Tag: London

A Country Mouse in London

The last time we were in London was two years ago, when we watched The Snowman in December.  We used to go regularly, especially before T started school, but now that she’s in school, it can get a bit tricky to find the time to visit the capital.  This year though, we made it a point to go, it’s been far too long.

The Historian keeping T preoccupied while waiting for our train to London from Exeter.

It’s a two-hour journey from Exeter to London and when travelling with a young child, all parents know that you should come prepared with snacks and other paraphernalia to keep the young ones occupied and hopefully a whinge-less journey.

When T got tired of watching the world go by, she occupied herself with her Doodle a day Chris Riddell book.  When that bored her, she turned to the iPad.  To be fair though, she’s used to travelling and knows how to entertain herself without any complains.

We arrived early and so had time to have a little rest at the AirBnb where we were staying (sorry no photos).  It was a small studio flat that had everything you needed for a few days stay.  There was nothing fantastic about the place apart from the very central location.  This was precisely the reason why we chose it.  While I knew that it was a stone’s throw away from the British Museum, I wasn’t expecting it to be also a short distance to the theatre.  Was pleasantly surprised when it took less than ten minutes to get there.

And since we were doing good-time, we managed to have a long leisurely dinner at Belgos, one of our favourite restaurants in London.  If only they had a branch nearer to us.

Little T waiting for us to get seated.

After our meal, we still had loads of time to mooch around the Seven Dials.

And here’s little T doing a Matilda pose.

Matilda was fabulous.  T really enjoyed it.  We were lucky to be able to get tickets since we booked it really late, although we didn’t really have the luxury to choose our seats.

Woke up leisurely the next day and took our time to walk to the British Museum where T wanted to see the Egyptian mummies and where we were also meeting some close family friends for a catch-up.

I don’t even remember the last time we visited.  All I know is that, there wasn’t any security measures at all.  Now you’ll have to queue to go to a tent where they separate people who have bags so they can check before going in.  To be fair though, it was a fast-moving line, thank goodness for that.

I don’t know exactly when T became interested in Egyptian mummies.  All I know is that at a very young age, she used to like looking at her dad’s old National Geographic issues especially the ones with Egyptian mummies.  We promised her that the next time we’re in London, we’d take her to see them.

The Historian and I, took turns on taking her around while the others had a chance to talk and catch-up.  She was one happy bunny.

After reluctantly saying goodbye to our friends, it was time to catch the train back to the sticks where we live. The country mice were home sweet home.  While I do miss city life, it’s nice to come back home to our quiet little bubble in small hill cottage.

A Country Kid in London

Since we live in the country, we try as often as we can to visit the capital, if not, other nearby cities, and when we can, holidays abroad.  Just to make sure that little T knows that the world isn’t just Cornwall 😉  There’s a big wide world out there little one, just waiting to be discovered 😉

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that a couple of days before Christmas, we managed to visit the capital.

I love London.  I like the cosmopolitan air, the sea of different faces from all over the globe – I imagine their stories in my head, where they’re from and what it’s like.

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We passed by the Victorian St. Pancras railway station, now made famous by the Harry Potter films, though originally in the movie, it’s supposed to be the Kings Cross station, but it’s not surprising they chose the former, because of course it’s more cinematic than the latter.  Opened in 1868 and since 2007, it’s now known as St. Pancras International, where you can catch a train into the continent and of course, all over the UK.  In the 60s, the poet John Betjeman fought hard and campaigned against the proposed demolition of the beautiful St.  Pancras station.  Thank goodness for him, the grand Grade 1 listed building still stands today, as proud and handsome as ever.

In Haruki Murakami’s newest novel “The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki”, the character loved train stations.  He would sit for hours just people watching, I imagine the character falling in love with St. Pancras and never wanting to leave it.  He would sit there everyday and just breathe in its life, if I lived in London, I’d imagine myself doing this too.

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It’s not just people watching.  It’s everything in it.  The architecture, the humongous clock that hovers inside and the arches.  I also love how the old meets new inside this famous railway station.  The sleek modern trains is a huge contrast to the old steel-Victorian beams that above it.

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This work of art wasn’t here the last time we visited.  This sculpture is called “The Meeting Place” by Paul Day which obviously pays homage to the brave British soldiers and their families who are left behind.

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From there, we took the tube to Covent Garden to have lunch and have a look around since we still had loads of time before going over to nearby Portugal road where the Peacock theatre is located.

