Dulwich | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

I met Bethie a few years ago through a Babyccino event that she was hosting. We had a few mutual friends, but now those have all moved away/drifted apart… and Bethie is one of the friends I’ve stayed in touch with. Bethie is fun, always laughing (even at my bad jokes!), empathetic, and a mover/shaker. She’s got ideas and ambitions constantly coming to her brain… and you’ll never think of her as a boring friend, I promise. She lives in Dulwich with her fantastically smart family and her love for their life there oozes out in every little post/conversation. Just read on, you’ll see what I mean. Thanks, Bethie, for contributing to this neighbourhood series and sharing a look into your sweet little life in Dulwich.


Dulwich Village, SE21

1. Tell us about your neighbourhood.

When were first moving to London from Washington, DC, we had our hearts set on living in Hampstead Heath, but we weren’t thrilled with what we could afford there. We ended up in South London where we eventually discovered Dulwich. The moment we stepped foot here, we knew we had found our future home. It is no coincidence that Dulwich is sometimes referred to as, “the Hampstead of the south”! With the quaint, villagey feel, amazing houses, yummy restaurants, and the gorgeous Dulwich Park, it certainly lives up to its reputation. 

2. On a 1-10, how connected would you say where you live is? What are the major lines that run to/from you?

There are advantages and disadvantages of being well connected in London. When we lived in Clapham (which I would give a 10 in terms of connectivity), we would cram ourselves onto hot, busy tube trains, only to emerge onto busy streets, teeming with people. It was fun at first, but it has really helped us to appreciate being a bit less connected here in Dulwich. It is much quieter here, with very few tourists which really helps add to the great community feel we love about living here. 

There are loads of bus lines to take you to better connected areas, and train lines to get you to London Bridge and Victoria (via North Dulwich, East Dulwich, and West Dulwich stations), and nearby Denmark Hill station to gets you to East London. Many people here have cars, but we love to bike everywhere and I can’t imagine a lovelier way to commute. My six-year-old rides her bike to and from school through past the gardens and lake in beautiful Dulwich Park and our au pair and I ride with my three-year-old on the back of our bikes. My husband works near Tower Bridge and it takes him 25 minutes to ride his bike to work each day. It takes 5-10 minutes to bike to a train station to take me into town, and a variety of beautiful local parks are also only a short ride away. However, when it comes down to it, there are definitely better neighbourhoods to consider if you plan to spend a lot of time in central London. I would rate Dulwich a 5 in terms of connectivity. 

3. In a dream world, what would be the perfect street or area to live in within your neighbourhood? Why?

Dulwich Village isn’t very big. Most everything there is to see here (shops, restaurants, The Dulwich Picture Gallery, and Dulwich Park) are all located on the main street. Also lining this main street are some absolutely incredible houses. They have grand entrances with unbelievable gardens out back. I can tell you about these gardens because every summer a few of them open them up for villagers to come explore! They have live music, sell tea and cakes, and usually raise some decent money for a local charity. The gardens are absolutely bonkers and are filled with beautifully manicured lawns, incredible flowers, ponds, fountains, trellises, paths, and staircases. Villagers bring picnics and camp out for hours on end. Given the amazing gardens, I can imagine the inside of these houses would be equally impressive. I would have to say that living in one of these houses right in the middle of the village would be pretty dreamy!

4. On a 1-10, how would you say the value for square footage is? Do a pay a premium for where you live or would you say it’s a better value than other areas in London?

People don’t move to Dulwich because it is affordable; people move here for the incredible schools, the park, and the lovely village. That being said, South London is, in general, much cheaper than Central or North London. Purchasing a four-bedroom house next to Hampstead Heath would run you many millions of pounds, but here in “the Hampstead of the south” you can find houses closer to 1 million pounds. It is still a lot of money, but it is a bit more accessible. 

I would rate affordability in Dulwich about a 4. There are definitely cheaper areas, and you do pay a bit of a premium here, but in comparison to other highly desirable neighbourhoods, it is definitely more affordable. 

5. What’s the general vibe of the neighbourhood? Give us three people we might see on your high street?

As a Seattle girl, I really appreciate the more laid back vibe of South London. While many people here are very stylish, it is rare to see anyone with a Gucci bag or Jimmy Choo shoes. You are more likely to notice people wearing a lovely jumper from a local shop, or a fun dress from Zara. If you show up on the school run in trainers and a dirty t-shirt or heels and a suit, you won’t get much of a look either way. 

