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.

East Cliff beach - West bay Broadchurch

Did you watch the Broadchurch the ITV crime drama? It won the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series 

We did, every episode, every series and we loved it. Apparently they are filming a new series and the sets are all around West Bay in Dorset where Paul and I visited for the first time when I was expecting the twins. Every time we have watched so far we are full of, ‘I remember that restaurant/cliff/walk.’ It brings back fond memories.

Having taken our caravan abroad to France for our summer holidays the past two years, Honfleur, La Croix du Vieux Pont We decided we’d treat ourselves to a Staycation in 2015. Great Britain is full of beautiful places to visit and we wanted to check some of them out.

We decided on West Bay Dorset and I am so glad we did. It was a wonderful holiday and one we’d very likely repeat again it was so good.

West Bay Parkdean camping

There are a number of campsites in West Bay or nearby but we decided this time to go back to the Parkdean we had stayed at on our first visit, the main criteria for this choice being it was walking distance into the town centre, they accepted dogs plus the park had great facilities for kids. We were initially given plot 19 but after a couple of days of being tucked up beside the trees my hayfever was at an all time high and the caravan never got any sunshine, so we asked to be moved down a few places into a sunnier spot and it worked.

The girls made so many friends and could often be found in other caravans or roaming the site in a group looking for adventures, it’s a very free life which is good for their souls.

West Bay from East Cliff top

However, had I know earlier I would have liked to have booked in at Freshwater Caravan park where they have their own private beach, swimming pool and extensive facilities plus it was where Susan Wright had her caravan.

East Cliff top West bay

Discovering the Broadchurch trail in West Bay

Not a day passed where we didn’t get out and explore and of course day 1 and 2 were spent locally climbing the cliffs either side of the town to the top for the fabulous views, walking along the pier and checking out the gorgeous harbour which is dotted with huts selling food and other souvenir shops.

East Beach and East Cliff Beach

I think the East Cliff is the one that sticks in everyone’s mind when they think of West Bay, it is part of the Jurassic Coast and is a stunning golden colour. The cliff sweeps steeply down to the East Beach below but not too steep that it cannot be climbed. In fact since we first saw it we wanted to climb it, the girls wanted to ‘win’ and I was pleased to let them. It’s a tough walk up but worth it, the view is simply stunning.

You can also walk along the top along the south west coast path to Freshwater Bay, the next cove but it’s a long walk with children.

East Beach seen from cliff top West Bay Dorset

West Cliff – Jocelyn Knight’s home

Standing on the top of East Cliff you can see the top of West Cliff on the other side of the harbour. We climbed that cliff too but it’s a more gentle rise to the top and a wider path to follow. At the top the path continues on to Eype and you pass a campsite snuggled into the rolling hills.

As you walk up Jocelyn Knight’s house is easily recognisable on the side of the path.

West Bay - Jocelyn Knight's home Broadchurch

Blue chalet at Riverside by the River Brit – DI Alec Hardy’s residence

I remember spotting these chalets the first time we visited West Bay and loving the bright colours and the position on the river Brit. In fact it was seeing them in Broadchurch that sparked my memory of our earlier holiday. This shot is taken from Parkdean holiday camp on the other side of the river but the chalet can also be seen from the town centre by Harbour Green.

DI Alec Hardy's residence West Bay Broadchurch

Harbour

Spectacular, beautiful, lively and lined with families crabbing on the side, the food huts selling all sorts of typical local produce; fish and chips, Dorset Apple Cake, Dorset ice creams and plenty more to tempt you with. We stopped one day and a lady put a cotton braid in each of the girl’s hair which they kept until it was time to go back to school. There are some fabulous boats to look at and even cruises to book that run along the coast. We did one and it was amazing. I’d definitely recommend it.

West Bay harbour - Broadchurch

Pier

Whilst we were in West Bay they town held it’s annual festival. There were cars lined along the promenade, live music playing by the harbour and a marquee set up selling candles that would be lit along the pier that evening, the money given went to local charities. Of course the girls bought a candle each excited at the prospect of finding it later but it sadly was called off for high winds.

West Bay pier

Promenade and Broadchurch Police Station (exterior) – The Folly (ground floor), Quay West.

Here are a few of the cars I mentioned earlier that were on display at the West Bay Festival. The prom is a lovely walk along the beach edge from the harbour up to West cliff but where the cliffs are crumbling, access underneath has been blocked off. The area at the beginning of the prom by the pier is a lovely wide space which at the festival was used for the live music and this fab van selling food.

West Bay promenade and The Folly aka Broadchurch Police station

 

West Bay Festival

Old Custom’s House on Harbour Green – Broadchurch Echo Newspaper Office (interior)

I didn’t get a photo of the Custom House BUT I did go inside and buy something. Normally the Custom House is shut but during the festival the RNLI were using it as a cafe. We bought some chocolate lollies for the girls, all the money went to the RNLI and then I took this shot of my lovelies on the Harbour Green.

