Posts filed under london

My London | How To Get to London From Heathrow

Most people are so excited about exploring London that they often overlook how they are actually going to get into London after they arrive on their flight. But hey- it’s a big piece to your travel puzzle because the truth is, the airports are all pretty far away from Central London. If you don’t plan out your way into the city… you might end up spending a lot for a black cab to take you in once you arrive (which is what a lot of people end up doing). 

While I’ll always love the iconic black cabs of London, I will say that I think there are more economical ways to get yourself into the city center from London’s Heathrow airport. Let me walk you through the options and you can choose which would work best for your trip. With a little bit of planning, you’ll be able to to get into the city with your choice of whatever of the below options works the best for your trip, and before you can say “Mind the Gap,” you’ll be zooming your way into London to get the real fun started. 


THE UNDERGROUND | You can actually take the tube all the way to/from Central London on the Piccadilly line. It will take approximately 50 minutes to get in, and this is the cheapest route possible. The price of a single journey between Heathrow and Central London costs £6 per person, each way (as of March 2019). This is a great option if you’re traveling light and are not in a hurry. If you’ve got small kids (and accompanying gear, like a stroller) or a heavy luggage, this can be a tricky option as most train platforms will require hauling them up stairs. Tickets for these can be purchased upon arrival from the machines by the trains (they also take Apple Pay!). This is a helpful site for additional information on taking the underground to Heathrow.

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THE HEATHROW EXPRESS | This fast train goes to/from Heathrow into London every 10 minutes and will get you there in about 15 minutes. Amazing right? Tickets are £19 per person, one way. However, once you get to Paddington, you still will have to take the tube or a cab to your next location. So by the time you add it all up, and schlepp your bags to/from the train terminal at Heathrow and then through Paddington out to the taxi rank or down through the tube and up again…. It’s kind of an expensive and physical trek. I’d opt for this if I was traveling solo (if there’s more than one of you, an Uber will be cheaper in the end) and if you have a small bag. Tickets for the Heathrow Express can either be purchased in advance, or very easily at the airport upon arrival.

UBER | Ubers are a cheap taxi into Central London from Heathrow. Most rides cost around £35-40, but you have to call for a driver once you’re outside of arrivals and then wait for 10-15 minutes as they enter the airport and come up through into a parking garage. After that, you have to go find them and get your luggage all the way to the car. (They can’t come inside and wait for you, so you’ve got to be ready to haul your bags + selves outside to the bank of lifts and get to the right floor and section of the garage.) It’s a fine option that I’ve done many times, but it’s not my favourite. It always seems to take ages, and if you’re traveling with loads of bags, the standard issue London Uber (a Toyota Prius) just has a small space in the back. I use Ubers from Heathrow when it’s just one or two of us. Beyond that, it gets a bit crazy and stressful. Once you get in the car, it’s only about 40 minutes into Central London if traffic is moving well.

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BLACK CABS | I do love a good black cab, and while they are readily available at Heathrow, they are really expensive! As they are metered fares, they can go from pricey (£70-80) to really expensive, if traffic slows down. They can fit an amazing amount of luggage in them, and they’ll know exactly where you need to go and the best way there. Plus, it’s a great cultural experience. (Just one, in my opinion, that I think can be as easily enjoyed for shorter rides in/around the city instead of for this particular journey.) If you’re traveling with a stroller, you can push it directly into the middle of the cab and it is legal for the cab to drive with a child in it. Obviously, this is to the discretion of the parents/guardian, but it is legal. Again, this is about a 40-minute ride to Central London.

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PRIVATE CAR | This option is my favourite, but can entail various different options and companies. With a pre-booked car, you can find much cheaper rates and the drivers will, most of the time, come meet you in the arrivals hall, offering help with your bags and keeping you from wandering through parking garages with a trolley full of luggage trying to find their location. These rides should take about 40 minutes to get you into Central London. My favourite companies to use are these two:

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  • BLACKLANE | This is a luxe service at decent prices (approximately £75 per car to Central London) that you can easily prebook on their simple site. They do a great job sending you information about your booking when you book, and just before the time of booking with your driver’s info. Plus, they have great customer service. This is a company I recommend again and again to travel clients. (Good new for Blacklane, too, is that they are in so many cities across the world. Once you try them, you can use them anywhere!)

