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From Shellie:

With our host family at work and school, the boys and I ventured into London on our own, successfully navigating the London subway system (the Tube).

I think this is a good time to explain my travel philosophy (yes, I have one!).  Whether you have children or not, I think it’s important to travel like a child.  By that I mean, look to experience a place rather than observe it.  My boys – and frankly I, as well – have a museum/cathedral/castle limit.  And while London, especially, has much to offer in the way of free museums, churches, and palaces, I tried to plan a more kid-friendly day.

Our first stop: Westminster Abbey.  I’m a sucker for the Royals and was eager to see where Prince William and Kate recently wed; Aidan – not so much.  And when we arrived to the church in late morning to find a long line, we skipped it.  Yep, skipped the Abbey.  While I was initially disappointed, we later were rewarded with a treat that we would have otherwise missed!

Travel TipTravel Tip 3:  Pay in Cash at Westminster Abbey

If you visit the Abbey, go at 9:30 a.m. when it opens.  There are two lines: cash and credit. The cash line is considerably shorter!

Travel Tip 4:  Watch the Changing of the Guard online

Ok, I’m going to say it: skip the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  To get a front row seat for the 11:30 a.m. ceremony, you need to be in place by about 10:30 a.m.  It’s not worth it.  Before we left for the day, the boys watched an online video to get an understanding and close up view of what happens.  We saw the guards in person at Wellington Barracks a few minutes before they left.  Then we walked to Buckingham Palace where thousands of people were waiting, snapped a few pictures, grabbed a quick peak from the side of the palace, and left.  Best decision of the day!

After the Changing of the Guard, we stumbled onto a 41-gun salute in St. James Park in honor of Prince Philip’s 92nd birthday.  In a few days (once I figure out how to edit video on my iPad), check it out under VIDEOS.

imageBuckingham Palace is not open in June to tours; instead we visited the Royal Mews.  In a short 45-minute tour, we saw the stables (no horses) and the lavish carriages belonging to the Royal Family.  The Gold State Coach used for coronations is quite something!  Aidan, like many British, is still trying to wrap his head around why this family owns so much!

Now to the boys’ favorite part of the day:  the tour of Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club.  From Nathan:  Chelsea FC is one of the more accomplished football (soccer) teams in the world. We got to tour their stadium.  It was smaller than I expected.  My favorite part was the home locker room, complete with player jerseys.  From Aidan:  It was so awesome!panorama (3)

Our day ended with a spin on the London Eye.  Originally, I wasn’t going to fork over the $68 for our family of 3, but it was a spectacular view and gave the kids an appreciation of London’s size.

Looks a little funky since I stitched several photos together, but you get the idea.

Looks a little funky since I stitched several photos together, but you get the idea.