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

Pack Your Bags | Iceland Western Fjords

 

After good stint of doing the Southern Coast in Iceland every September, we felt it was time to shake things up a bit. Why not push ourselves out of our comfort zones and try the Western Fjords in February?


Well, I’ll be honest- if you saw the picture of the #beastfromtheeast in London, you may be able to imagine how that would translate into Iceland winter weather. Our experience in Iceland included a lot of stops for lack of visibility, crazy views of snow covered coastlines and sleepy small towns living life as normal in the midst of some of the coldest weather we had ever experienced!

So the weather was cold and we struggled a bit with the intense snow... but does that mean we wouldn't do it again? No way. And in fact, we are adding this trip to our new trips for the winter. It's too good to miss- so I'm sharing my itinerary with you below if you're looking for something a bit out of the ordinary routine along the Southern Coast for your trip to Iceland.

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Day 1- VENTURING WEST TO BOGARNES & STYKKISHOLMAR:

From Reykjavik you take Highway 1, into a tunnel with an entrance fee of 1,000 krona (as of Feb ‘18 and roughly $10 USD)  that takes you under the Whale Fjord. It’s about an hour drive from Reykjavik to this slightly remote part of Iceland. Drive to the oldest house in Iceland, called the Settlement Center, in the small town of Borghanes on the Sneiflesness Peninsula.

They provide a guided tour through the house that walks you through the early history of Iceland. It is very interesting and the people are very friendly. The house welcomes children, but if I'm honest, little ones probably won't be very captivated in hearing the history of Iceland. The museum is interactive and even had an exhibit where you can get on a moving boat and feel like you’re a viking! From the Settlement House, you can stop for lunch at the famous (in Iceland) gas station “N1”, a place with hot food comparable to a full-service gas station in the United States. Don't think day-old hot dogs rotating along warmers. Thing more along the lines of a burger joint that cooks food- like lamb stew, burgers, salads, etc- to order. 

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Then, head out to the Shark Museum, which is a 20 minute drive out of Stykkisholmur, and if you’re brave, try the fermented shark! Right outside the shark museum they have a bunch of Icelandic horses that they’ll usually let you pet. Remember to be respectful, stay a good distance from the fence (they’re usually electric), and don’t feed them!

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On the drive, look out for Eldborg Crater, the salt column walls, and the lava fields.

If you’re traveling in the January-February, the peak of winter, be sure to check the road for adverse conditions and closings and stay flexible. 

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DAY 2- EXPLORING STYKKISHOLMUR:

Stay at Foss Hotel, a comfortable hotel in the small town of Stykkisholmur, about a 20 minute drive from the Shark Museum. Foss Hotel has amazing dinners every night and breakfast buffets every morning. The population is 1,000, but its as cozy as it gets in Iceland.

You’ll want to spend some time in these smaller, rural towns that embody the aesthetic of every Hallmark movie you’ve ever watched at your grandparents house over Christmas. From the hotel, it’s easiest to walk across the street and up to the church on the hill, where you’ll have a view the entire town and over the water.

From the hotel you can walk down the very picture-esque harbour filled with colourful boats, this is actually where they filmed the part of a Secret Life of Walter Mitty where they said they were in Greenland, that’s some movie magic.

If you walk past the harbour you can hike up a cliff (hike is a strong word given that there are stairs all the way up but sometimes they’ll be covered in snow and that can make it a challenge!) to the small, red lighthouse on the hill.

This is the highest point in the town and you’ll have the best view. Visit the Volcano Museum called Eld Fjalla, it features an original Andy Warhol painting and will give you amazing insiders to the various eruptions all throughout Iceland and even some from Central America!

Eat at an adorable little cafe called Narfeyarstofa, they offer lunch options, hot beverages, and a beautiful view out to the town and over the harbour! If you want to take a quick trip out of Stykkisholmur, you can take a forty minute drive out to Grundarfjordur where they filmed the majority of the Secret life of Walter Mitty.

