Tuesday, 20 September 2016

London Calling!


London has been such a huge part of my life! Looking back on my childhood it has featured in nearly all of my fave memories! I am reliably informed in my baby book that my first outing was even to the Harrods Sale! so clearly a love of London was born young! I grew up in Harpenden so if you hopped on a fast train you could be in central London within 2 stops and just 20 minutes later so it was naturally our fave day trip! My mom and I shared lots of fun trips there just the two of us, whilst my 3 older sisters were already at school, galavanting around all the coolest art exhibits and so the story goes I was the only 3 year old to know the difference between my Monet and Manet! We had a little tradition as well of my mom always buying me a Twix from the little station shop to enjoy on the journey there...and when my aunt came to look after me for a few days and took me to London apparently I was not impressed when she wanted to share one of the Twix fingers with me - this was not how the tradition went! We also had lots of fun London day outs with my mom and the four of us - my sisters and I would each have to clean a room of the house before we would leave in order that our chores were done, I always picked the bathroom as I liked being known as 'Mr Muscle'!! and then we would go to all our favourite haunts like the amazing machines in the market of Covent Garden where you would stick your foot in and the 'doctor' would tickle your foot and then write you a prescription! We also loved going to Hamley's on Regent St and dreaming of the £1000 mini jeeps in the Harrod's toy department too! We had lots of Planet Hollywood lunches back in the day, some even involved meeting East 17 and Trojan - the gladiator, at the time very exciting stuff! and another favourite eating out place was the American diner at the top of the Trocadero where the waitresses all rolled around on roller-skates - we thought it was the coolest! There was also this awesome pizza restaurant called the Chicago Meat Factory and a little train ran around the whole top of the restaurant on a track, and there were these cool holders in the middle of the table where they stuck your whole pizza in when it was ready - do you remember that place guys? We also always paid our respects of Remembrance Sunday by going to the Cenotaph, getting red noses from the cold, and wearing our poppies with pride and no Christmas was complete without a tradition of going to see all the amazing lights on Christmas Eve and then hitting up the awesome Boxing Day sales complete with raiding the sticker department at Fenwicks in Brent Cross shopping centre! When my sisters were all teenagers they were old enough to go on week long summer camps with our church every year, but I was still too little.  Fortunately for me these weeks would turn into awesome weeks with my mom treating me to so many fun excursions and there would usually always be a musical, ballet, or theatre production in the west end.  Even as a teen, my trips to London evolved into shop til you drop and spend all your Saturday wages with your best friends days and then gigs galore in the evenings as we were able to see all our fave bands play at The Astoria, The Garage, The Apollo and beyond! On especially sunny evenings my dad would hop us in the car and we'd enjoy walking around the pretty neighbourhoods of Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill, letting me swing by Gwen and Gavin's house just incase I could sneak a peek and then ending the night by treating us to the delish ice cream of Marine Ice's.  Even when I moved away from Harpenden at 18, living in Berkshire as I started uni meant London was still a quick train ride away and going on all my fave foodie crawls became my new fave way to see the city! 

So the fact that it had been over 2 years since we had been in London was a bit criminal!!! As it has been over 6 years now since we've had a permanent base in the south it is getting harder and harder to secure our London fix! We did manage to take Ella when she was about 6 months old just for a day, and then again for her first Christmas to see the lights! but this time around we had a few days and I wanted to pack in as much as we possible could, because oh London - how I've missed you so!!

Before we even get on to all the excitement of London, I should say this was Ella's first ever time on an aeroplane! and there was even a little soft play area in the departure lounge at Edinburgh airport...

so the fun had started even before we boarded the plane!! with a minor blip when she had to hand monkey over as we went through security - oh the tears! she was literally sobbing! and when she got him back she was looking in his face going 'you alright monkey? you okay???' traumatic stuff for a 2 year old!!! 

She was very excited about all aspects of the plane! even the noisy takeoff, and the very bumpy landing - I know you get what you pay for, but Ryanair that was taking it a bit too far! Like I said Ella took it all in her stride tho, and just lapped up every minute of it! even telling monkey after we'd ascended 'monkey - we flying'!!! 

and then almost as exciting to her seemed to be the coach ride that followed going from Stanstead airport to Kings Cross! She got spoilt with prezzies by Auntie Mara as we arrived at her place and it was after midnight before we all got to sleep! 

