I sampled Todd’s traditional with a twist beans on toast and took a big gulp of Ellie’s smoothie to wash down the acidic taste. Todd shrugged and pulled his plate closer, knowing he didn’t have to share his breakfast bounty. Next to us, a group of friends celebrated an engagement while families with children dominated the early reservations slots. Overly satiated from Ellie’s thick blueberry pancake and my brioche French toast served with whipped cinnamon cream, we headed toward Westminster to continue Ellie’s Salvatore Rubbino’s Walk in London tour. We ascended the stairs with Big Ben coming into view, and Ellie greeted the iconic structure like a long lost friend thanks to another gem from children’s literature. After a quick walk around Westminster, we hopped back on the Tube toward the Tower of London to see some bling…I mean the crown jewels.
Ellie squealed when she saw the Beefeaters and pointed out “The Big Pickle,” both familiar from her London books. The Yeoman Warder approached her, and Ellie took refuge in her daddy’s protective embrace. We entered the queue for the jewel house with Ellie clutching her guide and ready “to make a match” with the photos. We took a couple of spins on the moving walkway to see the priceless, bejeweled crowns then explored a bit before heading across Tower Bridge toward another personal favorite museum, Tate Modern. I paid a quick homage to Billy Shakes—and blew a kiss for my friend Lee—at the reconstructed Globe Theater before entering the big turbine hall at Tate Modern. Ellie begged to run up and down with the big kids. Sans pink cast this year, I confidently let her go and watched her giggle and sprint from a safe distance. I reflected a bit on all the changes since our visit exactly a year ago and felt a little wistful…kind of like I do on her birthday each year.
We headed upstairs to the exhibits and stopped at the Picassos for Ellie to make more matches then weaved our way through another floor or two. Ellie caught sight of the play area and led the way, darting straight for the slide. I still can’t watch her slide down without wincing a teeny bit and thinking of the big pink cast. Todd and I took an interactive quiz on Pop Art, while Ellie punched lots of buttons and ruined our perfect score. Finished with our Tate visit, we headed toward the dock and hopped aboard a Thames riverboat.
We originally planned on taking the Tate Modern to Tate Britain option, but sadly we didn’t have time to visit Ophelia and The Lady of Shalott with Sunday closing time approaching. Instead, we opted for a different boat that took us back to our day’s starting point in Westminster. The three of us snuggled close to warm ourselves from the gusty winds and enjoyed the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Pauls’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, and other sights from a different perspective. I felt a little like Scout Finch, standing on Boo Radley’s porch, as I watched this beloved city from another point of view and wondered when I’d see it again.
Ellie passed out in her new urban friendly Maclaren Techno XT (still cursing the Bee’s tragic flaw though), and we adeptly lifted her into a cab back headed toward Knightsbridge. I heart London cabs, especially with young children in tow. We easily wheeled her on board then let sleeping preschooler lie while the seasoned driver safely navigated London’s circuitous streets and deposited us at Harrods for a quick gift-buying stop. With Ellie still sleeping soundly, we took a peek at Harvey Nichols then walked down Brompton Road back toward our temporary expatriate neighborhood and realized our time in Europe was coming to an end…sigh.
The highly rated gastropub, Cadogen Arms, appeared around the corner just as Ellie woke up and declared she needed a potty straight away. Our leisurely walk turned into a sprint with just a half block to go. I fumbled with the stroller straps, heaving Ellie onto my hip, and darted up the stairs in search of a loo. Persnickety Ellie declared it too stinky, so I handed her a scented wipe to breathe into and told her not to dawdle.
Quirky taxidermied bunnies, foxes, and deer decorated this popular neighborhood pub, while friends, families, and couples on dates enjoyed pints and wholesome Sunday meals. Although the wine list almost eclipsed the beer menu, the traditional and weathered furnishings kept this South Kensington institution from crossing the border to pretension. Ellie’s cheese toast and peas arrived with Todd’s onion and Gruyere soup starter, and she surprisingly ate a reasonable portion of her dinner. While Todd opted for fish and chips, I ordered the Sunday special of roast chicken and vegetables and felt transported to Julia Child’s kitchen table housed at the National Museum of American History.
As we walked off our dinner and headed back to the flat, we chatted with Ellie about our memorable day and talked about our last day in London…sniff. Big surprises await her: a trip to Princess Diana’s Memorial Playground and maybe the London Zoo if weather permits. I should begin packing our bags, but I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet to two amazing weeks as temporary expatriates.
Travel Tip of the Day: I’ve reconsidered my view on the Bugaboo brand after our trusty Bee buzzed for the last time. Although the stroller is still under warranty, Bugaboo doesn’t want to fix or replace our spendy stroller. Forced to purchase a stroller for our remaining days in London, we settled on the Maclaren Techno XT. It’s been a dream to maneuver in the city with its sturdy wheels and collapsible, lightweight frame. Buying the Maclaren for much cheaper in London took a little bite out of the Bugaboo sting. Keep calm; carry on, right?