Fall Break Trip to London

This past October our family took a trip to the United Kingdom.  We thought about making a trip just the two of us for our anniversary but I’m still not quite ready to leave all my kids and travel that far so we decided to take them along!  We were gone for seven days and packed as much as we could with three kids in tow!

First Day:  Arrival, the Tube and Jet Lag!

We took a 6:30 p.m. flight from Denver and arrived in London the next morning about 7 a.m.  We arrived to a steady drizzle of rain but that was the only day that it rained.  From Heathrow, we took the Tube, London’s underground rail system, to our apartment (flat!).   We dropped our luggage off and decided to start the day with a traditional English breakfast:  fried eggs, white toast, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, and pots of tea!  Our plan was to eat breakfast and stay outside to help us adjust to the time change but the rain really hindered our plans so we went back to our apartment and we all slept for several hours.

My traveling buddy
On the Tube from the airport to our apartment (flat!)
Tea!
We barely fit in our lift!

After a long nap, we walked to dinner and got a few things for the week.

Even the milk was small and patriotic.;)

Second Day: Tower of London, Cruise on the River Thames, Westminster Abbey

The next day, the sun shone brightly and after a quick breakfast at home, we headed to the Tower of London.  William the Conqueror built this tower in 1077.  It has a long history of being a royal residence, a prison, fortress and now holds the Crown Jewels of Queen Elizabeth II.

The kids loved eating Weetabix for breakfast!
This was the Tube station closest to our apartment
One of the rare times we had a seat…we were usually packed in like sardines!
View of the Tower of London from the Tube station

The Crown Jewels exhibit is not photo-accessible but we saw actual coronation items from when a new monarch was crowned, including a scepter and orb, the Crown of the Queen Mother and the Imperial State Crown which HRM wears for official functions.

Entrance to the Crown Jewels
Tower of London courtyard…and Tower Bridge in the distance
Tower of London also had a Line of Kings exhibit; armory from Henry VIII, Charles I and James II
The Royal Coat of Arms for the United Kingdom; the official coat of arms of the British monarch (the Queen!) ; the motto says God and my Right.

After the Tower of London tour, we headed out for a cruise on the River Thames but first a picture.

Photo op!  Yay for everyone…except maybe the youngest Brit.

On the cruise boat…it lasted about thirty minutes and we had a tour guide

The river tour lasted about thirty minutes and dropped us off at Westminster Pier (near the clock tower that holds Big Ben).  We weren’t able to see the tower because it is under construction for another few years.

Big Ben (“not the clock, not the tower, but the bell that tolls the hour”)
Parliament

From Big Ben and Parliament, we walked over to Westminster Abbey, the royal church where royalty has been wedded, coronated and buried.  There was a fee to tour the church but we walked along the exterior of the church and attended an evensong service that was free and open to the public.  The inside of the abbey is austere and reverent, filled with tombs, hundreds of memorials to poets, soldiers and others that have made an impact on British history.  I did catch a glimpse of the tomb of Queens Elizabeth I and Mary I (daughters of Henry VII, Mary was Catholic, Elizabeth a Protestant, arch enemies in life but buried side by side).  No pictures were allowed inside the abbey.  The evensong service is held most days at 3:00 p.m. and is open to the public.  The service was beautiful, very Anglican, and included prayers, hymns, readings, a sermon and scripture readings.  This service was very responsive in nature and I think my kids did great all things considered and sat through the 1.5 hour church service without a peep and not too much complaining. Win.

The program from the evensong service

After Westminster, we headed home and took pictures by some very smelly telephone booths and had dinner at a British pub close to our apartment.

Fish and chips with mushy peas and some sort of dipping sauce…not memorable
Sunday Roast…better but not by much. Big starchy thing is an English popover.

Third Day:  Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Saint James Park, Kensington Palace, Museum of Natural History

We got a late start on our third day in London (jet lag!).  We slept in, got coffee and breakfast at this place and headed to Trafalgar Square, a public square with fountains and statues.  We then made the long walk to Buckingham Palace.

Trafalgar Square

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace family selfie

Buckingham Palace was a bit of a letdown.  We got there late and there were so many people and so many ceremonial activities happening, you weren’t sure exactly what was going on.:)  After the changing of the guard, we walked along Saint James Park, a 57-acre park that borders with Buckingham Palace.

Saint James Park
Saying hello to the ducks in Saint James Park
People watching in Saint James Park
Love this picture!

After Saint James Park, we headed over to the National History Museum.

