It’s a Tuesday morning, 8:06am and the apartment is quiet. Tom is working while Chili and the kids sleep away. It’s our first day of the Toussaint holiday to sleep in. I can’t believe the kids have been in school for eight weeks already. We have two weeks before we start again.
Two weeks. Each of our holiday breaks (there are four of them) are two weeks long. Perfect (for us) to do some traveling, exploring, relaxing. And we started this first one off with a bang.
For some reason, I have always shied away from traveling with friends. I believe in full-fledged family vacations and road trips. The kind that create those special memories that are only shared with your immediate family tribe. I love that. But two years ago we decided to take a trip to Disney in tandem with some other families (and our own siblings, as well) and it was, quite honestly, one of our favorite trips to Disney (and there have been a lot). I believe we topped out at 21 people some days with the benefit of a large group being that if one person didn’t want to do something that the rest of the group wanted to do, there would be others that felt the same. So we would splinter off in numerous directions only to come back together, shuffle the groups around and head off again. Our trip was assisted by great weather and great crowds. But it was the people we were sharing the experience with that took it over the top.
Since then we have shared some fantastic ski weekends and trips to Door County with friends. So when our friends Barb, Lee and Nicholas decided to visit us in Paris, we wondered if a side trip to London might be a good idea. Was it ever.
I’ve attached loads of photos because it would be difficult to capture, in words, all of our experiences. I will highlight just a few:
Our apartment was in a great location right on the Central Line on Hyde Park. Big, clean, modern. The apartment worked out well except for Barb’s washing machine disaster.
I tend to think one of the things that can ruin a vacation is bad food experiences. You can get caught in tourist traps where you’re spending way too much money for bad food and bad service. I’ve only been to London once but I don’t remember eating well and the city hasn’t really been known for it’s cuisine. Well, our dining experiences were some of the best. The four adults went to Brick Lane on Friday night for curry. Tom did not warn the Ferdwald’s that they would have proprietors fighting for their business on the street known for curry after curry after curry restaurant. We made our selection, shared four dishes and they won us over. Saturday morning found us at a cafe that has to be an institution. The ordering and seating regime was straight from the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld and the food was cheap, hot, delicious and very British. Sunday lunch was at a British pub on Trafalgar Square. We sat around an upstairs fireplace with our pints, fish & ships and sticky toffee pudding. Yum. And Monday we stumbled upon a patio of outdoor food carts on Piccadilly (only there on Mondays and very popular) where some had paella, the kids had a variety of empanadas, and Barb and I had pumpkin & sweet potato stuffed something that was amazing as well as the best cheeseburger I have had in a long time.
We kept busy, that’s for sure. We toured around a bit before the boys set off for Reading to see the Reading/Folham soccer match while the girls spent the majority of our time in Harrods followed by an Italian lunch that hit the spot. We made our way to the West End to see Matilda and the boys slipped into their seats with about 90 seconds to spare. I won’t try to describe how good the show was. I just can’t. I was blown away.
On Sunday, we took a four-hour bike tour led by our Fat Tire guide, Matt (thanks for the recommendation, Natalie!). What a great way to see London! The parks here are closely linked so you didn’t spend much time on trafficked roads but on wide park paths. And when you were on the roads, many were closed because it was Sunday. So we found ourselves riding on the middle of the street with Buckingham Palace in view. We learned tons of tidbits about the city and highly recommend this option.
We had about five minutes after our tour to get on a train heading north to the sound stages where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. Again, another highlight. When you see the picture of the three kids sitting at a table with a stone wall behind them, they are sitting at the Griffindor table in the Great Hall. How fun is that! I’ve included lots of photos, but they just don’t capture all that we were able to see and experience. I love the photo of the girls knocking on the door at 4 Privet Drive. And the rooms filled with artwork and sketches were beautiful.
Monday was a free day which included a stop at the Queen’s grocer, Fortnum & Mason, strolling the Thames near Westminster and time for the kids to burn off some energy at a playground under the London Eye. We were tired as we boarded our train back to Paris and certainly sad to say good-bye to Middleton friends. But our time in London was a true success.
The holiday continues…