Dominic’s parting words from Istanbul was that he is looking forward to meeting some English-speaking people. Our first outing upon our London arrival was the ASDA supermarket in Leyton for some basic supplies. Leyton was our base for the next week (we stayed with a friend of ours, Mike aka Buzz). It took almost the entire shop to hear the mother tongue; instead we heard plenty of Russian, Polish and some unknown African dialects. Dominic raised the question “I thought they spoke English here?” to my reply “not in ASDA Leyton they don’t”.
It was great to be back in London after 9 years away. It’s easy to forget just what a fantastic city it is. Trina and I were walking around with stupid grins on our faces as we reminisced about times gone past. We spent some time showing the boys around our old haunts and where we used to work and live. Was interesting getting back up to Kensal Rise (where Trina & I first lived when we arrived in London). The old local – the Buccaneer (aka the buckin’ beauty) had been totally transformed into “The Island” – a nice drinking establishment complete with outdoor tables and a nice looking menu. This was a sign of how the whole area has evolved over the last 13 years. We wished the area had been so nice when we lived there.
The boys already had an idea of what they wanted to see. The list wasn’t overly extensive, so we knocked most of them off in a couple of days – Big Ben, Westminster Abbey. Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and Hyde Park where we enjoyed doing a bit of paddle boating on the Serpentine and the boys spotted their first squirrel.
The weather was fantastic and everything is close together so we did plenty of walking and of course caught a few double-decker buses and a black cab for novelty value. It didn’t take the boys long to get familiar with the London Underground (standing on the right side of the escalator, walking on the left and minding the gap). They also noticed early on just how fast people move around (especially Mum!)
Of course no stay in London for a kid would be complete without a trip to Hamleys toy store (all 5 floors of it!) and no stay be complete for Trina without a trip to Selfridges (shame the pie shop has gone!) Tip – the toyshop at Selfridges is nowhere near as good as Hamleys (Aunty Megan, FYI).
The one disappointment was the Imperial War Museum, something that had been at the top of Dominic’s list to visit (he is obsessed with guns and tanks at the moment). The museum had only just reopened in July as they are in the process of renovating it to commemorate 100 years of WW1. I’m not sure why they bothered to reopen at all as most displays were in fact still closed – there was hardly anything there to see. There was only the Holocaust section (which was not appropriate for the kids) and a few other sections on the Secret Service and war medals display. Needless to say Dominic was extremely disappointed however a quick trip to Krispy Kreme Donuts and all was ok again.
Trina was longing for a day at the shops so Buzz and I took the boys to Wanstead, which is only two stops on the underground from Leyton but could have been a hundred miles away. Wanstead is a very nice village and has a great park so we took a ball and played some football before introducing Dominic and Callum to the famous London pub lunch (they got a bit bored after pint number 3).
The London Eye is a must-do and once again the weather-gods were kind to us with perfect blue sky. We were anxious about the queues to board but were pleasantly surprised when we walked straight in (perhaps the novelty value is starting to wear off?). The view from the top is spectacular and we felt that having spent the first few days around London the boys were able to recognize landmarks and relate to them.
Super Sunday was quickly upon us. For those of you who don’t know what this great day involves, it’s basically an afternoon of football, beer and talking rubbish. This particular Super Sunday we watched Liverpool beat Manchester United (happy days) at home and then took the boys down to our new local, The KIng Harold, to watch Arsenal beat Spurs. The pub was pretty lively and gave us the chance to have a chat to some fellow football fans.
For our final night in London we treated ourselves to the musical of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Drury Lane Theater. The boys know this story well so was an obvious choice for musical. It was enjoyed by all and the boys are still reciting the lines they found humorous. We took a long, late night walk to the tube station via Covent Garden – magical!
London truly is a great city. It offers everything and the highlight of the journey so far. Dominic and Callum really enjoyed it (perhaps because it was easier than Thailand and Turkey?). For Trina and I, it felt like we were at home.