  • FAMILY TRANSFERS | If you’re traveling with kids, this is a great option that will provide car seats for children for around £100 (as of March 2019). The fleet of cars is all large cars (like vans), so you’ll be able to get all the bags and stroller packed in the back. Plus, two car seats are included with the booking. Additional carseats are available, at an extra charge. You can choose from either front- or rear-facing, or a combination of the two, if you need one of each.

You can also find cheaper companies with google searches that offer rides into London for around £50 per car, but I find that these smaller companies often don’t want the driver to come into the arrivals hall. After a long flight with bags, I’m often not in the mood to push bags around and track them down in the parking garages.


Find out more about traveling to London in my travel guide!


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Little London | Richmond Park

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Kids learn a lot from living in major cities, but the biggest thing I’ve noticed from my own children growing up in London is that they learn to be citizens of the world at a younger age than I ever did in suburban Texas. They see people and space in a more relaxed and peaceful way than I did. There’s very little concept of being territorial and there’s always an understanding as to why people constantly come and go. It’s a character trait that is hard to articulate, but a joy to watch be naturally cultivated in your children.

However, I often mourn the lack of space they have to explore. But Lauren, they have the entire city of London! Hah… yeah, right. Ask any parent in London and they can tell you that trips to the famous museums are few and far between. Why? Because kids are in school during the week, and when they are out, they’re way too crowded. The truth is, it’s just hard to give kids the joy of wandering around the backyard for hours on end doing weird things here. 

Tyler and I try to offset this by driving out to Richmond Park as often as we can on the weekend. Even if it’s just for an hour, it’s worth the 25 minutes in the car. Parking is typically easy enough, and we bring a thermos of tea, a packed lunch and the kids’ wellies so they can get as dirty as they possibly want. 

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Richmond Park is a massive, 2,500-acre expanse of nature preserve that stretches through the western suburb of Richmond. It’s free to visit, it’s gorgeous and you’ll see deer. So. Many. Deer. Each time we go, we see at least 75-100. It’s so wonderful.

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And it’s a place you can go in London and have endless space. You can make trails, you can build wooden houses, you can have a picnic, you can walk your dog, or you can practice riding your bike on paths without busy commuters rolling their eyes and dodging out of your path. You can have all the space you need for whatever, and it is so lovely.

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Our family tradition is to head to Gail’s for cinnamon buns and coffee first and then cruise out for the late morning and a picnic lunch when the energy levels start to dip. Then we pack up and it’s nap time on the way back to the house. It’s actually one of my favourite little days out because it’s always so fun and everyone is always so happy. Definitely, a win-win for the whole family!

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I would recommend going with a car. Honestly, without one you’ll walk for a long time and little legs would get very tired. (Maybe you could bring a scooter?) But if you live in London and are desperate for some time out… head to Richmond Park. I won’t say the idea bowled me over when we first moved over, but now with a full-fledged family: I get it. It’s a sanctuary in the middle of London, and it’s a great family day out!

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RICHMOND PARK | OPEN 7:30-16:45

By Tube: Richmond Station, National Rail or District Line (then catch the 371 or 65 buses to the pedestrian gate at Petersham)


Find more of my favourite places to go with kids in London here in my Little London section.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 13, 2019 and filed under london with littles, london, kids.

My Notting Hill | Chucs Westbourne Grove

If you're looking for a great lunch spot in London, I have a little secret spot that is too good to miss tucked away in plain site in Notting Hill's Westbourne Grove.

I met my friend Amber at Chucs in the tiny pristine garden one day for lunch, and it was the perfect little spot to spend a couple of hours catching up over yummy food with zero pressure to move fast. (To be honest, the same can be said for the wait staff at times. We'll just chalk it up to Italian charm.)

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The restaurant inside is sweet, but for a pretty day- it's hard to beat cacio e pepe, paper-thin chicken paillard and fried zucchini with a pal.

I think this spot could be a total winner for a brunch to celebrate a soon-to-arrive baby, sneak away to on a weeknight date, or just do what we did... meet up with an old friend and enjoy the day/food/pretty setting.

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CHUCS  |   226 WESTBOURNE GROVE  +44 020 7243 9136

 

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FIND MORE OF THE BEST PLACES TO EAT IN NOTTING HILL                                                         IN MY TRAVEL GUIDE TO NOTTING HILL.