After you’re done with a day in Stykkisholmur, load back up into your rental car and drive two hours to Husafell for the best chance at seeing the northern lights and to prepare for an adventurous day three.

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DAY 3- HUSAFELL, INTO THE GLACIER & REYKJAVIK:

Wake up fresh at the Hotel Husafell offers breakfast, and it’s worth your time to work it into your schedule! The breakfast is buffet-style with a line of hot foods like scrambled eggs, sausage, etc. and a line for pastries and other bread. It was very fresh and clean, and there was always a waiter or waitress there to help, refill your coffee or replenish the food.

The “Into The Glacier” tour meets right outside the Hotel Husafell at Meeting Point Husafell. Make sure to reserve your tickets beforehand. The tour offers snowsuits and winter gear at the Meeting Point for those who came less-prepared for the bitter cold. The inside of the glacier is cold, but not terrible. At 36 degrees Fahrenheit, our tour guide called it “rather cosy” when wearing an Icelandic wool sweater. The tour guides are a team of men who are very well-equipped for leading you into the glacier, and they make jokes that make you forget what a bumpy ride it is. The ride up to the glacier is intense in the huge super jeep glacier vehicles, especially at the peak of winter, but they’re used to this.

Upon your arrival, they take you into a tunnel which leads into the glacier. It’s an incredible experience that you won’t forget. The views make it feel like another world. It is the largest man-made glacier tunnel in the world and the 2nd largest glacier in Iceland.  On your way back down the mountain, they provide you with chocolate milk and kleiners, two Icelandic specialties. For more information on the Glacier, see post at Into The Glacier. Once back down the mountain, you can stop for lunch at Husafell Bistro right there. It is a buffet-style meal with bread, soups, pizza, and noodles located right next to the entrance of the Meeting Point where you departed.

From there, you can hop onto a bus for a tour through Vidgelmir Cave, the largest cave in Iceland. The bus will take you right to the office of the Cave and they’ll give you hard hats with lights to get you ready for your trek. It is a bit of a hike out to the entrance to the cave. 

The views are amazing, the stalagmites are massive, and the experience incredible overall. You have the option of an hour-long tour which will take you through the parts of the cave that has a path cleared, or a more extensive, four-hour tour that will walk you through all of the cave if you feel equipped and balanced enough to explore without a man-made path. 

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Once you get back onto your bus, be sure to make a quick stop about 10 minutes up the road at Lava Falls Waterfall. End your day by driving back to Reykjavik.

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Et voila! There you have 3 really good days spent in the Western Fjords of Iceland. This itinerary is perfect for the repeat visitor to Iceland who is looking for a bit more than the standard Southern coast offerings.


 

FIND ALL OF MY FAVOURITE ICELAND THINGS TO DO & SEE in my Iceland guide

 

Check out MY PINTEREST-FAMOUS "PERFECT ICELAND ITINERARY"

 


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*images to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on July 2, 2018 and filed under iceland, pack your bags.

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.

Chicken Pox with Kids | A Memoir

The other week, I posted what I will fondly call “The Instagram Heard Round The World.” Okay, not really-but it did get a huge reaction. It was a post about my girls having chicken pox recently in our house.

While many of us have memories of having chicken pox, most of my readers and friends in the US now vaccinate their children against it. So it’s a bit of a thing lost to the past. Well, amigos, I’m here to tell you, the chicken pox is alive in well here in England where it is not included in the regular vaccine schedule for children and still a regular part of growing up here. (Just if you are curious- yes, we vaccinate! And yes, I think it’s very important to vaccinate!)

Viola woke up in spots one sunny Monday morning… the day that Tyler left town for a trip to Serbia. Wheee. I was a bit nervous of the days ahead, but her case actually was really mild and she really only had about 100+ spots throughout her case of it. She wasn’t super itchy and enjoyed the extra time off school (It came conveniently after a bank holiday.) We spent the week playing around the house, sneaking out early in cabs to play in parks and fountains before they got crowded and dotting calamine on her while counting her spots.

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It was no big deal. Chicken pox is kinda fun, I thought.

