A TO Z | London

K is for Kite Day, Kite Flying and Kite Poetry

By on June 12, 2017

Continuing on with the A to Z of family friendly activities in London we have the letter K.

I know what you’re thinking, Claire you have totally cheated because you are clearly just going to write about Kites for K. And you would be right, but, the Streatham Kite Day is an amazing family friendly day in London. You have missed this year’s Kite Day but hopefully, you’ll put next years in your calendar after you’ve read this.

The Kite Festival started in 1998 and was actually called the Wind Festival (snigger snigger). Nowadays the festival is a day which includes kite stalls, food stalls, a field of kite flying for us amateurs and a central area for kite poetry. Kite poetry is the term used in kite circles for kite displays and actually, I kind of see why now. The displays were kind of amazing. Watching 1 man control 3 kites and make them move in sync and to music is fascinating.

Kite flying is quite important to me as it has been on my bucket list for a while. I remember flying a kite as a child but I also remember that it did not go very well and I suspect I got distracted by something shiny. So at 8 months pregnant my husband found out about my lack of kite flying and we bought a shark kite and spent an afternoon flying it on Clapham Common. The shark kite came out again for the festival. There is a large field at the back of the festival for flying your own kite along with what felt likes hundreds of other kite fliers. It was a health and safety nightmare but so much fun! There were invisible kite strings and dive bombing kites everywhere but we managed a couple of successful flying sessions.

After our flying session we had a walk around so Henry could nap and so we could marvel at the giant kites. There was a penguin, superman and a giant squid. Superman, I understand but mocking a flightless bird by making it a kite, shame.

We should have been a bit more prepared and brought a picnic but we never are so we instead had lunch from one of the foods stalls. We went with a hog roast – the best type of food served at any outdoor event. They also had stalls selling kites if you don’t have your own including the world’s smallest kite. We, of course, had to let Henry have a go but we were cheapskates and used the demo model. I’m glad, he really wasn’t that fussed!

In terms of facilities, there were toilets and a baby change in the park but lots of queues so it was alfresco nappy changes and a dash home to use the loo! I should also mention the festival is free to attend.

All in all another fun day in London at an event full of family fun.

 

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A TO Z | London

J is for . . . Jewel Tower, Jamie’s Pizza and James’s Park

By on May 23, 2017

Continuing on with the A to Z of family friendly activities in London we have the letter J.

I feel quite strange writing this particular letter blog because I’m actually going to suggest you don’t visit one of the places that we went to. It fitted in with the letter and we’d never been before and we had heard that it would be quite interesting. But, being honest, I wouldn’t suggest visiting the Jewel Tower.

The Jewel tower is a section of the medieval palace of Westminster, you can find it on the opposite side of the road to the Palace of Westminster or more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament. It is owned and maintained by English Heritage and therefore has an entrance fee. There are 2 floors with 2 small exhibitions which are accessed using a spiral staircase. The building itself is lovely but the exhibitions are quite small and I think the interpretation could be better. There was 1 interactive for children which had parts missing, with such small exhibition spaces and an entry fee I would have expected better upkeep than I saw. We brought Henry on the carrier because we knew we wouldn’t be able to take the pushchair inside. There is a coffee shop and gift shop but no toilet facilities.

After a rather disappointing visit to the Jewel Tower, we headed to Jamie’s Pizzeria close by near Victoria. Which I would definitely recommend. Henry gave a smile to the chef and about 5 minutes later he was presented with hs very own mini pizza shaped like a fish! So cute and all of the staff were amazing with Henry. There were high chairs and accessible toilets and changing area as well as plenty of room for the pushchair. There of lots of other family friendly restaurants around but why would you want to try any others!?

After lunch, we thought a walk would be a good idea to work off the pizza (and the amazing tiramisu, my favourite dessert and amazing at Jamie’s). The restaurant was a short walk from St James’s Park which I have now decided is my favourite London park. It has everything. A lovely lake, bridges for looking over the lakes and park, coffee shops, Pelicans, baby ducks at this time of year and a play park. The weather managed to stay nice so we walked for a bit and then headed to the play park to let Henry have a swing. He loves the swings and we love taking photos of him on the swings. Parks are the best for me for feeding Henry as I can just sit on any piece of grass and feed him so we were both happy.

We tired Henry out in the park and then headed home. We’ll have to do a bit more research for places beginning with J to replace the Jewel Tower, we’ll be ready the next time the letter comes around.

 

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A TO Z | London

I is for. . . Inking Women, Indian Food and Icing

By on May 15, 2017

Continuing on with the A to Z of family friendly activities in London we have the letter I.

