Wow what a day! December 23rd was our first day exploring this magnificent city. Having been here before, I can tell you there is a certain energy about London that is contagious, but two days before Christmas, it is something else.
As expected, the weather was looking slightly inclement. I had booked a midday ride on the London Eye and a 4pm bus tour of the Christmas lights (yes it is dark enough!) with a stroll through the sights in between. But, with rain forecast we made a last minute indoor addition to our itinerary, the London Dungeon recommended on a google search list of things to do with teenagers. This turned out to be a great decision.
First up, we negotiated the rail system to get from our Airbnb into the heart of the city. Easy. I am not kidding, it is super easy. We were fortunate enough to be staying 5 minutes from a station on the new underground Elizabeth line, this means a day travel card covered the journey in and out plus all our tube trips for the day. An hour and twenty minutes later and we popped up at the iconic Waterloo station and headed to the London Eye.
Our London Eye tickets, purchased online, allowed us to join the long line (I forgot how much the English love to queue!). But, within 20 minutes, we were in our pod and on our way up. This is exactly when the most amazing thing happened…….the sun came out! From there it was a glorious half hour identifying the iconic sights of London; The Thames, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, The Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral, the list goes on. Then, like magic, when we stopped….. the rain came back.
And so……. we headed into the dungeon. In effect, this place is a lesson in history but it an entertaining and interactive way. Think ‘Horrible histories’. This part of the day was a surprise for the kids but in actual fact turned out to be Miss 12’s highlight. We lived through the times of Henry VIII, Guy Fawkes, witches, the plague, Jack the Ripper, the Great Fire of London (sorry that turned out to my fault, I shut the faulty oven door!) and Miss 12 (aka Diego) went on trial in an 18th century court house, accused of being a Spanish Spy.
It was scary, it was surprising, it was clever and it was loads of fun. Master 15 was hilarious, jumping, screaming and playing dead at appropriate moments scaring our fellow group members. Totally agree, this deserves its position on any list of ‘places to take teenagers in London’.
From here, it was a walk across Westminster Bridge and a close up look at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament before hopping on a tube and heading to our Christmas Lights tour.
At this point, I apologise. My photos do not do it justice. This was a truely magical evening. Our Big Bus tour guide was a wonderfully animated and spirited man named Phil who made our night as we drove around the streets of the monopoly board. He excitedly pointed out the best lights and Christmas trees. If at the end of this, you weren’t excited, you truely are a grinch. As it turns out in an amazing coincidence, Phil went to school with Mr Travel Bee and they were able to have a catch up on the side of the road at the conclusion of our tour!
To complete our day, we filled our tummies in a beautiful little English pub called the Duke of York near Victoria tube station. Bangers and mash, macaroni cheese, steak and ale pie and cider. Mr Travel Bee was in heaven.
Scores on the doors for favourite part of the day: Miss 12 London Dungeon, Master 15 Christmas Lights, Mr Travel Bee Duke of York pub and me………. I have to say sunshine at the top of London Eye.
P.S. This has been written at 3:30-4:30am. I am still not in the right time zone!