Living in London we are so lucky to have all these wonderful resources on our doorstep; galleries, theatres and museums to name just a few. Sadly, what with the hectic life styles we now lead - do you know that according to a recent study carried out by The British Council and Prof. Richard Wiseman we live life 10% faster than we did in the early 90’s! It's so easy to take London for granted, never actually visiting any of the outstanding attractions. How easy is it to put it off until tomorrow? Then when tomorrow arrives, there is always something else to think about and said ‘museum visit’ never happens. I know I am guilty of this at times and that is why this year, I have vowed to do more visits to London's fantastic selection of museums, galleries and other great and wonderful gems this city holds.
Last week, a friend and I decided to take our two boys on a day-outing to The Natural History Museum. We had arranged to meet at the tube station at 11.00am, however having gotten off the bus one stop too early (don't you hate it when that happens!!), we turned up at 11.15am looking like drenched rats having battled through the torrential rain. During the tube ride on the District Line, we passed quite a few trees and the boys' reaction never altered during the whole trip. Every tree was greeted with just as many squeals of excitement as the one before. How great it would be to be that innocent again.
Once off the tube we headed towards the museum via the subway, another source of great entertainment for the boys who ran down the tunnel giggling, their bodies moving faster than their little legs could carry them. On the way we passed a busker and stopped to put some money in his hat; my son hasn’t quite got the idea of giving yet, as his little hand darted into the man’s hat, coming up with a fistful of coins. I got the distinct feeling that the busker was a little frustrated that his day's salary was potentially disappearing. Perhaps this has happened a few too many times to him to see the funny side.
As we walked through the entrance of The Natural History Museum both little heads fell backwards starring up captivated by the sheer size of the Central Hall. It was at this point that they both clocked the giant Diplodocus skeleton that towered above them and ran towards the creature shouting ‘Dinosaur, Dinosaur’ and disappearing into one of the alcoves to explore more. Once they had been caught and after the obligatory loo stop, we headed towards the star attraction – the Dinosaur Gallery. Things had changed somewhat since I last visited the museum and now everything is accessible on two levels, giving you the opportunity to view things from different angles and inspect the dinosaur skeletons. As we walked along the metal walkway we could hear a distant roar which became louder and louder the nearer we got. Two little people were jiggling about with pure anticipation not knowing what to expect. As we turned the corner an almighty roar echoed across the room as we came face to face with a life size animatronic T-Rex - every little boy’s dream!
With the Dinosaur Gallery visited, we trundled off to the Darwin Centre. We should have really been expecting this, but I am ashamed to admit that we were caught off guard as the two boys decided to make their own entertainment and proceeded to run around the gallery darting in and out of little alcoves, giggling hysterically. What a sight we must have been. Both of us were running behind the two boys trying to grab them, which only made the 'game' even more amusing for them! Once children had been finally caught, we put their little backpacks on and lead them around the rest of the gallery, much to their disappointment and protests.
It was clear they had seen enough and needed new surroundings so we headed next door to The Science Museum. By now little (and big) tummies were rumbling so we headed straight through the transport section, of course stopping a number of times on the way to look at the ‘a-o-pans’ (that's aeroplanes to you and me) and rockets. The restaurant at the back resembled something out of a futuristic movie, with its white neon lit tables to which I glumly thought 'oh great, what a clever choice to highlight the redecoration efforts of our two kids make whilst they attempt food consumption'. I'm sure the waitress was running a wager with her fellow team mates as to how 'dull' our table would become once the spaghetti had been thoroughly rubbed cross the lights.
There was no surprise, lunch was chaotic with two little ones continuously disappearing under the table to crawl in and out of people’s legs. I don’t think we were too popular at this point and I would not have been surprised to have heard a cheer as we left. Next stop, the Pattern Pod .. wow what a hit this was with the boys! It kept them busy and it was clear from the off, particular from the childish squeals of delight that the Virtual Pool was where all the action was to be had. In this enclosed area, the virtual pool allows children to explore water ripples without getting their feet wet (a blessing for us mums but I know that my boy would prefer the real thing). They could dance around jumping on the pool or move into a pod where they could attempt to catch the colourful patterns which are projected on to the walls and floor. It briefly took me back to my raving days, only this was a more tranquil experience, even with the laughter and hi-pitched squeals emanating from the hordes of children. After a little 'sweety bribery', we managed to drag the boys away - sometimes I think that chocolate really has been sent from the gods; I mean, who won't do something for a little nibble?
It was now about 3.00pm and after a quick debate between us mums on whether we could afford to squeeze in one final activity without complete meltdown; we decided to take the gamble and went downstairs to the Garden Area. Friends have highly recommended a visit in the past and on arrival I become a loyal and sworn advocate to it's amazing child-care properties. My son clocked the water section and that was it, he was gone, I quickly followed grabbing one of the waterproof aprons provided, but alas, I was too late for my son already resembled a drowned rat. Now, a word of warning here, should you decide to visit the Garden Area, whatever you do, DO NOT forget to come armed with serious bribery fodder in whatever shape/form you deem best. Alas, I was very naive and my son, on being told we were leaving, with great gusto and as much drama as he could muster, through himself to the floor whilst wailing at the top of his lungs. I am convinced that every mother turned to look at me with a smattering of pity for my stupidity and perhaps a little smugness as they were clearly better armed/prepared. Thank goodness for my friend, who had recently been at the Garden Area and had learnt the hard way that there is no easy way of leaving this zone. But out of nowhere, just like Mary Poppins, she produced with a flurry, the king of all bribery treats, The Lolly-Pop; and before you knew it, we were making a swift exit.
The journey home was utter bliss, we had missed the main commuter rush-hour, which meant that we were able to get seats for both of us and our snoozing toddlers. And on returning home, I can confirm, that my very tired little boy, gallantly made it through bath-time, food-time and bedtime without a grumble, as long as he had his new dinosaur clasped in his podgy hand.
If you are feeling adventurous and want to enjoy a great free day out, which will be filled with every eventuality no doubt, then pop over to South Kensington and visit either The Natural History and/or (depending on children's stamina or should that be the adults?!) The Science Museum. But remember you have been warned and don't forget the back-up bag of bribery for co-ersing your little ones away from some of the fantastic exhibits. Entrance is free to both museums, but you may need to pay for certain attractions, so check online before you leave. Here are the links to where we visited - have fun:
Planning visit (and potentially extra clothes you'll need) at The Science Museum
Pattern Pod at The Science Museum
The Garden Area at The Science Museum
Planning visit at The Natural History Museum
Meeting T-Rex at The Natural History Museum
PARENTS SURVIVAL GUIDE to The Natural History Museum