My London | Cowshed Spa at Clarendon Cross

In both of my pregnancies, my hips hurt really badly in the last months. I was constantly on the lookout for a great pregnancy massage in London to relieve some of the stress. I would google "Best Pregnancy Massages in London" endlessly as if I would find newly released information... but sadly, I could really ever only ever find spas own sites. 

I thought it might be helpful if I shared my spa experiences here, so that when you find yourself in that desperate moment- you'll have some real comparisons available to help you find the best London spa for pregnancy treatments.


COWSHED SPA, CLARENDON CROSS

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Tyler got me a gift voucher ages ago for Cowshed Spa. I got too busy in the fall with work to use it and then, to my dismay, had to wait past the first trimester to book any pregnancy treatments. Sigh. Oh well... life in the First World did continue, don't be alarmed.

When I finally got booked in, I was 18 weeks and still hardly showing. As in, I looked more like I had that post-pizza-buffet-glow than expectant-mother-glow. None the less, I was ready for my formal introduction to this classic London spa and couldn't wait for my appointment. 


SETTING & VIBE | Nestled in the quiet heart of Holland Park, Cowshed is definitely aware of its clientele. With an airy entrance that is casually posh, Cowshed makes coming to the spa feel as social and casual as meeting a friend for coffee.

STAFF & SERVICE | Every employee- from the booking line, reception staff, Cafe waitstaff and therapist- was exceptionally kind and made me feel so welcome. Can't say anything but praise for how I was treated from start to finish.

TREATMENT RECEIVED |  Udderly Gorgeous Pregnancy Massage (60 min, £80) & Cowshed Facial (60 min, £80),

TYPE OF PREGNANCY MASSAGE TABLE | If your heart is set on a massage table with a giant hole for your belly, this isn't for you. However, despite my initial disappointment- how they worked around this actually felt great and I'd recommend it to a friend. It involves a comfortable leaning setup for the back massage portion that can only sound odd,  but in the moment felt really relaxing. The rest of the massage was performed on a cozy and huge massage table.

SPA FACILITIES | When I first walked in, I felt like I had arrived at yummy mummy Mecca. I checked in, was directed to the communal table by the cafe and eagerly waited to be shown to the locker room where I could take a quick shower before the massage started. I browsed the newspapers sitting out and peeked at the food options from the cafe.

By sadly, I realised that there were no locker rooms. When my therapist arrived and took me downstairs to the room, my hopes of unwinding in a plush relaxation room with tea and a long shower with Cowshed products wasn't going to happen.

The treatment room was in the basement and fairly non-descript, but the massage bed was big and extremely comfortable. 

THINGS I LOVED | The massage table was fantastic. The products used left my skin feeling amazing. The facial was exceptionally helpful and something I wish I could do every few weeks to keep my face in good condition. (Alas, I'm not that lucky!) I'd love to go back and have breakfast or lunch with a friend before getting our nails done. The staff was also incredibly kind and warm.

THINGS I WISHED WERE DIFFERENT | I did feel a bit cheated that the experience started and ended in the treatment room. I would have loved to spend a bit more time relaxing in a robe somewhere, but that's probably splitting hairs. Still, for the sake of comparing spas in London, it's worth noting so that expectations are met.

COWSHED SPA, Clarendon Cross | 119 Portland Road, London, W11 4LN 




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 10, 2017 .

My Notting Hill | Granger & Co.

While this place may be listed in *both* my London and Notting Hill guides, I figured I should respect the old adage that "A picture is worth a thousand words" and give a full, photographed post on Notting Hill's hippest and most delicious breakfast spot, Granger & Co.


Granger & Co. 

When we were viewing flats for our first move to Notting Hill, the estate agent was bragging that the flat we were interested was just around the corner from... well, I didn't know the name he was talking about, but it seemed like a brunch place that was really popular.

Fast-forward a few years and I've got a new baby and family in town visiting us. We want to eat breakfast and head out to... well, who cares. Maybe that place out the front door that is supposed to be so popular? We went, we got a table and we totally flipped out when we ate our food because it was so good. I felt a bit foolish that I had waited so long to try this place (that we realised was called "Granger & Co.") that had a constant queue out the front door.

Now days, it's one of those places Tyler & I go for sweet memories and great food. We meet friends traveling to London there, we took Harrison there during his first week of life, and now we have weekly morning dates there. 

So while it serves up on sentiment for us, it also makes for a killer meal. (And let's be honest, that's what you really want to care about.)

Without further ado, I present everything you need to know before eating at Granger & Co. 


A Local's Guide to Granger & Co. 

