A Springtime adventure in London #ad

I love nothing more than a spontaneous day out. Before Violet was born, we’d always be hopping on and off the train to London, going for days out to explore the museums, catching a West End show or the odd cheeky shopping spree. However, since Violet arrived, life is a little different and it’s not quite that easy – I mean it took me 5 weeks to pluck up the courage to get out of the door on my own, so the thought of a family day out further than our sweet safe zone of Brighton seemed like a big step… but a tempting one.

So, this weekend we decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. I’ve always said that when I had a family, I wanted to be the kind of person who gets on with life as it was before, doing all the things we would have done, just this time taking the baby along for the ride too. This seemed the perfect opportunity to start our days of fun days out for all the family.

Looking at the weather forecast, it wasn’t looking great but we were determined to keep going regardless – Good old British springtime weather! We decided the best plan was to opt for a sightseeing trip to The Tower of London – I haven’t been since I went on a school trip so I couldn’t wait to see it again and view everything through adult eyes (I think as a child you just remember the grizzly bits, like where they cut people’s heads off – right?). That way we could enjoy the things outside, but there would be somewhere to run for cover – should the weather turn on us.

So we got up nice and early and headed down to Brighton train station to board our train.

Now, after all my apprehension around travelling with the baby, honestly – this has been the easiest journey to London I’ve ever done. We hopped on the Thameslink service from Brighton – this goes straight into London Bridge which is right in the heart of London and the perfect place for getting to so many of the sights, without having to use the underground. As I went to buy our tickets I was also surprised as it’s such great value for money too – with the Super Off-Peak tickets at the weekend, we only paid £10.80 return too and little one went free (although they also do a Kids travel for £2 offer for bigger children too). Plus, can you believe it, our carriage was totally empty! A few more people joined us on the way to London, but everyone had a seat and there was plenty of room for the pushchair and I saw lots of people with luggage as the train stops at Gatwick airport too.

As we whizzed through the beautiful Sussex countryside, Violet was absolutely mesmerised looking out of the windows, all the flashes of sunlight, the colours and the scenery left her wide-eyed as she took it all in. She actually stayed awake most of the journey (I thought the movement would send her to sleep) as I think it was all pretty new and exciting for her, she wanted to just take everything in.

We arrived into London Bridge around mid-morning – this was the perfect base for us as there are so many sights you can visit from London Bridge without having to catch the tube and worrying about whether there would be lift access for the pushchair. From London Bridge some fab places to visit within walking distance are: HMS Belfast, River Cruises, Borough Market, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Tate Modern, the Jack the Ripper Tour – and of course The Tower of London, that just to name a few, there are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy as well.

Checking the time – it took us just over an hour to get from Brighton to London, not bad at all! (Watch – Ice Lo)

We then headed to our destination for the day – The Tower of London. One of England’s most historical sights, the Tower of London dates back as far 1066, when it was founded as part of the Norman Conquest of England. From then, it’s been in the hands of many different monarchs, used as an armoury, the royal mint, a prison to Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh and also a place of torture and death – as Ann Boleyn and many others were beheaded within the grounds. The White Tower is said to be haunted by Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey and Ann Boleyn has been spotted walking along the corridors with her head under her arm. Nowadays, thankfully – it’s a tourist destination and the home to the Crown Jewels. With so much to see and do, you can easily spend a full day taking in everything the Tower has to offer.

We bought our tickets, which were 2-4-1 when you travel on the train and of course I had to buy a guide book too!

Two buildings, centuries apart.

We spent a good couple of hours at least exploring everything the Tower has to offer. The weather was so changeable, one minute it would be sunny, the next raining! I’m sure we spent more time putting Violet’s rain hood over the pushchair and taking it off than doing anything anything else. We found the Tower relatively easy to get about with the pushchair, although it took a bit of planning as most areas are accessed by steps but the guide book helped to point us in the direction of the step-free access points. Highlight of our trip to the Tower has got to be seeing the Crown Jewels – we queued for so long (luckily in the sunshine!) and once it was our turn, we boarded the travelator that goes past the main exhibit and lifted Violet up to see the Crown Jewels too. The Beefeater guarding the room laughed at us as she’s so little, but I think she was interested in the jewels for sure! Maybe it was the colours or the sparkles (she is my daughter after all), but one day we’ll tell her about her adventure to see the Crown Jewels and I’m sure she’ll be pleased we included her.

