thomas oana me and the grandkids

I need a family day out in London!

It seems like I had the family here only yesterday but a check on the calendar shows me it was ONE MONTH ago, how did that happen? I think October will go down in my 2016 book as the busiest month and the most exciting too. A long awaited family visit, getting to meet baby Sophie for the first time and starting a new job with a fantastic travel company – James Villa Holidays as a social media executive. I have been onboard since mid October and am learning something new every day, it’s fascinating.

Anyway, back to the family. When they were here we spent a family day out in London as guests of Garfunkle’s Restaurants, they have recently launched their #LondonLegend tour and being perfectly placed around the world’s favourite capital they are the ideal stop off for anyone wanting a breather and some good food.

In fact our day started at Garfunkle’s in Kensington where we were treated to a delicious breakfast. I had Eggs Benedict which was superb and one of our party ordered the pancakes which were spectacular to look at and a joy to eat because I tried them too. It’s got to be done!

When you are about to tackle London sightseeing I think it’s an excellent idea to start with a good breakfast, I was really pleased to see the prices at Garfunkle’s were very reasonable, the menu had lots of options and children are very well catered for.

Madame Tussauds

evaqn with spiderman

Finished breakfast our tour then made its way over to Madame Tussauds in Marylebone Road, I last took Tommy when he was 14 with his sister and we have a cheeky smile where he is standing next to the wax of Kylie Minogue his hand hovering over her pert bottom. This time Kylie wasn’t among the statues but we were spoilt for choice. Along with every other visitor we ran from model to model taking selfies to post on Facebook and fool our friends. It was a lot of fun.

I was also really impressed with the Avengers 4D film that is the final part of the tour. Everyone is welcomed into a theatre and once seated the film begins, you will feel part of the film with your 3D glasses on and even more so with your seat moving, water spraying and air jets coming at you. Sophie, aged 2, wasn’t impressed, in fact she buried her head in her mummy’s shoulder but Evan, thought it was the best thing EVER and would have stayed for a second go if he had been allowed!

Madame Tussauds is part of the Merlin group and you do get the opportunity to invest in Merlin annual passes with a discount at the end of your tour.

madame tussauds

To visit Madame Tussauds you need to set aside a good hour and a half and by the time we were finished it was lunch time, so Garfunkle’s invited us over to their Trafalgar Square restaurant in Cockspur Street, within spitting distance of Nelson’s column. Once again there was a fantastic menu to choose from, burgers, spaghetti bolognese, quarter of chicken and chips with various sauces and a salad bar too. Something on there for everyone and we washed ours down with a pint of London Pride beer.

garfunkles restaurant london

The Original Tour

4th plinth trafalgar square

Right next door to the Garfunkle’s restaurant is The Original Tour ticket office where we were met by one of their tour guides. She accompanied us to one of their buses and we were given the most fantastic tour of London. You may remember I have already spoken about The Original Tour buses on my blog when I took the girls earlier in the year but this tour was a tailored one and with our own personal guide to fill us in on all sorts of information and funny anecdotes it was a very amusing and interesting tour. I’d definitely recommend it, not only that, The Original Tour are repeating their popular promotion this year – giving customers TWO days for the price of ONE, with tickets extended to 48 hours validity when travelling between 4 October 2015 until 29 February 2016.

This great offer also includes a FREE River Cruise Upgrade to Greenwich!

big ben london

The London Eye

Our Original tour bus dropped us off just over Westminster Bridge where our next treat was a flight on the London Eye. The tour on the London Eye takes half an hour to complete and the views all the way around are spectacular. There are computers onboard which help you identify the buildings in the distance and give tips on what to look out for. We were lucky it was a beautiful day so we could see for quite a long way. The only member of our group who wasn’t quite convinced was Sophie once again, the pods are clear plastic and she kept thinking she was going to fall ‘off’ bless her.

london eye

After such an amazing day there was only one thing to do, celebrate with a delicious dinner all together! We walked from the London Eye up The Strand and into the Garfunkle’s Restaurant who were waiting for us with glasses of prosecco – thank you! I heartily tucked into my fish and chips and the children were glad to be sitting down and colouring in, as each child is given crayons and a paper mat to decorate, such a brilliant idea.