1. The ricotta hot cakes with bananas are the most popular dish. (And rightly so, they are insane.) They're as puffy as clouds, covered in a generous pat of honeycomb butter and served with banana & warm syrup.

2. You're also gonna want to get the sweetcorn fritters. With a side of avocado salsa- think chunky guacamole. Don't skip on this. It's important.

3. Get half orders of each of the above! It's not listed on the menu, but it's a local secret. This way, you can also share a raspberry muffin, an acai bowl or a side of their world-famous scrambled eggs. You'll never taste anything fluffier. 

4. Granger & Co. is Bill Granger's restaurant. Bill is from Australia and Australia makes good flat whites. What does all of this mean? Get a flat white and get a great cup of coffee.

 

 

5. If you have little ones, order one of their adorable babyccinos (foamed milk with cocoa powder on top) and a few chocolate chips on the side.

6. Go before 9am... or be prepared to wait. Again, this is not a "just in case," this is an absolute fact. The lines on the weekend are weep-worthy. Plan ahead if you have plans to go the Saturday market on Portobello Road.

7. If you're not up for the wait, you can go up to the bar and order a coffee and grab a pastry for the road. Service is fast & friendly... and you'll have one of the best cups of coffee in the neighbourhood. (Their flat white is only £2.80!) 

8. There are now three locations- Notting Hill (on the famous Westbourne Grove), Kings Cross and Clerkenwell. All three are exceptionally tasty, and the latter two are often less of a scene than the overly popular Notting Hill location.  (Though you'll only catch me taking baby bump pics outside our old flat if you come to the Notting Hill location.) 

Granger & Co. | 175 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W11 2SB. Open 7AM-12AM.


Find all of my favourite places to eat and shop in Notting Hill in my Travel Guide to the neighbourhood.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 7, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, england, london, notting hill.

My Florence: Ditta Artigianale

Most people dream of foamy cappuccinos and strong cups of espresso served by brisk waiters in sharp suits when they imagine lingering in a cafe in Italy. Most of the stereotypical daydreams also come accompanied by a Puccini soundtrack... or, at least, they do for me.

While I spend a lot of my time in coffee shops, I had always enjoyed that Italy seemed immune to the hipster coffee scene. (In the same way that I really enjoy not being able to use my phone on a flight.) In Italy, coffee should be served standing at the bar or seated with great people watching in a cafe... and not in a modern setting with cool light fixture and bearded patrons with Apple products.

So when my friend, Grant, recommended that we go try Ditta Artigianale in Florence.... well, I wasn't so sure. Somehow the thought of a hip coffee shop in Italy seemed wrong. But Tyler loves "good coffee," and I wanted to see the Pitti Palace so we compromised and crossed the Ponte Vecchio.


DITTA ARTIGIANALE OLTRARNO

This coffee shop on Via Dello Sprone is of the three Ditta Artigianale locations in the city. This local chain has various locations around the city, but if you're looking for a place to stay for a while- this is the one you want to go to.

The coffee is great. The classic latte is perfectly made- thanks to incredible high quality milk. (Good dairy makes everything better, doesn't it?) They shop also has fresh cold-press juices that are served in kitschy mason jar glasses, but taste fantastic. 

If you're feeling hungry- you have a range of food to choose from. Whether it's something small like a pastry or cookie or something a bit more substantial like a homemade croque monsieur or salad- they've got good options that not only sound cool, but they taste great, too.

With cosy nooks for work or chatting, an upstairs for hiding out, and a patio out back for some sunshine while your kids march around like tiny clowns- this is a perfect place to waste an afternoon.... or just for grabbing a great coffee to go on your way to the Boboli Gardens. 

DITTA ARTIGIANALE | Via dei Neri, 32/R, 50122 Firenze, Italy | Open 8AM-10PM


Looking for more great places in Florence? Check out my guide here and my Italy posts here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 6, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, italy, life, travel.

To A Tea: Afternoon Tea at Ham Yard Hotel

 

 had the chance to spoil a new mom to a pretty afternoon tea this week, and every bit of the experience was so lovely that I couldn't wait to share it. If anyone is looking for a fantastic afternoon tea in Central London (and why shouldn't you be?), look no further. I've found a place that will be just your cup of tea.

It may be bold to say,  but I think this ranks the best afternoon tea in London. Everything about it is fantastic: the food, the setting, the service & the amazingly modest price. I'm planning to make this a new favourite meeting place, and it's only right to share it here with you.

So come on and join us for our gorgeously bright afternoon sitting in the conservatory at Ham Yard. (Make sure you grab a bite of the Battenburg before it's all gone!)


