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Catz on the Move: 5 Nights in London with 5 Kids

We recently spent 5 nights in London with 5 kids – read on for tips, learnings, and thoughts from traveling with our family of seven!

5 Nights in London with 5 Kids

As we’ve mentioned on social media (and, indeed, in one of our recent weekly menu posts), our family recently had the opportunity to visit London (followed by Paris, which we’ll write about in a subsequent post) for five nights. It was a first visit to the United Kingdom for all of us (I spent seven hours in Heathrow on my way to South Africa as a child, but have been reliably informed that this does not count…), and, I have to say, an absolute delight – we all want to go back!

We’re writing this post because we’ve gotten quite a few requests to do so, so here goes, but a few important notes at the top: as I mentioned above, this was our first visit to the city, so clearly we’re not writing as international travel pros or London regulars. Our goal here will just be to share our experiences, what went well, what didn’t, what we’d do the same, what we’d change, and, primarily, what the visit was like as a family of seven, which seems to be the topic that raises the most questions! A quick reminder: nothing in this post is sponsored – just our thoughts and opinions.

We’ve attempted to add a clickable table of contents below, so if you’re interested in a particular destination, or want to skip the bits about traveling with a baby or large family, let alone my ramblings about frequent flier programs and hotel loyalty perks, feel free to click through to the topic that interests you!

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    First, for anyone who didn’t see our posts on social media or hasn’t been reading Catz for awhile, a bit of background. We had surprised our two oldest girls four years ago (then 15 and 11) with a trip to Paris, booked for April 2020. As nearly everyone experienced during that time, our trip was, of course, cancelled. We promised the girls we’d rebook as soon as we could. Travel took awhile to return to normal, and while that was happening, we discovered we were expecting another little one! Cadáin came along in the summer of 2022, and we decided he would need to be at least close to two before we could attempt an international trip. So it happened that we were able to rebook this trip for late April 2024, but this time with all of the kids in tow, ages 1, 6, 11, 15, and 20. Since so much time had passed, we also decided to expand the trip to include London and a two night layover in New York City (basically, just enough time to walk to Central Park and visit the Statue of Liberty).

    Our family with luggage at Grand Central Terminal

    Booking Flights and Flying with 5 Kids

    I fly regularly for work, and with family in different parts of the country, we find ourselves in the air for personal reasons a few times a year as well. Since we live in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska Airlines is our carrier of choice (again, not sponsored), and despite some of their well-publicized challenges of late, we’ve found them to be reliable, friendly, and accommodating (our loyalty was even more firmly cemented during their outstanding care for our family during the Maui fires last year). On top of the regional coverage and service, they have a top frequent flier program, as many more experienced travelers have affirmed, and it was this program that enabled us to fly our family of seven to Europe and back.

    We use mileage and hotel point credit cards for most of our day to day spending, make purchases through Alaska’s mileage plan shopping website, and just generally take any opportunity to earn Alaska miles and Marriott points. That stockpile of miles allowed us to book all of our flights for all seven of us with miles alone, dramatically reducing the cost of the trip. In addition, because of the way international / partner mileage redemptions sometimes work, flying into London and out of Paris, adding a stopover in New York – all of these changes didn’t make any difference to the miles required to purchase. We looked at layovers in Reykjavik, Chicago, Dallas, and a few other cities, but ultimately decided NYC would be a fun place to share with the kids, even briefly (Chels and I hadn’t been back to the city together since a Valentine’s Day trip in 2006!). We also stopped over in Dallas for a night on the way home, all in an effort to break up the flights a bit for baby. We still had that long 10+ hour flight from CDG to DFW, but the rest were under six or seven hours each.

    Frequent flier status with Alaska (MVP Gold, sort of their mid-level elite status) gave us the ability to select better seating options on both our Alaska and partner (American) flights, including “Main Cabin Extra” seating (a premium economy variant) for our JFK-LHR leg of the journey – a bit more legroom, better snacks, and being able to put everyone in the same row are perks we appreciated on those longer flights!

