Europe Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Trip Report London – five days with two teen boys

Jump to last reply

Happened to log on and noticed a couple of people asking how we got on in London! The trip was September 2013, travelling on my own with 14yo and 12yo, so here are some snippets. Thanks so much to those who helped in the planning.

First up, we loved it. London was vibrant, clean, alive and offered SO much.

Day 1
Early morning arrival (from Australia). Met by driver from Just Airports (45GBP). Used debit card at airport to withdraw GBP (no problem at all – glad I didn’t bring pounds from home, had been hesitant about this). Parkwood Hotel at Marble Arch. Too early for check-in so went nearby for a light meal. Unusual (for us): a bar that served coffee and beer, plus a meal. Boys soon informed me of the gleaming, lavish bathroom down miles of polished wooden stairs! Already having fun.

Later, across the road to Hyde Park to stroll past the Italian Gardens, Peter Pan statue, Serpentine, etc. Boys fascinated with first sight of a squirrel (we don't have). World Triathlon Championships happened to be on, so this was a bit of a bonus for athlete 14yo. Also saw Buckingham Palace. Black cabs. Beautiful, well-kept gardens everywhere.

After a few wrong turns found Victoria Stn where I queued up (for ages) at ticket office for 7-day travel cards, Zones 1–2 (had brought passport-sized photos). This turned out to be a great decision IMO. No messy topping up, and we definitely got our money’s worth since we went everywhere by tube. Also entitled us to 2-4-1 deals.

First experience on tube hilarious. Boys couldn’t get over the pace at which people moved! ‘Calm down, everyone!’ 14yo said. Took tube to Westminster (I think) and there were gasps at sight of Big Ben on exiting. Walked across bridge to Southbank, wandered along taking it all in and bought ice creams. Photos with Houses of Parliament in background. All flagging by day’s end. Enough.

Day 2
Fat Tire Bike tour. Met tour leader at Waterloo Stn, then headed down to the Banksy Tunnel for the bikes. This was an absolutely brilliant morning. What a way to see London! Through back streets, across parks, over bridges. London Eye, W. Abbey, Westminster school, Samuel Johnson’s House, millennium bridge, Covent Garden... We had a fabulous guide (Craig), who was full of enthusiasm and funny and informative (had no idea the ‘green bridge’ and the ‘red bridge’ held significance, or that Big Ben was tilting). A touch of rain, but no matter. The boys loved it. And it gave me a break from being the guide. No way would we have seen half of what we did otherwise. It’s active, and if you have active teens – do it! And 14yo announced during the tour he wanted to live in London.

I think after that we went to ‘the biggest Nike store in the world’. Wow, what a scene. Funnily enough, 12yo no longer really interested in seeing car showrooms! Phew. Good.

Day 3
Tower of London in the morning. Long queues – I guess this is to be expected, but not something we relish! Though we certainly did enjoy the Tower.

Afternoon we went on a Muggles walking tour. It had turned cold and windy, which didn’t help, but still fun. Particularly JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley (off Charing X Rd) with its original streetlamps, and its bookshops, where she spent hours poring over books on ‘magick’.

I think after this we had an early meal at a cosy Italian eatery nearby. Perfect. I always find that to sit down to a nice meal or hot chocolate/coffee lifts the spirits in an instant. Glass of wine helps too.

Day 4
The absolute highlight of London (apologies to all those museum- and gallery-philes!!): Harry Potter WB Studio Tour, Watford. Don’t miss it if your kids are HP fans. It is wonderful. Boys had brought their own money for ‘extras’, which included the photos of them riding Quidditch brooms and in the flying car – great souvenirs. Many ‘sets’ such as boys’ dormitory, Ministry of Magic, the Burrow, Dumbledore’s office, Snape’s potion-making classroom, Diagon Alley. Entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. Insight into the making of the movies, models of Hogwart’s. Outside you can walk across the bridge (that leads to Hogwart's), and hop on the Knight Bus, and see 4 Privet Drive. Oh, and buy a butterbeer.

Back in the city that afternoon we paid a fleeting visit to the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone, but really no time or energy to do the museum justice.

That night we went to The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus. Preceded by an uninspiring, cheap Thai meal down a side street. The show was an absolute hoot! Top choice. Loved the theatre itself, too, including the old-fashioned mini buckets of ice-cream served at interval. Back home, 14yo said that this play was actually one of the highlights for him. Warmed my heart.

