This year, being our first Christmas in Europe and me being about 5 months pregnant, we wanted to do something special for just the three of us. We decided to have “Christmas in London” like the true Whovians that we are. Lets start in Cardiff. The planning stage was a little frustrating; mainly because we choose a travel agent from back home and not a local one, or even doing it ourselves. Bad expat!
Getting to and from the airport was an adventure of its own. With two large suitcases, a cot, carry-on piece and a stroller, we decided to take a taxi instead of navigating the transit system. This became a better idea when it started to rain as the taxi pulled into the driveway. Nothing worse than a wet baby before a 4 hour adventure. Much to our pleasure, munchkin fell asleep on the way and stayed that way until we were ready to board the plane; 3 hours of quiet contemplation never felt so good.
Another taxi took us from the Cardiff airport to the hotel; Europe does not have laws that require children to be in car seats while in a taxi. I’m not too happy about this but we didn’t bring ours so I can’t do much about it now.
As we check into the hotel, the clerk takes our travel vouchers (given to us by the travel agent, proof of payment) and “reminds” us that the hotel is closed at 11 am Dec 23, therefore we must complete our checkout by that time, and concierge service will not be available that day. WTF. My train leaves Dec 23 at 645 pm and the train station does not have lockers. We checked the visitors centre and their lockers are for book bags and purses, not suitcases. Oh joy, a problem and we haven’t even checked-in yet. We emailed the travel agent to figure it out for us and went to bed; it was near midnight.
Points of Interest| Doctor Who/Market
Because we went to bed so late, the munchkin had to wake up nice and early, it’s just the rules. Breakfast was included in our hotel stay so we took our time caffeinating before heading out into the windy, rainy mist that was Cardiff. We decided we needed a nice break from reality, so we did the Doctor Who Experience first thing. The Café opened at 930 am and the first tour wasn’t until 10 am. Since we were such keeners, we arrived at 905 am after walking 30 minutes from the hotel…time to explore the surroundings. Doctor Who experience was amazing! The front entrance had been decorated for Christmas; including figures from previous Christmas specials. We woke up sleepy head, parked the stroller in the cloak room and got rid of our jackets; this last part would be regretted shortly – it was cold throughout the experience. There was an interactive portion at the beginning where no one was allowed to take pictures/videos. Basically, Peter Capaldi called us all stupid and called the tour guide “girl/boy” because they were wearing a ceremonial Gallifryaen robe. The museum was next, full of costumes and alien figures, set pieces from previous seasons. The shop wasn’t as amazing as I expected it to be, but there really is only so much I can fit into my suitcase and this is only Day 1 of 14. Hubby’s ticket was a merchandise package so he received a bunch of free stuff, I bought the regular ticket so I grabbed a shirt, and munchkin was free.
Also see; Travel Toddler bag
My little man is too sweet on his mommy; he demanded on buying a rubber bracelet; it was blue and rubbery so he had to have it. It was only a few pounds sterling so I didn’t mind. I pay for it, take off the tag and hand it back to him; he gives it back and says it was for me the whole time. He melts my heart.
Mermaid quay was a little odd to go through and the rain was getting pretty cold so we headed back to centre town. We went to the mall and local Christmas market before realizing that the castle was not far. It was closed by the time we figured this out so we decided to try again the next morning. We did, however, run around looking for a reliable SIM card for our cell phones.
Cardiff Castle was amazing. Munchkin loves his castles so he was pretty excited to be going to this one. He ran around the grounds, chasing daddy while I bought tickets and figured out where we could park the stroller for the exhibits without access. Since he was getting sleepy (little bugger got up nice and early just to have an early morning nap), we did the no-stroller access exhibits first. The Keep was very high, the stairs were steep and now they were mucky from more rain so munchkin held on to daddy for dear life and I held the railing like my life depended on it. The royal apartments were next, we managed to race through this section rather fast since munchkin wanted to touch everything and walk faster than we could read the information plaques. Again, just as planned, someone fell asleep as soon as he was placed back into the stroller and we were able to visit the bomb-shelter in peace.
As seen on; Best Castles in Europe
At the end of the self-guided tour, there is a nice Cafe/souvenir shop. This was the perfect place to relax and warm up. This was also the holding area for those guests waiting to see Santa. Around here, Santa is by reservation only, and he gives everyone a gift if mom and dad paid the fee upon booking.
Apparently the National Museum is closed on Monday’s, so we didn’t get to visit inside. In their green space was a wonderful “Winter Wonderland” Christmas market. Surprisingly, it reminded us of traditional German markets; then again, most Christmas traditions did come to England via the King and his Germany ancestry. The rides were not cheap but they were fun and got munchkin nice and worn out for bed time. At this age, any nap longer than 1 hour can have a horrible effect on the ability to fall asleep at a decent hour in the evening. We made it our mission to go to sleep at the same time as him, in fear of waking at 5 am. This turned out to be a wonderful idea because the next three mornings began before 6 am.
Also see; Kids travel books – London
In case you were wondering about the luggage situation, after much research and little insight from the travel agent or the supplier that recommended the hotel in the first place, we found the visitors centre would rent us a closet for 50 pounds sterling, and the cost to upgrade our train tickets for before 11 am was the same price. We decided that we didn’t want to arrive in London after dark and deal with a crusty monster on the 2.5 hour train ride, we would forgo the museum of Cardiff and just leave town early. Monster slept the whole way and even transferred into his stroller like a champ. Our new hotel allowed us to leave our luggage behind while the room was being prepared and we went on our way to exploring London a half day early.
For more information on the gear we wear during cold-weather vacations, check out a recent post on the Proper Gear to wear in a European Winter.
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