I remember my mum taking my brother and me up to London each major school holiday. Each time we’d visit a different attraction, be introduced to the places she used to enjoy when she lived in London and just generally experience what London had to offer. So I’m keen to do the same for N.
So far he’s only been once – last summer for a theatre trip. It’s such a novelty to go on the train and tube, that as soon as I suggested it, there was no backing out.
We chose the Friday of half term so we’d be able to catch some of the Shaun the sheep statues, and I made plans for an interesting day out themed around boats. The plan was HMS Belfast in the morning, then over to Greenwich on DLR to see the Cutty Sark and wander round near there. Of course though, after all my plans, that day turned out to be the only wet day of the half term. Boo.
I love being in London just for the buildings, it’s great to be able to show N and explain about what we see. Around London Bridge there’s some interesting structures, so I made the most of having a camera with me (albeit my compact).
We wandered through Hays Galleria first of all. The architecture is amazing, I just loved the curve of the roof.
N was more excited about what looked like a ghostly pirate ship sculpture in the middle. When we first approached it, it was squirting water out of a cannon at the top, but then stopped and although we hung around a couple of times, it wasn’t up for doing it again.
There were some stalls selling beautiful goods. If I’d not been with N, I’d definitely have checked out this leather stall more closely.
We headed on through to HMS Belfast. Years ago, the OH and I took our eldest nephew to London and HMS Belfast is one of the places we took him and all really enjoyed it. It was a shame that it was raining, because climbing up onto the different decks is part of the fun and N wasn’t too keen on clambering up and about in and out. He certainly got to practise his ladder climbing skills. You wouldn’t want to take children much younger unless you want to carry them. There’s also the boiler room which is great to see, but under 5s aren’t allowed.
The ship’s bell excited N (anything that makes a noise, I suppose!)
He liked looking at the torpedo and learning about that, and having a doctor’s surgery seemed to interest him. I’d forgotten that throughout the ship there are mannequins of the sailors and workers on the boat. Thankfully N would walk past them, and spent a bit more time in rooms where they were, as long as he could hold my hand, and stand with me between them and him. Oddly, there was an art exhibit on HMS Belfast which involved a lot of beaded headgear and masks on the models. I always find these a little creepy and I’m not sure it helps children who might be a little weird with mannequins anyway.
I think the bit N enjoyed the most was just sitting on deck and watching the other boats and cruises along the Thames. Of course it meant I was asked what each boat was doing, where it was going, and why it was on the river. And the question that I’m sure all 4 year olds want to know ‘are there sharks in there mummy?’.
I could also point out the Gherkin to him, on our London skyline – not quite as spectacular as that approaching Manhatten on the Staten Island Ferry, but pretty special in its own way.
We also saw the Shard when walking back although N was underwhelmed by it. Pah, children, what do they know?!
I had to change our plans because there was no way the rain was stopping for a while. So we stopped for food in Hays Galleria. N chose Costa (he’s a bit obsessed with coffee shops). While the manager was lovely, crikey they were pretty appalling in terms of delivery. Only having one till when it’s a London office environment as well as fairly touristy area was a bit ridiculous, so we queued for ages. Then ordered a panini and toasted sandwich for lunch. The drinks were ok as expected (yum, to the new mint chocolate chip frappe!), but our sandwiches were took ages. I reckoned they’d forgotten about them and burnt them. Yep, they came out and apologised after I spotted them going to get some more to put on. Doh!
Our intended trip to Greenwich was aborted and racking my brains for somewhere suitable and easy enough on tube to and from, meant we headed across to the Science Museum. I’ve never been before although the crowds queuing for the Natural History Museum were mad, so I was a little worried at how busy it would be but it was manageable (and no queues to get in).
N was in his element. I think he could have spent all day there, asking questions and just absorbing it all. It showed me how far he’d come since the last time I took him to a museum, where he really needed quite a bit of encouragement to get into it. The only shame was because it was so busy it was hard to get to the buttons and activity spots while everyone who was using them hogged them.
He loved seeing the Earth, and proudly told me that’s where we live.
The astronauts were quite interesting too, as was Stephenson’s Rocket and various other vehicular exhibits.
But we headed on down to the basement where the younger children’s area is. There’s lots to do down there, but crikey it was hot.
TOP TIP ⇒ Wear layers to London’s Science Museum if you get hot easily.
It was a really disorienting place, but we found our way eventually to the arena are where there was a bubble show every hour or so. We squeezed into a couple of spaces, and then N was enthralled by Dwayne’s bubble show.
It was really well done, perfect for under 5s, talking about basic science by using everyday items to make the bubbles. My photos were shocking due to the darkness in the room and movement, so I’ve only really got one that just about worked.
There were other activities and talks going on during half term, although they also have events at other times as well.
Afterwards we headed for the Garden where the sensory play activities are. It was heaving so I’d definitely recommend going early if you want to have some peaceful time. N was a bit overwhelmed by the kids already there, and didn’t really get stuck into the water play, which I’m sure he’d have loved.
We did check out the touch area which had some interesting textures, and there were musical sounds, pipes and instruments to have a go on as well.
Afterwards, we didn’t have time to go the agricultural area, but we can save that, along with everything else, for another visit.
We didn’t have time while we were there to check out any of the Shaun the Sheep statues in the end. I had a detour to St Pauls area planned before the rain, but it slipped my mind with having to rethink plans, so I was a bit gutted to have missed them.
Now I have to start planning our trip during the summer. It’s going to be another theatre trip, but hopefully this time we’ll get the chance to go with friends, and the weather will be better!
If you’re not from London, do you do regular trips there? Where do you head to for the children?
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