The Perfect Itinerary for Lake Lucerne & Mount Rigi

I’m typing this post underneath the fluffy down duvet on my bed as French television plays in the background and a half-eaten Toblerone sits on the nightstand beside me. I’m drowsy from a day of walking, but pretty sure I’m not just dreaming. I’m in Swiss Bliss. 

Today was one of those travel days where everything goes right. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does- oh man, doesn’t that feel good? We spent the day exploring the markets and old town of Lucerne and venturing up into the gorgeous Alps for a sunny lunch and leisurely wander around Mount Rigi. It was dreamy! 

To make the day even more LUSH, my dear friend Annie and her fiancé were in town and joined us. Now if you think that the only benefit of their presence was the pleasure of their company, you’re wrong. While it was so much fun, the other benefit is that Annie is a travel writer for National Geographic who knows the area very well and her fiancé, Alex, is Lucerne-born native who runs the Swiss Tourism Board for the US. I mean, could you have two more qualified people show you around Switzerland? I’ll go ahead and tell you, no- you can’t!

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While I can’t replicate their charm, I can share with you what we did while the memory is still fresh in my mind. I got to mooch off their kindness and friendship and now you can mooch off what I learned from them to plan a killer day during your trip to Switzerland!


The Perfect Lucerne Day Trip to Lake Lucerne & Mount Rigi

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We actually started with a little jaunt around the Lucerne’s market (open Tuesday & Saturdays), as we wouldn’t get another chance to enjoy it on our trip. The little market stands were dotted along the river and we ventured from each one buying ripe strawberries, juicy cherries and giggling at the semi-innappropiately huge white asparagus that was dangling all around us. 

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We bought almond croissants from the patisserie (an international weakness of mine) and strolled around until Alex pulled us off the main drag and into the historic streets of the old town that run behind the market. We nibbled and asked questions as we saw the painted facades the buildings and made our way towards the other other wooden bridge- which is both smaller in size and fame to Lucerne’s iconic Chapel Bridge. After crossing over and wrapping around the other side of the market, we landed right by the dock for the boats to take us to Mount Rigi. Everything timed up perfectly (as it does when you are with someone who knows what they are doing!), we hopped on board, and off we went!

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PRACTICAL INFO | Buy your tickets on board and ask for the combo return ticket. The combo ticket will get you the boat ride to Rigi’s docks as well as a train ride up the mountain. These cost 104 CHF each. Find the boat timetables here

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The boat was *so* nice. Like, a literally massive yacht but for passengers. We sat outside and basked in the sun as the boat dotted its way around Lake Lucerne dropping off and picking up passengers at various towns. In pretty weather, it honestly felt like a “pinch me” travel moment. 

When we arrived to Rigi, we walked to the train up the mountain and loaded up. The train ride took us up gorgeous Rigi to the backdrop of alpine houses and friendly cows. As you ascend, you’ll see local school boys hop off to go home from lunch on school days and locals chatting to the train drivers as old friends. 

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When the train arrived at Bergsonne, we hopped off- which was perfect as the clouds were sitting just above the houses for us that day. We walked over to Krauter Hotel Edelweiss for lunch… meanwhile letting our jaws drop in disbelief that we would be dining with this view, at the most casual Michelin-starred restaurant ever with food that came from everywhere we could see. 

PRACTICAL INFO | Book a table at Krauter Haus Edelweiss here to avoid disappointment. The views and the food are outstanding, truly. Allow for 45 minutes after you order until your food arrives- as they freshly make everything from scratch upon ordering. 

The menu offers a few classic items- the Rigi Burger, the Rigi Roll (beef rolled with pastrami over polenta and veggies), Raclette (obey melty cheese scraped over potatoes and served with crunchy pickles!). and seasonal gems like Asparagus soup and risotto…. Or casual standards like savoury crepes.

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After lunch, head for the walking trail that wraps up around the back of the restaurant. It will lead you to a gorgeous path that wanders you down towards Weggis- it takes about 30 minutes, but the views are panoramic over the lake and Alps and 100% worth your time.

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When you arrive to Weggis, you can take the elevator down to the gondola and opt for a different route down. 

PRACTICAL INFO | The gondolas run approximately every 10 minutes. We were able to use our return ticket purchased for the train on this, too. Make sure you ask the boat ticket office if this is included in the same ticket you are purchasing just to be sure you get the right kind.

We took the gondola down, had our stomachs jump up into our throats a few times and then arrived down the mountain just in time to wander to the boat. We waited for about 20 minutes before ours arrived and shopped in the small souvenir shops stuffed with t-shirts and ice cream bars to kill time.

Then we hopped on board our boat- this time it was an old steam boat! Though, this boat was a bit more crowded, so we squatted on the deck and just pretended to be somewhere exotic under the hot sun.

We arrived back to Lucerne about an hour later, just before 5pm, and headed back to our hotel to unwind after a big, dreamy day out…. Complete with a stop by the amazing Max Chocolates next to our hotel first.

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That night, we laughed and smiled so much at our good luck to have the perfect day in Switzerland- it really couldn’t have been better!


Find more of my favourite places in Switzerland only my travel guide here



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on June 13, 2018 and filed under travel, switzerland.

Get Out of Town | Widbrook Grange, Bath

Well, well, well… look who has moseyed herself back into blogging after a nice little break? This girl. Life has been busy and full, and in the sake of full disclosure, a bit overwhelming for me. Traveling husbands, kids with chicken pox, a huge workload leave along with all the other invisible work that we do (groceries, meals, cleaning up boxes of puzzles) have left me crawling into bed at night. Thanks for always making me feel so okay to walk away from blogging when life needs it- I have always felt so comfortable to leave this space quiet when I need to and am always so grateful to come back to an engaged and friendly space. (I’m the luckiest girl with the best readers, truly.)

Anyway, in the midst of me wading through a few busy weeks, Viola’s school had their half-term break. (Culture lesson: In England, the school runs through the end of July, so we have a “half-term” break half-way through the term with a week off in May. It’s very strange to think we still have 6 weeks to go when everyone back in the US is getting out of school for the summer!)  We were busy with work and life, so we kinda dropped the ball getting anything formal together.

Thankfully, Tyler is a kind man who can read between the lines on my forehead. On Thursday, he booked us a night away for a quick little adventure and a nice break from regular life and, on Friday, we loaded up the car and headed west. 


WIDBROOK GRANGE

WHERE WE WENT

Out in the tiniest little corner of the Cotswolds, over by Bradford on Avon, there is a tiny little country property called Widbrook Grange. The property is a sweet little country manor that has been renovated into a pretty little escape complete with gardens full of roses, little ponds to throw pebbles in, secret nooks with tables for sunny mornings and unruly paths to explore with little ones. 

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The rooms are nice and comfy- we had a big king-sized bed with a sofa and a baby bed. We all fit into the room easily and had our choice of a bath tub or walk in shower.

WHAT WE DID

After we dropped our bags in our room, we spent the early evening exploring the garden trails. They climbed on an old tractor, picked flowers and wandered back to the far end of the property…. until a thunderstorm quickly had us running back to our room. 

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Back in the room, we fed the kids a little 5-course dinner we had picked up from M&S before arriving to the hotel (sandwiches, mango, yoghurt, crisps & a tiny Collin Caterpillar chocolate cake.) Spreading out dinner on a giant towel in a hotel for them is something that they really love…. And I hope that they continue to do so for a long time to come!

It definitely took way too long to get them down for bed. Like 1.5 hours. They were jumping and being SO crazy as we tried to get them to sleep… but eventually, we claimed victory and headed out the door for dinner in the restaurant hotel.

The staff at check-in gave Tyler a monitor that would work between our room and the dining room… along with a reservation for dinner for whenever we could make it over after bedtime. What a relief! Normally, I am so stressed trying to get kids down and then sneak away for something to eat, but this was so stress-free. 

