Mum with a view

A new view from a new mum in London
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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B is for . . . Brick Lane, Bagels and Black Cultural Archives 

By on March 27, 2017

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

It was the husband’s turn to pick the activities for the letter B and he didn’t disappoint. It was an absolutely beautiful day in London and he’d found a downloadable walking tour of East London. It started from Liverpool street station which is accessible so we were all good taking the pushchair. The tour was from Queen Marys University and includes a map and sections to listen to at several stops. We didn’t do the complete tour, we ended at Brick Lane as the full tour would have taken too long for us and Henry. The sections we did listen to were interesting, the area has a lot of history that I didn’t know about from Jewish soup kitchens to silk trading Huguenots.

Once we’d arrived at Brick Lane we stopped for lunch and by lunch I mean Brick Lane’s world famous salt beef bagels from Beigel Bake. They are amazing, get them with pickles and mustard for the full taste sensation. We also stopped in for a couple of rainbow bagels at the bakery next door because I love a good food trend.

We stopped for lunch in Allen Gardens, just off of Brick Lane, an expanse of green open field which has a play park to entertain children that are bigger than Henry! It’s also home to Spitalfields City Farm. We ate lunch while basking in the sunshine and Henry napped. I could quite easily have fed Henry in the park and we could have done a nappy change there too as we have a waterproof mat but we decided to find somewhere for a coffee instead for a less alfresco experience.

There are loads of coffee shops around mostly in and around Spitalfields Market. If you don’t fancy a bagel there are many family friendly restaurants to be found there too.

After lunch and a spot of sunbathing we headed home to Brixton for a short visit to the Black Cultural Archives. The exhibition Rights of Passage used objects from the collection to form a narrative about resistance from the 1900’s to modern day. It was a small exhibition but they don’t have a lot of space. There is a cafe which has a nice outdoor space at the archive, unfortunately, the lift was broken so we could only explore the ground floor on this visit.

It was a lovely day out, I arrived home well fed and happy.

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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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A is for . . . Art, American and All Aboard

By on March 12, 2017

The A to Z of family friendly activities in London starting with the letter A.

It was my turn to come up with the first day, which seemed fair as this whole escapade was my idea.

We started with an ART gallery. We went to the Now Gallery which is a small gallery next to the O2 Arena in North Greenwich. To start with it was easy to get to because North Greenwich station is accessible so we could bring the pushchair, always a plus because Henry is not a little baby so although the carrier is an option, having a pushchair is preferable. Although don’t get me started on how inaccessible London Underground is.

The Now gallery has an exhibition called the Iris by Rebecca Louise Law. It’s an art piece of 10,000 Iris’s suspended from the ceiling using copper wire. We visited about a week after it was installed so the flowers had died but had still retained their colour and their impact. We laid on cushions on the floor and looked up. Henry seemed to enjoy the flowers and laying on the cushions with his dad part. I have never actually heard of the Now Gallery, I must confess I only knew it existed because there was a morning of weather forecasts from there on BBC Breakfast. I was a little disappointed that there was only one piece of art displayed although it was a very striking artwork.

Cushion time with Daddy
The view from the floor in the Now Gallery

After the gallery, we went for a little stroll and then headed into the O2 for lunch. We decided on an AMERICAN themed lunch and headed to 5 guys for burgers and fries. I really like the burgers they do at 5 guys but the main perk of this place for me is the drinks machine. I’m breastfeeding Henry and currently not drinking any caffeinated drinks because of that. I know that the caffeine probably won’t affect Henry but as I can avoid caffeinated drink I do. But anyway back to the point, the drink machines at 5 guys have like 20 or more decaf options! I went with decaf cherry diet coke, it’s my favourite.

I love me some burgers and fries

After lunch, a feed and nappy change for Henry we decided that we need to add some more ART, as it was such a nice day we decided to take the boat down the Thames to Tate Modern. So we went ALL ABOARD the Thames Clipper, yeah I know it’s getting a bit tenuous now.

We saw 2 exhibitions as Tate Modern as well as sitting in the turbine hall and taking in the new immersive art experience there. The exhibitions we saw were Robert Rauschenberg and Wolfgang Tillmans. Robert Rauschenberg is an AMERICAN artist and the exhibition included a large selection of his work including prints, sculpture and a great piece of art which involved bubbling clay which mesmerised Henry. Wolfgang Tillmans is a photographer, the exhibition of his work was arranged thematically rather than in a timeline which is more common for exhibitions. His work includes a focus on photography techniques so there were rooms dedicated to the process of photography as well as the advancement in photography during his career. I preferred Tillmans as did my husband, Henry I think preferred the colours and sounds of Rauschenberg.

After another change for Henry, lots of baby change facilities available although I think I found the worst one next to a hand dryer which scared Henry, whoops. I then fed Henry whilst taking in the immersive art in the Turbine Hall by Philippe Parreno. It’s a series of changing sounds, lights and images which fill the entire turbine hall.

That was the end of our first alphabetically themed date, all in all, A success. Very excited for the next date organised by my husband.

Have you got any favourite A locations in London for family activities?

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A to Z of Family London

By on
Henry at tower bridge

Since we had our son my husband and I found that we weren’t getting out of the house to enjoy London like we used to. We used to spend at least one day of every weekend going to a gallery or exhibition or at least finding a fun new place to eat. Henry came along and we started either spending all weekend at home or at least very close to home.

We wanted to change that and that’s where the A to Z of family (read baby) London comes in. We kind of stole an idea from a mum friend of mine but gave it our Hazell family twist. Here are the rules:

  • We alternate between myself and my husband as to whom the responsibility for the letter falls to.
  • The date must be family friendly i.e. Not too far, baby change facilities, actually lets babies in!
  • It can be somewhere we’ve been before but we must do something different there. So we could go back to the British Museum but there must be a new exhibition for instance.
  • There has to be somewhere for lunch there too, I’m still breastfeeding so food is very important to me.

So this blog will be a chronicle of the Hazell family adventures as well as some other ideas we come up with on the way.

I hope you enjoy joining us on our adventures and that we inspire some of your own.


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