Shepherds Bush | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

When you’re moving to London (or around London), it’s hard to know where you should go. If you’re not from the area, you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into when you jump into a lease to a new neighbourhood. As many Americans do, we started looking in the familiar sounding South Kensington and Notting Hill when we arrived… but have now moved on to more obscure-sounding pastures after finding ourselves with a bit more lay of the proverbial land here in London.

I often get asked by future residents about what areas work best and for what reasons- and while I know from my own experience, I thought it might be helpful for people to hear from locals in those areas. There’s no better way to hear about what life is like in a particular areas.

So here we go, I’m kicking it off with a little guide to our home here in West London, Shepherds Bush. Follow along with the series to hear from some very cool (and very normal) friends of mine as we share our little views of London living with you.


SHEPHERDS BUSH | W12

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

I live in Shepherds Bush, which is in West London. While sits next to Notting Hill and Holland Park, it’s a bit grittier and less glossy than the others. It was the home of the BBC for decades and the impact on the neighbourhood is that the production team that lived nearby gave it a cool, smart artistic feel… yet it is blended well with endless other ethnicities beyond British. (It actually has more people fro more places than another other neighbourhood in London!) There are fantastic State schools (free!), there are great local churches, and there is the largest shopping mall in Europe here, too. I will say, it’s not a great kept secret. The fact that there are great state schools and affordable housing are making it boom quickly. 

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

I’d give where we live an 8, because we are close to both the Central Line and the Hammersmith & City line. However, further west in the neighbourhood is a bit more remote from the tube stations. If you live deeper in the neighbourhood, you’ll likely hop a bus a few stops to get into the tube stations.

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

I think I’d opt for the pretty Easter egg coloured houses along Wingate Street in Brackenbury Village (because you’d also get into Brackenbury Primary) or somewhere just off the playground from St. Stephens to get into the catchment from there and be really close to the underground connections.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

Compared to Notting Hill (where we were before), I’d give is a 7/8. It’s going up quickly, even from when we moved here a year ago…. But still- we have a house for about 20% more than we paid for a TINY two bedroom in Notting Hill. And it’s a 7-8 minute uber ride away from that house.

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Oh man, if you come to the W12- get ready to rub elbows with all walks of life. Three people that I saw today: 1. A fit Austrian mum headed to the pool with her kids in their Jaguar station wagon. 2. The manager of the local Syrian bakery we go to for pizzas. 3. Our older neighbours who have lived on this street for about 20 years who stopped by to meet our new baby on their way out to get groceries.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

This used to be a dismal answer… but it’s getting a bit better. Swallow Coffee just opened on the Goldhawk Road. Proud Mary’s is a local favourite…. And to be honest, that’s about it. We need better coffee shops in the area. I typically head to somewhere generic like Starbucks or Costa if I need to get some work done in a coffee shop around here.

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

We love Thai food at the Crown & Sceptre pub, curry from Nepalese Tandoori or, our staple, is Damascene food from Ayam Zaman. We go there at least once a week and the staff treat us like family.

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN SHEPHERDS BUSH AS A LOCAL?

Ravenscourt Park is a gem of the area. We go there a ton as a family, get ice cream at Bears, or head to Westfield for some shopping. Tyler may catch a match at the QPR stadium or we may go to friends homes for lunch/dinner. (Remember- we have more square footage here in W12! We can actually have friends over and enjoy it!)

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

£10-13


Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Keep an eye out for other neighbourhood guides... coming soon! 



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 21, 2017 and filed under london.

A Tiny Surprise: Meet Edie.

 

Much to our surprise and delight, and nearly a month before her due date, we welcomed our daughter- Edith Brooke Knight- into the world on Sunday evening. 

What started as a weekend date night to celebrate an anniversary with friends and eat some pizza by the river, turned into timing contractions and coming in- "just in case" to the hospital that evening (with the hospital bag I had randomly and obsessively packed earlier that afternoon). Going into the hospital for a quick check then turned into 20 hours of contractions and, finally, an emergency caesarean when I finally started to dialate and she decided to start coming. 

Since all of this ended up happening before 37 weeks, the doctors wanted to hold off on delivery for as long as possible to allow her lungs to develop before they got her out. Luckily, steroid injections and slow-playing everything resulted in her needing no extra breathing support when she was born.... which made every single miserable contraction in the meantime worth it.

It was long, it was sudden, it was scary and also- it was totally fine and happy... but I think most people would look back on their deliveries with some same words. 

