. Perfect for my boys. Who knew the Tate would be perfect for my “eh whatever” art family?? We did eventually go upstairs and check out some modern art. There were the requisite “that’s art??” comments about some things, but it was better than I thought it would be and the kids were interested for just enough time.

We left the Tate and wandered west along the river bank. I had decided to take them back to Steak & Co for dinner, and I kept thinking, “oh we’ll get on the next tube to Charring Cross,” but wound up just walking all the way there. Walking is underrated, as there is so much to see and take in. The walk went on for probably an hour, and we walked back across the Thames towards Embankment Station. Looking at the map, there are several train bridges right there, and I’m not sure which we crossed.

We needed a potty break, so we wandered into the National Gallery. Again, a surprise art museum stop that turned into a fabulous memory. We were probably in there for 40 minutes total, yet saw amazing art. We were walking towards “x”, and I happened to glance to the left down a hallway and there was a large painting that was so beautiful I felt myself gasp. Now I’m telling you THAT has never happened before. We saw the Wildflowers, and some Monet, and a painting of a woman who’s eyes seemed to follow you around the room (as my 13yo tells it). Successful little chunk of time.

We went back to Steak & Co. The boys each got, and devoured, their own steak. The joy they got in this meal… So fun.

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Afterwards we headed back towards Piccadilly again, hoping to see our favorite street performer. One of his buddies was there instead, doing the same routine. Boys still loved.

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Final morning

I surprised the boys with a Thames Rocket ride our last morning in London. Worth every single penny.

We had packed the night before so we were out the door with no problems, storing our luggage downstairs. We walked to the London Eye, which turned out to be – surprise! – a fun little adventure, through graffiti tunnels and a little shopping district. We were even early for our 9:45 call time. The ride takes you around the touristy part of the Thames, and there is colorful commentary about what you’re seeing. Once you are far enough down the river to not bug the tourists, the huge motors turn on and the loud music blares and you go flying. The pictures of my boys faces….it was magical. Highly, highly recommend.

Afterwards, I was determined to get the boys into St. Paul’s. The first day we were supposed to go, a woman killed herself by jumping off the Whispering Balcony, so they closed and we couldn’t get in. Then there was the special mass, so they closed and we couldn’t get in. We got there, paid to get in (no longer under London Pass), and wandered around. Turns out that one cannot climb to the top because it’s under construction. Of course not!! I actually was pretty steamed because I had worked on the timing of this morning with one of their employees the day before, and timed it out based on the opening of the dome. She didn’t know what she was talking about. Grrrrr.

We made the best of it. The kids really didn’t know any better, and they climbed a little bit. There are some very “interesting” art pieces in the cathedral now, particularly a three video series involving people getting wet, hung, and burned (????) that my sons were very interested in. I was more interested in the beautiful ceilings, so I didn’t pay much attention.

We ate lunch in the basement café. At some point, I glanced up at a plaque on the wall that listed the names of people who’s memorials had been lost during The Great Fire in 1666….and one of my ancestor’s names was on it!! (At least according to ancestry.com ☺ )

We took part in the communion service. As a Christian, it was one of those moments. Standing in the same place that people have received communion for 700 years… I was very moved. My 10yo received a blessing, which we don’t do at church at home. He, too, was affected.

It was the surprising end to our wonderful trip.

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As a final thought, I want to share that I’ve been sick for the last two years. At one point I was in a pretty dark place, and one day these inexpensive airline tickets popped up on my computer, the idea was floated that I could take my boys with me to London. It was the light that kept me going.

When I first starting planning the trip, I never thought I would still be sick when the time came to actually go. My doctors filled me up with prednisone, and between that and the adrenaline, one would never have known I was sick. Well, the puffy face might have given it away.

My hubby will never look on this message board, but I am so grateful to him for helping me have this adventure with my boys.

And to all of you, who helped me plan this trip, whether you knew you were being helpful or not - Thank you.

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158 posts

Thank you so much for sharing your trip report. It sounds like a wonderful experience and I'm so glad you all got to travel together and make these memories. :)

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1163 posts

I so agree with you that the best part are the memories, inside jokes and little unplanned moments.....

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11613 posts

Such great stories. I am sure your boys will remember it forever (although probably differently).

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3925 posts

Loved reading your trip report, thanks.

My 12 year old turns 13 in two days time and I'm fully expecting the 'teenager' transformation as you described, the signs have been showing these last few weeks!

I'm glad you and your boys enjoyed London, hopefully there'll be many more fabulous trips to come.

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23396 posts

Thanks so much for posting this, MC. It is great to see it from your point of view, and that of the 10 year old, and from the point of your new teen.

I think you gave them a fabulous trip, and yourself too.

Just watch out for that caffeine late at night....

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1418 posts

Wow, wonderful trip report, so easy to read. So happy you were able to go and enjoy this experience. I will tuck this report in my topics because it sounds perfect for when we take our grandsons when they are a little older.

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48 posts

I really needed a trip to London today and this one was perfect. Can just imagine how much you must have loved sharing the city with your boys. Take care of yourself.