It’s always busy here.  Apparently in the 18th century, the area was known as the red-light district of London.  I can imagine the prostitutes standing around, of course, it’s nothing like that today.  Now you can find all kinds of shops, museums, restaurants and of course the Royal Opera House and Theatre Royal.

After the show, we went to the Somerset House which apparently the first Queen Elizabeth resided in while her half-sister reigned Mary was Queen.

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It was late afternoon by the time we arrived there.  And the atmosphere was just perfect for a family Christmas outing.  Beautiful!  But sadly, little T and her dad couldn’t skate.  Even before the trip, the tickets were sold out for that particular date.  We were hoping that somehow we’d be lucky enough to find extra tickets, we weren’t.

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So we ended up just watching people skate.  Poor little T so wanted to skate, in the end, we just thought that it was best to leave before a melt-down happened.  She couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get tickets and was so envious of the little kids her age holding onto little bears and penguins!

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We decided to go back to Covent garden and was welcomed with this:

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The words “busy” and “crowded” was an understatement.  We couldn’t even find a single shop to have some coffee and cake and ended up in a Cafe Nero about a street away, not exactly the kind of cafe we envisioned.

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The important thing was, little T didn’t seem to mind at all!  She had her delicious hot-chocolate with cream and two different kinds of cake slices, which of course her parents ended up eating.

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It was a long and tiring day.

Was it worth it?

Definitely!

 

Are you a city or country person?

I’ve lived in a city all my life and thought I was a country-girl at heart.

But now that I live in the country, I now know that I’m really a city person.

What about you?

Do You Want to Watch the Snow Man?

I can’t believe Christmas is over!  Can you?  How was it?  I’m sure everyone has had a lovely Christmas, especially the children.

Anyway, as mentioned on the 23rd we caught a short-train ride to London to watch Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman.  For those who aren’t familiar with this lovely children’s story – it’s about a boy who builds a Snowman which magically comes into life.  They then embark on a lovely fun adventure which includes flying over hills and ocean, then the Snowman takes the little boy to meet his other Snowmen friends, have a party with Father Christmas before taking him back home.  In the morning, he wakes up and finds that the snow man has melted.

Here in the UK, they show the animated film when it’s nearing Christmas and usually repeat it either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas day.  This year, we decided that Little T was old enough to be taken to the theatre.

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And since we were spending Christmas with my in-laws who live just outside London, it was the perfect excuse to go to the capital.  We decided a matinée would be perfect.

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To be honest, Little T wasn’t really that excited.  I guess in her young mind, she probably thought that we were just going to see The Snow Man on the big screen.  Since we arrived early, we decided to kill some time at the nearby Waterstones.  And their she saw “The Snow Man and the Snow Dog” (sequel to the Snowman story) soft-toy and book which she’s been wanting to have for the longest time, and to which we kept saying NO.  She already has the book you see, and we just thought that it was a waste of money to buy the book again just because it came with a toy.  Why couldn’t they just sell the soft-toy separately?  This time though, her grandfather gave her some pocket-money to spend and by this time, we’ve run out of excuses to say no.  So yes, she came away with a snow-dog too.

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How can you say no to that face?  Actually we do, loads of times.  The trick is to say it without looking at her.  If you steal a glance, you will lose.  Little T can hypnotize you into saying “yes”, just don’t look and you’ll be fine.

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Then it was time to go in.  There were of course, loads of children, even younger than little T.  It was actually like a children’s party in the theatre.

Like I mentioned earlier, little T was probably expecting to see the big screen come to life, she didn’t expect though to see characters “live”, her face lit up and broke into the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen.  And the husband and I agreed that it was so worth braving the cold and Christmas crowd in the capital.  It was also at this point where we both decided to add this to our Christmas family tradition, go to the theatre and watch a show.

Before intermission broke out, the famous flying scene happened.  I swear all the children had their mouths open and everyone heard a collective gasp.  It was brilliant!

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While eating her ice-cream, I asked little T “Do you think it was magic that made the Snowman and the little boy fly?”  In between scoops she said matter-of-factly “No mum.  They both had strings on their backs”  (She meant wires of course).  I replied, “It’s magic T!”.  She repeated firmly “No mum.  It was string“.  End of story.  Before I could convince her otherwise, it was time for the second half of the show.

