Sunday was our last day in town and we had decided to try for the Natural History Museum. It fit our requirement of being free and had the added benefit of being one of my favorite places (plus, I’m working on a story set there, so, yay, research!). But first…breakfast and then a walk to the park.
Back at Valentines Park the day before, we had seen a small play area for kids but didn’t get a chance to stop by, so we figured we could do that this morning. Monki loved it. She only recently discovered the joy of slides and swings back at home, and was getting pretty good at climbing the stairs and waiting her turn, so this seemed tailor made for her.
She loved it.
Some of the slides had climbing wall style handholds instead of normal stairs, so she even learned something new, which is always an added bonus! When she got tired of sliding, we once again went around the pond so she could see the ducks and other birds. We even tried to feed another squirrel but that wasn’t in the cards today. Instead, we just headed up the high street to the station and made our way to South Kensington and Cromwell Road, home of the Natural History Museum.
They open at 10am and we got there early enough there was relatively no line and so were able to waltz right in. Now, one of the things I really wanted to show Monki were the dinosaurs. This is the thing, innit? Now that she’s almost two, and really developing her personality and making clear her likes and dislikes, I want to expose her to as many cool things as possible (Sure, mostly things I think are cool, but other stuff, too). Mostly, we want to try and foster a sense of excitement at seeing and learning new things. And besides, what kid doesn’t like dinosaurs?
I was expecting to see a huge diplodocus skeleton in the Central Hall upon entering but nope, that had changed since I was there last (“Dippy” is now on tour across the UK). Now, there was a blue whale skeleton suspended from the rafters, leaving a lot more floor space and the space over which it flew was no longer the Central Hall, but was now Hintze Hall. We can adapt, it’s all good. The primary dinosaur exhibit was still where it had been (although the path which led to the upper level catwalk was no longer part of it) and the runaway T-rex was still there, scaring visitors.
Monki loved that part. She enjoyed the few animatronic creatures moving around as well, but again, being only two, her attention span just wasn’t up to the task of actually taking in much of the informational stuff. It was all just pretty pictures for her. And that’s fine. It also wore her out a bit. This was the longest we had been on trains all weekend and the park had been physical and it was hot – deadly combinations when it came to wakefulness. Getting through the dinosaurs was fine but then she started to get cranky so we exited the noisy museum and walked along the road until she fell asleep.
Taking advantage of this, Rasa and I were able to go through the Science Museum, someplace I’d never been. While recounting all the exhibits would be silly, suffice to say it was interesting and cool. But the best part was going through the technology section and seeing old computers and cell phones. And then seeing Rasa’s look of surprise when I pointed out various pieces of technology I actually owned and used back in the day. Nothing points out our age difference so much as technology.
We headed back to the NHM before Monki awoke, hoping to get some giftshop time in, and almost made it. She woke up a few minutes in to our shopping fun and she was hungry, so we decided to postpone the crass commercialism and opted for lunch instead. We went to the T-rex Grill, the only food place where they specifically claimed kid-friendliness, for grub. The best thing, as far as Monki was concerned, was the fighting animatronic velociraptors at the entrance as well as the murals of dinos all around us.
With lunch out of the way, we headed back to the shop. Monki picked out a few dino themed treats for herself (a new bowl, a book with flaps showing dinosaurs) and I got a few things for me and then we did the last thing we knew we were going to do which had an entrance fee. Every summer, the NHS sets up a temporary exhibit space outside of butterflies. Monki loves butterflies so we figured it would be perfect for her (and it wasn’t terribly expensive).
Yeah…still not exactly worth it. The biggest problem was that the flying critters freaked her out. She loved looking at them when they were perched. But since there are hundreds, if not thousands, of the little insects flying about everywhere, the ones just hanging out on leaves looking pretty were slightly outnumbered. Monki tried, she really did, but in the end, she was just ready to go. So we did.
But we didn’t want to head home just yet. Instead, we went back to city center and had a pleasant stroll along the Thames. We went back and forth over bridges, watched the water go by and almost bought some really nice artwork at an open-air flea market (transport and no place to hang it is what stopped us). When we got tired and hungry, we once again used the Citymapper app to find the closest station to get us home (and always listen to the app – it knows about platform closures and everything else).
Back in Ilford, holding to tradition, we went back to the Pie Factory for dinner (this time I was able to get the chicken tikka masala pie which had been out the night before – SO good!) and then back home. We had to pack up since our flight was at 6:05am. It was going to be an early morning for us.