Andrew, Maelle and I went on our first international trip since COVID! All the praise hands, for sure. I didn’t realize how much I missed hearing foreign languages (they may speak English, but MANY people are not natives; it’s perhaps the most international city in the world), and traveling in general. It was exciting and exhausting and exhilarating all at once.
Exhausting might be a good place to start….this one barely slept a wink on the plane. After a quick Easter celebration at my parents’ house, we left for the airport to catch our 9:30 pm flight. She was just dozing off on takeoff, when the lights flicked back on and the crew began a two-hour dinner service. Ugh. When that was wrapping up, she noticed the kid in front of her was watching her favorite movie–Sing 2–and there was no way I was going to fight that battle at midnight. So, at approximately 2 am, after she finished her movie, we turned all the screens off and she curled up in my lap and fell asleep…for about an hour before the damn lights went on again. Seriously.
We were all pretty groggy after our flight, so we took a black cab to our hotel and napped for a couple hours. We awoke in the afternoon, grabbed a snack and took a walk around Hyde Park to get some sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. We found the cute ‘Rotten Row’ playground, which we’d visit many times during our stay.
The following day, we (accidentally) slept in until noon! We were obviously tired, but WHY IN THE WORLD DIDN’T WE SET AN ALARM?! We raced out the door, grabbed a quick bite at Cafe Paul and hopped on the tube.
Maelle quickly fell in love with riding the tube and enjoyed walking up and down the steps, boarding and choosing her own seat. We headed out on a Rick Steves’ walk, which included Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. We ended up across the river on the London Eye. We’d always considered it too ‘touristy’ (and expensive!), but it ended up being a really unique experience.
The following morning, we walked by Big Ben, visited Westminster Abbey, found ANOTHER playground and ate at the outdoor Borough Market. Unfortunately, Maelle got a little sick in her stroller, so we had to cut our activities short and head back to the hotel.
The next day was our first day without Daddy. Andrew was at a conference nearby all day, so Maelle and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our hotel, followed by a quick trip to Waitrose, a local grocery store, to pick up picnic supplies for a lunch together in Hyde Park. I even grabbed a can of rosé!
Unfortunately, halfway there I realized that I’d forgotten to bring a map, and my phone didn’t work without wifi. So, we were winging it! I ducked into the tube station hoping to find a map, and when I didn’t, we hopped on the tube toward Hyde Park Corner–I figured that would get us somewhere close! It did, and I was even able to grab a map at one of the information booths in the park.
The following day, Maelle and I headed to the park with a picnic lunch again, and this time we got to see some of the Queen’s Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, which is stationed in barracks across the street from the little playground.
The story is much too long to type here (and told MUCH better in person), but shortly after this photo was taken, Maelle and I had our MOST EPIC potty accident experience EVER. Let’s just say there were cannons, a bloody hand and a too-tiny bathroom stall involved. It will literally never be topped, and she earned herself a new pair of kicks.
After daddy was finished that day, we headed off on another Rick Walk, this time to the Notting Hill neighborhood, which is the home of my mother’s favorite Thai restaurant, which we’d visit (with her!) later in our stay.
After that, we hit Carnaby and Regent Streets for some shopping! Andrew and I got Barbour jackets (which came in handy on windy days–including this one!) and Maelle took home a teddy bear wearing London jammies from the famous toy store, Hamley’s.
The next morning, we raced off to catch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Too bad it’s hard to get close enough to see anything unless you arrive VERY early.
Afterward, we headed to the Tate Modern, where Maelle enjoyed both the artwork AND the foam brick play area set up for kids. So fun! We even enjoyed a quick snack (wine and charcuterie for the adults, milk, chips and pistachios for the babe) on the top floor of the museum overlooking the Thames.
That evening, we visited the British Museum and saw some phenomenal Egyptian mummies, and the Sutton Hoo exhibit, which was particularly interesting after seeing the 2021 film, The Dig. Highly recommend. Maelle and I shared some sushi at a great little Japanese place that evening.
The following morning we visited the Portobello Road market! The top of the street is filled with open shop doors, as well as stalls selling antiques and other collectibles, and as you move toward the bottom, the tents become more tightly packed, brighter in color and abuzz with activity. You’ve reached the food market!
I chose Indian, Andrew chose Venezuelan, and Maelle got some sort of teriyaki noodle. It was all delicious and–as always–quite the experience.
The following morning, we headed out to Greenwich by boat. It’s the home of the Prime Meridian, which I knew, but didn’t really KNOW. Also, GMT? It stands for GREENWICH Mean Time. How did I not put that together before now?
It’s also the resting place of the famously fast clipper ship, the Cutty Sark, known for transporting tea from China to England in record time. Visiting the ship was surprisingly fun for all of us, especially on a nice day. We even met the illustrator of the children’s book we bought for Maelle, and she signed it right there!
After lunch, we hiked up to the Royal Observatory to check out the old telescopes and clocks and read about their history. We got to stand on the meridian line as well!
We didn’t make it to the National Maritime Museum, but perhaps we’ll visit that one with Maelle’s grandpa (my dad) soon!
Speaking of grandpa…my parents arrived the next morning! Andrew was off at his next conference, so I met them after breakfast and we visited the Natural History Museum, where Maelle got to see some REALLY big dinosaurs! The skeletons were truly impressive, but Maelle got a little nervous around the animatronic displays.
The night, we took mom and dad to the Builder’s Arms, a pub we really liked, and we all ended up staying after for trivia night! The trivia facilitator is from Richmond and is putting together a walking tour of Ted Lasso highlights–next time we’re in the UK, we’ll be doing it!
The next day, mom and dad met us at the playground for some time on the swings, before we walked over to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. It was a great place to sit and get your feet wet! (Thankfully, this mama came prepared with dry pants!)
That evening we hastily ate our Thai food at the Churchill Arms; it’s a busy place and you only have your table as long as they say you do! It’s located INSIDE a pub!
The following morning, our last one, we all visited the Science Museum. I specifically picked this museum for Maelle, as they have an entire floor set up for toddlers. Maelle played in the water table, with giant blocks, and made different sounds with echoing drums.
We visited the banking section of town to eat at one of Rick’s favorite pubs, The Counting House.
We all made a quick stop in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has two enormous rooms (among many other things!) filled with replicas of famous statues and pillars.
After a ‘snack’ dinner at our hotel with my parents, we headed back to our room to pack our bags. Our flight home the following day was, thankfully, uneventful. We watched three movies apiece (!!!) and couldn’t get home fast enough to feed Maelle and get her to bed.
However, our trip wasn’t quite over… The next day, Andrew and I headed to Reston (about 45 minutes from my parents’ house) to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage conference, while Maelle got to spend some quality time with Nana and Grandpa!