Londonlegend team

We had an amazing time and I can only thank Garfunkle’s for making our day so special. I could quite easily recommend a visit if you’re in town knowing you will not be disappointed. Give it a go and create your own #LondonLegend Tour

london skyline from bus

Garfunkle’s Restaurants

Born in 1979, Garfunkel’s is one of London’s most iconic restaurant brands. Best known for its wide and varied menu, friendly service and great central London locations, they have become a legendary part of London life. You’ll find a huge selection of food including their famous fish & chips, proper pies, pizzas, pastas, burgers and a DIY salad bar; all to enjoy before, during or after your adventures in London. Whether you’re after Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner, there will be something on the menu for you at Garfunkel’s.

st pauls cathedral

Disclosure: We were guests of Garfunkle’s for the purpose of this post, all words and opinions are my own.

london street art tour Banksy

On Saturday I went on a London Street Art tour around the backstreets of über trendy East London with the most knowledgeable guide, Rob Humphreys. I was invited by Touriocity a group of really enthusiastic travel industry experts who are passionate about creating bespoke tours around our favourite cities in the world offering travellers a more personalised and enriching experience.

What is a Touriocity tour?

London street art tour

Touriocity have contacts with the most knowledgeable guides in every city; guides or Travel Concierge as they are called, who don’t simply reel off facts but add to the tour with their extensive and fascinating knowledge. Tours include everything from sport tours, art tours, regular tours or maybe a deep dive into the hidden part of town. Touriocity can arrange a bespoke tour to suit you and your interests.

London Street Art tour

london street art tour meme

Probably the most fascinating tour I’ve ever been on. I took over 170 photos on my day out and I’ll be uploading the best of them to my Facebook page for those who’d like to read/see more but for now I’m going to have to condense all of that into a post for you. I want to give you the perfect idea of what a London Street Art tour is. I want to inspire you to go on one as I was totally blown away by my experience.

London Street Art Tour

What is Street Art?

london street art tour this is not what you think it is

Street art is any art developed in public spaces. The term can include traditional graffiti art work, as well as, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting and street poster art, video projection, art intervention, guerrilla art, flash mobbing and street installations. — Google

Street art is anything painted, written or drawn illegally on outside public spaces, also known as vandalism. Street art actually is a whole lot more than that, it is a conversation between like minded artists. It is transient, here today and gone tomorrow. I have understood that the longer your ‘work’ survives without being pasted over, written on and in turn graffiti’ed, the more respected you have from your fellow artists.

london street art love will tear us apart again

Street art is complex, starting with the terminology. The first term I came across was tag or tagging and it was right at the start of our day when we’d barely left Old Street tube station. A tag is the signature you often see sprayed on public buildings, the one you have thought was a ‘mess’ and ruining the environment. It is a mess, it’s like an unreadable scribble on a public wall but to the eyes of street artists, it’s a signature.

london street art tour

What happens when walls of our buildings are attacked by graffiti artists? We send someone in to buff them. That would be scrub them away or cover them in paint. Just try to return the wall to it’s former clean glory.

london street art tour DALeast

Trouble is, no matter how hard they try to clean them up, you can always see a trace. Some street artists enjoy this and for a funny example take a look at Huh Magazine at when MOBSTR tried an experiment on the local authoritites. I must admit I did find this highly amusing.

london street art tour squirrel and tag

Street art includes many forms, it is more than just cans of aerosol used to make funky signatures. There is stencil art, there is wheatpasting art, scultpures, lock on and tiling. All varied ways that street artists leave their marks on walls around the world.

london street art tour

 

In fact this phenomenon, with the helps of artists like Shepard Fairy, Stik and Banksy became acceptable. Their work was displayed in galleries and snapped up for millions of dollars. If Banksy put up a new piece there would be a rush to chip it away and sell it. In fact it became so trendy David Cameron gave a Ben Eine piece to Barack Obama on one of their first meetings.

london street art tour shepard fairey

You may even remember a poster used during the Obama campaign, it was created by a well known street artist Shepard Fairey. He depicted Obama with the word Hope and it was used on the cover of Time magazine. He also created this art work in London (above) which we stopped by to admire, read more on Hooked Blog about the making.

london street art tour Camilla walala

This trend in buying up street art has in turned added a legalised aspect to what was vandalism up until recently. Now there are businesses commissioning work to street artists, having their factories, shops, clubs, restaurants graffiti’ed, with fantastic effect too.

