London Calling!

In the euphoria following the majesty, wonder and sheer genius of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, my other half began wondering. This is always dangerous – last year our plan to have a cheap and cheerful UK holiday by the sea became a trip to Disneyland Paris!

I was summoned to the PC.

“What do you think of this?”

The screen showed train times and ticket prices for our family of four to do a day trip to London – just for the fun of it.

My response…..

“Book it!”

So this Saturday, August 4th 2012, we found ourselves woken up at 5.30am by the 4-year-old boy asking if it was time to go, there was a six on his clock and he was “very ‘Cited!”

We got him to settle down, until at 6am, the alarm went off, playing the BBC Olympic theme music First Steps by Elbow. (If you haven’t heard it, click here to view on YouTube )

By 7.15, we’d had breakfast and were on our way to catch the train from The Hawthorns in West Bromwich to London Marylebone.

On the journey, we caught a fantastic view of the Birmingham Bullring as we went through Birmingham Moor St Station:

Birmingham Moor St Station

I spent the train ride giggling at my husband – he began naming all the train stations, whether the train stopped or not – so I was teasing him about being a trainspotter, when he checked into foursquare to be awarded the ‘Trainspotter Badge’.

My four year old then announced that when in London he’d like to visit the London Eyeball.

While we were on the train, the heavens opened, and the children were a bit disappointed about the rainfall, but were soon distracted by the age-old game of racing raindrops down the window!

We arrived in London at about 9.45am, and changed onto the tube for the first part of our adventure – to Stratford to see the Olympic Park. We didn’t have event tickets, we were just excited to see it and take a few pictures.

This part of the trip was slightly delayed, after the boy announced he was ‘desperate’ for the toilet – so we had brief yet frantic scurry around Oxford CIrcus looking for a loo!

We found a coffee shop, and sorted him out, and also a couple of lattes for the adults!

We were delighted to see this part of London was decorated for the Olympics with the streets bedecked with the flags from all around the world – it looked amazing.

We arrived at Stratford around the same time as people arriving for the events. It was busy, yet organised, and the atmosphere was wonderful – relaxed, happy and enjoyable.

The Games Makers were fabulous as well. There were some with loud hailers giving information, but shouting out greetings to visitors from other countries like Lithuania and we definitely heard a ‘Viva Espagna!’. Other Games Makers were directing the flow of pedestrians with big purple foam hands – offering the kids high fives all along the route. When we explained we didn’t have tickets, just wanted to take a couple of pictures, they were really helpful and accommodating too. We managed to get pictures of the Orbit, Aquatic Centre and a glimpse of the main stadium.

Olympic Park, StratfordOlympic Park, StratfordFull of Olympic fever and excitement, we jumped on the DLR to Royal Victoria. We’d decided to have a ride on the Emirates AirLine Cable Car across the Thames to the Greenwich/O2 Arena (it will always be the Millenium Dome to me!). This was my daughter’s favourite bit of the day (at least it is today – it changes with the weather!). I loved it too. The views are brilliant and it’s a really pleasant way to travel.

Greenwich PeninsulaGreenwich Peninsula
Greenwich PeninsulaGreenwich Peninsula

We had lunch at one of the restaurants at the Greenwich/O2 Arena, and afterwards went outside to take some more pictures. There were loads of policeman around – obviously on duty, but relaxed and enjoying the atmosphere – we cheekily asked if one of them could take a family picture for us – and he did a cracking job!

Greenwich PeninsulaGreenwich Peninsula

We then wandered back to the DLR via Canary Wharf, and got our first look at the Shard – wow it’s beautiful! And Boris’ Bikes! Daughter was fascinated by the idea of these – “Anyone can use them? Wow! that’s a brilliant idea!”

Canary WharfCanary Wharf

We then caught the DLR to Tower Gateway. We managed to get a seat right at the front and ‘drove’ the DLR train. and the kids began to get really interested at this point, as this was London as they’ve seen it on TV. Starting with the Gerkhin (or the Rocket as the boy says, or the Penguin as the daughter says – and I see what they mean!).

DLR to Tower GatewayThe Gerkhin (DLR to Tower Gateway)

We walked around the outside of the Tower of London – and straightaway, Daughter asked “Can we go in?”.
She was really disappointed when we said we didn’t have time today – but then I promised her we could write a London wish list of everything we want to do next time we come – and she bounced around saying “we’re coming back!”

