London calling

The flight from Tokyo to London, via Abu Dhabi, was almost exactly as long, dull and soul-sucking as you might imagine.  And that’s not because we were flying with a kid.  Georgia is over-the-top good on airplanes and she totally rocked this long flight!  We’re so lucky.

We arrived in grey, drizzly, amazing, fantastic England just as smelly, tired and brain-dead as you’d expect a trio who has been inside a tin can for 24 hours to be.  Our dear friend Gill picked us up from Heathrow Airport and brought us back to Winchester, Hampshire where Andy and I used to live and where we’d be staying for most of our time in the UK.

In addition to staying in Winchester with our friends, I’d also booked a side trip for the three of us to stay in a sweet little apartment in Kensington in London. London! At Christmas! Sparkling lights! Rosy-cheeked Santas! Warming glasses of mulled wine in cosy pubs!  What could go wrong??!

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Um. Georgia got sick.  Like, we ended up in the Emergency Department.  Her fever was spiking in a scary way and I was freaking out.  She got a clean bill of health from the incredible doctors at the NHS and we had to decide whether to go ahead with our days in London, or stay in Winchester.  In the end, we decided she could recover on a couch in an apartment in London just as easily as in Winchester and if we went on to London we’d be able to take advantage of the city if she started feeling better.

Which she did.  Kids are amazing.  She was certainly more tired than usual, so we ended up wearing her in the Ergo on our backs for most of the week, but that’s fine!  I was just so pleased that she perked up and we managed to get out and explore one of my very favourite cities.

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We had shockingly great weather during our stay, so we spent ages just wandering around and checking out all the great Christmas decorations.  London does Christmas so beautifully.  Each street is decked out with shimmering lights, the shop windows are full of tempting gifts and pubs are packed with jolly patrons sipping holiday-themed ales and aromatic mulled wines.  Once Georgia was feeling better we even went to Hamley’s, the 7 floor toy store of doom, and braved the crowds to let her slowly examine each and every toy on display.

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Was our time in London the Magical Holiday Twinkle Fest that I’d hoped for?  No. Not even close.  But, we were together.  We were healthy. And Georgia got to take a picture in front of “the Queen’s house.” Long term family travel doesn’t always look the way you thought it would, but with a family as gorgeously sweet as mine, who cares?

Japan with kids

I know. It seems daunting. Japan is far away and the language is hard and what if your kid won’t eat sushi? But, please. Ignore all these reasons. Bring your kids to Japan. There is so so much to see, to do, to eat, to explore. Here are our top things to do with kids in Japan. If you bring your family and try any of these, let us know what you think. And if you have other tips for kids, let me know. Because we are definitely going back.

  1. Kids Plaza Osaka- This multi-storey kids play centre has a bit of everything! There are instruments to play, climbing frames, a pretend restaurant where your little chef can make you sushi. It can be loud and a bit overwhelming when it’s crowded, but our sensitive girl had a blast!
    (www.kidsplaza.or.jp/en/)
  2. Osaka Kitchen Cooking Classes- I know I said this list was in no particular order, but this was probably the best thing we did with our daughter on our trip to Japan. The cooking classes are run by Yoko, who opens her home to teach people how to cook specialities from Osaka. Yoko made the whole lesson so engaging and fun for our girl.  It was a brilliant afternoon.
    (www.osakakitchen.net)
    Tokyowithkids9
  3. The grounds of Osaka Castle- Save yourself the time. Just see Osaka Castle from the outside. We went inside and, as much as I would have loved spending hours reading all the plaques and history, it was pretty dull for our girl and we ended up rushing through. But, outside is wonderful! Pathways through the manicured grounds, a mini-train, ice cream vendors, street musicians, what more could a kid want? We spent ages playing on the paths and gardens.
    (www.osakacastle.net/english/park)
    Tokyowithkids8
  4. Kurama Village, Kyoto- Take the slow train up to this tiny village and get ready for tons of fun exploring the mountain. We brought a picnic lunch, took the gondola half way up the mountain, stopped to eat, then continued on foot to the top. The views at the top are beautiful and the shrines are lovely, but it was actually the walk back down the mountain that we liked best. There were little streams and ponds, picturesque bridges, trails just right for running and collecting sticks and rocks. Great fun!
    (www.insidekyoto.com/kurama-and-kibune)
  5. National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo- There is a great kids play area in the museum. We also enjoyed the IMAX-like movie at the beginning of the museum, but, for little ones, the play area is the real draw. A huge jungle gym, a craft area, a science area and a little library made it hard to leave after our 45 min session was up!
    (www.kahaku.go.jp/english/)
    Tokyowithkids2
  6. Cat cafe- This one is kid dependent. If you have super hyper kids who love to pull the tails of kittens, skip the cat cafes. But if you, like me, have a kid who desperately wants a pet of their very own, a cat cafe could be great fun. We went to the Bengal Cat Forest in Harajuku, but I can’t find a website for the cafe. A weird tip, most people go to the cat cafes just to snuggle the cats, but the animals really want to play! Georgia brought a little blue plastic Slinky that she’d been given as part of a kids meal and the cats were obsessed. They loved her and she got way more “cat attention” than the people there just for a snuggle.
    Tokyowithkids1
  7. Edo-Tokyo Museum- Tons of interesting miniatures that show what life was like in Tokyo throughout history. Our girl is a bit too young to be interested in the history part for long, but there were also cool exhibits that let her run a sushi cart, dance in a kabuki theatre, go in a traditional Japanese house and pretend to be a rickshaw driver.
    (www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp/english/)
  8. Tokyo Toy Museum in Shinjuku- More a play space than a real museum, the toy museum is in an old school building and has crafts and toys laid out on each floor.  There is a soft play area for younger kids, a climbing area for more adventurous kids and lots and lots of hands on toys and games.
    (www.goodtoy.org/ttm/)

So… GO!!! Have a blast!