our big trip - day 4: London

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Our first day in London - my oh my, we had a skip in our step. We were thoroughly jetlagged and wanted to melt into our beds and never move again, but the thrill of being in this amazing town quickly propelled us up and out the door.

It was a walking feast. We started at our apartment - the Dolphin Apartments in Pimlico - and walked down to the Thames and then up along Millbank . . . north towards Westminster.

Running down to The Thames was a real thrill, even on this cold, murky London day.

The London Eye is such a prominent figure on the river-side landscape now. It's really quite pretty and sits directly across The Thames from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

The Houses of Parliament are just so stunning. The kids were fascinated with the buildings, and even Riley was taking some snaps. 

I momentarily thought I was at the Musée Rodin in Paris when I saw these Burghers of Calais - but of course, several casts of Rodin's magnificent sculpture have been dotted around the world, with sculptures in London, Paris, Washington, Tokyo, New York, Brussels, Venice, Copenhagen, Stanford, Basel, Seoul, Philadelphia - and of course, Calais - AND our very own Canberra!

Walking up Whitehall is a glorious experience. I was agog taking in the divine bronze statues of Oliver Cromwell, Winston Churchill and more. And then, of course, it was the Clock Tower of Big Ben . . . I took such delight in seeing my kids bounce around with excitement at sites they recognise.

Continuing up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, the rain increased and we absolutely adored our fabulous Union Jack umbrellas, snaffled from a souvenir shop for £5 {footnote: London has the BEST souvenirs!}

We had a wee wander around Trafalgar Square . . .

We then continued up towards my old hangout - Leicester Square - and on the way, the kids spotted M&M's World. As it didn't open till 10am, we had some brunch in a local Pret a Manger (handmade, natural foods - we LIVED in Pret! I so hope they open in Aus).

Then we dashed into M&M's World only to be told by the doorman that I could NOT bring my caffe latte in. "Pardon?" I said. "Do I look like a toddler to you?" Still not allowed in. "Fine. Then we won't be spending a penny at M&M's world." Blank face. I guess he gets this a lot.

Two shakes of a cappuccino later, another cup-toting customer tries to get in and gets the same treatment. We stand in the cold doorway like morons, tearing M&M's World a new one, while our respective kids tear around inside.

It was no loss. It seems M&Ms World does indeed suffer mismanagement because - wait for it - they DO NOT SELL CHOCOLATE. That's right. No Willy Wonka rainbows of candy-coated choc bud delight in that store - nor any delight, really. It instead sells plastic M&M chess sets for £150. Yes, yes, you read it right. Perhaps it stopped selling chocolate to encourage woeful sales in tacky plastic paraphernalia.

No. I do not recommend M&M's World.

But let's move onto happier things. Here is the truly magnificent Odeon. We tried to book a show. We tried. But it was tourist season and things were booked booked booked. I tried not to think about it too much. And I will try not to think about it now.

One of my great regrets was not being able to see Regent Street in its full Christmas splendour. Thankfully, there was still a shred or two of festive delight left over - with signage and decorations here and there. Oh - and the fantabulous sales. The first week of January is a shopper's delight, with people from all over Europe and Asia descending on the capital to scoop up mega bargains.

I must admit, we did indulge a little, too. Just a tad.

But our main destination on Regent Street? Hamley's Flagship Toy Store, of course. Founded in 1760, the store has received Royal Warrants from both Queen Mary and Queen Liz II. Six storeys of bliss bliss bliss, with everything from arts and crafts to Steiff, and staff everywhere, demonstrating and playing openly with toys. It was so much fun. Of course, Ella had to fall in love with a Steiff horse! I think it was around £200.

After our Hamleys experience, we also scooted down another of my old haunts - Carnaby Street. It looks very different now! Less grunge. More class. Not sure which version I like best.

Passing by Fortum and Mason, we just had to pop in for a glam fix. My oh my, this store is pure eye-candy and a must-visit. Make sure you try out the loos!

On our way to the Tube, we walked down Old Bond Street - a truly truly glam experience with stores like DKNY, Tiffany's and Cartier, wrapped in a big Christmas bow.

Off on the Tube to the Natural History Museum, we arrived to find a queue quite literally wrapped around the block. Um - no.

Instead we went for lunch nearby at Pain Le Quotidien where we encountered one one the crappiest waitresses in Europe, who quite deliberately ignored us until I told her I wanted to see the manager {my family will tell you of the many times I wanted to see the manager}. My, she developed a lovely spring in her step after that. Totally changed woman.

Service aside, the food is truly and utterly divine - delicious art on a plate. I loved it so much, I was delighted to discover Aussie branches - but alas, all based in Sydney. We're spending a weekend in Sydney in April. We're SO there.

Back into the cold rainy day {which we secretly love!}, we decided to walk back through Knightsbridge to our apartment - about a 25 minute walk. I simply adore Knightsbridge. Every street, every turn is a delight. Every step along the way, I wondered if I was walking past Nigella's house. I'm not even sure she lives in Knightsbridge but I'd be surprised if she didn't. She just seems Knightsbridgy.

I have a photo standing outside No. 1 Sydney Place from 1993!

There is so very much joy in travelling with children and I enjoyed each and every moment, but it's times like this {above + below} when all you want to do is appreciate conceptual art or sculpture or deco buildings and you simply can't, lest you want a background track of whining. Fair enough - it was their holiday, too - so I had to content myself with snapping quick pictures and scurrying on.

Sigh. I'll just have to go back.

our big trip - days 1 + 2: Melbourne
our big trip - day 3: Flying to Europe
our big trip - day 5: London
our big trip - day 6: London
our big trip - day 7: London
our big trip - day 8: London
our big trip - day 9: Leyland
our big trip - day 10: London
our big trip - day 11: Paris
our big trip - day 12: Paris
our big trip - day 13: Paris
our big trip - day 14: Bruges
our big trip - day 15: Bruges 
our big trip - day 16: Bruges and The Hague
our big trip - day 17: The Hague
our big trip - day 18: Amsterdam
our big trip - day 19: Amsterdam
our big trip - day 20: The Hague
our big trip - days 21 + 22: Brussels
Two days lost with travel and travelling east
our big trip - days 25 + 26: Bangkok
our big trip - day 27: Kanchanaburi
our big trip - days 28 - 32: Cha Am Resort
our big trip - day 33: Hua Hin
our big trip - days 34 + 35: Coming Home


tiarastantrums said...

looks like such a lovely first walk around day! (aside from the rain-but a welcome reprieve from the sun I know on your end)

Janice said...

So wonderful... A family holiday. Can't wait to

Janice said...

So wonderful... A family holiday. Can't wait to

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