Natural History museum.

The Amazing Natural History Museum London

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).…

farm animals

Family Fun at Odds Farm Park

We spent the past week in Leamington Spa visiting the in-laws. On our way home on Wednesday, Husband and I took a diversion off the M40 and had a day out with the kids at Odds Farm Park in Beaconsfield. Odds Farm Park is a farm that has a soft play area, several playgrounds, go-karts, crazy golf, tractor rides and a big sand and water play area. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to try out the latter four. But what we experienced, we really enjoyed.

Dubz and Moozles had so much fun. There was a smaller playground for Dubz plus bigger playgrounds for Moozles (which Dubz also enjoyed). Even in the soft play, there is a section for toddlers five and under. Moozles loved the big kids section. The only issue was that she was only able to go on one of the big slides. The other two slides required kids to wear t-shirts and leggings/trousers which we didn’t know about beforehand (she was wearing a sleeveless summer dress). But all the equipment, inside and outside, looked quite new and were of good quality.

 

There are snack/ice cream stands around the farm, and loads of picnic tables where you can eat your homemade picnic. If you are unprepared like us (or lazy, also like us), there is a cafeteria in the soft play area. We spent £30 on lunch, which I thought was a bit pricey for baked potatoes and chicken bites.

Both kids loved feeding the animals. Especially Dubz. And when he ran out of animal feed, he would just go stroke the sheep and goats’ noses. It was pretty adorable. We missed all the animals races and shows. I think next time we would visit for an entire day as there was just so much to do that we needed more than four hours to do everything.

An added bit of fun at Odds Farm was the circus. It wasn’t what I would call a ‘proper circus’. But my six-year old loved the Spiderman trapeze artist and the juggler. The best part, after the 30-minute show, was when the kids could get into the ring. Moozles got to practice spinning a plate on a stick, juggling and standing on a giant ball. The latter did not seem exciting to me, but I’m not a six-year old girl. The Charles Chipperfield Circus is playing at Odds Farm until the 2nd September (four shows daily).

 

All in all it was a great day. Well, it must have been fun because the kids passed out within 10 minutes of driving home. It took us 45 minutes to drive home to South West London/Surrey, which is a totally acceptable journey time for a day trip. Next time we will stay all day and bring a picnic.

 

We were sent tickets to visit Odds Farm Park for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.
 
London Zoo animals

London Zoo Trip and Information

 

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.

 

London Favourites: The London Zoo

 

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.

London Zoo Adress: Outer Cir, London NW1 4RY, UK

London Zoo opening times:

Wednesday 10 AM–5 PM
Thursday 10 AM–5 PM
Friday 10 AM–5 PM
Saturday 10 AM–5 PM
Sunday 10 AM–5 PM
Monday 10 AM–5 PM
Tuesday 10 AM–5 PM
Hotel Room

Chessington Safari Hotel

 

If you live in London or Surrey, you will have heard of Chessington World of Adventures. It is a fab theme park that also has a zoo, aquarium and petting zoo. Last year we went for Howloween, their cool Halloween celebrations during the October half-term. As part of our visit, we spent the night at the Chessington Safari Hotel.

We wouldn’t normally think to spend the night at a Chessington hotel (the park has two adjacent hotels: Safari and Azteca), as it is only a 20-25 minute drive away from our house. But as we were offered a room for our review of the theme park, we thought it would be a great idea to check out the amenities. My children love staying in hotels, but a hotel that is decorated in a spooky fashion is even more exciting. They also loved that they had a little nook for their beds AND A TV. Husband and I enjoyed our comfy double bed and the complimentary WI-FI.

It was also just so easy sleeping at the hotel after a busy afternoon at Chessington World of Adventures. The next morning we woke up to a beautiful view of zebras and ostrich roaming outside. We then had a yummy breakfast with the characters from Madagascar. Moozles and Dubz were enchanted! And we loved the fact that we could enter the park 30 minutes before the general public. Shame there was no time to enjoy the swimming pool. Two days at Chessington and we returned home happy and tired. We would love to return to the Chessington Safari Hotel again, and check out the other themed rooms.

Disclaimer: We were invited to stay at the Safari hotel as part of a review of Chessington’s Howloween. I was not obligated to review the hotel. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

york view

Nantes and Les Machines de L’ile

Les Machines is an art installation on a grand scale. You will see how sketches are brought to life with small models, which are then made on a large scale. The elephant is an amazing feature as it is 12m high (that’s 40 feet!!), and made up of more than 48 tonnes of wood and steel. You can go for a walk along three different routes, which take about 30 minutes each. When you are at the top, you feel so high and it is such a strange sensation to be moving along. One of our favourite aspects of the elephant is that its trunk splashes water at people. So funny to see, whether you’re near the elephant or riding on its back (have a look at my vlog below to see it in action).

Amongst other things, we saw a huge spider, operated by five people. It is astounding watching how the different limbs are controlled. And the latest creation is a heron tree, which is due to completed in 2021. There is currently one branch of the tree completed, which we walked along (it is about 20m long). The completed tree, which will be topped by two herons, will be 35m high.

Nantes is in the Western Loire region (central France on the west coast). We were staying at La Garangeoire in the Vendee, and it took about one hour and 15 minutes to drive to Nantes. There is a reasonably-priced parking garage across the road from Les Machines de L’ile. Entrance into Les Machines costs about 31,80 € for a family of four or five. To ride the elephant, it costs another 31,80 €. It is not a cheap day out. But it is well worth it for a fascinating outing.

