London Living

A London Christmas- what to do during December in the UK capital

There is no place in the world like London at Christmas! Ok, so maybe I’m a little bit biased. And it’s not like I’ve spent significant time in other countries to say that either- haha.  I see photos of American cities and am equally “ooooh” about the visual feasts and activities going on there. It’s just CHRISTMAS, and you can’t beat it for the joy and the celebrations and the thanks for your love and connection to others. Still, my focus and love (and blog!) is for London so I’m going to tell you that if you’re deciding to be here for December you have made such an amazing choice.

There’s certain things I like to tick off during December. Have I eaten enough of our sweet mince pies? Stuffed my face with the German stollen or Lebkuchen? Bought a Terrys Chocolate orange? Mulled wine? Seen enough Christmas lights?

I’m writing this round up of London Christmas events a little late, granted, but to write up and give you recommendations from all the beautiful activities I like to try and see and do. It’s me looking back on what was such a super but hectic month, and I’m using my downtime (and poorly time) to catch up on what I’d recommend anyone to do and hopefully you can use this for prompts for Christmas 2019 and beyond!

  1. Think the best of Christmas themed ballets and theatre plays that you could shake a stick at and choose one! My Christmas rituals are to attend a Matthew Bourne ballet at the Sadlers Wells theatre in Barbican. It’s just a quick trot from Angel station.  I have seen “The Red Shoes”, “Cinderella” and in 2018, an all male cast for “Swan Lake”.  The impressively thought out modern twists make these ballets accessible for all, so I really recommend these as an “entry point” for ballet if like me, you’re not a seasoned ballet connoisseur. Seats are released in April from as little as £12 which for the OCD organised among us feels really fun and super organised to get sorted! It’s a steep theatre in terms of seating, which can be a bit scary if you pay for the cheaper seats and are sat what feels like in the sky, but I’ve got used to it now and don’t have any issues seeing the stage- great view points.

sadlers wells 2

I also either like to attend a pantomime or a play, and in 2018 I saw the most amazing version of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” at the Old Vic theatre in Waterloo. Again, the seats are released super early during the year and again, I recommend looking then for the best pricing and seating range you can afford or want to go for. Honestly, it was absolutely beautiful and there are so many highlights from the month, but this was totally up there if not maybe my favourite activity from this last London Christmas, and I’m seriously eagerly awaiting the release of seats for Christmas 2019. Stephen Tomkinson who is a famous English actor played Scrooge for this production and did an wonderful job, and the theatre gave free mini mince pies and clementine’s and served yummy mulled wine amongst other things at the bar. It was atmospheric, a really special way to spend time with one of my favourite people, and who doesn’t love the message that the tale of Scrooge hits home?

Alternative suggestions: The London Colliseum by Tranfalger Square does a lot of beautiful classical ballet versions of the Nutcracker or Swan Lake and if you jump in early, you can get some great prices for both this very historic venue and beautiful event.

 

2. Enjoy Christmas Lights! Everywhere.

I wish I had some earlier evening shots to display how really pretty these actually are.  Our evenings are dark super early so unless you have daytimes off to capture the lights in the afternoon, you’re stuck with the dark ones I’m afraid!

Covent Garden, Seven Dials, Oxford Street, Regents Street, Trafalgar Square and the Strand are some of the most beautiful walks you can do to soak up and take in the visual displays all around you. My favourite photo from the above is just of the phone box with some twinkly lights in the background, that was taken in Angel. London shops, hotels, historic buildings are of course all lit up and looking extra shiny and wonderful at this time of year.  London for free, and London looking even more incredible.

 

3. Somerset House

I think if I had to recommend one main iconic London building for Christmas festivities, I’d choose Somerset House. It gets of course a little busy (no- make that very busy) but it has lots of ticks: a huge tree, an ice rink, and a mulled wine and baileys bar. It’s the place to go with your children, with a friend as I did, or with work colleagues for that annual outing. It’s also the perfect place to don reindeer antlers and Christmas hats and pose in front of the beautiful Fortnum and Mason’s tree for your friends new and beautiful camera!

