The darling jet lagged children woke at 4am. We managed to convince them to stay in bed until 5, but by 6.30am, they’d had breakfast, and were thumping about the hotel room like a herd of baby elephants. As responsible parents, and for the sanity of everyone else in the hotel, we opened the doors and took them outside. Over breakfast, we’d gone through our list of things to do in London, and voted on today’s adventure. The winner: Tower of London.
The problem with leaving so early quickly became apparent when we arrived at the Tower gates an hour and a half before they opened. Luckily the Tower Bridge is right there, so we walked across the bridge. Mr Engineer declared the bridge design to be schizophrenic; it can’t decide if it’s a suspense bridge or an arched bridge. He examined the lynch pin, and declared the bridge to be generally over-designed. Hardly surprising given that construction commenced in 1886 when steel technology was fairly new.
Finally, 9am arrived and we could start our adventure around the Tower of London. Entry is quite expensive (83GBP for our family of six), and the entrance way has a slight Disney feel to it. However, once inside, the Disney feel disappears, and the money is well worth it, with many fascinating areas. Inside the White Tower is an extensive armory, and I found the horse armour really interesting. In particular, the ancient horse bits with quite a different action on the horse’s mouth and head compared to modern bits. We walked through every part of the Tower complex open to the public, and ended with hundreds of photos and our brains bursting with information. One of my favourite facts is that the Tower was home to a zoo for 600 years, and visitors could bring a cat or dog to feed the animals in lieu of entrance fee.
With tired feet, we wandered up the hill to enjoy lunch at Hung, Drawn and Quartered. More traditional English food to be had, a seafood pie with gravy for me, and a salt beef sandwich for Mr Engineer. The children’s meals were excellent, just the right size for them.
No2 declared that he wanted to go boating at Regents Park for his delayed birthday present, so we ventured to Tower Hill station where Mr Engineer spent a decent amount of time staring at the section of Roman wall near there. Public transport took us to one end of the park, and we walked all the way through the park to the boating lake, a good long walk of at least half an hour.
We entered Regents Park at the top end, walking over a bridge that crossed a canal, then along the Broad Walk before turning towards the pond. This park was designed in 1811 by John Nash, and from the zoo end, it slopes gently down towards the boating pond. The children found their second wind as soon as they saw the boating lake, and raced ahead to eagerly await their chance to do some pedal boating. The pond gives the impression that it is created from marshland that has been dug out, with meandering tributaries and small islets throughout. The pond is filled with water weed, making it difficult to tell the depth, but surely not more than three feet. Any regency heroine who went rowing on the pond, and happened to fall in, wouldn’t be at risk of drowning, although all those wet clothes would be absurdly heavy.
With six of us, and only five per boat, we hired two boats and split up three vs three. The boating we did had no resemblance to staid Regency boating on the lake. There were moments of chaotic pedalling to out manoeuver the other, moments of quiet contemplation together, and moments of shared joy and silliness. We also did our usual family exploring task, and cleaned up an entire plastic bag worth of smaller plastic bags and rubbish that was floating in the water. We also saw a turtle and many different types of water birds.
This was a huge highlight for everyone. So much fun for an activity that sounds rather dull on paper.