And all the kids snoozed through dinner and it was just, well, it was really lovely. The summer sun was glowing even at 9:30, so we got to eat in the sunny remnants of the day and catch up on all the big and small things that seem forgettable in the chaos of everyday life. You know, the non-essential conversations that contain nothing logistical or relay nothing of functional importance.  We just had some some of those side conversations with details that flavour so much of why you liked each other in the first place. Talking about what we liked about certain books and movies. Talking about funny things people said to us. Talking about what we were excited to do on our vacation this summer. I needed some of that spice sprinkled in. That Ty spice. Haha! It sure makes a constant intake of daily grind gruel a bit more palatable, doesn’t it?

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The next morning we ate a sunny breakfast of warm croissants, eggs, bacon and fruit. We ventured out to soak up bit more of the garden life that we were so craving: roly-poly chasing, wall climbing & random singing were all on the agenda.

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After that, we checked-out and loaded up for lunch in Bradford on Avon. We fell hard for this gorgeous little town- it’s out of a fairy tale. We explored the churches, chased Harrison along the river and sipped Elderflower cordial. 

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This was an easy escape from London. It was two hours from our place there, and is a new spot that we can add to our list for simple getaways that work for the whole family. Next time, we’ll be ready with our swimsuits and hit up their pool!


Find more of my favourite places outside of London here on my England travel guide.

Or come along on another getaway to the Cotswolds via YouTube!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on June 11, 2018 and filed under england, get out of town, marriage.

London Is Pink!

Okay, to be fair- not all of London is pink, but many streets are and ours happens to be one of them.

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Walking in and out of the house feels like a fairy tale.

As Viola said yesterday, “It’s like pink snow, but snow that isn’t slippery or cold!” 

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It’s true. It floats down and covers everything in the sweetest and softest hue.

We are big fans of this time of year- truly one of my favourites because of how gorgeous it is.

For some reason, the last tree to bloom is always the one just outside the kids’ window... but it’s worth it. It glows the brightest pink of them all. It’s starting to ignite in pink prettiness and I love walking by and seeing my babes playing beside it.

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Why is it the simplest moments that seem like the sweetest in time? I know these pink blossoms will always stand out as a glory of these London years.

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For more pretty pink pictures of London, follow my friend Julie’s Instagram account: London Is Pink. It keeps this cute hue in London year-round.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 19, 2018 and filed under my london favourites, london.

Get Out of Town | Canterbury

The medieval town of Canterbury is filled with cultural history. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about this gorgeous little English town in The Canterbury Tales, although there is no record of him ever actually visiting. When I think of a quintessential town on the English countryside, this place comes to mind. Cobblestone streets, massive stone walls, green grass, and cosy little bookshops. Sometimes there is even a little market set up on the street for fresh fruit and vegetables! And it’s a great day-trip option as the train runs regularly from London Victoria Station and is just under 2 hours.

 I thought I would jot down just a few of my favorite spots in this quaint little country town. 

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CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL | This cathedral is a highlight of Canterbury and has been one of the most-visited places in the world for ages. It is the house of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I recommend taking a guided tour through the cathedral. In addition to the fee for entrance (£10.50), the cost for the guided tour is £5 more… but let’s be honest: the guided tour makes the visit way better. Otherwise, who is going to point out the Disney stained glass windows to you? (Seriously! There are some!)

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DANE JOHN GARDENS | If you’re looking for a space to spread out with little ones, this is a nice spot tucked by the main city walls. With playgrounds, plenty of green space to roam (without the fear of traffic), and even a little maze to play in- this is a great escape in the nice weather. Bonus points for it being free, too.

WILD GOOSE | Enjoy eating small local dishes (think: bubbles & squeak, roasted shallots with goats curd over toasted bread, and lamb cutlets with pea puree) in Canterbury West Train Station alongside the Michelin-recommended restaurant, The Goods Shed. The converted train station has a  fresh update from its Victorian roots that makes the setting bright and lively.

STATUE OF GEOFFREY CHAUCER | This statue of the famous author of The Canterbury Tales is on the corner of High Street and Best Lane.

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TINY TIM'S TEA ROOM | A quintessential English tea room on St. Margaret Street... this place is perfect for a break after walking around Canterbury. They serve good tea and the biggest scones!

CHARITY SHOPS | Canterbury is full of charity shops with good finds for really cheap. The British Heart Foundation and Emmaus are two of many, but from my personal experience- keep your eyes peeled for some old Burberry trench coats, mismatched tea sets & antique books all priced for next to nothing.

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THE WALL | Be sure to note the stone wall that trails around Canterbury leftover from it’s medieval days. It is not a bad walk at all and the views of the city below are magical. (Plus, as it sits alongside the train station- it makes for an easy route into town.)

BURGATE BOOKS | This cosy little book shop right next to The Elves and The Shoemaker is a gem. It is so fun to browse through the books by British authors. You’ll be able to find some of your favorite classics here for probably less than £2!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 13, 2018 and filed under england, day trips, get out of town, travel.

My Normandy | Chateau de Servigny

One of the hardest things about living in London with kids is the lack of space. To be candid, its one of the conversations Tyler and I have the most when discussing raising our kids here. We have so many memories of just wandering and exploring in our backyards. We have countless memories of quiet afternoons spent poking at roly-polys, riding bikes around, and just… well, doing weird kid stuff. Having outdoor space to roam as a kid is like having your own kingdom in which to conduct the weird experiments you concoct in your mind. You get to play out things that you imagined up that day at school. It’s not only a little laboratory for trial and error, but it also is a social ring in which kids can interact with each other without adult interference. 

And sadly, in 1300 square feet- you just can replicate that. And even at the parks, you often are keeping a close eye on your kid or having to force them to share their experience with someone else who may wander up. And while we love them having to learn to share and live with others, it does often interrupt their imagination and reroute the experience. 

All of that to say, the vast expanse of space we get when we travel is not lost on us or our children. There is little luxury in travel that we can really treasure than open space to roam and enjoy. (Okay, maybe a free spa with unlimited services…. I’m only human.) 

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The last time we spent the spring in Paris, my friend Stacy arranged for us to stay at the Chateau de Servigny on our trip to Normandy. It was so lush and we had the best time. With our size group this semester, it was actually cheaper for us to rent out the space than to do hotel rooms… so we were happy with our luck forcing us back here. Not only is it personally important, but it also has special significance as the treaty for the German surrender of Normandy was signed in the chateau! What a special place.

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If you’re headed to Normandy for a trip longer than a couple of nights, I think this is the perfect base for your travels. It’s location near St. Mere Eglise make it a perfect spot for D-Day Beaches and it’s about 2.5 hours away from the iconic Mont St. Michel…. Where I am, in fact, currently sitting in a cafe on as I type out this blog post. 

The Chateau has eight bedrooms that you can rent, a full kitchen, dining room, tennis courts, bathrooms, perfect sitting rooms and all the other amenities that can come with a privately rented chateau. We have a cook come in each night and she cooks us 3 course meals for €20 per person. It’s a fantastic value… especially when she tells you that the chicken she roasted came from her very own farm or her daughter works in the patisserie that made the triple chocolate cake you are eating.

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I really can’t say enough about what a retreat this space is for us. I hope you can come and see for yourself what special place Chateau de Servigny is.

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Looking for more on trips to Normandy? Find my France guide or read my previous Normandy posts.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 11, 2018 and filed under normandy, france, travel.

V is V

On February 23rd, Viola turned five. It was a sweet day- albeit a bit sad since she had to be in school for a big chunk of the day. (Welcome to the real world, kid.) 

She wanted pasta for dinner with brownies for dessert. Easy to please.

The next day, we had several friends over to celebrate this sweet girl in style. And it was in style. 

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Per the birthday girl's request, the party was “Valentines and Rainbows.” (Though until about ten days before, she was set on a Christmas birthday party... which required a Christmas tree and decor. Ha!) 

Our sweet friend, Grace, made her a cake exactly as she dreamed it up: a rainbow cake with white the icing on the outside with different coloured pink hearts all around it and little red dots along the top. 

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We played dancing statues, pass the parcel and then let them go destroy our upstairs as they played dress up and kitchen. 

Harrison & Edie loves being a part of the fun. Harrison was so sweet and endured the torture of celebrating a sibling's birthday so well. He cheered her on and was so sweet as she opened presents. 

