National Maritime Museum

Perhaps not the most obvious choice for Valentine’s Day, but I had a great time with my two favourite boys. Here’s my attempt at a three-picture story, as suggested in this week’s WordPress photo challenge:

Those photos are just a glimpse of what you can get up to at the Maritime Museum, without paying for any of the special galleries or exhibitions. There’s a giant map which you can walk (or crawl) on and they provide some large model ships (and a submarine) for kids to push around as they explore. In the Children’s Gallery you can practise  Morse code with flashes or clicks, fire a cannon – the cannon is real but the firing is virtual – or take control of the cargo loading. Just outside there’s a phone to communicate with the captain from the engine room (or vice-versa) and a ship simulator where you can attempt to navigate into port. (In term-time these parts of the museum are sometimes closed for pre-booked school visits, so check availability if they’re the main attraction.) The are also a lot of non-interactive exhibits, which  the Jam quite liked but are more suitable for older children and adults.

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Getting there – If you’re visiting on a weekday, there is a car park almost immediately across the road from the museum on the corner of Park Row. Another option would be to park at the Blackheath end of Greenwich Park and take a stroll down the hill through the park. Both car parks get very busy at the weekend but Greenwich is easily accessible by train or DLR and the stations are within 10 minutes walk of the museum.

Other facilities – The museum has good access for a pushchair and there are various buggy parks dotted around neat the interactive exhibits. The toilets have baby-changing facilities and there is a large cafe and a coffee bar onsite as well as the very nice Brasserie (which also has a children’s menu).

(For more of our adventures, click on ‘The London List’ at the top of the page.)

Birthday Boy (Belated)

For the Jam’s birthday, DH and I took him sight-seeing in London, focussing on the attractions that would appeal most to a 3 year-old boy. We started with the long-promised London Eye, which he really enjoyed for the first 10 minutes:

As we descended he looked decidedly bored, but then so did our fellow passengers – every single one of them sat on the central bench for the last few minutes – and they don’t have the excuse of a 3 year-old’s short attention span! It was a typical October day so the visibility wasn’t brilliant but at least the Jam could tell the tourists the difference between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.  On disembarking, we decided to meander towards the West End, snapping a few more sights along the way:

After that we generously (stupidly?) asked him what he wanted for lunch. He requested ice-cream…just ice-cream…in October. Undaunted, we decided that it was his birthday and if he was only going to eat ice-cream, it should be good ice-cream, so we headed to The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason’s:

Now that's what I call an ice-cream!
Now that’s what I call an ice-cream!

Our last stop was Hamley’s. I didn’t manage to get any photos because the Jam was never still long enough – in this case the lack of picture is worth a thousand words! We started on the top floor and made our way down, testing out various toys along the way. We’d told the Jam he could choose something for his birthday present and in the end he picked out a ridiculously overpriced (but entirely worth it just for the smile of pure delight) Thomas the Tank Engine mineshaft track that will compliment  his vast Brio collection.

The end of a good day
The end of a good day

(For more of our adventures, click on ‘The London List’ at the top of the page.)

London Transport Museum

Way back in October, DH and I took the Jam to the London Transport Museum as a treat after his hospital appointment. He loves trains, buses and all other vehicles so although he was a little young for some of the educational stuff, he really enjoyed himself. At £15 per ticket for me and DH, it wasn’t cheap but those tickets do give us unlimited entry for 12 months – assuming we don’t lose them – and the Jam got in for free.

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On entry we were given a card describing a ‘trail’ through the museum and there are 12 checkpoints at which the Jam could punch his card – it’s a good way to make sure you don’t miss anything or end up going back on yourself. As well as models and information in a range of media, there are lots of real vehicles that visitors can sit in and explore (or pretend to drive) and a small interactive play area for children. As you can see from the photos, the Jam had a great time. I think DH rather enjoyed himself too…

Getting there – The museum is located in the corner of Covent Garden, but it only takes a few extra minutes to walk from Charing Cross rather than Covent Garden underground station, which isn’t particularly child-friendly and gets very busy. If you’re feeling bold however, it’s on the Piccadilly line.

Other facilities – The museum has good disabled access (which also helps with pushchairs) though boarding some of the vehicles wouldn’t be possible with a wheelchair. There is a cloakroom where you can leave a pushchair or pram and the toilets have baby-changing facilities. There is shop and two cafes on site plus all the shops, bars and restaurants of Covent Garden just outside.

(For more of our adventures, click on ‘The London List’ at the top of the page.)

Towers and Bridges

We actually did this walk a few weeks ago, making the most of the last days of summer, but I didn’t get around to posting about it…

We caught the DLR to Canary Wharf (the Jam ‘drove’) and checked out the modern towers first. After lunch in a surprisingly toddler-friendly restaurant called WildWood, we headed for Tower Gateway. The Jam wasn’t that interested in the Tower of London (though we intend to come back and admire the bling at some point) but he loved walking over Tower Bridge. We walked around the back, along Tooley Street towards London Bridge, spotting some escaped giraffes on the way. Then we meandered down the South Bank as far as the Millenium Bridge – which was even better as the Jam could see much more – and back past St. Paul’s and those blue trees.

(For more of our adventures, click on ‘The London List’ at the top of the page.)

Wooly Wednesday: I Knit London

I knit London

Woo-hoo! I’ve finally found a fabulous knitting shop that isn’t on the other side of the world (or online, or closed, or requires a complex journey involving multiple train/tube/bus changes). It’s called I Knit London and it’s tucked away just behind Waterloo Station*. The Jam and I went on a recognisance mission today and liked what we discovered:

1) A lovely saleswoman who chatted to the Jam and didn’t seem at all fazed by his close examination of her stock. She even said he was adorable and let him buy a chocolate bar with buttons (and wouldn’t take any money for it from me).