Damien hirst Tramshed restaurant

London has become one of the most pro-graffiti cities in the world and a trip around Shoreditch will show you how well this art form can fit into a busy city, the only problem of course is that as London Street Art tours bring in the punters and money is being spent so is the area becoming more in and trendy, old buildings are being knocked down and swanky new ones are going up which will lead to ‘clean’ streets and less street art.

london street art tour Blackall Street

Street artists don’t stick to one city either, they travel between countries to spread their work. Some artists have gained cult-followings, media and art world attention. There are some top artists displaying work in London from all over the world.

london street art tour

Some of the world’s top Street artists have passed through London and here is a selection of a few around the Shoreditch area.

DALeast
Stik
Gregos
Cityzen Kane
Noriaki
Thierry Noir
D*Face
Shepard Fairey
Invader
Ben Eine
Stinkfish
ROA
Amara Por Dios

london street art tour

Tips for following a London Street Art tour

Allow at least the morning to walk the streets of Shoreditch. The area is vast and continually changing

Look up, look down, look around you, street art is everywhere. Note the mushrooms on the rooftops, the face sculptures inside door crevices and chewing gum art on the pavement. You can even see graffiti inside other graffiti and so the artwork changes and moves on.

Stop off at Cargo for a coffee and admire some of Banksy’s famous artwork.

Street Art to look out for in Shoreditch:

Foundry Building, Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3JL. – Roa’s giant, moody weasel on the doomed Foundry building in Shoreditch.

Tramshed, 32 Rivington St, EC2A 3LX – Mark Hix’s chicken and steak restaurant. Inside and you will find a Damien Hirst cow and chicken in formaldehyde.

Turn the corner onto Garden Walk and you will find the Owl and Black Sabbath lyrics by Dscreet.

Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3NT – JXC’s Morgan Freeman caricature.

Derham Place, EC2A 3HJ. – DALeast’s sprinting leopard splitting apart to reveal a scuba diver in the middle.

Bateman’s Row, EC2A 3HH. – Shepard Fairey, graphic designer and creator of Obama’s iconic Hope campaign poster back in 2008.

Rivington Street, EC2A 3LX – The Piano Man by local street artist Stik.

Cargo Club – Banksy’s Police and Dog and other murals by very talented street artists.

Blackall Street, EC2A. – Alleyway just off Great Eastern Street. Here you will find work from some of the greats, including RUN, Swoon, Alice Pasquini, D7606, Dscreet ,Stik, Pablo Delgado, and Rowdy.

london street art tour

Disclosure: I was invited on the London Street Art tour by Touriocity for the purpose of this post, all opinions are my own.

london street art tour

london street art tour

Have you heard of Quandoo? It’s an online reservation platform for restaurants and eateries all over, here Silvia runs us through her top 5 family friendly restaurants in London, have you tried any of them?

Quandoo London

Sometimes finding great restaurants in London for the entire family can be a challenge. No one likes having to chase easily-distracted and under-stimulated kids around the table legs, and it’s just as important for the grandparents to feel comfortable when they head out for lunch or dinner. This delicate balance is what’s required to really relax and enjoy a lovely family meal.

Luckily online reservation platforms like Quandoo help would-be family diners discover ideal restaurants that strike it right, making the hunt much easier. Thanks to these kinds of useful web resources, it’s possible to not only read menus, gauge prices and seek out special offers for groups and families, but to get an idea of the atmosphere of the place and see what other stressed-out mums and dads say in user reviews.

Digging around on the London page of Quandoo’s restaurant reservation platform, I found some great suggestions for a memorable meal that I’d like to try. These restaurants focused on tasty food served in somewhat sophisticated surrounds, but the venues were equally characterised by a comfortable ambience appropriate for the whole family.

The Gate Islington is a great example of the family-friendly restaurant concept, and a unique proposition in itself. A “celebration of everything that’s tasty and rich in natural flavours”, this all-vegetarian eatery melds Arabic, Indian and even Jewish cuisines to create a diverse range of authentic, healthy dishes prepared with the same amount of love and care you’d ideally lavish on your family were you cooking at home. Plus the airy dining room it will be perfect for a lovely family dinner.

With its gorgeous gardens and multiple dining rooms, The Avalon up Balham Hill in London’s Clapham South is a special spot for Sunday brunches or relaxed but sophisticated dinners with the family. This restaurant’s menus are extensive and include a lavish degustation offering, barbecue-by-appointment, and a special menu just for the little ones.

