Monday, 15 March 2010

London weekend

I'm going to put lots of detail in, hopefully this will help other Guiding units who want to do similar things.


We went down on the train first thing, meeting up with our Senior Section in London.

On the underground, we got a group day ticket - all six zones for £3.70 an adult and £1 a girl for all day travel. It's a bargain, but not well-known. You can only get it at a ticket counter, not at machines, so you do have to queue but worth it. You need 10 people minimum to be a group.

We went to Girlguiding HQ. On the way, we met some Brownies going to the London Eye and the Aquarium, and a lady going to Guiding HQ for a finance meeting so we were already making friends!

At Girlguiding HQ, we were able to put our bags into lockers and headed to Buckingham Palace for Changing of the Guard. We'd applied through ICANDO at Girlguiding HQ, it was really easy, all sorted by email!

Changing of the Guard was cool, we met Rainbows from Reigate also doing it, and outside the gates were lots of Rainbows from Derbyshire. There were so many Rainbows because ICANDO was running Rainbow Princess parties, there were lots of them with face paints, and fairy costumes over their Rainbow uniforms, and apparently there was a horse-drawn carriage that took the little princesses round the block!

There's a pic of one of the guards from Changing of the Guard on my previous post, holding one of our centenary ducks, just little ducks we tried to get into lots of silly little pictures.

Then we went back to HQ to get our bags, visit the shop and eat lunch. After that, we walked to Downing Street. To get down there, you can either write to your MP and get her/him to arrange it or write to Downing Street direct. You need ID for the adults and there is really strict airport style security but it was well worth it for 20 minutes outside number 10 taking pics and asking questions.

After that, we walked to the Houses of Parliament for a pic of Big Ben. We intended to get the tube to Victoria but Westminster station was closed so we walked it, the girls did have to rest: outside New Scotland Yard!

We got the train out to Crystal Palace next. Contrary to what I had been told by another Guiding group, the underground ticket doesn't cover this part of the trip as it is an overland trip. But it's inexpensive, £7.50 return for 1 adult and 4 kids with a Family Railcard.

We had a good wander round Crystal Palace park to find the Centenary maze, it's not well signposted. But we did bump into another Brownie there with her dad and he directed us, and it did mean the girls could get an ice cream on the way. At the maze, we found 50 Guides from one district (forgot to ask where, oops!) but they were just leaving so our girls were more or less alone there.

We headed back, after a toilet and coffee stop, into London city again and headed for our home for the night, Baden Powell House. Amazingly, there were no other Scout or Guide groups there when we were there, not visibly anyway! There was an enormous 90 strong group of Italians, and a load from a theatre company, but we were the only ones in uniform there that I saw.

We distributed the girls into their rooms, got them to unpack and make their beds, then we headed out about 7:30 for dinner. We were meant to go to Pizza Hut in Kensington High Street but they gave away our table! There was another Brownie group there, but they were finishing up, so they didn't take it, but it was really annoying, it had been hard enough to book in the first place: our request for a table of 6 was accepted online but the request for a table of 14 was ignored, I rang up and they said they couldn't take bookings for 14 but we could turn up and it would be fine about that time and they would know we were coming - all that meant nothing at all, including the table that HAD been confirmed. Not much point in having an online booking system if you are not going to honour the table you did confirm, and if you just ignore other requests not even bothering to email and say no.

With 20 of us, we were then a bit stuck for getting in somewhere else but the brilliant staff at Strada came to our rescue and opened up their upstairs room just for us! When we walked past, we'd seen a few tables around the room downstairs and thought if we split up they might squeeze us in, but instead they opened a whole level. Among the 20 of us, we ordered 17 pizzas, and the staff were so apologetic that the leaders had to wait but hey, how big can a pizza oven be?We were so grateful they fit us in, and the food was very tasty, way nicer than Pizza Hut would have been I am sure. We even managed (just!) to bring the meal in within budget. They deserve the praise completely, they were patient, helpful and just brilliant all round.

