Monday, 24 March 2014

London in Springtime

Penelope and I set off to London on Saturday morning for a girly shopping weekend away. I needed a bit of respite from the busyness of homeschooling Hannah and I wanted to spend some quality one-on-one time with my youngest child. Penelope was a very willing shopping buddy.

We caught a flight early Saturday morning and despite having to wait 40 minutes at border security due to a flight from the states arriving just before us, we were walking down Oxford street before 11am. I had booked a hotel right near Paddington station so it was dead easy to catch the Heathrow express and then walk the 300 m to the hotel. I had a bit of a panic when the door to the hotel was locked but while I was wondering what to do the door was opened and we were able to store our bags there until check in time.

Oxford Street

Penelope trying on a cute English hat.

We headed for Selfridges first and headed for their toy department. It was really interactive and lots to look at. Penelope wanted to get her presents here but as we had a long day of walking ahead we decided to wait until later. We decided to have lunch at the Selfridges food court. I had a yummy Lebanese chicken dish and Penelope had pork ribs and a huge plate of rice.

Next stop was John Lewis where we once again saw cheap lego but again decided to wait. We did however manage to buy Penelope's brownie uniform and also a very cute pair of shoes.

We decided to jump on the tube at Oxford street and head for the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The last and only time I had been to the V&A was a year ago with my Mum for lunch. The cafe is gorgeous so I decided to follow tradition and take Penelope there for afternoon tea. I had a delicious scone with clotted cream and jam and Penelope had a gluten free cake.

The courtyard going across to the cafe.

The beautiful cafe in the V&A.

We had picked up a museum kids backpack on the way into the museum which had activities in it. We had chosen the glass pack and so headed up to the 4th floor to explore the glass exhibitions.

On the second floor.

Overlooking the entrance way.

We spent about an hour going through all the activities in the bag. One of the tasks was to feel objects in a feely bag and then find those objects in the gallery.

Can you spot the same object made from glass.

Another activity was that we were given coloured paddles and we had to put one in front of the other to mix the colours. We had to then find the coloured lollipops.

She then had to find her favourite coloured sculpture.

Her favourite shape.

And lastly her favourite sculpture overall.

She had to write a story about her favourite one and this is what she wrote.
"There was once a devil plant. If you went near it you would get sucked up. One day a girl knew something had to be done about the plant. So she threw her sword and killed it."
We had a bit more of a look around.

An exhibition room we stumbled across which was amazing!

We then thought it was time to head back to the hotel and check in. I had booked a twin room but ended up getting a room with a single bed and a double bed, which was great. The reviews on had been a bit varied so we were relieved that the room was nice and comfortable.

We headed off to Victoria to collect our tickets for Wicked. The idea was to get the tickets, go grab a quick tea and then go back to the theatre to see the show. The reality was we waited ages to get the tickets then ran out of time for a sit down dinner so ended up having Burger King fries sitting in the train station where it was quite chilly! We headed back to the theatre and waited in the que to get in and finally took our seats.

The show was great and I thoroughly recommend it.

We headed down to breakfast early Sunday morning and Penelope was delighted with her gluten free full English breakfast. We checked out of the hotel but as we didn't fly home till later that day were able to leave our bags in the reception.

We walked down to Hyde park and headed towards Kensington palace. I didn't think we could go in and when I told Penelope this she said "I don't want to go as what's the point if we can't go inside. Last time I thought we were going to go inside Buckingham palace and we didn't which was disappointing." There was a leaflet about Kensington Palace in the foyer of the hotel and it said we could go in so Penelope was much happier!

On the way through the park we saw lots of people out walking there dogs and saw so many different varieties including Scottie's, greyhounds, poodles all out enjoying the day before the rain.
Walking through Hyde park.

Outside Kensington Palace.

Penelope having a little rest!

Inside the palace.

The first baby tooth of Princess Vicki, made into a little pin.

There was a special display of some of the royal dresses which was lovely, although the small room containing some of Princess Diana's dresses was very full of people.
The dress that Queen Elizabeth wore when she visited NZ.

More of Queen Elizabeth's dresses.

Princess Margaret's dresses.

PrincessDiana's dresses.

We then went to the older wing of the palace where Queen Mary had lived.

Penelope was desperately thirsty so we headed down to the shop and cafe where we were able to get a drink and a few souviners.
The tulips are out!

We decided to head down Kensington High street but as it was only 11.30 most of the shops were still closed. Marks and Spencer's was open though so we managed to get most of what we wanted in there.

Next stop was Giraffe cafe for lunch where I even managed to get a glass of NZ Sauvignon blanc - yah.

Good ole fish n chips.

After lunch we jumped on the bus and headed for Harrods. Penelope's aim was to get a bear from Harrod's to be buddies with her red fox from Hamleys. There were so many lovely teddies that she told me to stop showing her any more as she just couldn't decide.

On the bus.

Outside Harrods.

Penelope with her new bear and a baby Furby. Check out the price of the mini range rover!

We made a quick dash to get Jasper's lego but as it was £15 more expensive there then elsewhere so we decided to go back to John Lewis and get it there. Hamley's is a lovely shop but wow they inflate the prices for tourists!

Back to the hotel to repack the bags, then back out to Heathrow. We just had enough time for a yummy curry at Wagamama's before catching our flight home.

Another late night for Penelope and she ended up sleeping till 9.45 the next day (so no school) but totally worth it.

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Sunday, 16 March 2014

Sleeping beauty's castle and amazing gardens

After a very busy day previously we decided to only do two castles today and spend a bit more time at each. First off was the chateau Usse which was used as the inspiration for the fairytale Sleeping Beauty.

Walking up to the chateau.

The dining room set up ready for visitors.

Penelope with her ladies in waiting.

Gorgeous staircases.

View from the window.

Aurora about to prick her finger on the spinning wheel.

Prince Charming about to kiss Aurora and remove the spell.

The loft of the castle which was fill of interesting old, dusty bits and pieces.

We had great fun running up and down the towers and loosing each other and exploring all the different rooms.

The chapel.

Exploring the outside of the castle.

We had been a bit more organised today and had popped into the supermarket before we went to the chateau and had got some yummy food for a picnic lunch. We found a picnic table just down from the chateau and had a lovely lunch of salad and hot sausages.

Next chateau was Villandry which is famous for its magnificent gardens. As it is still only March the flowers weren't out yet but we could appreciate how beautiful it would look in summer.

The moat around the castle.

Running off to explore the gardens and to find the maze.

Looking down onto the gardens back to the chateau.

We can just imagine how amazing these gardens would be in summer.

We decided to go for a walk in the forest at the back of the chateau.

Spring flowers!

The labyrinth.

It had come out quite warm so we decided to get an icecream and a coffee at the cafe outside the chateau and relax in the sunshine.

We stopped at Chateau Azay-le-Rideau but decided to just look at it from the outside.

It was only 3.30 so we decided to head to Chinon to have a look around the town and look at one last chateau. On the way we saw a vineyard and decided to pull n for a bit of wine tasting. The kids happily stayed in the car - yah for car DVD players and portable technology! The wine tasting was great fun and we even ended up buying a couple of bottles to add to our stash to take back to NZ.

We drove into the village of Chinon although Jasper was not happy at having to get out of the car and go to yet another chateau. We walked up the hill to the castle and to Jasper's delight the castle was closing so no entry for us.

Climbing the wall by Chinon Castle.

The boys walked back down the hill and the girls and I took the lift (yes that's right!!)

A great day exploring this beautiful part of the world.

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