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Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

Roeselare, Belgium
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Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

Now that the Belgian halfterm vacation draws to an end, our family is urged to pick up the usual routines again. So I'm longing to finally find time to start writing and posting my report snippets below. Our annual London family journey gave us five fine days to go out on another discovery, with the same fine group of five as last year (3 adults / 2 kids: my niece, my husband, our two boys almost 6 and 9, and myself).

From experience, we didn't want to set out with a too tight itinerary, except for my regular weekend classes and a few tickets booked in advance. Travelling with kids doesn't sit well with rigid scheduling, but of course I still indulged in browsing TA for possible scenarios, efficient transport and new suggestions. This time our wishlist covered a mixture of some new territory (Horniman Museum, Museum of Childhood, Thames Barrier, Royal Artillery Firepower) and a return to some bigshot sights, back by popular request (Tower of London, Natural History Museum), and as you'd guess some theatre too, sure, how could we resist?!

Jack the Ripper Museum
History Museums, Speciality Museums
Sutton House
Historic Sites, History Museums
Vintners' Hall
History Museums
The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre
History Museums, Speciality Museums
Melbourne, Australia
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61. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

Another wonderful video, this time from Elias. What fun having Emmett along on the adventures. I was amazed at the number of places Emmett managed to find himself in.

Having seen Elias with Emmett and IngeK73 and Herbert I am now looking around for something similar I can have fun with on my next holiday! Thanks for the inspiration.

Roeselare, Belgium
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62. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

You're very welcome, Happy traveller! And thanks for your kind comments, much cherished by our boys. As usual they can't help but make it some sort of brotherly competition as to who deserves more accolades ;-)

Following in the steps of Herbert and Emmett, you'll find out for yourself that it's surprising how quickly the pictures add up. Elias took most of his in just half a day's time. And Inge is down to 100+ in just a handful of days. Looking forward to your results: How funny that this trend might continue. Here's hoping for a glimpse! - See what you've started now, Londrina...?

Roeselare, Belgium
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63. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

DAY FOUR: Tuesday 4 March 2014

We tagged our fourth day “Boat Day”, as we had purchased so-called River Roamer tickets for the THAMES CLIPPERS, allowing unlimited boat travel troughout the day. Reduction offers are common, just check 2for1, Groupon, or TimeOut. We had previously enjoyed single boat transits with the Clippers, but our too crammed agendas often don't leave enough spare time to make value out of a full day pass. But this year we remembered how lovely the London skyline poses when seen from the river and I figured we'd dedicate a whole Thames themed day, a nice adventure for our two pirates. So the boys and I had puzzled some chalklines, from the perspective to try and make most of our transport by boat on that day. March wintertime still makes for early evenings, so we even hoped to take tour crew on a nightcap boatride to admire the 'London by night' lights and skyline before the kids' bedtime?

Another early morning rise for our boys, so thank goodness for UNO and Who-am-I. Another copious breakfast too, as fuel for our morning plans. The splendid blue skies heightened our anticipations. We set out on the DLR towards Greenwich from the station across the street. Cutty Sark station got us close by the waterline, where we still had some beautiful photo opportunities while waiting for the boat. All boat piers appeared closed for business, but then employees turned up right at boarding time, to briefly open the pier gate. The Clippers are commuter boats, so they make just quick stops at each pier. Officially our tickets were valid from 9am onward, but at this dead quiet time, less than half an hour before nine, the personnel didn't even glance at that small print and smilingly let us board.

We had chosen Woolwich as our first destination, because Woolwich Arsenal pier is only served by the Clippers until around 9:30 in the morning and past 5pm at night. Apparently, our first traject was much against the grain. The Clipper personnel must have verified at least three times: “Are you sure you need the Eastbound direction, madam, not towards Central London?” “Yes, thank you sir, very sure!” With no other passengers on the boat, the boys enjoyed this right regal feeling, to have a whole vessel for themselves. When passing the O2, Léon and Elias made a symbolic wave to Emmett, fondly remembering Monday's movie at the futuristic Dome. No other scenic landmarks past this point, as most of this zone is industrial and bare.