For special occasions, take the family to The Trafalgar Tavern, an elegant restaurant set in the enchanting landscape of the Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site, close to the Thames. Young and old are sure to be amazed by the building’s beauty and the breathtaking view. Not to mention the food!

Another restaurant with a spectacular view out over the river over to Tower Bridge is Smiths of Wapping, a seafood restaurant ideal for a cosy meal with the family where kids’ developing and sometimes a little timid palates can be exposed to the oceans’ bounty. Here the service is particularly high class, with a polite, enthusiastic and well informed staff ready to help and fulfil the requests of you and your little ones.

In the same area, close to Tower Bridge and London Bridge, you and yours can try typical “Mamma-style” Italian at Café Amisha. This restaurant’s relaxed and colourful premises makes for an exceptional option when you have a hankering for healthy and satisfying food hailing from Italy. Here, all the ingredients are fresh and come from local London markets, and this is also the kind of down-home eatery where you can also grab bread and cakes baked in-house.

original london bus tour

Over the Easter holidays I took the girls up to London with one of their friends from school and her mum and we went to see the Cinderella exhibition in Leicester Square which was fascinating. They loved looking at their favourite dresses and I enjoyed watching the process of initial drawing through to creating the final costume, utterly fascinating.

original bus tour london

The rest of the day was to be spent on a double decker bus, one of The Original Tour that travels the streets of London allowing you to take in all of the sights comfortably and listen to a documentary at the same time.

original london bus tour

Fortunately for us, London’s weather played ball and we climbed on board at the first stop in Trafalgar Square very close to their office where we picked up our tickets. Below photo taken along the embankment – not your every day London sight and he was moved on by the time the bus came by later.

original london bus tour

The girls raced upstairs and managed to secure seats towards the front, they plugged in their headphones and listened as the bus made it’s way around Trafalgar Square telling them about the lions, Nelson and the 4th plinth before making it’s way down towards the Thames.

original london bus tour

For three 6 year olds, ‘Actually I am 7.’ Isabelle reminds me, I was really pleased to see how interested they were and how the tour kept their attention all the time – not bad for Year Two-ers.

original london bus tour alice

Top tips for making the most of your London Bus Tour

  1. It can get windy on the top deck, you’ll be surprised how much so make sure you have a jacket/cardigan to put on.
  2. Suncream, hats and sun glasses are a must for hot sunny days on the top deck.
  3. Take a packed lunch and water or drinks for snacking as the journey is at least two hours long.
  4. Have a plan. It’s a long day and it can be easily wasted away with stops here and there, realistically you can do one or two stops to visit sights.
  5. If touring with young children I suggest making the most of the journey and staying on especially in high season when there are queues for the River Thames Cruise tours and in all restaurants.
  6. Start as early as you can, the buses quickly become full and front seats and top deck or the hot favourites, get yours early!

Verdict

original london bus tour

Sadly for us our bus broke down at the London Eye, it wasn’t a problem as we knew there would be another coming along soon but it was lunch time so we made our way over to the Thames to look for food and our plan was to continue on the River Thames Cruise included in the price of our tickets.

original london bus tour

It was the Easter holidays, the restaurants were packed and the queues for the River Cruise were enormous, after standing in a queue for over half an hour with no news on how much longer we would have to wait we decided to leave it. We made our way over to west London for another event and in retrospect I wish we hadn’t, it would have been better to hop back on a bus and continue the tour.

original london bus tour

We all loved the tour and would gladly do it again but I wouldn’t get off second time round as you waste too much time and miss out on the other sights of London.

Original london bus tour

This is one sight I definitely want to go back to for a better photo – the Upside Down Houses
original london bus tour

London City skyline taken from the Original Bus Tour on Tower Bridge.

original london bus tour

original london bus tour - Big Ben

Thank you to the three gorgeousnesses above for being as good as gold and a lot of fun to be with.

Coming to London? here are our review on some of our favourite sights:

London Eye
Sea Life
Buckingham Palace
Tower Bridge tour
Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
The Shard
Tower of London

Disclosure: We were kindly given our tickets by The Original Tour for the purpose of this review.

Time Traveller: The Travel Bloggers Linky

If you are new to Time Traveller it’s a Linky where you can share your travel posts, both old and new. If you have been somewhere recently, tell us about it and if you haven’t share an old post, a favourite from the archives. You could even write about places you visited before you started blogging, scan the photos, re write and relive the experience, tell us all about it.

