Royalty, playgrounds and pubs – London, England

So when we last left our heroes and heroine, we were all taking a well-deserved tapas break. Reinvigorated by calamari, we were off to see the Queen. Or rather the Queen’s very ugliest of castles. I am sorry but there is no charm whatsoever in Buckingham and if any Brits want to duel over that fact, I’ll see you at Concord’s North Bridge at dawn. Bring your best nerf gun.

If I were a gazillionaire like the QEII, I would insist on a better castle. Also, all those windows. Don’t you get tired of people seeing what’s for dinner? Yeah, I guess they don’t use those front rooms much. The whole royalty thing is so fascinating for me as for many others. Not as in weddings and fuss, but why in the world you would want to be royal? Okay, there can be only one reason: hanging out with QEII–she is charmingly hilarious. Yes, I watched the BBC special with David Attenborough and the queen in the Buckingham tree garden (they hide the best stuff away from prying eyes) and I am totally in favor of rejoining the Empire. But only if we skip Charles. He seems rather tame.

Cool gates and dude in red with fuzzy hat

In any case, I had a hard time building a case for “check out the castle!!! Awesome!!” Yeah, we watched the guys in red with fuzzy hats march about a bit, but really it’s a bit of a downer. Also they let a bunch of cars park in the front which totally ruined the romance. Who are those people driving Toyotas to the castle? Dunno.

Lovely Hyde Park

Onwards across Green Park to Hyde Park and the Serpentine. Spring was a bit young in London but already cherry and magnolia trees were celebrating, kids were chasing the pigeons from the waterside, and all was green and lovely. Lots of birds. Lots.

We were crashing with the jet lag. We looked at one of the many maps (HUGE kudos for London on having maps everywhere on the streets and the parks. If you get lost in London, you really have to try). We decided to cut away from Kensington Palace (let’s get real: my kids don’t know who Princess Di was and I remain confused on who lives there now. Charles? William? No clue) and up a long path past a Henry Moore sculpture.

See the tannish lump past the Henry Moore? Kensington Palace. 

At the top, a playground. My kids’ favorite part of the whole day. Tire swing. Tired swing. We let them run about for a good amount of time, and then were off to figure out the Tube.

High point for kids on first day? Playground. Sigh.

The Tube is easily figured out due to the gazillions of maps and options. Less easy for us was the Oyster card which is a stored value card that we were debating whether we would get for our three remaining days in London. I think we spent so long at the machine that the lone steward at Queensway tube came out to see if he could help us. Londoners are massively helpful. Also somewhat squidgy. He suggested that we get the cards only for ourselves, the adults, and just say our kids were 10 and therefore travel free. Our kids are 11. It was tough to explain to them how that was an okay lie. I call it the twin discount. Yeah, okay, sorry London. But your tube employee suggested it!

Mind the gap! Love it. Down the escalators, inside a train, back to our tube stop at Chancery Lane in 10 minutes. Yes, we walked for five hours, then came back in 10 minutes. I definitely think the kids felt duped.

Afterwards the kids went to the indoor pool with their dad and yes, I napped. Sigh. It happens. When I came to, it was almost 8 pm and we were in a rush to find a place to eat. England is a land of the early eaters so we needed to hoof it.

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Gunmakers Pub. Yes, they used to make guns not beer. Now it is the opposite.

We were turned away from the first pub, told that kids under 16 were not allowed in pubs in the evening. It was quite busy anyway so not sure we would have found a seat. We split up two and two to find a place–a falafel house looked okay, the Vietnamese as well. Then my husband spied a sign for The Gunmakers down a dark street and Lalo and I set off to see what was what.

It was a tiny pub and eating area. I was met at the bar by a smiling blond woman who looked at me strangely when I asked if my kids could eat there…she said, well, the food is a little adult, with Asian flavors, but if they liked that…I said no, because they are 11. And she said well, OF COURSE they could eat there, she would just check with the cook to make sure the kitchen wasn’t closed.

It wasn’t closed. In fact the chef came out and had a chat with us as well. She explained that they didn’t do the traditional pub food and that was okay by me. And then the Australian barkeep came over and chatted. So very friendly; so very needed as we were all so tired. Food was fantastic, we ordered a second round of a couple of dishes before the kitchen closed. Highly recommend the Gunmakers in Clerkenwell.

Home. To bed. The morrow was our first full day in London…


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