Here it is for you, London in 4 days – Day Two.
London in 4 days – Day Two
The hop on – hop off bus.
I usually cringe at hop on – hop off buses. The idea of sitting on a bus, crammed with tourists, dressed in rain ponchos is not my idea of fun however, in London we decided it was a great option to get around the city and see the sights of Westminster and London.
Decision one: buy a one or two day pass?
I decided to upgrade from a one day to two day pass (which included a night tour and river cruise) and was a handy option for us to easily get from A to B and learn about the city care of the audio and live commentary.
There are three main hop on – hop off bus operators in London: The Original Tour, Big Bus Tours and Golden Tours. They are all much the same however; offer various specials depending on what time of year you travel and whether you have access to a discount (such as the London Pass). It may pay to look at their websites and compare routes and prices. We went with BigBus, purely because the stop was outside our cottage.
Decision two: where to go?
London in 4 days – Day Two: stop one. Kensington Palace
So on we hopped, following the red line.
Our first stop was Kensington Palace, the childhood home of Queen Victoria to learn about her reign and the history of this famous British monarch. I didn’t realize what an amazing woman she was – I just pictured a short, stout, stern widow.
Did you know, Victoria was a Queen at just 18, married at 21, mother to 9 children, widow at 42 and ruler of an Empire of over 400 million people (I don’t think I will complain about my life being hard again)!
Kensington Palace exhibitions
At the time of our visit we were fortunate to be able to attend The Visiting Victoria Revealed exhibition. This was mesmerizing not only for me, given my interest in British history, but for my children too. On entry, my girls were given a scratch and sniff trail to find their way through the palace as well as opportunities to play with some of the toys typical of children in the Victorian era. Most special was the display of Victoria’s personal letters, paper dolls as well as the book she wrote entitled The Adventures of Alice Laselles, written when she was just 10 ¾.
Victoria’s creativity, imagination and eloquence is impressive as are the drawings of her paper dolls.
As every girls likes to shop, we bought a copy of this book from the beautiful gift shop to take home as a memento of our morning at the Palace. Also impressive is the café where the coffee is good (tick from Daddy) as is the outlook onto the gardens.
For your reference, the Historic Royal Palaces website lists all current exhibitions at Kensington Palace. This year (2017) it is Diana Her Fashion Story.
London in 4 days – Day Two: stop two. Oxford and Regents Streets
We hopped back on the bus and around the corner where we headed to the top of Hyde Park and onto Oxford and Regents Streets. Shops, shops and more shops including Isabel Marant (oolala – one of my favourites) and one of the world’s oldest and biggest toy shops: Hamleys. Now this place you have to visit.
The “toyologists” (my name for the shop attendants at Hamleys) have an energy and excitement about them that is contagious. I am not sure where the saying “like a kid in a lolly shop” comes from, but I have seen first-hand “a kid in a toy shop”. My girls could not stop running from corner to corner to see and touch everything.
Hamleys stocks every toy you can imagine: Paddington Bear, Sylvannian friends, Lego (including a life size Queen and Corgi, Prince William and Harry and of course Princess Kate) as well as dolls, musical instruments, art and craft, construction, electronics. You name it, Hamleys has got it. To my husband’s relief, we departed with only two £10 purchases!
Around the corner and we stumbled across Fortnum and Mason (the Queens providore) where we purchased freshly made sandwiches, fruit and some sweet treats for lunch. Coincidently it is just near the beautiful Cath Kidston on Piccadilly Street (no food but plenty of beautiful things to purchase)!
Directly across the road from F and M is the Royal Academy of Arts which offers outside seating. Here we grabbed a table and chairs to sit and eat our urban picnic and relax. The tables are shaded by large umbrellas which can be a benefit to take shelter from both the sun and the rain.
London in 4 days – Day Two: stop three. Buckingham Palace state rooms tour
To make life easy, we hopped into a London Cab versus trek to the next bus stop and wait 10-15 minutes for the hop on – hop off service. We travelled along the mall to Buckingham Palace ( in time for tea with the Queen).
What a special afternoon. A truly amazing experience for my daughters and I to visit Buckingham Palace and take a tour inside her state rooms.
The palace supplies audio guides in different languages and have designed a narrative for families. My youngest, aged 4, loved her tour and I was amazed at how much she took in. She now can tell you how to tell when the Queen is in residence, where the secret door is, where Prince Charles and William were christened and awed at the Queens jewellery and dresses. I’m not sure I’d recommend this tour for children who can’t be quiet and need to run and climb – so I am blessed that my children can be attentive for 2 hours and are interested in this sort of thing.
Most exciting is standing inside the palace quadrant and seeing the public look in at you from the main palace gates. We of course, returned their gazes with a smile and of course, a royal wave.
London in 4 days – Day Two: stop four. Back home
Back on the hop on – hop off bus back to South Kensington but not before a curry at one of the many local Indian restaurants.
After 6pm most of the bus services will drop you straight to your accommodation (which is lovely when your feet ache, everyone is grizzly and you just want to get to bed).
To read my post on London in 4 days: Day One click here