But then we soon cheered to see the THAMES BARRIER approaching, which our little men found totally cool and intriguing. Two of the steel gates were closed, but we swiftly navigated through one of the other eight. The Clippers can impressively go full speed at any point east to the Tower Bridge. So we all enjoyed a very nice, but very brief upclose look at the barrier piers, whose metal covering majestically glistened in the sunrays. The piers and their hydraulic cranes were surprisingly large, when right next to them. The boys loved the stats and info on the Barrier's website: environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/flo… and this 'Inside the Barrier' diagram: environment-agency.gov.uk/static/documents/L…

Upon arrival at Woolwich, we stalled for awhile to admire the planes taking off and landing at London City Airport, right across the river. We also noted the Woolwich Ferry whose shipper must be bored out of his mind at the monotonous traject back and forth across the Thames all day. Our boys marveled at the sculptures and cannons and tanks in the Artillery Square. Still good half hour before the collections opened, which gave Elias plenty of time for some creative Emmett Photo-Ops. Despite the sunshine, it was still fairly cold, so we were soon happy to enjoy a hot drink in the museum's cafetaria, designed as a wartime mess.

FIREPOWER: ROYAL ARTILLERY MUSEUM http://www.firepower.org.uk

As its name implies, this museum gives a comprehensive overview of the history of the Royal Artillery regiments, warfare and different types of cannons, weapons and explosives through the ages. The staff were super friendly and encouraged the boys to put on a real uniform and climb on a tank for a picture. Elias triumphantly took home an info page on how to make gun powder, disconcertingly eager to experiment...

We watched a very playful little film starring two young brothers, who experimented with the creation of special effects, mimicking the explosions from movies and tv shows. The display was interactive, in that the spectators could decide at the push of a button when to let the explosives go off. Being a mom I was slightly alarmed to hear my three men giggle everytime they fired a rocket. But Caroline smiled reassuringly: “Boys will be boys”. Indeed as expected, the collections mostly appealed to the men in our group, but it kept us all entertained for an hour or two, then ready to move on.

We knew there'd be no Clipper boats available to get back to Greenwich, but DLR and bus were solid transport alternatives. Since we were past the zone 2 boundaries, we chose to hop on a doubledecker, which dropped us off in front of Greenwich's Maritime Museum. A brief stroll up to the pier next to the Cutty Sark again, where this time we joined the queue for the Clippers' mainstream destination: central London! The blue skies making a gorgeous backdrop, adults and kids alike were thrilled to navigate under the Tower Bridge, past the iconic landmarks. Elias took Emmett through many poses from the front of the boat, while Léon joined Marc near the engines at the back of the vessel, where he soon noted the outside deck allowed for much clearer photographs.

Roeselare, Belgium
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64. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

(DAY FOUR continued)

Lunch: AZZURRO London Bridge

This casual Italian restaurant sits tucked away very close to the pier, just to the south of Hay's Galleria. It easily won our popular voting, mainly because we remembered from last summer that the food is tasty and kid-friendly, two invaluable virtues for family meals. Lunch Menu was terrific value at £8,95 for any pasta/pizza with a drink included. Service was a bit impersonal, but like last time, our dishes were copious, tasted great and the boys adored that their kids' menu came topped with a dessert. Like four “wise elders” we joined forces to talk Léon into ordering a pancake with chocolate sauce and with a scoop of icecream, a more strategically yummie choice than a plain icecream cup, right? He caved in somewhat unwillingly and kept a grumpy face about it not being his own selection. Still, we all chuckled to watch him feast on it.

We continued our water journey with a decadently brief sailing. We could have easily walked the stretch from London Bridge to Bankside pier, but as we had our tickets at hand, we just lazily let the boat navigate us up there. Different views from the water, you know... Since Caroline had never been inside TATE MODERN, we briefly went into the imposing Turbine Hall. To Marc's irritation, I was adamant not to venture into the collections with our boys, as from several previous visits I remembered most artworks displayed being very abstract, so I didn't want them to get bored now yet. (“There will always be a next time!”)

