Reasons to move to the country #2: London still exists
OK, so this ‘reason’ is a little bit of a cop out, but I have to admit that one of the things I worried about before leaving London was that I'd just miss it too much. But, four years on, I can let you in on a secret.
London is still there.
And this is the thing about moving to the country, whichever city you might be moving away from: it still exists, you just might need to make a bit more effort to visit it.
We've been booking in special dates to spend time with the children one-to-one, and London has been the destination for this time on a couple of occasions. And actually, one of our reasons for moving out was so that the children would feel how special London is, rather than becoming immune to it. I still remember visiting London when I was younger, and was in awe of it - the hustle, the bustle, the noise, traffic. The general craziness of it all.
So even if you do move out of London, London will always be there. Both for you, and for the kids.
Below are a few suggestions for places to visit, by no means innovative or unique, but our experiences of them - just in case you need some.
London days out with kids
A trip to the National Portrait Gallery
I don’t tend to dawdle when I’m visiting galleries by myself, unless there’s one or two exhibits I really want to look at, but this habit is put into overdrive when you’re with young children. Let them set the pace. I love the National Portrait Gallery as there are lots of iconic faces, old and new, which dramatically improves the chat you can have about what’s going on. My son had recently learned about the Great Fire of London - so we hunted out Samuel Pepys and laughed at silly hair-cuts. The fact that most people were dead also seemed to be a source of fascination. “Is he dead?” “Yes”. “Is he dead?” “Yes”. “Is she dead?” “Yes” and so on and so on.
They run a few family friendly events which sound great, although just wandering by yourself is good too. The shop stocks some brilliant art books for kids as well as the usual ‘stuff they’re desperate for now, but will never look at again’ paraphernalia.
Leicester Square and M&M World
Leicester Square is one of those places that as a Londoner filled me with dread, but that as a born-again tourist I seem to find myself in fairly frequently. Here sit chain restaurants galore, hideously expensive cinemas, dodgy nightclubs and casinos. But if you’re heading through this way to Covent Garden, or to see Piccadilly Circus and then meander up Regent Street, then you could do worse than a brief stop (well it won’t be brief, nor cheap, but..) at M&M World. Acres of M&Ms in all colours, you can get your name printed on them, buy t-shirts and slippers in M&M character style (be warned despite not showing any interest in anything M&M beforehand, your child will want everything). But the best bit is the wall of M&Ms - the largest candy wall in the world no less. Choose your colours. Pay up (“How much?!”) and then attempt to ration consumption. Good luck. It is memorable though, and they love it. So, you know, indulge them a bit. The Lego store is opposite too, if your sanity and wallet can take it.
Buckingham Palace and a wander through Green Park
We haven't been in, but we did peer through the railings and eye-spy soldiers and tell white lies about which one definitely definitely was the Queen’s bedroom. Before this we walked / scooted through Green Park, chilled out on a deckchair for a few minutes before someone tried to charge us for the privilege, and, apologised profusely to everyone whose ankles got caught by aforementioned scooter. Oops. Anyway, Buckingham Palace is enormous, and at some point we will go in. But not yet. Not yet.
Dominique Ansel and the prettiest café in the world
This might sound like a French Harry Potter title, but these two bakeries are worth a detour, with or without the children. Dominique Ansel, of Cronut fame, opened this outpost of his New York bakery in London's Elizabeth Street just over a year ago. I went along quite quickly to see if it lived up to the hype. Whilst the cronuts are delicious (the flavours change monthly), it's the DKA (Dominique's Kouign Aman) that really blew me away. Cheaper than the cronut, they're crisp, caramelised pastry heaven. Definitely breakfast worthy. They also do some cute (though expensive) pastries which suit the kids - and an amazing kiwi ice cream.
Peggy Porschen Cakes is a gorgeous cake shop and cafe, painted pink and decorated with a stunning array of flowers. The cakes are delicious and gorgeous, and we definitely weren’t the only ones taking a picture out front - it is a bit blogger/instagrammer central but if you can’t beat ‘em...