It was a very busy but fun week altogether as we kicked off with a birthday pool party at Crowhurst Park. My 6 year old had been invited and it was extended to myself and my son. It was great hour of splashing around on floats in a sectioned off corner of the pool. In total there were 15 kids and 4 adults in the water and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. May have to save up to do the same for my kids one day! The pool fun was followed by a lunch with cake etc at the birthday boy's home.
was he 9 or 6?
We then high tailed it over to Arundel Castle for a medieval weekend with the Company of St Barbara. I already blogged about this over at Metajugglamum's place... There was a lot of fun living the medieval life in the grounds of an amazing castle.
our camp from the medieval keep
We took a relaxed approach to Tuesday as all the fresh air and late nights at Arundel had worn us out!
On Wednesday we were up early to catch a bus then train to London. I was well prepared with plenty of drinks and snacks plus activities to keep the kids occupied on the nearly 2 hour trip. We arrived safely and sat in Covent Garden watching a street performer whilst waiting for my step-daughter to arrive with her mum:
fab Covent Garden
Once I had all 3 children (ages 12, 6 & 3) we headed for the Underground to get to the Natural History Museum. I had taken a straw poll via Twitter and Facebook on having a buggy with me and on this first stretch it was certainly useful. Covent Garden station has an elevator down to the platform so getting to the train was easy (and I was pleased that the 2 little ones were free on the Tube). We all had to stand but it wasn't too much of a problem and the buggy carried all the bags. South Kensington station was a bit more of a nightmare as I had to carry the buggy up several sets of stairs/escalators. Good job my step daughter kept tight hold of my 3 year old's hand! The underpass to the museums makes for a very safe way to get children safely across London.
The museum itself was very busy so we were directed to the old Geological Museum entrance though the museum is now all combined into one. Near the entrance is a cloakroom where you can leave buggies for free although other bags have to be paid for. Under instruction from my 3 year old son we headed straight to the dinosaurs following the really clear maps that are available at the museum. As it was the holidays the museum had a queuing system to get into the exhibit. Again the snack selection helped to keep kids happy whilst we waited.
the queue for the dino exhibit
Once in to the exhibition itself all three children were fascinated by the models, fossils and facts. They seemed quite content to wait their turn and even complained when a family from overseas jumped the queue! It was worth it for the animatronic T-Rex that was waiting at the end:
Other children found the T Rex quite scary but after seeing Walking with Dinosaurs at the O2 last year it was quite mild for mine! Afterwards there were more dinosaur exhibits and finally the Dino Shop - heaven for a small boy...
The next exhibition was about Human changes and how the body works. My 12 year old step daughter found this one a bit embarrassing after doing sex ed at school. It didn't help that my 6 year old daughter said in a loud voice what part a man's willy played in making babies.... We all liked the hands on section where you could see how parts of the body worked. Some of these bits I can remember from the 1980s but they are still fascinating to today's children.
The girls wanted to see the mineral display so we went up the magnificent staircase to a room with rows and rows of minerals. My son thought this bit wasn't very exciting but the girls were happy to browse for ages especially in the Treasure Chest. Needless to say they both spent their pocket money in the mineral section of the gift shop!
the landing outside the mineral exhibit
We had a quick pit stop in the cafe. Reasonably priced coffee but the kids' cakes and drinks were quite pricey. Then a foray into the insect display which didn't last long as my step daughter is scared of spiders. Our visit was completed with the Earth Sciences section. My son was scared of the earthquake simulator but otherwise we all enjoyed the sections that were open. They are repairing the roof in the main hall so this was closed.
The return trip on the Tube was a bit more fraught as we hit the start of the rush at 4 PM. It was very crowded and the train stopped for quite sometime between stations which was stifling in the heat. This was the point when I nearly regretted having the buggy as I had to ask my step daughter to ensure all the children got out of the train and then almost force my own way through. Luckily we did make it off together.
After handing my step daughter back to her mum we caught the train back home. This saw the end of the last of the picnic! Unfortunately a track side fire caused our train to be held up for about 15 minutes which resulted in us missing the bus home - a 45 minute wait is not ideal after a busy day out.
I thoroughly recommend both Arundel Castle and the Natural History Museum as great places to go for a family day out. Next time I'm taking my daughter to the British Museum on her own.