Recently, we have been
bribing encouraging Roo to improve her table manners by referring to that pinnacle of etiquette, HRH Queen Elizabeth II. We have assured Roo that Her Majesty absolutely never talks with her mouth full and wouldn’t dream of not finishing her dinner. Roo as a result has developed a fixation on correct placement of table-wear and a curiosity about this oracle of British decorum. So was born the idea of a 3rd birthday trip to London for Roo, stopping by Buckingham Palace to see where the lady with the best table manners in the UK eats her dinner.
Despite living within easy reach of London, we have not really explored it much with Roo. Fortunately for us, Roo’s birthday trip coincided with me being sent a London Pass, meaning we had access to a huge number of London’s top museums and entertainment for her big day. A visit to Hampton Court, Kensington Palace tours, Tower of London, HMS Belfast…the list of places with free entry with the London Pass goes on! I particularly liked the idea of free screenings at the cinema and discounted London show tickets although I had a suspicion we weren’t going to get to take advantage of those. We had a lot of fun planning our day’s adventures.
After hopping on a train into London (an adventure in itself), our first stop was Paddington Station where we paid our regards to that station’s famous furry inhabitant. It was an odd moment for me, given Paddington used to be my ‘office’ in my former days as a Duty Manager there. Five-years-ago-me never imagined whilst walking past that same statue each shift that a daughter of mine would one day be perched next to it!
A short tube ride and we arrived at Green Park. Here we wandered through the park with its trees dripping in autumnal colour towards Hyde Park Corner. Our first stop was Wellington Arch – a monument I have often walked under but never visited in its own right. A flash of our pass and we headed up the 64 steps (the lift was out of order) to the top terraces from where we got a fantastic view over the surrounding parks and avenues.
We had been told by the man at the entrance to keep an eye out for the Ambassador of Ghana who would be passing back under the arch in his carriage after an audience with the Queen but HRH must have some good chocolate biscuits on offer as we didn’t spot him. Incidentally, the Wellington Arch is a great place to watch the Horse Guard parade on their way to the Changing of the Guard and also has an interesting exhibition on London’s war memorials – definitely worth a visit.
From Wellington Arch we continued towards Buckingham Palace, stopping off at the Royal Mews where the Queen’s carriages and carriage-horses are kept. This working department makes a fascinating insight into living history and Roo was enchanted by the selection of fairy tale-esque carriages on display. Her favourite bit though was seeing the carriage-horses munching hay in what have to be some of the fanciest stables a four-legged beast could wish for! As we left, we caught a glimpse of some of the Ghanaian dignitaries heading into Buckingham Palace in the state carriages. It was a bit bizarre to see these carriages in use for regular working day activities and not just national events and celebrations!
Our picnic lunch stop saw us perched on the steps in front of Buckingham Palace itself, where Roo kept a close eye on the curtains in case the Queen should be peeking out to check on her sandwich-eating style. A post-lunch stroll through St. James’ Park with its profusion of wildfowl (they have free-range pelicans!) and pretty lake views back to Buckingham Palace took us down to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament .
Here we whipped out our London Passes once more and headed into Westminster Abbey, another first for me. It’s a fascinating place to visit and older children can pick up a trail to guide them around and learn the key facts. We were particularly excited to find Darwin’s memorial stone and to realise just how many Kings, Queens and famous people from history are taking their final rest here. Roo, who at just 3 is a little young to appreciate more than the stone-carvings of crowns and the colossal scale of Westminster’s interior, was soon keen to move on. That is one of the great things about the London Pass though – with so many places in London covered by it, you can just nip in and out of an attraction without feeling guilty for wasting your money – a particularly winning feature when sight-seeing with young children of short attention spans!
Finishing our sight-seeing walk at Westminster underground station, a tube and bus took us on to the main event for the birthday girl – a trip to London Zoo! Before we even got inside, Roo had spotted the giraffes and was giggling with excitement. Zebras, tigers, lions…London Zoo has no shortage of big animals to keep little people interested. We particularly enjoyed the reptile house whilst Roo’s favourites were the penguins who whizzed up to the viewing glass to see her!
Booted out at closing time, we tackled the London rush hour back to Paddington and headed for home with two very tired little girls and foot-weary parents!
With four London attractions visited with our London Passes, our day out represented pretty good value for money although you get the best value out of it for two days or more of sightseeing – there is just too much to see to cram it all into one day! An adult two-day pass normally costs £68 and in one day alone we clocked up well over £50 worth of single adult entry fees. What’s more, you can rack up further savings through the use of additional discount vouchers for London attractions , tours, nights out and eateries.
Where the London Pass really comes into its own though is for both guilt-free visits with children (if they find something dull, you can simply ditch and move-on) and for discovering some of London’s quirkier destinations. The Toy Museum, a boat trip on Regents Park Canal or a visit to the only remaining early operating theatre from the days before general anaesthetics – London is full of lesser known tourist nuggets just waiting to be explored, half of which I would have remained in blissful ignorance of had I not found them in my London Pass brochure! If you are heading to London, then a London Pass is well worth considering. We certainly had a great day out and I have a feeling our Birthday Girl will be keen to head back to the bright lights for more before too long.
You can find full details of the prices and attractions covered by the London Pass on their website. We were sent London Pass as part of this review but all words and opinions expressed above remain entirely my own.