We decided to head to the South Bank and take a little walk along the River Thames despite the rain, making our way to the London Eye. Because we are staying in the financial district, it was our first glimpse of the riverside city scape and it was magical. Frankly, the children seemed to think splashing in puddles and carrying umbrellas added to the adventure.
I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of wait times for the London Eye, but walked right up on a rainy Wednesday night and it was terrific. I wish we had known not to bother paying extra for the visual map because there are six ipads inside each passenger car that made for an interactive experience.
It was a slow, steady 30 minute ride that despite the height felt entirely safe and secure--but for the moment when my monkey of a daughter decided to climb on the bars of the exit doors marked with bright red tape declaring DO NOT LEAN. Minor heart attack for this Mama and about 15 minutes of lecture for her.
The kiddos were able to experience a bit of Ping Pong afterall. We didn't return to the aforementioned bar where ping pong was invented, but had a delicious dinner in a dim sum restaurant by the same name right around the corner from the London Eye.
We came home for long overdue showers and soft beds and didn't wake up until 10am! The after effects of the red eye that seemed so neglible yesterday were quite clear as I tried to get my party of five moving today. We set out for a brisk rain free (hooray) walk to St. Paul's Cathedral stopping off at Starbucks for a bit of hot chocolate fuel.
We hopped on a double decker bus tour that was our transportation source for the remainder of the day.
Our first "hop off" spot was the Tower of London-- a complex that was bigger than I had anticipated and rich in royal history. The Queen was actually on the premises for a function so part of the facility was closed at first, but it didn't impede our visit, it just added a bit more excitement! We did not have a sighting, but the security and media presence were fun to see.
Hundreds of years of coronation jewels, crowns, scepters, chalices, rings and the like. (No photos allowed.)
The children, of course, insisted on a visit to the torture tower and the displays of suits of armor & weapons of old truly brought history to life. I purchased a couple of history books intended for children in the gift store and the kiddos have been battling for them during downtime.
My husband also got to fulfill his dream of quoting Chevy Chase in an appropriate situation.
Buckingham Palace was much larger than I anticipated--775 rooms! We didn't get to witness the official changing of the guard, but there was shifting and patrolling by the guards periodically that was interesting to watch--without throngs of people.
We got back on the bus for a bit before electing to get off and walk again. Despite all the wonderful tourist attractions, there's nothing quite as entertaining to a group of kids as a throng of pigeons.
We capped off our day with a trip down to Covent Gardens--what a cool part of the city. There were so many interesting restaurants, but, alas, 10 year old tastebuds had to be considered! We compromised with The Noodle House and everyone was happy.
We saw Matilda, which I didn't know that much about going in. I knew it featured many children, was written by Roald Dahl and that it had first been brought from book to stage in London. The children were captivated and I was enthralled. Even my husband (who still doesn't get the allure of Wicked) enjoyed it. All three of my people ranked it above Mary Poppins and slightly better than Lion King. I do think they were right at the age to 'get it' as some themes could be hard for kids younger than ours, but it was a hit. I really love musical theater, so this experience with my people was a huge trip highlight for me.
We took a 20 minute walk back to our flat and called it a night. A GREAT day in London!