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Little London | The UK School Year

It’s creeping towards the end of July and I’ve spent the evening responding to PTA meeting emails and making a list of what items I need to bring for Viola’s last day of school festivities tomorrow. 

Wait, it’s the end of July and we still have one day to go? What the actual heck?

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The English school calendar is comprised of three terms (autumn, spring & summer). Each term is 13 weeks long and has a one-week break in the middle of it. This is called, unsurprisingly, “half-term.” The autumn term ends at Christmas, where you get a 2-3 week break. The spring term ends at Easter, where you get a 2-3 week break, and the summer term ends in late July where you start your summer. Does that makes sense?

Here it feels so normal to still be in the wind-down to school, but when I FaceTime family back home who are lounging around the house on a Wednesday or see the swim parties and late nights kids are having in the States- it reminds me of how DIFFERENT the school schedule is between where I grew up and where my kids are growing up.

For me, summer was 3 months that seemed to have no end or horizon- just an abyss of endless time that gave kids the chance to truly transform and dissolve from the confines of the previous school year. Do you remember as a kid coming back to school in August and seeing someone that had really, really changed into an almost unrecognisable version of who they were in May? 

Well, here it’s a six week leap from the end of July through the start of September. August truly is the untouchable month where families flee Britain and head to sunny spots around the continent. It’s less of a time to dork around with your neighbours and stay up late riding back and playing flashlight tag as it is to go to your grandparents house in Cornwall or France. It’s less back-to-back weeks stuffed with driving to your grandparents, Disney trips, and summer camps and -instead- more camper trips to the beach and longer-term vacation rentals somewhere far away. 

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The thing about it is that it’s just short enough that parents can take the time off, too, for the most part. It’s a big family time- but the length of it seems to allow for one big trip rather than the sporadic and endless activities we have in the states over 3 months. I remember forecasting my summers in weeks: The first week we are here with my grandparents, the next week I go to camp, then I’m at home for the week and it’s my dads birthday, then we have our family vacation, then we come back to Dallas for (insert school-forced choir/band/drama “camp,” and then school starts. Is that still more or less how it happens?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sold on the English system entirely because I really loved my childhood summers… but it’s where we are and the amazing school we are in makes it so worth it, so we are keeping on and carrying on the best that we can to acclimate to sports days, summer school fairs & all-school performances rolling on through June and July. (Luckily, it's all be a lot of fun!)

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And while we are on the topic…. Go ahead and list the summer you came back to school with the biggest transformation. Mine was, in my 7th grade opinion, definitely when I arrived back with braces and my ears pierced. I truly wondered if people would be able to recognise me. Ha!

 


Find more of our life with kids in London here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My London | Highlights of the Natural History Museum

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In conjunction with my other post on The British Museum, I've decided to walk you through the best of London's museums and create an easy to follow series to help your trip planning. The next up is another of London's greatest museums: The Natural History Museum!

Not only is the Natural History Museum pretty to look at on the outside- decked out in its Victorian splendour- but it is also a treasure chest inside. The Natural History Museum is home to over 80 million specimens and has 36 free galleries. As almost all museums in England are, admission is free. No pressure to see it all or get your money’s worth- you really can browse and visit as you enjoy… or just go in to have a reasonably priced cup of coffee in a fabulous setting. (I do that often!)

Since this is such a great spot to take children in London, I wanted to make sure it made my new series of museum guides in London. It’s definitely the museum that my children know the best, and it is a place that I’m sure many people have special childhood memories. (Any of you have any you’d like to share?) 

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THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM


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THE BLUE WHALE | When you walk into the Natural History Museum, there is a huge Blue Whale exhibit in Hintze Hall to greet visitors. It is a massive skeleton that hangs from the ceiling, and it is incredible.

Some fast facts about the Blue Whale: The blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived. With each gulp, it can take in up to 457,000 calories. They can weigh up to 180 tonnes, making them heavier than even the largest dinosaurs. The Museum’s Blue Whale is 25 metres long- thats 75 feet, American friends. You won’t want to miss this exhibit and as big as it is, I don't think you will!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone, nearest entrance is the main entrance off Cromwell Road.