Photo credit for main photo to my superb photographer friend Helen Perry. Follow her  @christianahelenperry on Facebook or Instagram.

 

4. Famous London hotels for sophisticated and posh London. You’re worth it and these are dreamy!

Claridge’s has been on the must visit list for some time. It’s one of your key London hotels that you should factor in for a visit anytime of the year, but especially Christmas. It’s just behind Bond Street tube station, off Oxford Street, and it’s a real wow factor moment, when you see it for the first time, all lit up.

They unveil their Christmas tree every year, and this year the “Tree of Love” was designed by artist Diane Von Furstenberg. It was the first time I had visited, and seen their tree, and I of course loved it! I was totally enthralled by the elegantly dressed husband and wives and families who were obviously in London on a very special break, enjoying their stays. My friend Sanjay and I were happy enough for photos in the lobby for this one 🙂

Another first time visit: I attended the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone for a bloggers event in early December. It’s another one of the classic London hotels which offer super service, gorgeous rooms and exquisite afternoon teas. I absolutely loved the mix of their palm tree and Christmas tree combo in the main dining area!

 

5. Wreaths and pretty door facades of Hackney.  My favourite pastime on a day to day basis in my local area was to pick out my favourite wreaths. I love a Christmas tree in a window, and a pretty wreath on a door. Wreath making course for 2019 anyone?!

 

6.  Buy local (if you can- I recognise buying local is not in everyone’s budgets) and where it’s not possible to buy local, support who you like with a “like” on Instagram to support small businesses. I visited my Winter Market at one of the churches in Stoke Newington and had a browse at more unique and bespoke gifts and walked away with a handful of business cards and people I am now following for a more personal gift.

“We Built this City” on Carnaby Street is a year round shop I would totally recommend for something really special and individual- a great gift for someone at Christmas, but anytime to be honest!!

 

 

7. Check out Christmas themed breakfasts and brunches- plenty of alternative choices for the vegans and veggies here! One of my favourite places to pop into was “Deliciously Ella’s” deli just behind Oxford Street (and you should see the streets Weighhouse Street where the deli is situated connects to- serious London love!)  for a spiced hot chocolate, porridge and vegan mince pie!! The deli is also stocked full of beautiful Christmas flowers, and was Christmas jumpers and music and happy atmosphere abundant!

 

8. Places I didn’t and haven’t gotten to but totally recommend you check out are Chiswick House and the lights there, and Kew Gardens which does a display every year which is meant to be out of this world. You have to book in early to get a ticket for Kew so be organised! The Charles Dickens museum must be lovely at Christmas and I normally love the Christmas shop at St Martins in the Crypt by Trafalger Square, but they didn’t seem to be there when I popped in this year!

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Photo credit again to my lovely friend @ChristianaHelenPerry who does the most gorgeous formal and informal portraiture

I’d love to know what your favourite Christmas London highlights are and what I can put on my list for the next one?

Happy January all and wishing you a fabulous New Year!!

 

 

Health & Well-being, Journal

Where is your self love today? How to feel perfectly imperfect and sit with it

I’m sat on my bed, eating a bowl of porridge and jam and listening to Perry Como’s “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”.  This makes me happy! My new arrival, Matt Haig’s “Notes on a Nervous Planet” has been started and is sitting beside me. I’m finishing this week in a place of NOT feeling anxious, which is sweet, sweet relief!

My question today for you to ponder is where is your self care, your self regard, your self love when you are worrying about someone else’s judgement and people pleasing. Why do you think you are doing it to your poor head and heart?

Wanting to make people happy is really nice. But there have to be boundaries with that and you have to genuinely feel happy too.

I want to tell you that whilst it might not seem it on the surface of things, I am one of the most anxious people you will meet. Like Matt Haig mentions in his book, I too over catastrophise. If my boyfriend isn’t on time at an agreed destination, I actually go full blown panic mode that perhaps he’s been hit by a car. If I can’t get through to my mum on the telephone for a couple of days, I strongly consider the possibility she’s in A&E and I might lose her. I’ve assumed too much responsibility for things NOT my responsibility in my life, and that’s where I think my anxiety comes in.  I think I have to please everyone and I carry this feeling around with me that unless I am pliable and achieve that, I’m not loveable.  It’s a ballache. It’s damage that created it and it’s definitely damaging carrying it.

