23 October 2013

The Original Tour - how to see London with kids

When we knew we were coming to England, a visit to London to show the kids this world-class city was at the top of our priorities. But we also knew we couldn't drag them all over London and expect them to keep up with all the walking required, especially our four year-old. Then we remembered back to my first initiation into London some 14 years ago. The first thing I did when I arrived was a open-top bus tour and we knew this would be the best way for us to see the city this time round too.

The Original Tour has been around in different guises for over 60 years and has transported millions of visitors around this great city over the years. These days the tour operates three main routes with live guided commentaries supplemented by audio commentaries in 8 different languages, as well as a Kids Club channel and kids packs to keep young ones entertained and engaged throughout the journey. If you take the tour in winter like we did, your tickets are valid for two days travel rather than just one, and every ticket includes a free river cruise and walking tours as well.

The Original Tour bus crossing the Thames

Up close with The Original Tour bus

The day we took the tour, it started out pretty soggy but this didn't stop us one little bit. The great design of the buses means that upstairs half the bus is covered in so that you can still get great views without getting drenched - although if you're feeling hardy you can just brave the rain like some keen people were at the back of the bus.

Our own personal route took us from Trafalgar Square through to St Pauls Cathedral where a coffee stop at a gorgeous organic bakery and a quick dash into Sports Direct for some warm hats were the first order of the day.

St Pauls - first stop off on The Original Tour

The columns of St Pauls cathedral, London

We enjoyed the views from the outside of the cathedral before hopping back on the bus until we reached Tower Bridge and the Tower. The rain was really falling now - if all the hoods up and wet ground aren't enough of a giveaway - you can also tell by the spots of rain on the lens - but we couldn't come to London and not walk on the bridge!

Tower Bridge on a rainy day

Standng in the rain on Tower Bridge

The Tower of London and Tower Bridge

One of the things I loved about taking The Original Tour was the fact we never had to wait for a bus the whole day despite hopping on and off numerous times. Each time we made the decision to get back on the bus and one would literally appear in front of us - this was such a help in the pouring rain.

Changing of the Guard Buckingham Palace

After managing to get some seats upstairs on the bus just out of the rain we stayed on the bus right around to Buckingham Palace - and fortuitously caught the end of the famous Changing the Guard. Our timing couldn't have been better and the rain stopped briefly which was also a bonus.

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

We found a quaint little Italian cafe around the corner for lunch and then decided as the rain came bucketing down again that it was a perfect time to take advantage of the free river cruise from Westminster Pier to Tower Bridge pier.

A rainy view of the London Eye from the Thames river boat

I found that standing in the gangway which was outside but still under cover was a great vantage point to capture some of the iconic London shots that had eluded us thus far.

The famous OXO tower, London

We cruised right past the OXO Tower which holds very special memories for Mark and I as we were shouted a meal here by my boss back in the days when we were living in London in the early 2000's - the most expensive meal out we'd ever eaten in those days!

It amazed me to see how much the London skyline had changed in the past ten or so years, with The Shard that can be viewed from much of central London, and the Millennium and Golden Jubilee footbridges have also added a unique view from the water.

Under the Millenium Bridge London

The Shard and cube architecture, London

Though I still don't think you can beat the classic view of Tower Bridge in all her glory - standing as she has for 120 years so proudly over the Thames.

Tower Bridge from the Thames

Arriving at the Tower on the river cruise by water gives a truly unique view and gave us some idea of how it might have felt for Anne Boleyn to arrive on her fateful journey all those hundreds of years ago.

Another must-see for us were the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus - you can just see one of our Original Tour buses just passing in front of the big screen.

I loved the reflections of the Coke and TDK symbols on the wet ground beneath.

Piccadilly Circus reflected in the rain

We'd almost had enough of the rain by this point so sought solace in M&M's World which ended up being for the better part of an hour. But wouldn't you know it - as we came out the rain had stopped and the sun was shining!

We were determined to make the most of every minute of the day and so hopped straight back on the bus for another hour or so seeing a whole other side of London in the late afternoon sunshine.

Wet seats were no problem. We just wiped them down and sat on our jackets until they dried out. There was no way we were missing out on the opportunity to see London looking like this.

A ride on The Original Tour bus

Our journey took us back through the exclusive hotel district, passing the Ritz and Marble Arch with Hyde Park beckoning just beyond.

Mark was absolutely incredulous to see a Bugatti Veyron parked outside The Dorchester hotel as we drove past - this 1 million pound super car even made it into The Daily Mail news that day.

Bugatti Veyron parked outside The Dorchester in London

And the rest of the afternoon slipped slowly away with the sun dipping behind the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben to end our journey.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament silhouette

If you are planning on being a tourist in London, an open-top bus tour is a must-do to begin your time here. It gives the traveller such a rich flavour of the layout, history and individual sights of the city that you are armed with a wealth of information to make your own choices about how you can then spend time seeing places of interest in more depth.

This is a sponsored post. We received complimentary admission tickets to The Original Tour for our family in exchange for a review of our experience, however the opinions and thoughts expressed are entirely our own.

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