Then on Saturday, Edie woke up with a couple of bumps on her head just as we were setting up for Harrison’s birthday party. I texted our guests to warn them that I thought she *might* have it, and carried on getting things ready. My parents arrived just in time to have the party (en route for a trip to Africa), and more spots appeared. She wasn’t miserable, so I was thinking we were going to have another mild case to muddle through and kept checking Harrison for any signs of bumps. 

The next day, Edie had a good run of the pox. They were all over her chest and spotted around her head. I kept saying that I wasn’t sure if she had enough to get a “good case” of it, to insure she had immunity. (I had read and heard that if you don’t get enough, you can get it again later? Who knows.) Well, don’t worry- by the end of the second day, the poor baby was popping them out faster than a Kardashian can with Instagrams. When she woke up on Monday, she was totally covered. It was actually really horrible looking.

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She would use her little baby hands to rub her head and try to itch the pox there. It was like watching a teddy bear try to rub his head- the saddest and cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

On Tuesday, some of the spots were getting red and warm. After googling a bit, I decided to take her to the doctor to make sure they weren’t infected. (Thanks, Google, for freaking me out!) My doctor was full, so they told me to take her to the A&E (our version of the ER) since she was still little.

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At the hospital, we were whisked into a private room to avoid getting anyone else exposed and had some lovely doctors come check on her. She was fine, just had a nasty case of it and we were sent home to watch things in case they progressed. Luckily, they didn’t, but I was due to travel to Paris that night and decided to stay home with her instead. But what’s a girl to do when her baby looks like a raspberry muffin? Tyler took over for me and led our group there for the weekend while I stayed home with  the kids.  (Ouch, that was probably the toughest bit of going through the chicken pox for me, if I’m honest.)

But the days rolled on. The pox turned to scabs, we ventured out in public and freaked people out with our polka-dot baby, but were happy to finally get some fresh air and be able to get out of the house together after a few weeks stuck inside.

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It’s now been three weeks since she got it, so Harrison has somehow now not caught it from either sister… and resisted getting it last spring when he played with his two very infected friends. (I was hoping to get them through it before the baby arrived, to no luck.) Perhaps he’s one of those strange/lucky people who are immune to it? I don’t know… but I’m grateful they are done with it! Phew. 

Go hug your moms and tell them thank you for the oatmeal baths, the popsicles in your undies and their long days spent at home if/when you had it. They were showing big love for your little self!

Posted on June 18, 2018 and filed under family, kids, everyday living.

The Perfect Itinerary for Lake Lucerne & Mount Rigi

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

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

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

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


The Perfect Lucerne Day Trip to Lake Lucerne & Mount Rigi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From the viewpoint, you can walk down to the quaint little village of Rigi-Kaltbald. From there, you can take the elevator down to the gondola and opt for a different route down. 

PRACTICAL INFO | The gondolas run approximately every half an hour (if it's a very busy day, they might run every 15 to 20 minutes). We were able to use our return ticket purchased for the train on this, too. Make sure you ask the boat ticket office if this is included in the same ticket you are purchasing just to be sure you get the right kind.

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

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

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

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


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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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

Get Out of Town | Widbrook Grange, Bath

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

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

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


WIDBROOK GRANGE

WHERE WE WENT

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

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

WHAT WE DID

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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

London Is Pink!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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

Get Out of Town | Canterbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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

My Normandy | Chateau de Servigny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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

V is V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday, Viola. You are a peach.

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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

My London | Dishoom Kensington

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

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

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

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

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


The Perfect Dishoom Order 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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

Brook Green | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

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


1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

£8-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



*images courtesy of Julie Taylor

To a Tea | The Houses of Parliament

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

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

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

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

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


Looking for where to have afternoon tea in London? 

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Putney | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

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


PUTNEY 

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


*images courtesy of Emily Murphy

My London | The Highlights of the British Museum

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

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

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

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


THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Brixton | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

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

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


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1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


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

Mother’s Day | Bottling a Family Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so on and so on...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy