Last weekend we decided to do something I rarely do with a young baby, which is to take her away from home for the entire day and rob her of her lunchtime sleep. It might not be a popular way of doing things, but for me routines have provided an essential sanity saving structure whilst Jim has been away for big periods of time and so I’m reluctant to mess with them.
Our day trip was our last chance this side of September to take advantage of our standard Merlin passes in London before the August exclusion zone starts. London’s South Bank is Merlin pass central with four different attractions in a short stretch along the Thames and a load of other kid friendly restaurants and activities happening in the same area. We decided to do the London Eye before lunch and then the Sea Life Centre in the afternoon when we thought we’d have the best chance of Alice nodding off in the semi-darkness of the aquarium.
I was expecting the whole thing to be a bit of a nightmare, not just because I thought we’d get caught up in long queues but because our local train service from the south coast is currently getting a big bashing in the press for its terrible service. Luckily starting with low expectations meant I was pleasantly surprised more than once.
The train service ran on time and was reasonably priced (the kids were free and Jim and I only paid £11.80 each return) and when we arrived at the South Bank just before 11am we only had to queue for 20 minutes to get on the London Eye, which for a Saturday in the summer holidays is pretty good.
It’s been at least 10 years since I last went on the London Eye, but I enjoyed it every bit as much this time and Theo was fascinated by our journey round the wheel and the changing landscape of London. We were on board for about half an hour and off just in time to get ahead of the lunchtime rush for food.
We went to Giraffe for lunch which always seems to be a reliable and easy place to go with kids. It was warm enough to eat outside and they served our lunch within 5 minutes of us ordering! I genuinely thought they must have bought the wrong order to the table as I don’t think I have ever experienced service that quick outside of a fast food joint.
Plus I got to eat Churros which Jim regularly hears me going on about and which I hardly ever get an opportunity to eat, so I was happy!
After lunch we popped Alice in her buggy (we are still using the Bayzen YoYo which is brilliant) and headed for the Sea Life Centre. The queue here looked a bit more worrying. The staff at the door initially said they thought it would be about 30 minutes wait, but once we had started queueing a more senior staff membre came down the line to tell people it could be an hour as it was the busiest time of the day. We decided to stick it out and were delighted to find we got inside within 20 minutes.
Inside it was pretty busy and at one point they had to instigate a two lane system through the shark tunnel, with one for slow walkers and others for people who just wanted to move on to the next tank. Because we’ve been before and have a Merlin pass we zipped through quite quickly and were out of the main area within half an hour, though if you are wanting to take longer there is plenty that is worth lingering for.
Towards the end they have built a new enclosure for penguins and a virtual reality exhibit where polar bears appear to walk in front of you whilst a killer whale splashes about in a tank inches from where you are standing. Kids and adults loved this and their were loads of photos being taken.
We got a train back home just after 4:30pm and were back at our front door two hours later. Both kids were remarkably well behaved and there were no public meltdowns (even from the adults). We are already planning a return trip to do the Shrek Adventure in September and might try the London Dungeon too (anyone been with a 5 year-old?!)