This Easter, as well as ingesting vast amounts of chocolate, we decided to stay at home and do some stuff around London.
First up was our final visit to London Zoo using our annual pass. This year, we’ve visited the zoo four or five times, and seen something new each time. I’m not usually a huge fan of zoos, but they’ve made a real effort to make it fun and informative. It’s on a relatively small site, so doesn’t have many big animals, but instead focuses on getting up close to smaller animals, like the spider monkeys. My only real gripe is the persistence with which they try to separate you from your money. It’s pretty expensive to get in, but they still want you to pay for fairground rides and face painting plus of course the endless merchandising.
Some of our favourites at the zoo include the Gorillas in their lovely new enclosure, the caterpiller shaped, butterfly house and the bug house, where you can stroke giant hissing cockroaches, if you like that kind of thing!
This visit we spent most of our time in the fantastic new children’s zoo, Animal Adventure. They have integrated animals into a small adventure playground, so the children can climb, swing and crawl their way through the exhibits which include porcupines, aardvarks and meerkats. We also spent time with the Gorillas, who we watched swinging around their indoor enclosure and drinking fruit tea out of two litre bottles.
On the same theme, we also visited a flea circus at the Polka Theatre, which was hilarious. According to the publicity material, “These magnificent mini-beasts have performed across the USA, Europe and Ireland amazing people with incredible feats of weight-lifting, trapeze and high-wire.” The ‘Flea Pit’ was in a small converted caravan which contained a stage, two rows of seating and a real harp and harpist. The Ringmaster and his assistant engaged the whole audience and delighted all the children, except Dickon, who kept saying ‘it finished, we go now’. Who knows what he made of it? Definitely a highlight for the rest of us though.
Our final big outing of the Easter weekend, was to Hampton Court, the only Tudor Royal Palace still standing in the UK. The palace is literally brought alive by the actors employed to play the key characters in Hampton Court’s history. This weekend, we were transported back to the day of Henry VIII’s wedding to Katherine Parr (the lucky one who survived him) and were shown around by the controller of the palace household, who was in a flap over all the arrangements. Wherever you walk in the buildings, you come across actors playing historical characters, which really brings the experience alive for children (and adults too!). Everyone is keen to share their knowledge and we learnt all sorts of things about the Tudor period. The picture below shows a notebook, made out of beeswax, which you scratch with a bone pencil.
The highlight of the day for all of us was the working kitchens. About four times a year, volunteers, who are experts in Tudor history, spend the day in period dress, and demonstrate the cooking techniques of the time. This weekend, they were preparing the wedding feast, so the children helped them make marzipan, which was a very expensive luxury in those days, and Eve turned the spit to cook beef for the feast. There are always good activities for children going on, but I’d really recommend visiting when the kitchens are working if you can.
The only member of the family who was a bit young to really enjoy Hampton Court was Dickon, who was fascinated by the giant fire in the kitchen, but otherwise entertained himself with his bus. I guess you can’t please all of the people all of the time!
Despite not all the activities being suitable for toddlers, we had a fun, busy weekend, which made us really appreciate the wonderful city we live in.