There is a very friendly vibe here as everyone presumes that everyone else lives in the village. You are bound to have children at the same school, or will run into each other again at The Dog (our local pub that has just undergone a gorgeous renovation!) so you might as well be friendly! You also see a lot of familiar faces around here. It is rare to run errands and not run into someone you know. Even shopkeepers and local wait staff will stop and stay hello if they see us. We even know some of them by name (a special shoutout to Lucy at our favourite Italian restaurant who always gives snuggles to the kids!). 

Three people you might see on our high street would be a mum and baby on their way to meet a friend for coffee, a dog walker on their way to the park with a handful of leashes, and a kid on a scooter. (There are loads of (amazing) schools in Dulwich and so you see kids everywhere!!)

6. What’s your favourite place to get coffee in your neighbourhood?

Often after the school run, there is a group of parents that will go and get a coffee together before starting their days. The group usually includes a stay-at-home dad, a graphic designer, a very famous artist (!), and me! We often have a few others join in as well. While there are quite a few places to stop and get a good coffee around here, we often find ourselves at Christopher’s Bakery (where I often grab some fresh bread for dinner). Gail’s Bakery is also a favourite, but it is usually so crowded in the mornings that I usually only go there in the afternoons. A short bike ride from the village over to East Dulwich and you have even more options such as the hipster mecca of Brickhouse Bread, and the newly opened Greek cafe, Kanella, who make the best matcha latte!

7. What’s your favourite place to eat dinner in your neighbourhood?

While there are loads of restaurants to choose from in East Dulwich (like Japanese food and cocktails from Yama Momo, or the best ever burger from Meat Liquor) our favourite local restaurant is definitely Rocca in Dulwich Village. Not only is the food delicious (try the carbonara!!) and the staff super kid friendly, it is also surprisingly affordable! 

8. Best pub?

There is only one pub in the village and it has only just reopened after a nearly three year renovation. You will always see people sitting out front having a pint, and the garden is perfect for families to let their kids run in. However, as it has been closed for ages, we have spent a lot of time in East Dulwich pubs. I recently discovered The Cherry Tree which is located right across from the East Dulwich station and it is my new favourite local pub. It is a bit off the main high street so tends to be less crowded, yet it still has great food, a beautiful interior, and a lovely garden out back. (Added bonus is that my band, Wilford Social, plays there once a month! Come say hi!)

9. Best way to spend a Saturday in Dulwich Village as a local?

Hands down, the best way to spend a Saturday in Dulwich is in the park. Everyone is there with their families and there is plenty of space to spread out with a picnic, or enjoy food from the cafe. The kids love the play area, and you are bound to run into people you know there which is always fun. I also like to participate in the Park Run on Saturday mornings in Dulwich Park where you join a hundred or so other runners for a free timed 5K.

10. How much would an Uber to Oxford Circus cost you (approximately)?

£20

11. What are three great schools in your neighbourhood? Are they State or Fee Paying?

Dulwich is known for its schools. There is Dulwich College (founded in 1619) which is a boarding and day school for boys, James Allen’s Girls’ School which is ranked in the top ten of UK secondary schools, and Alleyn’s which is one of the country’s leading co-ed day schools. All of the aforementioned schools are fee paying, but we also have very highly ranked state schools as well. We are really lucky here and definitely spoiled for choice in terms of schools!


Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my previous guides to Shepherds Bush and Chelsea


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Posted on August 11, 2017 and filed under neighbourhood guide.

Outlander + My 5 Favourite Castles in Scotland

I had planned to get my nails done before having Edie, but, alas, she came early and so me and my overgrown hooves had to deal with not looking their best during her first few weeks of life. Fast-forward one month and I managed to sneak away for a trip to the cheapest nail salon in our neighbourhood to finally get my nails done. Since I was wedging this between a trip to the fabric shop and Tyler taking the kids to the park, I didn’t have an appointment. When I walked in, they told me it would be 20 minutes before they could help me, and I gladly parked it until it was my turn.

With my phone dead and nothing else to do, I glanced around to find something to read. All of the magazines were at least a year old- literally, the newest featuring Princess Charlotte’s first birthday, but I found a copy of a DEPARTURES magazine that wasn’t entirely from another century. I grabbed it and spent the next hour absorbing every single letter within that tattered and faded issue. I skimmed ads for luxury cruises, read about trends in Shanghai’s food scene… and, eventually, landed on an article where an editor journeys around Scotland to trace the steps of the scenes from the show, Outlander. A show that I had previously assumed to be included motorcycles and ponytailed men in chunky metal-toed boots. (Why you ask? I honestly have no clue. Was there some old TNT series that had a similar name and premise? I digress.)

