Three Phenomenal Days & Nights in London
London is a difficult nut to crack – at least it has been for me. It took a while for me to go beyond the typical tourist activities: a day trip to the British Museum, lunch at an Indian restaurant, shopping at Harrods, dinner at a pub. This last trip, I felt like we had a vastly different experience, more targeted and more elevated. We had some extremely touristy activities on the agenda, but we also did things we felt were a little off the tourist path.
We definitely had some pro-Josephine plans. For example, we went to the science museum to show her a replica of Apollo 11. She now thinks the Brits landed first on the moon. Okay, so we have a little reteaching to do… But she absolutely loved seeing the spacesuits and peering at a moon rock. I think it’s a little funny that the space section took up so much of our time when the giant replica of James Watt’s attic workshop reveals more aptly the impact British scientists had on modern technology. I’m not sure how enthused Josephine was about the clunky ladders and giant screws, but I feel like a person’s love of science grows exponentially greater when you contemplate how far we’ve come, how ingenious and insightful human beings are. The science museum in London is excellent for sparking those conversations and reflections.
In addition, we went to the Victoria & Albert Museum, which I cannot recommend enough. The only problem with the V&A is how massive it is. After multiple visits, I still haven’t visited the majority of the galleries, probably because I always have to return to the ones I’ve seen before. I’m passionate about the 1500-1760 gallery upstairs, which showcases the effect of the Renaissance on Britain. The halls highlight the intricate craftsmanship of that time — the teeny tiny miniature paintings, the ornate weapons, lockets, furniture, instruments, and more. My father and I loved showing Josephine the tapestries and the parquetry, the portraits of Henry VII and Elizabeth I, etc. And she loved the interactive parts of the museum, like the chance to try on a ruff collar or a metal gauntlet. It’s so well done, and people of any generation can find something to marvel at.
Something else we did on this trip, which we’d never done before, was to go see a panto in the West End. I didn’t even know what a panto was when I saw the ad for a production of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Palladium. Marco, my assistant, knew what it was and gave me a little background, telling me we’d get cues for audience participation, which I thought Josephine would enjoy. However, my mom was dreading it. She’s a huge musical theatre snob. My dad was indifferent. Jamil and I thought it would be a kiddie show. Nothing special, but something we could all do to entertain Josephine. None of us could have predicted how outrageous and fabulous the show would be. This was the bawdiest production I’ve ever seen. It was downright dirty, actually, but because of the double entendre, the kids never caught the drift. They were simply mesmerized by the costumes, the sets, and the special effects. I’ve never seen anything like it. I have no idea how much they spent to put this show on, but it was totally an event. You should definitely check out a panto at the Palladium the next time you’re there, and don’t feel weird taking the kids. They’ll have the time of their lives and believe they’re watching a fairy tale. Afterwards, go for dinner at the Ivy in Covent Garden. It’s open late, and the British food had us all reeling. Josephine loved the fish and chips — a solid way to introduce kids to that staple!
Author: Jessica Givens