On Saturday we crossed Westminster (along the 'Tower from Cars') and the royal parks where we searched succesfully for squirrels, up to see Buckingham palace (the palace from the queen from Cars). Although not visible on the pictures, it was snowing big flakes of snow but it melted on the ground. Kabouter tried to touch, taste the snow and wondered why his gloves got so wet?
We took another much needed break to snack and warm up and try some trendy smoothies.
We did some shopping but gosh I find Oxford street stressfully busy and most shops there aren't that different from what we have. So I was glad we went to have lunch in SOHO, crossed Chinatown and hang out in Jan's old professional area around Leicestar square.
We got back in the hotel at the end of the afternoon, tired after a day of walking and very glad to just hang out in our room together to play and to dine in the hotel.
I've listed in the past that I consider London a museum wonderland. I love the fact how the city center is filled with high quality museums with free access. It is heaven.
It also makes the threshold to visit a museum very low: you can hop in and since you didn't pay any entrance fee it doesn't matter if you stay 3 hours or just 20 minutes to absorb one hall. When Jan worked at Leicester square in the past and I had to kill time for just a short moment to wait for him, I jumped into the National Gallery just around the corner.
Tate Modern is also a museum I've visited multiple times for short moments while passing by. This time was no different: we were all frozen so it looked like a good opportunity to go and visit the museum. Yet it was the first time we were visiting with small children.
Most museums nowadays have child activities available, so we simply went to check with the Cole Learning Center inside the Tate Modern Museum. We promptly received a fun little suitcase filled with seamingly all kinds of random objects, for Kabouter to take along to the 4th floor "Materials" exhibition. He was so cute running around with his suitcase! We had some activity cards to trigger him in different rooms. Not all activities were related to the art exposed in the room eg: open up your suitcase, put all the objects around it and put them in pairs where you think they are linked. In other rooms there was a clear link however: eg try to build with the things in your suitcase a similar tower or do you find a similar material in your suitcase as the art displayed in this room.
Kabouter was too small to follow the instructions dilligently but had fun and also jumped in other rooms without assignment on the floor, often in front of the feet of other people, to open up his suitcase again and show off the weird collection of objects in it. I was happy to take him in the museum and try to tickle his curiosity and senses by the displays around him, even though they were really abstract, also to us. But I don't think a museum visit is about rationally capturing everything but about emotions, discovery, senses, marvel, ... so I hope we managed to pass a little bit of that to Kabouter.
"the bandits have been trapped" art according to Kabouter
On different floors we had received a few post cards with art and we had to go and seek the image from the card. The info on the cards was too hard for a toddler but we made up some tiny assignments as copying the pose from the photograph or ...
Finally we went to the drawing bar, which was a rather quiet room with comfy sofa's where Beertje enjoyed some freedom to crawl and explore while Jan and Kabouter were making digital art on the available digital drawing boards. You could save them and then they showed up on a large dashboard in the room (and they were e-mailed to you). We spent quite some time here.
In the end I have truly enjoyed visiting Tate Modern with the children.
I started this week a double function at work (covering for the maternity leave of one of my colleagues on top of my own function) so I'll face a very busy time ahead with little opportunity to take some time off. So I was checking the agenda 2 weeks ago and noticed that previous Friday had no meetings yet. Jan could also free himself . So I quickly decided we had to take this opportunity and get a long weekend away to escape and reload before I'd have to submerge myself into the busy madness.
After searching weather websites, flight prices, tripadvisor comments on different European cities etc... I decided London would be an easy and nice destination. Both Jan and I know the city very well since he's lived there for years but much to my amazement, I had not been there anymore in the last 5 years! Holy moly, time flies. Anyway the children had never been in London yet, so it was time to introduce them. (And I joked to myself that we'd better go now, before Brexit would require us visa applications to go across the Channel)
The great advantage of London is that you can get there by train in only a couple of hours. The train is an ideal means of transport when travelling with little children: they don't need to be strapped up immobile for a long time; they can eat, sleep, go to the bathroom at whenever moment, etc. On top of that "high speed trains" that run under the sea are attractive to the imagination of toddlers.
We had left on the late Thursday evening train so we were all ready straight for bed when we arrived in the hotel. But this way we had the luxury of sleeping in (to the limited degree the children allowed us to do so), having a lazy morning without rush and enjoying a full day in the British capital. The alternative of getting up really really early on Friday morning to get on one of the first trains seemed way less relax. And the point of this trip was relaxing and having fun without stress.
Good morning London!
It was freaking cold to explore the city: a foggy mist, simmering rain/snow and an icy cold wind. We needed hats, scarfs and gloves and were all whining from the cold after a while.
We explored the Jubilee walk along the Thames between Westminster and the Tower Bridge. We passed by the London Eye, the Southbank center, The OXO tower wharf, the Tate Modern Museum where we really had to warm up again, Shakespeare's Globe , the Borough market , ...
Kabouter enjoyed Big Ben "the tower of Cars!!!", the "pirate ship" at one of the wharfs, the boats on the river, etc...
We had just eaten before visiting Borough Market, which was a good thing since the temptations for so much delicious food at the market were invading all our senses. At the same time it was a pity as we were not to be able to try all these delicacies. But it was simply too cold to have a lunch outside on the market so I was glad we had opted to have a seated lunch in one of the traditional pubs with the children. Nevertheless I hope to come back to Borough Market once on a warmer day at lunch time with empty stomac. I envied the people that worked in an office nearby.
By the time we reached the tower bridge we had 2 sleeping children with us and we could speed up our walk a bit to keep warm. However we had promised Kabouter to take the river bus to go back to Westminster and he had whined with every passing boat when we'd take the boat...so we had to wake him up again at the Tower of London to ensure he'd experience the promised boat trip awake.
I must say I was really impressed by the comfort of the boats and I fell in love with this way of moving around through the city: much nicer and more comfortable than taking the bus, metro or cab. Too bad there are not more rivers crossing the city to allow more river bus itineraries :).