London vacation: unexpected joys

Not everyone in my family likes to plan their vacations the same way. We have both people who make list months in advance and like to know what they’re doing every moment, and folks who are less structured.  My favorite vacations are the ones that included well-laid plans AND unexpected delights.

We managed to hit many of the sites on our lists, and we missed a few. (National Gallery and Westminster Palace: I’ll see you next time.)  But we also received gifts of completely unanticipated fun.

In the Heights.  We bought tickets for this show (one of our favorites) months ago, and then, because the London run is being extended they closed the show early to rehearse a new cast.  Our night was one of the canceled ones, but they gave us an option to change our tickets for the closing night.  We almost didn’t, because if the show ran at all late, we’d be left without Tube/bus to get back to our house. After hemming and hawing, we managed to get 5 tickets instead of our previous 8.  And I’m so glad we did, because after the producer got up to thank everyone for making the production a success, he introduced Lin-Manuel Miranda who got up and gave a speech.

And yes, I instantly turned from ordinary, middle-aged theater-goer into Raving Superfan. In fact, everyone in the entire theater did. I can’t figure out how to upload my videos of his wonderful talk (about home and identity, the themes of this fantastic, energetic show), but I have this really grainy fan photo. And I’ll try not to talk about it (much) the next time we get together. You’re welcome.


We were in London for two Sundays and worshiped twice at Westminster Abbey. Obviously, it’s an amazing setting, and the choir sang beautifully, but the best part was partaking in the shared liturgy. The lectionary readings took up right where our church had left off the previous week, and the service- straight out of the Book of Common Prayer- was so entirely familiar to the kids, I think none of them thought twice about our being in England. That moment of commonality, of home, was a treasure.


Our final Sunday, we planned to meet my parents for tea after church . However, all the streets around Trafalgar Square were blocked off for the Tour of Britain bike race.

Had I had this handy map at the time, I would have stayed west of the southern spoke of the race, but instead we walked the east side of Whitehall and then had to cross the route eight hundred times (more or less) to get to Fortnum and Mason’s on Piccadilly. (No, that wasn’t the awesome part.) An hour and a half later, when we finally made it to Piccadilly by crossing the route at every Tube station we could find, the road was blocked to all but foot traffic, and we had a great time messing around in the middle of the road, making slo-mo videos a la Michael Bay’s Apocalypse.


Don’t judge.


Of course, tea with grandparents and crazy ice cream sundaes was awesome, and any day in a bookstore is a good day, but the unstructured nature of that day was extra special.


Do you have a favorite moment of unexpected fun on a recent vacation? Please share in the comments!

5 thoughts on “London vacation: unexpected joys

  1. How did the girls’ hair stay so cute after all that traipsing?

    Last Sunday we packed a picnic lunch for after church, then drove into Providence to visit the RISD art museum when it was free. We took some extra Jr High kids along, and I thought I was crazy for asking Mom and Dan to do this because they had work on Monday and Ben had college, but we all loved it. Even when we drove around for 20 min looking for parking and accidentally turned onto a one way street, and nearly wound up on the highway because a river and bay cut Providence in sections and there are no right angles to the streets. But there was a Pow Wow at the Roger Williams memorial, and the drumming was an acoustic navigation aid. We wound up parked on Benefit street with lots of lovely colonial houses and cute itty bitty urban container gardens. The museum was refreshing too. Even if I did forgot my speech about why artists like to depict naked people so much.

    How awesome that you got to hear Lin-Manuel Miranda, was Sam stoked too? Someday I will see you guys in person again, and I want to hear all about it!

    I am Number 1 on the library list for getting the new Connie Willis book when it gets processed, but I may have to buy it if they make me wait too long – and it will be all your fault for telling us about her books in the first place – but somehow I doubt that will make you blush.


    • I love that- “aucoustic navigation aid”. And I love finding surprise garden beauty. Sounds like a great detour!
      Sam was equally stoked… but what was hilarious is that he was sitting in front of Sam and we didn’t even recognize him until he stood up to talk after the show. (So glad to share the Connie Willis joy!)


  2. I just got caught up with your London posts — what a blast you had! I’m missing that city now. And it is inspiring to hear your account, as it is completely different from our trip, which I think is partially due to the fact that my kids are younger than yours (at least, the mean age is lower). I am in awe of your solo trip to Kew!

    Recently, my younger daughter reminisced about a vacation during which our car broke down. We had to stop on the highway outside Milwaukee, where I left my husband to get the car towed and find a rental while I ushered our young ones to a safe place. “That was awesome!” she said. When asked what she liked about it, she reminded me, “We got to go to Dunkin’ Donuts and they gave us a free donut!” And that is true — the proprietor took pity on us after hearing our story. Small pleasures! 🙂


  3. Pingback: London Vacation: the boys’ favorites | Learning As We Go

I love reading your comments! Thanks for visiting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s