We actually expected the second half to be shorter.  It wasn’t.  There were lovely dance scenes between the Snow men, the Ice-Queen and even Jack Frost had a guest appearance, even though they (Ice Queen and Jack Frost) were not in the original Raymond Birggs’ story – it was still lovely.  However, not-so for the little ones, it was just a wee-bit-too-long.  I think the show would’ve been better if it was just a bit shorter, otherwise, it was fantastic!  Great show, good cast, even loved the additional characters like the Snow Queen and of course, the effects was just fab.  And at the end of the show, snow actually fell all over the theatre, the kids loved it!

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especially this kid.

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Then out the theatre doors we went, into the maddening London Christmas crowd.

What about you?

Did you see any Christmas show over the holidays?

A Picnic at Holland Park, London

A couple of weeks ago, we had to go up to London for a day to run an important errand.  While I was getting it done, little T and her dad had an impromptu picnic at Holland Park in Kensington.

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The park is huge, but they only ended up staying in the playground area and never even got to the bigger playground.  Well because, little T made friends with some of the children there and didn’t want to leave them.

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Don’t you just love the way children just play together as if they’ve known each other all their lives?  My husband said at first little T was shy, but later on, gamely joined the other kids at the playground as seen on the photos.

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One of the things I love about London is the diversity of the people who live there – from all over the globe.  To be fair though, I’m not the only foreigner in our little seaside village in North Cornwall.  There’s F’s mum (T’s best friend), who happens to be Swedish, though she’s lived in England so long, people are always surprised to find out that she’s not English.  There was also a Canadian mum in our circle, but she and her family moved to the next town.

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Little T was actually not alone on the photo above, but out of respect for her privacy, I decided to crop her off, especially since you could clearly see her face here.  I asked little T what they were talking about, she replied, “Sand of course!”  Silly mummy, of course it was about sand, what else could they be talking about?

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On our way to play-school the next day, she was still talking about her London friends.  I actually had to remind her that they live in London and she lives in Cornwall, but that didn’t seem to matter to her or the fact that she will probably never see them again.  As far as she was concerned, they were her friends, even for just one afternoon.  Period.  The rest is just details.

Linking-up with #CountryKids.

Have a lovely weekend folks!

An Afternoon with Dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum

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Here’s a photo of Little T in the tube.  It was one of the few rides that wasn’t packed, so she had the chance to sit down.

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There was a long queue waiting for us when we reached the museum in the afternoon.  It was the half-term break after all.

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And as we went in, we were greeted by this rather amazing tunnel, and as you can see from the photo above, little T was mesmerized and walked towards it as if hypnotised.

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As the escalator went through the tunnel, it really felt like we were stepping inside a mysterious world.  (Upsound: twilight zone theme).

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Inside, it was packed with families and tourists, making it feel a little bit like a sauna.

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“Look mummy, I can touch the world!”

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The little one likes to pose.

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Monkeying around …

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And of course, a trip to a museum wouldn’t be complete without a visit and a spend in the gift-shop.  Thank goodness her grandparents gave her pocket pocketmoney!

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Aside from the snapper (photo above), she chose another dinosaur she named “Stan” and bought two dinosaur books too.  Little T shares her meal with her new friend.

PicMonkey CollageAfter a leisurely meal at the museum’s restaurant, we decided to brave the crowd again.  Thankfully by the time we got out, the queue to the dinosaur exhibit wasn’t as much as when we first came in.  But it was still a bit of a wait.  This time little T was showing signs of exhaustion.  That should have been our cue to head home, but we decided to see the exhibit instead.

Inside it was even warmer and since it was dark, I felt a little bit claustrophobic especially once we climbed the stairs up to the gallery which looked like an underground tunnel.  By then little T was an inch close to a melt-down, by some miracle, we managed to avoid that.  In the end though, while she absolutely loved it (for a few minutes, that is), at three, it’s just a little bit too much for her.  Perhaps, best to stick with books or avoid the maddening half-break crowd!

Little T fell asleep in her Dada’s arms and also stayed asleep in the very crowded and warm underground tube and finally woke up while we were waiting for our train in King’s Cross station, back to her grandparents in Woburn Sands.  What an exhausting day for a little country mouse!

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And of course, Stan had his own special seat on the train.

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As for little T, she was too busy waving and watching the other trains go by.

If your little one is into dinosaurs, this is their chance to see them life-like, as long as you avoid the holiday crowd, you’ll be absolutely fine.

So I guess it isn’t surprising what our word for this week is ….