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Party bags were simple little treats: pink & green dinosaur cookies, a chocolate kinder bar & DIY masks complete with a little stash of rhinestones, feathers, foam stickers & glitter glue pens to decorate it with. Cute & simple.

That was kinda the theme of the day. Hearts & rainbows. Which is also kinda the theme of this girl’s little life.

Happy Birthday, Viola. You are a peach.

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ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 2, 2018 and filed under family, kids.

My London | Dishoom Kensington

I’d say one of the things people ask about when I work with them on a custom itinerary for their trip to London is where to try Indian food.

And to be honest, I always offer the same recommendation: Dishoom! While their original location in Covent Garden has been a long-standing favourite of mine, I have been so happy to watch this little place grow into a bit of a London-based empire of restaurants. 

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And I was even happier to see them open their newest location a bit closer to me just off High Street Kensington.

I had a cheeky lunch out with Amber there and we had *the best* time. 

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In case you’re new to Indian food and not sure what to order, I’ve got a pretty solid recommendation of what to order for your meal there. It’s got a bit of everything you need for your foray into Indian food. Consider it “Indian Food for Dummies,” if you will.


The Perfect Dishoom Order 

Dishoom Chicken Tikka- Grilled chicken thighs marinated in the perfect blend of vinegar, chili, garlic and turmeric. 

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House Black Daal-A curry made from lentils that is cooked for over 24 hours. A bit on the spicy side but so delicious!

Chana Chaat Salad- chickpeas, couscous, pomegranates, avocado & mint.... mmm this is a giant bowl of healthy goodness

Rice- Nothing special about this rice, but Indian food without rice feels incomplete. 

Garlic Naan- A smallish order, but really good Naan. You can get the plain, but why would you when you can have it with garlic? My thoughts exactly.

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Colaba Colada- Imagine India’s virgin take of the Pina Colada. Now add toasted coconut and cute straws. Now order one. It’s so good.

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Dishoom Kensington | 4 Derry St, Kensington, London W8 5SE, UK | +44 20 7420 9325


Find more of my favorite places to eat in my London Travel Guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on March 28, 2018 and filed under my london favourites, my london, eat.

Brook Green | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

Brook Green is a neighbour to my own little hood, Shepherds Bush. Throughout the week, I find myself stumbling into Brook Green for various things and it’s amazing to me how it has such a distinct and different feel. Enjoy my friend Julie’s take on life in Brook Green. She’s the owner of the very cute and popular Instagram account, LondonIsPink, and you’ll see she has a gift of taking really pretty pictures. Julie is nice, has great taste, works and is a mom. Her vantage point as a resident of Brook Green will give some great insight to most anyone in their life stage!


1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Brook Green is a small family-friendly little village enclave, dotted with small locally-owned shops - an oasis sandwiched between two very busy urban areas, . The neighborhood is centered around a small Green space - which serves as sort of the social central for Brook Green-dwellers with a small cafe, playground, tennis courts, and open fields. It's one of those neighbourhoods where you can't walk down the street without seeing someone you know, and I love that sense of community that can be hard to find in a big city.  

We had previously lived in a north London village - Highgate - but I felt it was too quiet and after moving to the U.K. from a very urban part of Washington DC: we missed the international community. We were thrilled to find this little paradise so close to central London, and with a very big expat community. The French primary school, Jacques Prevert, has made Brook Green a little South Kensington with lots of French families. Brook Green has gorgeous houses with blossoming gardens, quaint cafes, and even our very own Fishmonger (I feel like this is a big deal, but maybe because I'm an American and it's a novelty!) It also holds the distinction of having the only Michelin starred pub, The Harwood Arms. We like to pop in for a loaf of fresh bread to takeaway, it's a nice little neighborhood secret! 

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Holland Park and High Street Kensington are both just around the corner, which provide us with pretty much anything we need, and more patisserie than should be legal. 

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?

Brook Green is a commuters dream! I'd say we're a solid 9. We're within a 10 minute walk from the Central, District, Piccadilly, and Hammersmith and City lines. We're also extremely well located for airport access, which is great as we travel frequently. We moved here to be closer to Heathrow, which is about a 30 minute journey on the tube, but we're also a quick train ride from Gatwick, via the overground. 

We're also next to the Overground - the hidden secret of London transport! About 2/3 of the stations have a lift, which comes in handy when traveling with a buggy. In 20 minutes I can be right at the foot of Hampstead Heath, ready for a romp through the fields or in 10 minutes I can be exploring the lovely Northcote road market in South London. Also worth mentioning - whenever there's been a public transportation strike, the overground has almost always stayed open, and can skirt you around the perimeters of London rather stealthily. It's also air conditioned, which can be a lifesaver in the summer.

I do a lot of walking (get in those 10,000 steps!), and if you like to get around by foot, Kensington, Notting Hill, and Chiswick are all within walking distance. 

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

Brook Green has no shortage of gorgeous colorful houses, but I'm obsessed with one particular tiny street with small cottages: Hofland road. It's very quiet, and simply stunning. In the Spring, all the houses are covered in wisteria, roses, jasmine, and other English garden beauties. Most houses are 2 or 3 bedroom, and don't have the soaring ceilings like many of the neighboring houses on surrounding streets, but I have to say I wouldn't mind foregoing some space for the cuteness factor! There is a very low turnover in housing stock, however, as we looked for about 6 months before settling on our current flat. I looked for ages on Hofland road, but sadly nothing came up for rent, and we can't afford to buy on that road. Cottages run a cool £1-1.5 mil.

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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?

We are zone 2, close to the zone 1 border. We definitely pay a premium for location and transportation access. For the price we pay, we could probably get a 3 bedroom if we went about a 1/2 mile west or south, but we're willing to pay the premium to be that much closer to proximity to the Central line (for my husbands commute), and the parks, shops, and restaurants we like. I also love a good walk around Holland Park, Notting Hill, and Kensington, and I love being within walking distance of all of these neighborhoods.

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

Brook Green is a charming laid-back village with a loyal group of committed localists. It's known for being a haven for families and you'll see lots of prams around the green or in the cafes. On sunny days the pubs and outdoor spaces fill up with City professionals that live in some of the areas lovely mansion flats. There's also a good arts community that have brought annual events to our neighborhood, like book fairs and music festivals. It's very Stars Hallow. I can't walk down the street without seeing a power mum scootering or walking her kids to school before jetting off to their impressive job, nannies pushing buggies and wrangling scooter-riding children, and so many dog-owners. I think we have two pet stores in our small neighborhood! People love their dogs around here. 

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

As a freelancer, I work in cafes to stay productive, and Brook Green has a few great options. I absolutely love The Blue Corner, a relaxed family-owned cafe with great food and drinks and a strong wi-fi connection. It's owned by a mother-daughter duo from Portugal, and the ambience is so warm and lovely. Also sometimes they sell Pastel de Nata's - quite the treat! 

I also love the newest addition to our high street, The Corner House. It's a multi-use space, with a restaurant/cafe on the ground floor and the downstairs hosts a really darling play space for toddlers with an attached cafe for parents to relax with a cuppa and a croissant. They also have great studios with exercise classes for children and adults. It's a very relaxed and beautiful space and the food is excellent.

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

We love The Bird in Hand, a really cozy little locals gastropub that has nice small plates and pizzas, and usually a little pup or two soaking up the atmosphere. In the last couple of months, TWO new pizza places have opened! Zia Lucia on Blythe road makes pizzas using 48-hour fermented dough. Farina & More is a family-owned Italian restaurant with friendly staff and delicious pizzas and pastas. Another spot we love is Kerbisher and Malt, a chippy on the high street known to be frequented by local celebrities like Simon Cowell. If it's a nice day, we'll get a fish and chips takeaway and bring it to the Green for a picnic. A favorite summer pastime! 

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8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN BROOK GREEN- AS A LOCAL?