I love a niche museum. Whenever we go away I like to visit small local museums, they’re so fun and full of interesting finds. I never really realised but London is full of amazing small museums. For this day out we visited the Cartoon museum and it’s current exhibition “The Inking Women”. The exhibition celebrates British cartoon and comic artists. The images ranged from caricatures from 1762 right through to current artists and exerts from their graphic novels. My favourites were the posters used as part of the suffragette movement and there were some very funny newspaper comics too. We had a look round the rest of the museum which showcases British comics and cartoon artists. There is a small children’s section for reading and creating their own artwork if they (or you!) are inspired. The museum has 2 floors and no lift but there was space to leave the pushchair downstairs and baby change facilities available too.

After the museum, we headed for lunch in nearby Covent Garden. We chose Masala Zone after I had read about it’s family-friendly reputation. Although Henry actually slept all the way through lunch so we didn’t get to test the facilities out! The manager was very cute and brought some crayons and colouring for Henry. The food was very nice and they have a children’s menu too.

After lunch, we had a walk around Covent Garden and then, of course, we needed dessert. We headed to the Primrose Bakery for cupcakes. They’re delicious, all that needs to be said really. It’s a small bakery, no room for pushchairs but it was a nice day so we took them away and got our fill of cake in the sunshine.

Great day out with lots of good food!

The Cartoon Museum

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£7 for an adult and free for a child (under 18)

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2 floors, no lifts but storage available for pushchairs

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Baby Change facilities available

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A TO Z | London

H is for . . . Hendrix, Handel and High Tea

By on May 8, 2017

Continuing on with the A to Z of family friendly activities in London we have the letter H.

OK, I should start by confessing that it was actually high coffee but it didn’t sound as good when I wrote the title but I’ll get to that later in the blog.

Jimi Hendrix and George Handel, not 2 names that you may associate with each other. However these 2 great names in music shared something in common and that was a building, obviously, several years apart.

Just behind New Bond street, you will find Handel and Hendrix in London. The former home of both Handel and Hendrix, it houses a small 3-floor museum. On the top floor, you will find an exhibition on Hendrix and his time in London and Hendrix’s bedroom. The bedroom has been replicated to look like Hendrix’s bedroom down to the lyrics on the bedside table and the ashtrays full of cigarette butts. You can also look through Hendrix’s record collection where you will find a couple of records of Handel’s music.

Downstairs you change eras and find yourself in Handel’s bedroom and composing room. They also have a room dedicated to my favourite kind of museum exhibit, clothes and dressing up. We let Henry channel his inner Hendrix with a ridiculous wig and guitar. I donned a Hendrix style jacket, Handel isn’t really my style!

The museum has a lift to access all the floors and toilets with a baby change. We weren’t allowed to take the pushchair upstairs so we put Henry in a carrier. I should say that the staff there were lovely, they knew a lot about the history of Hendrix and Handel and were happy to talk and answer questions.

We went for lunch nearby there are lots of chain restaurants around that are family friendly so now worries there.

To finish off the day we headed to John Lewis to their roof top garden for a drink. So here comes the high coffee, see what I did there. The garden has been designed in conjunction with the Gardening Society and has a pub/cafe which serves food and drink. It was a bit chilly but we had a warm coffee and a blanket to keep us warm. They had a high chair for Henry to sit in and he happily ate some carrot puffs while we drank our coffees. The views are what you’d expect from the top of a shop on Oxford Street but you can see the top of the London Eye, kind of!

Hendrix and Handel House
💷 £10 for an adult and £5 for a child

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Lift to all floors but pushchairs not allowed
🚽 Baby Change facilities available.

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A TO Z | London

G is for . . . Greenery, Gardens and Golf

By on May 1, 2017

Continuing on with the A to Z of family friendly activities in London we have the letter G.

So for G we went to Battersea Park. Yes I know that doesn’t begin with G so bear with me!

To start with Battersea Park is an amazing bit of green open space in London. It’s only a short bus from us and we definitely don’t use it enough. There is so much to do there and until I did some research for the letter G I had no idea just how much stuff was there.

We started with a walk through the subtropical gardens. The Gardens were restored in 2004 and are currently filled with so much spring foliage. As you will understand from previous posts I don’t really know anything about plants but I do like a pretty flower and I love colours.

Battersea park has paths and signposts leading everywhere so it’s great for a stroll with or without the pushchair. Henry was enjoying a carry with his dad and it meant that I was at Henry’s eye height!