To my surprise, the editor’s description of Outlander totally captivated me (historical fiction + art-like costumes) and I can’t wait to submerse myself in it as soon as possible. On top of the fact that the plot sounds incredible, I have to say: I was mostly excited to read about all the Scottish settings that the show features…. Many of which I have been this summer.

One of the places the editor talks about is the town of Falkland- where I just so happened to spend the morning a few weeks ago. It’s one of the cutest little towns that I’ve been to in Scotland, complete with a palace, an antique shop full of affordable treasures and a small handful of cafes and pubs to keep you fed during your day there. It’s charming, and after being quite taken with Falkland after my day there, I included it on my list of “5 Scottish Castles to See.” 

Take a quick look at my latest video where I walk through (literally) the 5 castles that I recommend to see when you’re in Scotland. You’ll also get a glimpse of some pretty scenery and an abandoned castle below. The great news for you is that, if you do find yourself in another castle in Scotland, chances are it’s going to be pretty great, too.

Now, can any of you that have seen Outlander weigh in below on whether or not I should watch this show? Win me over, please. I’m really hoping this can be a new favourite. And do guys like it, too?. Hopefully, I can get Tyler interested, too!



Find more of my favourite places in Scotland here in my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 10, 2017 and filed under scotland, uk getaway.

Edie | One Month + An Official Welcome

 

One month old! Time flies when you’re… wiping buns. It’s been a great month. Edie is such a dream, and I just can’t stop kissing her… and, at times, also forgetting she is now part of our family. (Phrases like “Oh wait! Don’t forget the baby!” as we start to walk out the door to go somewhere seem far too common.)

I’ve shared this on my Facebook page, but in case you missed it- here’s a little video of Edie's arrival. I always feel like a huge dork getting out my camera to record moments that seem mundane… but I’m so glad I took the time to save a few of these. When they are knit together in this video, it makes a really special memory. I already love watching it and know that it will become something that makes me so teary in the yard to come.

Life is sweet with three. Granted- it’s crazy and unglamorous and what have you, but I can’t tell you how comfortable and cozy it feels to have a family of five.

Trying hard to our feet under us in a routine... but also, trying to enjoy the days of just being together and rolling with the days as they come.)  The kids have been so sweet with her, but the lack of a normal schedule, endless visitors and us being distracted is finally starting to show. Any advice on how to manage with the early days of adding a new baby to your family routines?



*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 9, 2017 and filed under babies, babies kennedy, home, kids, life, pregnancy.

(Little Kids + Working Moms) x Being an Expat = Complicated

As a mom, I’ve learned that the issue of childcare is a tricky one. So many factors are involved in finding someone to replace your role as mom- even if it’s just for a short time while you get errands run. This list of factors mainly includes (but is not limited to): income (because we all have different budgets and can’t all spend the same on childcare), distance (do you live near people you trust, or are you in a place away from trusted resources?), time (are you looking for something consistent or do you need random hours here and there?), trust (how do you know that the person watching your child(ren) isn’t crazy… and are they actually enriching your children’s lives/minds or merely keeping them alive until you return).

Living away from family, we have really battled with finding people to care for our children. Whether it’s just for a night for us to get a night away together or for something more steady during work hours- we’ve tried a bit of everything possible. Our work is a bit too sporadic to plan for a full-time help at scheduled hours… but when we need someone for work, we need someone who can pretty much dedicate their full attention to us…. But only for a few months. 

While the idea of family is sooooo appealing, we live an ocean away from anyone that we are related to. (With the exception of my aunt/uncle this summer… they have been SO wonderful to have in town with us to help in mundane moments and bigger ones like having a baby early!)

When I first heard about an au pair, I chalked it up to unrealistic for us. Full-time nannies are trop cher, and we don’t make enough to, essentially, pay their salary. I filed it away, and then when an ex-student approached me about coming to work with us in Paris after she had returned from a year in Australia (as an au pair for a family there), I started to ask her a bit about the basic format. When she told me how it all worked, my mind was blown. It actually was something we could do/afford… and seemed like the perfect fit for us.

After a year and a half of having an au pair, I have to say: it totally suits our family. Having someone live with us, be like family to us, and help watch our kids in random hours/spurts is just what we were needing… without really knowing was possible. 

Now, I'll be honest: we have been SPOILED with the absolute best au pairs. We have had people that have become family members to us, so having them share in daily life with us was never awkward or weird. The toughest part of them living was us was only when they had to leave. (PS. If you're reading this Cami, come back!!)