A nighttime walk back to the hostel and we were back at 10:20. I had the girls be changed by 10:30 and lights out at 10:40. And despite what any of them may tell you, because we would have heard them, they were all fast asleep within minutes.


We woke up at 6 - it was light, and the curtains didn't totally cover the window! It was ok though, meant that by the time everyone was up, washed, dressed and the beds stripped, we were able to get breakfast at 7:30 and be on our way by just after 8:20.

We headed for the London Eye and saw the 4D film there - it's great, the girls reacted to everything (I'll say no more but it is well worth it, and it is included in the price of the ticket).
After the movie, we joined the queue and ended up getting fast-tracked to the front and a capsule to ourselves, something you usually pay double for! The view of London was terrific and we were able to spot nearly everywhere we went the day before. We bought the tickets through the website, only 13 of us were going on the Eye and the group discount needs 15 so the 10% off for online booking was the best deal for us.

After that, it was time for the surprise, which we hadn't told the girls in case we ran out of time. We headed for Kings Cross and found Platform 9 3/4, where Harry Potter catches the train to Hogwarts. There is a sign for the platform there, and a luggage trolley halfway through the wall. We all posed for a pic trying to get through the wall, then headed off for lunch - a Burger King and a Krispy Kreme each (including veggie options for the vegan!).

All that was left now was to catch the train home, but first we bumped into a family from Canada with two girls who are Guides there, the one that is about to become a Pathfinder posed with us and I am going to email her mum the picture. After that, we headed for the train, we were on Virgin and I managed to snag the girls a Virgin train kit each as well as a last bonus, as well as handing out a Baden Powell House badge and a Centenary Maze badge each.

They went home exhausted but happy - as did the leaders!


alison said...

Wow, what a weekend. I am v. v. envious. I would love to spend a weekend in London and do all that.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like an amazing week end.

I have a picture of my daughter at platform 9 3/4. We did not know it was there until we got off a train at the station and saw the sign. She was very excited (It was a few years ago when HP was still a big deal).

Also was it not the London Eyes 10th birthday this past week end. Not quite 100 but still a landmark for a temporary structure.

Well done for yet again providing a fantastic opportunity for the girls you nurture.


Working Mum said...

Yay for Strada! That's really good publicity for them because it would make me go there in the future.

Sounds like you had an exciting and fun weekend.

Kelloggsville said...

Fantastic - a mountain top moment for every girl - very VERY well done xxxxx

Blue Wellies said...

This sounds fantastic - was it expensive?

Blue Wellies said...

Hi Jen
thanks for your reply all that time ago - if you ever look at my blog you will see it's very hit and miss if I get to write one!!
As a mountain top moment your girls will have a fantastic one to recount when they are older. Maybe one day I can persuade my leaders to do it as well!!!

Kelloggsville said...

Jen, thinking about doing this...would you stay at BP house again and how did you find the journey out to Crystal Palace?

Blue Wellies said...

Hi Jen,
you kindly gave me lots of information a while ago about this weekend. I have now persuaded the leaders in my pack to give it a go as well!
Are you able to give me the name of the Brownie Holiday Advisor to send the sleepover consent form to as I have no idea where to start looking!

Blue Wellies said...

Hi Jen
we are going in a few weeks time and I was wondering about the level of how smart is smart for the changing of the guard?
Would we get away with 3/4 length trousers and dark trainers or does it have to be a skirt/trousers and shoes?

Jen said...

Dark trainers would be ok, I had those on and got away with it. 3/4 length trousers, not so sure. Most of us Guiders had dark navy/black jeans on and got away with those but 3/4 length trousers is kind of more obvious that you are not sticking to the smart dress code, if you know what I mean?

Have fun - full report on the blog?

Michelloui said...

Wow, busy busy busy BUSY weekend! How frustrating for you to have to table taken away from you, but as another commentor said, what great PR for Strada!

PS: I LOVE that you found Platform 9 3/4!

Stephanie Kemp said...

Wow. What a weekend. All that for £70 os truly amazing.

Stephanie Kemp said...

Fabulous weekend. Amazing what you did for that price

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