I love nothing more than a spontaneous day out. Before Violet was born, we’d always be hopping on and off the train to London, going for days out to explore the museums, catching a West End show or the odd cheeky shopping spree. However, since Violet arrived, life is a little different and it’s not quite that easy – I mean it took me 5 weeks to pluck up the courage to get out of the door on my own, so the thought of a family day out further than our sweet safe zone of Brighton seemed like a big step… but a tempting one.
So, this weekend we decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. I’ve always said that when I had a family, I wanted to be the kind of person who gets on with life as it was before, doing all the things we would have done, just this time taking the baby along for the ride too. This seemed the perfect opportunity to start our days of fun days out for all the family.
Looking at the weather forecast, it wasn’t looking great but we were determined to keep going regardless – Good old British springtime weather! We decided the best plan was to opt for a sightseeing trip to The Tower of London – I haven’t been since I went on a school trip so I couldn’t wait to see it again and view everything through adult eyes (I think as a child you just remember the grizzly bits, like where they cut people’s heads off – right?). That way we could enjoy the things outside, but there would be somewhere to run for cover – should the weather turn on us.
So we got up nice and early and headed down to Brighton train station to board our train.
Now, after all my apprehension around travelling with the baby, honestly – this has been the easiest journey to London I’ve ever done. We hopped on the Thameslink service from Brighton – this goes straight into London Bridge which is right in the heart of London and the perfect place for getting to so many of the sights, without having to use the underground. As I went to buy our tickets I was also surprised as it’s such great value for money too – with the Super Off-Peak tickets at the weekend, we only paid £10.80 return too and little one went free (although they also do a Kids travel for £2 offer for bigger children too). Plus, can you believe it, our carriage was totally empty! A few more people joined us on the way to London, but everyone had a seat and there was plenty of room for the pushchair and I saw lots of people with luggage as the train stops at Gatwick airport too.
As we whizzed through the beautiful Sussex countryside, Violet was absolutely mesmerised looking out of the windows, all the flashes of sunlight, the colours and the scenery left her wide-eyed as she took it all in. She actually stayed awake most of the journey (I thought the movement would send her to sleep) as I think it was all pretty new and exciting for her, she wanted to just take everything in.
We arrived into London Bridge around mid-morning – this was the perfect base for us as there are so many sights you can visit from London Bridge without having to catch the tube and worrying about whether there would be lift access for the pushchair. From London Bridge some fab places to visit within walking distance are: HMS Belfast, River Cruises, Borough Market, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Tate Modern, the Jack the Ripper Tour – and of course The Tower of London, that just to name a few, there are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy as well.
We then headed to our destination for the day – The Tower of London. One of England’s most historical sights, the Tower of London dates back as far 1066, when it was founded as part of the Norman Conquest of England. From then, it’s been in the hands of many different monarchs, used as an armoury, the royal mint, a prison to Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh and also a place of torture and death – as Ann Boleyn and many others were beheaded within the grounds. The White Tower is said to be haunted by Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey and Ann Boleyn has been spotted walking along the corridors with her head under her arm. Nowadays, thankfully – it’s a tourist destination and the home to the Crown Jewels. With so much to see and do, you can easily spend a full day taking in everything the Tower has to offer.
We bought our tickets, which were 2-4-1 when you travel on the train and of course I had to buy a guide book too!
We spent a good couple of hours at least exploring everything the Tower has to offer. The weather was so changeable, one minute it would be sunny, the next raining! I’m sure we spent more time putting Violet’s rain hood over the pushchair and taking it off than doing anything anything else. We found the Tower relatively easy to get about with the pushchair, although it took a bit of planning as most areas are accessed by steps but the guide book helped to point us in the direction of the step-free access points. Highlight of our trip to the Tower has got to be seeing the Crown Jewels – we queued for so long (luckily in the sunshine!) and once it was our turn, we boarded the travelator that goes past the main exhibit and lifted Violet up to see the Crown Jewels too. The Beefeater guarding the room laughed at us as she’s so little, but I think she was interested in the jewels for sure! Maybe it was the colours or the sparkles (she is my daughter after all), but one day we’ll tell her about her adventure to see the Crown Jewels and I’m sure she’ll be pleased we included her.
After a good look around the grounds at The Ravens, the guardsmen, the beefeaters and the Bloody Tower it all became a bit much for Violet and she got a bit overtired, so we retreated to the cafe for a well earned cream tea and a bottle of milk (for Violet, not us!). Feeling refreshed after a spot of calm, we continued with our day…
As we left the Tower, the weather turned and it was so stormy overhead – kind of made the Tower even more spooky and atmospheric with those looming grey clouds. It was time to make our escape!
We decided to carry on our day with a little ‘walking tour’ of London along the River Thames. I say a little tour as we didn’t join an official one we just plodded along, taking in the sights and snapping away as we went. Shame the weather wasn’t great as we did get caught in a torrential downpour at this point, but luckily it passed pretty quickly and we carried on, Violet asleep in her pram was none the wiser, so thats all that mattered!
For us, no trip to London would be complete without a trip to Wahaca to round the day off with tacos and mojitos! I was so excited to have my first mojito since before I was pregnant (well, and before I did IVF so maybe 18 months ago now!) and it was worth every sip! They are SO GOOD. Exhausted from our day of adventure around London we finally rested up and and enjoyed a Mexican feast, we even had a few friends who live in London turn up to join us, which was a lovely surprise!
After our meal we headed back to London Bridge Station on foot again, stopping as we passed a Nespresso Cafe which has a robot that collects your order of Nespresso pods and delivers them through a little hatch for you – honestly, I kid you not, a robot! I was well impressed. We also did a final bit of sightseeing, taking the scenic path through St Paul’s Cathedral gardens and we even walked by the First Dates Restaurant which was a fun little spot, I love that TV show.
All in all, we had a fabulous first family day out with Violet – she was good as gold and loved just taking in the scenery, the sights, sounds and movements kept her interested all day. When we needed places to sit and feed or change her, it was so easy – there are places everywhere! The train journey was quick and easy and much cheaper than I expected – plus we got a discount on our tickets for the The Tower of London which made it much more affordable too. I’m glad we decided to have a spontaneous adventure out and no doubt we’ll be planning the next one too.
Lastly, just for a bit of added fun, I vlogged our day out in London so here is a little video of us all as well – enjoy!
Post written in collaboration with Thameslink Rail, all words opinions and photography is my own.