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DINOSAURS | The Natural History Museum’s dinosaurs are world-famous. This exhibit includes the first-ever fossils found from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the skull of a Triceratops, and the Baryonx. With all the dinosaurs around, this is hugely kid-friendly. Stop at this exhibit to learn more about these prehistoric giants and why they died out.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone on the Ground Floor, next to the Hintze Hall.


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MAMMALS | This exhibit has cases and cases of mammals and it is truly fascinating to see the diversity of it all! Some of the highlights of this exhibit include pandas, bears, horses, big cats and dogs, and the extinct Diprotodon from Australia. The exhibit compares them to humans and shows you how truly diverse life is!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


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BIRDS | This section is both incredible and a bit creepy. All of these birds are pinned down so that you can see the anatomy of their wings and bodies, as well as the way that their feathers have grown. My favorite is the hummingbird cabinet. It is literally an array of hundreds of hummingbirds. The Birds exhibit also includes cases of the extinct Dodo Bird, blackbirds, storm petrels, passenger pigeons, and a selection of eggs from the giant elephant bird.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Green Zone, the nearest entrance is the Cromwell Road.


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CREEPY CRAWLIES | This exhibit lives up to its name; it is full of creepy things that crawl! The exhibit includes a live ant colony, a life-size model of a termite mound, an interactive game to build a spider, a cabinet of crustaceans, and more locusts, scorpions, termites, and thousands more Your kids will love it! Try not to hurry past, as it really is a fascinating exhibit!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Green Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


HUMAN BIOLOGY | If you’ve had enough of all the animals and other mammals, this gallery is a huge resource to find out more about your own body. From learning about how hormones affect our body to how our brain and organs work together, this gallery is incredible. Be sure to see the giant cell model and the specimen of DNA.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


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DARWIN CENTRE'S COCOON | This centre is super unique because you can see the museum’s scientists in action behind glass walls. It also takes you through how scientists collect and care for all of their specimens. Exhibits include specimens of beetles, butterflies, plants, tarantulas, and herbs. It opened in 2009, so it’s pretty new. Definitely worth checking out!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Darwin Centre in the Orange Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


FUN EVENTS | The museum holds fun events, including a nighttime event called “DinoSnore”, where kids aged 7-11 can participate in a night of making dinosaur T-shirts, explore a torch-lit trail, and attend a science show put on by a Museum scientist. They do activities until midnight and then set up a sleeping area. Breakfast is served in the morning before they leave. Bookings are required. See their website for more details.

The museum also holds an “Airbnb Base Camp”, which is another nighttime event for kids with a special area for sleepovers in the Museum. The sleeping area is next to a 1,300 year old Sequoia tree, overlooking the Blue Whale exhibit.

In addition to all of this, there are movie nights, “DinoSnore” for adults, crime scene live events, and other activities for the night, where you can see the museum’s exhibits come alive from a new perspective.


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COFFEE | And of course, no trip out in London is complete without a stop for a coffee and a pastry. They have some good cafes and bookshops- my favorite is the T. Rex Grill (they have cheap kids meals and very decent adult food), The Coffee House, and the Central Cafe! 


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ADDRESS & HELPFUL TIPS | Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW7 5BD

Open Everyday, 10:00 - 17:50

Tube Station: South Kensington (Circle & District Line + Piccadilly Line)

There are three entrances: Cromwell Road, Queen’s Gate, and Exhibition Road. However, be warned: the main entrance on Cromwell Road has crazy long lines (especially on weekends) so skip the long queue and go around the corner on Exhibition Road for a shorter line and a faster entrance. Queen’s Gate is also good, but can be periodically closed.

I hope you enjoy your visit to the Natural History Museum! Find more of my favorite London highlights here. 

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My London | Maggie Jones

What do girls really want? A question asked my many, but I think the solution is simple: pretty lunches with people they like. Ha! Okay, maybe that is simplifying a question that has puzzled many through the ages, but what woman doesn’t enjoy a gorgeous meal in the company of a person they enjoy? 

I can think fondly of so many special meals shared in lovely settings with people that are dear to me. Ahhh…. What is it about being around the table with someone you love that feels so comforting? It’s where physical needs are met with emotional needs and all feels right with the world.

I recently revisited a place I hadn’t been to in a long time- Maggie Jones. It’s a sweet spot that was just down from our old place in Notting Hill, on Kensington Church Street. 

