New day, new adventure. Once again, a jet-lagged baby was up early so we had breakfast and headed out to figure out how to get into the city. We found the Ilford station and a very nice and helpful station agent explained the advantage of Oyster Cards to us as a cost saving measure and with the help of Citymapper, an app Lin had recommended, we quickly and easily made our way to Westminster Underground station. The great thing about this app is it it not only tells you what time and platform your train/bus/subway is on, but also which exit to take in order to leave the station as efficiently as possible as well as GPS enable walking routes to get you to and from the stations themselves. Truly a great app for London (and I understand they have it for other cities as well).
Monki was great on the train. No sickness, sitting on mommy’s lap and just enjoying looking at all the people. And let’s face it, for people watching, not much beats the London public transportation system.
The London Aquarium is run by SeaLife, a chain of aquariums, itself owned by Merlin Entertainments, the owner of a number of other attractions, including Legoland. And it’s located by the London Eye and across the river from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Since Monki has a thing about clocks, we were sure seeing Big Ben would absolutely delight her (yes, I know “Big Ben” is the bell insidethe clock, but no one would know what I meant if I said the “clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster originally just referred to as the Clock Tower but was changed in 2012 to the Elizabeth Tower,” so Big Ben it is). And lord knows we tried to show it to her. We kept turning her in her stroller and pointing to the clock but nope. She 100% refused to see it. We even took pictures but still nothing.
Until she did see it.
And oh was she one excited little girl! She kept pointing and saying “clock” and then she’d relax and look at other things and we’d walk on until she turned around and there it was again! She has the same reaction with flags, too, so this was really a red-letter day for her. When we crossed the bridge and were waiting for our entrance time to the aquarium, she decided to walk along the drainage line on the ground, the way she’d been taught in her gym class. While trying to get a picture of her, I had turned around and walked backwards so she followed suit and started walking backwards herself. Pretty impressive.
Also, and this is just a side note, but when Rasa and I first visited London way back in 2014, there had been a running joke about the London Eye. It moves quite slowly so if you’re seeing it from a distance, it often looks as of it’s not moving. Rasa frequently would comment that it had stopped to which I would reply, that no, it hadn’t, and showed her that it was, indeed, still moving. The joke continued when we went to Las Vegas and saw the High Roller, a similar contraption. Every time we’d pass it, I would point out that it was moving.
Except this morning, before 10am when the ride officially opened, it was stopped. Deader than a doornail, frozen in place, still as a church mouse. And Rasa immediately turned to me and said “you better put this in your blog!” And because I love her, here ya go. The London Eye was not moving.
At 10am, we were among the first to enter the Aquarium and the first thing that happens is we walk over a clear plexiglass piece of flooring which looks directly down on the shark tank. Totally surreal feeling walking above these 3-meter-long fish with big teeth and being afraid of falling in.
From there, though, it’s a pretty nice, if standard, aquarium. There’s a number of small tanks and a couple of bigger ones, one with the sharks you walk over when you come in and another with rays, turtles and other larger fish. And like most aquariums, they have a touch tank. Monki got to touch her first starfish! Yeah, they had them at Sea World last summer, but this time she actually reached out, with my help, and petted one. She was pretty stoked about it. Not sure if it was the starfish or just putting her hands in the water, but I’ll take the optimistic view and think we’re developing a budding, inquisitive mind who will appreciate the ocean, all based on this one interaction.
There was also a cold, Antarctic room with penguins which Monki really enjoyed. She has a thing for penguins, one which was borne out when we hit the gift shop at the exit. She was just fine with the cheaper plush shark until Rasa showed her the larger, more expensive penguin. She hasn’t put it down yet. She held it all day and has slept with it every night since. Absolutely loves it so I guess it was worth the price. (I call it “tick tock” because Monki has started making tick tock motions and that’s the way the penguin “walks”)
One of the things that occurred at the aquarium though was that we realized Monki has the attention span of, well, a two-year-old. We tend to forget, since she’s so good and well-behaved at home, that in reality, she’s only almost 2. We saw the beginning of it at Legoland and it was confirmed here. What we needed to do for the rest of the trip was notgo to places which had huge entrance fees (for us, she was free everywhere). There was just no way to get value for money at places like the zoo, so instead, we’d figure out other things to which didn’t cost anything (or were relatively inexpensive).
And that new plan was going to start that afternoon! We had decided that since we would be in town, we’d meet up with Lin, a former student and friend who was now living the dream in London, working front of house at a West End theatre (or three). We decided we’d meet at Trafalgar Square, thinking Monki would love to chase the pigeons. And had there been pigeons, I’m sure she would have been delighted. Unfortunately, there was nary a bird anywhere. The square was in full on festival prep for Pride the following day so it was all we could do to just get in and let Monki see the fountain (and again, be delighted by putting her hand in the water) before we met Lin for lunch at the Crypt in St. Martin’s.
None of us had ever been there before and it was pretty cool. It is literally in the crypt of a working Church of England facility. The food was great and the company even better! After lunch, Lin took us on a tour of herLondon. We saw the primary theatre where she works as well as some other sights. She even helped me change over an old tenner I had. Seems that since the last time I’d been there, the UK switched over to Australian-like plastic currency for their £5 and £10 notes. Mine wasn’t actually good at any stores, it needed to be changed over at a bank. Afterwards, we strolled over to St. James’ Park and chatted about all sorts of stuff and then Monki, who had fallen asleep while we were eating, woke up and chased the birds wherever she could find them. As it started getting later in the afternoon, Lin walked us to a tube station where we said goodbye (she was off to work for the evening) and we made our way back to Ilford, where we once again had dinner at Titanic before retiring for the night.