London was like a warm blanket for us. It feels very much like home, except with less tan people and everyone sounding much smarter than me. We forgot how nice it is to be back in an English speaking country. I remember having the same feeling when we landed in Sydney in December after spending 4 months in Asia. You relax a little bit more. You don’t have to think as much. We didn’t even have to wait until we landed, we felt it as soon as we boarded the British Airways flight from Rome to Gatwick when the flight attendant, who sounded like Ms. Moneypenny, greeted us.
Ever since we landed, I have been trying my best to do my fatherly duty to utterly embarrass and annoy my kids by saying Londontown! in my best (still bloody awful) English accent every chance I get. Also brilliant, wicked, and bloody hell. Kelly used the word gobsmacked the other day. Parents have to get their kicks somehow.
Surprisingly London wasn’t really on the radar for me, which in hindsight was a big mistake. We had some time between Rome and Paris. We were thinking Copenhagen and Amsterdam, but we found a free flight to London and the girls love Harry Potter so it was a done deal. As a final sign, we came across this listing on Airbnb:
“Get a slice of music history at this historic home one of the oldest recorded streets of London! Originally built as a part of building housing a dairy (yes with cows and all that), this house was converted in the 1960s into a recording studio. From 1964, this house was the premises of Sound Techniques, one of the best-known independent recording studios in the country.
For the next 10 years, some of the greatest rock bands such as The Who, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Elton John recorded here. Apparently, Eric Clapton still lives on this street!”
I was a little worried about the girls getting a contact high from the walls.
So here are some highlights from our stay here:
-The food! I know it’s weird to say it, but there is too much Italian food in Italy and Spanish food in Spain. I mean, I loved it all, but after 5 weeks in each country I wanted sushi or Mexican food. So London has been great for that. We have had Indian food, BBQ ribs, and Ramen. And yes, these are very first world problems.
-Is London expensive? Hell, yes it is. Our BBQ ribs and crab dinner cost us $200 USD and two drinks cost us almost $30 USD. So we offset that with cooking at home and taking advantage of the all the free museums. We really don’t like eating out all the time anyway, so having a kitchen is key. The one thing I do miss is BBQing on a grill, which we haven’t done since Australia.
-Surprisingly, the weather! We have had the most insanely great weather for London, it’s been summer-like, in the low to mid 70’s. And London, like San Francisco, is a much more cheery place when the weather is great. We did get a little rain towards the end of our stay, but it was still pretty warm and no big deal.
-London has some of the best museums and parks we have seen and they are all free. We spent hours in the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The girls learned a ton – minerals, earthquakes, volcanoes, how flamingoes get their pink feathers, evolution and more. Hyde Park on a warm sunny day was just a fun place to be, we checked out Kensington Palace which had an exhibit of Royal fashion that the girls loved. Then we went back another day because Kelly wanted to have high tea.
-We met up with another family doing an around the world trip-The Sweitzers! Steve, Polly, and their daughter Sadie sold everything back home and are currently on an around the world 2.5 year (!!) trip-pretty amazing. They are doing a ton more countries than we are seeing. Polly is the cousin of our dear college friend, Julie. We originally were supposed to meet up in Granada, Spain, but it didn’t work out, and through the power of social media we found out that our families were both in London at the same time. I know the girls were excited to hang out with someone new; and it was fun talking about the ups and downs of doing such a trip. The girls had such a good time they had a sleepover over at their place!
-I have to say that the cabs in London beat out the Japanese cabs as our favorite on our trip. Not only do they have character and can fit 5 of us pretty comfortably (two facing three in the back seat), but the cab drivers here are so friendly and knowledgeable that they have pretty much been tour guides for us on every ride. One cabby told us Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) once sat in the seat I was in on our way to our muggle tour (all Harry Potter speak for those of you who haven’t read the books) to another giving us the details of Bob Marley’s residence here. We have also loved using the Tube, ridiculously easy and you hardly ever have to wait for a train for more than a couple minutes.
-Can someone from London please explain to me why I kept seeing grown women riding razor scooters in Chelsea? Is this where they all went after the dot com bust?
-The land of Harry Potter- We took the girls to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of Harry Potter just outside London. This is where they filmed all the movies. I will hopefully have the girls blog about this in more detail. The twins just finished reading the series and are huge Harry Potter fans, just like Claire. Claire actually said it was the best day of her life. For me, it was just mind boggling how much work it took to make those movies. Years of work for some people for 2 minutes on film. We also did a pretty good muggle walking tour of London. Muggles are non magical beings in the Harry Potter world. Our guide Scott was pretty entertaining; and it was a good way to see a lot of the major landmarks while keeping the girls interested with all thing Harry Potter.
-We also took the kids to see the play Matilda, which was impressive because most of the cast were kids themselves.
So thanks London for giving us a much needed English speaking break as we push towards the tail end of our adventure. You were brilliant.
Next Stop: Paris