A winter weekend – part 2

So after the roaring success of Winter Wonderland on the Saturday, followed by a wonderful visit to the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition (which I would highly recommend), I followed this up with a Sunday stroll up to Alexandra Palace.

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Now I have to say, the weather was on our side BIG time. It certainly wouldn’t have been such an enjoyable day had it been pouring down with rain. But with our sunglasses on and a picnic packed, we picked up the New River Path (which rather handily runs right past our flat) for the short 2 mile walk to this famous north London landmark.

Unfortunately, the part of the New River Path we needed was largely on the road, so there wasn’t much river to see. But it was still better than catching the train or bus and gave us some much needed fresh air and exercise after stuffing our faces at Pappagone’s the night before (favourite restaurant EVER).

Eventually we made it to the bottom of the hill upon which stood Alexandra Palace, standing tall and proud overlooking all of London. We slowly wended our way over the grass and picked up the main path leading up the building itself. Once at the top, we stopped and turned around to admire the fantastic panoramic views.

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There is quite a lot to do at Ally Pally which I was pleasantly surprised about. We spent a little time admiring the view before reading about the history of the palace from the information boards set up on the car park side of the building (this made for a really interesting read). We then wandered over to the Rose Garden, a peaceful and secluded section which I’m sure has beautiful roses in bloom during the spring and summer months – not so much in December though unfortunately.

img_1844After this, we headed over to the boating lake which was bathed in the winter sun. A lovely little lakeside café was making the most of the nice weather, with all its outdoor tables occupied. At this point we decided it was time for lunch and so out came our picnic – and yes, we sat outside eating our sandwiches and crisps…in DECEMBER…with entertainment provided by the pedalos and people’s questionable driving abilities.

Once fed, we went to the Alexandra Palace Garden Centre, which I’d heard had a Christmas shop – yay Christmas! I could have easily spent hours in here. There were so many decorations and ornaments I wanted to buy to decorate our flat with, but I had to make do with one festive tea light holder.

By this point it was mid-afternoon aka. coffee and cake o’clock, so we walked back up to the palimg_1870ace and to the Bar and Kitchen. With hot chocolates, cappuccinos and carrot cake all round, this was a perfect end to a lovely day.

The sun was beginning to set around 3.45pm, so at this point we finished up and headed outside to see the beginnings of a beautiful sunset. We hopped on the W5 bus for the journey back, home in time to catch up on last night’s Strictly (oh yes) and enjoy a nice hearty homemade stew (thanks Tom).

All in all a brilliant day!

A winter weekend – part 1

img_1877After the amazing high of my sister’s wedding 3 weeks ago; the culmination of 16 months of planning, dress fittings, secrets and surprises, things were feeling a little flat in our family. What did we have to look forward to now?!?!

Well…in a word, CHRISTMAS!

This is my absolute favourite kind of year. And thankfully mum and dad had booked in a festive weekend with Tom and me which gave us all something to look forward to in the bleak few weeks in between ‘The Wedding’ and Christmas Day.

And what a super weekend we had. So much so, I’m splitting it into two blog posts – lucky you!

Another reason I was particularly looking forward to this visit was because it was the first time mum and dad would be able to stay in my new flat – a lovely one bed place with just Tom and me. No more awkward stays in a 6 bed house share, with 5 other housemates roaming around, never knowing what state the house would be in or whether they would be drunkenly stumbling through the door at 3am.

So just after 10am on Saturday, I met the parents at our nearest tube and took them back to the flat for a much needed pit stop (they had been up since 5.30am for their 7am train!). Once fed and watered, the three of us headed to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

img_1774Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “You went to Winter Wonderland on a SATURDAY??? Two weeks before Christmas?!!” Well yes we did and we had a lovely time!

I have lived in London for three Christmases now and this was the first time I’d actually made it to Winter Wonderland. I was slightly nervous as I didn’t really know what to expect. And I didn’t have a backup plan if it was horrendously busy and we wanted to escape. But thankfully it all worked out perfectly, and the time flew by! (If I had one small criticism it would only be that I wish there had been a few more Christmas market stalls).

Exiting the tube at Green Park station and making the short (and well sign posted) walk to Hyde Park, I was amazed at how unstressful the crowds were. Once in, we barely had to queue for anything. We could leisurely browse the Christmas market stalls and see what trinkets and treats they had to offer, we easily got a seat at lunchtime to enjoy our bratwursts, and could wander around the whole place, soaking in the atmosphere and watching open-mouthed the terrifying rides swinging high above us.

