My daughter has been desperate to have a trip to London ever since she studied it about a year ago in year 4. She’s been before, of course, but she wanted to go again, armed with her new knowledge. She knew what she wanted to see and was especially desperate to go on the London Eye. She also loves staying in hotels and really wanted a stay in a nice hotel too.
So my husband came up with the crazy idea of a Boxing Day trip to London, complete with hotel stay. Why crazy? Because my daughter had two performances of the pantomime on 27th December. For it to work, it really had to be a flying visit. It had to involve two very early starts, for a teenager and two tweens who aren’t good at getting up in the morning.
We decided a couple of years ago to take Boxing Day back for ourselves. Traditionally, we’d always spent it with my family. We also spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with them. The arrival of my niece on 27th December meant we spent that day with my family too. We get very little time together, just the five of us. There’s always someone rushing somewhere and my husband works such long hours. It was a controversial decision, but we had to take Boxing Day back for ourselves.
But London? Were we mad? Wouldn’t we all be too tired, especially my daughter?
But, the closer it got, the more excited I was. I was far more excited about London that I was about Christmas itself.
We managed to get out of the house at 7.30am on Boxing Day. No mean feat with big kids. We were in London in less than two hours. We left our stuff at out hotel – the amazing Hilton Wembley, which is literally a stone’s throw from Wembley Stadium and jumped on the tube.
We headed straight for the London Eye. As I’m claustrophobic, there was no way I was going on it (although I have been on it twice before, many years ago). There were still a fair few people around, but it was nowhere near as busy as London usually is. My family got straight on. I waved to them and watched their pod until I could see it no longer, then went for a quick walk up the Thames and back, ready to watch as it came back down.
They loved it! My daughter was proud not to have been even slightly scared (although my younger son had a wobble at the highest point). They had loved the ever-changing views. My daughter’s dream had come true!
My husband suggested we go to a branch of Leon, close to the Tate Modern, for lunch, so we walked along the South Bank. We’ve always loved the South Bank ever since we stumbled across it more or less by accident when we went to London when the boys were tiny. There’s lots to see and a good atmosphere, but it’s slightly quieter than other parts of London.
We’d kind of forgotten it was Boxing Day. So when we got to Leon, a little bit off the tourist beaten track, it was closed. So were all the other restaurants in the area. The walk and the early start had taken their toll and we had our lunch in Costa in desperation. We had definitely hoped for something nicer than that!
We then got the tube to Green Park to take a look at Buckingham Palace and tick that off my daughter’s list. This was one area that was still heaving with tourists.
We kept on walking nowhere in particular and, even though it was early, the kids were starting to tire and were keen to get back to the hotel. For them, the hotel was just as much an adventure as London itself.
We had a pretty long tube journey, the thought of which made me quite nervous. I’m claustrophobic and can’t cope with a crowded tube. The mere thought of it makes me start to panic.
But the train was empty! Nobody sat near us for the duration of the journey.
We checked into our very nice hotel – spacious room, nicely decorated, lots of sporting memorabilia on the walls, but were slightly disappointed to discover we didn’t have a Wembley view.
We checked out the London Designer Outlet, which is on the same site as the hotel, but it was heaving. We can’t bear hot, busy shops, so we lasted about 10 minutes before giving up! We ate in Nando’s, which the kids love (and I quite like myself), but my husband isn’t keen on – I’ve never worked out why.
We even had a swim in the hotel pool, which is another thing my daughter always dreams of. I’m not a fan of swimming, but the pool was a bit warmer than our local one, so it was OK.
I like staying in hotels because there’s no meals to make, no kitchen to tidy up, no washing to sort out etc etc. I imagined having a nice shower, then settling down to watch telly in bed. The reality involved more arguments about what we would watch and more moaning about the volume of a) the TV and b) everyone else’s voices, but eventually everyone got to sleep.
We were back on the road by 8.20 the following morning and home in record time.
Were we mad to go to London when my daughter was so busy and so tired?
Maybe we were, but it was a surprisingly good break, and one which will give the kids fond memories for many years to come.