One mom shares this favorite destination in hopes of introducing her children to the wider world
Kara (left) and Ella with a guard at Westminster Castle
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As a 20-year-old, I spent an engaging summer studying in London. Each morning, after an hour in the classroom, I would set out to explore this historic city. I ventured underground to the Churchill War Rooms, listened to fierce debates at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, and climbed the winding steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The experiential learning was all so agreeable (to use classic British understatement) that I wanted to share it with my family. So last summer, my girls were finally at an age where they could retrace my travels. After months of shopping and planning, we were finally parking our bags at a London hotel.
Discovering London’s Soul
My husband, Eric, expected to find a prim populace and bland cuisine. Pish posh! The real London quickly sheds its sensible shoes. You need only to gaze up at the arches of Westminster Abbey, or listen in at Speaker’s Corner, to find the vision and passion of the British soul. And with its 8 million residents reflecting a rainbow of cultures, delicious food is abundant.
Our hotel is located in the Westminster borough in the heart of London, not far from where the London Eye, an aerial observation wheel, spins high above historic gems. Setting out on a stroll, we cross a bridge that leads to the majestic Houses of Parliament. I imagine members of the House of Commons arguing the critical state of the budget at this very moment. Big Ben, the famous Clock Tower, pierces the sky before us. Passing through Parliament Square, we come to the 1,000-year-old Westminster Abbey. Here, we appreciate the sweeping Gothic architecture, before stepping inside to view precious monuments, stained glass, and textiles.
By now our daughters have posed beside an iconic red phone booth and tried on British accents. After munching on fish and chips, we board a double-decker bus for the Tower of London. This notorious fortress, built by William the Conqueror, is where doomed souls were imprisoned and executed. A Beefeater shares stories of the prison’s history. Political opponents of the king arrived here by boat through Traitors Gate. Officially known as Yeoman Warders, we learn that the Beefeater nickname dates actually to the days when guards were given beef as part of their salaries.
The Crown Jewels are exhibited here, but since the line is so long, we move on to the Royal Armories. The girls study the shields and helmets that belonged to King Henry VIII. Who would have guessed that battle apparel would hold their attention?