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The lunch was with some sweet travel clients that I was lucky enough to travel with for two weeks this month. The conversation was easy, the service was helpful and friendly, the food was fabulous (oh, that veggie pot pie!) and the ambiance was out of a movie.

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I totally recommend Maggie Jones for a lunch if/when you’re near Kensington Palace. It makes for a sweet cosy spot to share a meal in the middle of a busy city. And seriously- the food! Delicious comfort food in the sweetest setting!

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MAGGIE JONES | 6 Old Court Place, Kensington Church Street, London W8 4PL | 020 7937 6462 | Reservations recommended. 


Find more of my favourite places to go in London under My London series or in my London travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on June 20, 2018 and filed under london, my london favourites, my london.

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.

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

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

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.

My London | Syrup of Soot

I’m sharing one of my favourite spots with you today. It’s tiny and pretty… and luckily for you, it’s just across from the British Museum and really easy to visit when you come to London. Not only is it pretty and well-located, but hey- it’s actually fantastic food and coffee, too.


SYRUP OF SOOT

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This smart little coffee shop opened up a couple of years ago on Museum Street, just out the front gates of the British Museum. While it’s small, it’s got surprising sunlight in the back room- making it a nice place to go on a dreary day. It also has a downstairs area that makes it an easy spot to go with if you’re with more than just a friend or two. (My last group pf students loved to rendezvous there after class.)

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While the coffee is good throughout the day, my favourite time of day to go is at lunch. With an always-changing menu, you can fill up a plate of the chef’s daily creations for a fresh, healthy lunch for £10. (Okay, not exactly cheap- but the quality is high and the portions are generous.)

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So when you’re near the British Museum, stop by and have a chai latte or lunch from Syrup of Soot. If you’re anything like me (or any of my friends that have been drug here at my insisting), you’re really gonna fall hard for it.

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SYRUP OF SOOT | 38 Museum St, Bloomsbury, London WC1A 1LP, UK | @syrupofsoot


Looking for other great coffee shops in London? I don’t blame you, I always am, too…. 

Find my favourites here on my London Guide

or join me for a quick cup at a local favourite, Swallow Coffee in Shepherds Bush



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 2, 2018 and filed under eat, drink, london, my london favourites, my london.

On Fancy Breakfasts and Unzipped Dresses

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This morning I went to a gorgeous brunch for the debut of a sweet new children’s clothing range from the British high street fixture, White Stuff

It was being held in one of London’s prettiest venues (Spring at Somerset House), and I rallied for the early morning alarm time to get kids ready for the day before running out, too.

Well the event did not disappoint. The place was perfect, the new line was well-designed and at an approachable price point (my fav combo), and the company was so lovely. 

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As the morning kicked off and people arrived, a few of us grazed the racks to get a peek of the new collection, snapped pics of the restaurant in its morning stillness, and sipped on juice so fresh & virtuous it would have made Gwyneth Paltrow proud.

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Before we were seated to eat, I passed a server and she glanced at me and then squinted at me with a bit of a strangeness to it. Then she leaned in and said, “Um, I’m sorry, but your dress is unhooked at the collar.”

Haha- whoops. Since it has an open back, it basically means my navy bra was flowing and showing as I walked around. Im not really sure when it happened- maybe when I took off my coat? But I was so grateful that she pushed through feeling weird, telling me and, even more impressive, actually doing the clasp for me to make sure it was fixed.

Oh man. That would have horrified me a few years ago... but these days, nah. Maybe that’s just what maturity does for you. And if that’s the case, I’m gonna have the best time at parties in my older years because I have a feeling a few more decades of perspective will only make me care less and less about little things like that.

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What’s your normal response to seeing something awkward like that? Food in a colleague’s teeth after lunch? A chunk of fuzz placed prominently on the bum of your uncle’s trousers? A random clump of hair that’s flopping out of place in a way you know a friend didn’t intend?

Honestly, I’m probably fifty/fifty.... Always trying to determine the greater good of wanting to be helpful but not embarrass someone while doing it. 

What about you? What’s your standard response in those moments? Have you had anyone save you in a helpful way that you’d like to share?


In case you're more interested in dressing your little ones than dressing half-dressed mums at work events (ha!),

check out the sweet new Stuff & Wonder range from White Stuff.


