My Little Duke

12 magical hours in London

Travel, Motherhood, BloggingSteph DukeComment

This week Phoebe, my mum and I took a whirlwind trip to London. A few weeks beforehand, we had been invited to take part in a campaign for VTech’s latest toy release: Myla the Magical Make-up Unicorn. The campaign included an exciting workshop in the Unicorn Theatre in London for Phoebe to enjoy and she would also receive her very own Myla. I remember instantly checking flights to see if I could get any cheap enough (and within the budget of our payment for doing the advertisement.) When I did, the decision was easy! I checked if mum fancied coming along and we booked the flights soon after. It would be an early flight and a long day for Phoebe but I was hopeful that she could manage. The excitement of the travel and the theatre would hopefully distract her from feeling too tired.

As the day approached, I made sure that we had a plan of action! Phoebe’s slot at the theatre was at 10am-12noon so we needed to be off the plane and onto the train from Stansted fairly sharpish! Our morning flight was from Belfast International at 6.05am and we landed in Stansted ahead of schedule. The buggy arrived off the plane quickly too and we were able to hot-foot it down to catch the 7.41am Stansted Express train into London. Phoebe coped brilliantly with the early start. I’d prepped her in advance that Mummy would come in and wake her in the middle of the night and we would travel to the airport in the dark! As soon as I woke her (with bated breath at 3.30am in case she started roaring), she peeped out of the window to check if it was dark, and the excitement on her face was confirmation that I’d made the right decision to go!

 Sleepy eyes but smiling and ready for take-off!

Sleepy eyes but smiling and ready for take-off!

There were a few hairy moments at the airport as we waited to find out our gate for boarding … Phoebe just doesn’t have any patience! But thankfully with some persuasion and a new sticker magazine, she avoided meltdown! The Easyjet flight was less than an hour and all on time. I’d pre-booked our Stansted Express tickets and kept them in my handy wallet on my iPhone - we only needed tickets for mum and I, Phoebe was free. Hooray! I remember sitting on the train as we travelled into London and feeling so thankful for this experience. Phoebe munched on a croissant while cuddled in next to me as I read a story out of her magazine. So far, she had coped better than I anticipated and her excitement was growing by the minute to go and get her unicorn!

 A snapshot from a sweet little video my mum took (see full vid and more on my  insta-stories/highlights )

A snapshot from a sweet little video my mum took (see full vid and more on my insta-stories/highlights)

The train journey took just over an hour and then we were at Liverpool- Street Station. Armed with Google Maps in one hand and a Krispy Kreme donut in the other, we exited the station and onto the streets of London. It was busy, very busy - lots of people making their way into work. But we managed fine with the buggy and nipped into a Pret-A-Manger (they are everywhere!) next to the theatre to freshen up and change. So far, so good.

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We arrived early to the Unicorn Theatre and were greeted by a lovely girl who directed us to where we needed to be. It was an absolute joy to watch Phoebe for the two hours that followed. Moments like those are moments that I will remember. She was captivated from start to finish. 

 Unicorn Theatre, Tooley St. London.

Unicorn Theatre, Tooley St. London.

Phoebe was treated to unicorn-styled hair, complete with pink spray and lots of glitter! She had no idea what on earth was going on at the start, but she soon settled in, began to relax and get her confidence. The girls did an amazing job on all the kiddo's hair ... I was quite envious until Phoebe suggested I get mine done too! I obliged but suggested to the girl that I'd have to walk around London AND get a flight with whatever style she created ... needless to say there was no colour, but two lovely little braids to match Phoebe. She was so chuffed!! 

 Phoebe's awesome hair!

Phoebe's awesome hair!

Next up was creating some magical unicorn glitter spray, having fun with gooey slime and making a cute little unicorn pot to bring home. Phoebe loves crafts and really enjoyed getting creative with decorating her spray. She wasn't so keen to get her hands in the slime - all talk though! 

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After crafting, all the kids gathered in the middle of the room for a brilliant imaginative role-play session. They were expertly guided into a land of make-believe and I watched on proudly as Phoebe got caught up in the magical journey to the land of the unicorn ...

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Then came the bit that Phoebe had been most excited for ... getting her very own Myla! She was bigger than I'd imagined she'd be, so we had to get the girls to cut her out of the box! There was no way we were bringing that box on the plane home! Phoebe immediately wanted to get trying Myla out anyway. A huge thank you to the girls who made sure Phoebe had a ball. 

 Wee red face after all the role-play!

Wee red face after all the role-play!

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 Thanks girls!

Thanks girls!