After a good look around the grounds at The Ravens, the guardsmen, the beefeaters and the Bloody Tower it all became a bit much for Violet and she got a bit overtired, so we retreated to the cafe for a well earned cream tea and a bottle of milk (for Violet, not us!). Feeling refreshed after a spot of calm, we continued with our day…

As we left the Tower, the weather turned and it was so stormy overhead – kind of made the Tower even more spooky and atmospheric with those looming grey clouds. It was time to make our escape!

We decided to carry on our day with a little ‘walking tour’ of London along the River Thames. I say a little tour as we didn’t join an official one we just plodded along, taking in the sights and snapping away as we went. Shame the weather wasn’t great as we did get caught in a torrential downpour at this point, but luckily it passed pretty quickly and we carried on, Violet asleep in her pram was none the wiser, so thats all that mattered!

For us, no trip to London would be complete without a trip to Wahaca to round the day off with tacos and mojitos! I was so excited to have my first mojito since before I was pregnant (well, and before I did IVF so maybe 18 months ago now!) and it was worth every sip! They are SO GOOD. Exhausted from our day of adventure around London we finally rested up and and enjoyed a Mexican feast, we even had a few friends who live in London turn up to join us, which was a lovely surprise!

After our meal we headed back to London Bridge Station on foot again, stopping as we passed a Nespresso Cafe which has a robot that collects your order of Nespresso pods and delivers them through a little hatch for you – honestly, I kid you not, a robot! I was well impressed. We also did a final bit of sightseeing, taking the scenic path through St Paul’s Cathedral gardens and we even walked by the First Dates Restaurant which was a fun little spot, I love that TV show.

All in all, we had a fabulous first family day out with Violet – she was good as gold and loved just taking in the scenery, the sights, sounds and movements kept her interested all day. When we needed places to sit and feed or change her, it was so easy – there are places everywhere! The train journey was quick and easy and much cheaper than I expected – plus we got a discount on our tickets for the The Tower of London which made it much more affordable too. I’m glad we decided to have a spontaneous adventure out and no doubt we’ll be planning the next one too.

Lastly, just for a bit of added fun, I vlogged our day out in London so here is a little video of us all as well – enjoy!

 

Post written in collaboration with Thameslink Rail, all words opinions and photography is my own.

 

Brighton: Afternoon Tea at The Jetty

A couple of weeks ago, we took Violet out for her first official trip out of the house. We headed into Brighton to register Violet’s birth at the Town Hall and to celebrate afterwards, we headed to The Jetty for Afternoon Tea to toast Violet’s birth over tea, cake and prosecco. Plus, with a baby of less than two weeks old at the time – we were in dire need of the caffeine and sugar hit too!

The Jetty is located within the newly refurbished Harbour Hotel, located in prime position on Brighton’s seafront. With gorgeous sea views, The Jetty is the perfect setting for meals and drinks at any time of day – Brunch, Afternoon Tea, Cocktails or dinner with a bottle of wine, they cater for it all. Inside is bright, airy and spacious, with a clean, modern vibe. For a more intimate feel, there is also a cute ‘snug’ area tucked away with comfy sofas and a bit more privacy too.

Registering Violet’s Birth

We opted for the Harbour High Tea (priced at £19.95 per person) which comes with a bottomless selection of Teapigs tea, plus we ordered a glass of prosecco on the side too, as you know it would be rude not to raise a glass to our daughter, even if I did risk falling asleep on the spot from my first sip of alcohol in over a year!