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Yep, it’s all about dinosaurs folks!  Little T still loves them (as mentioned in past posts).  Stan, the new dinosaur has made new friends with little T’s group of dinos.
I’ve linked-this post up with The Reading Residence’s
The Reading Residence
And also with #FamilyFridayFun
Have a lovely weekend guys!

Top Three Things to do in London

preferably without a little person in tow.

Before little T was born, my husband and I used to visit the capital to watch musicals, plays, visit museums/galleries, restaurants or just mooch around the city of London without really any difficulty at all, remember those days?

If we saw a restaurant or pub that seemed interesting, we would just stroll into it without even thinking – Are kids allowed in there?   The last time we were in London, we took refuge in a pub when the little darling was getting a little bit whingy, not knowing that it was a no-kids-allowed-zone.  We only found out when my husband went to the bar to order a couple of pints and a glass of squash.  Thankfully the bartender didn’t show us the door and no one gave us an uncomfortable stare, though we did finish our drinks as fast as we could.

My husband and I were talking about city breaks the other day, and I thought perhaps it would be better to go in the summer, so I’ve thought about a few things I’d like to do but then realised that the list I made wasn’t exactly child-friendly, though of course you could still do it and just risk annoying other people, especially if you’re an expert on wearing a deadpan face, which I’m not.

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Photo credit here.

1.  Regent’s Park Open Theatre.

Have you ever watched a Shakespeare play at the Regent’s Park Open Theatre?  I haven’t and I would love to do this someday.  Perhaps, when little T is old enough to appreciate Shakespeare, or when she’s ready to be left with a babysitter.

 This is one of those, why didn’t we think of doing that before she was born?  The again, it’s not that easy for us to do when you live down in Cornwall, unless we’re visiting the in-laws up in Beds.

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Photo credit here.

2.  Somerset House

How about – have you ever watched a movie in the outdoor cinema in the Somerset House, perfect for those long-summer evenings? This may actually be doable, especially if it’s a family oriented film. Ooh!  I wonder if there’s anything good scheduled for the summer?

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Photo credit here.

3.  English Opera House

Last on the this very short list is to watch opera at the English Opera House in London.  Perhaps, even dress like a “grown-up”? How do you do that?

I hear Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte ENO production is on sometime in May.  The plot sounds intriguing: Two young men tests the virtues of their fiancées by trying to seduce each others betrothed.  I wonder if Little T will find that interesting?  She would be if the two-young men would be dressed in very pink fairy costumes!

I’m not really a big fan of the opera, but I’ve always wanted to experience watching at least one. Imagine watching though with a little kid in tow – Mummy, why is she singing like that?  And as the orchestra reaches its crescendo, you’ll see a little person covering her ears, squinting her eyes and screaming  – It’s too loud mummy! or I can’t see them Mummy!  We are too far away!  I promise you though, she’ll look really cute doing it!

At that point, I can either –

a)  Pretend she isn’t mine.

b)  Totally ignore her along with the stares.

c) Glare at anyone who gives-us-the-what-on-earth-were-you-thinking-bringing-a-three-year-old-to-watch-opera look.

Have you ever been caught in a situation like this?

If yes, how did you manage?

Do share.

This is a sponsored post, however opinions are by Yours Truly.

Also linked with #PoCoLo.

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And the Tour Finally Ends

All tours of Britain MUST begin or end in London.  So after about ten days of showing our close friend J around Cornwall, a bit of Wales and a bit of England, we ended our trip in London.

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This is T gazing at the London Eye as we waited for J at the Tattershall Castle restaurant, a lovely boat moored along the Thames.  When the weather is good or during summer, I can imagine this place packed at night.  It has lovely views of the Thames, Big Ben and of course the London Eye as seen above.  Just make sure that you don’t get too tipsy and fall over-board – the water will be cold!

A little bit of history:  It was built in 1934 and was used to ferry passengers between Hull and New Holland.  According to their website, the boat was also used during the war and was the first civil vessel to carry a radar which was crucial in the foggy Humber.

By the time we’ve finished our drinks with our friend, it was lunch-time already.  So we decided to head off and eat at the famous Sherlock Holmes restaurant.  Yes, I am a fan.

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The restaurant used to be an Inn called the Northumberland Arms and tourists visit not only because of the name, but mostly I can imagine to see the replica of Holme’s and Watson’s study in the famous Sherlock Holmes series.

