London outings

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London Favourites: The London Zoo

One might not expect to find such a wonderful zoo in London. After all, London has so many wonderful attractions. But luckily, the London Zoo is another terrific attraction to add to the very long list  (and it also happens to be the oldest scientific zoo in the world). It has such a vast array of different animals, from tigers to gorillas, hippos to lemurs, butterflies to monkeys.

My favourite part of the London Zoo is the giraffes. They are normally easily seen, eating leaves and looking very sweet. Husband loved the fruit bat forest. We got to see them fly around and eat fruit. Dubz really enjoyed the B.U.G.S. (Biodiversity Underpinning Global Survival). In fact, we all really liked seeing the large variety of invertebrates, even Moozles who is normally really scared of spiders. Moozles' favourite area of the zoo was the aquarium. She really liked looking at all the fish and finding out about coral.

The zoo also has a lovely old-fashioned merry-go-round and a playground. Unfortunately a few minutes after we arrived at the playground, I noticed that I could not see Dubz. Husband went to look for him and realised that Dubz was gone. We went to look for him, then went back to the playground. He had gone to look at the giant inflatable slide. When he saw that we were gone, he went up to a family and told them he was lost. He waited sweetly until Husband found him. Then Dubz had a cry. Poor little dear. He definitely learnt a lesson.

Since we are trying to save money, we brought most of our snacks and drinks from home. But we did go to the cafe. Husband and I had a yummy lunch while Moozles and Dubz ate chips ( and drank the Imune Nurture drinks we had brought with us. They had eaten their homemade sandwiches at about 11.30am because they have trouble waiting to eat lunch at a normal time.

When we visit the London Zoo, we normally go on a Sunday. That way we can drive (there are nearby roads with single yellow lines, where you can park for free on Sundays). There is a car park and 'pay and display' street parking as well. It takes about 35-55 minutes to drive from South London, depending on traffic. If you take public transport, Camden Town station (on the Northern line) is a 10-15 minute walk to the zoo.

You can buy a family ticket for the London Zoo online for £68.04. Not the cheapest day out, but well worth it. You could also try collecting reward points with Avios. You collect points on your essential and non-essential spending (groceries, petrol, lipstick, etc), and you can then use the points to buy rewards such as flights, hotels and afternoon tea. And their current campaign, which is Do More With Avios, gives you the chance to spend your points on family and friends (or they could spend their points on you).

If you do decide to visit the London Zoo, give yourself a full day. We spent five hours on our last visit and didn't manage to do everything. Luckily, we can visit again soon.

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We were given tickets to the zoo from Avios and Imune drinks for the purpose of a review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

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London Favourites: Natural History Museum

This is the second post in my series of London Favourites.  I will be posting 1-2 times a month about fun activities and attractions for the family, as well as ideas for grown-up days/nights in London. Last month we visited the Tate Modern, and this post explores another family favourite - the Natural History Museum.

The Natural History Museum is another one of those free museums that make culture so accessible in London. And, there are DINOSAURS. Big, giant dinosaurs. Who could ask for more? We arrived at the museum at 10.15am last Sunday and there was already a long line to get in the museum. Luckily it moved quickly and we were inside within five minutes and able to enjoy the exhibits and the gorgeous building. If you are visiting on the weekends or school holidays, it is best to arrive as close as possible to when the museum opens at 10am or near closing (the museum closes at 5.50pm).

The museum is divided into four main zones. The blue zone is full of dinosaurs and large mammals; the red zone includes things such as volcanoes and geology; the green zone includes bugs and birds; the orange zone contains the Darwin Centre and the soon-to-open Wildlife Garden. Since Dubz is obsessed with 'dino-roars', we mainly stayed in the blue zone. He loved the large animatronic dinosaur, and when we left it, he said 'bye bye dino-roar, love ou'. Too cute! Dubz also enjoyed seeing the creepy crawlies in the green zone. Moozles did not like the bugs at all. But she enjoyed seeing the large mammals and learning about the dinosaurs.

The Natural History Museum has three cafes and one restaurant, but there is also a picnic area in the basement. This is where we sat at a table with our packed lunch. I would like to tell you that we are such a thrifty family and are great at saving money. But before we left we took the kids to the gift shop and let them go crazy buying dinosaur books and dinosaur toys. They didn't even have to beg. Oops.

We spent about three hours at the Natural History Museum. As we live in London, we can go back and see more with each visit (we have been before). But if you are visiting London, you could happily and busily spend an entire day there. But as it's free, you could pop in for a couple of hours and still see loads of wonderful things. There is free parking to be found on a Sunday, either single yellow lines, metered or some resident parking. But you can take the bus or the underground (nearest tube station is South Kensington, which is a 5-minute walk away).