    Christian and Ruby in the cockpit of a Boeing 737

    One…controversial…decision we made was not to check any bags (!!). We could have, without incurring any additional fees, but with the layover in New York and the time we were getting into London (late), we really didn’t want to have to deal with the baggage claim or *gasp* missing luggage. I’ll admit that I personally also didn’t want to open the Pandora’s box of giant suitcases, which the airlines may have happily checked for us, but getting to and from the hotels, not to mention on and off the Eurostar train to Paris, would have been quite the challenge. So carry-ons for all! (By the way, despite much handwringing and protestation pre-trip…post-trip, the feedback from my two heavy packers – that would be Chels and 15-year-old Eden – was that the carry-ons were plenty of space and they actually brought more clothes than they ended up wearing!)

    We had bought the kids all color-coded carry-ons for previous trips, and they worked perfectly for this international journey as well. Even though we didn’t need to spot them on a carousel, being able to instantly know whose was whose was invaluable during boarding, deplaning, and when arriving at hotels!

    Ready to fly at PDX airport with all of our carry-ons!

    Our family with luggage at PDX airport

    A couple of additional purchases that served us well for the airborne portion of our journey: we love our Mockingbird stroller, but it is massive. There was absolutely no way we were going to try to pack it. After reading many reviews, we purchased The Traveler stroller from Zoe (Chris Stapleton would approve, I think). This amazing little 13-pound marvel was an absolute lifesaver that saw daily if not hourly use all trip long and performed flawlessly. It now has a permanent home in the back of Chels’ car, while the Mockingbird roams the local neighborhood multiple times a day!

    A second key travel purchase for baby was the Pico portable car seat from WayB. This one might be more controversial, as it’s definitely not cheap, but from a safety standpoint as well as being able to keep the little guy in his seat during 9+ hours flights, we think it was money well spent. It’s gone on to regular use here at home, so we think this one will continue to be a winner. We’ve done a lot of domestic traveling with babies and toddlers, and car seats are always such a challenge! They’re big and bulky, they don’t really mount or stack on anything, and you end up carrying them a lot – through airports, on and off of trains, rental car shuttles, etc. The Pico is something of a revolution in this respect – it weighs eight pounds, folds up quite compactly, and slides easily over the handle of a carryon, supposedly all without sacrificing safety (thankfully we didn’t test this claim!). Brilliant. (Not sponsored, just a fan.)

    Cadáin and Ruby in the Windsor Castle gift shop

    Cadáin in his Zoe Traveler stroller escaping from the rain in the Windsor Castle gift shop.

    Little Cadáin was a couple months shy of his second birthday when we went, so technically he didn’t have to have his own seat. We decided, however, that the idea of having him sitting in laps during something like 29 hours on planes was a terrible idea, so we used some extra airline miles to grab him a spot of his very own. We took the Pico carseat on the plane with us, which allowed us to strap him in and set him up with his own little space from which he couldn’t easily escape! Now, he definitely didn’t stay there for entire plan rides, but with lots of snacks and many episodes of Bluey, he did several multi-hour stints (and even took a couple of naps).

    Cadáin in his carseat on the plane

    Cadáin watching Bluey in his Pico travel carseat on the plane.

    The only other thing I’ll say about flying with a crew this size is that it was helpful to strategize a bit before each flight took off, and again shortly before landing. For example, we’d review exactly where everyone was going to sit, which older kid was going to help with a younger one (Grace would typically stick with 6-year-old Ruby, while Eden would stay close to Cadáin). When the plane was half an hour or so from landing, I’d give deplaning assignments out – who was going first, what baggage they would be responsible for, and and which groups would stick together (Grace, Eden, and Chels could typically handle a couple of rolling carryons a piece, Christian would be responsible for his own bags and the diaper bag, while I would follow with my own bags, the baby, the stroller, and the carseat). A little organization meant we got off the plan fairly quickly, didn’t forget too many things (I did lose a pair of AirPods, though American reunited us a week later), and didn’t dramatically delay all of the passengers waiting behind us!