My son has drama club in the neighborhood, so we usually drop him off, then hibernate at home if it's cold, or catch a "mini-morning" movie with my daughter at the nearby cinema. If the weather is nice, we head to the Brook Green Market. Everyone really comes together here on Saturdays and now that we have kids in school, we always run into someone we know. The kids play on the playground onsite, and the mums and dads have a bite and chat. It's a perfect way to while away a Saturday! We love to pick up fresh bread and some sweet treats, along with things for dinner. I especially love when the buskers show up, makes me feel like I'm in actual episode of Gilmore Girls. 

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Sometimes we head to the nearby Brook Green playground and let the kids have a run around. If we're lucky, we'll walk home via Blythe Road and stop for a little cake at the darling vintage-inspired Betty Blythe's tea room and have a peek next door at the newest arrivals at the mega stylish kids clothing and toy shop, Scandi Mini.

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If the weather is especially nice, we love to spend the day on the Hammersmith riverfront to admire one of London's prettiest bridges. We stop for a bite at one of the pubs - our faves are The Rutland Arms and The Dove - and walk across the bridge to explore the shore of the Thames. I love being so close to the river. Even though it's only a 20 minute walk from Brook Green, it feels like a different world on the riverfront!

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

£8-13

10. WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO BE OUTDOORS IN BROOK GREEN?

Brook Green isn't big enough to have much outdoor space, but we have a few favorites. Obviously, the Green! We love to play and picnic on this gorgeous little space. Thanks to the annual community bulb planting, there are snowdrops, daffodils, and crocus in the spring, and big crunchy autumn leaves in the Autumn. We also have tennis courts and fields big enough for kids to play football. Also, the pubs on Masbro Road - The Bird in Hand and Havelock Tavern - both have outdoor tables where we love to have a lazy lunch on the street and visit with friends and neighbors and pet a few puppies. 

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11. WHAT ARE THE BEST LOCAL SCHOOLS IN BROOK GREEN? ARE THESE PAID OR PRIVATE?

In Brook Green, you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to good schools. There are great options from top-rated community schools, a free school - the newly opened brach of the much-loved West London Free School, Kensington Primary Academy, and two religious-based schools, including Larminier & Sacred Heart which in recent years had nearly 200 applicants for 60 spots. Fee-paying schools include the well-regarded Bute House Preparatory School for Girls, the French primary school: Jacques Prevert, and St. James Primary and Secondary Schools, a vegetarian school where kids learn Sanskrit as part of the curriculum. 

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12. WHAT ARE SOME GOOD AREA THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS?

My kids obviously love the playground, which is absolutely jam packed with kids and mums and nannies after school! We love to spend rainy days at The Corner House play area, or the Hammersmith library. The Masbro Centre has lots of classes on offer for kids, and play-times and meet-ups for mums with new babies. If we venture out of our neighborhood, you'll find us at nearby Holland Park, Daunt Books on Holland Park's high street, and our new favorite - the newly opened Design Museum. We visit weekly! The museum hosts maker activities for kids 5-11 (sometimes younger, but typically these are geared towards school-aged children). They have building activities that my kids love to work on, and a new Explorers Trail to help younger kids explore the museum. My 6 year old son is obsessed with an activity to design the future underground train (future engineer!), and my 3 year old daughter loves to listen to the interactive exhibits. In the summer, the kids love to cool off in the water fountains outside on the plaza. It's a big hit with our family, and I don't think many families know about it (we don't see a lot of kids there) so I'm spreading the word! Go!

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Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides:

DULWICH HAMPSTEAD | SHEPHERDS BUSH | CHELSEA | NOTTING HILL | ISLINGTON | BRIXTON | PutnEY



*images courtesy of Julie Taylor

To a Tea | The Houses of Parliament

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Did you know that you could have afternoon tea in the Houses of Parliament? Well, I certainly did not until recent years. And let me tell you, after you’ve learned the history and workings of the UK government in the glorious Palace of Westminster along the Thames, you’ll feel very special getting to have tea there. 

You can book the afternoon tea alongside your tour visit (sorry, you can’t just come for tea!) which is served on Saturdays and some weekdays. It costs £29 and has all the essentials: cucumber sammies, scones with clotted cream & jam, little cakes & an assortment of Twinings tea to drink. 

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Occasional seatings in the MP’s dining rooms happen at random, and we were lucky enough to be sat in there at my most recent visit. It was so pretty and the view out the window was so sublime.

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Find more information on having one of, in my opinion, London’s most unique afternoon teas on the Parliament website

Or opt for slo-mo action shots of clotted cream getting smeared all over scones in my most recent vlog…


Looking for where to have afternoon tea in London? 

Find more of my favourites in my To A Tea Series.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Putney | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

Today I’m happy to introduce Emily Murphy to you as our guest contributor. Emily is sharing her part of London with us: Putney! I seriously laughed out loud at some of her answers, and had a good time reading all about her life south of the river in Putney. (P.S. ... Is everyone enjoying this series as much as I am? I’m totally loving having so many voices talking about their hoods here on Aspiring Kennedy… brings me back to the old days of community blogging.}


PUTNEY 

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Putney is a lovely neighbourhood in southwest London filled with lots of green spaces, cafes, and families. It’s located on the south bank of the Thames, between Fulham and Wimbledon. I often say that Putney feels like a small town within London - everything you need is right here and it’s easy to go weeks without ever feeling like you have to leave. You’re also surrounded by green spaces on all sides - the river to the north, Wandsworth Park to the east, Putney Common to the west, and Putney Heath to the south. 

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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 say Putney is a 7. The train from Putney Station runs to Waterloo and is super convenient for getting into the city. There are two tube stations - East Putney and Putney Bridge (both served by the District line) - which take you right through central London. However, the District line is notoriously slow and always has problems (delays, improvement work, etc.). More often than not, I jump on a bus to get around. There are loads of lines that run through Putney, and a bus is the fastest and easiest way for me to get to other neighbourhoods in SW London like Chelsea or Clapham.

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

I’m particularly fond Putney’s pedestrian-only streets, like Quill Lane and Olivette Street. The rows of houses along either side are so cute and feel so much like London to me. I also love the houses on Deodar Road. They’re beautiful Victorian homes that back onto the river. 

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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?

Putney is expensive and we definitely pay a premium for living here. The houses are beautiful and the parks and riverfront are a real perk. Parts of Putney, like the Dover House conservation area, offer better value as they are further from transport links. For us, though, location was the most important factor - I’ve just had a baby and I know that I’m much more likely to leave the house if amenities are close by. Living in the centre of Putney means a much smaller apartment, which can sometimes be frustrating, but I do think the location makes it worth it.

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

Putney is full of families. The three types of people you’d meet on our high street are moms with prams, dads with prams, and nannies with prams. It can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, actually - I often struggle to find space for my pram in a cafe or restaurant because there are already so many inside! Putney High Street definitely lacks the charm of other neighbourhoods in London like Notting Hill or Hampstead. There’s always a lot of traffic (Putney High Street is regularly listed as one of the worst polluted streets in London) and there are more chains than cute neighbourhood places. However, if you go off the beaten path a bit, you’re treated by a really lovely vibe. Lower Richmond Road in particular is full of great cafes, restaurants, and shops. 

 

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

It’s hard to pick! My favourite is probably Blåbär on Lacy Road - they have the best cinnamon buns I’ve had in London, and the nicest staff. I’m also a fan of Artisan and The Bakehouse on Upper Richmond Road, and Ground on Lower Richmond Road (a great place to stop for coffee before a walk along the river).

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

Putney has a few pubs that serve amazing food, and they’re your best bet for a good meal around here. My favourite is the Prince of Wales on Upper Richmond Road. They have a cozy dining room and serve excellent food (the steak and the burger are great). There’s also a lovely private dining room upstairs which is great for parties. The Jolly Gardeners (the fish and chips are my favourite in London) and the Coat and Badge, both on Lacy Road, are also excellent options. 

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN PUTNEY- AS A LOCAL?

