Posts filed under "England"

England is Great. Immigration is Awful.

Everyone do a little happy dance
in your sticky public transport seat on your commute,
or from your perch on the living room sofa,
or your creaky desk chair in your cubicle...
or wherever else you may be
as you read this...

Because after six weeks of the UKBA
(read: UK Border Agency)
loosing our birth certificates, marriage certificates, 
social security cards, residence cards, tax documents...
and, oh yeah, our passports-
they have finally been found
and delivered back to us!

And all you Americans
can also join me
 for a little added twirl
celebrating the special fact
that as of this weekend
 this trio will be on your continent
for a brief little tour of duty
before our Paris days begin.

.   .   .

Or comment below with the most awesome thing
that's happened to you this week
for a chance to (easily) top mine.

*photo by noah darnell for aspiring kennedy

Posted on January 15, 2014 and filed under "England", "expat", "life".

A Surprise Hen At the Daylesford Organic Farm

Three years ago,
I would think that the title of this post
would guarantee a story of a chicken
would be about to unfold.

But guess what...
it's not!

A "hen" (or "hen-do" or "hen party")
is what ye olde Brits call bachelorette parties.

So surprise!

This isn't a blog post about chickens...
it's about a girls weekend away
celebrating my friend, Amber
and her upcoming wedding.

We surprised Amber with a weekend away
to a undisclosed location.

I came over an hour before we were leaving,
helped her pack a suitcase
with weird, vague scenarios she might encounter.

(Example: Pretend you are going to be in the "It's All Good" cookbook photoshoot.)

Amber thought I was crazy...
which makes her very intuitive.

We hopped the bus,
arrived at Paddington
and- surprise- all of her ladies
were waiting for her at the Paddington Bear statue.

We hopped a train,
gave her a box of clues,
and before we were out of the city-
our destination was revealed:
a ladies weekend at the famous 
Daylesford Organic Farm 
in the Cotswolds.

We had such an amazing time.

I really can't think of a prettier and more relaxing weekend.

We stayed in the Wild Rabbit Inn,
had a group yoga class,
got a visit to the spa for massages,
and took a four hour cooking class.

Now, I can hear your thoughts:
Lauren, you're supposed to be cheap.
This place looks fannnnncy.

Who do you think you are, Nora Ephron?

It was, but going as a group helped out the pricing so much!

We paid for our hotel separately, 
but for the yoga, 45 minute massages + cooking class
it was only around £160 per person.

That's not terrible for two days of activities...
especially of this caliber.

(And this group of girls was a pretty awesome one to share it with.)

Personally, I have to say,
it far trumps my bachelorette party,
which was so much of a disaster
I'm not even going to talk about here.

*    *   *

What do you think?
Is this your type of girls weekend
or would you spend that £160 on a flight to Ibiza?

(Personally, this girly weekend was my Gwyneth-y cup of tea.)

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy
Posted on December 18, 2013 and filed under "England day trips", "England", "friends", "parties".

Pack Your Bags: The Lake District (England)


I've blogged about the Lakes District before (and the previous post may even have more information), but I always feel the need to add the new places that I discover upon my return to familiar sites.

So here a few extra glorious stops for you to make if (and when!) you find yourself in the glorious Lakes District in England.... and some selfies of myself + Viola. (I'm sorry and you're welcome.)

*  *  *

The World of Beatrix Potter

After skipping this stop over the previous years, I finally decided to give this stop a chance. Woah baby, this was way cuter than I imagined.

If you have a kids -or fond childhood memories involving Peter Rabbit- make this stop when you go to Windermere. (And, if you're in the lakes, you should go to Windermere.) There are gorgeous "It's a Small World" like scenes for each of the stories by Beatrix Potter, sans the boat ride, unfortunately.

Complete with a stop by Mr. MacGregor's garden, tea + cakes at the cafe downstairs, and a knit hat complete with bunny ears from the children's shop- this was a fun way to spend the afternoon. {Editor's Note: You don't need to pay to enter the cafe or gift shops.} Admission for adults: £7


*  *  *


When you're in Windermere, eat lunch at The Hole in The Wall Pub

It's completely cozy and ticks all the boxes your mind will have for the stereotypical British pub.


Sarah Nelson Grasmere Gingerbread

The birthplace of gingerbread is a tiny shop near the church in Grasmere... and the women working in the closet-sized shop wear old-fashioned aprons & bonnets.

