London is one of the best cities in the world, so when my husband was heading there for business, I knew I wanted to join him. The timing was over the summer, so with the blessings of good luck, we took our daughter and made the most of it. The first week of our trip, was all London, then we spent the next week seeing Bath, the Cotswolds and Windsor, before heading up to Edinburgh for a few days.
We decided to stay in the oldest neighborhood, which is called the City of London (Roman walls still exist in places). It served as a home-base to nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Museum of London and the financial district. It’s also just across the Thames from the Southwark neighborhood, which includes the Globe Theater, Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market and the Tate Modern. We rented a flat for the week, rather than book a hotel, so we could have more family-friendly space and eat-in when we wanted, for a far more reasonable price. The location turned out to be ideal for us and we loved hearing the bells of St. Paul throughout the day.
Here’s an early morning picture of the street where we stayed (on Carter Lane), very close to St. Paul’s Cathedral. By evening, it was filled with young professionals having a pint after work.
At the British Museum we got to see Egyptian mummies (including Cleopatra), the Rosetta Stone, Sutton Hoo (an extensive collection of Anglo-Saxton artifacts), The Lewis Chessman (82 iconic chess pieces that testify to the cultural ties between Britain and Scandinavia circa 1150 AD), Viking artifacts and gorgeous Asian arts. The stunning atrium architecture (below) is a mix of historic and modernistic. Afterward, we went to Coram Fields, near Russell Square, where my daughter could climb, zip-line and do kid-stuff.
We spent some time checking out the royal Horse Guard in their impressive uniforms. This did not rank very high with our daughter, but I thought it was fun to see. She also did not appreciate all the ‘creepy dead people’ in the floor tombs at Westminster Abbey, but gave Big Ben two thumbs up. We all loved climbing up the steps to the Whispering Gallery at St. Paul’s Cathedral and taking the London Eye. It’s definitely worth the extra effort if you have older kids in tow.
Having been to London a few times before, I didn’t have an enormous checklist of tourist sights to see. For me, it was more about experiencing it as a family and planting the travel bug in our daughter. The best moments are the ones that you never plan for. She marveled at the number of different languages she heard and took in all the different cultures and types of people she saw. She got energized by taking the Tube and being in charge of figuring out our daily route. She loved seeing impressionist art by Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Manet, and Pissaro all together, at the bite-sized Courtauld Museum. At Somerset House she had the chance to run through the jet-fountain courtyard. She got to stand on the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, just after walking the deck of the Cutty Sark, whose wood still smells of tea from voyages to China long ago.
It’s cool stuff and I think it helps shrink the world for a kid. My hope is that she’ll feel more connected to the broader world and realize that how we live in our town, is not the only way to live.
–> Up next: Bath, the Cotswolds & Edinburgh
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.
And all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
— John Steinbeck