The most important G for the day was golf. Battersea Park has a mini golf course, who knew! Well, quite a few people, it was quite busy but there was still space for us. It’s actually quite a challenging course, my dad would be mortified if he saw my final scorecard. The husband managed to beat me even though he was baby wearing a sleeping Henry. Poor show on my part.

As for baby and child facilities in Battersea Park, there are lots. There are a few cafes as well as separate toilet blocks. The play park next to the mini golf looked epic, cannot wait until Henry is old enough to enjoy it. We had coffee at the Putt in the Park and then lunch at the Pear Tree Cafe. Unfortunately, I received bad service in both of these places with a lot of waiting and a meal that just never arrived but I understand that is not normally the case. I appear to be having a run of bad service, the husband, however, got his food straight away and it was lovely and tasty.

We headed home after this adventure but Battersea Park has a lot more to offer for other trips including a Zoo, Go Ape and The Pump House Gallery.

 

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A TO Z | London

F is for . . . Family, Flowers and Fulham Palace

By on April 24, 2017

Continuing on with the A to Z of family friendly activities in London we have the letter F.

I’m a little behind with my A to Z as over the Easter weekend we managed to squeeze in two letters. Bank holidays meant a gorgeous long weekend full of fresh air and family fun.

We headed to Putney for lunch, before our short walk over the river to Fulham Palace. We choose Bills but there are lots of family friendly restaurants on Putney High Street.

We discovered that Easter Saturday probably wasn’t the best day to choose a leisurely walk over the bridge to Fulham Palace as there was also a Fulham FC match. I’m hoping that Henry doesn’t remember some of the, let’s say colourful, language he heard. Although he loves a good song and some of the football chants were almost musical!

Fulham Palace is right next to the river and accessible for pushchairs both in the building and the gardens. There are baby change facilities and plenty of places to sit and feed. The gardens are beautiful. There was magnolia making the air smell gorgeous and Wysteria framing the Palace in beautiful purple. I had no idea what these plants were called, my mum came with us, she did.

The Palace itself has free entry. It has a few exhibition rooms, a museum, and a Victorian chapel. The chapel was my favourite part but did have a really sad story. The stained glass window had an angel with the face of one of the sons of a bishop that lived at the Palace. His son had died in a mountaineering accident and the window was placed in his honour.

The tea room at the Palace is in the drawing room. It has a lovely fireplace and chandeliers on the ceiling. Most importantly they do a proper mug of tea, mum-sized cups of tea. The photo below uses a mum measurement of a Sophie the Giraffe for scale. Pretty good cake too, I should also add.

We, of course, had to finish the day with a family photo framed by the Wysteria as it looks so good on Instagram!

Letter G is my turn and I have something fun up my sleeve!

 

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A TO Z | London

E is for . . . Easter, Eggs and Eltham Palace

By on April 17, 2017

Continuing on with the A to Z of family friendly activities in London we have the letter E.

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend, we spent it enjoying our very well timed Easter activities. We had a special guest star to our activities this weekend as my mum came along for a visit. We decided to head out to Eltham Palace as we had thought about going for a while and it seemed like a great place to take my mum so a great three generation family activity.

It’s quite far from us so we had to take the train to Eltham. It’s a little bit of a walk to the palace from the station but easy with the pushchair. It gets more and more scenic the closer you get to the palace. When you arrive you have to buy a ticket from the visitor centre which is in a separate area to the palace. There is a shop, cafe, and an amazing outdoor playground. You don’t actually have to pay for entry if all you want to do is have a cup of tea and let your kids run around in the playground. We had lunch in the cafe – the food was really tasty if not a bit pricey but that’s to be expected. The weather held off enough for us so we sat outside.

Eltham Palace is an English Heritage property so entry is also a bit pricey but mum was, of course, a member and the hubby has an Art Pass, so only I paid. What I would say though is that it is totally worth the entry fee, especially if you love art deco anything!

The tour of the house is self-guided with an introductory film to give you a bit of history about the house and its owners. You can’t take pushchairs into the house but there is a space to park them outside which is constantly staffed. There is a baby change near the doors and also a sofa within the ladies toilet area if you need to stop for a feed. We popped Henry in the carrier and headed inside.

The house was owned by the Courtaulds who had decorated every room with an art deco theme but also restored the medieval hall that was part of the original palace. There was a multimedia guide that is part of the entry fee that had videos of actors playing parts of friends and relatives of the Courtaulds to help tell the story of the house and it’s occupants. Although carrying Henry in a carrier and using a guide was not easy! We took one guide and passed it around and let each other know what we learnt. The Courtaulds were certainly an interesting couple, Mr Courtauld got Mrs Courtauld a Lemur as a wedding present. This pet fitted well with the children’s animal trail which was obviously entertaining lots of little visitors as we went around. There were also lots of opportunities to try on costumes from different eras which meant I tried on a  lot of hats and might have got Henry to try on some as well!