So in terms of food and drink, there’s plenty on offer – we probably should have wandered slightly further in to see what else there was, rather than diving straight into the first German place we saw. But three bratwursts and two portions of chips later, we were all pretty happy. (FYI: this came to £23.50. And if you fancy a mulled wine, be prepared to pay £5.50 for one).

We didn’t pre-book tickets for any of the extra attractions on offer, e.g. ice skating, Christmas circus, observation wheel etc. So I can’t comment on any of these but I’m sure they’re all wonderful, and great if you have kids to entertain. But for a festive and leisurely afternoon with the parents, Winter Wonderland makes for a great way to spend a few hours.

img_1784It’s also worth adding that Tom, who had been out for bottomless brunch with all his lad mates, arrived at Winter Wonderland just as we were leaving. In fact, we waved at him while he queued to get in and we walked out. By this point in the afternoon, around 3-3.30pm, things had got a LOT busier. The queue just to get in was way longer than what we had experienced arriving just before lunch, and once inside, things didn’t get much better. I quote:

“It’s absolutely rammed. I can barely breathe. We managed to get into the Bavarian beer hall but it’s now queuing for miles to get in.”

Now, I have to add that Tom LOVES to exaggerate, so I can’t guarantee the accuracy of his statement. But I think it does indicate that going earlier in the day would probably be the better option.

Entrance into Winter Wonderland is FREE! Overall I was really pleased with how the day panned out and would definitely recommend a visit.

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Have you been to Winter Wonderland? Did you love it or hate it? Any recommendations or tips for future visits? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

It’s been a while…

Gah! I’ve done the one thing I didn’t want to do when starting a blog – be really into it at the beginning, have loads of ideas for blog posts, then completely abandon it a few short weeks later.

In my defense, it’s been a pretty hectic 4 months, mainly focused around my big sister’s wedding which happened 3 weeks ago. I’ve had weekends away for bridesmaid dress fittings, the hen do (might blog about that at some point) and of course the wedding itself, which was THE BEST DAY EVER. Throw in my birthday, Tom’s birthday, gigs and other bits and bobs, and it’s left very little time for blog writing sadly.

But with Christmas on the approach, and my parents coming down for another London visit THIS VERY WEEKEND, I’m determined to get back to it and publish more posts soon.

So watch this space.

Richmond Park = perfect day date

Richmond Park is possibly my favourite London park. I love it. And I love Richmond. It is a seriously beautiful part of London and I wish I lived there (just need to win the lottery first).IMG_1315

I’m going to divert slightly from the ‘parent’ theme of this blog and write instead about a great day date I would highly recommend you take your boyfriend / girlfriend on.

I first went to Richmond Park with Tom earlier this year. It was a bright, crisp January day, so we wrapped up in our scarves and gloves ready to brace the cold – my absolute favourite kind of day. I was living in Balham at this point, so we made the short train journey to Clapham Junction for another South West train journey out west. Easy!

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When we got to Clapham J, we were met with the dreaded ‘weekend engineering work’ signs and the even more dreaded ‘rail replacement bus service’. Sigh. This really nearly made us head straight back to mine for a lazy duvet day, but I wasn’t going to let stupid South West trains ruin our mini adventure, so we decided to press on and brave the bus.

The bus journey took us part of the way to Barnes station, which after a quick Google, was still easily walkable to the Roehampton Gate entrance of Richmond Park. Although it took around 25 minutes to walk, the walk itself is a spectacle. Walking down Priory Lane, you go straight past the entrance to the National Tennis Centre (we waved to Andy Murray but don’t think he was there), as well as The Priory (yes, the Priory) which is actually a stunning building from the outside, looking more like a castle than a mental health and addiction treatment centre. As we got closer to the park, we ducked down a side street to avoid the busy main road and found ourselves on a quiet residential street where the houses were ridiculous. We had a fun time picking out our favourite, imagining which one we would live in, spotting all the snazzy sport cars parked up outside the private gates and guessing how much they were worth (answer = A LOT).

So it had already been quite an eventful morning before we even arrived at Richmond Park, but eventually we made it and were greeted by a lovely view of green grass, open space and blue skies. Perfect.

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Richmond Park is huge. There are so many different paths and trails going off in different directions it’s easy to get lost and end up walking in circles. With our trusty Google Maps, we could vaguely tell which direction we wanted to head in, and set off towards the Richmond Gate.

We walked around the edge of the park, past ponds and wildlife, countless dog walkers and joggers, taking in the fresh air and welcoming the cold which was waking us up from our January blues. We made it to the Richmond Gate, and exited the park for a quick pub lunch at The Roebuck. While here, I made a mental note to bring my dad at some point; a lover of real ales and a member of CAMRA, he would definitely love it.