The museum is free and has exhibits on dinosaurs, a life-sized blue whale model and other stuffed mammals.  The kids enjoyed our brief time in this museum but my favorite was the woolly sheep outside of the grounds.

After the museum, we walked to Kensington Palace.  The palace was the official home for the monarch before Buckingham Palace and it is where Queen Victoria was born and raised.  We decided to nix the palace tour and instead grab tea at the gift shop and walk around the Sunken Garden that surrounds the palace.

View of Kensington Palace

Crooked picture by our 10-year-old of us in front of Kensington Palace 🙂

The Sunken Garden outside of the palace…one of Princess Di’s favorite spots

After Kensington, we walked to Hyde Park; this was perfect for our kids since they were ready to run and explore.  I was really impressed with the parks in London.  This one had a lake with swans and also a park for young kids named in honor of Princess Diana.  The park has a very strict policy; no adults allowed into the park if not accompanied with a child.  My kids still say this park was one of their favorite memories…so much to explore and take in.

Princess Diana Memorial Playground

Princess Diana Memorial Playground
The kids spent hours here

By this time it was around 5:00 p.m. so we decided to hit one more spot on our “to-see” list and took the Tube to Paddington Station.  The kids and I have really enjoyed reading several of the books about Paddington Bear by Michael Bond and all of our kids really wanted to see the station where the original story takes place.  Michael Bond passed away in 2017 and they had a sweet tribute to him at the station.

IMG_9380
Outside of Paddington Station

We love Paddington Bear from darkest Peru!
Our fearless leader, navigating us through the inside of Paddington Station

After finding a few souvenirs, we went on a wild goose chase to eat at an Indian restaurant that hubby said was exceptional.  We never found it but ended up eating here.  It was super spicy…even for me.

Day Four:  Oxford!

This was on my bucket list as far as places I wanted to be sure to go to while we were visiting England.  I have admired C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and in more recent history, the late Christian apologist, Nabeel Qureshi who all have ties to the University of Oxford.  My family was a bit reluctant to go but they were good sports to indulge me for one day. 🙂

Getting to Oxford required two modes of transportation, our trusty Tube and a double decker bus ride (ironically called the Oxford Tube which was very confusing) to the town of Oxford.  It was a peaceful hour or so long bus ride from London to Oxford.  Once we arrived in Oxford, we met our tour guide for the day.  He was a delightful gentleman and catered our tour to our interests, mainly places pertaining to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.  The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and has thirty eight colleges on campus; we toured two of them; Christ Church College and Magdalen College.

Riding on top of the double decker bus to Oxford with her pal, Paddington
Entrance to Christ Church College on the campus of Oxford University
Christ Church College
The dining hall of Christ Church College is filled with portraits of famous Oxonians…a few we recognized, quite a few, we didn’t!

Our tour guide David, also took us to where J.R.R. Tolkien lived with his wife in Oxford.  The home is now used as campus residences.

Tolkien’s home

Our tour guide then took us to Bodleian Library, a non-lending library on campus with a rich history.

Bodleian Library
The Divinity School of the Bodleian Library
Standing in front of an ornate chest that was used as the library’s lockbox
There are buildings designated just for examinations on campus; this was a test-taking building. I think I’d enjoy being a student if I went here.:)

We then briefly took a break from university touring and our tour guide showed us one of the oldest pubs in town.  We really wanted to eat at this pub due to its popularity with Lewis and Tolkein but it was sadly closed all day due to a private event.:(  Our tour guide assured us that this place was just as good and every pub in Oxford was sure to have been frequented by both literary figures.:)  We took a series of winding passages and landed at The Turf Tavern.

Hertford Bridge, popular landmark in Oxford
Finding our way to Turf Tavern and our wonderful guide, David!
Winding path to the tavern
Turf Tavern

After our tour guide showed us the pub (we returned to it later for some beef pies and pints), he took us to Magdalen College (pronounced Maudlin).  C.S. Lewis taught here and while at Magdalen, wrote many of his books that we are familiar with.  It is said that the many of the statues around Magdalen gave Lewis inspiration for the frozen animals in his Chronicles of Narnia.  We were able to tour the college on our own as our tour guide had another appointment with another group that afternoon.  It was nice to tour Magdalen leisurely at our own pace.

Magdalen College

 

Magdalen College
The view from inside the cloister of Magdalen College
My very favorite picture from Oxford
Inside Magdalen College; right outside was a little terrace for students and visitors to picnic
Lunching on the terrace

After lunch, we took a walking tour of the grounds surrounding Magdalen. It was a beautiful day and we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll.

