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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Monday, 18 August 2008

London tourism...

One of the things we'd been sure to plan for the school summer holidays was a visit to London, with an overnight stay at a hotel to enable us to make the most of our time here.

We drove down after church yesterday, stopping off at my office, so the children could see where I work - and water the plants! Then we had a quick tour of Broadcasting House - since it was a Sunday, we had the run of most of the studios, so they could make their own crazy radio show!

I've drive through Central London a few times, so getting to the hotel was fairly painless, but the SatNav (more on that in a later entry!) was essential, with the number of one-way streets and road closures - I discovered, after dropping the car back off, to avoid paying the congestion charge today, that there was an event in Soho Square so it took a while to navigate, and I ended up (as I seem often to do) at Piccadilly Circus on my way back to work.

Chris and Lenni on the Jubilee FootbridgeThe hotel was a Travelodge, just south of High Holborn, and it was a short walk to get to the ebankment, so we crossed the Jubilee Footbridge to see what we could find there. One of the buildings in the South Bank Centre offered a hands-on architecture exhibition, but when we arrived we discovered that the floor had been cleared and the London Community Gospel Choir were performing - a sumptuous, but extremely loud - sound!

We ambled around a little more, mainly to find somewhere to eat (there seems to be a distinct lack of child-friendly restaurants in London, beyond the usual chains), ending up in probably the most unpleasant Burger King - towards the top of Kingsway - that I'd ever been to... no small feat given that I've ended up in the one that used to be in Luton on occasion. It was cramped and noisy, with loud rap music playing, but the seating on the top floor seemed to be vented from the kitchen, since it was uncomfortably hot, as well.

We all went to bed fairly early - a necessity, since it was a shared family room, but I listened to podcasts while the children (very!) slowly settled. Since we kept the window open - once again fairly necessary to ensure we didn't overheat - the City traffic noise, sirens, and (according to Beth) what sounded like a riot meant a fairly broken sleep, but it was no more than I expected.

Still, we were up and about in good time this morning, and Beth heroically took the case to the car while I had breakfast with the children. The deal offered by Travelodge was, in fact an excellent one, with all you can eat for £7.50 per person, but children eat for free.. that's excellent value when you have two children!

We walked down to the riverside again, after discovering that both the British Museum and the South Bank Centre didn't open until 10am. Fortunately, our booking for the 'London Wheel' (as I insist on calling it) for 11 o'clock could be brought forward so that we could go on straight away. The children loved their first experience of the view - visibility was excellent, which made for (hopefully) some fine photographs!

Chris, by London BridgeThen we took a river trip - buying a Red Rover ticket to travel all day - with City Cruises. I would certainly recommend this particular boat trip, all the way out to Greenwich, since the commentary is entertaining and informative (and a little irreverent!)

On the first trip, though, we went as far as Tower Bridge, from whence we walked (oh so much walking!) to The Bank Of England, through the heart of The City. Beth had found there was a museum there, and it was surprisingly interesting, hands-on and quiet, compared to man of the other London attractions. I don't think I'd ever held a gold bar before (albeit inside two perspex cases, constantly monitored on CCTV!) and the children took away quite a few tokens of their visits, including a calligraphy certificate, a little cardboard money chest and a little brooch thing with the current campaign - 'The Pound in your Pocket' - logo on it.

Lenni and the London StoneWe then walked a short distance to the Museum of London, where, to be honest, we didn't spend a lot of time, but the children enjoyed looking at the unusual objects exhibition and Eleanor was very taken with an art and craft project about the London Stone - something I'd never heard of, but has somewhat legendary status in the City - and we ended up seeing it on our return to the Tower Pier.

After a twenty minute wait, the boat took us along the Thames to Greenwich, taking in the vast collection of former wharfs (I'd not realised that this was an acronym: Warehouses At Riverfront) - now apartments, presumably for those working in the financial district of Docklands, and with some more amusing commentary.

By the time we'd returned to Westminster, it was about to turn 6 o'clock - perfect time to drive home, since the congestion charge was not in place. We walked up Whitehall (passing Downing Street) to Trafalgar Square, both of which were unexpected treats, especially since the base of Nelson's Column played host to a large TV screen broadcasting the Olympics, and then on past the delicious aroma of Chinatown, then finally back to the car. We were all footsore and achey by the time we headed home, but this definitely means the children will sleep well tonight!

A proper tourist trip round London, I think - but there is so much still to see! Perhaps next year or so.. as always, for the time being, there are photos in the gallery!

Back to work for me tomorrow, although I have a couple of days off following, since we have some friends coming for a brief stay - Paul and Judy from Total Podcastrophe - and their daughters, whom we will show the delights of Luton. Not sure what we'll do the rest of the time (although hopefully, if it doesn't rain, Ashridge would be lovely).

On board the London Wheel

Posted by james at August 18, 2008 10:07 PM

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