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Taking Grandkids to Visit "Grammy's London"

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Aug 20th, 2018, 10:27 AM
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Taking Grandkids to Visit "Grammy's London"

I have been awol from this site for a while and am completely unfamiliar with the new (at least to me) layout, but I’ll give this a try since there are usually several inquiries about taking young ones to London.

This one is for my grandchildren . . . and it began with Lee Mead.

I am a huge fan of Lee Mead, a musical theatre star and currently a cast member of Holby City. As such, I have traveled to London several times in the last 10 years or so – so often that my grandchildren, C & V, had begun calling it “Grammy’s London”. I always told them that when they were old enough, I would take them to “my” London, and the time was right this summer while V was 8 and C just short of 10. We decided to bring their mom and dad along for company.First thing I did was rent this flat: https://www.vrbo.com/8238036ha

Price was good, flat was basic (which was all we needed) and clean, location was absolutely perfect – two block walk to Maida Vale underground station; Starbucks just down the Elgin mews; small markets and a couple of pubs close by. Also, it’s on the 14th floor with a small balcony – the view is lovely! The owner was very easy to work with (we had several changes during planning – and even last minute when our flight was cancelled) and always responded promptly.

The second thing I did was book tickets to take everyone to see Lee Mead in concert at Eastbourne. (Good timing.)

I am a planner, as most on this site are, and my daughter (DD) and son-in-law (SIL) were happy to let me plan it all, so I did. I purchased in advance anything I could and had the entire 11 days scheduled on a calendar . . . which was why the huge hiccup of British Airways cancelling our flight could have been a fiasco. They rescheduled us to depart nearly 24 hours later than planned. Fortunately, Anthony (flat owner) did not have anyone coming into the flat immediately after us so was able to give us an extra night on the end so we ended up with the same amount of time, just shifted forward 24 hours. But it was crazy and not something I have ever had to deal with before. The only compensation we received was rescheduling our return to Saturday instead of Friday at no charge – and even that was not without a headache. But all’s well that ends well, so . . .

We’re off! C & V were excited and had no trouble on the flight. They both slept quite well, and the adults napped a bit. (I usually sleep well on a flight but I was hesitant to take a sleeping aid when I had the two little ones with me so didn’t this time.) Arrival at LHR was uneventful, except for an unusually long line at Customs. But then, I don’t usually travel in June so I chalk it up to that.

Used justairports.com for a car large enough to accommodate all of us. The driver had a bit of trouble finding our flat, but we eventually made it and settled in. We had our evening meal at Elgin pub which was less than a block away – excellent food and beer (they tell me. I’m a wine drinker.) And, pinch me – we’re really in London!

Day One
I had ordered Oyster cards in advance for DD and SIL, (I already had one), and the website said children travel free on the underground but need a photo id card. I did what the website requested (which included scanning their passport photos) and was told to pick up their cards at Paddington (adults' cards were mailed to us in the US) so we did that first thing. HOWEVER, you apparently don’t need to do this. The child can simply pass through the turnstile with an adult, thus not paying. I cannot tell you how many times the attendant told us this because they thought we were paying for the children (which we weren’t. The display said “Child £.00 each time). However, C & V loved using their own cards so that was cool, just not necessary apparently.

On to our first stop: Westminster
Big Ben, unfortunately, is completely under scaffolds right now. The clock is visible, but the tower is covered. We still did photos from Westminster Bridge, of course, and exclaimed over the Parliament buildings and the London Eye across the way. Then we walked over to Westminster Abbey.

I should have realized what I was in for when both C & V were curious about the statues, most of whom I could not identify. (They did know Gandhi - thanks to Brad Meltzer’s “I am . . . “ books). What I mean by that is they were curious and fascinated about everything the entire trip. I had thought we would perhaps be an hour in Westminster Abbey – no. It was easily three hours, (including time for a snack in the café). The Abbey has a lovely child’s audio tour, which they did while we adults did ours. It was extremely well done, held their interest, and answered all their questions. Plus, we had the unexpected bonus of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Gallery! https://www.westminster-abbey.org/vi...lee-galleries/

We paid an extra £5 and took the elevator up to the higher reaches of the Abbey (although it looks like you are supposed to take the stairs. The exhibit was newly opened and hardly anyone was going up there.) What an amazing exhibit! Then a quick visit to Stephen Hawking, and off we went for a walk to Buckingham Palace.