After visiting Les Machines, we walked over a jetty to the O Deck restaurant. In hindsight, I should have packed snacks for the children so they would have been able to wait until we found a more suitable restaurant. O Deck was nearby, and although the food was good, the service was dreadful. We ordered the rapide menu thinking that would hurry things along, but we were at our table for almost two hours (it took half an hour just to get the bill). Not great when you have a limited amount of time to sight-see.

Finally we were able to go explore. The clever people at the Nantes tourism board have a green line around the main sights around the city. This means that you can follow the line and it will take you around to some interesting and beautiful venues. So no getting lost, just seeing the best bits. And the children thought it was so much fun to follow the line that they didn’t complain about all the walking. Woohoo.

We hadn’t realised what a big, and pretty, city Nantes would be. I wish we had had longer to explore. Another time, Nantes. Another time.

kingston london

Moonwalk London

Four months ago, one of my mummy friends emailed me to ask if I’d like to join her on the Moonwalk London. She suggested that we walk 26 miles in the middle of the night, in our bras. I don’t know if I was more horrified at the prospect of wearing a bra in public, or walking 26 consecutive miles. Before I could reply back (telling her that she had probably emailed the wrong friend), she emailed to say that perhaps we could do the half marathon instead. Upon reflection, and after looking at the Moonwalk website, I hesitantly agreed.

If you’re not familiar with Moonwalk London, it is a nightime walk to raise money for breast cancer. Wearing the bras is a way to show solidarity as well as to raise awareness and to just have some fun. Walk the Walk organise the Moonwalk challenges (in the UK and abroad) and this year was the 20th anniversary of Moonwalk London.

Regular readers will know that I enjoy a weekly walk. But that meant walking for about an hour, maybe totalling three miles. I found my walks in Richmond Park to be more of a mental health break rather than proper exercise. But training for the Moonwalk gave me purpose. It gave me a goal. Each week I began to add extra miles. The week before the walk, I managed 12 miles in 4 1/2 hours. I felt confident, for the first time, that I could finish the Moonwalk.

Then it was time to decorate the bra. This was nerve-wracking as I don’t consider myself to be very creative. Moonwalk send an entry pack to all participants that includes a push-up bra. Regular readers will know that I don’t wear bras on a daily basis and I certainly don’t wear underwired bras. So I grabbed an old bra and used fringing to jazz it up. Thankfully my friend has a glue gun. On a side note: glue guns are fun and I now want to decorate all my clothing. But I digress.

After 12 weeks of training, last Saturday was the big night. We headed to Clapham Common, to Moonwalk City. There were entertainers, bands, face tattoos, shoulder massages and men wearing skimpy outfits. We had some dinner, enjoyed the sights and did a warm-up.

As we had stated that we could do the walk in 4-5 hours, we were placed in the blue group. I now realise that we should have said that it would take us longer (as it did), then we would have been placed in an earlier group. The blue group was second to last in leaving. This meant that we didn’t begin the walk until 11.42pm. As we had arrived at 9pm, we were feeling quite impatient to begin. But then we did.

And apart from a couple of bottlenecks, the walk went smoothly. We were drinking little and often, and did not need the toilet during the walk. This made the walk a bit quicker for us. I have heard that the people who stopped for the toilets at St. Paul’s ended up queuing for an hour. Eek. Anyway, I was surprised that I didn’t feel sleepy during the walk, but I think the Starbursts I was popping every hour helped.

We finished the Half Moon at 5.25am. My feet were hurting a bit, but I was feeling very happy and proud. We grabbed a taxi and I was home for 6am. After a shower and a peanut butter sandwich (I know, I am so American), it was time to get some sleep. It took a couple of days to recover from the all-nighter and all that walking, but it was worth it. Not only do I feel fitter than 12 weeks ago, but I have raised money for breast cancer research. Moonwalk London has been such a wonderful experience, and I plan to keep on walking (but with a shirt on).…

Pizza express

Ain’t No Party Like A Pizza Express Party

 

Last year, my daughter had a Pizza Express party for her 8th birthday. She had a great time. But when I heard that Pizza Express offered pizza-making parties for adults, I didn’t think it would actually be that fun. Fast forward to last week when I was invited to a pizza party for bloggers at the new Pizza Express at Gloucester Road. And as you can see from my face above, I was having a pretty good time.

The evening started off with Prosecco and olives, which of course set the tone for a lovely evening. I was a little nervous as I didn’t really know anyone, though had met a few of the bloggers once or twice. But all the shyness went away with the Prosecco and we soon got stuck into some dough. Talk about an ice-breaker. After shaping an tossing some dough, we were all feeling relaxed. And giggly. This was mostly due to Alex (the branch manager) and Gianmaria, who made sure we were learning in an entertaining way.

Pizza

Then it was time to decorate the pizza of our dreams, we could choose as many or as few ingredients as we wanted. I chose to organise my cheese, pepperoni, olives and mushrooms into a heart shape. But there were some really beautifully designed pizzas that left me feeling very aware of my lack of creativity. The pizzas then went into the oven. And as we waited, we sat down to more Prosecco and lots of dough balls.

Despite my lack of pizza-making experience, I was quite pleased with my pizza (which I deemed ‘California Dreamin’). It was delicious, and I barely managed to have room for my favourite Pizza Express dessert (honeycomb cream slice). But somehow managed to squeeze it all in. Thank you so much Pizza Express for such a wonderful evening. Who knew that pizza-making parties could be so much fun for adults?!

 

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