We had our first really bad all round day on our our entry to London (one out of 40 or so is not a bad run though, so far), i’ll only tell you about it briefly so bear with me while I vent, as we do love London and the rest of our time there was fantastic so I will share some of the highlights after.
Ari woke up the day we left Montreal with a vomiting bug which lasted about 24 hours. We had a late flight out, about 10pm, so had planned to have one last explore of the city to pass the time but with Ari being so unwell that was not an option. We stretched our checkout til 2pm and then tried to have a wander around but it was very cold and making Ari worse. We decided that perhaps we should head straight to the airport where at least we could find a spot that he could just sleep it off til the flights, but when we arrived we found that our flight with British Airways was their only flight out and no BA staff were going to arrive for about 3 hours, therefore we could not check through and were stuck in the general entry area of the airport, with no lounge and Ari still vomiting. When the staff did arrive they did not have Tess properly allocated on our ticket and stuffed us around another half an hour. Ari was exceptionally well behaved during all of this considering his condition, and he was so good on the flight, and luckily Tess slept the whole flight, albeit on Skye. When we arrived in London at 9am we were to be collected from the airport and driven to our apartment but no one was there for us. I tried to call and email with no joy so we caught the Underground to the apartment address. It was right on Hyde Park Gate and extremely posh, we were greeted by a concierge who advised us it was a private residence and in fact our apartment booking did not exist. We had been caught in the latest Internet booking scam rife in London in the lead up to the Olympics. We were the third people to turn up at that address with a false booking. We have never been conned in our traveling history and it was a real kick in the guts. In hind sight, the way the booking process unfolded, including pre-payment via direct international transfer due to problems with credit card etc., etc.,, I would never have got caught out under normal circumstances, a combination of leaving our planning til the last minute and doing it via Internet late at night when tired. We were stuck in the cold and rain, with Ari still being sick, in the middle of London with no accommodation. Luckily I was able to make a quick alternative booking nearby, via a site we trust, albeit at a much higher cost. After checking in at the new place I went to the police who showed little interest despite me having bank account details etc., and despite them saying it is happening a lot, so I realised they would do nothing and I asked them for a report number and took it to the bank and branch of the account I sent the money to, thinking the transfer might not have been completed yet, and told the manager his customer had used his bank to defraud me. He looked at the account and seemed to see something he didn’t like so luckily he took it seriously and reported it to their fraud department to try and freeze some funds in the account. I then contacted my bank via email and gave them the same details and between them they got our money back (except for a small loss in the buy and sell rates on the foreign currency). If I have not gone straight to the bank we would never have seen any of the money again. So, lesson well and truly learned, we won’t get caught out again, at least we didn’t lose as much in the end,
The next day Ari woke up well, the sun came out, and we started enjoying some of what London has to offer.
Now I know many of our friends have been to London, or even lived there, and those that haven’t would still be more than familiar with the main attractions, so I won’t go on about those, although we still visit them and they still have their charm. Instead I will just give you some notes, and lots of pictures, of some of the things that made our days complete.
Natural History Museum: This place is amazing, worth Googling it if you don’t know it, Skye and I have gone there on most visits to London, first on our honeymoon in 2000, then just us in 2006, then with Ari in 2009 and now with Tess. A new addition for us was the extension for a permanent Darwin exhibit, housed within a multi story Cocoon shaped structure in a modern glass extension to the rear of the old stone building, we also had not stumbled across the large interactive kids learning centre before. A day in the NHM barely scratches the surface so there is always plenty more to go back for.
Kew Gardens: We had never been here before and if we had we would have set out earlier because we could have spent a very full day here with the kids. It is a huge botanical garden with many themed glasshouses etc,, but also with a treetop walkway and a garden themed kids playground within one of the glasshouses. We’ll come again, because we didn’t get through half of it. They have great coffee too.
It was quite funny to watch Ari get chased by the Geese, for his cheese!
Tate Modern Art Gallery: This was a perfect day out for Mothers Day for Skye. On the way there we stopped by St Pauls Cathedral (it was to be closed the next day so the Dalai Lama could accept a gift there from the Prime Minister!), then walked over the Millennium Bridge to Bankside and the Tate. We had a laugh at a very casual busker in a deck chair on the banks of the Thames (a regular I assume), when we came back the tide had come up but he had not moved, busking in waste deep water, he earned his pennies. As for the gallery, it was fantastic, the larger than life Anatomy Sculpture out the front won Ari’s attention straight away and the kids area upstairs kept Tess well entertained. Afterwards Ari and I ventured down to the banks of the Thames as he wanted to find some treasures, he’s scouting for metal parts to build a robot.
As usual, we spent a lot of time in the parks, our favorites being St James Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Something new for us was the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens. Queuing to get in to a kids playground didn’t seem to make sense, but once inside it was obvious why it is so popular. It has a fantastic pirate ship in the centre and a number of surrounding play areas including one that is music themed. Tess loved the music area and the large carved wooden animals. Ari made a few friends, one older boy that took him all the way to the top of the pirate ship mast (because I couldn’t fit) and a couple of Russian boys that just kept piling on top of each other on the spinning disk. In Hyde Park we hired a peddle boat for a paddle around the lake. The series of photo’s of Tess on the park bench is an attempt to copy some we took of Ari in the same place in 2009.
And, just for Nostalgia sake for those who have been to London, here are some of the aforementioned favorites (the one of Tess is in Westminster Abbey, in the grassed central courtyard).
And that’s some snippets of our time in London.
Just one more more pic though, since our apartment had a kitchen we did some regular shopping at Marks and Spencer, which is fantastic for pre-prepared meals, they take it one step further though when you can even get take home wine ‘by the glass’
Next we are visiting family north of London, near Hull, for a few days, and I am looking forward to writing a bit about that. But for now, it is yet again another very late night blog update and I am looking forward to some sleep.