In August 2015 I was invited by www.MyKidsy.com to write a guest blog about my own outdoor adventures in London with my daughter. Here it is and I hope you like it!
Living about 50 miles from London in a sleepy Hampshire village, my daughter and I look forward to our day trips up to London and we try to get up each term, ideally on an Inset day when trains are not too busy. I lived and worked in London for over 15 years, commuting from the south-western suburbs and it was only when I began researching our third book Binky Goes To London and when we started to take the photographic illustrations of Binky our teddy bear character and his real animal friends in various central London locations, that I started to travel around by bus and on foot. What struck me was how previously-made tube journeys are so much faster and more interesting if you walk. So throughout the making of Binky Goes To London we travelled by bus and on foot with the occasional taxi ride, if we had a very tired corgi with us!
Our books are children’s adventure books and ‘adventure’ is the word I would use to describe our days out in London. We have a few ‘rules’ for our London trips. Arriving by train into Waterloo Station, we are only allowed to walk or take buses from there, (no tubes). We use a London bus map and we take a different route on each trip up although we do allow ourselves to revisit some favourite places along the way. Before we start out we go onto the Transport for London website www.tfl.gov.uk to find out the number of the first bus to take and to print out useful local maps. From then on we wing it, jumping on buses going in roughly the right direction, hopping off whenever we feel like it. We always take a picnic (even in winter), and we get one treat each but those treats must not cost more than a total of £10. So here is what we got up to last week on our latest trip up to the big city.
My daughter is 14 and it is no longer up to me to set our itinerary and having visited all the major museums in previous trips, this time she wanted to ‘definitely not go to a museum’.
From Waterloo we headed off on the number 168 bus to Camden Market. We always travel upstairs and ideally in the front seats. Twenty minutes later we arrive at Camden Lock with its shops, food and clothes stalls is incredibly exciting and exotic for us and our first half hour was taken up with sampling some very tasty free food (we recommend the Turkish food stall) and then straight onto my daughter’s treat, a bowl of nitrogen made ice-cream from ChinChin. The ice cream is made in front of you in clouds of liquid nitrogen as they mix up and then produce a cricket ball scoop of vanilla deliciousness, coated in steaming chocolate sauce which then hardens instantly. Never seen that in Hampshire!
Mooching around the market was getting a bit tiring so we took the number 26 bus travelling south to have a nice long sit down. The beauty of the buses is that they take time, the traffic slows things to a walking pace in places so you can take in your surroundings: a private square here, an interesting parade of shops there and everywhere people: the slow moving tourists, the busy office people and everywhere something different: great clothes, weird clothes, wonderful headscarves tied this way and that way and on buses people talk. They talk on their phones and to their friends and the snippets of conversation are funny, disjointed and different.
Then it began to rain but who cares; we just stayed on the warm bus and crossed Oxford Street with great views into the shops: Liberty’s, Hamleys, and slowly down to Piccadilly Circus, getting off outside Canada House by Trafalgar Square. We backtracked slightly to take a well-trodden route passing the gentlemen’s shirt shops in Jermyn Street and onto Waterstones on Piccadilly.
Something to note, Waterstones in the winter is nice and warm, in the summer their air conditioning is a relief and a great way to spend half an hour off your feet is to select a book and then sink into one of their squashy sofas. No one minds and the loo is on the stairs from the ground floor up. A few doors down is gorgeous Fortnum and Masons, where we always have a peep in the basement to look at some of their exclusive food lines (they once had chocolate coated ants!) and then up to the patisserie on the ground floor to buy my treat of the day, a £3.50 Fortnum and Mason’s cupcake, beautifully boxed up at no extra charge, for take away.
We take a quick stroll up Burlington Arcade and around the close knit streets just to the north of Piccadilly to look in the shop windows and be impressed by the very well dressed ladies and gentlemen of W1: a far cry from Camden Market.
Finally we made a bee line for Waterloo, cutting down to Trafalgar Square, nipping through Charing Cross Station and across the footbridge over the Thames to South Bank and after a quick loo stop in The Festival Hall we made our way back to Waterloo and to our train, homeward bound for a nice cup of tea and a tiny slice of Fortnum and Mason’s cake. All in all a great day!
If you want to take the kids on a fantastic outdoor adventure in Central London, follow the route Binky Bear takes in our London book, Binky Goes to London. It will take you from Trafalgar Square, down to Horse guards Parade and then through to St. James’s Park and up to Buckingham Palace. There is loads to see and do (soldiers on horseback, squirrels, ducks, pelicans and lots of space in the park to let off steam and get away from the crowds and even a play park on the Birdcage Walk side of the park. Our book will cost you £9.99 and it includes the map to follow and you can join our Muddy Paws club for free on www.binkybear.co.uk and print all the copies you need, again all free of charge. We even sell Binky Bears to take with you. Perhaps your teddy would like to go too?
Liz Nankivell is Co-Creator of Binky Bear and you can buy all Binky Bear adventure books in Waterstones, Harrods and Selfridges or direct from www.binkybear.co.uk“>www.binkybear.co.uk. Binky has frequent further adventures on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/MoreAboutBinky.