 

Find other great London spots to eat here in my London travel guide.

 



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My London | A Toast to the Sunday Roast

The best part about doing travel consults is that I can get people to see so much more during their time overseas than they could get from third-party information. I love being able to tailor an itinerary to really cram in all the stuff that really is going to make that particular person see the city in the best light possible. Those kind of things and experiences come easy after living here for so long. We’ve just been lucky to travel and see the city with so many difference types of personalities, that it has given us a huge rolodex for things to do/see/eat/enjoy while traveling in Europe. (Lucky us, right?)

But I thought I’d share something that most tourists never get to do when they come over, because they simple don’t know that it exist: a Sunday roast. For one reason or another, this classic meal hasn’t made it to the mainstream tourist checklist, but fear not… that’s why you (don’t) pay me the big bucks to blog about these things.

The other day when I met up with my friend, Sara, who was visiting town after a photoshoot in Provence (lucky her, right?), I suggested we hit up a pub for a Sunday Roast. Now, Sara studied in the UK during her college years and has been back countless times since. So imagine my surprise when she told me she didn’t know what a Sunday roast was. The tragedy! It got me thinking that most of the people that come to visit us or that I chat with for consults are new to this idea, too. I realised I needed to start a public awareness campaign to spread the news and I needed to do it fast.

While afternoon teas are the splashier dining experience in England, the Sunday roast is one of the purest and most authentic meal you can really have here- whether out on the weekend in a sleepy country town at a pub or dining with a friend at their home on a Sunday. These meals are packed shared with close friends and enjoyed often. So go to a pub on a Sunday and get a roast. They’ll often have several types of meat to choose from (beef, chicken, lamb, pork belly or a nut roast for vegetarians) and the plate will be stacked with various veggies to go with it, doused in gravy and crowned with a pillowy Yorkshire pudding. 

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And now I can hear you asking: What is a Yorkshire pudding?  It’s not pudding like you know it, but a little savoury bready thing. It goes perfectly with gravy and really no proper roast will go without. The nearest thing that I cam compare it to in the states is a popover, but it’s not an exact likeness, so you'll really just have to come over and try one out.

And if you do head to a pub to do that, you’ll find yourself seated among actual Brits enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon with people they like… and food that they love, too. (In fact, so much so that you’ll want to have booked yourself a table at all of the pubs listed below!)

A few of our favourite places to get a Sunday roast are in London are all clumped unapologetically around Notting Hill Gate:

The Windsor Castle | The Hillgate Pub | The Mall Tavern




*images by Sara Kerens for Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 13, 2017 and filed under eat, london, my london favourites, my london.

My London | Petersham Nurseries

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One of the things I have been most looking forward to since we have bought a car is using it to pop out to Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. I’ve got big dreams of letting the kids wander through the greenhouses and rows of plants while Tyler & I sip coffee from the deli and splurge on a candle or a couple of coffee mugs from the shop.

It’s not too far away from us- about 20 minutes by car- but would take way more time to get there and require some walking down random country roads. Basically, a major hassle.

The only problem is, Tyler would rather be pretty much anywhere other than a fancy garden center on the weekend... regardless of how much I sell him in it’s charm.

Luckily for me, Petersham Nurseries have opened a second location in Covent Garden. While the names “Nurseries” and “Garden” may indicate lush areas full of greenery, the truth is- it’s not really. It’s not a place to go if you’re looking to redo your garden. You won’t find bags of fertiliser or plastics containers of perennials for £1.49. 

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But, it does have pretty things for gardens (like copper spades and posh linen aprons) and it also sells nice things that come from gardens in its deli. The back of the store is full of florals and all the bits you need for them, including pretty staff members in aprons climbing up and down pretty ladder so nearby to arrange them for you.

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And it’s total eye candy, so I have to definitely recommend stopping by when you’re in the area.

Imagine if Anthropologie had an older, snobbier sister who had moved away to Europe, married into some aristocratic family and now makes gorgeous homemade jams in the country home with their 5 kids and two black labs. That’s kinda the vibe here... and just like you’d feel around that girl, so you’ll feel here. A bit intimidated and totally sucked in.