We’d start the day with brunch at Tried and True - ordering either the buttermilk waffles or the skillet hash. It’s a really nice restaurant that is super family-friendly and always has the best atmosphere. Then, assuming the weather is good, we’d head out for a walk either along the river or through Putney Heath. We’d stop for an afternoon drink at The Telegraph, a great little pub in the middle of Putney Heath that makes me feel like I’m having a day out in the country. These days, our evenings are spent at home desperately trying to get our three month old to sleep, but if we had a sitter we’d probably go to Five Guys for dinner and then see a movie (they’ve just redone the cinema here and it is lush). 

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

£15-21. It depends on traffic and surge fares. It’s cost us £40+ to get home before.

10. WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO BE OUTDOORS IN PUTNEY?

It’s hard to pick, as there are so many lovely green spaces here, but my favourite would have to be walking along the river. There’s a great walking path that runs all the way from Putney to Barnes (and beyond, I’m sure, but I’ve never made it further than that). Lots of doggies, space for the pram, and great views.

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Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides:

DULWICH HAMPSTEAD | SHEPHERDS BUSH | CHELSEA | NOTTING HILL | ISLINGTON | BRIXTON


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


*images courtesy of Emily Murphy

My London | The Highlights of the British Museum

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Do you remember the excitement of being in school and going on a field trip? You would trek out on adventures with your teacher, classmates and obliging volunteer parents to see some treasure of your local area. (Mine included the Fort Worth Stockyards and Kodak Film Processing Center. Whee!) Well, today I’m whisking you away on a field trip. We are leaving our normal everyday setting here on Aspiring Kennedy of children, English clothes and cakes and delving straight into the wondrous place that is the British Museum.

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I realized the other day that I’ve never actually posted about the British Museum on my blog, which is weird as I have spent so much time there over the past years. It’s located within a minute from my office, I was there all the time for my masters degree, and both Tyler & I teach in it now for various courses. And yet, the only things I ever really post are glimpses of it as I walk to and from work. I suppose the truth is: even though I may sound like a British Museum know-it- all, the more I’m there the more I realise how little I actually do know. There’s so much to learn!

But for most people coming to visit the world’s second public museum (the first was the Ashmolean in Oxford, just in case you ever need it for a pub quiz), I can guide you around the highlights of the British Museum.. and to make it easy to swallow, you’ll only have to read 2-3 sentences about each of the items.

If you’re looking to find the best things to see at the British Museum, well, wait no longer. During a snowy day last week, I ran in between lecturing and picking up Viola from school for a special whirlwind tour to show you the things that I think you’ll like best. Admission is free for all and you can view all ten departments and collections upon walking through those glorious and massive doors.


THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

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PARTHENON FRIEZES | Also known as the controversial “Elgin Marbles.” Only half of the sculptures of the Parthenon still survive and London actually holds the majority of them in the British Museum, some lay on the bottom of the Mediterranean sea being lost in transport, and the rest remain in Athens. Who is the rightful owner has been a topic of debate for a long time, but regardless of where you think they belong- they currently have UK citizenship.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Greece: Parthenon, Room 18, Ground Floor


ASSYRIAN SCULPTURE AND BALAWAT GATES | These large winged human-headed lion sculptures guarded the entrance to the royal palace of King Ashurbanipal II. Not only do they look cool and feel like walking onto a movie set, they also hold Biblical significance when you realize that Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego would have sat on them as they waited for their turn to see the king; in fact, if you look closely on the right hand side, you’ll see where people carved a small game to play as they waited.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Assyria, Room 6, Ground Floor

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ROSETTA STONE | This stone allowed us to decipher Egyptian writings for the very first time- though I still prefer to enjoy Billy Crystal’s theory about hieroglyphics actually just being a cartoon of a cat named “Sphynxy” in When Harry Met Sally. This famous rock wasn’t always placed behind a glass case-- it used to be uncovered in the museum, where visitors could touch and trace the writings on the stone. (If you’re finding yourself longing to touch and feel the stone, wander to the hall of replicas where they have a life- sized one you can touch.)

WHERE TO FIND IT | Egypt, Egyptian sculptures, Room 4, Ground Floor


SUTTON HOO | A woman named Mrs. Edith Pretty asked an archaeologist to come explore a large burial mound on her property. What he found was incredible: an imprint of a 27-metre long ship and a burial chamber with treasures inside. This elaborate discovery probably once belonged to a king, though to be accurate the mystery still remains today about who exactly he was.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Europe: The Sir Paul and Lady Ruddock Gallery, Room 41, First Floor

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BASALT STATUE | This colossal statue, perhaps better known as one of the statues from Easter Island, is known as Hakananai’a, or “Stolen and hidden friend”. It represents an ancestral figure, probably to express ideas about leadership and authority. It also reminds me of Night At The Museum: “Me want gum-gum dumb-dumb.”

WHERE TO FIND IT | Africa, Room 24, Ground Floor

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PHARMACOPOEIA | This item may not be one of the most famous you’ll read about in most guides- but I can’t help but include it here. In this installation in the British Museum, titled “Cradle to Grave,” shows the medicine and pills that the average person takes over the course of their lifetime. The research is staggering...over 14,000 drugs are prescribed to a human in their lifetime (in the UK). It said that we spend more money on treating indigestion than cancer. This fascinating installation compares how different cultures treat illness and is well worth the read.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Themes: The Wellcome Trust Gallery, Room 24, Ground Floor


MUMMIES | The British Museum holds the largest collection of Egyptian objects besides Egypt-- including mummies! The Museum holds over 120 human mummies in their collection, and over 80 of them are from Egypt. A favorite of mine is the Gebelein Man B, who was preserved in the sand and is shrunken with skin and hair still persevered after thousands of years… and no doubt a chilling reminder of our own mortality.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Ancient Egypt: Egyptian Death and Afterlife in Roxie Walker Galleries, Room 62-63, First Floor


Of course... no visit would be complete without a sweet treat from the café in the Great Court. (Highly recommend those raspberry + white chocolate muffin.)

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If you’re traveling to London and would like to book a private tour with Tyler, he offers a fantastic “The History of the Bible though the British Museum” tour. He’s going to maybe kill me for posting that since he mainly only does them for my private clients, but I think they’re too good to miss!

Find more of my favourite spaces and places in London in my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Brixton | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

For today’s addition to our neighbourhood guide series, we are moving South of the river to Brixton. To be honest, the closest I’ve ever been to Brixton was today on the train back in from Canterbury. We were moving at a glacial pace through the Southern part of London and I was getting the best view of Dulwich, Herne Hill and then- Brixton! I was peeking at all the cute little cafes with gardens, lively shops and it seemed like such a vibrant and fun part of town. 

I’m happy to have Bethan introduce her part of London to you. She’s one of the people I met through blogging in the early days when I’d sit on my tiny blue suede love seat (seriously!) in Oxford and type away all day while Tyler was busy. We somehow got tagged in a book swap and sent each other books in the mail to read. I loved those sweet days of blogging- where people were just connecting and doing kind things like that, and I love that so many people from those days I’m still connected to in 2018. Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of saying: Thanks, Bethan, for coming to Aspiring Kennedy and introducing us to your lovely part of London.


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1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

I live in Brixton, a vibrant and colourful neighbourhood in South West London full of cool shops, restaurants, bars and local life. It's an amazing place to live and I feel really privileged that I can call it my home. Yep it's a little gritty, but that's one of the things I love about city living, and when things get too much it's easy to escape to the wide open spaces of Brockwell Park!

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We live in Poets Corner, a quiet residential area between Herne Hill and Brixton, and right on the corner of Brockwell Park. It's about a 10 minute walk to Brixton Tube along Atlantic Road, which is crammed with little shops and cafes - it's hard to walk down there without stopping for a coffee - as well as local butchers, fish mongers and veg shops, it's really eclectic! Off Atlantic Road is Brixton Market, an amazing treasure trove of shops and a really magnet for foodies - this is where both Honest Burger (best chips in London) and Franca Manca (best pizza in London) were born.

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Brixton Road is where you go for all the big chain stores (including the best H&M in town - seeing a theme here?!) as well as Morleys, the local department store and Ritzy, our local cinema, complete with bar! Branch up on to Acre Lane where you can treat yourself to an amazing brunch at the Blues Kitchen, or dig for bargains at the British Heart Foundation furniture shop or the TRAID clothing shop.

