My pint sized human turned EIGHT on Saturday. My track record with mobiles, umbrellas, nice pens and sunglasses, I’m amazed that I haven’t ever lost her. She’s a fully functioning, opinionated, intelligent, stubborn little girl with a style to rival Vivienne. She has this way of picking up a new friend and loving them as though she’s known them all her life. She’s committed in her musings and can persuade even her newest [grown up] friends that wearing your shoes on the wrong feet makes you run faster. When I asked her what she’d like for her birthday, she told me she wanted adventure [We adventured around Disneyland, Paris for her seventh birthday, she appears to have become accustomed, already]. So this year she had her heart set on London (likely related to news of my abandonment in April, for the London Book Fair with Uni!). But anyway, London it is.
I booked our train tickets in advance and our accommodation through the Airbnb app. I’ve never Airbnb’d before, but have always been intrigued by the amazing places and people on the site. I picked an amazing mezzanine room in a flat in Battersea, which I was certain the little’un would adore. It didn’t disappoint! We would be sharing with the owner and his female flatmate. We rocked up to the fairly nondescript front door on Friday morning. With bags in one hand and my over-excited 7 year old in the other, I did consider about-turning before pushing the buzzer. BUT, it’s all about the adventure, right?
The flat itself was amazing, very bright, clean and homely. Bookcases bursting with beautiful books on all number of interesting things! The owner, James was a complete delight. A Graphic Designer, who was busy working on designing a MAGAZINE of all things, fate or what! Our bedroom was up a set of ladders, and the ceiling was around a meter high, meaning a lot of crawling around, but it all added to the charm. It was beautifully decorated, quirky and just to our very pernickety taste!
I had booked tickets to see Matida the Musical that night, so it was a quick change and straight up to Covent Garden for dinner at Sophie’s Steakhouse (AMAZING, kids menu – crayons and a colour-me-in Big Ben, and affordable Pre-theatre prices). We walked our burgers off on the way up to the Cambridge Theatre. I had paid £100 for the tickets, and was slightly nervous that my little Pearly Queen wouldn’t be able to see, as they were pretty cheap as theatre tickets went! But I needn’t have worried, she was handed a velvet booster, and our seats were fantastic, as was the show. So good, the cast were brilliant, especially those kids!
On Saturday, the BIRTHDAY, cards were torn open upon waking, all crammed full of lovely treasure to be spent. James, our host, had laid out a beautiful breakfast spread for us, complete with hand squeezed orange juice! I wasn’t expecting it, but it was part of the deal that I had overlooked – bonus. Within the next hour, we’d been fed and watered, dressed, and had a crash course in water bombing London traffic from behind his lovely window boxes… I know!
We headed out, using a bus, and two undergrounds to get back into Covent Garden. The travelling which I had initially worried about was fine. We sat outside the market and watched a street show for an hour before heading down to the Strand to find the mysterious Davenports Magic shop. We eventually found it nestling in an underground arcade, it added to the excitement. My little magician was more that excited about this venture so was literally bursting when we finally stepped over the threshold. A real magicians shop, shelves stacked full of odd and wondrous products. The shop itself was dark, and dusty, but I loved it. It was only just gone 11am and the queue of budding young magicians pondering decks of cards was pretty impressive. We asked the shopkeeper for the magic linking rings that had been so desired, but he also recommended a card trick which he demonstrated for us, GOB SMACKED. £20 changed hands and a magician was born.
We met a friend for lunch and decided to hit up London’s Transport Museum. It was £15 for an adult and £11.50 for me as a student. Kids go free which is amazing! Make sure to get your tickets validated too, as you can return within a year for free! The nice man, Royston, gave us a treasure map, which we had to get stamped at 12 points within the museum. We had a great time finding these, and it really helped to keep my now waining 8 year old engaged. We stopped afterwards into La Pain Quotidien in the market for the largest cookie I’ve ever seen, and some tea, which was served in cups with no handles, which strangely I liked. We said our farewell to our London/Danish/Edinburgh friend, and headed in the direction of Bow Street to meet Grandad T and his wife. They picked us up in their rather imposing Porsche Cayenne, which looks a lot better from the inside than the outside. We headed to South Kensington for Pizza in Da Marios. It was delicious, my little Houdini gave us a great magic show, much ooh’s and ahhhh’s. Strangely, a magician (A real, grown up, fully fledged member of the magic circle) appeared at our table, after witnessing said young Houdini’s act and preceded to create many more ooh’s and aaaah’s. Coincidence indeed, but it made our night more perfect.
Grandad took us for a spin round the city in the dark before dropping us off back at our home for the weekend. We were both shattered and slept very well. On Sunday I packed up, and after another gorgeous feast from James, and a quick headstand/cartwheel class on his roof terrace, we headed up to Kings Cross. Our return train wasn’t until 5pm but I there was no way I could negotiate a day in London with my little cockney PLUS bags, so we dropped them off to be looked after there.£20 for 2 bags was a fair price for a handsfree day in town.
I had booked a River Cruise on the Thames via Groupon a few weeks prior, so off the Westminster Embankment we went. Just in time to catch the 12 noon boat to the Tower. We sat upstairs, outside despite the cold. It was such a good tour, the guide was a real cockney, and not very PC, which as you’ll realise as you get to know me, appeals to me. As we headed back up the river, we grabbed a hot chocolate from the boat cafe, and warmed up before heading out to see another friend who’d done the big move to London earlier in the year.
We ventured up to Pineapple Dance Studios for a sneak around before heading to Camden Town for Fish and Chips at Poppies. An amazing Fish and Chip restaurant. Waiters and Waitresses kitted out in post war London 1940’s get-ups. Basically, think walls full of interesting epherma and bloody good food.
Turning all punk on me, the fresh faced 8 year old decided that Doc Martins are what she would like most to take home from her adventure. Being just being round the corner from Camden High Street, we were perfectly placed for this mission. The perfect pair (WHITE. PATENT.) were found, purchased, and modeled all the way to Kings Cross for the final leg of our adventure.
All in all, London was better, and easier than expected. Holidaying alone with Kids can be daunting, but in my experience, the bond that’s created when adventuring together is stronger than any. It’s a team effort (albeit a very small team), and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone. I’ll always look forward to our trips and knowing that I’m creating memories makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Fuzzier than I would feel replacing batteries in a Furby.