A couple of weeks ago, we were surprised with a sunny, warm weekend day. We were determined to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine. We remembered that a few months ago we had gotten a family membership to the Historic Royal Palaces. We had only used it once so decided to visit Hampton Court Palace again.
If you're not familiar with Hampton Court Palace, it is the former residence of Henry VIII. It is incredibly beautiful and grand. But if you have young children, you may want to skip the palace itself and just enjoy the stunning grounds. We did go inside the palace, but only for about 20 minutes. The sunshine was calling us.
Who hasn't heard of the famous, and very wealthy, Phileas Fogg and his plan to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days?! Jules Verne's acclaimed novel was written over 100 years ago, and is just as exciting today. Around The World In Eighty Days is brought to life (and adapted) by Laura Eason and is currently touring the UK in a live show.
The show starts off in Victorian London and follows Pileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout as they try to travel around the world within 80 days to win a bet. There are eight actors who play over 125 characters and they transport the audience on exciting adventures as they travel on trains, boats and even on a elephant.
While our family outings are normally in London and Surrey, sometimes we go farther afield. Last month we ventured to Oxfordshire to visit Blenheim Palace. Not only is it the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill, but it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it is truly magnificent.
When you drive into Blenheim Palace, you can't help but feel awe of this fantastic palace and the lake and grounds. And when you enter the palace grounds, this feeling does not go away. As an American, I did not grow up visiting palaces and stately homes. And to be honest, my children are probably not that impressed since we have visited so many. But I can't help but be dazzled by beautiful architecture and landscaped gardens. It is a glimpse of a decadent time.
Tom hates bedtime. It is so boring. But one night he hears a noise outside. There are girl pirates trying to steal the front of his house (to disguise their pirate ship, obviously). Tom and the fearless girl pirates embark on an adventure to find the naughty grown-up pirates who have been going around town stealing priceless objects. And this is the story of The Night Pirates, now on at the Rose Theatre Kingston.
Yesterday I took Dubz and Moozles to Kingston to watch this fearless and fun family show. Dubz is five so he loves all things pirates. At nine, Moozles was not fussed about going until she found out that there were girl pirates. We love a bit of girl power so we were excited to see some females taking charge.
Husband has been desperate to visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for ages. I wasn't really sure if Moozles and Dubz would enjoy a day looking at old boats, so I had been putting it off. But I thought that this summer would be the right time to have go for a visit. Dubz is now five and Moozles is nine, both at an age where they enjoy learning and don't throw that many tantrums. So a couple of weeks ago, we drove down to Portsmouth.
When I hear 'dockyard', I think of water and boats, but the thoughts aren't very exciting. I have to say that the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard was more than I was expecting. Before you arrive into the dockyard, you see the HMS Warrier 1860 looking quite grand on the water. When you enter the docks, you can choose what you want to do first. We went to the HMS Victory as we thought it would be less busy in the morning. Husband has quite a few memories of visiting the dockyard as a child and was keen to see the Victory again. So we climbed aboard and explored the ship.
We don't go to many shows as a family. I either go with my 9-year old daughter or my husband. My son is quite fidgety and cannot sit for more than an hour. I can't tell you how many shows we've endured with me silently screaming at him to stop kicking the seat in front. So when we were invited to view The Wind in the Willows at Kew Gardens, I was excited to see a show with no proper seats.
Once you arrive at Kew Gardens (Victoria Gate), there is a 10-minute walk to the beginning of the show. We spread out our picnic blanket, and waited for the first part of the show. Husband is not a fan of sitting on the ground, so he sat at the back on a camping chair we had brought. I let the kids eat half of their sandwiches, because it is obviously very tough not to start eating lunch at 10.30am.
Nothing kicks off a splendiferous summer like a trip to the Roald Dahl museum followed by afternoon tea with Mr Kipling. I was pretty excited to visit the museum, but then to get to eat my body weight in cakes?! It was like a dream come true. First, I must clarify that I was not being forced to eat lots of cakes. I just love Mr Kipling (especially the Viennese Whirls and Bakewell Tarts).
The Roald Dahl Museum is both educational and fun. I really enjoyed learning about Roald Dahl (Moozles had read a biography about him so was an expert, she informed me). But she loved learning how tall the various characters were, and that she was the same height as Danny. We really enjoyed seeing Roald Dahl's armchair and the place he created all of his stories. The museum has loads of interactive bits, which made it interesting for my nine year old and my five year old. There was also story-telling, dressing up and crafts. Dubz and Moozles loved the paper flowers we made.
If you're on Instagram, you've probably seen hundreds of posts from lavender farms all across the country. June, July and early August are the best times to visit. Take some family photos or capture your outfits in a beautiful environment. And if you live in south London, Mayfield is the nearest lavender farm.
We first visited Mayfield Lavender Farm four years ago, after Moozles finished her first year of school. I was looking back at the photos from this first visit because we had our third visit today. And how my little ones have changed. They really aren't so little anymore. My two were running around, trying to stay away from bees. At one point, they were both adamant they had been stung by the bees. They hadn't. But it can be quite daunting for children to see so many bees in one place. There are loads of bees, but they mostly keep to the lavender.
When you tell young children that you'll be spending the day at a garden, you will see the terror in their eyes. Their lips may even quiver at the thought of looking at flowers and not spending the day at the playground. So when I told the kids that the four of us were spending the day at The Savill Garden, they were not enthused. Fast forward a few hours, when driving home, and both agreed that they had had loads of fun. So let me tell you why an ornamental garden can be such a fun family day out.
The Savill Garden is utterly beautiful. Located in Windsor Great Park, there are 35 acres of woodland in addition to the gardens. There are different areas, including the Summer Gardens, Autumn Wood and Winter Beds. Although we had a map, we just wandered around throughout the various interconnected garden areas. And I spent a lot of time smelling the roses, literally.
My children love Chessington World of Adventures. Moozles goes on the big, scary rides (with her daddy), and Dubz and I go on the gentler rides. The amusement park is about 20 minutes, in the car, from our house so we visit several times a year. Last year, I bought an Adult & Pre-schooler Annual Pass for Dubz and me. And I thought I would let you know if I found it to be good value.
First of all, the annual pass is for adults and children up to, and including, the age of five. At £60 for the pass, you would need to visit three times to break even (the one-day entry cost for a parent and pre-schooler is £21). But the pass gets you a 20% off discount off food and the gift shop, which is great. Even if you bring a packed lunch, you might still be tempted with donuts, ice cream or a cuddly toy. It helps having that extra little discount.