 

TimeTravellers

The rules are very simple

    • Your post must be travel related.
    • It can be a day out, a weekend away or a longer break.
    • You can use posts from your archives or write something new.
    • Display the badge and link back to this post.
    • This Linky is about sharing, please don’t dump a link and run. Read some posts, leave a comment on them. I will visit everyone who links up, please be patient as I will fit my comments around my family and work.
    • Leave a comment on this post, I’ll be leaving one on yours.
    • All posts are Tweeted with the hashtag #TimeTraveller and added to my Time Traveller Pinterest board

Follow Marianne’s board Time Travellers on Pinterest.

Tower of London

Possibly one of the most intriguing, gory and fascinating places to visit in London has to be the Tower of London, home to the Crown Jewels and many a king and queen from Britain’s history. I have been a few times now but the most recent visit with the girls over half term was a fantastic day out.

Tower of London Yeoman

I made sure we arrived early in the morning as I knew there was lots to see and do. As we walked through the entrance a Yeoman, also known as a Beefeater, stood waiting to start his tour. So I hung around as the tour is free and packed with interesting facts.

Tower of London Traitors Gate

We saw where the Ravens’ nests are. We learnt about Traitors Gate and the Bloody Tower.

Tower of London Raven

We saw where heads used to be chopped off and I caught a raven flying over in my photo which I’m pretty pleased about. Here’s a close up of the monument erected in the beheading area.

Tower of london chop heads

The yeoman also mentioned the Beauchamp tower, seen in the photo above behind the flying raven, where the prisoners were kept until their fate was decided. Sometimes it was for years and there is a lot of graffiti on the walls from hundreds of years ago.

Tower of London Graffiti

The Yeoman tour is great for adults and older children but by the third stop of the tour my two were getting bored and wanted to move on so we walked over to join the queue to see the Crown Jewels.

Tower of London Yeoman tour

It was a long queue and even on entering the building there is still a long route to follow and lots of foreigners trying to overtake.

imperial state crown

 

The Crown Jewels are fascinating for all ages but no photos were allowed. The twins were in awe with the guards outside The Jewel House, we stood and watched them march up and down a few times. The girls were delighted to hear them talking as they met in the middle and tried to understand what they were saying.

Tower of London Jewel House guard

After this we sat down on one of the many benches in the sunshine and ate our sandwiches before visiting the White Tower, or the central building with the four turrets.

Tower of London white tower armour

Again you follow the route laid out passing through the vast rooms filled with armour from the Arsenal, coins from the Royal Mint and records from the Tower Record Office where I spotted an old map on the wall showing our home town of Gravesend calling it Gravesend Beach.

Tower of London Gravesend beach

We walked right to the top of the building where there is a wonderful dragon made up of all sorts of materials.

Tower of London Dragon

Then there’s the long walk down, down, down one of the turrets, a tight spiral staircase leading out into the sunshine once again.

Looking out of the Beauchamp Tower

We decided to visit the Beauchamp Tower for a closer look at the graffiti and the rooms of the State Prison before heading off to the Bloody Tower.

Tower fo London view of Tower bridge

There is a long walkway running around the castle which gives off the most spectacular views of London, this is taken outside the Bloody Tower looking over the Thames at Tower Bridge.

Tower of London Menagerie

I didn’t know that the Tower of London had been home to London Zoo until moving it to Regent’s Park. Known as the Menagerie and home to lions, tygers, lynx and a porqupine as recorded by Hentzner in 1598 one of the first visitors to record his impressions. The girls tried out the cage on show.

As we walked around the top wall back to the centre and on our way to the exit I couldn’t help but stop and take a snap of this fabulous view of The City of London.

Tower of London view of the city of london

Our visit for now was complete, the girls were tired, I was too and we left wanting to return one day as there was so much more to see.

Tower of London white tower

My Top tips for visiting

  • If you would like to visit the Tower of London or find out more information take a look a the official website where booking online also allows discounts.
  • I would really recommend following the Yeoman’s tour which is free of charge.
  • There are plenty of benches to sit and eat a sandwich or for a rest throughout what can be a long day.
  • Pick up a trail at the Welcome Centre for the children to use as they make their way around the site
  • Keep an eye on the What’s On page for events organised throughout the year and school holidays.

All photos taken with iPhone 4