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?

Brixton is a solid 9 - it's in zone 2 and on the Victoria Line, which speeds you quickly into the centre of town. Things do get slightly annoying if you need to go east, but who needs Shoreditch when you're in somewhere that's so cool and quirky in it's own right?! There are also loads of buses that connect Brixton with the rest of South London, as well as into the centre of town. Oh, and it's about a three mile walk to Victoria, which is pretty pleasant on a good day.

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

I would love to live in Trinity Gardens, a lovely square of quaint terraced houses tucked back from the chaos, yet just a few minutes from the Tube. Although saying that I do really love the knot of streets around Poets Corner where we live at the moment because it's got a really similar vibe and is packed with cute colourful houses and quirky street art. 

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?

London is always going to be expensive, but I’d say living in Brixton is pretty good value, so around a 7. You do pay a premium in comparison to other areas of South West London, but when you consider the transport links and local amenities it’s worth it. 

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

Brixton is eclectic!! Walking down Atlantic Road you’ll run in to everyone from sassy teenagers to elderly ladies having a chat, hipsters comparing notes on coffee shops to families pushing buggies loaded with shopping and tourists paying their respects to Bowie. Every type of person is here and that’s why I love it!

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

I love Parissi, a really gorgeous little cafe which makes the most delicious food (especially their homemade croissants, which are amazing!) and serves up AllPress coffee!

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

There are so many well-priced yet amazing places to eat in Brixton, and food is a real focal point of the area. I love to head to Pop Brixton to induldge my indecisive side and gorge on a smorgasboard of street food from dumplings to pinxos. I also really love Fish, Wings and Tings for a taste of the Caribbean culture which has been hugely influential in the area, and I love both Joint and Brixton Grill for their ribs! 

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

Most Saturdays I start my day with a workout at Brixton Rec Centre. I love this place! It's a cheap and cheerful municipal gym that attracts people from all walks of life, everyone is friendly and the only person taking selfies is me! After my sweat session I'll usually head out to run errands, picking up flowers from the stall outside the station, maybe some veggies from one of the shops along Electric Avenue or candles from Article, before grabbing a coffee and cake at Parissi, it's important to refuel properly!

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Once I'm home, and my boyfriend Mike is up, we might head out for some lunch in the market, somewhere like The Joint in Brixton Market - I am on a one woman mission to find the best ribs ever, and these come pretty close - before heading to Brockwell Park to walk everything off, possibly with a stop at Brockwell Blend on Tulse Hill for another caffeine hit. Brixton has tonnes of independent cafes, which is great for coffee lovers like me! Just a little further up the hill from Brockwell Blend is The Sympathetic Ear, a fab little bar that specialises in local (and not so local) beer, so if the mood takes up we might nip in there to check out what they've got on tap!

Brixton never stops, and things are just as vibrant in the evening as they are during the day! On a Saturday night we tend to head to bars like 384 or Shrub and Shutter where the bar staff mix up inventive cocktails, or if we're feeling less fancy we might head to Effra Social, a former social club that's been converted (in the loosest sense of the word) in to a bar cum club with some serious cheesy disco vibes. For a more low key evening we might meet friends KaoSarn for Thai (it's BYO, so a really economical night out), or head to a house party (London's expensive, sometimes you need to economise!).

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

I am a firm fan of the night bus, it’s an experience in itself, but when I do get an uber it will usually be £15-20.

10. WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO BE OUTDOORS IN BRIXTON?

Brockwell Park is absolutely amazing! Haul yourself up to the brow of the hill and there are some seriously impressive views across the city, the mini train keeps kids (big and small) amused for hours and the Lido Cafe is an awesome place to grab a coffee and some lunch. My only word of warning is the park is hilly, so keep that in mind if you fancy a run! 

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Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides:

DULWICH HAMPSTEAD | SHEPHERDS BUSH | CHELSEA | NOTTING HILL | ISLINGTON


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


*professional shots by Anna Rachel Photography
*other photos by Bethan Taylor

Mother’s Day | Bottling a Family Legacy

While the US may not start thinking through Mother’s Day for several more months, it comes early here in the U.K. (This week, in fact!)

While so many people are hard to buy for, my mom isn’t one of those people. Not because she has an ongoing list that she makes known, but because she is so unassuming and grateful. Anything that is given with meaning and heart is something that she treasures.

She often is thinking of how to spoil others with grand gestures and gifts that she doesn’t think about getting spoiled herself, so when I can actually spoil her- well, it’s really fun.

And for Mother’s Day this year, I had had that pleasure by taking her to Floris to create a custom scent with her and their master perfumer.

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Creating a custom fragrance could double as a therapy session- it’s so intimate and personal. You work your way through the smells and the reaction you have is very instinctive. 

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“Mmm lavender reminds me of the sachets that we’re in my grandma’s dresser.”

“I love the smell of almond- it smells like my mom's cherry pie.”

“Vanilla smells too waxy to me. It makes me feel like I’m back in fourth grade where my mean teacher would burn a vanilla Yankee candle on her desk.” 

And so on and so on...

You talk with Nicola about what smells you love and why. You smell scents that have great meaning to you... or none at all. 

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And after a while, Nicola guides you to a few scents that really hit a personal note to you. (It sounds crazy, but it ends up feeling a bit emotional to go through those smells... it’s like looking at forgotten family albums.) From there, the smells and fine tuned and at the end- well, all I can tell you is that you have a personalised scent that smells perfect for you.

Like, honestly. It’s as if Nicola has articulated your personality into a fragrance. 

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And since it’s so personal, it’s yours to name... and yours alone to have mixed. It goes into their archives and only you can reorder it. Or anyone you will it on to. (Fancy, right?) 

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After it was all said and done, the perfume was poured into her bottle and an empty label was laid before her. My mom named her after our family home- which is perfect for someone who had said she wanted to smell “pretty and comforting” when we first sat down at those comfy chairs with Nicola. 

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If you’ve heard me talk about Floris before, you probably think that I gush a bit too much about them. Well, maybe- but after bringing my mom and showing her a bit of their magic, I’m sure she would feel the same way.

So what does that all have to do with Mothers Day? Well, it means skip the spa certificates and take your mom to do something that not only provides for better quality time than any massage can give.... sit with her for two hours in a gorgeous room as she sniffs her way through her memories. 

Listen to her talk about the musky back room of her parents house, the smells that remind her of being a young mom to you and the thoughts she has about how she hopes to be perceived by others and then let her take home the prettiest perfume bottle she’s ever seen with her little initials engraved on it.

Connect with the team at Floris here to book an appointment and surprise your mom on Sunday with one of the most special gifts you may ever give her.

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My London | Angie’s Little Food Shop, Chiswick

Now that we have a car, I’m finding more and more opportunities to pop down to Chiswick with Tyler.

Most of them may also coincide with collecting an online order in-store from Jigsaw. Cough. 

But whatever the reason, we have started trying to make a stop by Angie’s Little Food Shop part of the excursion.

I stumbled into “ALFS” one afternoon as I was running to a hair appointment across the street.

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The coffee was GOOD, the caramel slice was equally killer and the mood in the shop was just so chil and pleasant. The Aussie staff was super sweet and I was just, I don’t know, hooked.

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I drug Tyler there one day (because he may be just a bit over me taking him to little cafes like this), but he was just as won over as I was. The coffee and food really is that nice, as is the staff- because I have no time for places where people aren’t nice. (Too tired for those games these days.)

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So if you’re in West London and need a great spot to meet a friend for a killer lunch or afternoon chat, I’ve gone ahead and found it for you.

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Angie's Little Food Shop | 114 Chiswick High Road, London W4 1PU


Looking for other great spots in London? Find more of My London favourites here or check out my guide to London.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | Belfast (with Kids!)

If you’re looking for a fun place to get away to- and not have a ton of hassle- I’d like to suggest Belfast. It’s often forgotten, but with easy and frequent flights from London airports- it makes for a fun weekend getaway. And since the tickets are cheap and flights are short- it’s especially great to bring the kids along, too. 

