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London with kids - 4 day Trip Report

Roeselare, Belgium
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London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

I’ve always enjoyed and raved about TALF, but this will be my first try at a report of my own, so please bear with me on language mistakes, or if I drag on too long… Countless forum questions involve travel with children, so I hope that sharing our adventures can be like a payback, helping other families. Back home since a week now and still buzzing with enthousiasm, I intend to ‘process’ our memories gradually over the next days.

Starring: husband, myself, 2 boys aged 4 and 7

. The adults: theatre fans, regular visitors, acquainted and affectionate with London.

. The kids: second trip, previous visit being 2 years ago (when lucky enough to spend a full week)

Here’s our itinerary as drafted in advance:

Day 1: Bankside, Natural History Museum, Diana Memorial Playground

Day 2: Maritime Museum, Greenwich Park & Playgrounds, Covent Garden, Matilda

Day 3: Saint Paul's, London Eye, British Museum, Coram’s Fields, Thames Clippers

Day 4: Imperial War Museum, Olympic Park

Edited: 10 May 2012, 19:57
Monza, Italy
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41. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

Monika, thank you very much for the links about Matilda; I'm already in love with the song 'when I grow up': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltO_G87OeaQ

I've already checked and there're copies of Matilda in the libraries around where I live but they're all in italian. My husband will probably be in Reading next week; it's gonna be a short visit therefore no time to spend in a for a bookshop and hope he'll manage to find it at WHSmith at Heathrow ;-)

I'll definitely give a try to the BM next time; it's already clear from their website that it's child friendly (like alle the museums we've visited so far in London). Thanx again.

Roeselare, Belgium
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42. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

You're very welcome, Londra, isn't it beautiful? The rest of the Soundtrack is equally impressive, cutting on many different styles, always a bit "tongue in cheek". Do check out the lyrics (http://matilda-lyrics.x10.mx/index.htm) and revel as they add yet another layer to the quality of the songs...

You shouldn't have any trouble finding the book, it's a classic. For kids, it's probably even better to read it translated in their own language, that's what we did. Unless of course you're Matilda: there's a joke at some point in the show, where (aged6) she calmly explains she read Dostoyevski's "Crime and Punishment" in Russian, as its original language would do more justice to the work...

Monza, Italy
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43. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

Thanks for the link with the lyrics! Very helpful for those who like me are not mother tongue.

I guess I shouldn't say that, but the book in english is for me ;-)

My son (10 yo) didn't took after me: he doesn't like reading; hope he'll change his mind one day.

Your trip report is very helpful; you should link it here: tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g186338-i17-k524…

Roeselare, Belgium
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44. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

You're welcome Londra, English is not my native language either, so I also found those lyrics helpful to better appreciate the details. I'm certain you'll have fun reading the book. Roald Dahl writes in a very imaginative and grotesque style, with plenty of darkness as well. It's a children's book, but I love the fact that he never underestimates his young readers! For many people, the story of Matilda is part of their own childhood memories. It will transport you right back to your own school days. That's probably the age-and gender-defying appeal of both book and musical.

If you yourself love books, I can imagine you regret you can't share your passion with your son, although he may discover its magic on his own, once he stumbles upon a story or subject that really appeals to him.

Thanks for suggesting to post my report with the other travel reports. I'd still like to add some final thoughts about our journey, then I will attempt to make the link (By just cutting and pasting this current address, I guess?)

Roeselare, Belgium
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45. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

I must admit I’ve been dragging a bit, writing my closing remarks, because it feels like some sort of ‘closure’ to our journey… But here I go for one last time:

First of all, a great big thank you to every TA contributor for inspiring this and many previous and upcoming trips of ours! Your help is invaluable and much appreciated. - Hooray, we're already counting down to a weekend visit in September/October (or maybe even both?!), just my husband and me this time around (already booked for the Almeida's King Lear, as well as another set of ICL Neurology classes), so we’ll probably be popping those questions again…

Secondly, I would encourage other visitors to London to share their experiences on TA. Comments and evaluations are valuable to others, they make a great read, and more than expected I’ve enjoyed myself writing this report, partly to re-live the trip and partly for the fun comments from people around the globe. Sorry btw for repeatedly plugging Matilda, no I’m not in any way recompensed for it, although maybe I could try asking for some tickets to see the show a second time ; )

Thirdly, you’ve probably read between the lines that no matter how much we adore to travel with our boys, family travel involves a lot of give and take. It’s definitely not the easiest way to enjoy London, but it provides longlasting memories for everyone involved. I should also remark that we found 4 days a bit limiting, bringing young kids. Unless you're willing to really cut down on things to visit, a week is much better timing (obviously...) But whatever your timespan, we’ve experienced again it works best to settle on a maximum of 2 favourite landmarks per day, rather than trying to cram things in. This leaves room to explore as you go and take playground breaks on a whim, guaranteed to please the kids.