I have been told since childhood that I am a worrier and during my growing up years, and still now is that dreaded, anxious, knotted pit in my tummy that I. have. upset. someone! A small breakthrough in this though- after years of replaying every single details, questioning over did I tell them this or that and what I could have said or done in my defence is THIS. It’s taken me until 36 to realise when worrying obsessively over someone who is either acting/telling me they are upset by me, that at the core of it and more importantly when I’ve really sat and thought about it,  is a) I’ve definitely got more compassionate towards myself that I’m totally not perfect and that is very ok but b): breakthrough chaps, I’m not always sure I’ve been so happy with their behaviour towards me! Yet I couldn’t see that at the time as I was so obsessed and emotionally unwell, picking at wounds in my head that I should have done more, been more, behaved better and in certain really unhealthy situations just craving to be forgiven…  This has been a lightbulb moment for me. My go to question in these moments now is to ask “How kind do I think this person is?” and it really helps and directs me. I always take accountability for my actions but also, I will take accountability and responsibility for things I didn’t to, in my need to please, and therefore sometimes be taken advantage of for that. My other go to consideration now, is that if a friendship is making me feel anxious, what dynamic is going on here that needs to be considered? I might make mistakes, but I am generally a very kind person and realise more and more that I need the kindness and compassion I give out to others, back.

I was worried recently I had upset friends because I took some time during November to pretty much be a hermit, except to honour pre existing arrangements but also just to rest during the week after several weekends on the go. (No one was upset with me id like to add- I just felt incredibly guilty). I felt exhausted, but my people pleasing mind and need to justify means I often provide too much detail to over compensate and probably over complicate matters! I then get paranoid that I have caused offence, whilst also knowing mentally and physically I just need my own time and to see out the arrangements also made. I am a work in progress you see!

People will have expectations you can’t meet and be disappointed- it does not mean you have done something wrong.

If you are in a situation or situations where you feel you have to justify your self to friends or family, where you become extremely anxious that you have upset them, where you feel the need to check in with them a lot and actually ask if you have upset them, this is likely to be partly just “who you are” but could also be a result of their controlling and passive aggressive behaviour (?) You are allowed to assert opinions, you are allowed to say no and you are allowed to make mistakes. If you are being punished by silence, or punished by behaviour, it might be time to positively review the dynamics, because it doesn’t necessarily sound how a healthy relationship as an adult should. Friendship is not about punishment that the one time you weren’t “good” you have to overcompensate with your peace of mind.

The truth of the matter is that you are love. I’ll say it again, you. are. love.

You weren’t born worrying, torturing yourself, trying to be good enough to others in worry that you aren’t enough and that you might not be loved anymore. So where did this need to torment yourself come from? (This is not to account blame but to look at it as useful foundations on which to build from). It’s upsetting to keep doing this and you deserve better. We all do! 🙂

A daily or consistent practise of self love has to be the most important thing.

I know at times, when having a bad day or a bad moment some of the positive expressions can seem a little cliched or far far away from the reality, but crikey at other times they have saved my frazzled overthinking mind. It really is the little things that matter, it’s the little things that make a difference and sure, my mind might start creating the noise when the anxiety starts but it’s intercepted now by my little back up stations! Its small but it’s a start! Here’s how I find my inner strength and am building on my self love:

-Positive content is really important,  including what you absorb on Instagram, podcast and reading materials. On Instagram,  the Shelf Help Book Club has been a beautiful little godsend. I take part virtually, but you can go to classes too.  I am currently reading “The Kindness Method” by Sharod Izadi which I can’t wait to dive into!

-Reflective Journaling. Check out Project Love (https://loveprojectlove.com/) and their Hello 2019, Goodbye 2019 diary. I’m looking at my reflections during 2018, where I loved and learned the most and what I want to achieve and feel in 2019! Excited already!