Just a note here that our first week in London was what you would expect weather-wise in June: high 70’s. Second week got hotter – mid to high 80’s. (After we left, it really got hot!) We walked 5-6 miles nearly every day and C & V never complained. I seriously mean, not one complaint.

After our walk to Buckingham Palace (no sign of the Queen), we walked to Green Park station and went to visit some friends for fish and chips. Yum. This is one of the few times we used Uber to go home as the kiddies (honestly, it was them, not the adults) were practically falling asleep in their chairs. And we needed a good sleep because tomorrow would be . . . Harry Potter Day!!!

Last edited by LCBoniti; Aug 20th, 2018 at 10:31 AM. Reason: typographical error
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Aug 20th, 2018, 10:35 AM
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This will be fun -- looking forward to the rest . . .

I'm surprised BA doesn't owe you something for a full day's delay . . . even wit the adjusted return flight. The EU has all sorts of consumer protections re airline responsibilities.
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Aug 20th, 2018, 10:49 AM
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Day Two
Apparently it is important to pre-book Warner Bros Studios Harry Potter Experience. https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/ I had booked for 11:30, which was perfect timing. We bought a bit of breakfast at Starbucks and caught the Bakerloo line at Maida Vale station north to Harrow and Wealdstone (end of the line), from where we took an overground train to Watford Junction. There is a Harry Potter bus that leaves periodically from the station to the studio. The price for the bus is £2/person each way. It is maybe a 10 minute ride.

If you are a Harry Potter fan, this is heaven. If you are not, it’s still very interesting. We all are fans so we absorbed every bit of every exhibit and would go back tomorrow if possible. We live close to Universal Studios, which has a Harry Potter section. There is no comparison. The studio is on a completely different level of Potter-mania. A truly wonderful experience!

After a very full day, we set off for home – and encountered one of those perplexing incidents on the London underground where the train just stops for no discernible reason. I mean, dead stop at the Queen’s Park station (one or two stops before Maida Vale) with no more Bakerloo trains coming or going. After a bit of “what the heck do we do now?” conversation, we found a Starbucks and used the free wireless to order Uber.

Another note: I usually use Lyft, which does not operate in London. I will download the Uber app for future trips, just in case. Fortunately, SIL was already signed up with them.

Car came to our rescue within five minutes and we returned to our flat, exhausted but soooooo happy after a tremendously fun day.

Last edited by LCBoniti; Aug 20th, 2018 at 10:58 AM.
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Aug 20th, 2018, 10:52 AM
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Hello janisj! Lovely to hear from you again.

Apparently it was an "airport" problem, which means no compensation. All the confusion was compounded because we booked through Expedia - booked British Airways, which used American Airlines for the actual airplane. We kept getting the run-around between all three. It was madness.
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Aug 20th, 2018, 11:05 AM
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on for the ride
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Aug 20th, 2018, 11:39 AM
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Day Three
DD’s only request for the trip was that we visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre so I pre-booked the 12:30 tour. https://blog.shakespearesglobe.com/
I have been before so I knew we would want to be early for the exhibits, particularly the booths where you can listen to notable actors performing bits of plays. (I could listen to Richard Burton all day . . . ) I knew an entire play would be too much, but I thought a bit of one or two might impress the youngsters. It did, but the theatric sword-play exhibit was much more appealing, especially to C.

The Globe tours are conducted by actors so they can be funny. This one was no exception although most of the humor went over the kids’ heads. C & V are musical theatre kids – they love performing. So they were interested in the reconstructed theatre. More of the exhibits after as well as a good rummage in the souvenir shop. My favorites were a frig magnet “Have we no wine here” and a “blood” stained tea towel that asks “Will these hands ne’er be clean?” Gotta love Shakespeare!

After the Globe, we walked over to Borough Market, (mad on a Saturday). But I found my favorite place: Neal’s Yard Dairy, where we tasted (and bought) delicious cheese. http://boroughmarket.org.uk/traders/neal-s-yard-dairy

As I noted before, Maida Vale station is on the Bakerloo Line. London is soooooo easy to get around and even easier these days. We downloaded a free phone app: Tube Map – London Underground, which did not require wireless to use and with which we could map the route to anywhere. C became fascinated with the various underground lines, to the point that he almost had it all memorized by the time we left. But I know he was disappointed that we never made it to the southern end of Bakerloo, Elephant and Castle. That just sounded so exotic to him!

