First day solo, for me, with our kids. I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous. I’ve traveled to Europe by myself before, and loved it. But this time, I had my babies with me; relying on me for their safety; for everything. I’m happy to say, that the second my feet hit the sidewalk in front of our apartment, I was fine. I simply decided that we would take our time and all would be right with our day. Because I was nervous about relying solely on myself to navigate through a foreign city with my kids, I did some good research ahead of time. I chose four venues that I thought my kids would enjoy; hitting two per day.
This was going to be our last sunny day for a while, so we ventured to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. They do not do this every day, so I made sure that I confirmed their schedule in advance. Unfortunately, I didn’t do enough research. I wrongly assumed that they would have a parade route of sorts, where the crowds could get a decent view. Although we could see the approaching regiment with ease, once they passed through the gates of the palace, we were not able to see anything else. People were stacked on shoulders and standing on walls, so views beyond the gates were impossible.
It was exciting seeing the incoming guard on horseback, the lead mounted on a white horse denoting that The Queen was “home” (as does the flag flying above the palace), but after that, I would recommend moving on. Unless you get there early to stake out a spot on the palace gate, there is no more to see. Our next stop was to The Royal Mews.
I really wanted at least a little taste of a “royal” experience in London and this was perfect. The Royal Mews is part of the palace grounds that houses the royal cars (which incidentally were NOT there the day we visited), the royal horses and all of the carriages and coaches used by the royal family.
This little “museum” is still fully operational for the royals. An audio guided tour comes with the purchase of your ticket. While there, you get introduced to some of the royal horses and a magnificent collection of carriages and coaches used throughout the history of the monarchy for coronations, jubilees, and those beloved royal weddings.
Every item is meticulously maintained (including the ladies room which was gorgeous!). They had a few hands-on activities for the kids including some “liveries” (or uniforms) that they could try on and a coach to climb in for a fun photo op. They also had a small wooden pony that the kids could learn how to harness.
For me the highlight of the tour was the carriages and coaches. Gorgeously appointed, of course. It was fun to learn about the deliberate design choices that were made and see, up close, the actual coaches used for the coronations and royal weddings “as seen on tv” in America.
The oldest of all was the grandest; The Gold State Coach. This coach was commissioned by George III in 1762! They still use it! To extract the coach from storage, they used to dismantle and reassemble it to use it for various events, however, it is so old and fragile now that they have stopped that practice. Now, if they want to use it, they actually remove the wall of the building housing it and pull it out. Crazy!
Of course, we ended our tour at the sweet little gift shop full of English china and teas in beautiful tins. (Regretfully, I didn’t purchase anything. Next time.) After hitting a local restaurant for lunch we moved on to The Guards Museum.
The Guards Museum was free for the kids, with my entrance a meager 6 pounds and a very short walk from The Royal Mews. This small museum was PACKED full of military garb and accouterments. A little boy’s paradise. I truly think my middle one could have hung out here aaaaalllllll day. Expertly displayed, Smithsonian-like, they had it all; from the recognizable red coats and tall, black hats of the Queen’s Guard, to modern day military gear.
We made an earnest pass through the museum and then decided to jump on the tube to meet my hubby at his office. A stroll through St. James Park, complete with ice cream and AMAZING scenery, lead us to Green Park and the tube station for a quick train ride to meet up with Chris. A very nice pit stop with AC and clean bathrooms and we were off, on foot to a SPECTACULAR dinner near The Tower of London. One great bottle of wine later (and dessert – it’s vacation!) and we headed out for a leisurely walk back to our apartment, over The Tower Bridge and along the riverfront. A royally awesome day.
To see more pictures from our trip to London, follow @jenniferthebeholder on Instagram.
1 Buckingham Palace emblem
2 Buckingham Palace
3 Incoming Queen’s Guard regiment
4 The Royal Mews
5 Diamond Jubilee State Coach (State Coach Britannia)
6 Learning to harness a horse!
7 Gold State Coach display.
8 Gold State Coach
9 Royal Mews gift shop
10 Guard shelter outside of The Guards Museum
11Brasserie Blanc – French Restaurant in Tower of London.