Once we were finished in the house we walked around the gardens which are well cared for and mostly accessible with a pushchair. There is a beautiful waterfall and fragrant kitchen garden as well as a seating area for a well-deserved rest (and a cheeky chocolate egg!).

I would thoroughly recommend Eltham Palace for a visit. The rooms are stunning and the gardens are lovely although I would certainly check the weather before your visit as it did get a bit chilly for us.

Next stop letter F . . .

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A TO Z | London

D is for Diana Walk, Dutch pancakes and Design Museum

By on April 10, 2017

Continuing on with the A to Z of family friendly activities in London we have the letter D.

Wasn’t it a beautiful weekend in London!? I think the sun brings out an amazing side of London that people forget exists. The weather played a perfect backdrop to the first part of our letter D activities.

We started with the Diana Princess of Wales memorial walk. The walk is actually quite long and stretches through 4 parks, we only did a short section through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. You can download a map of the route which names the points of interest or you can simply follow the markers on the ground. The map is very clear but I wish it came with a bit more information about each stop. We did some googling to find out a bit more about the points of interest and some of them had information plaques as well. It was a beautiful walk and perfect for helping Henry nap. Henry woke up just in time for us to dip our toes in the Diana Memorial Fountain, a bit chilly but great for kids to have a play in. It’s a mostly flat walk with paths that are also reasonably smooth. There are several sets of toilets along the route as well as baby change facilities.

After the walk, we went for pancakes at My Old Dutch just off of High Street Kensington. I do love a good pancake. Henry had to stay sat in his pushchair as there didn’t appear to be high chairs but he didn’t seem to mind. There are quite a lot of family friendly restaurants around including a great food court upstairs in Whole Foods.

The last stop on today’s tour was the Design Museum. Alex and I used to visit the Design Museum at its previous location quite a lot and the new building is fantastic – beautiful and very photogenic. We went to an exhibition called Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World. The exhibition has art that responds to modern themes such as online dating and robotics. Henry enjoyed meeting a robot, well for a little bit and then it moved a bit to quickly and startled him.

The main exhibition space is split up into 3 sections. Designer, Maker, User which is a good way to split up the museum’s collection with relevant sections that look at different influences and parts of the design process.

The museum has baby change facilities and lifts to all floors. There is not a lot of seating that is discreet for feeding, I’d rather not sit at an activity table for instance but as the weather was nice we sat in the park and I fed Henry after our visit. Unfortunately, the nearest tube stop is High Street Kensington which is not step free so we used buses as we had the pushchair.

Another great day out exploring London I’d say!

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A TO Z | London

C is for . . . Canal Museum, Canal Walks and Camley Street Natural Park

By on April 3, 2017

Continuing on with the A to Z of family friendly activities in London we have the letter C.

It was my turn to choose the activities again, and I love a small niche museum, so the London Canal Museum was a perfect start! The canal museum is a short walk from King’s Cross station which is wonderfully accessible so perfect for the day out. The museum itself is quite small, set across 2 floors with lifts to each section of the museum as well as toilets on both floors including an accessible toilet and baby change. There is also a small bit of outside space that is accessible through the back of the museum. The Canal Museum does what it says on the tin – it charts the history of the canals across Britain with a focus on London canals. It also looks at different types of canal boats, how locks work and the use of horses in canal work. The building used to house an ice warehouse so there is a deep ice storage well and an exhibition about Carlo Gatti the ice cream maker that used the ice. Unfortunately, the museum was lacking an ice cream parlour, shame! For those of you with kids a bit older than Henry, there is a small activity nook with books and crafts and a couple of small interactive exhibits and a canal boat to explore.

Before we had Henry, Alex (the husband) and I used to go on a lot of guided London walks. I’m not from London so any exploring to be done is very exciting for me. We like a good self-led walk using a book, so I found a book of guided walks of London’s waterways in the library that was perfect. (Incidentally, I have been using the library since Henry was born, I’m starting to fall in love with local libraries!) The book had a walk that started at King’s Cross which went past the museum and then continued on along the canal. The canal route was accessible and in the sunny weather was perfect for a stroll to get Henry to sleep, just a shame he decided it wasn’t! We made it to Granary Square and the tiered seating by the canal. This was a good place to sit and feed Henry but our walk was slightly scuppered because at the moment there are some works going on so you can’t continue further along the canal.