So, an easy underground trip back to the flat and a fairly early night as the next day would be a train ride to the seaside to see . . . Lee Mead in concert!
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Aug 20th, 2018, 12:34 PM
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<<Apparently it was an "airport" problem, which means no compensation. All the confusion was compounded because we booked through Expedia - booked British Airways, which used American Airlines for the actual airplane. We kept getting the run-around between all three. It was madness.>>

that's what they bank on, like the train companies. not like in the "good old days" of British Rail when i got a whole £13 taxi fare refunded [quite a lot then] when my train went the wrong way. [yes, really - I've never met anyone else who was on a train that went on the wrong railway lines].

anyway, great to see you back here, LCB, and thanks for including us in your exciting trip with your G/C. great start, and keep it coming!
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Aug 20th, 2018, 01:23 PM
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Your report is a treasure! Thank you for taking time.
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Aug 20th, 2018, 01:46 PM
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Enjoying your report so far!
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Aug 20th, 2018, 01:54 PM
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Yes great reading - great to see a kids' oriented trip!
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Aug 20th, 2018, 01:58 PM
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On for the ride. We went to London in June also, and were surprised and delighted by the wonderful weather.
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Aug 20th, 2018, 02:58 PM
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Thank you all so much for your kind encouragement. Annhig - lovely to hear from you as well.

As I said, I'm new to this "new" format. I do like that you can edit your post but for some reason, it's not picking up the double spaces between paragraphs. I'm going back to edit them in so please be patient if you catch the post before I edit it.

Days Four and Five
Yes, this trip was for the Grandkids . . . but the family has always wondered what that Lee Mead fella is all about. And he just happened to be in the middle of a concert tour that brought him to a town only an hour and a half train ride from London. And the grandkids really needed to put their feet in the English Channel. So . . . .

I booked five “VIP” tickets which not only were front row, but also included a Meet and Greet with Himself. Perfect.

Again, I pre-purchased train fare. I do find overground train booking a bit intimidating – probably because I rarely do it. My British travel companion usually takes care of all the bookings when we travel afield. I used this website: https://www.thetrainline.com/ and it worked fairly well. The only mistake I made was booking first class. I thought that would mean tea/coffee and snacks on the train but they never came around with the cart – neither outbound nor inbound. Not sure why. At any rate, it was only one and a half hours so not really an issue except there’s no point paying for first class if there’s no tea cart, is there?

Outbound was an “anytime” ticket so we just timed our departure to be sure our arrival would give us time to change and get ready for a Sunday roast dinner before the theatre. We left from Victoria. I love British trains. Living in California, specifically southern California, our trains are lower than an afterthought. Expensive and inconvenient. Someday I’d like to take the train to Seattle for the experience but so far I’ve not done it. But I digress . . .

In no time (well, in an hour and a half) we arrived at Eastbourne station and grabbed a taxi to Eastbourne Riviera Hotel: Eastbourne Hotels, Eastbourne, Sussex UK, Eastbourne Hotel
I had no idea what to expect – my sole criteria was that it be within walking distance of the Royal Hippodrome Theatre. But it was a very nice, very typical English seaside hotel. DD, SIL, C & V had a family room – I had a single just down the hall. Our room rate included breakfast the next morning which was really very good.

Less than a block away was the Crown & Anchor where we met friends for Sunday Roast (working the timing around the World Cup). And then it was perhaps two blocks to the theatre – perfect! We had our Meet and Greet with Lee. He was charming, as usual. And then the concert, which everyone enjoyed. (They finally “get” the whole Lee Mead thing. ) C & V really enjoyed the concert. After Lee sang one song, “All of Me”, V sighed and said “That was beautiful.” High praise, indeed.

Next morning, after breakfast, we walked about two blocks along the seafront to Eastbourne Pier. It was a glorious day - Eastbourne has a really lovely seafront. We did have to watch out for the sea gull invasion – good thing we didn’t have any ice cream for them to steal! I’ve never seen so many gulls in one place in my life – and I live near the beach!