    Booking a Hotel in London for a Family of 7

    I’m sure this is news to exactly no one, but hotels in London (and Paris) are not designed for families with five kids. Frankly, they’re barely designed for families at all, with the majority of hotels offering rooms that sleep two or three people maximum. I found a few (outrageously expensive) suites that would sleep four. Originally, when the trip was just going to be Chels, me, and the two oldest girls, we had planned to stay in less expensive hotels outside the city and take the train in each day, but with the little ones along, that just wasn’t practical. The baby wasn’t going to abide 2-3 hours a day on a train, and he needed to be able to get back to the room midday for naps as needed. So, my strategy shifted completely, and I was now looking for hotels as close to the center of the city as possible.

    Obviously, the other option for a big family is an AirBnB. Chels and I have done AirBnB’s before, and we rent houses a couple of times a year for our family when we “escape” to Central Oregon, one of our favorite places in the world. There are a couple of reasons I wanted to stick with hotels for this trip. First, with a large family, kids, and baby, all of us in a country we’d never visited, I wanted us to be somewhere where everything would be taken care of. If we needed something, the concierge or front desk would be a phone call away. Second, I feel that in some locations, hotels are really a part of the experience. I think this is doubly true in great, historical cities where the hotels reflect the culture and history of their locales. Lastly, I had a lot of loyalty points with Marriott Bonvoy that would reduce the cost of our lodgings (again, not sponsored), as well as “elite” status that would get us some extra perks along the way. As an added incentive, I discovered that my employer had negotiated rates with a number of very nice hotels in both London and Paris, which helped reduce the cost even further (depends on who you work for, obviously, but always worth asking!).

    In London, after weeks of research and rate comparisons, we ended up staying at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House London, which was able to accommodate our crew with a combination of two rooms – their “family room”, which has two double beds and is fairly spacious (by London standards) for the four oldest kids, as well as a standard King room with room for a crib for Chels and me and little Cadáin. Part of my plan, however, was to use Marriott’s Suite Night Upgrades (you earn these awards as you stay more nights with Marriott each year) to request an upgraded room for Chels and me. Whenever we travel with the baby, we always try to find a room that has a separate space for him to sleep. This accomplishes two things: one, he’s used to sleeping in his own room, so this is less distracting for him and he sleeps much better. Two, it fixes the “you have to go to bed when baby goes to bed” problem of traveling with an infant or toddler! The good folks at Grosvenor House (pronounced “grove-nor” as I soon discovered) upgraded us to a beautiful suite with a separate king bedroom and living area, which was perfect for Cadáin to sleep in. The living area also had a (distant) view of Victoria Tower and Elizabeth Tower (“Big Ben”) rising above the Palace of Westminster, which we jokingly decided Cadáin was appreciating when we spied him (on his baby monitor) dramatically parting the curtains and taking in the city when he was supposed to be napping (screenshot below)! From a financial standpoint, we were able to sleep seven people quite comfortably in London, using a combination of loyalty points and upgrades, in a spacious family room and a multi-room suite, all for the out of pocket cost of one standard hotel room. Still not cheap, but much, much more doable!

    Cadáin on his baby monitor

    As far as the Grosvenor House hotel is concerned, we had a virtually flawless experience. The property and the staff were everything we could have hoped for and then some. We chose it primarily because of its location and reputation, and neither disappointed. The front doors of the hotel open onto Park Lane, across which lies the delightful expanse of Hyde Park. Buckingham Palace is about a 20 minute walk (slightly less than a mile) south, and Marble Arch is less than a ten minute walk north, with Paddington Station another 15 minutes or so beyond that. Anything further was an easy trip in a black cab, which the doorman would happily call, and always arrived in less than a moment or two, if they were not already waiting. The hotel has an elegant, relaxed atmosphere, luxurious but not ostentatious, which we loved. The staff was spectacular – friendly, helpful, incredibly polite, and so welcoming to our unusually large (by London standards) crew.