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The deli is small and well-curated. While the shop is narrow, it winds back and offers the chance to see (and buy!) fresh flowers that are being arranged. Expect an edited menu of sandwiches and fresh eats... and to pay £6.50 for some artisan mortadella on fresh salty ciabatta with some rocket sprinkled on. Choose from one of the photo shoot worthy sweet treats and a hot drink to finish off the experience and you’ll be on your way!

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There’s a restaurant coming on the premise soon, I’m told, and I have no doubt I’ll find myself back to try it when it opens, too. While it will most likely be pricey and hard to get into, the allure of Petersham is pretty hard to resist. Stop by their new show and I have a feeling you’ll see what I mean!


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Petersham Nurseries | 27-31 King Street, Floral Court, London, WC2E 8JD



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Get Out of Town | Greenwich

Bus. Walk. Train. Repeat. I wish I had a little trail that I could track of all the places I’ve been in this city just to see how much of it I have covered. While I have no doubt that I’d have some impressive coverage of the city of London over the past 7.5 years leading groups, I get a certain kick from traveling off the beating path. And when you’re traveling on the Thames, it’s definitely not the traditional way to get around town.

If you wander down to Big Ben, you can hop on a Thames Clipper and head down the river to Greenwich. While it’s a tiny village feel, it still has tube access, London city buses and a view of the skyline in the distance. It’s very much part of London… just kinda on the outskirts. I got back tonight from a great day there, and I figured I’d share what our itinerary of the day so that you can copy it sometimes when you’re itching to get out of the city. Or you know, almost out of it. 


GREENWICH 

08:45 | Meet at Westminster Pier to get tickets for Thames Clipper
*Just outside Westminster tube station, Caffe Nero just there so you can buy a coffee before you go!

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09:14 | Depart for Greenwich via the Thames Clipper
*Check the Thames Clipper website for updated timetable information

10:00 | Approximate arrival time to Greenwich

10:15 | Visit the Cutty Sark Tea Clipper
*Buy tickets on arrival. Get the combo ticket for the Cutty Sark + Royal Observatory

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11:30 | Depart Cutty Sark. Wander up to Royal Observatory. Stand on the Prime Meridian!
*Give yourself a bit longer to walk up here than expected. That hill takes some time to wander up!

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INSERT PHOTO OF COLUMNS/PARK

12:30 | Have lunch in town
*The Greenwich Market is a favourite place because of the endless food stalls and cheap eats, but if you’re feeling up for a real British treat, try the iconic Goddards for British pies, mash & pies as a really affordable price.

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13:30 | Head to the Maritime Museum (free!) or wander through the shops. Don’t miss Joli’s! This is a great vintage shop with cool art pieces, furniture and clothing.. and the prices are perfectly reasonable. 

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15:00 | Walk to the Fan Museum for afternoon tea. Go ahead and pre-book your table, and make sure that you’re coming on a day when they serve tea. You'll be in a gorgeous setting enjoying one of London’s cheapest afternoon teas!

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16:30 | Walk back to Thames Clipper and head back to London!


Have a great time in Greenwich. What am I saying? Of course, you will. It’s gorgeous in the fall, and that view of London from the Royal Observatory! Ahhhh, you’re gonna love it.


Find more of our favourite spots in England here, or jump along on some of our days on my Youtube channel!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My London | Espresso Base

It’s funny how certain routines can keep us from actually interacting with the people and places that we pass everyday. I’ve been walking passed a particular church courtyard, St. Georges, for years on my way in to work. I’ve always noticed that there is a tiny cart selling coffee tucked in the back shaded by the grandeous columns of the church. But who has time to stop in when you’re that close to work? Never me.

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The other day, my lecture finished a bit early and Tyler had Edie. I was truly alone and ahead of schedule for the first time in ever… I could do whatever I wanted to do and kill time before picking Viola up from school.

It was pretty awkward.

I piddled around doing mundane errands and peeking touristy shops that I had zero interest in actually buying anything from… then stumbled past that same church courtyard and decided to take a closer look.

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I’m so glad that I did. As it became my turn to order, a friendly Italian man asked for my order and then, shortly after, where I was from. In a city like London, this is a question that many people stop asking after a year or two. You realise you’ve met so many people from most places… and you kinda stop caring. Being from a different place is the norm. It feels a bit ordinary.

