Us versus London: And the winner is...

Five nights in London! What a great idea. The flights are cheap (more on that later...) and it is just a quick hop over the Channel from Bordeaux to an English-speaking place.


We got on the plane the day after the Germanwings crash and there was a passenger behind me freaking out about it. I am already an armrest-gripper so that didn't help much. Arriving at the airport, we took a bus to catch a train to get on another train. The stations weren't accessible so Dave got a good workout hauling the pushchair and luggage up and down steps. Then after most of a day travelling, there was no-one at the apartment to let us in.

All right London, you win this round.

That evening, we were due to meet friends for dinner but thought we should just pop into the doctors first to check out Miss Two's cough. The secretary at the doctor's office sent us straight to the Accident and Emergency Department of the local hospital. Highlights were the comatose man in the recovery position who vomited periodically and endless replay of the first two minutes of Despicable Me 2 thanks to a scratched DVD. I stayed overnight with Miss Two in the hospital and we were discharged the next evening. (Needless to say we had to miss dinner.)

Things started looking up from there. The next morning was fine and we went for a walk along the South Bank Queen's Walk. We wandered along the riverside past Shakespeare's Globe on through the Borough Market and admired Hay's Galleria. We braved the queues for the London Eye to appreciate the sights. The trip takes about 30 minutes and you are in the pod with about twenty five people. Just make sure to get a good spot for photos (and a plan of what you are looking at helps). The views are interesting in every direction with famous landmarks and unique architecture.

Big Ben and Westminster

London Eye and view over the city
That afternoon, we took a boat down the Thames to Greenwich. We walked through the cute little village and down to the Greenwich Observatory at 0 degrees longitude. We then explored the Cutty Sark ship and museum. The famous ship was one of the last tea clippers ever to be built and was launched in 1869. It was one of the fastest for its time and was used for cargo until 1922, then brought to the dry dock at Greenwich in 1954. There was plenty for both kids to explore, like the cabins and decks, as well as the museum below. The museum gives a good picture of what life was like on board, with interactive computer games, seats that rise and fall, ship models that kids can play with and flaps to open. It was great for both the two year old and seven year old.

Cutty Sark

We spent the next day at the Harry Potter Warner Bros studio tour. The studios see 5,000 visitors per day so there were queues to get inside even with a booked ticket. The studios opened to the public in 2012 to showcase the famous sets used in the movies, including Platform 9 and 3/4, the Great Hall, the Gryffindor Common Room and Privet Drive. The props, costumes, make-up and design departments divulge how they make their magic too. You can walk through Diagon Alley or climb on the Hogwarts Express train. Master Seven's highlight of the day was a spell-casting lesson. The gift shop looked to be doing a great trade in round glasses and wands of every type.

Set of Kings Cross Station and Hogwarts Express

The Potters' house

The next day, rain drumming on the roof, we met some friends at Jamie Oliver's cafe in bustling Covent Garden. Then we had a look around the Science Museum. There was heaps to see there for older kids and interactive parts too.
Too quickly, time had trickled away and it was time to depart. On the last day, we took the train to the airport. We thought we had arrived in plenty of time, however we were sent to three separate desks on check-in. By the time we arrived at security, queues of grumbling travellers snaked up and down the giant room. After putting our boots and jackets back on, a desparate run to catch our flight followed and so we were doomed to lunch on the plane (which on a certain cheap airline consists of sandwiches and no dairy-free options).
When I think of London now, I smell the spicy deliciousness of hot cross buns. These fluffy darlings are nowhere to be found in France so we scoffed as many as we could while we were in England. We also managed to get in a few milky coffees and a good old-fashioned roast. Surprising the things you miss when you can't have them.
I concede defeat. No matter how long we stay in London, it never seems to be long enough.


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