Our original plan was to leave the theatre around 12 noon and get a bus/taxi to Covent Garden for lunch. However, the bus route that we had hoped to take was closed for the month of August and I could't work out if Uber would take a child in a buggy or had car seats available? I didn't want to order an Uber and then have to pay for their time if they arrived and weren't able to take Phoebe. So after 30 minutes of trying to get a taxi sorted we decided that we might just try walking instead. The route would take around 50 minutes and it was either walk or hang around the theatre and grab lunch somewhere. I had my heart set on visiting Neal's Yard Remedies in Covent Garden and mum had never been to CG before so we set off following Google Maps once again.   

It's amazing how children sense when you are stressed isn't it? As we passed a nearby bus stop, I hopped on to ask the driver if he knew of another bus that might take us the direction we wanted to go. One driver was useless and another just told us to have a nice walk! And unfortunately, because I had went onto the bus, of course Phoebe thought that meant we were all going on the bus. Cue total meltdown. She'd done so brilliantly up until now and this was make or break time. We still had about 3.5 hours before needing to head back to the station so we motored on, trying to avoid the sympathetic/horrified stares of passers by! The streets were busy, we were trying to navigate our way towards Covent Garden and Phoebe was getting worse. It got to a point where we pulled the buggy over and I took Myla off Phoebe, threatening to throw the toy in the bin if she didn't stop yelling and screaming. I explained (through gritted teeth) that she had had a great day with lots of fun and now it was Nanny and Mummy's turn, while also suggesting she might like to lie back with Myla and close her eyes for a little while. Thankfully she obliged and as I handed Myla back to her she lay down and we started to walk. Not 5 minutes later her eyes were closed and she was out. Cue sighs of relief and silent prayers of "thank you Lord!"

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The rest of the journey to Covent Garden was actually quite pleasant! I also must thank the kind man who helped me lift the buggy (and sleeping Phoebe) up a flight of steps behind the Savoy - that would definitely have been a struggle for mum and I! As we neared CG I spied a coffee spot I'd seen on Instagram and made a beeline for it while missy moo was still snoozing. So glad I did - the place had a class vibe and the coffee was up there with some of the best I've had. Cheers Grind, you were just what this mama needed after that walk!

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 That sign though.

That sign though.

Mum and I managed a very quick dander round a busy Covent Garden before Phoebe wakened. We were all starving so I decided a Shake Shack was the way to go ... turns out Phoebe doesn't like their burgers or their milkshake! There is little I hate more than spending money on food that Phoebe doesn't eat.

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 My wee Mummy

My wee Mummy

Nevertheless, mum and I fuelled up before hitting my most favourite spot of the day ... NEAL'S YARD! It wasn't long after I booked the flights that it dawned on me I'd be able to visit the original Neal's Yard beside Covent Garden. It did NOT disappoint. Wow. The sun was shining and the courtyard was buzzing! I could have stayed here all day. Some day I'll come back and just sit and drink in the atmosphere. Maybe even steal a few hours in the Neal's Yard treatment rooms or attend some NY training - who knows?! But as a new consultant for Neal's Yard I'm not ashamed to say it kinda' feltlike Christmas came early!!

 Some spot!

Some spot!

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 Phoebe getting in on some sampling action

Phoebe getting in on some sampling action

 Chillin' like a villain!

Chillin' like a villain!

 A sweaty mess here but SO HAPPY!

A sweaty mess here but SO HAPPY!

Our time in London was coming to an end and as we made our way back to the station I savoured the moment. This trip would not have been possible without Instagram. And I need to take a moment to publicly apologise for my winging and whining about Instagram this last wee while. It's been a personal problem. Not Instagram's. I've been really blessed to have gained such a thoughtful, kind and supportive following - one I do not take for granted. If you are reading this and you are new round these parts, or if you're reading and you've been here a while ... hear this ... I VALUE YOU. I APPRECIATE YOU. I AM THANKFUL FOR YOU. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my blog, to like my content or have conversation with me. 

Back to our trip ... we made it back to Liverpool Street Station in good time and through security with more time to spare. Once again our travel was easy, everything was on time and we had no hiccups. God was so good to us. Phoebe was as excited about going home to show her Daddy and Granda her new toy as she was on the way there. 

 Still loving Myla on the train home

Still loving Myla on the train home

 Still smiling at 8pm despite being up from 3.30am! 

Still smiling at 8pm despite being up from 3.30am! 

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 We made it home!

We made it home!

Finally, would I recommend flying to and from London in one day with a small child? Yes I would! As a parent, you know your own child and if you think they could handle it (or you have the opportunity for them to sleep during the day) then go for it! Yes, there were a few *moments* but that's normal. I actually came away from the experience a prouder mama and more inclined to be adventurous again. Witnessing Phoebe's joy in the moment was priceless, something I'll remember for a long time. So thank you Instagram, thank you Takumi and thank you VTech for making magic in London for our little Northern Irish babe.

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* Disclaimer: This blog post is not sponsored, neither am I being paid to write it. I was paid solely for the promotional post of Myla on my Instagram grid. This post is merely a documentation of our day - something I can fondly look back on! All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. *