-Kundalini yoga or just yoga in general. I’m planning to attend this group soon: https://www.joy.yoga/kundalini-classes/ Perhaps it’s not the best way to describe it, but attending here feels like when you were a kid and you’d hit the pillow in annoyance kind of relief! I leave feeling joy that I have come back to myself and can’t recommend it highly enough. Movement and getting out of your head sometimes is always good!

-Pranic healing- restoring and cleansing negative energy from your Chakras. A bit like Reiki, I had my first healing yesterday. Unsure what I fully thought but willing to try it again!

-Wellness events: weekends entirely to focus on you! Check out Soul Circus in Cotswolds, https://www.soulcircus.yoga/ The Big Retreat (never been, looks and sounds awesome!) https://www.thebigretreatwales.co.uk/ (And check out my blog post on Soul Circus which was one of my highlights of 2018 and my year of finding a better level of emotional wellness!)

-Quality friends and family. “You can’t choose your family”, except you can and you are not obligated to anyone who makes you feel bad. You can totally back off from anyone or any situation that doesn’t serve you if you feel you need to.  This is about protecting your own energy and that is worth it! I got lucky and I found some amazing friends who repeated love love love back to me. Whatever I said, they didn’t absorb the crazy of it, or help me dissect the lunacy of it, they just showed me love. If I came on too strong, these amazing beings hung on with their own strong boundaries, and showed me love again. Learn your own boundaries so you don’t take more than what you give to them- seek counselling if you need to. I learned so much.

Loving who we are and finding the soul of who we are repeats to a similar blog post I’ve written before, but it’s so true.

It is one short life and you deserve to be so so happy and connect to the joy and love of who you are. Where this has been damaged somehow, it is yours to reclaim it, with self kindness and love all the way! The question is, how and do you choose to? No one says you have to be perfect- you can’t be, because none of us are!! But it’s about you being kind and loving you more than anyone else 🙂

Learn to be, like and love you! You are good enough.

London Living

Where to buy the best “London” Christmas gifts in London!

“We Built This City” first opened on Carnaby Street 2014 as a pop up store, and since then has understandably become a permanent and important fixture on the street. Just a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus tube and also easy walking distance to Piccadilly Circus, the store is in a super central and handy location to reach. It’s colours, its vibrancy and it’s celebration of London and English culture is Carnaby Street through and through.

Nearby Oxford Street has the drones of the usual souvenir shops selling, quite frankly, the same old tat. Sure, some of it is nice, but none of it is particularly unique (“seen one, seen them all”). That’s where “We Built This City” steps in and steps up to bring you the best of London based artists. You are going to go in to buy something for your sister or relation overseas and walk out with items for yourself, or things on your own “to buy!” list, I promise you. This isn’t your standard souvenir cheese shop, it’s a mecca of some seriously talented London artists work and UK culture to be seriously celebrated. If you are a Londonphile as I truly am, you’re going to bloody love the amount of art and talent in here. 

It doesn’t have to be huge things either- the shops offer stationary, postcards, jewellery, personal and unique gifts, all with a London flavour.  You can find your favourite artist on their website with their A-Z list, or use this list to be inspired as I have. Check out their website for all the glory at: https://www.webuilt-thiscity.com/pages/revolutionising-london-souvenirs 

Then there’s the events that the store has on a monthly basis. Current artist in residence is the sublime Josie Shenoy who creates the most beautiful, delicate and heaven sent artwork. Ethereal springs to mind: it’s totally dreamy. Josie was the illustrator for the book The Buildings that Made London (https://www.amazon.co.uk/National-Archives-Buildings-That-London/dp/1408883643) and has been commissioned for Anthropologie, Somerset House and The British Museum to name but a few. Her work is incredible, and her website showcases all of this beauty and talent, but the BEST thing is that at the moment her pop up store is available at “We Built This City” until the 25th November 2018. Any of the prints from the book can be purchased directly from Josie’s site (https://josieshenoy.com/) but if you pop by on the evenings of the 24th or 25th, the lovely Josie will be there to add extra gold sparkle to your purchases, for free! 

Josie adding the pretty gold touches, a lovely perk of the pop up event!