Tower of London

We walked across Tower Bridge – the kids loved this – Son calling it ‘London Bridge’ and singing ‘London Bridge is falling down, my fat lady’.

After a brief shower, where we got our rain coats on just as it stopped, we hopped back on a tube to Waterloo. The kids were asking to see Big Ben and the London Eye Ball.

When we walked round the corner and saw Big Ben, Son bounced on his dad’s shoulders screaming ‘Big Ben! Big Ben!!!!’

As we’d not been able to get Olympic tickets, we decided to treat the kids to a ride on the London Eye Ball – it’s not cheap, but it was worth every penny. Daughter loved the interactive screen – she could see a landmark, then the screen gave her facts about what she could see, and she delighted in running backwards and forwards sharing them with me. Son adored the screens to – watch a movie about how the wheel had been made and erected.

We then walked across the Golden Jubilee Bridge down Northumberland Avenue (The Trainspotter would like to point out that this street is £160 on the Monopoly Board!) to Trafalgar Square.

From here, we’d planned to walk up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, but they were getting set up for the Marathon finish line, so we could only get so far, so we walked back to Trafalgar Square to have a break and have a snack and a drink.

Trafalgar SquareTrafalgar Square

After that we made our way back to London Marylebone. We had our tea and purchased a notebook. We caught the train, and sat making our wish list for the next trip – she added her own note to the bottom of the list!

We had an amazing trip and arrived home happy and tired at 8.45pm – in time to see all the Gold Medals at the Olympic Stadium.
And just to illustrate what a packed and incredible day we had – here’s our day in number!

Infographic

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Crafting on the Edge at Kinver

Today’s adventure was a jaunt out to Kinver Edge, maintained by the National Trust .

We discovered a hillside covered in woodland and red sandstone. Kinver is famous for the Rock Houses that are there, which were lived in up until the 1950s, plus there are lots of caves and woodland walks to explore.

What attracted us today were the craft sessions being run – for £2 a child.

The boy was instantly captivated by the caves the crafts were being run in, and was only interested in building his own cave. Luckily the volunteers had everything from glitter to paper plates, twigs and leaves and a vast array of scrap paper and material.

With a paper plate, greenery and some sparkly bits, he crafted this ‘cave’ compete with a treasure bag hidden beneath the ‘camouflage’. Then he was off into the caves again!

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The girl was much more focused, and straight away headed for the rabbits and sparkles! She quietly chatted away with one of the helpers, and gradually produced a pretty woodland/countryside picture – my favourite bit is the bird.

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And then she was off into the caves as well!

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We were planning to then investigate the Rock Houses and the rest of the woodland, but behaviour, attention span and the weather began to deteriorate so we called it a morning.

The children definitely enjoyed themselves and I’m disappointed we didn’t get to explore further – but it’s only 30 minutes away, so it’s another adventure saved for another day!

Hurtling Round Hartlebury

I’m on mummy duty for a couple of weeks, and I was mooching around Twitter looking for some ideas about a day out, and came across a link to Hartlebury Museum in Worcestershire for kids go free – thanks as always Sally! (click here for Raring2Go! or click here for Sally’s Twitter feed )

It’s a lovely place. With the Raring2Go! Voucher, and my boy being under 5, I only had to pay for me – £5.00, plus a £1 each for the children to do the craft activities.

There is tons going on, this week it’s all about the Romans, so we made Roman ‘clay face pots’

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We also had a good mooch around the museum, looking for ‘A-Z’ treasure hunts, and along the way we discovered some fantastic items:

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The children also had the chance to have a go at some archery (£2 for 4 arrows) and they adored this, so we had to do it twice!

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Especially as they both got bullseyes!!

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We got the chance to learn how to write in Roman Cursive script as well:

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And dress up a Roman Soldier:

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We had a lovely picnic, it stated dry enough for us to eat in the picnic area, plus I got to put the children in the stocks!

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We then had a little wander around the ‘Old Moat Coppice’ which is a small nature trail and picnic area – very pretty and a great place for hide and seek!

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We’ve had a great day – and the children want to go back next week for the ‘Greek’ crafts!