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Merry Old England

A month or two ago, we were at shul and the woman in the row in front of us turned around at the end of the service and said, “your children are amazing.”  They were pretty damn amazing.  It was a night service, and it was past their bedtime.  They had nothing with them, so they had to sit in the adult service, which was entirely in Hebrew and try to seek out letters they know in the prayer book (hint: not many).  But they sat there silently, swinging their little legs off the end of their chair in a picture of patience.

“Oh,” I said, looking down at them.  “They’re just acting this way because we told them that if they were mature enough, we’d take them with us to England.”

The twins can now return to armpit poking and pulling hair; there is nothing to hold over their heads any longer, behaviour-wise.  We’re back from London.*


We picked England as our first foray into international travel with the twins because it was one of a few soft landings.  We wanted to go somewhere that was just different enough but still had some ties to life at home, and we wanted somewhere that Josh and I had some familiarity with to make planning and navigation a tad easier.  We didn’t want a language barrier on their first trip.  England, Ireland, and Israel all fit the bill, and England won because it came higher up when we placed them in alphabetical order.  Actually, we wanted to do a literary vacation, one where you read a bunch of books and then go explore the setting (either the one in the book or where the author wrote the book), reenacting scenes from the book or trying to discern what about the space influenced the story.

So we read three of the Harry Potter books, Mary Poppins by PL Travers, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Before we left, I typed up a 9-page itinerary with Josh detailing everything they would see while we were over there as well as important facts to know while they’re in each space.  We did this because we wanted them to feel empowered while they were over there; equal travel partners who were in the know.  This was a great idea in theory (and we’d certainly do it again) but we found on this first trip a bunch of chasms we hadn’t considered until we fell down them in the moment.  So… yeah… I think I need to document the chasms for myself (to re-read before the next trip) and if they help you to not make the same mistakes we made, all the better.

We also ran into a bunch of random luck on the trip, hitting the right person at the right time and receiving information that made our trip magical.  In other words, we would have never found Platform 9 3/4 or found the door that Alice ran through if not for the random directions from strangers, and even returning home, I haven’t been able to Google and find this information online.  So I want to write that stuff up too in case anyone reading this (or Googling for the information) wants to find out too.

I’ve broken down our trip into

  • The next post which is an overview of the trip, a bunch of non-book-oriented stuff we did, and overall thoughts on travel.
  • Harry Potter: how to visit all the film sites in the area as well as places such as Charing Cross Road to look for the real Diagon Alley.
  • Making of Harry Potter: we spent 7 hours on the actual film sets for the movie and the pictures are just cool.  Plus a few heads up if you’re planning on making the pilgrimage.
  • Alice in Wonderland: how to plan an Alice in Wonderland trip to Oxford.

You may notice that there is no Mary Poppins day.  There was very little Mary Poppins-related to do in London with the exception of seeing where Mr. Banks worked or running into a chalk artist.

One thing you should know is that with the exception of the Making of Harry Potter day, we sprinkled in Harry Potter sites daily on our way to another London location such as the Tate Modern or Trafalgar Square rather than chunking it together and having full Harry Potter days.  But you’ll figure that out when you see the next post which is an overview of the trip.

One last thing, we planned this trip with kids in mind, though I probably would have taken pretty much the exact same trip if the twins weren’t with us.  I love books that much.  And we’ll take another literary London trip in the future, this time swapping in Tolkien for Carroll while in Oxford.  Or the Narnia books.  And of course Austen and Dickens and…

* I know some people who are reading this are actually from London, and were there while I was there.  We may have even passed each other on the street or sat next to one another at Wagamama.  While I thought about trying to get a bunch of bloggers together, the reality is that we went from early morning to late at night without much of a break.  I’m not sure how we would have worked in anything else since there was ultimately so much we ended up missing this trip.  Which is more reason to go back.


1 Amanda { 10.24.12 at 8:02 am }

Amazing. Sounds like such an amazing trip!

2 jodifur { 10.24.12 at 8:14 am }

I’m very interested in this. I’m planning our spring break trip right now, and we are currently scheduled to go to Arizonia. It would actually be cheaper for me to fly to London.

3 a { 10.24.12 at 9:33 am }

That’s my problem with traveling – I always miss something and feel like I need to go back and see more! Can’t wait to read about the rest.

4 alloallo { 10.24.12 at 10:15 am }

if you do come back to London and want to meet any locals, let us know! but great that you prioritised family and had such a great trip.

5 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.24.12 at 11:30 am }

I’m so excited to read about your adventures.

Would promises of London make my kids tolerate boredom better?

6 Turia { 10.24.12 at 1:13 pm }

Sounds like a great trip! If you do get to Oxford, I can point you to a spot where there is a lion, and then very shortly thereafter a lamppost (and I am certain there was something else that made me catch my breath but I cannot find the post on my old blog at the moment). It is such a fun city.

7 Tiara { 10.24.12 at 7:07 pm }

Sounds amazing! I can’t wait to read more!!

8 Mud Hut Mama { 10.25.12 at 2:37 am }

I love the idea of a literary trip and I’m looking forward to reading about how the twins fared on their first international trip. Please share the location of the door Alice ran through – would love to find that the next time we are in London.

9 Anna { 10.25.12 at 4:55 am }

This is so exciting! I’m in the north of England but I feel excited that you were all in the country and I can’t wait to hear about what you were up to. I visit London every now and again to see relatives and I do not know where those things are.x

10 loribeth { 10.25.12 at 8:19 am }


11 Blanche { 10.26.12 at 2:26 pm }

Just from this it sounds ever so much more fun than the trip my parents took me on which was ultimately aimed at the interest of the adults in the party (my parents, and maternal grandparents) and involved enough gardens to wander through in the non-flowering season to give me a permanent distaste for wandering through a garden.

12 marwil { 10.30.12 at 6:44 am }

It sounds like an amazing trip. You should prioritise family once in a while, if you come back though it would be lovely to meet you. A few of us are planning a get-together right now, it’s fun and really supporting to meet with others. Glad you had such a great experience.

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