You may be a bit surprised at the biscuit-like (read: "cookie-like" if in America) consistency of this forerunner to Starbucks gingerbread loaf. Oh, and get some homemade fudge while you're there. I mean, you might as well.

Then take the spoils of your visit and wander lonely like a cloud through the church cemetery and pay your respects to the Wordsworth family.


I always stay at the Ambleside Central Hotel in, well, Ambleside... but last year, we detoured and stayed at the  Red Lion in Grasmere. Also a good option! Less to choose from at night for dinner since the town is much smaller, but the hotel was super cute & cozy.


For more of my favorite stops in the Lakes District, hop back to my earlier post for fun places like Beatrix Potter's home, Hilltop Farm, my favorite place for breakfast, The Apple Pie Bakery, and Wordsworth's home, Dove Cottage and more here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy


Posted on November 15, 2013 and filed under "England", "english lakes", "travel".

Pack Your Bags: York, England

You've probably seen on Instagram 
that I'm on a fast & furious trip
around the UK (and soon-to-be Ireland).

While this is all fresh on my brain, 
I'm going to spend the next few days
spitting out pics & information
on new places that I'm discovering
so that, someday, you'll have some good options
for when you start planning a trip of your own.


What the US feels towards the North vs South
is similar to how the UK feels 
towards their North vs South...
except flipped.

The South of England is, stereotypically,
harsher, busier, ritzier, more educated... and snobbier.

The North of England is, stereotypically,
easy going, slow paced, cheaper, less intelligent.... and nicer.

Obviously, these are stereotypes
and you can meet both types
in either place.


There is something to be said for the 
kind attitudes 
and the cheap meals
and the crazy Billy-Elliot-esque vocabulary
that you start to experience 
once you roll up into the upper area of ole Blighty.

All of that to say,
I love when I find myself up north.

Especially if that means I'm in York.

York is a small town
(compared to the other "big" English cities),
but it has loads for tourists to enjoy.

I love these things:

Obviously, this church is a headliner
for most people's visit to York.

It's massive and it's stunning.

Go at 5:15pm for the daily evensong service
to get in and enjoy the church for free.

(You'll also hear some amazing choir singing in the 45 minute service-
but go 15 minutes early to snag a seat up close to the action.)

*  *  *

Yorkshire Pudding

I love nothing more than eating something
in it's birthplace.

While of Britain enjoys a Yorkshire pudding,
I've never seen them as big as they are in York.

{Editor's Note: A yorkshire pudding is not sweet. 
It's a savory bread-cup that is a perfect bowl shape 
for gravy on top of your roast meat & vegetables. 
Imagine a breadbowl... but less soggy.}

If you can get to a pub for a proper Sunday roast,
York makes it easy with two options 
that are centrally located and open daily:

Don't blow the chance to try this in person...

*  *  *

If you want tea
and you want to be fancy,
go to Betty's.

This gorgeous tea room & shop
give all the service and ambiance
you could ever hope for
in an English tea room.

This opulent surrounding
could hold its own 
around any fine establishment 
from the South.

*  *  *

I found myself eating cake & tea
in a places called, none other than, 

The downstairs is a teddy bear shop
and, up some narrow & windy stairs,
is a small tea shop + cafe.

It's not entirely impressive,
but the very top floor
has a great view overlooking the York Minster...
and you can get any cake + tea for £3.80

The carrot is awesome. 

I'd go back- baby or not.

{Though, admittedly, better with baby.}

*  *  *

sometimes it's fun to fall headfirst into a tourist trap... especially when you said trap lets you hold an owl.

If you go to York,
the other main tourist attractions you need to see are
(as in "Bloody Shambles")
and the Medieval Wall around the city.

Both are free to access, btw.

The Shambles are a tiny street of crooked buildings
and exposed-beam architecture
that draw your mind back hundreds of years.

The walk around the city walls offers gorgeous views
and a fun activity for an afternoon. 

*  *  *

And if you want to shop somewhere really neat?

Stop in the store,  The Imaginarium.

With curious objects, a luxe finish out, 
and friendly young men in dapper clothes attending you,
you'll find it hard to not walk away with something pretty in your hand.


Ah, I can't wait for you to experience York. 

Let me know if there are any favorites you have
from past trips there 
that I can try out 
the next time I find myself there!

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy
Posted on November 15, 2013 and filed under "England", "travel", "york".

Pack Your Bags: The Holidays in London

While the holidays might be officially over,
I wanted to pen down some of the highlights of our Christmas in London
in case you ever find yourself in London during this magical time of the year.