We took this as a sign and stopped for lunch. There are lots of restaurants around Granary Square but they were all very busy and not great for pushchairs. There is however a giant Waitrose – so a supermarket picnic and a free coffee it was. Lots of places to sit in the sunshine as Henry finally had a nap.

After lunch we walked around the corner to Camley Street Natural Park. A small oasis of nature next to the railway line. It has a short part-accessible walkway around the park which contains a pond, wildflower meadow and lots of insect habitats. There are also lots of activities for the little ones. There is a short trail with clues, a mini beat hunting area and you can also go pond dipping. The path is wood chipped so quite bumpy for the pushchair but Henry slept through it so it can’t be that bad. There is a toilet there as well but no baby change facilities. It’s great and amazing to step into this area of nature so close to King’s Cross.

It started to rain just as we finished walking around so we decided to run inside to the British Library (which has some wonderful Quentin Blake illustrations), but that doesn’t begin with C, so I can’t talk about it!

 

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London

London Travel Tips

By on March 20, 2017

I can’t really write a blog about travelling in London with a baby without writing about how difficult it can be to get around London and how I make it a bit easier for myself. The husband and I don’t have a car so it’s public transport all the way but we live in zone 2 next to a lot of public transport so we’ve never really found it a problem. But public transport does bring with it it’s own set of problems which I’m about to do a little bit of ranting about. I’ve only been doing this for 6 months (when did my baby grow to 6 months old!) but I already have a few things I just couldn’t do without:

1) Lets talk pushchairs . . .

The husband and I had a few things we needed to think about when it came to pushchairs. To start with I’m 5″6 and he’s 6″5 and we need a pushchair we can both use. We live in a 2 bed 4th floor flat, we have a lift so no problem there but it’s by no means palatial so something that folds easily was a must. The biggest consideration was it’s ability to negotiate public transport.

We went with the UPPAbaby Cruz in the end thanks to a lot of test drives in John Lewis! It’s light, folds easily, has a huge basket storage area and fits well on nearly every London bus. The only bus I can’t get it down the isle of without a struggle is a single decker so it’s a getting on by the back door job for those. It’s been doing a very good job and with an added cosy toes has been perfect for winter in London.

2) When London transport just can’t take a pushchair it’s time to use a carrier

Sometimes the place you’re going in London just isn’t pushchair compatible, it happens more than I wish it did.

We’ve had a few carriers that we’ve tried out by borrowing from friends and family but we’ve used only 2 for Henry. When he was first born we used a stretchy wrap that kept him very close and cosy. Once we’d learnt how to properly use it by going to the South London Sling Library (amazing place, thoroughly recommend) it became a life saver both in and out of the house.

Now he’s a lot bigger the wrap is no good so we’ve moved on to a LILLEbaby carrier this time using the Tooting Sling Meet as a helpful source of information. The LILLEbaby is good because both my husband and I can use it with very little alteration and it provides good back support for carrying our chunky baby.

3) Get to know how inaccessible London is

London Underground is not a friend to anyone that can’t use stairs. I find it very frustrating, I can’t imagine what it’s like navigating London if you use a wheelchair or have mobility issues. However TFL does provide a series of maps to help you get to know what routes and stations you may be able to navigate. There is a specific downloadable map for pushchair users. I downloaded it to my phone and check it whenever we’re going somewhere new to decide if it’s a pushchair or carrier kind of day.

4) You’re going to need some escalator skills

As a bit of a proviso for number 3 if you use a pushchair you’ll have to learn how to use an escalator with a pushchair. It takes a bit of confidence and it’s quite scary the first time, don’t test yourself at Angel!

5) It rains, you’ll need protection

It rains in London, quite a bit, especially when you look at the weather and it says its going to be sunny all day. You can’t push a pushchair and carry an umbrella, at least not easily. A good waterproof coat with a hood is worth the investment.

6) A backpack is easier than a shoulder strap

I only say this because using a carrier and a shoulder strap changing bag is difficult. We have a backpack that can also easily hang on the pushchair handle and I know that I’ll be balanced if I have to use the carrier for a day out by myself as well.

7) The floor in London does not have a 5 second rule

We’ve invested in about 3 toys that have hoops or clips so that they can be connected to the pushchair or on the carrier without them falling on the floor. I certainly wouldn’t want to put anything in my mouth that had been on the floor of a tube train.

So those are a few of my travel essentials. I take a lot more stuff than that with me. The photo below is how we used the pushchair to carry most of our luggage on a trip to my mums in Lincolnshire recently so believe me I also know how to take way more than the essentials!

Do you have any essentials for London travel with babies?

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