The afternoon tea includes a lovely selection of both sweet and savoury treats, beautifully presented with side serving bowls containing jams and clotted cream for the scones. As we are both vegetarian, they also amended the menu to cater for our requirements, offering a selection of sandwiches with cheese based fillings, rather than chicken/ham/salmon options on the menu, plus a couple of cheese scones (which were SO delicious) and a guacamole and sundried tomato canapes too.

Our sweet treats were my favourite part (of course!). I was pleased to see there were two plump buttermilk scones, which came with plenty of clotted cream and jam on the side, it wouldn’t be afternoon tea without a good old British scone. There were also two dark chocolate praline eclairs, which were utterly divine, a refreshing twist on a classic eclair. The White Chocolate and Passionfruit trifle added a burst of zingy flavour and lastly, the cherry bakewell, another classic and baked to perfection.

I really enjoyed our Afternoon Tea experience at The Jetty, although if I’m honest my favourite part was just great to get out of the house and eat something other than takeaway pizza and wear clothes that weren’t pajamas! We found the staff friendly and accommodating, they changed the menu for us and also gave us a secluded spot with room for the pushchair and privacy as this was my first attempt at breastfeeding in public too.

Whilst we were at The Jetty, I was given an exclusive behind the scenes peek at the new spa that has opened at the hotel. Located in the original regency building cellars, the spa is an absolute hidden gem away from the hustle and bustle of the busy hotel. The Spa offers extensive range of luxurious spa treatments along with everyday beauty needs, including facials, manicures, pedicures and massages. I think as soon as Violet is old enough to be babysat for the day, I might treat myself to a spa day there – what do you think?

The Harbour Hotel is located on the Kings Road Brighton (just on the corner of West Street) – to book Afternoon Tea at The Jetty call 01273 916916 or email brighton.jetty@harbourhotels.co.uk

Post written in collaboration with The Jetty

BRIGHTON: A Night at Brighton’s Big Screen

Brighton’s Big Screen has got to be one of the best ideas in the world. Where better to watch a movie than sitting on the beach with a nice glass of wine in hand, with the sun setting over the horizon. Watching a movie on the beach has got to be one of my summer highlights, so I always make sure I catch a few movies when the Big Screen is town (you might remember last year the Brighton Bloggers went as part of the Brighton On the Beach weekend!) the experience never disappoints.

So, this year I headed down to watch The Kingsman with a friend. We had been a little worried as the weather had been grey and raining all day (good old British summertime) and I had honestly convinced myself that the movie would have been cancelled, but just in time for the movie, the rain cleared and the sunset began to peek in to view as the clouds started to shift. As it turned out, a spot of rain really doesn’t matter, the show must go on as they say! Plus, my top tip is to get the VIP tickets (for only £5 more) then you’ll be under cover anyway.

So, the set up of the Big Screen area is slightly different this year, its smaller and more intimate than previously (mainly as this year has no major sporting events on), the big screen has also moved, its now facing the pier, so you can enjoy the iconic pier view as you sit back and watch the movie. Around the edge are a good selection of food and drink stalls, with food from one of my ultimate favourite Brighton restaurants, Chilli Pickle, and drinks from I heart wines and Brewdog (plus a few others). I think this year they’ve got the set up just spot on as its a really lovely intimate venue, perfect for a great summer evening out.

We were incredibly spoilt on the evening, apart from watching a fab movie from the VIP area (Kingsman is HILARIOUS if you haven’t seen it, we enjoyed it a lot) we were also got experience a ‘Beach Thali’ from Chilli Pickle, a selection box with a delicious Tamil Vegetable curry with Rice, Indian Snacks like poppadoms and samomas, little pots of Dal, Salad, Riatta, Pickles and Chutney plus a gorgeous creamy coconut pudding. If all of that wasn’t enough, this was all washed down with a glass of white wine from i heart wine and I haven’t even mentioned the popcorn we ate during the movie either. It really isn’t your average cinema visit!