Pretty...
Pretty…

2) Rainbow shelves packed with yarn that you can’t buy on the high street. I bought three skeins that I don’t need, but they were beautiful! One is a bright blue merino/silk blend (called Rubber Soul) from their own brand (I Knit or Dye) and the other two are Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend, which I’ve been eyeing up online but not had a chance to fondle until today. Now I need more patterns…

* That’s one train ride from home and ten minutes walk from the Evelina, so it will no doubt be my sanctuary when we’re living there after the Jam’s next operation.

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Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park

For our first adventure from my London List, the Jam and I decided to explore Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park with Dad and our FFF. These Royal Parks run seamlessly into one another other and there is plenty do for kids and adults.

Our primary destination was the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground so we headed there first. Entrance is monitored and adults have to be accompanied by a child, though there is a brief slot in the morning when they can have a quick peek inside. The staff also try to ensure it’s not too crowded, meaning that when we arrived there was a long queue at the gate, but it moved quickly and we were through within 10 minutes. The space is broken into several smaller playing areas, aimed at children of different ages. Some have sand and/or water as well as slides, swings etc. The centrepiece is a large pirate ship, which the Jam was keen to explore but as it was packed with ‘big kids’, we opted for the tee-pees and bridges instead. A lot of children were playing in swimwear, which we hadn’t considered but was a good choice for a hot day. There are also several grassy spots where families can enjoy a picnic within the playground area. For younger children, I would suggest visiting in term-time when it’s likely to be less crowded and they can try out all the equipment at their own pace – we’ll be returning in the autumn!

After a quick ride on the roundabout (which the Jam chose over the traditional carousel), we headed through the park to find the Serpentine. On the way we passed the Round Pond – smelly but lots of ducks and geese – and the Physical Energy Statue. The Serpentine was rather more pleasant than the pond and we walked along it into Hyde Park. We stopped to enjoy lunch and the view at the Lido cafe, which has a small children’s menu alongside the selection of salads, pizzas and burgers on offer for adults. It’s also licensed and has a tempting selection of cakes. (There are baby-changing facilities as well as toilets here but as it’s close to the Diana Memorial Fountain and the Serpentine Lido, they were busy and we had to queue.)

From there it was two minute walk to the Diana Memorial Fountain which was busy but great fun. Officially you’re only supposed to dip your toes in from the edge, but every child there was attempting a complete circuit, along with many parents. The Jam and I made it round, getting totally soaked in the process, while Dad took photos. Again, swimwear for kids (and a towel) would be wise.

While the Jam’s shorts dried off on the pushchair handle, we finished our day with a scenic stroll past the Serpentine Gallery – pausing for photos with the two big rocks – and the Albert Memorial. This part of the park is less exciting for kids, but definitely worth seeing and you also get a great view of the Albert Hall. At this point you could head down Exhibition Road towards the Natural History Museum and/or the Science Museum, but we decided to save those for another day.

Getting there – There are several tube stations near Kensington Gardens but I suggest catching the Central line to Queensway, which emerges less than a minute’s walk from the Diana Memorial Playground. HIgh Street Kensington (District & Circle line) is also very convenient for that side of the park and probably the closest to the Albert Memorial and Kensington Palace.

Other facilities – As well as the Lido in Hyde Park (described above), there is a cafe near the Diana Memorial Playground which caters specifically for families. This map shows all the toilets etc as well as the layout of the park.

(For more of our adventures, click on ‘The London List’ at the top of the page.)

Click here…

London
London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Just a quick post to let you know I’ve added a new page to keep track of our adventures in London. (Pages don’t seem to notify followers – or anyone else – in the same ways posts do.) I intend to update it regularly so as well as the link here, you can check back through ‘The London List’ link at the top of the homepage.

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London List

One of the less obvious rubbish things about CHD (or any serious medical condition) is that it makes you realise the importance of living life to the full but simultaneously prevents you from doing so. The Jam’s long-term prognosis is rather gloomy, and though we are confident that by the time we get there, medical science will have developed in ways we can’t yet imagine, we’re still keen to make the most of now. We want to show him all the amazing things in the world, but he can’t fly – at least, not until after the next big operation – so many places are out of reach.

However, I’ve recently realised that complaining that we can’t see the world is just self-pity if we don’t make the most of what’s on our doorstep. There are so many brilliant things to do in (and around) London, some famous (and expensive) and some hidden gems too. Recently we had a sight-seeing trip with Dad, and a few months ago the Jam was delighted by a simple walk down the South Bank and the chance to sing ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ while jumping up and down on London Bridge. Last summer we went to the Science Museum with SiL and we’ve built sandcastles on the beach in various locations. We’ve visited the Sea Life Aquarium and watched ‘In the Night Garden Live’ at the Millennium Dome O2 Arena.

Earlier this week had a great day at London Zoo with DH, though I only managed a few photos:

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I already have a few more places in mind for future days out:

  1. The London Eye – Dad (who’s terrified of heights) has repeatedly promised to take the Jam on it!
  2. The Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs.
  3. A boat ride on the Thames, maybe the Duck Tour.
  4. Hamleys – technically free, but obviously won’t be!
  5. The Cutty Sark – we’ve seen the outside but not done the tour yet.

What do you think? There’s so much more to do and I’d love to hear your suggestions.