Head downstairs in the shop from 6-8pm this Friday and Saturday evenings and get something totally unique and special for that equally someone special (or as I said on Instagram, perhaps just for that super special you!). 


I’m absolutely delighted with the print I purchased and I can’t wait to get in a frame, and get it up! It feels really, really lovely to have met the artist behind this glorious design and have my own little piece of London to celebrate 🙂 If you go, be sure to let me know in the comments below!! This one definitely invokes the magic of Christmas folks  x

Travel

How to spend 24 hours in Toledo

 

 

These are photos of my second time in the lovely Toledo but my first time doing any sight seeing! It’s only about 40 minutes driving from Aranjuez, and just under an from Madrid, and the route there is also so so lovely.  I wasn’t expecting the weather to be as cold, because in my head Spain is always hot, right, even in late October? Toledo was bright sunshine but only around 12 degrees, windy and definitely freezing in the shady spots. That didn’t dim the fact of how charming it is, and why you should go.

Why should you visit?

The old town is small enough to easily walk round and comfortably feel that you have seen a good amount if you were to go for a short weekend trip.

It’s also a place where you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money. There is tons to see and enjoy as you walk around- it has a great atmosphere and lots and LOTS of historical buildings.

It’s been named a World Heritage Site and has a culturally rich heritage with a mix of Jewish, Muslim and Christian influences.

Where to stay?

Well our hotel was in a very peaceful location, overlooking the water and hillside, but it was also a bit of an uphill walk to get into the heart of the old town. Basically, I think we are fairly fit and it was an effort for us so if you choose to stay here be prepared for that! The hotel itself though (apologies for no internal photos) was very nice inside. The staff were lovely and the breakfast was plentiful. Perhaps I wouldn’t rave madly about it as there wasn’t anything that made it stand out or be unique, but we had a solid nights sleep, the room was lovely, and filled up on the buffet breakfast,  so it’s certainly not a bad one! It was also very reasonable at around £50 for both of us for the night, and breakfast was an additional £6 each a night. The prices appear to change throughout the year- we booked via booking.com. Consider staying on a Sunday night, around your plans, as that will bring the price down.

Have a look at the hotel directly at: https://www.casonadelareyna.com/en/

I’ve previously mentioned that we have wanted to stay at the Alfonzo XII https://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/toledo/hotels/hostal-alfonso-xii/a/lod/eb7e5c82-5d9d-493a-8ae8-aa20e09f5aaa/360759

 

What to see?

The top things to see in Toledo include the Cathedral as per most cities, and the Alcazar.

You can also buy a ticket for just 9 Euros which encompasses a great range of attractions including the Monastery, Maria El Blanca Synagogue and the Jesuits Church. I had seen photos of the Monastery and really wanted to go, so we chose this one, but I dare say they are all amazing and what tremendous value! See the below photo for details of the “Tourist Bracelet” offer. We didn’t buy this as didn’t have long enough. Instead, we just chose one, which we loved.

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The Monastery

We paid only 2.80 Euro each for entrance to the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes which is quite incredible when you see these photos and how beautiful it was! We arrived here at about 10.35am on a Monday morning and were among the only people in the building to enjoy it properly and get some awesome photos. It is sheer peace and serenity and well worth a look. It wouldn’t take you more than an hour to walk around it.

http://www.sanjuandelosreyes.org

And I really loved playing with the light coming through the windows here:

 

The Cathedral

Built from the 13th century, entrance to the cathedral and the bell tower cost us 25 Euros for 2 people. The entrance fee came with free audio guides. We left here having completed viewing of the caethdral and the tower at around, 1pm and at that time on a Monday, the que was huge! So go early where you can.

Going up to the Tower was cool- there was only 10-15 of us in the group.  Here are some of the views from the top.

Cathedral 3Fat bell 1

 

We were able to fit in the Monastery and the Cathedral on a Monday having stayed over the nigh before from 10.30am-1pm comfortably, get back to Aranjuez and then onto Madrid for a 6pm flight! Anyone who knows me knows that rushing around, as well as relaxing, is TOTALLY UP MY STREET!! 🙂 But for your first time, I totally recommend a nice Fri-Monday visit and soaking up the Toledo charm at a steady pace.

