After we found out we were moving I bought numerous books on Amazon about London and Europe. One of them wasn’t so much a book as a small box of cards. It’s call 50 Adventures by Foot – City Walks with Kids. It ended up in a box that was shipped and I was so anxious for it to arrive. I picked one for Saturday and we made a day of it.
Each card focuses on a small area of London, easy walking distances for kids. It tells you the tube station you need to go to and usually includes a family friendly restaurant choice.
Cameron and Simon mapping out our route.
I had to post both of these because Simon’s face in this is just so Simon.
But this one had Cameron and Eli BOTH smiling. So rare. And Simon’s face in this, also SO Simon.
It took us over an hour to get there. There are plenty of ways to plan a route to your destination. Google Maps works really well, especially if you’re planning on using the buses. There are a couple of different smart phone apps that I look at. But usually what works for me is just looking at the tube map and figuring it out myself. The reason for that is because my priorities when traveling with the kids are 1- Minimal train transfers and 2- Limited or no use of buses or National Rail. Train transfers are hard with the kids- they usually involve a lot of stairs and walking through tunnels, which isn’t all bad but sometimes it’s the destination we’re anxious for and not the journey. We use buses all the time when traveling around Lewisham, close to home, because I’m familiar with them and the routes. But in the city it’s more complicated and honestly I usually would rather walk a bit further than take a bus. And lastly, the National Rail is the only public transportation in the central zones that requires tickets for the kids, which cost money and confuse me. In other words, sometimes the route I pick isn’t the fastest, just the simplest.
Our first stop was the Leighton House Musuem. It is the home of the late Lord Frederic Leighton, an artist who lived from 1830-1896. He commissioned all different artistic types to help him design and build it, and he incorporated tiles, artwork, furniture and decor from all over the world, but most specifically the Far East and Arab lands.
The house was quite breathtaking, there were tiles on the wall from Damascus c. 1520 and beautiful artwork of Leighton’s and both artists before his time and his contemporaries. I loved it for it’s total impracticality and elaborate artistic design. Lord Leighton was a bachelor and quite a shame I thought- that he had no family to enjoy it with him. He was part of a new style movement called “Aestheticism” that thought the Victorian style was too square and boring, so the house was bold and bright. The kids weren’t so much into the art, but it was our good fortune that there was a children’s art fair going on that day in the house gardens, so Richard took the kids while I wandered through the house and then we swapped.
There was no photography allowed in the house, but if you’re interested you can see photos here and all the artwork displayed throughout the house.
These girls taught me about the difference between college and university. Secondary education finishes around age 16, and that’s when you begin college. University comes after that, around age 18. They are in college right now, but plan to study art at university, so they volunteer for an art program in east London.
After the kids finished their “tile mosaic” and Shakespeare books we went to lunch. The card had recommended a place called “Sticky Fingers” which was a rock and roll type American diner with wings and milkshakes. It was soooo good to have wings again. Richard and I couldn’t stop sighing over them.
Our plan was to go to Holland Park next, but we were running late and Richard had to be at the church at 3:00 to help clean. I decided to take the kids to the park by myself and sent him on his way. (Keeping in mind it takes an hour to get home.)
Holland Park is in Kensington which is another posh part of the city. It’s so clean and well kept and seems to be somewhat of an art center. The park was full of artwork and exhibits.
Despite his genuine concentration, Eli lost this match.
Miriam was upset with me for not letting her interfere with the chess game.
Holland park is known for its peacocks and we saw a few but none that had their feathers spread. TRIVIA: The peacock was the symbol for the Aesthetic Movement.
The Kyoto Gardens
The Kyoto gardens are meant to be a peaceful place for meditation and reflection so I was “Shhh”-ing the children the whole time. But they did love the fish!
Once we got through they were quite ready for some play so we found a “Nature Playground” first. I’ve actually seen this at other playgrounds too, but there are posted signs saying adults are not allowed in the playground unless they are accompanied by children. It’s a nice way to keep creepers out and keep crowd control I suppose.
I guess a Nature playground consists of fallen trees and stumps. The kind of playground my kids are used to when we’re camping. But I suppose many Londoners don’t do much camping…
This was inevitable.
After the nature playground we found the Adventure Playground which was busting with people and the kids were a bit intimidated. It didn’t have anything particularly amazing or exciting and it really was hard to enjoy with me looking every which way for my kids and them having to stand around to wait their turn on zip lines and swings. We stayed less than an hour but we did meet some other American expats.
Eli realized that we had left the kid’s artwork back at the restaurant and he really wanted his castle mosaic so we trekked back to the restaurant to retrieve it. For Cameron’s benefit I’ll let the record indicate that he suggested a faster route to the restaurant but I didn’t trust him (wait a minute- has this happened before?) and he turned out to be right. It would have saved us some walking.
After getting the artwork safely back in our custody we bought some drinks and snacks and found the closest tube station and began the long trek home. Miriam was so tired and insufferable on the train that when we got home I turned all parental responsibilities over to Richard for the duration of the day.
Kensington is so charming and picturesque, I just loved this house we passed in a back alley. (I know! Whose back alleys are this beautiful?)