She was definitely raring to go the next morning though, especially when she found out she would get to ride a train too! So off to the underground we hopped (which is actually overground at West Hampstead rather confusingly!)

and the first day was designated Ella day, as we introduced her to all the awesome kids things London has to offer like the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.  She was a big fan! 

She just loves dinosaurs, 

and is more a fan of fossils than ones that actually move and make noises - as we found out 4 months back in Edinburgh (many tears were shed) so I had reliably informed her, or so I thought, that there would only be 'bones' ones and not 'real' ones, and then we came across these two noisy ones that moved! and I was worried how she would react, but what do you know - she loved them! I told her one was called Terrible Claw, and she said 'Hi Terrible Claw!' She is still talking about him now! 

She also loved seeing the other animals too, and pressing all the little buttons on the exhibits like making the dolphin spin round and round!

I am just in love with building, it is incredibly beautiful! and I could have wondered around here quite happily the whole day long!

The added bonus for the forester in the family was this giant Sequoia! how awesome is this!

We weren't sure you could even get up there, as the first set of stairs we tried didn't have access to it and we couldn't see anyone else up there so it was amazing when we eventually got up there! 

and there were more stunning views of the building too from a little balcony!

I was a little bit in love with this colour changing earth in the Volcano area.  Ella wasted no time in hopping on the escalator with Auntie Mara and heading up through the 'tunnel' as she called it - halfway up she started crying as apparently it was too scary!

So I ran up after them, and when we came the long way down she declared that she wanted to do it again with Daddy so off they went!

We had lunch at Honest burger, because I haven't stopped hearing amazing things about it since we left...and I'm reliably informed it's one of the best burgers you can get in London these days.

It definitely didn't disappoint, and those rosemary fries were too good!

Ella even get her own mini sized burger which was too cute, 

but I think she was more impressed with the personal slinky the manager gave her while we waited!

The science museum has the coolest area in the basement with all kinds of fun sensory activities - Ella had seen her cousin Ellis go there a few months back and wanted to try it out for herself! She's all about the water loving so this was her fave bit!

but she also really enjoyed the little music area, and shouting into the different voice distorting speakers (you can see a little clip of this in the video at the bottom of the post)

I had been recommended to try out the Princess Diana memorial park, and it was conveniently nearby to the museums we had just been at, so we took a nice stroll through Kensington gardens to get there - on a gorgeously sunny day might I add (London - even if you didn't get awesome weather all the time you'd still be my fave, but the constant sun just elevates you to my fave for sure!) and it was long enough for Ella to fall asleep in the pram! hooray! and when she woke up she was ready to play! not before a little ice cream stop of course...

It had a massive pirate ship, surrounded by sand...

 and water play areas...

and I even found these cute wigwams around one corner!

Ella could have played here all day - how I envy the London mums with all this and more on their doorstep!

On the way back to High St Kensington tube we passed one of my fave shops ever - Whole Foods, so we of course had to pit stop for more food!!!

Hello cookie bar! 

and this watermelon cart was calling out for a picture! 

You know how Whole Foods is known for their 'whole-some' and healthy foods - well we succesfully managed to buy the most unhealthy things in the shop, but it was worth it! I have been wanting to try Crosstown Doughnuts for forever! and the peanut butter honeycomb bar from Mighty Fine was too good - plus root beer needs no explanation!!

One of the things I was most looking forward to was checking out Kerb food market, originally a pop up market which has now taken up permanent residence in Camden.  So we headed there for dinner.  

They had sooooo much choice! I was tempted by the Killadilla Quesadillas, we know I love Mexican but this name was also a winner! 

It is in such an awesome setting, right along the canal! We had to get there early eveningish so we could get Ella Bella home at a reasonable hour, but they had cute lights strung up everywhere so I'd imagine it would be even more awesome after dark! 

Ella was very happy with her 'oh my dog' hot dog!!! I wanted to take a pic of her by the sign, but she misunderstood and so stood smack bang in front of the sign, haha! 

and apparently pulling funny faces is the only way she will willingly let me get the camera out these days! She reminds me of the little girl from Overboard here! 

These Venezuelan 'Arepetas' were everything!!

and we washed them down with some mango lime juice!

and I have been waiting for months to try a Blu Top ice cream cookie sandwich! This one came highly recommend by the Texan on the stall who served me - red velvet cookie with raspberry ripple shortbread ice cream and a snickerdoodle cookie and salted caramel sauce! I'm drooling just thinking about it! 

