I travel to London once or twice every year for business; in some years I make the trip more often. This is one of my favorite cities for trend-tracking. My husband, Steve, and I were here years ago and loved it. But we have never seen London with our kids. So on Saturaday at 7pm, the four of us boarded the Northwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis to London’s Gatwick airport for a week long vacation. We all talked about the irony of visiting England over our Fourth of July holiday…
We arrived on Sunday morning. This was a bad choice that we will not repeat. Who could have guessed that several flights from the US arrive at about the same time? Although our flight landed 60 minutes late we still spent well over an hour in the passport control line. The Gatwick Express train took us to Victoria Station where we waited for another half an hour for a cab that would take us to our hotel at Trafalger Square. Of course, when we arrived at the hotel our rooms were not ready. It was a day of waiting.
But it was also a day of fun. We took advantage of the wait to walk a couple of blocks to the Sherlock Holmes pub, a spot that Steve and I knew from more than 18 years ago. The kids are both big Sherlock fans, so even though the décor was contrived, they both loved it. We also stopped at a Waterstone’s, a book store where Alex was able to get the next in a series that he is reading—a book that is not yet available at home.
Today was a much more productive day. After a quick breakfast we took the tube to the Tower of London. Here we sweated through every building we could get into (it must have been 90 degrees today!). Steve and I thought Alex would love it but Elizabeth was just as taken with our two-hour self-guided tour. The Crown Jewels were as interesting to both of them as the armour was.
We walked just a few blocks to Butler’s Wharf where we stopped at Browns Restaurant & Bar for a very American lunch of burgers and fries. Americans eat fast and we are no exceptions. But the breeze coming off the Thames (this water is so brown it looks disgusting yet it is really quite clean; the color is only from sediment) kept us there for an hour.
Just down the block were the Design Museum (according to our Fodor’s guide, this was the first museum to elevate everyday design to art status) and the Design Museum Shop. The shop was a real hit with all of us. Of particular interest were items that made technology look down right fun:
– The iDuck USB Memory Stick by Talking Technologies
– The Wooden Memory Stick designed by Hrafnkell Birgisson
By the way, the museum restaurant, the Blueprint Cafe, was designed by Sir Terence Conran.
Just outside of the Museum was a glass-enclosed display called the Design Museum Tank (it is pictured above, just outside the white building). Inside was an exhibit called Football Fever – A World Cup Celebration. More than 30 national and international designers (industrial, graphic, lighting, product) were asked to reinterpret the football (soccer ball to Americans). All of the submissions were innovative. Here are a few favorites:
– Ben Wilson’s football unicycle
– A soccer ball globe with a Black and White Fair Trade label by Tim Parsons
– Michael Young’s traditional Blue and White bone china patterned ball