A family day out to Tate Modern: #take12trips 

So a few years ago I merrily posted about my intention to join in with Clare from Need Another Holiday‘s #take12trips project. This was when travelling and days out were very much part of our lifestyle, and I thought 12 trips in a year would be easy. Well best laid plans and all that. I had thought I’d sail through pregnancy and we’d have an amazing babymoon somewhere exotic before our lives changed forever. I then spent the first five months with such bad sickness that I couldn’t get out of bed on some days, then managed to get pelvis pain when I finally got over that. So travel took a backseat.

Ironically, last year, even with a small baby, we would have easily hit the target of twelve trips or days out, what with a month away for Will’s sabbatical and five weddings meaning weekend stays in various parts of the country. I was not organised enough to actually blog about it though!

So this year is my #take12trips year, though I feel like I’m jinxing everything saying that. 2017 is looking like it is going to be UK focused again, we already have pencilled in trips to North Norfolk, the Isle of Wight and are attending a wedding where we are glamping for the first time, which I’m very excited about. I’m trying to work out how I can squeeze a trip to Scotland in there as well but I fear that may be unrealistic.

The first part of the year has been about day trips at weekends though. We have finally started to be brave enough to take Felicity into London. I know tens of thousands of Londoners travel around the city everyday with their babies but it still feels like a big thing to me to navigate the train and tube with a buggy/toddler who sometimes hates the buggy. The sling helps but I have to say finding a big enough bag to hold that and all Felicity’s stuff for the day and still have my hands free to stop her running away when she wants to walk is something I haven’t worked out yet. I still haven’t been brave enough to do it with or without the buggy on my own.  

When a friend suggested meeting for a catch up I realised that we could quite easily get to Tate Modern from Kings Cross on the overground or tube and avoid steps. I used the very helpful GoBaby app for this which I’d really recommend if you want to find buggy friendly tube routes. I was also keen to take Felicity to her first gallery – I thought Tate Modern was a good place to start as it always seemed more family friendly than most galleries when I visited pre-children.

First family touristy London picture!
Getting the tube to Blackfriars also meant that we had a mini sight seeing tour – walking past St Paul’s Cathedral and then over the Millenium (wobbly, or Harry Potter Death Eater destruction bridge, depending on your cultural taste and memory), to get fantastic views of the Thames.
It was a rather wet and windy January day  though so we retreated quickly into the Tate. As predicted the huge former power station building, and the changing exhibition space of Turbine Hall, proved a big hit, mainly as some genius parent had  bought a ball to roll up and down the large slope. There were herds of children running after it – Felicity was in her element as she is a big fan of kicking footballs at the moment, and all the open space was brilliant for her to let off steam. I can’t say we really took on much of the current installation at all if I’m honest. I’m sure the artist would have valued the addition of a Peppa Pig ball though (!)

The ball in Turbine Hall

I totally failed to get many pictures in the main section of the gallery, mainly because it took us a little while to figure our the best way to take her into the more traditional gallery space. If you’re thinking of visiting with a toddler I would really recommend a sling, or buggy if they’d be content in that. Unless they’ll hold hands really well the possibility that they will run straight under the protection barriers and dangerously near some probably very valuable sculptures is high, and doesn’t feel very fair to other visitors either. Felicity liked being able to peer out of the sling and was very impressed with this Antony Gormley sculpture and a version of Monet’s waterlillies. She hated Mark Rothko’s work and we had to leave that room very quickly! 

Tate Modern restaurant views
After a little bit of wandering we headed up to meet our friends at the sixth floor restaurant. I would so recommend this for any visitor to London or the South Bank – just look at the views – and it is very family friendly as well with table cloths to colour in and crayons provided for every table, and a good children’s menu. 
A thoroughly lovely way to kick off the year of trips! 

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Visiting the Harry Potter studio tour London with a baby 

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We recently thoroughly enjoyed a trip to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour just outside London. We were celebrating the lovely Jennifer from Pastry & Purls‘ birthday. I had actually visited a good few years ago (I really love Harry Potter), and it was well worth going again. This time was a little different though as we had a small person in tow. I found information beforehand a little bit vague in terms of bringing a baby and facilities for babies, so I wanted to write this post in case anyone else is wondering the same things we were before our visit.

This is going to be an almost exclusively baby focused post – so a little bit obsessed with high chairs and nappy changing facilities, ie the nitty gritty if you’re planning a trip and an overthinker like me! It is such a fun day out though, totally unmissable if you’re a Harry Potter fan. It’s very much the story of how the films were made with the opportunity to see and step inside the sets, see the props and all the other behind the scenes stuff that happens when creating such a complex magical world on screen.

I would also say that if you’re a parent and want to visit then taking them when they’re very little is probably better than waiting til they’re a bit older. Obviously it depends on your child but some of the exhibits could be a little scary for a child who is more aware, also if you haven’t read all the books/ seen all the films spoilers are obviously a major risk so I would want to wait til Felicity has (hopefully) read and enjoyed all the books and watched all the films when she’s quite a bit older before visiting again.

It was definitely a different experience visiting the Harry Potter Studios again with Felicity, but it was still such an enjoyable trip. Babies can be so all consuming it’s good to know it’s still possible to enjoy a day out like this.

We also obviously wanted to show Felicity where she’ll be going to school when her owl arrives in about 11 years time! I also got a little bit emotional again at the end of the tour with this closing message – despite the fact we were about to have a nappy explosion.