By now the sunny sky had wooly patches of clouds. Crossing the river over Foster's stylish MILLENIUM BRIDGE was delightful as ever. Guaranteed an impressive walk, with photogenic angles at any direction you turn in. Elias needed no cue to continue his Emmet photo saga, though at first, he was nervous at the idea that his Lego man might get swept away by the wind. I agreed that being thrown into the Thames definitely wouldn't make a good end to Emmet's adventure, so I gladly volunteered to lend a hand by snapping a few duo pics, while Elias firmly held on to his little yellow friend. Most of Elias' photographs were of the swift point and shoot type, so we were soon able to catch up with the rest of our group at the Northbank of the river.

Crossing the Thames had set our imaginations running. The boys and I remembered the intriguing futuristic dream of Heatherwick's brandnewly designed Garden Bridge www.gardenbridgetrust.org/index.html#video We unanimously agreed we'd love to see this idealistic project succeed and we're looking forward to hopefully having a chance to try this green zone draping above the Thames in a few years' time. Very curious to follow further developments!

Past the river, it was only a short walk up to Bank station. Rather than using the pavement, Léon insited on climbing on every border, using little walls and ledges as his stepstones. Our little monkey soon lagged far behind our group, which didn't seem to bother him one bit. Everyone to his taste, for myself I prefered a quick peak inside ST STEPHEN'S WALBROOK, when we passed Wren's precursor to St Paul's. I found the bright white dome very impressive, indeed like a miniature version of its more famous counterpart.

Once again, we got confused by the giant maze of Bank station, so we had to roam awhile before finally ending up on the DLR platform. Our boys had their minds so firmly set on the whole front seat idea, that our group nearly got split up, when they suddenly sneaked out to jump into the front wagon. We collectively pushed and pulled Marc inside our wagon just as the doors were sliding shut. Pfff! Perfect time for a relaxing pause: the pool, the icecream, we'd done it all before, but it hadn't lost any of its appeal. The boys were even more reluctant than usual to come out of the water, because they knew this was our very last dip. Rather than putting on their pijamas after their swim, the boys gladly wriggled into their clothes again, to venture out onto the Thames one last time.

LONDON BY NIGHT

We had mapped out this loop like a simple combo traject: boat ride (CW upto London Eye) > doubledecker ride (12, then 15) > boat ride (Tower to CW) which would take us along the major landmarks. Worked like a charm! Though the sky was barely turning dusky yet when we took off around 6pm from the Canary Wharf pier, the Tower Bridge was gorgeously lit up by the time we glided underneath. Here we were on the exact same traject like many times before, but the city lights added a magical perspective. Especially the bridges looked absolutely stunning, colourfully lit with their own individual lighting patterns. After Tower Bridge, the obvious winner, our little pirates' favourites were Blackfriars Bridge with its continually changing colours, the futuristic Millenium Bridge in fluorescent blue lines, and the fountain-like Hungerford Footbridge pier cables.

Against our better judgement, Caroline and I couldn't resist trying some nighttime pictures with our basic digitals. Léon gladly shared his advise on how to save them from coming out all blurry. But we soon gave up, trusting that Marc's little digital camera was powerful enough to capture enough of the magic, to share between us all. A brief Southbank walk up to the Westminster Bridge bus stop wowed us with glorious views of the London Eye and Big Ben, which sounded at the dot of the hour. By now Elias too had distincly noted that his tiny video camera wasn't up to par and he easily talked his dad into a swap. We passed Whitehall (sadly no horse guards in sight; Do they not guard the buiding at night?) and we got off at the sight of Nelson's column, where we crossed busy Trafalgar Square to catch our next bus. Couldn't resist snapping a blurry pic of our two boys flanking one of the lions. Right there in the middle of the square, they both announced they urgently needed a toilet stop. Right... So I shuffled straight into the closest fastfood place, pointing them towards the toilets.

