Sorry my London posts have been so s p r e a d o u t! I always want to be thorough in my travel posts and had to write about some other pressing news before I returned to our lovely trip across the pond.
My friend, MaryEllen and I took our 12-year-old sons, Pat and Aden to London for a week. Although we hit many tourist spots, their favorite moments were not museums or city walks. They loved getting left on a subway platform, spray painting graffiti on Abbey Road, and flying business class on the way home– all of which you can read about here.
But we did have some more traditional adventures in London that were fun and engaging, even for boys who like sports and video games a lot. My last post included our trips to see Big Ben, Parliament, and the Churchill War rooms. We also checked off the London Eye, the Aquarium, and the Tower of London (click the link for more deets.)
London is known for its wonderful theater so we got tickets to see “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” at the Royal Drury Lane theater.
The show was terrific. Top notch production with beautiful sets and costumes and an inventive, modern approach to an old story. My favorite scene was the cool way they showed Mike TV getting shrunk and zapped into the atmosphere, and I loved the creative way they made the ensemble dancers into oompa loompas.
My cousin’s friend who lives outside London hooked us up with tickets to a football (soccer) match between his hometown of Watford and the Albion team. We took a train and an Uber car to the game– which was a pain, but completely worth it because the boys had a blast.
Seeing an authentic European soccer match was a cultural education.
People dress rather nicely for games. Everyone gets there early and instead of tailgating, they belly up to the bar for wine or beer and a selection of greasy, traditional food like sausage rolls (a giant, fatty pig in a blanket) and “beef” potato pastries called “pasties.” MaryEllen was in heaven but the kids and I were longing for a hotdog or burger and fries.
There’s no alcohol served after the game starts, and yet they were the loudest, most consistent and enthusiastic fans I’ve seen since college. We were glad the boys couldn’t hear all the words to their naughty cheers!
Another day we visited the Tate Modern Museum of Art. There are so many wonderful museums it’s difficult to choose but we thought the boys may relate to the contemporary art better than portraits of 16th century royals.
We got the boys on board by visiting the gift shop as soon s we arrived to purchase 15 postcards of works by famous artists (Monet, Manet, Kandinsky, Warhol, Mondrian, etc) and creating a game around who could find the art on the cards fastest.
Boys love competition of any kind, so they raced through the galleries looking for specific works and learning the names of artists in spite of themselves.
We moms got to wander through more leisurely and take in the awesome loft space and impressive collections.
Some suggested we take a double-decker bus tour but we found it much more fun (and a fraction of the cost) to take public double-decker buses around town.
Using our Oyster Cards to get on, we always sat on the top by the front window for an excellent view of neighborhoods all over the city.
Have I mentioned I love to shop? One day we took the bus to Oxford Street— which is kind of like 5th Avenue in New York– to check out the scene.
Aden got a pair of British Nikes and I got some snazzy snake-skin boots at Liberty.
Known for its signature country French/Bohemian fabrics, Liberty is a gorgeous high-end department store that feels like tiny boutiques housed together in a large mansion, decorated by the best eclectic Etsy designers.
I couldn’t go all the way to London and not stop at Harrod’s. I’ve heard the folklore about the shopping mecca my whole life and had to see it for myself.
It’s certainly the fanciest store I’ve ever seen– with every major designer represented and modern, glitzy displays. The building has been redesigned since Princess Diana’s former boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed bought it and turned some of the floors into what looks like an Egyptian tomb with relics and giant sculptures lining the escalators, almost like a Disney ride.
The food section is amazing and I brought home tea and chocolate– which was pretty much all I could afford. The best part, of course, was the shoe department, which is called “Shoe Heaven.”
That’s my kinda afterlife!
I’ve documented my love for the royals on the blog before, so a stop at Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard was obviously on our must-see list.
There’s not much action, but Aden liked seeing the horses and the stiff way the beefeaters march in unison in their funny hats.
As for food, we were traveling with two picky eaters who ordered plain pasta and butter wherever we went, so gourmet meals seemed like a waste of effort and money. A pity as London has so many great restaurants.
If traveling with stubborn eaters, I’d suggest the Wagamama chain of Asian restaurants which has a variety of noodles and soups and serves beer and wine. We had a good meal outside at chef Jamie Oliver’s Union Jack after theater near Covenant Garden.
We also walked through the food stands at Borough Market, a short walk from the Tate Museum and had a yummy lunch at a cafe called Bill’s also near the Tate and the Shakespeare World Globe Theater. And you must stop in any neighborhood pub and order the fish and chips. It’s worth the extra miles on the treadmill!
We could have stayed another week and still not seen everything we wanted to see. I can’t wait to go back! Tell me your favorite London spots in the comments.