FIVE whole days!! Aside from Disneyland I’m not sure when we’ve taken a vacation where we stayed put for so many days in a row 😅
We returned our rental car back at the airport and then took a taxi ride into London proper to get to our Airbnb. Our taxi driver was friendly and entertaining, my phone was on the last dregs of battery and I was the only one with our confirmation details. The kids did well enough in the taxi and we had fun looking around at the city sights on our way.
Our Airbnb host was impossible to get a hold of. The address took us to a location nowhere near the entrance to our apartment, our taxi driver went above and beyond to help us locate the front door. He walked all around the block and found an unlocked entrance for us. He helped us bring all our luggage to the front door and was insistent to helping us open the key lock box....which our code was not working. We finally told him to head on out and we’ll figure it out on our own. To say we were flustered is an understatement. Still ZERO response from our host despite my calling, texting, and emailing her. At our wits end I took the kids up the street to a restaurant (and begged to let me charge my phone ) while I ordered food for us. Thomas stayed back at the apartment trying to get the damn key. After a good 45 minutes, maybe longer, tried several different number combinations and eventually made it in - at the same time our host finally got back to me and said “oh sorry here is the correct passcode” and then proceeded to blame Airbnb for not giving us proper directions. Thomas sat down, ordered himself a couple beers 🍻, well deserved, and then his parents joined us.
We weren’t the only ones with a challenging London arrival. Thomas’s parents got stuck in horrific traffic after they left Windsor (about an hour after us) and it took them over 3 hours to get to the car rental. Nevertheless we all arrived safely, finally got some food and drinks, phones charged, and into our apartment. It was 3 stories and quite spacious. I may have had a bitter taste in my mouth about the whole experience but the photos of the listing and the actual furniture in the apartment were completely different and the place was not as clean as advertised. It worked for us well enough because well all we care about is a bed to sleep in.
The Master was on the top floor, included a little kids bed in the private closet (Finnley’s choice) and a bathroom. The windows opened and we could hear the tube drive by every 8 minutes.
The little kids bed was not made up for us 🙄 so I had to make it for Finnley.
On the second floor were two bedrooms and a bathroom. The second bedroom, that we thought the girls would use but it remained unused...the whole time 😂
The bathroom on the second floor.
The First bedroom, where Thomas’s parents stayed, was quaint and looked out over the back garden.
The powder bathroom on the main floor, right when you walked in the front door.
While the kitchen lacked charm, it served its purpose and was nice to have. This was the one spot that we stayed that didn’t have a nespresso machine, or coffee available so we had to make sure to pick that up.
The dining room and living room were on the main level and had plenty of space for the kids. The furniture was a bit run down, which actually with kids let us relax just a bit. There was no book/binder available to tell us how to work anything in the house (even though it was stated there was in the listing and email from Airbnb). Lots of trial and error ensued as we figured out how to work the tv, the internet, and the like.
The saving grace of our apartment was the location. Across the street from an entrance to the tube, around the corner from a Whole Foods (much more expensive in England than in the states), and it backed up to the nicest park complete with a playground for the kids!
Our first morning we figured out how to get our Oyster Cards and learned how to navigate the tube...much easier than anticipated. The girls LOVED it and Séamus managed alright. I will say that as the days progressed we got much better at loading/unloading with our party of 7 all at the same time with little stress/anxiety....lots of valor and stress away rollers were used 😊
We visited Kensington Palace and Gardens
The girls and Thomas walked towards the Diana Memorial Playground and on the way the Royal Helicopter had arrived so they watched the Royals load up and take off to go to Wimbledon. After some photos of the gardens Séamus and I met up with them at the playground. Still learning to walk he had a great time checking everything out.
We walked back to Kensington Palace and got our tickets to tour. It was quite the palace and fun to see where some of the Royals grew up. Seeing their dollhouses and entertainment was fun. They even had a puppet show happening that the girls enjoyed.
Like any good attraction they had a gift shop. Ellie got a kick out of the tall black hats and fell in love with a fan. Deanna and I went over to the Orangery to make reservations for us and Ellie to have High Tea!
We walked back towards the tube for lunch at The Goat Tavern, because GOATS!! Delicious burgers and sandwiches, beers and ciders for all (water for the kids 😉)
Next we walked our way towards Harrods. Finnley hit her walking point and refused to take a step further...right in the middle of crossing the street 😳. So I put her in the Ergo on my back and not too many blocks later she fell asleep.
We arrived at Harrods and it was SO MUCH BIGGER than I had remembered. So many floors, departments, elevators, escalators, and stairwells to navigate. In addition to all the regular shopping they also had the largest gift shop I’ve seen...and it was a gift shop all about Harrods.
Not surprising the entire store was ridiculously expensive. I did manage to get a little Harrods makeup bag (£20) to put all my oils in for traveling and that was the extent of our purchases there. From Harrods we got back on the tube to go to Piccadilly Circus, greatly underwhelming for us but we saw it so points for us I guess.
Next we walked to Trafalgar Square which was a much better sightseeing destination in our opinion. They did have a giant beer garden for Wimbledon. Ellie was intrigued by the street performers and after another application of valor, Finnley was brave enough to go near one of them.