Here’s my quick and easy guide for a great weekend in Northern Ireland’s famous capital city, Belfast.


WHERE TO STAY

THE FITZWILLIAM BELFAST | This hotel is gorgeous and has a great location in downtown Belfast. We’ve stayed in other places in recent years, but have made this our official favourite in the city. It’s just so nice and so well priced. Annnnnd, for any Game of Thrones fans, it’s where the cast and crew was living for a few months this fall. (And we got to share the lift with several of them!) If you’re going with kids, it’s worth it to upgrade to a larger room or suite for the extra space. You can also book an adjoining room here. Breakfast is fantastic, and staff is lovely.

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WHAT TO DO

TITANIC MUSEUM | You can’t go to Belfast and skip a visit to the Titanic Museum. Situated on the site of the original shipyard where the Titanic was built, the Titanic offers an amazing view of the history of chipmaking in Belfast, the actual building of the Titanic, and the heartbreaking single voyage of the ship. The cafes on-site are really nice and the whole experience is very kid-friendly. (And if you don’t have kids, even better. Ha! You may be able to glean more information than we can.) Either way you do it, it’s pretty much a must-do when you’re in the city.

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ST. GEORGE'S MARKET | Every town needs a great food market, and Belfast isn’t an exception. St. George’s Market is open over the weekend and offers food stalls, eats and the occasional live music performance from musicians. It’s indoors, so it’s a place you can go and not worry about it getting rained out in bad weather. Plus, it’s located in downtown, so it’s an easy walk from everything.

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THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY | So this place isn’t exactly a playground or theme park, but it’s great for kids in the fact that they can roam/explore and you won’t be too nervous for their safety. The rocks are like little steps and easy to help them navigate by holding their hands. The coast is there, but it’s so far out that they can’t run there too quickly without you noticing. The visitor’s centre has some nice children activities and, when all else fails while you’re teaching them of the folklore surround Finn McCool, there are sheep that graze along the fences of the property. Voila. All you really need for a fun day out. 

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The Giant's Causeway is about an hour and ten minutes from Belfast. It’s an easy drive, but you will need a car. 

BUSHMILL'S INN | While you’re out at the Giants Causeway, plan to stop for lunch at the famous Bushmills Inn. With cosy nooks and hearty food, it’s a great stop. The inn may look tiny off the main road in Bushmills, but when you wander back- you’ll see how expansive the site really is. Also, if you go on a Sunday- you’ll be there for their legendary roast. It’s served on a buffet… and MASSIVE. Your plates will be piled higher than Christmas dinner. It’s insane and so, so good.

BELFAST CHRISTMAS MARKET | Each year, we end up being there at the start of the Christmas market, so for us, Belfast has a great holiday feel to it. With windy weather and dark days, the Christmas market is a great way to end the day for our little family. I mean, any time I can feed my family without going to a sit-down dinner is a win. Plus, it’s so cheap. Definitely recommend going, if you can!

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WHERE TO EAT

MADE IN BELFAST | This is our favourite place to eat in Belfast. We typically try to sneak away from the hotel (if we have our au pair) for date here, but if that’s not possible, we bring the kids for a lunch time meal. The interiors and locally-sourced menu make if too good a spot to miss. We go to the City Hall location, as it’s the closest to our hotel. Reservations needed,.

FRATELLI | This is a great Italian restaurant dishing up massive bowls of pasta and warm Italian dishes. It would work great for adults only or for the family. It’s got a big dining room, but I’d still recommend booking a table due to it’s popularity. For a rainy day in Northern Ireland, this place is not only warm and cosy… but super tasty. 

What a fun city! We are already planning a return visit in April, and I’m excited to see the city in springtime. Maybe next time, we won’t have to be so bundled up.

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(These coats are all Boden - one of the best British brands out there. Our family is perpetually wearing Boden because everything looks great, can stand up to the crazy weather and stands the test of time between kids.)

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ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE | TEN | ELEVEN


Looking for things to do in the rest of Ireland? Check out my guides to Dublin and Ireland.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My Reykjavík | Barber

Harrison’s hair is perfectly suited for him: gorgeous and, yet, totally crazy. Ha! While we were in Reykjavik, it seemed to hit an all time-low with being constantly in his eyes, so I googled places to get it cut nearby.

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There were options that looked like regular hair salons and then I found the most dapper looking place with some tatted-up men cutting hair and figured that this was the place to go. For no other reason than it seemed fun and I figured it’d probably look about the same irregardless of where I went.

When we arrived, things were running a bit behind. The kind barber offered me a coffee but I declined. As Harrison grew restless, I tried to entertain him. I went with a weird story about a dragon who ate to many fish bones who met a frog with herbal tea... about the time I got to the herbal tea’s secret ingredient (flowers), his eyes shut and he was out for the count. (We just cut out his nap and he’s still adjusting!)

The barber came over, asked me if I was sure I didn’t want some coffee. I looked down at the passed out kid in my arms, decided to go with the moment of calm, and ordered a maccchiato.

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Ahhh. So nice.

Then a few minutes passed and it was time for Harrison to get his hair cut.

Except he was still asleep.

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Like realllly asleep.

Eventually, I whispered the magic words (“Do you want to play with my phone?”) and his eyes opened, he said ”yeah,” and sat straight up.

He is so funny and serious during haircuts. I love it so much and I was giggling at him staring at himself, making faces and watching the man cut his hair. He’s such a champ.

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When it was done, he got to pick some candy from a Darth Vader helmet and it was all done. 

And the best news was... he kinda looked the exact same after it was finished. Just without hair hanging all in his face. Mission accomplished.

Next time, I’m bringing in Tyler because they do men’s hair so well there and the whole experience was just really fun. If you’re looking for the best men’s haircut in Reykjavik, well- Barber may just be it. And with it’s easy location on Laugavegur, it’s definitely one of the more convenient ones!


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Barber | Laugavegur 66, 101 Reykjavík


Find more of my favourite places in Iceland and Reykjavik here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Islington | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

Today, we get to continue on with my guide to various neighbourhoods… but not written from my perspective! These area guides are written by people who live and love these little pockets of London. Today, we are headed Northeast to the hip area of Islington. You’ll get a good perspective of what makes this place unique from a former New Yorker-turned-Londoner. Erin Moore shares a bit of her life in London’s beloved neighbourhood of Islington.

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1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Our neighbourhood is a good mix of the practical and the frivolous. It’s very friendly and a little gritty, in a way that a former New Yorker can appreciate.

We live on Pentonville Road near Angel. On our side of Pentonville Road is Amwell Street, a lively and charming street of small shops where we run into our neighbors. Across Pentonville Road, we have Chapel Market, which is an old-fashioned street market with everything from produce and home goods 6 days/week to an organic farmers’ market on Sunday mornings. You can buy a school uniform, a wedding dress, the Sunday paper or a 10-foot ladder, no problem.

Around the corner, Upper Street has every chain store and restaurant you could wish for, including a huge Waterstone’s, along with some really wonderful independent businesses. For example, behind Angel lies Camden Passage, a tiny street lined with antique shops and an outdoor antique market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There are some enticing little cafes (Austrian coffee house Kipferl and the Coffee Works Project); Paul A. Young, a first-rate chocolate shop; and the Camden Head (check out their beer garden).

 Photo courtesy of  Kipferl

Photo courtesy of Kipferl

 Photo courtesy of  Pan Pan

Photo courtesy of Pan Pan

 Photo courtesy of  Angela Coomey

Photo courtesy of Angela Coomey

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 say Islington is a 9. At one end of Upper Street, Angel Station is on the Bank branch of the Northern Line. 19 bus lines connect through that one busy corner.

At the other end of Upper Street, Highbury & Islington Station has the Overground as well as the Victoria Line. Seven minutes to Oxford Circus from the furthest end of this neighbourhood is not bad!

But the real reason I give Islington such a high score is its proximity to King’s Cross/St. Pancras. Just half a mile or a couple of bus stops away, you have access to the Circle, Hammersmith and City, Northern and Metropolitan Underground lines, not to mention the Eurostar, Thameslink, East Midlands Trains and Southeastern.