About to go on our walk around the college
I believe this was called Addison’s Walk
Perfect seat for our Queen Lucy, the Valiant
It was a beautiful day in Oxford!
A mossy bridge

Back on the Oxford bus to London. Then a few more Tube stops til home!

After our tour of Magdalen, we headed back to the Turf Tavern for some nourishment before our long journey back to London during rush hour.  Such a fun day; I would have loved to have spent another couple of days in Oxford.

Day Five:  Millenium Bridge, a visit to Canonical and Borough Market

After our long day in Oxford, we were all really tired on this day so we took things a little slower.  We started the day with a trip to hubby’s London office.  The kids really liked the sound-proof pods.:)

Sound-proof pods for one-on-one conversations 🙂
Roof top view of the city from Papa’s workplace

After the visit, we headed to Flatiron Square, just a short walk from the office and also not far from our next stop, Borough Market.  Flatiron Square was really busy for the business crowds as it has food trucks, food vendors and restaurants and a fun outdoor space.

After lunch we did the Bankside walk, along the South Bank of the River Thames.

Shakespeare’s Globe
South Bank
Quick photo op at the Tate Modern Art Museum

We then went to Borough Market, London’s oldest produce market.  This was really fun experience for me since I love everything food-related.:)  

Borough Market
Many vendors selling lots of veggies, fruits, cheese, bread, tea
Squeezing her OJ
A little freshly squeezed orange juice for sustenance
I loved this place! 🙂
Flower vendor

The kids opted for gelato for dessert at Borough Market but I opted for a sweet roll.

#carbs

After Borough Market, we walked across the London Millennium Footbridge.  It allows pedestrians to connect to the city of London from Bankside.

London Millennium Footbridge, Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the background
At this point in the trip, my hair was not liking low water pressure and I didn’t have a blow dryer. Thus, the pulled back look.;)

After the Millennium Footbridge and Saint Paul’s Cathedral, we took a Tube to an area of London called Knightsbridge so that we could get some souvenirs from the Harrods department store.  It is the largest department store in Europe and has 330 departments.  

Harrod’s
O and Harry
Harrod’s
Restaurants inside Harrod’s

After Harrod’s we had dinner here.  I didn’t realize it was a chain Lebanese place but the food was good.

Lamb Pizza

Day Six:  221b Baker Street, British Museum, Covent Garden, Holland Park

Our last full day in London found us all a bit tired and sluggish.  I would have loved to have added another museum to the mix but the kids were really struggling by this day.  We started our day off with something on my 10-year-old’s wish list:  a visit to 221b Baker Street, the address of Sherlock Holmes.  There is a museum at this location but we just went into the gift shop.:)

Statue of Sherlock right outside the Tube Station for Baker Street
The Sherlock Holmes Museum
Outside of the museum
We didn’t realize pictures inside the gift shop weren’t allowed until after this was taken

After the Sherlock Holmes stop, we went to the British Museum.

Entrance to the British Museum
Rosetta Stone at the British Museum
Ramses II – some think he might have been the Pharoah who refused to let God’s people go
Easter Island’s Moai Statue – they were reminded of Night at the Museum 🙂

The museum also had an exhibit on Assyria and India that we briefly toured. The kids were tired and a bit cranky so we decided we’d better head out. We had lunch at a pizza place in Covent Gardens.

Hotel Chocolat sold some pretty fabulous British chocolates, we got some as gifts for friends and family

After the Covent Garden area of London, we decided to nix all other plans and take the kids to the park, always a great plan. The weather was turning cooler and we could tell our kids just wanted to do what kids do best, play! We took them to Holland Park. The park was pretty much deserted and we spent a few hours here.

Holland Park
Holland Park
Zipline at Holland Park

We grabbed an early dinner at a neighborhood Indian restaurant and got to bed since we were leaving the next day. We got up early the next morning and wheeled our suitcases to the Tube and got to Heathrow in time for an early breakfast and our flight. Overall, the kids did great and we had a wonderful time in jolly ol’ England and now I am ready to move across the pond. 😉

Saying goodbye from the Queen’s Terminal at Heathrow

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Barron says:

    Wow, looks like a wonderful trip! The lamb pizza looked delicious, btw. 🙂

    Like

    1. Susy Britton says:

      Thanks!

      Like

  2. Mercy Samuel says:

    Lovely pictures !! So well described ! I almost felt that I was there with you .

    Like

    1. Susy Britton says:

      It’s a beautiful city, you would love the royalty and regalia.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s