I don’t have any “where to eat” recommendations unfortunately, and felt that there was a dearth of nice restaurant’s here. Anyone have any they’d like to suggest? Please comment below!

London Living

How to spend a weekend in London

Oh wow. I have got 101 (thousand) suggestions of what you could do with your time, but here is just one set of options for you! I hope to come up with many more!

My cousin Joanne was coming from Cork and we wanted a bit more of a girlie time. Here is some of our our itinerary. A lot of London is free in regards to museums and main attractions and therefore you can definitely budget according to your needs.

I’ve included some free things (Sky Garden, walking around Fortnum and Mason, and the Daunt Book shop/Marylebone/Regents Park areas.

Options to try: 

Sky Garden. This was my 5th visit and I won’t get bored of it! I booked online roughly 2 weeks ahead and selected a 2.15pm slot. It’s free to go up here! There is a brief que downstairs, which looks long when you first arrive, but they get everyone moving quickly. You then go through airport style scanners. We spent a bit over an hour here, walking round, talking, admiring those views and sipping a gin and tonic (2 G&T’s roughly £13-14.00 so fairly standard London prices). It was gorgeous! I believe they are starting to take bookings for New Year’s Eve right now which would be totally epic. One piece of advice: wear shoes if you got for an evening slot, otherwise I don’t think you’ll be let in. There is food throughout the day and teas/coffees and most things are genuinely quite reasonable: https://skygarden.london/

 

Fortnum and Mason Café. This old historic building sums up Britishness to me! It’s well worth a visit, just to have a look around the beautiful shop floor and especially at the Christmas shop! Trees are up, handmade advent calender’s are out and the baubles are glitzy. It’s Charles Dickens type fab.  It’s at a great location between Piccadilly and Green park tube stations, and I only visited this shop for the first time this year! It’s special and photo worthy. Everyone raves about the afternoon teas here, so it’s on my “to-do” list.

We then took a visit to the Parlour cafe on the first floor, and chose the ruby and salted caramel hot chocolate with respective marshmallows! It was busy as it was Saturday so we had to wave a bit to get our waiters attention, but everyone is super nice here and there were lots of happy groups around us sipping on Prosecco and clearly taking part in special occasions so it has a really nice feel to it. I think our hot chocolates were around £6.50 each, and well worth it for the quality and surroundings: https://www.fortnumandmason.com

 

Daunt Book Shop. This lovely Edwardian bookshop is a little haven from the shoppers on Marylebone High Street. It has a lovely little balcony area upstairs where you can sit and my cousin got a lovely free bag with their gorgeous shop facade on it with her purchase! As original and independent book shops go, this is the place to visit! https://www.dauntbooks.co.uk/

 

Regents Park. It’s cold but it’s still beautiful! I realized how much of it I don’t actually know! Contrary to popular belief, London has so many parks and green spaces and a lot of them immaculately kept. Plus a lot of these parks like Regents are huge! The sun was going down as we arrived, hence the darker photos. It’s always lovely to take a little stroll through one of these parks. It is one of the more popular, but due to the size you’ll always have plenty of space and you time moments!

 

Afternoon tea. If you are going to do it anywhere, do it in London! As a special final day treat, we took in a Beauty and The Beast themed afternoon tea at the beautiful Town House Hotel in South Kensington, which I have to say was absolutely glorious! My cousin bought me the Disney film when it came out when I was 10 and it’s been a favourite of both of ours since then. The interior of this hotel is wow-ing, the staff were just the loveliest (we had an explanation of everything we were eating and it’s connection to the film explained!), it’s of course a super cute theme and the quality of the food was awesome.