The next morning we headed south of the river for some more foodie market fun! because they are the number one thing I miss about London! I have been hearing good things about Maltby St Market for years now and had never made it there so we rectified that this time around...

it is in the most unlikely of areas, and it just sort of appears out of nowhere underneath these railway arches! it is very quirky and I loved it! 

Again St. John doughnuts have been on the list for soooo long! their fillings weren't as exciting as I always see online but lemon creme was still tasty, you can't beat a handmade doughnut! 

I loved this colourful cheerful sign!

Ella and By tried this all natural peanut butter, and were very impressed! sadly it wouldn't have passed security on our plane ride home!

By chowed down on this amazing cheese and potato dish...

and this southern fried chicken maple syrup waffle from 'Waffle On' was incredible!

We couldn't leave without dessert so this coconut brownie from bad brownie did the trick! 

We headed to Holloway Road to try out this new milkshake and creperie bar...

I loved their crate seats!

and they had a lot of cool flavours! I went with the nutella and kinder bueno shake, 

whilst Ella had her own mint aero one and was in heaven over there with that monster shake! 

Later, we headed along the south bank because there is always too much fun happening along there! like this...

and these perfectly placed deckchairs with that view of Tower Bridge in the background!

and these fountains which Ella was a bit in love with!

Plus this little sandpit and bunting scene! 

We had hoped she would nap peacefully during this time so she was ready to party it up at the wedding, but no such luck when there was too much exciting stuff to miss out on! 

So we headed off to the wedding and hoped for the best! 

All smiles as we met up with Lucy! 

but the tiredness and accompanying grumpiness started to rear its ugly head as we tried for a family photo! 

Isn't Oscar just the cutest tuxedo wearing baby you have ever seen?! It was SO much fun catching up with the Taylors! 

We weren't sure if a saree was arriving for Ella or not but then it did! so we got her changed into it quickly and I tried for more pictures but she was on the brink at this point so she wasn't going to look up for it!!

but somehow looked all cute in my bad quality mobile phone pic I took with her and By, typical! 

I walked past this table plan at one point and had to snap a pic - because have you ever seen such a huge table plan??! Then I laughed later on in the night as I walked down that same corridor and spotted one on the other side for Aman's guests!! I hadn't even seen it before! 

So if you ever wondered what a reception for 600 guests looks like...this is just a small corner of it! 

Ella especially loved the clapping and cheering part as we welcomed the bride and groom in! Shortly after this pic she was whisked home by Auntie Mara on the bus tho so she missed out on the dancing - her fave bit!! 

We had the most amazing Indian feast for our meal...lazy Susan style! 

and eventually we caught a glimpse of the bride and groom and managed to snap a pic! Tash looked SO amazing! and they made their grand entrance to the coolest music, accompanied by some amazing authentically Indian drummers! and oh man, did her guests know how to party! some of the oldest guests at the wedding were the ones throwing down the most moves on the dance floor! 

Our little Reading psychology crew! 10 years down the line!

They clearly knew how much their guests were going to party it up and so they provided complimentary flip flops for all - how awesome!

Our last day in Sunday rolled around, and we couldn't have lucked out any more with the most amazingly sunny Sabbath day! We headed to church in Hyde Park on two double decker red buses - 

Ella (and monkey apparently) was loving it!! 

and I was really impressed with the new Christus statue in the foyer of our church building! Ella loved it too, and By snapped this awesome pic of her looking upto Jesus from outside of the building.  It was nice to be with soooo many other worshippers for once, and Ella made friends very quickly with another little girl her age and enjoyed sharing all her toys and snacks with her - it was super cute! 

After church, we made the most of being so close to Kensington Gardens and headed back there for a lovely picnic in the sunshine, with a spot of frisbee playing...

and hard decisions had to be made about which sweet confections had to be eaten first! 

I think Ella's face tells that the reverse chocolate chip cookie won out! 

and we topped off a perfect weekend with some fountain splashing fun in Hyde Park.  Honestly London, your awesomeness never ceases to amaze me! 

I know this is blurry but it perfectly encapsulates Ella's joy and just how sunny and gorgeous the weather really was! 

Check out that blue!!

Well done if you made it to the end of this post!! Who knew it was going to turn into such an essay! but we certainly had to make the most of every minute spent in that wonderful city of ours! and when I asked Ella last Saturday morning where she wanted to go for the day she replied quick as a flash with 'London'!!! Don't we all Ella - don't we all!

and here's a little recap of all that went down in this video!