The English Channel was cold and the “beach” was rocky rather than sandy. But it was very clean (which was not my experience on the Isle of Wight a few years ago).

I don’t often go to London when the gardens are in bloom. I have been once before at the end of June, but it’s usually fall or even winter when I make the trip. So I really did enjoy the beautiful, sunny English days on this trip and this morning in Eastbourne was simply gorgeous.

The timing of our return tickets were late afternoon but we were ready to leave so asked at the station about changing to an earlier train. The attendant said to just get on the train and explain our circumstances to the porter when he came around. He didn’t even ask. As I said, I love British trains.

Last edited by LCBoniti; Aug 20th, 2018 at 03:01 PM.
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Aug 20th, 2018, 03:07 PM
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Eastbourne Pier
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Aug 20th, 2018, 04:22 PM
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Day Six
Once again, I underestimated my grandchildren. We were going to the British Museum and I really thought – maybe an hour? No way. I can only last two hours in a museum so I had to drag them away after that.

I should mention here that I had bought C & V several children’s “travel” books before the trip – a travel journal for each of them and a couple of other activity books that had things to look for at all the touristy spots. Whenever there wasn’t an audio guide, they used the activity books to give them an idea of what to look for. That worked especially well at the British Museum because the line for audio guides was quite long when we arrived. I had an idea of the highlights and so between Grammy and the guide book, we traveled ancient Egypt, Assyria, and Greece. Obviously there is loads more to see but, as I say, two hours is it for me.

Besides, we had afternoon tea reservations!

Quick walk to Tottenham Court Station, Northern Line to Waterloo, then a walk to the Library at County Hall, London Marriott Hotel. Oh, wow. I’ve had afternoon tea at several places over the years but this one was absolutely perfect. First of all, the setting was beautiful: an actual library (of sorts) and a table with a view onto the Thames. Then they brought out a case of various teas in small jars that you can smell and decide what tea you want. Oh, and don’t forget the champagne – bottomless glasses, no less! C & V had milk and sugar in their tea – it was their first taste of real tea. They liked it. The food was excellent and plentiful. I can’t remember the price, but I know it was less than £40/person. Not cheap, but good value for a special tea experience: https://www.thelibraryatcountyhall.com/afternoon-tea

After tea, the waitress showed us a shortcut to the London Eye – another pre-purchased event. It was quite fun and the grandkids really enjoyed it. I had not done it before so it was fun to share it with them. But I kind of think once is enough.
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Aug 20th, 2018, 04:26 PM
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Let's face it, it's all about the scones and clotted cream for me . . .
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Aug 20th, 2018, 05:01 PM
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>>Let's face it, it's all about the scones and clotted cream for me . . .<< AND the Champagne

I haven't had afternoon tea in the Library but have had an early dinner there and it really is a lovely room.
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Aug 20th, 2018, 06:09 PM
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Signing on. It's all about the scones for me, in fact I just do scones these days (I recommend the ones at the V&A). And aren't the views from that Marriott great!
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Aug 21st, 2018, 05:05 AM
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Let's face it, it's all about the scones and clotted cream for me . .>>

nooo - you are supposed to put the jam on first! the cornish way of doing this [unlike those uncivilised Devonians] enables you to stick a lot more cream on top of a level layer of jam; if you put the cream on first, the jam just goes on in blobs. [well it does if you use the amount of cream that I like to use!] It's all about the cream.

otherwise, i'm really enjoying reading about your trip and so glad you enjoyed Eastbourne and its gardens where my Aunty Ethel used spend her 2 weeks' summer hols almost every year, in one of the hotels along the front. Good to know that they are still going strong.
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Aug 21st, 2018, 07:11 AM
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But I know he was disappointed that we never made it to the southern end of Bakerloo, Elephant and Castle. That just sounded so exotic to him!
Best left as a mystery: his disappointment would be as nothing compared to what he might feel if he really got there. Wait for him to try googling it!

Last edited by PatrickLondon; Aug 21st, 2018 at 07:16 AM.
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Aug 21st, 2018, 09:37 AM
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I think I gained 5 pounds just looking at that picture. Okay, I SOOO want to go back!
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