Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

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This fall we spent a month abroad where we visited London, Paris, and a handful of cities in Western France. We explored, rested, and learned a ton about ourselves and the world. This is the twelfth and final installment of our European adventure. If you missed it, go to the beginning here.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

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When last we left our fearless travelers they were sitting in the Gare du Nord of Paris, for hours, waiting for their train to depart….

After a four hour wait, we were finally allowed into the Eurostar lounge. The Eurostar is the train that travels from Paris to London, across land and under the English Channel. Pretty cool, eh? We really enjoyed both our train trips — so much more comfortable than the car (no wrong turns!) or the plane (lots of elbow room). I’d take the train to Europe from here if we could.

We arrived in London on a Saturday night. We took the tube to our hotel, once again in the Kensington and Chelsea neighborhood near Earl’s Court. Unfortunately, when I did the booking, I was not able to get us rooms at the Premier Inn again. Instead we stayed at the Kensington Hotel, an old and dusty, but fine for our purposes hotel. Again, two rooms for the eight of us.

We had three nights and two days to spend in London before we headed home. The first night we went back to The Prince of Teck, the pub we had gone to our first night in England a month prior. Unfortunately, neither the food nor the service were as good as they’d been before. Oh well.

The kids had been wanting a full English breakfast so we tempted fate at The Prince of Teck again. We were a little underwhelmed. We’re kind of connoisseurs of big breakfasts and it really wasn’t all that exciting. Bummer!

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

Since we’d spent three days in the same neighborhood on our first stop in London, we knew our neighborhood well. We really loved the familiarity that comes with staying in the same place, going to the same stores, etc. We discovered during this stay that Starbucks will give free “babycinos” to kids. This was a great treat for the littles without paying a big price.

Our first day was Sunday. Our time in London coincided with the beginning of the French fall break. That meant that half of France was in London with us. Yikes! There were crowds everywhere.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

It was a cold and chilly day and the city was CROWDED. As God would have it, we booked tickets on a HoHo bus (hop on – hop off). In theory, we could have gotten off and back on throughout the day wherever in London that the Big Red Bus stopped. However, once we all found seats on the top of the double decker and realized what a great tour guide we had, we chose to stay on the bus the entire time.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

We got to see lots of London that we wouldn’t otherwise had a chance to see since the city was so crowded that Sunday.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

The streets in these pictures may be sparsely populated, but at the stops and at the entrances to the different monuments and museums, things were pretty chaotic.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

I don’t think we could have seen on foot even a fraction of what we saw from the bus.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

This Sunday was two weeks before Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day) when the poppies were on display at the Tower of London. It was an amazing sight!

We hopped off at one point to grab sandwiches from Pret a Manger and then got back on the bus for the ride home.

That night we decided to splurge at Zizzi. This was a restaurant that I had spied out via the internet back home. It’s a wonderful chain that offers a very specific food allergy matrix. It was so helpful to know what FishChick6 could eat safely. (More on European travel with a food allergy later.)

Zizzi was not cheap, but we had such a great dinner! I had the Chicken and Prosciutto Salad while FishPapa had this huge pizza. The littles had the kids meals that came with crudite, pizza/pasta, dessert, and hot chocolate. We had a blast, even though we spent $160 to feed the whole family.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

The next day we took the tube out to one of the Imperial War Museum locations. FishPapa had really wanted to see Duxford, but it was too far away for us to go this time around.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

The IWM had a great WWI exhibit.

After the morning stop at the museum (free admission!) we went to a local pub, The Ship, for lunch. The food wasn’t great, but we had the place to ourselves and it was a quaint little spot.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

We returned to the museum where I watched the littles on the playground while the older men in the family finished up the exhibits.

That night we went back to Zizzi for dinner. We couldn’t help ourselves! The next morning we took the tube — eight of us, eight suitcases, and eight carryons. Only this time we knew what we were doing!

It felt really good to head back to Heathrow, knowing that we had accomplished great things. We had traveled abroad for a month with a large party and seen some amazing sights, eaten delicious food, visited with dear people, and otherwise learned a little bit more about the world. We were tired and ready to go home, but at the same time, eager to return to the UK.

Our European Vacation: London and Home Again

We are hoping that we will make it back to Europe in 2016. Earlier this year I was hoping to add Hawaii in between, but my desire for Europe currently exceeds that for sandy beaches. We shall see!

Go here to see how you can plan YOUR European adventure with kids.

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  1. I just sat here and reread all of your first Europe vacation posts. I recall the first time, waiting for the next post to go live. I really enjoyed hearing about the adventures, both the good and not so good. Now I have to search out the posts of your second trip! Something I learned back in 2012 when we had a “a trip of a lifetime” to attend a Formula 1 race, is that once you’ve done it, you want to do it again (which we did in 2016 & were supposed to in 2020, but will wait ’til 2023). Thanks for taking us on this journey with you for so many years now.

  2. Jessica, I enjoyed your tales of your European adventure. What an amazing education your kiddos received. I still remember fondly our family trip across the U.S. and back in our family station wagon when I was 10. There were 5 of us going and 6 coming back (we picked up the young adult son of friends in N.H. on the return trip). Priceless memories are made, not bought.

  3. Thanks for the great writeup of your travels. It’s been fun to read! I’m impressed at how much planning must have gone into the trip – you are a very organized mom!

    1. It was A LOT of planning. I dragged my feet on booking things, so mine was a crash course in getting it done. If we could do it over, I’d do some things different, but that’s how you learn, right?

  4. Loved reading this series, thank you so much for sharing! You are a very ambitious mom to take this trip. Good for you for not listening to all the reasons you shouldn’t do it and just going for it!!!

  5. Sounds like a wonderful trip, thank you for sharing with us. Would you go to different countries next time? We lived in Germany and Italy for a small part of my youth. I love both.

    1. We would love to go everywhere! Unfortunately, time and money are our obstacles. At current prices, it would cost us $15K just to get there. Boo.