When the days get colder my inclination is not to leave the house. Having had a succession of weekends heavily featuring pyjamas days, I thought it was time that we actually did something on the weekend and decided on a day trip to London.
London is my home town and I have a fondness for the familiarity of Central London. My first job was in the City. The shops of the West End were my teenage haunts. The tourist attractions are memories of visits with my Grandad as a small child. I am happy to wait ages for a bus in South East London, simply to listen to people talking. Those are my people. I want to share my fondness for London with my son. It is important to me that London is somewhere he feels familiar with, at home. Which is how we found ourselves at the bottom of The Monument on a Saturday, about to climb 311 steps.
School is currently big on history, this term ‘The Great Fire of London’ and my small boy is not alone amongst his peers in a fascination with an entire city burning for several days, so we decided to get ourselves a slice of Pudding Lane, which is now mostly a faceless grey office block. However, the Monument to the great fire, a huge column rising above the city streets, is much more interesting. 311 steep steps up, but the views at the top are wonderful, even on a grey, misty afternoon. Returning to street level, we were presented with a certificate of achievement (I did not suppress the urge to sing “London’s Burning” on repeat, make the most of a moment!).
Next stop; the Museum of London, which I love, it makes me terribly nostalgic and proud. There is a whole section on plague and fire, we watched a film with readings from eye-witness accounts, saw copies of newspapers from the time, fire equipment, old and new for comparison purposes and some charred remains. For a small boy it was brilliantly real.
Other highlights for my almost 7-year-old; were the Lord Mayor’s coach and it’s six model horses, the Victoria Streets and the Blitz. I can remember being as “wow-ed” by the Victoria Streets when I first visited the museum on a school trip.
Cafe stop and a browse in the shop, a museum shop is always one of my son’s best bits of the day. Headed home, not too late, tired but happy. A day out in London, makes the perfect excuse for the following day to be deemed a pyjama day to get over it.
On Monday, he got to sit in the teachers chair and present photos of his trip to the class. He was absolutely ‘thrilled to bits’. My parent points are sky-high this week.
Top Tips for day trips to London with kids
London is a do-able day trip from many high-speed rail links. Bristol to London takes 2 hours and if you plan well and resist the temptation pack too much in, it works really went.
Advance tickets and family rail cards can make it affordable.
Get an Oyster card, it pubic transport cheaper and easier to use.
Plan your journey, tube stations are crowded and fast paced, it’s good to know what line you need before hand.
Investigate the buses, London buses are regular and most stops display “next bus times” and are well labeled. You see more by bus and they are often less crowded than the tubes.
Buses expect you to have an Oyster card or have purchased a ticket before boarding.
I think travelling with a child scooter makes getting around infinitely easier.
If travelling alone with children and a buggy, try to travel light and anticipate that you won’t get help – you probably will. I used to pick someone, make eye contact and say “will you help me?” what I meant was “You will help me!”. London commuters aren’t famed for their interest in helping others.
Bring food, capital cities are expensive. The city food outlets are designed to feed on-the go adults. If your child eats sushi or burritos then you are fine. If, like my son, all you want is a slice of ham between two slices of bread, you may be sometime.
Aim for a one or two venue day. Whenever we get tempted to do more, everyone ends up over-tired and grumpy. Long train journeys and busy cities take their toll.