Having arrived on the corner of Green Park without telling the boys where exactly we were headed it was fabulous to step out from under the trees and hear their gasps as Buckingham Palace came into full view. Thanks to the BFG, last year’s Royal Wedding (yes BigBear, that is the balcony where William and Kate snogged!) and this year’s Jubilee, the Palace holds a good bit of magic for my two and they took it all in with a good degree of wonder.
The Mall was closed off for Olympic activity so we made our way up to Birdcage Walk via St. James Park and saw our first crowds along the way. Spectator entrances to the temporary arena on Horseguards were in the Park and had to be negotiated along the way.
One of the things the boys were most looking forward to from our trip was seeing ‘Big Ben’ and, again, it was a lovely moment when the famous bell tower simply slipped into view. This was a deliberate theme of my showing them around; I wanted them to see how these famous landmarks simply sit in amongst the hustle and bustle of everything else in London.
Photo’s duly taken and with an, ‘oh and by the way, that’s Westminster Abbey over there’ we stepped on to Whitehall and up past Downing Street to, um, McDonalds!! LittleBear was very hungry by this point and had grumped all along Whitehall to the extent that Downing Street and Horseguards Parade were barely noted but by the time we had sat on Trafalgar Square and consumed our burgers they were ready for the next steps on their Grand Tour.
As I’m sure you know, it is obligatory to climb on the giant bronze lions on Trafalgar Square so, with a little help from dad, we fulfilled our obligations and got a great picture of the boys before they slid down the Lion’s tail and headed up past St Martins in the Field towards our next stop at Covent Garden.
It is worth noting at this point that having come up from the Tube at Green Park we were doing the rest of today’s sightseeing tour on foot and my little 5 & 8 year old bears had already put in 1.8 miles before lunch!
A stroll around the old market stalls of Covent Garden, and after dragging the kids out of the Disney Store, we moved on to cross Leicester Square and the famous cinemas before heading on to Piccadilly Circus and a giant Transformer at the Trocadero. This bit rejuvenated LittleBear what with the giant pictures of Batman and his hero, Spiderman, and by now it was mum & dad that were starting to droop. To be honest we all needed a break before reaching our final destination so a pint was ordered around the back of Regent Street and half an hour off our feet was more than welcome.
Then we got to the bit that BigBear had been waiting for. The bait that had kept him going over the previous 3.2 miles of walking and numerous stops: HAMLEYS! Six magical floors of toys, games, and ‘stuff’ for children of all ages! As an adult I have always found Hamleys a disappointment because it could never live up to the feeling that it gave to me as a child. It is also very expensive. But seeing the boys running around the store, one floor at a time, reminded me of that childhood magic and their smiles and excitement more than made up for their parent’s doubts!
The final fifth of a mile for this afternoon session of walking and sightseeing took us to Oxford Circus tube station, always amongst the busiest, and back down underground to the Bakerloo line train that would whisk us back to Kenton. You will have to go looking for part three to read about our Olympic event itself…