Either way, we're praising God that she's here and she's ours to keep.

Welcome, sweet Edie. 

 

Edith Brooke Knight | 9 July. 2017 | 17:24 | 6.46 lbs


Since we weren't planning on having a baby here so soon, life was moving on as normal the past few days. So much so, I made a video about what it's like to have a baby on the NHS in London on my last visit to have a regular appointment. Take a peek and you'll get a small glimpse into what the last 72 hours have been like for our family here at UCLH in London.

 



 

*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on July 11, 2017 and filed under babies, babies kennedy, kids.

My Notting Hill | Farm Girl Cafe

For a while, I've been waiting to try the infamous (or shall I say, "in(stagram)famous") rose latte from Farm Girl on Notting Hill's Portobello Road. But let's be honest: this place is made for women and it was going to be a hard sell to drag Tyler and company out to a place that serves health food and girly drinks when places like Granger & Co. are so nearby.

When my sweet friend, Georgie, recommended it for the place for a meeting- I jumped at the chance.

We had such a nice morning- clear skies, early enough to avoid waiting for a coveted table in the garden and great chat. (Though to be fair, she's so funny you don't need a great setting to enjoy an hour with her. She is a guaranteed treat for a great conversation!) The experience was overall really lovely, but I thought I'd give a quick review in case you want to go, too.


Farm Girl Cafe

Tucked in discreetly off Portobello's most popular row of coloured houses, you'll find Farm Girl Cafe. It's pretty vine-covered entrance make the walk-up appeal really enchanting. Seating is airy and pretty- regardless of if you sit inside or out. (Though it was gorgeous when we were there, so I opted for a pretty seat outside.)

The menu is healthy- think açai bowls, buckwheat pancakes, vegan donuts and avocado toast. It's more or less like you've been transplanted to L.A. for brunch. The prices are a bit steep (I think my açai Bowl was £12 by the time I added on granola?), but with people constantly moving in and out of the cafe- they don't need to worry about if people will pay.

The showstoppers are the quirky drinks the make at the bar... rose lattes dusted in dried rose petals, the bright blue butterfly matcha or the red hibiscus matcha. We opted to try the rose lattes, and, well, it tastes like rose water in your coffee. Not sure if I'd reorder it, to be honest, but it was fun to try and pretty to look at.

The food was good- my bowl was refreshing and massive. The buckwheat pancakes with coconut yoghurt and strawberries a hit... but the £3 vegan donut was a bit sad and a reminder as to my fervour for "real" American donuts. 

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The service was a mix of really sweet and really, gulp, salty. Trying to ask the barista where the bathroom was felt like asking Regina George for a ride home from school, but our server was really sweet and the overall vibe felt friendly.

All in all- I'd recommend Farm Girl. It's pretty, the food is nice and the pretty setting is hard to beat. Feel free to add it to your day in Notting Hill... just go early to get a good table without a wait, as tables are first come, first served.


Farm Girl Cafe | 59A Portobello Rd, London W11 3DB, UK 


Find more of the best places to eat in Notting Hill here on my guide, or search my dedicated series My Notting Hill for full posts on what's great in this special area of London.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 10, 2017 and filed under notting hill, eat, drink.

Did Somebody Say... McDonalds?

This week has been a long week. The temperatures here are really warm… and while this may be a land of many charms, it does not have air conditioning like Americans are used to. It’s our eighth summer here, and still- it just feels suffocating for a few of the weeks of the year.

Anyway, it’s been a hot, long week home with the kids feeling so big and tired. And when it’s hot and you don’t have a car, getting out of the house this pregnant requires long, sizzling walks on pavement while you collect sweat on your body in places you can’t even mention. Beyond that, it’s been busy with big and little things filling up the days… and I’m sitting here at the edge of the weekend without much relief in site. (You know what I mean? The days are just kinda bleeding together and Saturday might as well be Tuesday.) 

In the midst of long morning of crying and fighting and picking up a million toys, I was just totally over the idea of going downstairs and staring in the fridge to conjure lunch. So I pulled out my phone and scrolled Uber Eats, knowing I wouldn’t actually end up buying anything off there because it would be a waste of money to spend that much money on a lunch for kids and myself.

But then, whaddaya know… the first option that appeared: McDonalds.