    We knew we had made the right decision when we arrived late at night (it was nearly midnight) to check in, tired and disheveled, fresh off a whirlwind 36 hours in New York City and a transatlantic flight. As we stepped into the lobby, the refined, relaxed atmosphere, the warm fire and fresh flowers, and the smiling, obliging staff all combined to help us begin to relax instantly. The kids started to spread out and explore, immediately adopting the grand, old property as home away from home for the next week.

    Two quick highlights about the Grosvenor. First, we booked a wonderful afternoon tea for everyone at the Park Room. The adult tea service was absolutely wonderful (despite Cadáin being a bit of a wreck and having to go upstairs for a nap), but the children’s tea for Christian (11) and Ruby (6) was another level of special. With a hot cocoa option, specially made sandwiches and desserts, and adorable little stuffed bulldogs in tuxedos, it made for a very special (and very British) memory.

    Our family at tea at the Grosvenor Hotel

    Second, and this is more of a note on travel strategy and the value of hotel brand loyalty, having Titanium status with Marriott got us access to the Grosvenor’s Executive Lounge. This perk made the experience in London more relaxing for our family in a lot of ways! The biggest one? Not having to figure out breakfast! Each morning, we met up in the Executive Lounge and enjoyed some wonderful local recipes, two of which we’re working on reverse-engineering here at home so we can share them with you! Clarence Court scrambled eggs and clotted cream on scones (also gooseberry jam…) rapidly became family favorites. In addition to breakfast, having a place to go for a quick bite or snack between outings, or during naps, was wonderful, taking a lot of the stress out of the hour by hour need to feed and shelter everyone!

    In short, we absolutely loved everything about staying at the Grosvenor. They arranged transportation from Heathrow when we landed, as well as to St Pancras station when it was time to leave and head for Paris on the Eurostar (Somewhat amusingly, in a good example of the service level provided, the 8-passenger VW bus they hired to take us to the train station on our last morning in London broke down before it could pick us up – before we even knew anything was wrong, the concierge had replaced the VW with two black chauffeured Mercedes, whisking us off to our next stop in unexpected style!). I’m sure there are dozens of other spectacular hotels in London, but we wouldn’t hesitate to go back (assuming we could afford it!). I wistfully joked to Chels after a few days there that I could happily move in for a month, even with – or perhaps especially with – all of the kids in tow!

    Bonus Tip for Traveling with Baby: Using a Baby Monitor on Hotel WiFi

    Skip along if you aren’t traveling with little ones, but a quick note about an issue that I know families with infants and toddlers run into frequently. We love our Nanit Pro baby monitor (been meaning to put up a review of this for ages – my current favorite piece of baby tech!), and have traveled with it many times (they even make this travel case that securely packs the monitor, as well as the white noise machine / night light that Cadáin uses, and all of the power cords and accessories, which we love!). Having a baby monitor in the room can give you so much more flexibility and peace of mind – I would never advocate leaving the hotel or going far while baby is napping (for obvious reasons), but the ability to go down the hall to the kids’ room and check on them, or run downstairs for a coffee, is a godsend.

    However…if you use a security-conscious system like Nanit, it’s going to require secured WiFi to work properly (as it should, frankly). Most hotels do not have passwords on their WiFi, and rather use splash pages and hotel room number logins. This is one thing I forgot to solve for before leaving the States (it was an issue on our last vacation)! I found an electronics retailer in London called Currys that carried a tiny travel router and was willing to deliver it for a nominal fee to our hotel the next morning. Currys delivered as promised, the good folks at the Grosvenor delivered it to our room, and in no time we had it setup, creating a local secure network based on the hotel’s WiFi, allowing us to setup and access the feed from the baby monitor (credit to VC in the Kitchen for this great solution and detailed tutorial).