Our last busride, crossing the City on the 15, was a bit superfluous as we were all growing tired and hungry by now. Still, the kids enjoyed their picknick in their front row doubledecker seat, while the City passed by. Sadly, it was too dark for Léon to even notice, let alone wave at his favourite City Dragon (Will you do that in his place now, please, Kennydon?) We got off at the Tower, ready to board the next Thames Clipper for one last brief sailing home to Canary Wharf. But we had a véry long wait at the Tower pier, with everyone getting cold and grumpy. But then dad conjured up the perfect cure and organised a running race along the pier to keep the boys warm.

One last boattrip under the now fully lit Tower Bridge, then a brisk walk home from the pier. The boys rolled into bed fully exhausted. No bother changing into pijamas anymore! Meanwhile the three adults joined forces to set the table for our traditional celebratory last evening meal.

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65. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

Sadly, it was too dark for Léon to even notice, let alone wave at his favourite City Dragon (Will you do that in his place now, please, Kennydon?)

============

Absolutely. Happy to.

Nijmegen...
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66. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

oh no already the last evening meal! Your day sounds like fun but it is one that I won't be doing myself, as I am not fond of boats. But ai enjoyed reading about it!

As for Herbert, 154 pics now.I keep him in a pcoket that I can easily readh into and take all pics with my iphone. And I have too not taken pixs if the wind was blowing a bit too hard :)

Monza, Italy
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67. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

Monika, I never heard before about the Royal artillery Museum; should I have go back to London as a family trip instead of a solo trip I'll keep it in mind for sure. Not my cup of tea for sure, but son and daddy might like it. Has Elias already tried to make the gun powder? as a mum, I know how you feel about arms and gun powder ;-)

London by night: I love it too!! What a pity that your Holiday is very close to its end.

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68. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

I just had a spare moment to view Elias video. I am still smiling! I used to have a little boy (now 28) who LOVED Legos. Please let Elias know how happy it made me to see London from Emmett's perspective. Like his brother, I can tell he's a gifted child as well with a GREAT imagination! Well done Elias! :D

I'm looking forward to reading your latest installment(s)! :D

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69. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

Sadly, it was too dark for Léon to even notice, let alone wave at his favourite City Dragon (Will you do that in his place now, please, Kennydon?)

============

Absolutely. Happy to.

============

Will you please tell Léon that the City Dragon is still standing guard and I gave him a wave from both of us as I've just passed by on a bus to the West End.

'Our' favourite front seat came free just before the dragon so I grabbed it.

Edited: 21 March 2014, 18:26
Roeselare, Belgium
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70. Re: Family Trip Report: 5days in London with 2 primary schoolers

Oh thank you, Kennydon, you're a gem! That idea put a blissful smile on Léon's face, when I passed him the news right at bedtime. Sweet dreams guaranteed now...

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Inge, yes I thought about that while writing my day 4 stories, remembering how all this boating definitely wouldn't be your cup of tea ;-) Glad to say that Emmett didn't experience any seasickness, though his jaundiced colour might suggest differently?

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No, Londrina, no gun powder experiments yet, and very much hoping to keep it that way too, lol! And no worries about day 5 approaching. I'm not through my writing just yet, because our last day had a crammed agenda: a visit to the Tower, “Emil and the Detectives” at the National Theatre, and an unpleasant complication at departure. - Meanwhile, I do hope you do get to plan your own return to London soon!?

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Teacher91, your compliment deeply flattered Elias. Coming from the other side of the globe, still added some extra colour. Thank you kindly for your encouragement and your very thoughtful remarks. And how fun that Elias' Lego theme reminded you of your own son's younger years.

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I might not get much writing done over the weekend, but I'm aiming to finish this longrunning saga in the next few days. Sorry for the delays and the abundant details.

Coming up next: Marc's video link and my photo selection. Hoping to bridge the weekend with that, until I find time for our last day writeup. So please stay tuned for those coming attractions ;-)

PS: I'm so relieved that I haven't bored all of you to death by now... :-D

Edited: 21 March 2014, 21:21