In August 2019 my husband (Dave), then eight-year old daughter (Natalie) and I spent four nights in London prior to boarding a cruise out of Southampton to Norway. We packed a ton of sight seeing into those three days starting on arrival day with a boat ride on the Thames to Greenwich. While on the Thames we passed under the Tower Bridge and saw many other famous sites. While in Greenwich we followed a scavenger hunt that took us all over the village, the park, past the observatory, over the Prime Meridian and through the Maritime museum.
Day two was dedicated to the Tower of London. We spent hours exploring the massive fortress including the palace, towers, battlements and armor displays. Our favorite part was seeing the Crown Jewels and many other jeweled treasures of the royal family. It helped that our local friend and historian was with us to help fill in all of the details of the Tower’s history, royal occupants, etc.
Day three was our absolute favorite. Thanks to the August timing of our trip we were able to do a walking tour of Buckingham Palace. Each of us had the equivalent of a smart phone that included audio and visual guidance. The children’s version was quite clever as the Queen’s Corgi’s were the guides through the palace. Every room had elaborate décor and history, all explained to us through our devices. Following the palace tour we popped to the Grosvenor Hotel for high tea. After a relaxing afternoon we headed over to the London Eye. We had arranged our ride time to be at sunset with a semi-private pod including champagne for the adults and sparkling juice for the children. At the top of the London Eye we were 443 feet above the Thames and the views were breathtaking.
Day four we ventured 30 minutes northwest of London to Watford, home of the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. The majority of all eight Harry Potter films were filmed at this studio and many of the sets are still intact for viewing. In addition, you can ride a broomstick, push a luggage cart through Platform 9 ¾, walk through Diagon Alley and Gringots Bank. The entire experience is amazing whether or not you’re a fan of the series.
Suffice to say, we covered a lot of ground and many quintessential experiences in London. Natalie expressed her surprise and delight throughout our time there but it wasn’t until six months after the trip that I started realizing its’ true impact.
Fast forward to January 2020, Natalie’s fourth grade class was putting on a ‘live’ wax museum. Each student was to select someone famous, create a short factual presentation and dress up as their character. In preparing for the event, Natalie immediately knew who she wanted to select, Queen Elizabeth I. QEI lived 1558-1603 and is known for establishing Protestantism in England, defeating the Spanish Armada and maintaining peace in her previously divided country. When Natalie told me QEI was her selection I asked her, ‘Are you sure? Don’t you want to do Queen Elizabeth II, the current Queen?” Her response was interesting, “No mom. Everyone knows who she is. I want to highlight a lesser known Queen. I learned about her while touring Tower of London.” From then on she went all out. Reading about QEI, writing her presentation and designing her outfit. We found her a tiara and the perfect, regal looking dress. For approximately two hours, the students were staged in the Great Hall and parents roamed the rows and listened to the student’s present. Natalie proudly shared her knowledge of ‘Good Queen Bess’.
More recently, as a fifth grader, Natalie was challenged to write a short essay on overcoming a fear or a challenge. To my surprise she chose to write about her experience on the London Eye and overcoming her fear of heights (the fear part was an embellishment of the truth for ‘dramatic impact’).
The Eye That’s In The Sky
It was a lovely evening in London. My family and I were walking down the street looking through the shop windows with the beautiful smell of fresh bread drifting in the air from the bakery nearby, when I saw the magnificent structure.
In the night it would light up like a lighthouse protecting the ships from the rocky shore. But the best part of all is it takes you up, up, up, until you feel like you are touching the stars. Can you guess what it is yet? It’s the London eye (AKA humongous ferris wheel) and my family was going to ride it.
As my family and I got closer and closer it got bigger and bigger. Right when it couldn’t get any better I saw ice cream just calling my name, “Over here come on I’m just three feet away.’’
“Momma, Momma,” I said excitedly, “Can we get ice cream please, please, please?’’ I pleaded hoping it would be a yes.
“Fine,” she said a little annoyed
“Yay,” I said as if I had just won the lottery. I got my favorite ice cream, which is vanilla.
As we waited in line I could see all the people’s reaction when they saw the marvelous view of the city. When my family and I were at the front of the line and we had finally got on the massive ferris wheel. I remembered one terrifying thing, I was afraid of heights, which is weird because I´m not really afraid of anything else, but our creepy basement.
Right as I stepped onto the modern death trap it started to move taking my family and I up, up, up and up. It was not safe at all. The whole thing was made of glass, even the floor. It was conveniently placed on the side of the Thames river. When you looked down you were practically above the river so I tried not to think about the fact that if the glass brakes I would plummet to my death.
My mom could tell I was freaking out a bit so she told me, “Don’t look down, look up or out .”
“Okay,” I said. “I will give it a try.”
I looked out and I saw the breathtaking city with its beautiful skyscrapers, parks, Big Ben, Tower of London, Tower bridge, and much more. But the thing the city was filled with most of was cranes. Cranes, not the bird, the construction crane. From that I knew that the city was falling apart. But as I thought about it more I was happy because the cranes were restoring the city to its best looks. As we got back to the bottom of the ferris wheel we got off.
Later that night when my family was fast asleep I realized I had faced my fears and that it feels good to face them and, that I’m no longer afraid of heights.
I’m amazed at the connections Natalie continues to make between our trip to London and our every day life. She recalls memories, comments on similarities and longs for the things she loved most (i.e. the “fun” shops on the High Streets such as Neon Sheep). The impact of our trip has lasted well beyond when it ended and enabled us to more deeply connect as a family. When the time is right we will happily be planning and taking our next adventure!
Lynn Clark is the owner of Travel Leaders in SE Wisconsin. Her team of expert Travel Advisors can help you plan a trip that inspires the youngsters in your life. Contact Us.