    Thoughts on Specific Places We Visited

    A bit of context, both on the places we visited and how we got around. First, we knew we would be moving on a one-year-old’s schedule, so we only booked one activity per day. I booked most of them in the mid-morning, thinking that would be the best time for baby (before mid-day nap). In retrospect, I would have gone for midafternoon. For Cadáin, at least, he was much merrier after his nap. Obviously, on such a restricted schedule, there are many, many things on our wish list that we didn’t get to do! All good reasons to go back…

    Chels and Cadáin walking in Covent Garden

    Getting Around London with 7 People

    We got around London almost exclusively on foot or by cab. Technically, London cabs seat a maximum of six passengers, though we found many of the cabbies were willing to let the little guy sit in a lap and not count. For those that weren’t (completely understandable, and we never pushed the issue), we’d just hail a second cab. The pricing was reasonable, and using tap to pay made the payment process quick and easy. On top of the convenience, the cabbies were so knowledgeable and friendly! I typically Uber it around when I travel, but in London, I was so impressed by the black cabs. Often, they would overhear one of the kids questions, and launch into a bit of an impromptu tour – delightful. After getting home, I read up on the “the Knowledge” test that they have to pass – impressive and intense!

    As I mentioned above, I did have the hotel arrange car service from Heathrow to the city, and then from the hotel to the train station. Ultimately, I did this because I knew we would be traveling with our 14+ pieces of luggage on those trips, and wanted to make the process as simple as possible. In addition, knowing we would be getting into Heathrow very late at night, I wasn’t crazy about the idea of navigating the Underground for the first time, with all of the kids and luggage…in the middle of the night.

    For our trek out to Windsor Castle, we did take the “Underground” in the form of the new Elizabeth Line, which is really more of an above-ground light rail than a subway! While the massive train station was a bit confusing for us car-bound, country-living West Coasters, the ride was clean, quick, and relatively stress-free, even with such a large group. We attempted to take a double decker bus from our hotel to the station, but were rejected by the driver because we didn’t have an Oyster Card (??), so we hoofed it in the rain instead (need to research this more if we go again…). Chels did have a chance to ride the Underground (in its more typical form) from Royal Albert Hall down to Victoria Embankment Gardens when we were meeting up with a local family friend (well, local to England – he graciously agreed to come up to London to meet us!) at one point, and she and he both agreed that it was probably a little chaotic for our crew.

    Afternoon Tea

    I mentioned this above already, so I won’t spend much more time on it, but this was the only activity I booked for us on our first day. I just didn’t know how bad our jet lag would be, and wanted to keep the day open and relaxed. My understanding is that there are myriad wonderful places to have a traditional British afternoon tea in London, many of them quite spectacular. If the tea we had at the Park Room is any indication, this delightful English experience is one I would strongly recommend, especially for the children. Even for me, I definitely tried some sandwich combinations that are way outside my comfort zone…and enjoyed immensely (cucumber, salmon, and caviar do not often make up a portion of my sandwich-making routine). Oh, yes, in addition to the sandwiches and the desserts, there is some tea involved in afternoon tea! I enjoy tea, especially in wintertime, but am no tea aficionado. However, I can safely say the tea I did have was leagues beyond anything I had ever tasted before. If our tea at home tasted like that, well, I’d drink more tea! We spent the rest of the afternoon walking, making our way down to Buckingham Palace and around Hyde Park.

    Cadáin at tea at the Grosvenor Hotel

    The British Museum

    The British Museum was the #1 thing on my list for London…because I’m a nerd in general and a history nerd in particular. Also, it happens to be free, which is amazing and something approaching startling (not many things free on a trip like this!). You still need to reserve tickets in advance, however. While the museum certainly did not disappoint (it’s an absolute treasure trove of historical artifacts and information), and I did find it considerably more approachable than the Louvre, it was a bit of a challenging visit. The younger ones (especially little Cadáin) are just not quite at that point where wandering around looking at statues and pottery for three or four hours sounds like a good time. We scaled back our thoughts of visiting other museums (the Imperial War Museum, the Churchill War Rooms, the British Library, etc) – different seasons of life! Seeing the Rosetta Stone in person was a bit surreal, and the Egyptian exhibits are breathtaking. Okay, I found the Egyptian exhibits breathtaking. Got a bit more of a “my goodness this Ramesses fellow liked making statues” vibe from the younger folks after awhile. And even I will admit that there were a lot of vases. Like, so many vases. I need to look into this more, but were the Greeks and Romans just really into cut flowers? Or is there some scientific reason the vases survive any and all calamities, be they manmade, natural, or acts of God? (My apologies to all archeologists for this paragraph.)

