April, much like August it seems, is a very quiet month in London. Schools close down for 2-3 weeks for an extended Easter holiday, and many toddler activities, playgroups and nurseries follow suit. Therefore, E has been on a bit of a forced Spring Break these last few weeks, and we have had so. much. fun.
I’ll admit I was a bit intimidated at first…I hadn’t realized just how many activities we’ve managed to fit onto our weekly calendar, and the thought of having no schedule of events to rely on for two whole weeks was scary. Thankfully, that feeling didn’t last beyond the first quiet morning, and with a flexible nap schedule and ridiculously long list of new things to explore, we set out to make the most of our little staycation.
We began by meeting our friends Melanie and her daughter, E, at the Transport Museum of London. Melanie is the sister of a dear friend of mine from Boston, and another London-based TCK exploring the world abroad with the next generation! E and I are excited to have them in town and so thankful to Lauri for the introduction. The girls are two peas in a pod!
A wonderful excuse – aside from good food, coffee and some luxury shopping, of course – to venture over to Covent Garden, the Transport Museum offered interactive and informative exhibits detailing the rich history and impact of transportation on the city of London. While the girls played on old horse-drawn trams and climbed into early generation train cars, we moms tried to absorb tidbits of information from the plaques and storyboards lining the walkways.
Did you know that the first London underground trains didn’t really run under ground? They were pulled along by steam engines in deep covered trenches along the side of the road – called cut-and-cover construction. It took almost 30 more years, until 1890, before the city was actually able to engineer, design, and construct the network of tunnels that still run deep under London Town today.
I’ve also never really taken time to consider how great an impact transportation played in the creation of Suburbia! Beginning in the 1860’s, railways were built to the outskirts of the city, developers jumped on board, and together, they lured Londoners out of downtown with beautiful housing advertisements and luscious green spaces.
My favorite part of the day, however, may have been watching how quickly and naturally the girls gravitated toward activities they watch us do every day like trying to get a buggy in and out of the bus a thousand times…I’m glad they could explore that task for themselves, because I’m sure our heaving and shoving and pushing to get those prams onto the bus are plenty to spark a little curiosity for role-play! And what little kid wouldn’t love the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat of one of those enormous buses or, for the older kids, face the challenge of passing a taxi driver’s certification test? With a bright and spacious facility, the museum has certainly done a great job in allowing kids to explore the fast world of transportation in an interactive yet controlled setting.
As the entry fee to the museum automatically includes a full-year membership, we did our best to gain a little knowledge here and there, leaving more interesting tidbits to be discovered on return trips in the coming months.
If you’re a Londoner with young children, I highly recommend visiting the museum! The two E’s seemed to love the excursion – racing from one display to another with lots of excited chatter and giggles along the way, – and I enjoyed learning more about a system my family uses on a daily basis! And though I would say visitors could easily do a little reading online and skip the museum, if you’re coming to town with children, this museum is a fantastic way to allow them to explore the vast transport system London is known for without losing your mind trying to make sure they really do “Mind the Gap!”