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2310 posts

You gave your children something so valuable-an experience they will never forget. So much more than some possession that will lose it's attraction overnight. And you did this facing your own health challenge. Brought tears to my eyes and that is not easy to do. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story!

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92 posts

Loved reading your trip report. What a great time! Very special memories with your boys and I hope you have many more!

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698 posts

Thanks so much for sharing your trip! We are taking our 10yo grandson to London for 9 days, then Iceland for 5 more, in June, and you've given me great ideas. Glad you got to make this trip with your boys. Take care.

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1834 posts

Very pleased that you had such a good time. I am sure that your detailed report will help others planning to visit London.

The trains that you used would not have been the fastest in Britain. On some of the mainlines connecting the major cities, the trains travel faster. Click the link for a short video of trains on the Great Western Mainline - that goes from Paddington to places like Bath, Bristol & Cardiff. (The green coloured trains on the video are new bi-modes = they can run on underfloor diesel engines or off overhead wires where available).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGXboGzZiXI

Your boys might like this 7 minute video which was filmed from inside an express leaving London (Paddington) for south Wales.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCWfzsg1K2s

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583 posts

Glad you had a great time, and enjoyed reading your trip report. And in tune with your 'Thank You' posting, Merry Christmas!

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440 posts

Sounds great and shows you can squeeze everything into a few days if you have the will and energy to do so.

Posted by
3436 posts

Your children will always remember the trip, even (or particularly) being caught in a terrible terrorist event. Attitude counts for so much when travelling. But I do want to offer a few quibbles, more for other readers than you. Foreign exchange rates for currency are the same in bank-operated machines as over the counter in banks. Exchange fees are another matter. Ditto credit/debit cards used for purchases. Immigration/security checks cause the delays at airports, not "customs", a term even the airlines confuse. And what really motivates my carping with your fine experience is the idea that commemorative statues are playgrounds for kids. No: These memorials deserve respect. By the way, I get fidgety in Much Ado About Nothing too.

Posted by
4654 posts

Just to note that the incident in Kensington you mentioned turned out to be an accident, and definitely not a terrorist attack.

Posted by
9409 posts

Terrific report and I am so glad you made such memories! I agree with you about the British Museum. After going to so many museums in so many European cities, the famous British Museum did nothing for us, although it is a lovely building. We much preferred the Museum of London, the Imperial War Museum, Cabinet War Rooms. So glad you liked the National Gallery. Took us four trips to get around to it and it is now one of my favorite art museums.

Brave for planning and executing such a wonderful adventure with your boys!

Posted by
34 posts

"And what really motivates my carping with your fine experience is the idea that commemorative statues are playgrounds for kids. No: These memorials deserve respect."

couldn't agree more. seeing people climbing on the Victoria monument and on Nelson's lions at Trafalgar made me cringe. no respect.

Posted by
5817 posts

People have been climbing on the lions in Trafalgar Square since the day they were built. I don't think any locals are offended by it. We almost certainly did it as kids as well.
We also have a "proud" tradition of decorating the heads of statues with traffic cones. If Nelson was just a bit lower down you can bet he would regularly be wearing one.

Memorials for the 2 world wars which are in virtually every town and village are still very much respected. But that said, the one in my suburb was where you went to hang out with boys when you were a teenager. I am sure the people it commemorated would probably have approved.

Posted by
11153 posts

Great report - thanks for taking the time to post it!

Just a question. When you say They were having a fancy dress event that night, and the juxtaposition of my ice-cream-covered goofy boys and the men and women in fancy dress was funny to me. Are you using "fancy dress" in the British sense (what we in the US call a costume party) or the US sense (formal wear like tuxes and gowns)?

Posted by
34 posts

"We also have a "proud" tradition of decorating the heads of statues with traffic cones. If Nelson was just a bit lower down you can bet he would regularly be wearing one."

I noticed that. Nelson's neighbor, Sir Henry Havelock was so costumed.

Posted by
8 posts

Steak & Co!!!! My favorite!!!! As are the high speed boats on the Thames. I actually got a mouthful of river last time, gross. It was salty. Great recap!

Posted by
61 posts

Great trip report, MC! And I'm impressed with your boys studying their history before the trip - shows what awesome kids you raised!
I hope you're on the mend and I can't wait to read about your next trip...

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you for this great report! After much thought and research, I will be taking my son (single mom here) to London next summer (2019). We were going to go this year, but I have convinced a friend to come with her 2 boys and we need another year to plan and save. Mine will be 12 yrs old then and hers will be 12 and 15. We will definitely use your report in our planning process! Thanks!!!

Posted by
1845 posts

Somehow I missed this when you first posted. I have to say, this is one of the most fun reports I have read. What a terrific trip....and oh, my.....what wonderful, lifelong memories you and your boys created together. You did such an amazing job of planning and sure hit all the right notes with your boys. Well done, MC!

Posted by
698 posts

Thanks so much for your trip report. We're headed to London with our 10yo grandson as soon as school is out. You've given me some more great ideas. Glad you had a memorable trip with your boys!

Posted by
98 posts

I really enjoyed reading your trip report. So well written, I was right there in the moment with you! I'm going to London with my girls (age 13 and 9) in May/June, and I hope our trip is as wonderful as yours.