‘Mind the gap’ – London UK

Anyone who has been on the tube in London will know the announcement ‘Mind the gap’, warning passengers of the gap between the train and the platform. Yesterday it was about the only gap we came across. London was packed!

We started our day at The Tower of London. Aunty Travel Bee had kindly pre-booked all our activities for the day. Even still, we had to wait, and…. wait, in the rain. This was the mother of all queues.

Tower of London queue umbrellaed by London sky

I must say, it was a bit disconcerting knowing thousands were being crammed in the gate and that we all wanted to see the same things. Nevertheless, there was nothing to be done about it so we shuffled our way along. Once we entered, we picked up a Yeoman tour.

Clive our Yeoman, lead us to the chapel where not only were there chairs, but underfloor heating! Such relief from the dreary London weather (thank you Queen Victoria for insisting on this upgrade). He then entertained us with the history of the tower, it’s Kings, stories of beheaded Queens and other notable executions. It was well worth waiting for and definitely the quickest way to get an understanding of what the tower is all about.

Residences of the tower protected by the King’s guard

After, we wandered through the courtyards to White tower where we discovered the ‘Line of Kings’ and displays of all their armour. You could have spent hours reading about each King and their endeavours but instead we flowed with the crowd, occasionally breaking free to read something that took our fancy. A favourite for Miss 12 was the dragon on the top level made from leftover pieces of armour!

Unfortunately, the crowds were just too big and we had to make the decision to forgo seeing the Crown Jewels (the queue looked to be at least an hour wait) along with many of the other attractions at the tower. We needed to head to our next booking and Master 15 was……….. you guessed it……. hungry.

Back on the tube and across town, we had just enough time to fill our tummies before heading into Wyndham Theatre for a matinee showing of Life of Pi. Built in 1899, this small, intimate theatre is a beautiful example of a quintessential West End theatre.

Wyndham Theatre

Before watching this show, I knew very little about Life of Pi. The only thing I did know, was it was a story about a boy befriending a tiger. One had to wonder how on earth there would be a tiger on stage!

It turned out puppetry was the answer and wow was it clever. Each animal was operated by three puppeteers partially inside the puppet, one at the head, another the ‘heart’ and the third at the tail. Within twenty minutes you didn’t even notice them and focused only on the animal.

Between the puppets and the set, this truely was a spectacle of theatrical craft and imagination. We were astonished at how the stage itself transformed into an ocean. The story although slightly gruesome in parts, was quite thought provoking and enjoyed by all.

From here we finished the evening with a meal at Côte (French restaurant chain) near Bond street. The pulled pork was sublime disappearing from Miss 12 and Master 15’s plate rather quickly, as did the chocolate crepe for dessert.

So after visiting eight different tube stops, walking 10100 steps, climbing around 1000 steps and riding around 12 escalators we made it through a second day in London. Nan Travel Bee kept up the whole way and we managed not to lose anyone! Success!

Tube escalators are huge!


London Baby – England UK

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.

The Thames from the London Eye
London Eye and rainbow from Westminster bridge

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.

Big Ben from Westminster Bridge

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!

Turning into Regent Street
Hamleys toy store and lots and lots of people
Westminster Cathedral’s Christmas tree (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey)

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!