They change their themes periodically, but The Tale as Old as Time tea will run until the end of December 2018. If you book soon, you’d always get the theme with a festive twist during December, for extra magic!  https://townhousekensington.com/

 

Hope this has been a useful and enjoyable read! If there’s anything about the above you’d like to know more about, feel free to send me a message or just leave a comment anyway! Be great to hear from you x

London Living

London at Christmas Time

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Me and some dancing friends at “The Mighty Handful Christmas Singalong” back in 2014! This year it’s at One Kew Road, Richmond and it’s on my agenda! Pre requirement: cheesy Christmas jumper and singing voices at the ready

I love London at any time of the year, but Christmas has to be up there as one of my favourites. I plan far ahead and often get the cheapest seats (which is the bit where planning ahead is most advantageous). I don’t find planning stressful, I enjoy it and I also enjoy maximizing my cash where I can too, especially in this more expensive time of year. I do a lot of these every year and I’m aware that in some cases the tickets will be released back in April, and I’ll even book then!! A lot of these shows and things may still go on throughout the early days of January too, so you can always consider continuing the Christmassy love for a bit longer if you find you look today and the December dates seem a bit compromised. I always find checking the earliest dates of the month or the latest at this point would be your best bet as honestly, as it’s London seats really do fly. Hence mentioning the “C-word” today, when here in the UK we are still awaiting bonfire night and other autumnal activities! But if you don’t want to miss out you need to get booking asap.

This is going to be a word only blog post on some of my favourite London activities I have enjoyed over the last few years. I hope you like it and can make use of it!

  1. Matthew Bournes all male cast of “Swan Lake” at Sadlers Wells is on this year. I’ve seen Matthew Bournes “Red Shoes” (my favourite- it actually made me cry) and “Cinderella” and this all male performance is reputed to be his best. Seats from £12 and also running throughout January 2019.  Get in quick as these have been on sale for several months https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2018/matthew-bournes-swan-lake/
  2. Tues 6th November is when the lights on Oxford Street are turned on. Eek! It might seem early, but I love the angel lights that adorn Regent Street in particular and it’s beautiful to walk here to Soho and onto Covent Garden.
  3. Enjoy the window displays at John Lewis and Selfridges as you walk up towards Marble Arch. Enjoy the window displays EVERYWHERE but these are extra special, especially for children.
  4. Have a mulled wine and meet a friend at the hustly bustly and very Christmassy feels at St Martins Crypt, right in Trafalger Square. Their Christmas shop is also gorgeous and the church above of course offers lots of carols and advent services.
  5. See a play. I’ve booked to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Old Vic- seats were from £12. i heard this was brilliant last year from a friend, so ear-marked it for this year: https://www.oldvictheatre.com
  6. Release the inner child in you and go to see a pantomime. The older I get, the more play I need to bring in! Last year was Cinderella, this year it’s Aladdin at the Hackney Empire Theatre, running from the 24th November until early January and I’m totally looking forward to it! https://hackneyempire.co.uk/whats-on/aladdin/
  7. Visit Somerset House- there is ice skating if you enjoy it and if nothing else, take a drink with friends and enjoy the Christmas tree and iconic surroundings https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/skate-somerset-house
  8. Go and see the Nutracker at the London Coliseum. The London Coliseum is such a beautiful building and I’ve seen this enchanting ballet a few times here and loved it. Seats from £14. https://londoncoliseum.org
  9. Visit the Christmas displays of Selfridges, Harrods, Fortnum and Masons and Liberties. Just to peruse, just to enjoy all the prettiness of it.
  10. One I have not done, but would very much like to: check out the “After Dark” display at Chiswick House, listed as one of the must-do Christmas events of the year: http://chiswickhouseandgardens.org.uk/event/5541/2018-11-15/

This has been written for the Christmas of 2018 of course, but aside from No 10 I do the rest every year, some play changes of course but these are my London Christmas traditions and staples!

What are your Christmas traditions whereever you are and if you’re London based is there anything you’re doing here that might also be worth a mention?

London Living

Why you should visit Chiswick House in leafy West London

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I used to live beside Chiswick House for 2 years, on Burlington Lane. Its beautiful gardens became like my own back garden, as it was only a 3 minute stroll to get there, but I never went inside the house itself. Instead I have happy memories of sunny days on the river bank that runs down from the house and also lying near the cricket pitch when it wasn’t being used in order to have extra privacy- though in comparison to standard London parks these grounds are super quiet anyway and big enough to kind of get lost in and feel like you’ve escaped from the world.

