Holidays

A trip to London with a 6 year old

It’s taken a while to write this post, defeatism, #mummyfail, and the rest. It will quickly be followed by a post about taking four year-olds to London- far more successfully- lessons learned are a speciality of mine.

Our children are used to mummy going to London, it happens every week.
And so, like everything else, the fact they can’t see it increases ten fold their desire to have it.

When I heard about Kids Week it created an idea in my mind about a perfect trip to London for me and my girl.
I gave CM the choice and she decided she really wanted to see ‘Charlie & the Chocolate Factory’.
And me, being me, wanting to ensure our time was at its most productive, decided it would be a good idea to get tickets for both days of our trip.
Seeing ‘Wicked’ tickets remained available after the initial ‘fight’ for tickets, and yes, first and foremost because it’s my favourite, second because CM’s Christmas production had been ‘Wizard of Oz’ and third because it would be a great use of time, and it was a 5+ age, well I booked tickets for that as well.

I sorted a family railcard knowing my truth, that whilst coach travel is far more reasonable in price the truth is I’d rather travel by train for comfort and expedience. Well, the railcard has more than paid for itself given the other trips we’ve made.PaddingtonI tried to save money by booking a Travelodge. Some of the Travelodges (like Old Street) have really improved since they upgraded their beds. Our one at Euston was noisy, both outside and inside, not great when, as it would transpire, you’re coping with a meltdown as midnight approached.

On our trip to London, I learned the most valuable lesson.

The best things in life really are free.

I feel like I spent a fortune in London- and the reason I feel like this is because I wasted money. I got cross about it and shouldn’t have.

An example is that CM really wanted to go on an open top bus. I checked this out and thought buying tickets with a tour company at Trafalgar Square would offer value for money. That would usually be true. If every other tourist in London didn’t have the same idea. And your daughter hadn’t decided after 30 minutes she didn’t like open top buses.

I wish we had stayed having fun at Trafalgar Square.Trafalgar SquareEven this long after the event, I’d say the Tour rep wasn’t great. Encouraging families to sit at different ends of the bus isn’t the warmest welcome for a 6-year-old. Poor commentary also got my goat. But yep, more than all of that was not making the most of the exorbitant cost of the ticket.

What I thought of beforehand, which given the seats we got on the top deck I wish I had gone with- was just buy an Oyster card and go on public transport!! If you really want an open top bus after half an hour of sitting on the top deck of a usual red bus, go and pay the prices for a tour, but you might save yourself a pretty penny if it isn’t for you. 

After disembarking the bus, fortunately near enough to Buckingham Palace, yes- definitely this is the place to go for any tourist including 6 year-olds. CM saw the queues to get into the palace and really wanted to go inside, I wish I had thought to investigate this as an option beforehand- the queues really weren’t for me, but yes, for every wannabe princess I guess this would be a great ticket.

We did have a great time taking photos, especially around the Victoria Memorial.
Buckingham Palace, London with a six year old.Unfortunately I was to lose more points for not letting CM play at the play area opposite in St James’ Park. I justified this to myself by how busy it was and how many smaller children there were. Hindsight says I wish I had let her find out for herself- it really wasn’t worth the strop which was to follow. 

We headed across to Westminster, because by this time we were both getting a little frustrated with a lack of fun, but daddy phoned to suggest a photo at Big Ben was one he’d really appreciate (not for the first time I wondered what our life would be without mobile phones).Westminster

Overlooking the Houses of ParliamentFrom there we grabbed some lunch and enjoyed Southbank. And I was over the moon that we both shared a love for this part of London. We explored the Southbank Centre (again I did loose brownie points for not having tickets for the slide from the top of the Centre), and I discovered if I gave her credit for discovering things I didn’t know about I was rewarded with the best of moods.Enjoying summer on the SouthbankThe evening would see the ultimate fail of the trip. We picked up food from M&S at Euston, and had a picnic on our bed, in line with CM’s request, and then went across to Victoria to see Wicked. We had fantastic seats.

Before the curtain  had dropped for the interval we were on the underground to our hotel. Whilst I thought I had prepared CM for the storyline, I had failed to remember the massive dragon which embraces the stage, whose eyes turn red when Elphaba loses her temper, and which scared CM beyond belief.

Kids Week had it in their 5+ years listing, and I do think there were children younger than CM there, but since I’ve also found theatre recommendations which suggest 7+ years. I know I can only beat myself up over it.

And that’s what happened. CM was upset she had let me down. She then decided she was homesick. Meltdown resulted in her falling asleep. Resulted in mummy crying in the bathroom. Vowing that if CM woke the next day and wanted to go home we’d board the first train. And if she wanted to stay, I’d do whatever she wanted.

She woke re-energised (unlike me) and the day was hers.

We spent ages outside the hotel at this office building. As people turned up for work CM spent the time running up the paving and sliding down. It felt like a scene from ‘Big’. Who wouldn’t prefer a slide to work?ArchitectureWe went across to Oxford Circus, where they were giving out Lucozade Pink Lemonade. What a proud daughter phoned her dad to say how happy she was to have a pink drink- for free!

We walked down to Hamley’s ahead of its 10am opening, and little did we know what was about to happen. It seems every day they invite young people to open the store. And fortunately l I have a daughter who will volunteer for Everything. And so, this mummy, who was cursing herself for being the worst ever, got to witness the excitement as her daughter opened Hamley’s!! (Best mummy forever points).Opening Hamley's Regent Street LondonFrom Hamley’s we went across to the Science Museum as I had heard great things about it (which I thought would make it similar to Eureka! in Halifax). It didn’t turn out to be that way, CM was too old for the tactile children’s stuff and not old enough or the more ‘science’ stuff. We left. But again, caught off guard, there was a street entertainer with giant bubbles, I lost my daughter for over 30 minutes, under the spell of bubbles.Science MuseumFrom the museums we headed back to central London, and to Covent Garden, and CM fell under the spell of more street entertainers. Street entertainment at Covent Garden LondonWe then headed to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, positive I had adequately prepared CM. This time we got to the interval. I sent a celebratory text to hubby that maybe I was a good parent after all. Five minutes into the second half we left the theatre. Very realistically, Augustus Gloop had gone up the shoot, CM was scared.

I took the best learning I could from the day before. Headed back to Trafalgar Square and treated her to Pizza Express ahead of the journey home.

However many months on, CM is as eager as ever to come to London with me, with specifics. That the theatre I take her to see should be like the theatre we see in Cardiff.

Once again I am left wondering why I am so eager for my children to grow up. Why didn’t I get tickets for the tried and tested rather than pushing boundaries in a place in which they are unfamiliar?

As life would have it, we did create the best memories. Who wouldn’t want a picnic on a bed and to open the best toy shop ever.

Mummy just needs to stop micro-managing. To let her child be the child she’s promised she can be. And to live.

Did someone mention Kids Week 2016?

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