We hosted my family of 16 people!
Adults, kids, infants...
we had the whole crew!

Entertaining for a crowd that size wasn't too difficult
as London offers so much to do in December....
but, in case you find yourself traveling through London at Christmas,
here are our favorites!


Christmas Eve Carol Service at Westminster Abbey

This is a special service that Westminster Abbey hosts every Christmas Eve.

The service will include the choir singing classic carols,
members of the Royal Household staff reading scripture lessons,
and various portions of the service where the audience sings carols by candlelight.

It's gorgeous... and free.

Though while it is free, you MUST HAVE A TICKET to get in.

You apply/register for tickets (max 4 per person registering) in November
through the Westminster Abbey website.

{Editor's Note: You'll need to check with the WA site to see when the sign-up date is, as it changes yearly. Set a reminder on your calendar and sign up that day to insure your tickets.}

If you live out of London, 
you can go to the Abbey's office adjacent to the church a few days before
and collect them then by showing them a valid ID.

(My dad & brother did this and it took about 5 minutes. Easy!)

The carol service lasts about one hour
and I highly recommend getting there early to secure good seats...
especially if you are traveling with an entourage (like we were) 
and would like to sit together.

Winter Wonderland- Hyde Park Christmas Market

If you are in London in December,
please don't miss out on this special celebration.

We have gone to Winter Wonderland for three years, 
and it is always a highlight of the "festive season" for us.

Imagine a giant carnival (of State Fair proportions)
with food & gift stalls from a German Christmas market
transported to the middle of Hyde Park.

It's free to get into
and you can wander the stalls selling trinkets
and delicious German treats like
roasted potatoes, bratwurst, mulled wine, and the like.

Kids will have a great time
with the rides and performers...
and adults can enjoy the larger scale rides
and warm adult beverages. 

It's such a blast!

Daily Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square

Admittedly, this can be hit or miss
depending on what groups are singing when you arrive...
however, most of the groups represent local charities
and trying to raise support for good causes.

The backdrop of the carols can make the journey worth it..,
and if the group really isn't that great,
just wait about 30 minutes until the next group shows up.

These are held each evening 
from mid-December until Christmas.

Go after dinner with a cup of hot tea!

More information available here.

Skating at Somerset House

While London offers many gorgeous settings to ice skate,
I have to say-
Somerset House is the best I know.

The rink is larger than most of the other rinks,
Somerset House makes for a perfect setting,
it has a separate area for little skaters,
it has a really decent "lodge" tent stocked with hot cocoa & treats...
and I'm particularly smitten with the staff there
who offered to take my (partially paralyzed) niece around the rink
so that she could enjoy the feeling of skating.

We were all blown away watching them skate around with her
and holding her up so she could pretend to move that fast on her own.

It was such a sweet & generous showing of the Christmas spirit.

Christmas Tea at Fortnum & Mason

Having afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason on Christmas Eve
with the ladies in my family was practically perfect.

For the more mature attendees,
we opted for the Traditional Afternoon Tea
which includes posh options like Welsh Rarebit, Lobster Omelettes & Haddock Soufflés
to arrive before the traditional silver trays of scones & cakes.

For the younger members of our parties,
gorgeous tiered trays were brought for their pleasure
holding little sandwiches, tiny scones & Christmas treats
like mince pies, jam cookies & decorated cupcakes.

Oh, and of course- they had the traditional blue F&M teapots
full of apple & orange juice
to accompany their meal. :)

Since "afternoon tea" offers such heavy portions,
I recommend going closer to noon for your booking.

You won't need to eat before arriving to tea 
(nor should you... you would explode!),
and bookings will be more available at this time
during such a highly coveted day of the year.

Christmas Shopping

I know this sounds a little silly and obvious,
but few cities dress up for Christmas at London...
and the majority of these holiday displays
are made magical at the larger retail fronts of the city.

Landmark shops like Liberty of London, Harrods & Selfridges
doll up with elaborate lights and windows...
and walking through their halls and departments is so much fun.

We were getting obnoxious.

Plan on spending a few hours 
walking down Oxford Street & Regent Street
for the full effect...
but don't plan to be alone.

The streets are crowded, 
so grab a hot drink from Starbucks 
and make the most of it.


So there you have it...
not the complete list,
but definitely a good starting point
for planning your holidays in London.

Other good resources I would use are:

If you're looking for more advice on visiting London,
you can check out my more thorough guide
of sites, places to stay & food not to miss.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 3, 2013 and filed under "England", "London", "holiday", "travel tips", "travel".