Between Christmas and New Year's this year, we went to London and Grandma Jan and Grandpa Steve joined us.
We left on Christmas day in the afternoon and the flight had no issues and the kids were healthy - a Christmas miracle!
We started with a hop on and hop off tour to allow the kids some time to get over the jet lag. Each kid napped for a while on the tour as we thought they might. We stayed on for the whole bus ride to take in the city and see the major sites. We saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, Harrod’s, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the London Eye, Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
We ate at the Spaghetti house on Oxford Street - was very good and quick service- and we had to make our way through big crowds to get there.
On Tuesday, we had booked the London Eye. We got back on the tour bus after a late start in the morning with everyone sleeping until 8am. We took the other route on the bus and saw Kensington palace and got off at Kensington gardens to see the Totem Pole from the same maker that made Jan and Steve’s totem pole and play at the Princess Diana memorial park. We didn’t have time to get lunch before heading to the London Eye so we had a quick lunch at the park hut and surprisingly a lot of bread over here has eggs so Kyle has had hot dogs and hamburgers without bread or gluten free pasta.
The London Eye was fun. About a 30 min wait but the kids all had their cameras and had fun taking a hundred pictures! Then we walked around looking for a taxi in the rain but didn’t have any luck. So we ended up walking past Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace and finally grabbed a cab.
That night we had dinner at the JW steakhouse. Food and wine were good but service was slow so luckily it was just at the hotel and the kids ended up watching phones to last the 3 hour dinner!
On Wednesday we went to see The Snowman musical at the Peacock Theatre. It was a good show - very kid friendly and cute. We arrived 30 minutes early via cab to enjoy the Theatre where the kids got lollis (lollipops) and we settled into our seats and looked at the musicians preparing for the show. Then afterwards we headed to Cafe Murano where we ate delicious Italian food and shopped around Covent garden. It was very busy but we picked up a few things like tea and toys. Then Maeve wanted to go the Lego store that was 10 minute walk away. We ended up near Leicester square where there was a Christmas market to get some ornaments and also had to wait in line about 20 minutes for the Lego store. They picked out some nice London sets. Afterwards we walked around and knew the kids needed food. With the crowds, we ended up back at the hotel and Eric got Five Guys for the kids. Afterwards it was hard for the kids to wind down so they didn’t get to sleep until after 9:30.
On Thursday, we headed to Windsor Castle where we had tickets to enter when it opened at 10am. We were lucky to be able to catch the train amid the rail strikes. We took a fast train to Slough and a quick transfer to the train to Windsor. It was a really cute town and also crowded to see the Castle and St. George’s chapel. The audio tour was great and they even had one with activities for the kids which kept them entertained. We weren’t able to take pictures many places but St. George’s Chapel was beautiful and we saw where Queen Elizabeth was buried, alongside Prince Philip and her parents and sister. We also toured Windsor Castle and saw the Changing of the Guards, the Queen Mother’s dollhouse, the many rooms of the Castle including where the fire had destroyed a wing of it. George’s Hall was very big and beautiful with the real Christmas tree which was probably 25 feet tall. It was amazing.
After we caught the train back to Paddington Station, we found Paddington bear and then hopped in the oldest cab left in London with the driver who has been driving for 32 years and was set to retire in 6 months. That was fun! Meanwhile Eric and Steve’s taxi broke down (we couldn’t ever fit 7 people in a cab except for 1 time as an exception) and then went shopping at Next to find some clothes for the kids. That night we ate at a Lebanese restaurant - Bistro1 - and it was amazing. We had a nice table in the basement near the bread oven - very cool space. We enjoyed the food and Kyle enjoyed the chocolate ice cream. It was a huge bowl and I know he would’ve ate more. We then walked back to the hotel and Jan and Steve tucked the kids in while we grabbed a drink at a local bar.
On Friday, the kids were very excited for the Winter Wonderland that they had seen all week long in Hyde Park. We got a later start that morning and got to the amusement park around 11. It said 99% chance of rain so we were all prepared but it was a brief mist and that was all - crazy weather - but thankful that it didn’t rain. They rode roller coasters and kid rides and played games. We also had lunch at the German food hall with brats and chips and ran into friends from New Orleans, Robynn and Michael, and caught up with them. How fun to catch up with people from home and meet their two girls, Ellie and Reese.
At dinner that night, we went to a restaurant that many people recommended - Dishoom - near Kensington Palace. Wonderful Indian food that you share amongst the table. It was a very fun experience of trying lots of dishes. Kyle couldn’t eat much because of his egg and tree nut allergy so he enjoyed another pb&j. We also went shopping near the restaurant in the posh High Street.
Our last day was Saturday, New Year's Eve, and we had a tour to get into the Tower of London before it opened at 8:30am. The opening ceremony was great - we saw the Beefeaters and the guards and they had a certain way they opened and unlocked the gates. We were the first to go in and see the Crown Jewels (the day before it had been a 2 hour wait). Although we couldn’t see St Edwards crown because it’s being sized for the coronation, we did see the crown that Elizabeth wore and was seen on her coffin. From there, our tour guide took us around the Bloody Tower and the White Tower where we heard stories about Henry VIII and his 6 wives. We also learned about the Tudors vs the Lancasters and the War of the Roses and the death of the two young princes —- and how Elizabeth II didn’t allow for DNA on the bodies they discovered of two young boys in the late 1990s but King Charles is considering it. We saw all the armor of King Henry VIII and the kids did great on a long tour. Kyle did need to be carried a lot of the time but overall was very good. It was a great way to visit to the Tower.
From there we walked in the rain across the Tower Bridge and went to lunch. It was a nice break from the rain but then we didn’t have much time to explore more of the stops that we didn’t get to see inside like Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral but you needed tickets so it really had to all be planned in advance. So we also knew we needed to get back closer to our hotel because it was New Year’s Eve and 100,000 people were about to descend on the city for the fireworks. The guys and kids got a cab which took them about 50 min to get home (should’ve been 40 so not too bad but lots of closed roads) and then Jan and Kate were 10 minutes from an organ she wanted to see in the London Bridge underground station. Jan asked one of the workers who explained how to get there and he was kind enough to walk us there and let us through the ticket lines. We didn’t know if you needed tickets to then hop on the Tube so we ended up heading out and hailing a taxi that took about 45 min. We were home for about an hour to pack for the airplane and then headed to dinner at a Japanese steakhouse where you cook the meal for yourself at the table. It was fun - the girls really enjoyed cooking and did a good job eating - and Kyle enjoyed some rice and really loved the ice cream again!
It was a great trip - so much to see and do in London that a week is hardly enough. We will have to go back someday!
Kate - Windsor Castle and all the great restaurants - especially Italian, Lebanese, Japanese and Indian
Eric - The Snowman musical and watching the kids enjoy so much about London
Maeve - Taxi rides (even riding in the oldest taxi left on the road in London- pictures below), and all the food - especially the spaghetti that she ate the first 3 days and the cinnamon dumplings with apple filling and vanilla ice cream from Kintan Japanese BBQ
Cecilia - Hyde park winter wonderland rides, mango popsicle from Dishoom
Kyle - The Snowman musical, The London Eye, the buttered noodles, and the taxi rides