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London Favourites: Tate Modern

For those of you who aren't familiar with London or have only been once or twice, I thought I would start regularly posting about all my favourite London attractions. Places that you should visit, whether as a foreign tourist or someone who lives in the UK. We briefly considered moving out of London after we had our first child, but realised that there was no where else we would rather live. I'm sure you all love your towns/cities/villages, but me, I love London.

First stop -  Tate Modern, which is located on the Southbank. One of the great things about London museums is that many of them are free. Although you do have to pay for the special exhibitions, much of the museum is free for all to peruse. There is so much to see, that you would need to make several trips. And don't assume that children won't love a modern art gallery. My children had a fun time, and have asked to go back to the Tate again.

We went on Saturday, and our first stop was Liminal on level four. There are boxes, of different shapes and sizes, which children (and adults) are invited to try and use to make sculptures. Moozles and Dubz made a robot, and Dubz even donated his hat (for a minute) to make the robot a bit snazzier. Tate Modern have a few kids-oriented exhibits like this, allowing the children to participate in the art.

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After looking at some art installations, we were feeling quite hungry so we popped into the Tate Cafe. We hadn't eaten there in years, and were pleasantly surprised at how the food had improved. Husband and I had the three course Christmas menu (which cost £25 each). We raved about the meal for days, as all the courses were superb. My potted shrimp starter was my favourite course. Husband loved his duck main. And the kids' favourite was pudding (what a shocker). Tate Modern give kids a free main meal, at lunchtime, with every adult meal. Such a lovely touch! We enjoyed the meal so much, we are planning to go again soon with family.

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London Favourites: Tate Modern

After lunch, we had a stroll by the river and even spotted one of the Paddington bears that are dotted around London. There is also a German market by the Tate, which is on until Christmas Eve. There were some lovely stalls, but it was hard to have a good look as I was firmly holding on to little hands. There was a lovely little chalet that people were relaxing in, drinking mulled beverages. But alas, that was not meant to be.

We did see a chalet filled with pocket watches. For some reason, Moozles is obsessed with pocket watches and has been wanting one for ages. So after letting her have a good look, I distracted the kids while Husband bought her a pocket watch. She is going to be so happy come Christmas morning! All in all we had a lovely family day out. Dubz had his first trip on a train and the underground. We got culture, good food and even a little Christmas pressie.

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We were invited to have a complimentary lunch at Tate Modern to try out their Christmas menu. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

 

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Last Sunday we took advantage of a lovely sunny day in London and went to Kensington Gardens. Now that our youngest is two years old, we thought it would be a great time to check out the Diana Memorial Playground. The playground opens at 10am every day (closing times differ throughout the year). We arrived at 9.58am to find a herd of families waiting to be shepherded in. There is park employee who lets people in, and they only allow a certain amount of people in at a time. They also do not allow adults in unless they are accompanied by a child. 
 
Once in, we found the playground to be busy without being overly crowded. The kids loved the big pirate ship. But the playground has more to offer. There is LOADS of sand. I definitely recommend bringing your bucket and spades. But there are also swings, a seesaw, playhouses and tents to play on/in. There were only two big kid swings but four or six baby swings (I can't quite remember). There were climbing structures and a mini-playground for the younger toddlers.
 
As it was very sunny, and Husband is very pale, I was relieved to see covered structures with benches to allow people to rest in the shade. And since my kids eat constantly during the hours of 9am-12pm, I was happy to find benches where we could sit and enjoy a snack, or three. There is a cafe, but it seemed a bit overpriced.
 
For those of you who live in London, you can of course get there via tube or bus. We chose to drive as Dubz is a bit of a handful on public transport. The beauty of going on a Sunday (or Bank Holiday) means you can park for free on a single yellow line. We parked right outside the park's closest entrance.
 
The kids had such a fun time. The playground is quite big, but is sectioned off making it feel more private than it is. There is paving woven around the playground so you can push your buggy/stroller around. But there are also places to park your buggy. 
 
I think the playground would suit babies who can sit on their own up to kids of about the age of eight or nine. Babies can play in the sand or chill in their buggies while toddlers and little kids play. I saw a girl, who looked about 11 or 12, walking around with a bored expression. But it is a great place for little ones to run around, explore and release energy. Even better for Moozles, there was a carousel outside the playground so she got to have a little horse ride before we went home. 
 
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