So I thought that maybe I’d do a vlog where I talk about what having an au pair is like… because maybe, just maybe, it could open up some options for your family, too. And maybe, just maybe, you’re currently as clueless about au pairs as I once was. Yes? Well then, ask away! I’ve got my own experience of two au pairs- with a new one arriving soon! Plus, I’ve asked a few friends to weigh in when there’s a question that I can’t answer. 

Ask away- from the basic (where do you even find someone to be an au pair?) to the more tense (what if your au pair has gross living habits- like leaving hair in the shower drain or has the smell of rot perfuming their room?) I kind of can’t wait to read these, by the way!


Hopefully this helps you if you’re at the point of breaking in trying to juggle it all.. and gives you an option that works great for your family.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on August 4, 2017 and filed under home, expat.

Chelsea | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

Following on as the first contributor to my new neighbourhood series is my friend Regina. Regina is part of the expat circle here, but not in the normal way- she’s actually Danish, married to an Aussie, previously living in NYC and now raising her three little babes here in London. As all Scandinavians seem to be, she’s stunning and she writes/cooks healthy food that even gets me (the biggest sweet tooth ever) hungry for virtuous dishes dressed with tahini and sprinkled with quinoa. Best of all… she’s incredibly kind. She lives in Chelsea, and she’s generously spared a portion of her rare free time not taking care of little babies to share a glimpse of her life in Chelsea here with us. 


Chelsea, SW3

1. Tell us about your neighbourhood.

Chelsea is beautiful and full of white Victorian houses. Historically known as a village and the centre for alternative culture in the 60s, Chelsea was once London’s bohemian quarter, full of artists, writers and musicians. It’s pretty well gentrified now, but in certain areas the bohemia vibe still exists. Once frequented by the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and London’s bohemia, Chelsea is now home to a lot of expats and holds the largest communities of Americans living outside of the United States.

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?

Pretty connected. It's a mile or a mile and a half to four different tube stations: South Kensington, Earls Court, Fulham Broadway and Sloane Square. Between all of them you can get pretty much anywhere.

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

It's hard to narrow that down to a specific street… I really like our street, and the nearby streets around our current flat (just in between Fulham Road and Kings Road in the west end of Chelsea), and a lot of them open up to hidden-away private gardens, which would be such a dream so my kids could run wiiild all day.

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?

Chelsea definitely isn’t a bargain to live in (sadly). In other words, you do pay premium to live here and even just south of the river in Battersea, you get much better value for your money. 

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

It is full of gorgeous streets with white houses and hidden-away private gardens you'd never know about unless you live here. Although the main streets gets busy, it's not super busy or all that touristy, and I love the village-y vibe you get as soon as you go one street away from the main shopping streets. You'll see the mother getting her kids to school, black shades, coffee in hand and in her athleisure wear (obviously, duh), celebrities getting their morning coffee (or international expat guy in a nice suit on his way to/from work), and the beautifully glamorous elderly lady who has lived here long before it was a cool place to live and who go buy a real newspaper and a fresh loaf of baguette at the local bakery every morning.

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

The very BEST coffee I’ve had around here is Tomtom Coffee House, which is actually technically in Belgravia (but a short walk from Sloane Square).  Much closer to our end of Chelsea is the espresso canteen, A Wanted Man, which has a great vibe and good breakfast menu too. And theres a brow bar upstairs - win? Last spot I’ll mention is Muni Coffee Co. on Fulham road, which is a fusion of Fillipino-European influences with a mission to bring coffee beans from the Philippines back into the speciality coffee industry. Read more about their story on their website

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

For a fun night out with friends, Kurobuta on King's Road is one of our absolute favourites, and is a fusion of Japanese cuisine. But if it looks more like a intimate dinner just me and my husband, I'd go to Bandol, a beautiful French restaurant with the flavours and style of south France and delicious sharing plates and, of course, a great wine list! They have a great selection of vegetarian dishes too, which I love.

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

It would look like breakfast at Beaufort House or Ivy Chelsea Garden with the kids, followed by a walk up to Duke of York Square Market. This market is full of amazing food stalls with a great variety of cuisines. From oysters + bubbles, to vegan burgers (my fave!), and of course delicious sweets, this market is so fun and is surrounded by good shopping (always a win). After that we'd stop in at one of our local pubs for a drink. The Sporting Page, Bluebird Terrace & GOAT are a few favourites and all have great outdoor seating, which is amazing during the summer. Then it would end either with a date night out, or a night in where we’d cook something together, in between running back and forth to convince our kids to stay in bed, of course. 

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

Around £20.


Trying to find the right London neighbourhood for you? Check out my previous neighbourhood guide to Shepherds Bush.



*images courtesy of Regina Barker