Now people, I don’t have a car. We don’t do drive through… because they don’t have it, and, well, we don’t have a car. I pretty much make everything from scratch that we eat. But just as the American in me would really love to crank her air conditioning down to a cool 65 right now, that same person sure did order 2 happy meals, a cheeseburger and French fries to be sent to her house with the enthusiasm of an American mom from the midwest on Black Friday when those Kohl’s doors open at 4am. Yeehaw.

And 23 minutes later, a knock on my door came and lunch was delivered. (To be honest, they forgot my fries- but I mooched from the kids and no one was the wiser.)

It might be one of the best £10 I’ve spent in a long time.

Now, if only Chick-fil-A would arrive in London… I would be able to merge all the great things into one life.

As we sat there- moods beginning to lift and a calm quiet wafting through the house like a sweet perfume, Viola randomly said: Harry, do you know that there is nothing you can ever do to make mommy stop loving you? Nothing!

Ahh… they don’t think I’m a mean, four-headed dragon, after all. Well, at least, not all the time.

And here’s to anyone else out there, who knows that while half of your friends may be horrified that you fed your kids McDonalds- your entire self can rest assured that occasionally giving your kids French fries and a dubious hamburger is actually a really great thing for everyone involved. Keep truckin’ ladies. This biz is hard work! I got your back.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 9, 2017 and filed under kids, life, love.

Forcing American Baby Showers on British Friends

Well, I started to blog about how I was forcing baby showers on my British friends. This is, for the most part, true. Over the past few years, they have awkwardly shuffled away from the idea of any hoopla before a baby arrives… they claim it’s just not done, and, when I’ve dug a bit deeper, they claim it’s bad luck! Well, amigos… all I can say is, thank goodness I don’t believe in superstition because otherwise, I would be a bit freaked out. As an American, the idea of celebrating an-almost-there-mom is one of the sweetest things- just a pause before the baby arrives to enjoy the anticipation and hope of that sweet little life that will soon be here. Plus, when you’re pregnant- you can eat tons of cake at a party like that and not feel guilty for the baby weight you’re still wearing. (See what I mean- It’s definitely more fun on this side of the due date.)

I have four friends in my group of friends that are pregnant at the same time as me- in the same social circle! That may feel normal for you guys in the States, but here in London that seems massive to me. People have less kids, they have them later and they hardly seem to overlap… but here we all are… all waddling around with baby girls!

Since this is almost as rare of an occurrence as Viola & Prince George having playdates (which you know, is pretty rare), I thought it was reason to celebrate. And by celebrate I mean, sit in the garden on a sunny day, eat pretty food, and talk without kids around. It was lovely.

The lunch was simple and light- since it has been so roasting hot this week in London. We had Greek chicken with roasted potatoes & green beans smothered with tzaziki sauce, mediterranean orzo (inspired by Bridget’s recipe), watermelon dotted with mint, and huge bowls stacked high with Eton Mess.  

It was definitely a day that called for my prettiest dishes- my Burleigh Blue Regal Peacock place settings. If you’ve been over to my house, you probably have heard me wax on about how special this company is, how they hand-make every single piece, and how they are last-standing pottery company in Britain to employ this painstaking method of artisan quality. But honestly, they make me happy every single day when I use them.

I mean really, Eton Mess in any other bowl would just look… uninspired. Put it in a gorgeous dish like that, and, voila! You’ve got yourself a gorgeous day with the ladies in the garden. (For those that are infinitely cooler than me, check out their new Black Regal Peacock. It’s edgy and cool and all my hip friends make it look so much cooler than I can. It’s amazing.)

When the shade finally arrived, we had fresh mint tea (my favourite!) and chocolates… because, chocolates with tea/coffee are kind of essential.

The afternoon was lovely, and we all ate until our stomachs filled our throats- which, at this stage, of pregnancy isn’t too hard to do.

And just as soon as I thought I had pushed my American-self on them, they surprised me with a gorgeous evening celebrating our new baby girl just a few days later. I’m not going to lie- sitting there in that room, surrounded by so many Brits who were going out of their comfort zone to love me and our baby- well, it made me emotional. These friends have been through all my baby deliveries with me, and they graciously walk beside me as I fumble through motherhood, and I’m just so so grateful. So yeah, I may have pushed baby showers on my British friends, but they gave me back great friendship, unending prayer, and a blind eye to my obnoxious Americanisms. I’m so grateful!

(As a tiny post script for my own memory- one of my friends from the party is actually at the hospital now delivering her baby! Exciting times… especially, as that means the baby dominos are starting to fall… and I’m the next one in line!)



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 7, 2017 and filed under kids, babies, pregnancy, friends.