Feeling refueled and re-energised after our pit stop, we headed straight back into the park after a mandatory stop at Richmond Hill (directly opposite the pub) to take in the views…

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The rest of our day consisted of walking, walking and walking (approximately 10 miles in total). We stopped off at the Isabella Plantation to see what beautiful flowers and wildlife it had to offer, and also made it to Pen ponds – a lake divided in two by a path running through the middle. And it wouldn’t be a blog post on Richmond Park without mentioning the deer. ALL THE DEER. They really do just wander freely throughout the park and there are loads of them – it’s pretty cool to see them so close and you really do forget you are only a few miles outside central London.

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Having gone on a winter’s day, light soon started to dwindle and the park closed at around 4.30pm so we looped back round to the Roehampton Gate and headed back to Barnes station for our return journey to Balham. We had a great day and I think it is still up there as one of mine and Tom’s top things we’ve done together. We really like to get out of the city, breathe in fresh air and see open space all around – and Richmond Park definitely provided all of these.

I have since taken my parents to Richmond Park so look out for a blog post on this too, coming soon!

Over to you, Kew

When I first moved down to London I stayed with a friend in Hanwell. When we looked where this was on a map, my dad noticed it wasn’t very far from Kew Gardens and mentioned how he’d always wanted to visit. How handy that I was going to live so close!

Fast forward 5 weeks and I was having to find a new place to live pretty sharpish (long story), and so I moved into a flat share by Wandsworth Common – a delightful part of London, although not so handy for Kew Gardens anymore.

However, I was committed to taking dad to Kew so on one of their first trips down to visit me, we made the trek out west. Hopping on a Southern train for one stop to Clapham Junction, then changing for the South West train service to Kew Bridge, the journey wasn’t difficult at all. From the station it was about a 20 minute walk to the Elizabeth Gate entrance of Kew Gardens.

Tip: if you want a spot of lunch before your visit, I would highly recommend The Greyhound on Kew Green, perfectly located en route from your walk from the station to the gardens and just a great spot for yummy food and one of the nicest outside seating areas I’ve ever seen. (Fun fact: it was in this lovely pub that Tom met my parents for the very first time – fascinating stuff).

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So basically, Kew Gardens is delightful and a wonderful way to while away an afternoon free from the hustle and bustle of central London. My parents (and Tom and I for that matter!) thoroughly enjoyed strolling along the winding paths, admiring the hundreds of beautiful flowers and exotic plants, and spotting different species of wildlife and birds. The vistas, pergoda, treetop walkway, cherry walk and aquatic garden are all so picturesque and peaceful, you forget you are a mere 30 minutes away from central London.

The gardens are vast and there is so much more to see than just flowers and plants – temples, cottages, Kew Palace, a museum, orangery, lake – so definitely pick up a map or download and print one from the website beforehand. We spent a good few hours there and there were still some places we didn’t visit. Although this does give me a good excuse to go back – hurrah.

We visited in May and there were plenty of flowers and plants in full bloom but also some hadn’t quite burst into life yet. I would love to go again and maybe try a summer month to see everything in all its glory.

Adult tickets to Kew Gardens are £14 for a day pass and it is worth every penny.

Exploring London, the parent friendly way

So if you’ve ever moved away from home and lived in a different place to your mum and dad, be that for uni or for work, you’ll know the need to plan a ‘parent friendly’ day trip for when they come and visit. I like to think I’ve had plenty of practice with this, having spent my university years in Leicester and now living around 200 miles away from home.

It’s worth pointing out that I’m very close to my parents and love spending time with them, but I do feel a pang of panic when they say they’re booking train tickets down to see me and, “well why don’t we stay the night too?” “Sure mum! That would be lovely!” I say, while thinking “HOW ON EARTH AM I GOING TO ENTERTAIN THEM FOR TWO WHOLE DAYS??”

Fortunately, living in London means you’re never short of things to do. Or so you might think. I don’t always want to take my mum and dad to a fancy schmancy exhibition at the Tate, or try out the trendy new restaurant with tiny plates of food and huge price tags, or how about a visit to the new pop up hamster cafe? No thanks.

We’re a family who enjoy the simple pleasures; nice walks, fresh air, beautiful scenery and a spot of wildlife. Growing up in rural East Yorkshire certainly helped with this, but they’re probably not the first words that come to mind when you think of London, right? Wrong! When it comes to mum and dad visiting, so far I’ve planned some pretty lovely days out with them (even if I do say so myself) so this blog is going to help you do the same.

I’ll share some of my favourite parent friendly trips and activities, as well as fun days out with the boyfriend too, and hopefully it will give you some new ideas and inspire you to explore different areas of this wonderful city.