Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Family Fun on a budget in London with kids

We were in London for a blogging event on Sunday and having spent money on train fares we decided to make a day of it - without spending too many extra pennies!

I like East London, am in my foodie element in Borough Market and like a mooch round Spitalfields but the children love the very centre of London - the hustle and bustle and bright lights are very different to the quiet village we live in.

We started by heading to Leicester Square which is currently undergoing a bit of a makeover. (£17 million's worth!) We were excited to see the new water fountains which jump out of the walkway surrounding the newly restored 19th century Grade II listed fountain featuring Shakespeare.

We sat on the benches and watched them shoot up and down in varying patterns before the children decided to spend ten minutes hurtling round the outside of the fountain. I was sure someone was going to either slip or "accidentally" run into the water spouts.

Luckily everyone stayed upright and dry and I promised them we would come back in warmer weather with spare clothes.

Next on their list of things to do was, as always, a visit to the giant M&M store on the edge of Leicester Square. It's great if you can set and stick to a budget (in our case the budget was £0!) and  there are things to do and see on each floor.

My children love the platform which scans what colour mood you are that day - of course it's just random but they always justify how well the machine has judged their mood.

They also enjoyed the gadget on the top floor which allows you to choose which CCTV images you can view from in the store - if I was braver I would suggest one child heads for one of the areas covered so we could see them but I'm a bit terrified of losing the kids in busy places so they had to content themselves with watching strangers in other areas of the shop.

They always pose with the big M&M characters and on Sunday we were lucky enough to meet the dancing mascots who performed a routine on the stairs. (although it seemed a silly place for them to perform as the stairs were completely clogged with camera-toting tourists throughout!)

After climbing up and down the stairs on the multiple levels we were tired and hungry so we headed for one of my favourite cheap eating places in London. It's not exactly secret but having said that I've never met anyone else who admits to going there!

It's Peter's Snack Bar in the indoor market (Clare Market) in the Piazza off Covent Garden. It's an open sided cafe on one wall inside the market where you can sit at one of the four tables and watch the world ( and a few pigeons) go by.

It's cheap and the guys who run it are friendly and helpful and great with the children. I think they are French but don't hold me to that! You can get meal deal specials like lasagne with chips and a drink for around £6, paninis, jacket potatoes, burgers or do like we did and just order a couple of trays of hot and tasty chips at £2 each and smother them in ketchup.  My husband says the coffee is nice and my daughter loved her hot chocolate.


We had two portions of chips (plenty shared between five of us and the lovely waiter even brought us some paper plates to share them out onto), two coffees, one hot chocolate, a croissant and three Coca Colas for under £20 (pretty good for central London) and left warm, full and happy. Healthier options are available.

On the way back to the tube we stopped and marvelled at some of the living statues.There were entertainers doing longer acts but it was getting cold by then and we were keen to get home.

The tube and the train of course are entertainment in their own rights for younger children although not so amusing when we hit the chaos of Euston on a day when lots of trains were cancelled due to damaged overhead lines somewhere.

But we were home in time for a bit of playtime before bed - I was not long behind the children heading for my duvet!

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