04 September 2014

a do-over, please?

we have only had a few disappointments during our time in london.
missed a train. well, poo. that stinks. oh well. we caught the next one.
got lost. of course. took us longer to get there but we finally arrived.
restaurant closed when we got there. good thing london has thousands of eateries. we ate well at a lovely cafe down the street.

but there was one day that i really wish we could do again.
a do-over. please.

outside the natural history museum
it was a thursday. the london attraction on our agenda was the natural history museum. i was actually looking forward to it. i had done my research. according to the guide books, if you could only visit one museum with kids in london, this was it. even over the british museum and its amazing mummies. the building is historic, the exhibits world class. the royal family had prince george's first year photo shoot there for goodness sake! and best of all, they have dinosaurs. you enter through the main door into a grand hall, flanked by gigantic stone stairways and right down the centre of the hall is a monstrous dinosaur skeleton. a beautiful, ancient thing. our visit was going to be epic.

in hindsight, however, i can see there were four different items that combined to make this the worst museum visit ever.

1. we went in JULY. peak tourist season. what's a great activity for your london agenda? a stroll through the natural history museum. the museum website states that the museum plays host to over 5 million visitors in a year. about half of them were there that thursday.
2. we went on a RAINY DAY. what's a great activity for a rainy day? a stroll through the natural museum. half of london had the same thought.
3. we went in the AFTERNOON. what's a great activity for after lunch? a stroll through the natural history museum. "why don't we work off those fish and chips with a wander through the halls of the natural history museum?" "i say, old chap. now there's a thought!"
and the last reason:
4. we didn't know this at the time but we went on the one day the london teachers decided to go on strike. so, you guessed it. what's a great activity for a forced day off from school? a stroll through the natural history museum.

we waited in the queue that snaked its way out of the main doors almost all the way to the underground station more than a block away. that should have alerted me to the chaos that waited for us inside the building. and chaos it was. i didn't know i suffered from claustrophobic until that day. literally. we were shunted along by a sea of people. we could hardly even look at the exhibits. i was thankful i didn't bring the buggy with me as there was no way i could have manuouvered a stroller through that madness. as it was, samuel was stuck to my back (in the carrier, obviously), crying half the time because he wanted to get down and crawl for a bit. but there wasn't even a small corner of a room where i wasn't worried he would get absorbed into the melee. the phrase wall-to-wall people now has an image attached to it for me.

i had to wait about ten minutes to get a shot that only had MY three kids in it, as opposed to sixteen other kids as well.

not sure what it is about platypus, but they love them!
we did our best to make it fun for the kids, to see the things that interested them. we picked up two rucksacks (that had just been turned in by other kids) that had kid appropriate maps and activities and explorer hats (lucy is wearing one in the top photo). elijah got to see a platypus - a definite highlight. another must-see bit was the escalator that took us up through the centre of the earth. quite exciting for the littles. and even though i was hyperventilating slightly while we were pushed along by the crowds, the kids really did enjoy seeing the amazing dinosaur skeletons and the very life-like tyrannosaurus model.     

so. in all honesty, the visit wasn't THAT terrible. the kids enjoyed themselves, even if we denied them a trip to the gift shop. (another queue just to get into the shop? no thank you.) but i would jump at the chance to go again. as long as it's on a day that the other half of london doesn't decide to go as well.

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