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Posts Tagged ‘Tower of London’

London’s Calling

Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee and the approaching date of the summer olympics make London the place to be in 2012.  Three short years ago my son and I visited the capital city of England and were left with fond memories.  I have been recounting these memories lately every time I see an image of a red phone booth or Big Ben on television and now have a desire to return to one of my favorite cultural cities.  Unfortunately, London is not on my summer travel plans and the closest I’ll be getting to a taste of England is visiting the Lost Colony when we travel to the Outer Banks, North Carolina in August!  For now, I’ll be happy reliving the memories of this fascinating city while sharing some of the highlights of our trip through this post.

Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus

On our first day in central London, we visited Trafalgar Square which has served as a public space from when it was first opened in 1844 to commemorate the great naval battle of 1805 (the Battle of Trafalgar) when the English defeated the French Fleet under Admiral Lord Nelson during the Napoleonic War.  Nelson’s column dominates the square and stands at 170 feet and is guarded by bronze lions. After we checked out some of the statues and fountains, we spent some time on the north side of the square at the National Art Gallery which houses some of the world’s greatest European art collections.  I thoroughly enjoyed viewing many of the masterpieces of art, my son however, had more fun “people watching” at one of the open air Cafe’s afterwards when we stopped for lunch.

Another public space is on London’s west end, Piccadilly Circus.  Piccadilly Circus is a road junction at the bottom of Regent Street.  The bright neon signs on the corner buildings reminded me of Times Square.  There is no shortage of stores to shop, restaurants and entertainment in what has been dubbed “the hub of London”.

Parliament and Big Ben

The best way to visit Parliament is by a guided tour.  Tours are available on Saturdays and six weeks in the summer.  The tour is a little over an hour and you get see places like the Commons and Lords Chambers, the Queen’s Robing Room, the Royal Gallery and Westminster Hall.  Since both my son and I love history the tour was a great way to learn about what Parliament does and its history over different times.

The clock tower of Parliament, more commonly known as Big Ben can only be toured by UK residents.  Although we couldn’t tour Big Ben, we still found it exciting to be standing in front of London’s most famous landmarks.

The London Eye

The London Eye was created by a husband and wife team, David Marks and Julia Barfield to celebrate the millennium and give visitors a unique view of the city.  The London Eye is the world’s tallest observation wheel and  has 32 large capsules rotating constantly.  The long line was well worth the wait to enjoy the panoramic view.  At night the Eye is lit up with different colored lights.

Cruising the Thames

Cruise the Thames

After getting a bird’s eye view of the city, we decided to get a closer look by cruising the Thames River.  We boarded one of the city cruises that left from the London Eye Pier.  We enjoyed taking in the views of the iconic Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Millennium Footbridge and the HMS Belfast.

Tower of London

The Tower of London was amazing.  It has been associated with so many important events in English history.  We learned that it had served as a citadel, palace prison, mint and menagerie.  There was a lot to see like the White tower which was built in 1078 (now that was a long time ago), 500 years of royal armor, the prisoners exhibition, the ravens and of course the Crown Jewels.  We really enjoyed all the different exhibits, but it was a little overwhelming and if I had to do it again, I would definitely join the Yeoman Warder tour.

The Iconic Symbol of London

The Tower Bridge Exhibition brings you inside the world’s most famous bridge.  The original hydraulic machinery is now housed in the museum.  The upper walkway is another great place to take in the view of the Thames and the Tower of London.

St. Katharine Docks and Fish & Chips

East of the Tower Bridge are the St. Katharine Docks which was built in 1827 and is now converted into a yacht marina.  There were several restaurants and shops and we found it refreshing because even though we were in the heart of historic London we didn’t feel like we were in a tourist trap.  We enjoyed watching the boats arrive via the lock bridge and enjoyed some fish and chips over an early dinner. Of course, we couldn’t leave London with out sampling some British food.

Our visit to London is one of my favorite trips.  I had traveled out of the United States many times, but this was the first trip that I traveled internationally with my son.  Another reason why the trip was special is that we were able to visit one of my best friends who at the time was living in London, but has since moved to Singapore. I loved being entrenched in history and being from New York, I found it easy to get around. There was so much to see that of course we couldn’t see and do it all!  We will definitely have to make another trip some day soon.  In the meantime, I’ll be watching the Olympics remembering our days in London.

Do you have plans to head to London this summer?

Enjoyed this post?  You might like other related post – A Tale of Two Palaces, Hamleys and Hyde Park, An Afternoon of Child’s Play and A Trip to a Prehistoric Monument

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Riding the train in Essex, Connecticut. I forgot what I looked like as a brunette 🙂

When my son was little we occasionally took vacations.  Often times we made day trips to places like Sesame Place or riding “Thomas the Train” in Essex, Connecticut.  Outside of quick day trips we would once in a while head down south to visit family.

It wasn’t until my son entered the third grade that we started to travel on a regular basis.  Our travels often times would stem from what he was learning in school.  Of course living outside of New York City made many trips reasonable from a time and cost perspective.  It was so much fun spending time in Boston when he was learning about the American Revolution or in Gettysburg when he was studying about the Civil War.  It was after trips like these that I really began to make an effort to explore any opportunity where we could learn something new.

These opportunities resulted in really unforgettable experiences like when my son briefly drove the Duck Tour Boat in Boston on the Charles River, learning how to blow glass at the Corning Glass museum, meeting a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, exploring caverns in Virginia and making a stop action animated film in New York City.  I have watched his confidence grow when he would eagerly answer questions about Teddy Roosevelt that the park ranger asked during the tours of Sagamore Hill and when no other adult was brave enough to speak out and answer questions from one of the trainers when we enjoyed the dolphin encounter in the Bahamas.

Exploring Boston- Spring Break 2010

Tower of London

There  were also times when our travels didn’t go as planned, and usually revolved around getting lost.   It was these times that we had to work together to get out of a “pickle”.  For instance there has been many times my son needed to read the emergency map quest directions when the GPS lost a signal and he was quick to point out when we were going in the wrong direction on the tube of London’s Underground.  Not only did we have to work together, but these situations taught us the importance of staying calm and the realization that we could resolve any problem.

As a mother I really do want to show my son the world because there is more to life than routines and chasing society’s expectations.  I hope every new opportunity makes him curious to know more and provides him with the realization that the possibilities are endless in whatever path he chooses.  I am excited that our travels that started out as fun adventures have led to unexpected gifts of courage, knowledge, new skills and an increased awareness and perspective of other cultures not just for my son, but for me too.   As wonderful as these gifts have been, the best gift  has been the precious bond between my son and I.

As a single parent my life is really busy.  Juggling a career, keeping up the home and navigating everything that accompanies school and extracurricular activities can sometimes be demanding.  There are days that sometimes blend together.  Traveling allows me to focus on my son without all the distractions of everyday life.  When traveling I feel an inner calmness which allows me to share genuine happiness with my son.  With today being Mother’s day I can’t help but think how wonderful it is that travel has provided such happiness that has been intertwined into the fabric of everlasting memories for me and my favorite travel companion, my son.  Traveling has truly been a gift and has provided another link in the bond of our relationship.

Gettysburg

What unexpected gifts have you discovered while traveling with your children?

I follow many other traveling families via the blogosphere.  One of my favorite sites to visit is Mother of All Trips!  Today Mara is promoting a linkup for all travel moms, so click and read on to see how travel is the gift that doesn’t stop giving for many other families.

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