Day 5
Covent Garden. I settled them down with donuts to watch a street performer while I found a pharmacy to buy a Maison Pearson hairbrush! That was my only ‘must buy’ apart from a Burberry trenchcoat! The price of the latter could not be justified (or afforded), though I did enjoy trying it on.

Next we headed for St Paul’s and loved wending our way up the narrow stairs all the way to the top. Whispering Gallery intriguing. Back down we emerged onto the steps in freezing, lashing rain so tottered across the road to a ‘Parisian’ café, which was one of those spirit-lifting choices, esp. since due to head for Paris the next day.

In the afternoon I wanted to buy a Gap trenchcoat (more my price) at Oxford Circus, so boys came too and luckily helped with quick decision. Then I thought they deserved a treat for the last day, so suggested Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Yes, tacky, but hey! First stop Lillywhites (which they’d spied the night before), and they each bought a pair of shoes.

By this stage they were racing round the tube like old hands, so I said that they could go to Ripley’s on their own and then make their way back to the hotel at Marble Arch. Great decision! I left them there and proceeded to wander at a leisurely pace down Regent Street (yes, in and out of shops), and took myself home. The boys duly turned up unharmed and said they’d had a great time.

One night, can’t remember which, we went to Notting Hill to the Churchill Arms pub that was recommended on the forum. Turned out to be crazy busy, so it was probably Friday or Saturday night. Too crowded and a long wait for a table, so not for us that night, though it did look good. Instead, in desperation, we found another pub in the area and probably had the most disappointing and overpriced meal on our entire trip. For 14yo, the ‘cook’ had upended a packet of cornchips on a plate, sprinkled cheese over it, shoved it under the griller (broiler) and called it Nachos!! Awful. I think it was about 18GBP.

Athlete son made good use of Hyde Park for his running training (just as well, since that was the reason we stayed nearby!).

I’m afraid we never made it to the War Rooms, and it soon became clear that we wouldn’t be making the trip to Hampton Court. It was just too much travelling time out of a day. We didn’t get to the Natural History Museum either, or London Eye, or O2. Or Greenwich! We had wanted to go to The Globe, but simply couldn’t fit it in, in the end. Trafalgar Sq was unfortunately taken over by Triathlon tents, etc. so no climbing over lions. Though we did see the blue cockerel! But I think we did darn well, all up. We thoroughly enjoyed the things we chose to do and just loved London. Thanks to all for thoughtful advice.

14 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

  • Announcements:
  • Writers Needed for Georgia Coast
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 18, 14 at 03:12 PM
  • Writers Needed for Rwanda and Uganda
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 18, 14 at 03:12 PM
  • Writers Needed for Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 18, 14 at 03:11 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Please critique my Croatia/Slovenia itinerary
  2. 2 Madrid—Portugal—Northern Spain—Barcelona by car, need an itinerary...
  3. 3 England, Scotland, Ireland, and France... Where do I start?! (three weeks)
  4. 4 Fashion week Sept 23-Oct 1....our dates for Paris Sept 22-28
  5. 5 Speeding ticket in Germany: how do I handle this?
  6. 6 Amalfi Coast vs Greece
  7. 7 No Time for Both...so...Segovia or Salamanca
  8. 8 Granada: stay in the Albayzin?
  9. 9 Help!! Need to pick up train tickets in France and credit card stolen
  10. 10 International driving permit required in France?
  11. 11 If you had a week in Switzerland...
  12. 12 Looking for review of 1-day Pompeii/Naples Itinerary Please :)
  13. 13 Scotland day tour
  14. 14 Tour Company in Russia
  15. 15 restaurants / pubs near British museum / Bloomsbury
  16. 16 Academic Tours and Travel Malta and Sicily Delight Tour
  17. 17 7 weeks Europe with toddler - Itinerary advice
  18. 18 Please help us maximize our time in each European city
  19. 19 Wedding In Positano Italy Sept 2014- NEED YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS
  20. 20 Best Car service from Heathrow airport to Waldorf Hilton in London
  21. 21 Trip Report Trip report: solo female traveler in Spain
  22. 22 Trip to Pyrenees
  23. 23 London - Paris - Venice - Flight & Transport Questions
  24. 24 Cyprus travel logistics: north to south and back again
  25. 25 What do you know about using the iPhone GPS app in Europe?
View next 25 » Back to the top