In my photos today as Autumn falls there are so many fallen leaves, but just a smattering of families, couples and dog walkers. In contrast on the hottest days of July and August the bank is covered with picnic blankets, the sounds of music being played and sun lotion being applied as Londoners bask in glorious heat! It’s simply beautiful all year round, in whichever season, however cloudy or bright the day is.

Today was a happy day to enter the house which always made me stop and pause when I saw it. I always plan ahead and bought my ticket for entry to the house quite some time ago when an offer came up via Travelzoo, BUT the walk-in cost of entry is super reasonable at only £7.50 for adults. The Gardens alone are free and stunning- as I say, you can totally get lost for a while in them.

I wasn’t disappointed with the house. Inside, the Neo-classical sculptures, art and decor reminded me to the style of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s small and easy enough to walk around fairly quickly, but it’s also stunning, has been carefully restored and on a Sunday was not hugely busy so I had plenty of space and alone time in each room. One of the workers told me that a lot and almost all of the furniture is original and that they have restored the paint work by matching it back to what the paint colours would have been in the 18th century and therefore in its heyday. When this building was completed in the early 18th century by the 3rd Earl of Burlington, it was something of a master piece and people flocked from all over London to come and see it. It was inspired by his visits to Italy and the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio, and “became the model for every gentleman’s semi rural retreat”. The Red Velvet and Blue Velvet rooms on the first floor are sumptuous master pieces. If you have done the usual parks and seen the typical London tourism it would be well worth checking out the house either this month or indeed when it reopens in April next year http://chiswickhouseandgardens.org.uk/

NB- I haven’t been able to include many photos from inside the house itself, as after taking a few I was told you weren’t allowed to. Oops!

Extra handy things to know

The House is only open from April to October (so get cracking if you want to visit now!), but the grounds are open all year.

The house does two free tours with the price of admission on Sundays only at 12 noon and 2.30pm. I missed this unfortunately- it would be super to have a guided tour around the house for extra information, though they have lots of information throughout the property and staff you can speak to if any questions.

How to get here

-Chiswick Overground station is literally a 5 minute walk.

-If coming via underground get the Piccadily line to Hammersmith (zone 2) and walk across the platform to take the District line to Turnham Green (Zone 3) which is literally 3 stops away from Hammersmith. (You will see Turnham Green also exists on the Piccadily line BUT it only operates super early in the morning or after 22.30pm at night for some odd reason so do make sure you do the swap to District at Hammersmith!) From here, take a quick left outside Turnham Green tube station, and stop at the bus stop there to take the E3 in the direction of “Edensor Road”. This will take you up into the heart of Turnham Green where the church is in the middle of the green, and the stop you need to get off will be, lo and behold, “Chiswick House”, about 7-8 minutes later (traffic dependent!)

Where to eat

Chiswick House has a cafe next door BUT you might also like to head on the E3 back into Turnham Green/Chiswick Police station bus stop areas and check out the variety of little independent bistros and cafes there, leading down in the direction of Hammersmith.

Nearby attractions you might want to add on

Fancy some shopping? You have the very large Westfield in nearby Shepherds Bush https://uk.westfield.com/london

Gorgeous Kew Gardens- https://www.kew.org/

Considering Richmond? You should! Check out further details at: http://www.visitrichmond.co.uk/

What else is going on at Chiswick House this year?

There are evidently things going on at Chiswick House all year round! I’d recommend taking a look at its website as its super comprehensive and will give you a lot of detailed information and ideas, including volunteering

Something that jumps out however and that I discussed with one of the guides there is that from the 15th November to the 30th December there is an exciting event taking place called “After Dark” where Chiswick Houses’ exquisite grounds are illuminated in beautiful lights for us all to enjoy the grounds, with food and drink stalls available too to perhaps buy a mulled wine from! Tickets are on sale now and I think I’ll definitely be getting mine 🙂 http://chiswickhouseandgardens.org.uk

If any of this was helpful for you and you decide to visit, please enjoy, and let me know!