For a little boy, the biggest thrill in London is a mode of transportation rarely available anywhere else, the red double-decker bus. James frequently plays with a small model of a red double-decker bus at his grandmother’s house in Iowa and to see one with his own eyes was very exciting.
The first day we ventured into London on the train with Pops and Nanny and were able to hop right on a bus just a block outside Victoria Station. We climbed up to the second level and enjoyed the wind in our hair as we snaked through the city streets taking in the sites. Besides being a fun and comfortable way to see the highlights of London, the bus tour helped me get my bearings in the city for future touring.
Many of the museums in London are free. James’s favorite was the Natural History Museum, the home of a famous life-size model of a blue whale. While I wasn’t all that impressed by a bunch of stuffed animals and bones, James was riveted. He particularly loved the display of a lion poised eating a deer and the saber tooth cat bones. On the lawn outside of the museum, there is a butterfly garden tent and for 6 pounds you can go inside and watch the creatures flutter about flowers and dine on overripe fruit. James was anxious to check it out so we bought a ticket for the exhibit (I paid, he was free). There were butterflies absolutely everywhere and on the backside of the tent was a darling children’s garden with a small maze and tree house jungle gym
London is considered one of the greenest big cities in the world with trees lining many streets and large parks. We were incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to meet up with our Des Moines friends Sarah, Zac and Mia Voss who are in the UK for the summer. We found them just below The London Eye at a fenced in playground that is perfect for small children. We spent the rest of the day exploring the London’s parks including St. James Park, Green Park, and Hyde Park ( Check out www.royalparks.org.uk if you’re planning making a trip to London with kids). In Kensington Gardens we visited the Princess Diana Memorial Playground near a statue of Peter Pan. The story goes that J.M. Barrie author of Peter Pan had the statue erected overnight so that in the morning the children walking to school through the park would believe the statue had appeared like magic. The playground has a Peter Pan theme with an enormous pirate ship the children can climb all over, a huge sandbox, little wooden skiffs, and tree houses.
As an American, I have often heard people complain about English food but I found it delicious. Throughout London there are small grocery stores (Marks & Spencers, Tesco) that carry fresh sandwiches, fruit, granola bars, and a variety of salads that make for healthy meals on the go. I had no trouble finding toddler food and James and I had a great time picnicking in London’s parks. While James and I found plenty of age appropriate activities, there were many more opportunities for fun in London for older children (5+). I look forward to a future visit!
(Above: James stamps his butterfly ‘passport’ at the London Natural History Museum)