HAM YARD HOTEL AFTERNOON TEA

When I was flipping through my mental Rolodex of great places for tea, I was trying to find something in between the grand tea rooms and small kitschy bakeries. Somewhere in the back of my mind, an old conversation about Ham Yard popped up and I decided to look into it.

The menu looked fantastic and the pictures online of the space looked gorgeous. But the price? It didn't seem right... £22?! All the reviews looked great though, so I called in and snagged a table.

When I arrived, the setting was evening cooler than I thought. If you go, expect a well-groomed clientele of young yuppies with great style to be surrounding you. 

The food was fantastic, featuring classic items with slight twists to make them interesting, yet not offensively changing what works. The scones were the perfect size, and served warm in a little cave of a crisp napkin.

 

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And the cakes? Ooooh goodness. Gorgeously presented and even tastier. 

So yes, I have a new favourite place for afternoon tea in London... and I have no doubt you will, too.


Ham Yard Hotel | 1 Ham Yard, Soho, London W1D 7DT | +44 20 3642 2000

Looking for more options on the best places for afternoon tea in London? Check out my To A Tea series for more of my favourites.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on March 30, 2017 and filed under hot tea, tea time, england, drink, eat.

One Chance. Two Weeks. Four Seasons London.

I always feel like I need to explain things that I get to try and do as a blogger. First because I think it's fair and ethical to state what was given from a professional standpoint. When I say I recommend something, I want people to be able to trust that.

The second reason is because I think it's fair for everyone's sanity sake to know that some things are gifts or freebies or whatever. Otherwise, it's easy to think that everyone has buckets of cash sitting around their house to spend all day on fun things... and you might not. (Or is that just me?)

Anyway, all of that to say.... I was invited to get a facial at the Four Seasons London by my friend, Georgie. She is their PR head and a total Queen of coming up with fun, seasonal pop-up concepts in the hotel. If you ever see one that they are doing, it's a must for anyone living in London. They are so different and fun... and just really perfectly done. She's very talented!

Knowing her talents for making these special events, I knew it'd be good, but I didn't expect it to be THIS good. (And the price, too!)


FOUR SEASONS MOTHERS DAY URBAN POP-UP SPA

I'm going to make this post quick. Since this pop-up only runs through April 2, you really can't waste time doing silly things like reading blogs. You've got to get moving to book a space for yourself.

Here's what to expect:

When you get to the hotel, go straight up the elevator to the 10th Floor. Sign in, have a quick drink as you fill out your paperwork overlooking London below, and then head back to change your life... erm, I mean clothes.

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You'll get a robe and locker in the luxe locker room. From there, you head straight into the pool area for a leisure lounge on their in-water beds or hit the sauna & steam room. Or you be like me and take the worlds longest shower and shave every inch of your legs because you have the time (and a good Italian shave kit) to do so.

Work your way to the relaxation room for a drink and a magazine read for a while before your treatment. It's so relaxing and when else can you perch up somewhere so glam?

When it's time for your facial, you'll be escorted into the special suite. While the view is stunning, the garden-esque feel that the Chelsea Physic Garden has put together will take it to the next level. Fresh flowers and classical music with Hyde Park hundreds of feet below you make approaching that big fluffy warm feel somewhat like a dream.

Now, I have to say... in that environment and for the amazing price, it would be easy to expect a basic facial with mediocre products. I'd probably still be happy with the overall experience, but... the facial was incredible.

The pop-up is hosted between Four Seasons and the Hungarian skincare line, Omorovizca. All of the products used in the 30-minute treatment were from the line and smelled so botanical and fresh. And they weren't just cute.... with items like a rose-scented gold mask,  neck cream with white truffle, you know it's a lush experience.

About half-way through, Nancy (the therapist) brought these two glass ornament looking things out of a bowl of ice water and massaged the cream into my face. It was a crazy feeling.... but I am desperate to have it done again. Incredibly relaxing and refreshing!

At the end of my treatment- about the time you get a list of all the products you need- Nancy told me my skin was nice. ("I love your big cheeks." Hah!) Then she went on to tell me that it wasn't just dry... it was really dehydrated. I agreed- it's miserably dry. She said I was doing too much. I need to let it breathe. I need to stop putting moisturiser on it day and night. It needed to just do its thing for a while.

No products pushed. No treatments recommended. Just honest truth from someone who actually got my skin after thirty minutes. It was incredible.

The experience and the facial will be, undoubtably, a great experience... and for a special price of £50(!!!), you'd really be silly not to grab a space before they are gone!



Looking for other great spas in London? You may be interested in my visits to The Rosewood Hotel and The Baglioni Hotel.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*visit gifted. Opinions are my own.

Posted on March 28, 2017 and filed under london, life, love, beauty.