By this time and after all the walking we were getting pretty hungry and ready to rest our legs. We got out our phones and did a little research on eatery's around Trafalgar Square and ended up at Prezzo, great drinks and delicious pizza for the win!
Our plan after dinner was to head back to our apartment but I realized how stinking close we already were to the London Eye that I convinced everyone to just go a head a do it. So we took the extra 15 minute walk over the bridge and to the Eye. The line was crazy long and we chose to fork over the extra $$ for the express tickets which practically got us right onto the wheel. The kids loved getting to walk around and look out the windows, seeing the city from this angle was eye opening at how large it really is, and it was just super fun. We don't ever have to do it again but it was well worth it in my opinion.
They chose to hold hands together all on their own
After the London Eye we came across a bubble man and the girls went bananas for it. Then back over the bridge and to the underground to finally head back to our apartment. Phew, that was one heck of a day!
Our Second Day in London was a bit of a recovery day after all that we packed in the day before. So we tried to lay low and went over to the Tower of London where we did a self guided tour. It was almost as I had remembered it and quite a fascinating place to check out for sure.
The interactive White Tower was great for the girls. They loved trying out all the weapons and such.
We found a place to eat, but for the life of me I cannot remember where. The fish was incredible and the burger too.
A walk by Big Ben and then back to the underground to head back to our apartment, where we did some relaxing, watched some of Wimbledon, and then sleep for all of us.
On our Third Day we went to Hyde Park. It was much bigger than I remembered and had so many cool things to check out. We had breakfast by the pond, saw the Peter Pan Statue and the Diana Memorial Fountain. The girls played under a giant tree and we checked out yet another playground where Séamus was obsessed with the slide.
Then we walked back to Kensington Gardens where Deanna, Ellie, and I got to have High Tea! Deanna and I both got the Afternoon Tea and Ellie had the childrens tea. She tried everything (except the chocolate) and chose the best tea out of the three of us. It was so beautiful and well done and a perfect memory to have.
While we were having Tea, Thomas and Rob took the littles to the playground and then we all met up and headed back to the apartment...but first the kids wanted to go back to the playground next to our apartment and play with more friends. We happened to be in London at the same time as Thomas's older brother and we had set up a dinner date to get together one last time overseas. We were just a couple blocks away from a neighborhood called Parsons Green and they had a couple of restaurants to choose from. We decided on The White Horse and damn was it delicious. The finals of Wimbledon was happening while we were there and the whole place was abuzz with excitement. I finally got a proper Scotch Egg for an appetizer and then just about all of us chose the Prime Rib Dinner for our main, and then I made sure to get a Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Everything was to die for and I can't recommend this place enough.
After dinner we all went out and took as many photos with the Parsons Green signs as we could...because how could we not?
Our Fourth day took us to Westminster Abbey (no photos allowed) and then into the giftshop where the girls picked out these little pencils with a princess and a "march" on the ends of them, then over to St. James Park, and Thomas went into Churchill's War Rooms while the kids and I wandered the park. Our cell reception interrupted and we had a miss in our communication when Thomas got out of the War Rooms we hadn't returned to our meeting spot....we were watching the horses across the street and Thomas ended up walking around the entire park looking for us until our texts finally went through.
Once we finally reconnected we made our way to some lunch, after having to turn around and search for the missing pencils that got dropped....once they were retrieved we could enjoy our lunch and the girls had fun playing. After lunch we made our way towards Buckingham Palace and after walking halfway there we discovered the "March" pencil was missing....so I walked back to the restaurant and had to bother the family who was already sitting at our table to please see if they were possibly sitting on our dear beloved pencil...it was found in the menu box and then I got to walk back to Buckingham Palace to meet up with Thomas and the girls....
The Changing of the Guard had already happened as Thomas was searching for us in the park so we missed out on that but still managed to enjoy checking out the Palace.
After Buckingham Palace we walked the block over to the Royal Mews and got to see all of the carriages, some of the Royal Horses, and learn more about the importance of the Mews with the Royal family.
Then we met back up with Thomas's parents at the apartment and decided on returning to Parsons Green for our last London Dinner. We ate at this bougie little restaurant and the decor was so cute, the cider delish, and the food was really good too!
One of my favorite things about traveling all together is the sleep. I loved co-sleeping with Ellie when she was a baby, Finnley didn't fair too well as a baby but now that she's older she is a pleasure to sleep with, and Séamus did well too. We were lucky enough to have a King Size bed to accommodate the five of us and seeing them be so peaceful is the best.
We headed to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Learned that we didn't do the tax stuff right and were unable to get compensated for it (oh well), had some lunch and then a relaxing flight back to Dublin. Heathrow Airport was much easier to navigate and a better experience on our way out than it was on the way in. When we arrived in Dublin, we had to go through customs again and the line was ridiculously long...almost as long as the first time Thomas, Ellie, and I arrived back in 2014!!
Be sure to check back for our final days in Dublin before heading back home after our fantastic European Family Trip!