Apart from the weather being a little chillier than we’d hoped we had such a lovely time! The venue is spacious with room to lay on the pebbles on a picnic blanket, sit in the comfy undercover VIP tent, or in one of the bars around the edge. I’m definitely going to make sure to catch another couple of movies while the screen is still in town!
Check out the Brighton Big Screen website for film listings, they have some classics as well as newer releases (plus a Frozen Sing-a-long!!) Prices start from £3, but I highly recommend the Movie and Thali experience at £30 per person for the ultimate big Screen experience!


A big thank you to the Brighton Big Screen, Chilli Pickle and I heart wines for the lovely evening and for your amazing hospitality. See you again soon! 

BRIGHTON: A Day Out at the Sea Life Centre with Avios!

Brighton Sea Life Centre
When I am abroad I always make sure I explore every nook and cranny of a city, taking in as many sights, museums and attractions as possible, but do I do that in my hometown of Brighton? Hmmm, definitely not. I live in one of Britian’s main tourist towns and have barely visited any of the attractions myself, doh! So, we decided to have a ‘tourist day out‘ and visit Brighton Sea Life Centre, courtesy of #DoMoreWithAvios. 
The Sea Life Centre is located in the heart of Brighton, just opposite the beach and Palace Pier. It’s a magical place, the Sea Life Centre is the oldest operating aquarium in the world and is nestled amongst stunning Victorian architecture. The main room is lit with beautiful rainbow lights with tanks of colourful fish lining every wall. 
Brighton Sea Life Centre

Walking through the different exhibits, we saw marine wildlife from all over the globe, from colourful tropical fish to pulsating jellyfish and this gorgeous smiley Stingray.

Stringray - Brighton Sea Life Centre

The sea life centre offers regular feeding sessions and informative talks throughout the day, educating us on different species, their habitats and conservation too. There is also a fun hands-on rockpool experience where you can have a go at handling some of the animals yourself. I was quite fond of this starfish and enjoyed tickling his spiny legs for a few moments! 
Rockpool Experience - Brighton Sea Life Centre

One of the best parts of the experience for me was the walk through glass tunnel, in this enclosure there are sharks, huge stingrays and my favourite – a giant friendly Turtle, who swam right overhead, it felt like I could almost touch him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a turtle so huge, also the sharks were lurking about, just inches away from us – it was an amazing experience. The only downside I found with this part was how busy it was, I wished we could have had longer in this part but we got shuffled along quite quickly – but we did go during school holidays, so it’s understandable!

Glass Viewing Tunnel - Brighton Sea Life Centre
turtle and stingray - Brighton Sea Life Centre
The Sea Life Centre also has different sections for you to pass through, built like each natural habitat. There is a rainforest area, which is humid and hot. Here you can climb through the mangrove roots, discovering species such as piranhas, poisonous frogs and one of the worlds largest species of snake. 
The new exhibit for 2015 is the ‘Jurrasic Seas’ – this shows you the creatures that have outlasted the dinosaurs and are still around today, with some hi-tech exhibits to meet the extinct creatures too.
Marine life - Brighton Sea Life Centre

Overall, we loved our day out to Brighton Sea Life Centre, it was really nice to do something different and experience something new that was right on our doorstep! I think it does get quite busy during school holidays, so avoid these times if you can but I’d recommend it as a nice day out for both adults and children alike – especially if the weather outside is a bit gloomy. 
I visited courtesy of #DoMoreWithAvios. With Avios, you can collect points in various ways from travel to grocery shopping, filling up with petrol or even buying WINE! Then you can turn your points into cool things, such as days out like this (or flights, hotels, car hire etc!). I love a loyalty card (and a freebie!) so am already collecting points for my next day out.
If you decide not to use Avios points, the price for the Sea Life Centre is £35 for two adults which in my opinion is quite steep. I’d recommend if you are buying tickets for the Sea Life Centre to buy online as there are massive savings to be had –  I have a keen eye for a bargain and found a few voucher deals too! 
Where is your favourite place to go for a ‘tourist day out’ in your city?

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– Post written in collaboration with Avios, 
however all opinions are my own. 
If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t blog it!