Last summer, my family traveled to London for a brief visit, a 4-night stay on our way to Israel where we (pre-COVID) travel every year. In the past, we have had layovers in Paris, Amsterdam, and Zurich.
This time, I thought my kids would be at a reasonable age (8 and 12) to start exploring London, a city to which both my husband and I have traveled several times. I picked a random date and started researching hotels (one of my favorite pastimes!)
Closer to our travel date, we learned that the city of London would be celebrating the Queen’s accession to the throne, the Jubilee.
We were excited – but I was a bit apprehensive because I’m not a big fan of crowds.
We arrived in London making our way in the taxi through the streets. It was exciting to me to think of the adventures I had once in that city as a single young woman with no cares or fears, and a collection of interesting and worldly friends to show me around.
My kids were admittedly less enthusiastic. What did they know of England? They knew Paddington Bear, which we had fortunately watched together just weeks before our trip, and Gordon Ramsay, who they loved to mimic with their best British accents.
Once we arrived, we hailed a local Uber and made our way to our hotel – The Westin London City, which is centrally located in the City of London, a short walk to some of the top destinations including St. Paul’s Cathedral and The Museum of London. It also turned out to be the perfect spot to be at the center of the Jubilee activities.
One of our favorite memories of our hotel stay was conversing with the concierge Kevin, a quintessential Scotsman who loved to chat and play brain teaser games with the boys.
The hotel gave us a scavenger hunt passport, especially for the Queen’s Jubilee, and once every page was stamped (the front desk, the concierge, the spa, the bellman) the kids earned a beautiful prize which included a memorial box with Queen’s Jubilee activities and coloring set.
We ventured out for some of the activities – and the streets were packed. One of the processions went through Trafalgar Square, which was blocked off- where throngs of people including ourselves gathered. I did have a bit of hesitation when my husband wanted to take the boys closer to actually catch a glimpse of the horse and buggy procession which was like watching a period-piece movie come to life.
My youngest climbed atop a large statue to see a glimpse, while I marveled at the fact that such pomp and revere still exist in our day and age, and the adoration of a monarch is still very alive and present.
One of the many weekend events was the Platinum Party at the Palace – where several thousand people gathered outside Buckingham Palace for a spectacular lineup that included Queen – (the band featuring Adam Lambert), Duran Duran, Rod Steward, Diana Ross, Elton John, Alicia Keys, and even a cute little video clip of the Queen having tea with Paddington Bear. We watched this star-studded event from the comfort of our hotel room, aweing the fact that we were just a few miles away and that we were able to witness a historic event in the making.
The Queen herself did not make an appearance at the Platinum Party, but the Royal Family were in attendance including Prince William, Duke of Cambridge who spoke fondly of his grandmother and her selfless dedication to England. Although I’m at a loss for his exact words, I was struck by Prince William’s relatability, humility, and sincerity towards his grandmother The Queen.
I tried to imagine my kids’ ideas of how of the concept of a monarchy with a living Queen was so different, something they had only experienced in films. Now – they could see the adoration of a modern-day “kingdom” to their dear Queen.
My older son begged for a souvenir to capture our time there – a commemorative Platinum Jubilee British flag with the Queen’s face, which he proudly hangs on his wall, among other flags of countries he’s visited.
And my younger son cuddles with Kevin (named after their favorite concierge) the stuffed Corgi that he was gifted from the lovely staff at The Westin London City after collecting all the stamps in his special Queen’s Jubilee Westin passport.