    After our visit to the British Museum, we walked down to Covent Garden, visited Peloton Studios London (because if you know Chels, of course we did), and proceeded on down to the Victoria Embankment Gardens for a splendid picnic lunch in the park. Cadáin chased the birds until they started to chase him back…

    Photo below courtesy of 11-year-old Christian

    Our family at the British Museum

    The New Globe Theater

    I wasn’t necessarily raised on The Bard, but my lovely cultured wife certainly was, and she has seen to it that our children are Shakespeare lovers one and all (I suppose technically the verdict is out on little Cadáin, but she’s worked her magic four times before, and I see no reason it should fail now, when she is at the height of her powers…). Given this, a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe was very high on the list of places to visit in London for Chels and the children. Sadly, it is not, of course, the same Globe Theater where Shakespeare achieved his eternal fame (burned to the ground several centuries back – who knew that live pyrotechnics in a wooden structure with a thatched roof wasn’t a great idea?), but it is a painstaking replica built and staffed specifically to delight any fan.

    Cadáin at The New Globe

    We decided early on that trying to get through an actual performance in The Globe with little Cadáin would be a fool’s errand, but happily they offered briefer guided tours, so we booked one of those for our third full day in London. The staff was not only quite accommodating to our brood, stroller, diaper bag and all, but frankly seemed to delight in the presence of such young theater fans! Little Cadáin at one point was free to wander about the storied stage and empty groundlings quarters surrounding it, while redheaded Ruby was crowned Queen Elizabeth I by our expressive and enthusiastic tour guide, appropriately seated on her throne, attempting as she did four hundred some-odd years ago to keep Shakespeare in line.

    Chels and kids with a Shakespeare mural in the Southbank

    Our visit to The New Globe was a highlight of London for several of the kids – if your family loves Shakespeare, we’d recommend it for the gift shop alone!

    Windsor Castle

    On our last full day in London, we had made reservations to visit Windsor Castle. My preference had been to book tickets for Buckingham Palace, given its proximity to our accommodations, but it didn’t open to the public until later in the summer, and the private tours were all sold out virtually as soon as they became available. I was nervous about the visit to Windsor – it was quite far by the standards of the rest of our outings, 20+ miles from our hotel in Mayfair, out past Heathrow, and requiring a combination of transit methods as yet untested by our crew. To top off my trepidation, the day dawned as the worst we would experience for weather – chilly and wet, raining essentially without respite.

    As previously mentioned, we attempted to board a double decker bus to take us to the train station. That option failing us, we trudged on through the rain until we reached Bond St station, the closest one I could find that would put us on the Elizabeth Line to Paddington, and finally on to Slough, where we would change trains to board the special line to Windsor. Chels and I agreed that if Bond St didn’t work out for some reason, we would scrap our plans for the day and take the baby back to the hotel for a nap.

    As it happened, the train was a very simple affair, and we soon had tickets and were on our way. Cadáin watched Bluey on Eden’s phone while the rest of us dried off, and about 35 minutes later, we arrived at the station in Slough, where we changed trains to the Windsor & Eton Central. This 6-minute ride dropped us off in a charming shopping and eating district outside Windsor Castle, where Chels found a snack for the ages – perfectly toasted bread and butter. We need to normalize that here in the US as a snack you can buy when you’re out and about!