If you don’t mind walking, you’ll find Islington surprisingly central. In about half an hour on foot, you can be at the South Bank, or the West End, or Shoreditch.

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

I enjoy living on the Pentonville Road because there’s never a dull moment. The downside, of course, is noise and pollution. There are a couple of streets, out of the fray and yet still close to Angel, that are appealing. Colebrooke Row has some of the loveliest Georgian houses around. Duncan Terrace has a ribbon of garden running through it. Noel Road is just as pretty and its gardens back onto the Regent’s Canal.

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?

Anyone living in London is paying a premium, but Islington is definitely in the mid-range of crazy. It is about 1,000 pounds per square foot, which makes it better value than West London (Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Camden and Hammersmith and Fulham are all more expensive), but worse value than East London (Hackney, Tower Hamlets) and most places south of the Thames (Wandsworth, Southwark, Richmond). Islington is more expensive than it was a few years ago, but with Google and other tech companies moving to King’s Cross and Old Street, and London’s centre of gravity shifting east over the past decade, it still seems like a good location/investment. 

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

On Upper Street you’ll see mums with prams, young City types on their way to work, and many chuggers and buskers: all ages, all races, all income levels. Many people living here are the second or third generation (or more) of their families to live in the neighbourhood, so there’s a community feeling.

Although Islington is a magnet for nightlife with clubs (like O2 Academy), pubs (the Castle and the Albion are two favorites for outdoor drinking), the Almeida Theatre and Sadler’s Wells, it is also casual enough to enjoy this place as a local and be spontaneous. You don’t have need reservations to get into most of the restaurants. 

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

There are countless great coffee shops—so many that it’s hard to keep up with the rate they open. I really like Saint Espresso. They happen to have the best brownies: sea salt caramel (gluten free but you would not guess if they didn’t tell you). Another favorite is Ground Control on Amwell Street. Further afield, Sunday is a beloved coffee/brunch spot. It’s been discovered, though--don’t say I didn’t warn you…

 Photo courtesy of  Saint Espresso

Photo courtesy of Saint Espresso

 Photo courtesy of  Saint Espresso

Photo courtesy of Saint Espresso

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

At the moment, I’m most into The Little Viet Kitchen, where the Vietnamese food is spicy, light, fresh and intense; Bellanger, an Alsatian/French brasserie owned by the same group at the Wolseley, the Delaunay and Fischer’s, but easier to walk into on a weekend; the Quality Chop House in Exmouth Market (try the mince on dripping toast); Moro and Berber and Q Shawarma Bar, other great places in Exmouth Market; and last but not least, for a romantic date, Trullo.

 Photo courtesy of  Clerkenwell Boy

Photo courtesy of Clerkenwell Boy

 Photo courtesy of  Bellanger

Photo courtesy of Bellanger

 Photo courtesy of  Bellanger

Photo courtesy of Bellanger

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN ISLINGTON- AS A LOCAL?

Many Saturdays, my son and I start in Myddelton Square having a chat with our dog-walking neighbours . He plays at the playground. Then we spend the rest of the morning shopping, for family lunch or a dinner party or (usually) both. Here are some of the places we go…

We buy meat and bread from the Quality Chop House Shop and, if they have them, their addictive confit potatoes, and chicken liver pate. 

On the way back toward Angel, it is fun to stop at Made in Little France, where they have 300 different French wines, including some on tap. 

We love the charcuterie (and, weirdly, we discovered the most delicious pasta) at Coq Epicier. They also have a small selection of bread and pastries—the best at this end of Islington. The have regional French food and drink and they couldn’t be friendlier.

Fish comes from Moxon’s, just across Camden Passage, or Steve Hatt (Nigel Slater’s favourite fishmonger for a reason, but the queues can be hard for a 2-year-old to withstand). 

We buy most of our fruit and vegetables from Chapel Green Fruit and Veg on Chapel Market. It is probably the place in the neighbourhood my kids are most excited to go because of how welcome they are. Often they are offered a banana or some friendly banter here. We all love it.

We might pick up lunch from Ottolenghi. I cannot walk past their window display without stopping, at least to look.

Or we stop at Udderlicious for ice cream. They let locals vote online for the flavours they want to try at the shop in the coming month, and even nominate new flavours. My favorite is the dark chocolate sea salt sorbet—you’d never know it is dairy-free.

A real treasure in the area is Belle Epoque Patisserie — one of the best pastry shops in London, for sure, and my pick for a celebration cake or leisurely tea with a friend. It is nearer the Highbury end of Upper Street. They have éclairs to swoon for, my son’s beloved mini chocolate madeleines, and really great bread.

Islington is an amazing place to be if you like to eat. We also have two great movie theaters, useful shopping (high end, low end and everything in between) and all the entertaining people watching you could ever want. We have good locally-owned hardware and cookware shops, drycleaners, and pharmacies as well as a giant Boots, and plenty of big gyms to choose from. Parking is easy. It is by far the most practical neighbourhood we have lived in since moving to London ten years ago. 

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

An Uber to Oxford Circus would cost 8-11 pounds from Angel.

10. WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO BE OUTDOORS IN ISLINGTON?

You can find patches of green in the form of pretty garden squares, most of them open to the public. Part of Islington skirts the edge of the Regents Canal. Its main park is Highbury Fields, about a mile (straight up Upper Street) from Angel Station. There are plenty of small playgrounds around Angel: in Myddleton Square, Barnard Park and Culpeper Park (with its sweet community garden and tadpole pond). If you head down to Granary Square, the newly developed area behind Kings Cross along the canal, there are jumping fountains, a playground, a terrific ice cream place called Ruby Violet,  and Word on the Water (a bookshop on a barge). 


Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides:

DULWICH HAMPSTEAD | SHEPHERDS BUSH | CHELSEA | Notting Hill



Family Time | Creating Traditions & Eating Croissants

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I think one of the things I get asked the most is how I manage to do it all. Well, the truth is- it’s not always all done. We manage with a myriad of weekly routines and organisers that keep us all moving. (Sounds so fun, right?) Ha! Our au pair makes it possible, too. 

One thing that Tyler and I recently realised is this: while we might be getting it all done, we weren’t setting aside to do things all together. Like, we could get everyone to where they needed to be each day- but very rarely were we all doing anything as a family. And we weren’t really doing anything as a couple, either. We were all ships passing in the night.

Since that realisation, we have been trying to figure out what we can do during the week to assure that we are building time with all of us together. We want our children to really have the concept and feeling of family established within them. We want them to have the security of family- it’s truly a richness of life that can’t be inherited or stolen from you. It’s something that is only earned with days and moments spent together.

And so, with that goal in mind, we are trying to build up times when we can make sure that we are all together. The idea is simply to leave Saturday mornings as our time. We toss on whatever is easy to wear, keep the kids in their pyjamas and toss on wellies (because if we had to dress them, we’d never get out the door), and hop in the car. We drive ten minutes away to a bakery. We get a little assortment of cinnamon rolls, almond croissants, French toast, coffees & babyccinos and just chill out together. 

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It’s really nothing fancy, but it’s just something we do. Just the Knights. Sorry- it’s VIP and we can’t be flexible on the plans. If we are in London, it’s happening. 

I love making little traditions and I hope that our kids really do feel valued and loved. (Because they are!) The more I’m a mom- the more I realise that things don’t need tp be grand or elaborate. They just need to happen. My kids don’t need me to be perfect. Just a present and happy version of myself does the trick.

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So that’s the goal. I thought I’d share that with you guys in case it’s something you’re needing to do, too… and in hopes that you can give more ideas to us! I love hearing from you all in the comments, so please don’t be shy or quiet. This place is so much more fun when it’s a community. I’ve had the pleasure to meet so many readers and I’m always in awe of how smart and cool you people are. Add in your voice. It makes it way better than just hearing mine. Ha!

Chip in below with the small but meaningful ways you connect as a family!

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 5, 2018 and filed under family, kids, london.