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The study of the famous duo:  Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson

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From there, we went inside the palace of Westminster. As expected, security at the House of Parliament was like airport security, but I have to commend the staff, they were all nice and friendly, nothing like the brusqueness sometimes security people are known for.  They were all ever-so-helpfull, especially when T needed to have an emergency wee inside.  Without any hesitation, they took T to an off-limits passageway to get to the toilets.

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Take a look inside the historic Westminster Hall built during the middle ages (1097).  This gothic hall has witnessed many famous coronations, and trials of Kings over hundreds of years (i.e. Charles I).  The centuries old beamed roof are still very much intact.  Since T was only three, she wasn’t allowed inside the House of Commons to see how the MPs do their debates, so our friend and the husband went in without us.

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Diamond Jubilee Stained Glass window.

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Big Ben as seen by T who was by now sitting on her dad’s shoulders.

Sight-seeing around London is not for the faint-hearted.  You have to wear the right comfortable walking shoes and must also ensure that you are geared-up for rain.  We didn’t have much time to go around, especially since we had a late start.  Good thing J was able to do some sight-seeing on his own the day before, so we only covered what he hasn’t seen or been to yet.  By the time we arrived in Buckingham palace, it was late afternoon and drizzling.

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T posing infront of Buckingham Palace.

By now we were utterly exhausted and decided to ride the tube back to Leicester square.  We cut across Green Park where you could see deck-chairs scattered around for weary tourists to rest on.  If not for the grey clouds hovering, I would’ve loved to have taken a seat and just watched the crowd.

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If you look harder, you’ll see the deck chairs I’ve mentioned above.

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And all sight-seeing tours must end in a lovely nice cozy-cafe.   Here’s T having her own baby-cino, (which really was just milk with froth), before we hugged our friend J goodbye and jumped on a train back to my in-laws.

It’s been a blast going on this mini-tour around bits of the UK with our dearest friend J who is really more like family to us.  But it was also lovely to head back home to our little bubble by the sea.

London Calling

to the country mice…

I used to refer to us as the country mice, we still are, but I seldom call us that now.  Anyway, the country mice are planning a trip to the big city of London next week when we visit my lovely in-laws in Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes (about two hours by train to London).  The last time we were in the big city, I wrote about “A very suitable incident at the National Portrait Gallery” which happened to my little Sweetie.  Let’s hope nothing like that happens again.

If we do go, here are a few places I want to visit for this particular trip:

1.  Visit Foyles at Charing Cross (It was once included in the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Largest Bookshop in the world).  I love this particular store.  While its been modernised of course, the creaky wooden floors, the smell of books will transport you back in time to the day they first opened in 1906.  I think this is my most favourite bookshop in the world.  If you’re visiting London, this should definitely be in your list of places to visit, especially if you love books.  Warning:  When in Foyles, time rushes by – so don’t be surprised if once you step out, it’s actually evening already.  And one last thing, you won’t come out empty-handed, be prepared for some damages done to your credit/debit card.

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Picture source here.

2.  Sylvia Plath’s house in Fitzroy road where she gassed herself.  The house also happens to be where the poet Yeats once lived in.  For those who know me, you will know I’ve always had some sort of “love-affair” going on with the American poet since I was a young girl.  And when you’ve read so much about a person and you almost dare to think that you know them and you want to get to know them more and by visiting places they’ve lived, you almost feel like you’re getting there.  I wrote about what it was like to visit her grave here.

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Image source here.

4.  The house where our (Philippines) National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal stayed in during a visit to London sometime in 1888.  But it’s in Primrose Hill Camden, nowhere near the places T wants to visit, so maybe next time.

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Picture Source here.

If you ask Tamsin what she wants to do in London, you’ll hear:

1.  See Big Ben again!  (the exclamation point is very important).

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2.  Visit the Tower of London.  (I think this is more my husband’s idea. Haha)

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Picture source here.

3.  McDonald’s!  That’s because the last time we went, she had her first experience of buying a “Happy Meal” and you all know what comes with a Happy Meal, right?  I know, we should have never introduced T to a Happy Meal, at least, not yet and no amount of explaining to her that McDonald’s is everywhere!  You mean, it’s junk?  No, that didn’t cross my mind =p  To be fair folks, we hardly eat any fast-food “junk” as some may call it, it’s always home-cooked meals for us thank you.

This isn’t set in stone.  When you have a toddler in tow, plans always change and with my luck, I probably won’t get to visit any of the places I’ve mentioned and go to all the places T wants to visit instead.

What about you, what’s your favourite place to visit in London, or if you haven’t been, what would you like to see?