I received an email whilst on holiday this summer telling me that we had won a weekend break in London with Tots100 and Sealife. It was such a shock to find that our picture of fish, made so long ago and such a treasured memory, had won.
And so in November we took the train to London for a night at the Marriott County Hall and a host of wonderful treats.
First was the London Eye. I spent the time welded to the middle seat praying the experience would end soon. But The Girls loved it: LBG was fascinated to have all the sites pointed out to her by Daddy. Dimples- aged three- got a bit bored after ten minutes but we sat together and played games on my smart phone until back on Terra Firma. It was such a lovely clear day, you could see for miles and it is always wonderful to see the tops of St Paul’s in the distance- the place where I was joined in marriage with my amazing DH.
We popped around the corner, away from the busy South Bank below, to find a spot for lunch. The area around Westminster Bridge has changed so much since I used to come to St Thomas’ with my mother for her hospital appointments- where once it was a little seedy, now it is bright and busy and filled with places to eat. I even got my first Starbucks since moving to the country three months before!
After lunch we had the fun of the London Aquarium, along with behind-the-scenes tour. The queues were very long and even though we went through the Fast Track line (an advantage of booking ahead) there was still confusion and people standing in the wrong place. It was a busy Saturday afternoon so no doubt the staff were stretched. I couldn’t help feeling, as we forced our way around groups of people looking at exhibits and waited behind wheelchairs trying to get around people who stopped dead in their tracks, that it could do with a little more policing in terms of the number of people who came into the Aquarium at any time. The few fish we saw were wonderful but the heat and overcrowding made for an unpleasant experience that I am in no hurry to repeat.
What I would heartily recommend though, is the Behind The Scenes tour. If I am honest, I would say that Dimples was too small to really appreciate it, but for the rest of us it was the highlight of the trip. I was fascinated to learn that the Aquarium breeds millions seahorses a year and are working tirelessly to help Seahorse Conservation. We looked at sharks teeth and found that the width of the plastic separating us from the fish is disconcertingly small. Then we went to the kitchen and saw all the food that passes through the Aquarium- fresh and frozen. Who knew that turtles ate lettuce?
The worst bit about the Aquarium was getting out: up the stairs, we had to fight our way through the narrow aisles of the shop to get out and once again reinforced the idea that we won;t be going back any time soon.
But the hotel had what we needed: a large (if cool) swimming pool on the 6th floor and complimentary robes, towels and toiletries. Ideal for recharging. We hit the South Bank- home to a large Christmas Market- and had a supper of gluhwein (me), bratwurst and waffles (girls), met Father Christmas, enjoyed the lights and general festive spirit, before heading back to our room for Strictly Come Dancing.
The hotel was divine: tucked in the middle of a large white colonial beast, it feels like you’ve been sucked into another world. It is opulent and quiet and the staff were lovely. Whilst it was not overtly a child-friendly hotel, everyone went out of their way to make the Girls happy and I really appreciated that. We were given an enormous room with a view across the river to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. There were two large beds, comfortable chairs, a desk, the usual minibar and so on. We were given fresh home-made lemonade and a bowl of fruit that disappeared fast! Breakfast was eaten in a beautiful Deco-style restaurant with views across the Thames and lots of light. The Girls had delicious hot chocolate and we helped ourselves to the wide variety of fresh and delicious treats on offer. It really was luxurious and a great treat which I totally recommend.
And then we headed home to our new life in the country, with a pit stop on the way for a Gingerbread Latte and some fun in the large playground under the London Eye. The perfect end to a perfect family trip. Thanks Tots 100 and Sea Life.