And lastly: I’ve compiled one last list, combining the highlights of this and our 2010 visit, the criterium being: which childfriendly attractions would we take time to do again?

(listed in random order)

. the Tower, especially the hilarious Beefeater tour

. ThamesRibVoyages (using 2for1): a thrilling ride for all ages

. Greenwich, a relaxing green oasis, always worth spending half or whole of a day

. doubledeckers: great fun to alternate with underground travel: more to see and often faster than dragging through endless tunnels and stairways

. the Southbank, a recommended riverside stroll complete with splendid city views and ample worthwhile stops (the Eye, Millenium footbridge, TateModern, the Globe, Borough Market, the new City Hall, to name just a few off top of my head)

. RAF museum in Hendon: it takes at least half a day, but is very appealing (even for a not-so-aviation-interested mom)

. British Museum, best to be savoured little servings at a time

. British Library: I love the little Ikea step-ups, allowing and subtly encouraging kids to have a peak in the historic manuscripts

. the many beautiful parks

. the trio of SouthKensington museums (but please take note that lines may be long at NHM)

. the selection of appealing playgrounds like Coram's Fields, Diana Memorial Playground, Greenwich Park, each can be worth a visit on its own right.

. the skyline landmarks like BigBen, St Paul’s, the Gherkin, …

I’m sure I’m omitting many, but feel free to add other suggestions

Wagga Wagga...
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46. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

Thanks Monikavn, I didn't want your report to be over either. How wonderful you get to return with hubby in a few months - more planning fun to be had!

Roeselare, Belgium
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47. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

That's sweet TMBHL_on_the_go, my pleasure! And indeed, we're very lucky to live not-that-far-away, so we can whisk over once or twice a year, always a delight to look forward to.

Our time will be limited in October: arriving Friday afternoon, departure Sunday lunchtime (hence not bringing the boys) My classes cover all Saturday and part of Sunday, and we'll look for good theatre both evenings, combining the fun with the useful! As you can tell, not much room left for plans on my part, but I'll be searching for options for hubby to fill his Saturday... He'll enjoy the freedom to explore London, without boys or wife to intervene this time around ; )

Monza, Italy
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48. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

Monika, what a pity that your trip report is over :-(

The best thing to do is to plan the next visit; also mine might be in september.

We did most of things you've listed; I would add that my son enjoyed also:

- HMS Belfast (he was 7 when we went). I must confess that I was not interested at all, from the outside it looks so boring. Both, him and my husband wanted to visit it and now I'm happy we went. It is interesting. No need to say that it's child friendly. As soon as we boarded, a uniformed man gave our son a leaflet with mices, all dressed in a different way, right next to every mice there were a box that had to be thicked anytime he spotted one during the visit. At least this is how it worked back in 2009.

- London Transport Museum. Very interesting too and again, definitely child friendly.

Unfortunately they're not free, but till not long ago they both were in the list of the 2x1 offers.

- Greenwich is a good idea; we reached it from Island gardens, crossing the foot tunnel under the Thames. Reviews: tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186338-…

Here's something your kids might enjoy (unless you already know this website): activityvillage.co.uk/london_colouring_pages…

Roeselare, Belgium
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49. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

Hi Londra, aren't we lucky to both have another journey to look forward to, I agree that that's the perfect way to say goodbye to London. How long will you be staying this time around, and have you listed things to do yet?

Thank you so much for your added suggestions, we'll take note! As a matter of fact, I've always had the same preconceptions as you about HMS Belfast, but I'm very glad to read your endorsement. Husband and sons will be glad I add it to our family list for next year. I figure, coming from the same people who run the Cabinet War Rooms and the Imperial War Museum, it must be done well, and it's great to know it's attractive to kids.

The Transport Museum was actually on our 'backup list' this year (I had even printed out our 2for1 coupon) but we haven't made it (yet). Same with the Greenwich Foot tunnel which us adults had used before, a nice experience indeed. I had it listed as a possible way to get to Greenwich, especially since Island Gardens was pretty close to our apartment, but we ended up cutting a lot of walking trajects, you know how sore your feet get after a few days in London ; ) I read somewhere that the tunnel will soon close for refurbishment, so the trickling water and cement plugged holes will probably soon be just a part of our memories...

And hey, thank you very much for the lovely link! I had seen and used the website before, but I think the Olympic Stadium and the London Eye are new. They will make a lovely early morning surprise for our little ones when they wake up...

Have fun preparing for September, and I would love to hear what you thought about your book!

Watford
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50. Re: London with kids – 4 day Trip Report

A delightful report. Here's hoping you might be able to squeeze in a TALF pub meet in October.