Hogwarts will welcome you home

Seems a bit of an anticlimax to go from that to nappy changing facilities – but here we go anyway!

Getting around the tour with a baby

– The website says that you may not be able to bring buggies or prams on the tour, we came armed with slings because of this. From talking to the staff there doesn’t generally seem to be any requirement to leave your stroller in the cloakroom, so don’t let this put you off if you’re planning a visit.

Getting into the tour 

A lot of the information about the tour before you visit is deliberately vague, to save the surprise, so I’m going to try and not give anything important away too!

– The tours have timed entry and because of this there is some queuing to get into the tour as you wait for your slot.
– Most of the ‘tour’ isn’t actually being shown around, rather there is about forty minutes at the start where you are guided round. It starts with an introduction to the Studios, to a short film in a cinema and then into one of the fabulous sets used in the films. Once you’re past this section you can go at your own pace.
– During this forty minutes or so it would be hard to duck out at any point, so be prepared with food/nappy changes first etc.
– If it’s nap time the film in the cinema is quite loud!

Food and drink

– There is a large cafe after you get into the building but before starting your tour, lots of highchairs available and we brought our own food for Felicity.
– The next opportunity to sit down and eat is about two thirds of the way round the studio tour at the Backlot where there is another large cafe and lots of outside seating with an entertaining view. Jennifer had brought us a fantastic picnic  to eat here and again there were lots of high chairs available.
– Due to the way the Studios are laid out it would be quite difficult, though not impossible, to head for this cafe and then double back to previous exhibits, so do bear this in mind when planning your day.
– After this the next opportunity to sit down to eat or drink would be after exiting the tour in the original entrance hall. So stop at the Backlot if in any doubt.

Baby facilities

– There is baby changing in the main entrance hall, at the end of the section on interior sets, and in second part of the tour just by the Backlot cafe. It never feels too far from changing facilities wherever you are, aside from the initial introduction.
– The exception to this is in the last part of the tour, once you’ve left the Backlot if you need to, duck back rather than going on as you have to exit to get to the next nappy changing station.
– There are also incredibly nice changing/feeding rooms off the Backlot cafe. Not often I can feed looking at Harry Potter artwork! (And yes I am that sad that I took a picture)

Baby feeding and changing room Harry Potter Studios London

Happy Harry Pottering! I’d love to know if you find this information helpful or if there is anything I’ve missed out. 

#Take12Trips and The Foundling Museum

I’m very excited about a new series of posts I’m going to write this year, partly because I’ve no idea where they’ll be about yet!

I read about the Take 12 Trips challenge last year over on Clare’s excellent blog Need Another Holiday, and as I’ve now got a blog of my own I couldn’t resist the challenge of taking part in 2015. Even if I did decide to take part rather late!

The point of the challenge is to make time to travel even if you have a full time job, by taking 12 trips in a year. Trips can be anything from a two week holiday to a day trip. It’s all about making the time to see and appreciate this wonderful world of ours – from far-flung destinations abroad to local places you have never made time to visit. This appeals to me in so many ways, I love travelling but I also love home, so don’t necessarily want to give everything up to wander the world. This is the perfect way to make travel a big part of my life alongside everything else I enjoy.

Foundling Museum I’ve already been somewhere new as a result of this challenge. I was meeting some friends in London on Sunday and I decided, rather than just going for lunch and wandering round the shops, that I should live up to the point of the project and do something more exciting. So I suggested visiting one of the slightly off the beaten track London museums for my first trip of the year. So we headed to The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury, an area of London I know well, although I hadn’t been to this museum before.

The Foundling Hospital was set up in the mid eighteenth century by Thomas Coram, to try and do something for the huge numbers of babies that were being abandoned on the streets of London. Children were accepted to the hospital then clothed, fed and educated for a better life.

The museum tells tough stories as a result – women queued up to entrust their babies to the hospital, with a ballot running as there was so much demand, some families would be turned away even after making the decision to put their children in the Foundling Hospital.

Generally only five percent of these children would ever be reunited with their families. When entering the hospital a token was given with each child, so that if the family wanted to take the child back they could describe their token and prove their relationship to the child. The child would never see the token, they would remain in their files, and they were given new names. The display of tokens is one of the most heart rending in the museum, there is everything from pots of rouge to buttons, or metal tokens with carefully carved inscriptions of love.

Tokens

These are absorbing stories that can only be truly appreciated when seeing the reconstructed rooms that mothers would have left their babies in (they seem intimidatingly grand to me), as well as interpretation around the lives of the children.

Committee Room

Interpretation

A key way the hospital made money to function was to set up the first public picture gallery in London, and many of these artworks and galleries can still be seemed today. The link with artists continues as there are a series of modern art installations round the exhibition space – these lines of little white jackets with labels detailing the negative comments children in care have endured, by Care leavers from Westminster and Ealing and artist Emma Middleton, were some of the most powerful.

Installation
Installation detail

Children who have been adopted, fostered or were foundlings have very little voice in the outside world, and this museum helps to redress the balance just a little bit.

If you’re interested in combining the Foundling Museum with a tour of Bloomsbury more generally, I would really recommend UCL’s museums for something else a little off the beaten path. The Charles Dickens museum is also nearby, which I can’t vouch for (another 12 trips visit perhaps?) And finally, there is also the best museum in London (and possibly the world) in the British Museum a few squares over, and I can vouch for how good that is!

If you want to follow along with others taking on the #Take12Trips challenge then check out the Twitter hashtag.