    Chels with toast and butter

    As it happened, our visit to Windsor was not without its challenges (at one point we lost track of Grace and Eden, who had gone on a quest bestowed by me, charged with acquiring coffee – the obliging and helpful staff of this working royal residence soon had us reunited), and the rain never did let up, but we would not have missed this castle. The surreal, time-transcending quality of this thousand-year-old castle is simply unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It has all the qualities of a Disneyland fairytale castle, from the flags and the turrets to the royal guards and the canon, but it’s…real. To our American sensibilities, the experience is hard to describe. The weight of history in the place was a feast for a history buff like yours truly – suffice to say I could have spent much longer touring the fortress-turned-palace than my one-year-old son would allow.

    Chels in the rain at Windsor Castle

    We had one unplanned and unexpected delight on the way out. Perhaps delight is the wrong word – it was a somber experience, but one we were thrilled to have. On our way down the hill to the exit gate, we passed St George’s Chapel. While we knew the Chapel was there, we had no intention of visiting – just didn’t seem like the sort of thing destined to hold the attention of our young travelers. We were, at this point, quite wet, however, and I suggested that we duck inside to dry off and have a few minutes relief from the rain. Once inside, we discovered that we had inadvertently joined a procession of visitors who were making their way down a set path designed for tourists to walk through the chapel, including the crypts. A service was underway, despite it being a Friday morning, adding a reverenced and hushed tone to the setting.

    We soon began to recognize the names of many ancient and famous monarchs and leaders of England on the tombs and sarcophagi we passed, and eventually found ourselves before the resting place of Queen Elizabeth II herself. Somehow, neither Chels or I, despite being among the many with warm affection for the late monarch, had realized she was interred there. It was a welcome, unexpected privilege to pay our respects. (We may be red-blooded American patriots from the West, but King George III is long dead, our grandfathers fought alongside their British brothers-in-arms to save the world from tyranny not many decades ago, and, besides, my London-born great-grandfather immigrated to the States not long before that! We find that our affection for the English and respect of our mutual history sits alongside our love of bald eagles and disdain for kilograms in our American hearts quite comfortably.)

    Our family in the rain at Windsor Castle

    On the way back to Mayfair, we made a point of getting off at Paddington Station so Ruby could hunt down the statue of Paddington Bear, erected right where he is found in the book and film. She found him, and was delighted to do so. It’s hard to say quite what goes on in a rambunctious six-year-old’s mind when they set foot on a place they have known only in make-believe books, but it isn’t anything negative, I can tell you that.

    Ruby at Paddington Station

    Other Places We Visited While Walking Around London

    While the above were the “planned” outings we had booked, we visited many others places whilst simply walking about the city. Highlights were 221B Baker Street (Grace and Eden are big Sherlock fans, as are Chels and I – both the original books and the excellent BBC series), Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament, if you prefer), Westminster Abbey, Southbank, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, some delightful pubs in the company of the aforementioned family friend, and, as also previously mentioned, Covent Garden, Hyde Park, and the Victoria Embankment Gardens. Sadly on our list but unvisited this trip were Chartwell, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the British Library, the Imperial War Museum, Notting Hill, the London Eye, Kensington Palace, and my great-grandfather’s childhood home, among many, many others. All great reasons to return. (Chels also took us on quite the wild goose chase to locate 84 Charing Cross Road. I guess you’d have to read the book to get it!)

    Chels and Josh at 221B Baker St


    In conclusion, we found London to be quite enchanting, even with the natural difficulties of moving around the city with seven people, one of whom was a one-year-old! Chels especially found herself falling in love with the city in a way she hadn’t at all anticipated. Everyone from the customs agents at Heathrow to the tour guide at the Globe were so warm and accommodating – I’m not sure if it’s simply because there don’t appear to be a lot of large families in the UK these days, but the sight of the children seemed to bring out the best in most of the people we encountered. Our visit was certainly not perfect – the weather was hit and miss, the baby had many challenging moments, and we ran into exceptionally bad traffic and downtown protests. But that’s reality when visiting a big city! We’d go back in a heartbeat.