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But not to Gennaro. Even though he’s lived in London for a few decades, and has the gift of connecting with people in a way that a city like London often dulls. He’s interested and kind, even when you say something really ridiculous. (Example: “Oooh, what does that sign mean, "Monday- Friday?” Do you do something special on those days?” Him: “Umm… no, those are the days that I’m open.” Hahah!) We both laughed at that… and it felt like he was laughing with me and not at. Though, to be honest, he totally should have been. 

The thing about Espresso Base is that you’re not just getting to drink coffee made by one of London’s most endearing people. You’re getting to drink really exceptional coffee made by one of London’s most endearing people. He’s strict about not adding sugar to the coffee, so much so that it costs £0.10 per sugar. He is unapologetic about the time it takes to make coffee, and he explains that his coffee is not served scalding because overheating the milk ruins the flavour. (In my opinion, this makes it perfect to drink upon receiving.)

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When you go to Espresso Base, you’ll find that you’ve unlocked one of London’s treasures. These are the types of places and people that make living in a crazy city like London palatable. They make the constant flux of people feel steady, and make you feel rooted in an abyss of concrete and chain shops. 

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So go on, stop by Espresso Base and meet Gennaro. Drink his coffee, and know that, in the shadows of the British Museum, you’ve found something really noteworthy.

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ESPRESSO BASE | St. Georges Court, Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2SE


Looking for more great spots to try in London? 
Check out my London Guide or browse my past posts on London.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 1, 2017 and filed under london, eat, drink, my london favourites, my london.

To A Tea | Number Sixteen

If you’ve read this blog for anytime, you’ll have heard about my friend, Amber. We’ve been friends for a long time during our London adventure- through good times and bad. She held my baby shower for me. My sisters came and crashed at her flat when the girls were born. We flew to Hawaii to be in her wedding with her Tyler. (Makes it easier when your friends have the same husband name as yours, doesn’t it?) We have been through a lot over the past years… and one of the ways we have stay close is, well, constantly rotating being pregnant between us! 

Each time we have a baby to celebrate, we do it in style. Whether its a traditional baby shower, a girls day trip to Paris, a posh picnic in the park…. We do what we can stop and celebrate the moment together. 

For this sweet baby, Amber booked us a girls day out in London. First up: massages in Mayfair at Illuminata. We had lush massages there and then cruised on to our afternoon tea at a place I had been dying to try- Number Sixteen Hotel in South Kensington. I had mentioned it ages ago, and as good friends do, she made a mental note and made it happen for a special day out. 


NUMBER SIXTEEN HOTEL

To start, I should say that this hotel is owned by the same group (Firmdale Hotels) that owns Ham Yard Hotel, which I blogged about previously, I feel like the branding of the group definitely overlaps between properties, but are both independently worth trying for their own merit. The price point and setting at both feels relaxed and cool… with a great sense of design. 

As you may quickly note, the two wow factors of afternoon tea at Number Sixteen Hotel are the garden and the price. The gorgeous garden is intimate and a plush oasis in Central London. There are very few tables, so be prepared to wait if the person seated at the table in the booking decides to perch. (We waited for 45 minutes to be seated from our booking time, as the person at our table decided to put in her headphones and pull out her laptop. Yuck.)

The garden has a small water feature that runs through the back half of it, a coveted gazebo at the far end, sparsely dotted with small tables throughout it, and a seemingly endless green background of pretty plants and flowers.

If the weather turns soggy, there is a small airy dining room (The Orangery) just off the garden where the tea service continues. While it doesn’t have the draw that the garden has, it’s definitely still a lovely backup.

When your tea arrives, expect the classic three-tiered offerings: sandwiches on bottom, scones (plain & fruited) with cream and jam in the middle, and a variety of homemade cakes and sweets crowing the top. There is a small, basic selection of teas to choose from- afternoon blend, earl grey, etc- to choose from included in the price, or you can upgrade to a more extensive list for a few pounds more. Find the full afternoon menu for the Number Sixteen Hotel here.

While the food and setting is ideal, the price really makes it the perfect moment- £29 for the summer Grayson Perry themed afternoon tea, and £22 for the standard afternoon tea tea resumes after September 10. It’s a price that is hard to beat in Central London.

To book your own table, book through the booking form on their website or contact the hotel directly at +44 (0) 20 7589 5232


NUMBER SIXTEEN | 16 Sumner Place, London SW7 3EG | sixteen@firmdale.com 




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy