We’d always planned to launch our round the world trip from London. Partly because the kids enjoy spending time there, saying hello to the Queen’s house and riding the tube like grown-ups. And partly because I could find cheap flights out of Gatwick.
After spending a few days with my parents in Devon at the start of our trip, we’d penciled in three days in London to see the sights. Our visit didn’t go entirely to plan, as we had to spend almost an entire day in St Thomas’ hospital.
We’re now diverting for an unscheduled visit to Cardiff, while we wait for an operation to fix Lexi’s finger. We had planned to be in Rome this week, but who wants to see the Colosseum and gorge on soft ice-cream, when instead you could visit the capital city of Wales.
Missing out on our visit to Mt Etna may not have been such a bad move though…Mt Etna eruption.
A Few Days In London With Kids
You are free to go absolutely anywhere you fancy in London. It’s a big place. But in our few days with the kids, here are our highlights:
- Natural History Museum – we’ve been here a few times now and I’m sure we still haven’t scratched the surface. Good if you like old dinosaur bones and stuffed animals. Not so good if you usually get lost in Ikea, as you may never found your way out.
- Science Museum – right next door to the Natural History Museum, but you’d need a lot of stamina or a very short attention span to manage both in one day. I dare say it’s been done, but we spent nearly all day here. This was top of our kid’s wish list for London, even above M&M world, because there is so much to do and the displays are nearly all interactive in some way, which the kids just love.
- Buckingham Palace – we got lucky and stumbled into changing of the guards, which none of us had seen before. But even without any gold carriages and cavalry guards, the kids have always enjoyed waving up at the windows in Buckingham Palace, just in case the Queen manages to see them. Kiera says that she wants to live in Buckingham Palace. She did concede that the Queen could stay too, but only in half of the rooms as she’d need the other half.
- Covent Garden – we often seem to end up in or around Covent Garden in the evening, as the last time we stayed there were street performers putting on shows for the kids. This meant that Anja and I could enjoy a beer outside. There are also plenty of dinner options nearby, and probably a few nice shops if you know what you’re looking for.
Followed By A Week In Cardiff
Cardiff is Anja’s home town. We’ve visited as a family plenty of times, on day trips from our home in Bristol. Even though our week in Cardiff was unplanned, and in some ways forced upon us by medical issues, it has been good to spend some time here in tourist mode.
- Cardiff Bay – previously we’ve only sampled tiny portions of Cardiff’s old dockside, but this week we’ve been able to do the full tour. A historically important area of Cardiff, which was both the launching off point for Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic in 1910, plus the route by which South Wales coal was exported to the world. In the 1880’s, Cardiff docks was handling more coal than any other port in the world, but this came to end after the Second World War and Cardiff Bay suffered from years of neglect and destruction. Now re-developed, we spent a lovely afternoon wandering along the quay, and the kids even managed to drag us into a museum in the Pierhead building, which is what enabled me to write so knowledgeably about the area!
- Techniquest – a slightly scaled back equivalent of the Science Museum in London, but practically on our doorstep in Cardiff Bay, and filled with interactive exhibits to keep the kids entertained while Dad tries to understand and explain the complex scientific concepts that each new “fun zone” is trying to convey. I emerge having remembered some GCSE level physics, while the kids usually emerge drenched in water having had too much fun trying to disprove Archimedes’ physical law of buoyancy.
- National Museum Cardiff – a useful rest from water play and a potential escape when it might happen to rain in Cardiff. On our last visit there was a temporary installation of some of Quentin Blake’s original illustrations, which the kids were pleased to see because they were able to recognise most of the drawings from Roald Dahl books.
- St Fagans National History Museum – an open air village, formed from lots of old houses from different periods of Welsh history. I wasn’t too thrilled by this prospect either, at least not when my wife first suggested we visit. Then I heard it was “free” to enter, so there wasn’t too much to lose, albeit I’m sure they appreciate donations and quite like it if you could at least buy a cup of coffee while you’re inside. As it turns out, while I probably won’t get a new career in advertising any time soon, St Fagans was actually quite interesting. For some reason it was curious to poke around in old farmhouses just to see how lucky we are today to have comfortable pillows and running water. It is also mind-boggling for the kids that people, even quite recently and not just in pre-historic cave dwelling times, used to live without all of the creature comforts that they are so used to.
That was more than enough to keep us entertained for the week, alongside popping back to Bristol for Lexi’s finger operation just for a bit of variety.
Lexi was very brave and is now walking around with one good hand and one hand wrapped up like a boxing glove. This doesn’t appear to be slowing her down too much, so we’re now planning to resume our round the world trip by heading to New Zealand for the end of March, as originally intended.