It started small
Wouldn’t it be great if we could visit London with the grandchildren. A day trip? But there’s too much to see in a day! Too much to plan! A lot could go wrong!
This will take some careful planning
A small package of ‘clues’: an ‘I Spy London’ book; a children’s map of London; a London sticker book; a Union Flag wallet, pen and notebook – plus a ‘golden ticket’ – all parcelled up to make a unique and memorable Christmas gift which caused huge excitement.
Save the date
As soon as we decided with our daughter that we could go on the ‘Inset Day’ before the February half-term holiday, we looked for appropriate travel, visit and stay deals.
The first great deal was with LNER https://www.lner.co.uk/. Booked in advance, seats reserved and for just a little extra First Class wahay! So that’s brunch sorted!
Easy to get around
Transport for London TFL https://tfl.gov.uk/make it easy to get around London with an Oyster card, or even more easily, cost-effectively and efficiently with just a debit card. It can be tapped at the entrance and exit of every underground station – no faffing about with ‘real money’.
Evie eight-and-a-half, and Jack 6 (and their Mum and Dad too) were beside themselves with excitement. We arrived at Retford Railway Station in time to pick up a Costa https://www.costa.co.uk/ and see some high-speed trains flash through the station. And then it was our turn. It was a special treat and worth the extra to have a late breakfast and unlimited tea and coffee served to us on the train. Wow! Did we feel posh!
The devil is in the detail
To plan an epic trip like this takes a lot of forethought, time and research. National Rail http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ have a 2-4-1 scheme on many London attractions – that saves a huge amount of money and made it possible for the six of us to visit our first port of call, the Tower of London https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/#gs.YIrn5iaH.
Worth every penny
A call at the visitor centre to pick up an activity pack for the children which included a free badge and pencil and we’re in. We managed to get onto the 1.30pm guided tour… and met Bill, the Yeoman Warder. This man imparted so much in a very entertaining and engaging manner – if not a bit scary, he is not a man to be messed with. The children warmed to him and were thrilled to have their picture taken with him.
The icing on the cake
Earlier planning had bagged us a couple of rooms at a very good rate at the Premier Inn https://www.premierinn.com in Greenwich – if you book breakfast and why wouldn’t you eat-as-much-as-you-want-buffet-style – the kids eat free. Yes, Greenwich is a bit far out but there’s much to see there. The Cutty Sark https://www.rmg.co.uk/cutty-sark, the maritime museum, the naval college, the market AND best of all… for a modest fee you can get there via the Emirates Airline cable car https://www.emiratesairline.co.uk/. Truly amazing views and we were blessed with a glorious sunset too.
Let’s tick some more boxes
After a comfortable night and a good breakfast we hit the road again. I had no idea that there is a tunnel under the Thames for walkers from Greenwich to Canning. This was a novelty.
The Docklands Light Railway
The DLR took us to ‘Bank’ then the tube to Westminster. Eyes popped at the sight of Westminster Bridge, Big Ben (clad in scaffolding unfortunately) the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. A fifteen minute walk to see Buckingham Palace was rewarded with the sight of the Household Cavalry riding by. Another fifteen minute walk (those poor little legs) to Trafalgar Square to see Nelson and the lions… then China Town still decked out for Chinese New Year and finally Covent Garden which did not disappoint.
This is the place to go if you are on a very limited budget – it just keeps on giving. We saw performances by a West End dancer, a juggler and his bed of nails, street artists, musicians, a string quartet, an acrobat and a man with a Diablo. Crikey.
Memories that will last forever
Exhausted but we still managed to visit Hamleys at St Pancras and of course the Harry Potter Shop at Kings Cross. A monumental trip but so worth it!