West Bay Harbour Green

Wynn’s Fun Fair

‘Pleeessse, mummy? Can we go to the fun fair?

So of course we went and they had a great time but I found it very expensive. 5 minutes on the water orbs £5 per child, 5 minutes on the trampoline £5 per child. That was £20 in 10 minutes! Needless to say we didn’t go back. Shame really as it was very empty, if they had more reasonable prices we’d have stayed longer and maybe gone back on other evenings.

West Bay Wynn's Fun Fair

Station Road Car Park – Filming equipment storage

Ok, so taking a photo of the car park is not going to catch your eye is it? But what did catch my eye was the old station platform still in situ with the building which is now a cafe, The Station Cafe

I popped inside to ask some history and discovered that the West Bay station opened in 1884 and was used for passenger trains with the hope of turning West bay into a major seaside resort. By 1930 passengers were so low it was decided to close it and continue use for goods only. The last goods service pulled in in 1962.

The station wasn’t demolished and has been used as offices of a boat yard, the West Bay Visitor Centre, a restaurant and now a cafe.

Walk a bit further along the old track (which has since been removed and is now a path through to Bridport) and you come across an amazing adventure park for the children well worth a stop off as the kids will love it – the dads too ;)

 

Station Park Cafe West bay

 

West bay adventure Park

 

So there, if you too are a fan of Broadchurch, watch out for Season 3 coming soon and maybe take a trip to West Bay one day to see the filming locations yourself.

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

Dungeness lighthouse the top view

With the summer holidays drawing to a close husband was adamant that he wanted to get us all away one last weekend in the caravan. We decided to go to Dymchurch and explore that area as it’s been a long time since we were last there.

Fortunately on Sunday we woke to clear blue skies and decided to make the most of our time left by driving out to the tip of Dungeness, I wanted to explore the area and see for myself the famous power engine and cottages dotted in the vast shingle wilderness.

It’s a short drive from St Mary’s Bay where we were pitched and some of the roads are very old and consequently bumpy but I was captivated by the clusters of homes alongside our route. They looked like old wooden huts that had since been converted, some into the most amazing stylish homes, others into art galleries. Each one unique and I would have loved to have looked inside them.

dungeness kent

At the end of the road we came to the famous Dungeness Power Station and the Old Dungeness Lighthouse. We discovered you could climb to the top and visit so dad took Baxter for a walk and the girls and I made the climb to the top.

dungeness lighthouse kent

The lighthouse is divided into floors so you can’t get the famous spiral shot from top to bottom or vice versa, on one floor it looked like a desk was there in ceremony style and I wondered if you could possibly get married there?

The final flight of stairs are incredibly steep and you have to come down them backwards, when you get to the top of them, there is a minuscule door to go through to reach the balcony outside. It is worth it.

dungeness lighthouse kent

Spectacular views await you that stretch for miles into nothingness.

dungeness lighthouse kent

 

There is a fantastic view of Dungeness Power Station too and I was surprised to see how many people were coming to take a look. You can book a tour of the B plant.

dungeness power station

As we travelled along the roads of Dungeness I spotted lots of old buses taking visitors back and forth.

dungeness lighthouse kent

 

Once we had finished our Dungeness Lighthouse tour we jumped back in the car and made our way to the far beach where driving in I had spotted lots of old containers and old boats scattered here and there, I wanted to investigate further.

Dungeness beach Kent

 

It’s really odd and difficult to understand if someone has dumped them there or if they are there on purpose but on spotting a couple of fishermen close by powering up engines my guess is they use the trash they find as containers for their nets and fishing equipment.

I loved this container which had been painted on.

container dungeness kent

And this cottage out in the wilderness of Dungeness.

dungeness cotttage

We decided to stop at the Dungeness Snack Shack for lunch and I’m so pleased we did, a quirky hut on the side of the road selling fresh fish to passers by, we ordered a crab rolls and Limonata and sat on the bench to enjoy the peaceful area.

dungeness fish snack shack

As we drove off the Dungeness stretch of land I spotted this cottage and intrigued, asked husband to stop so I could go back and take a look. Ignoring the raised eyebrows (not another photo) I walked back to the side of the cottage and took this photo. I posted it to my Instagram feed and was later informed that the place belongs to Derek Jarman, film director, stage designer, artist, and gardener.

The poem on the black timber wall of Derek Jarman’s cottage is from John Donne’s poem The Sun Rising and reads:

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run ?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
In that the world’s contracted thus ;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere

Derek Jarman's cottage Dungeness

 

A really lovely day and a perfect family visit, cost of entrance to the Dungeness Lighthouse is £4.00 fpr adults and £2.50 for children. Students and concessions £3.50 A family ticket for 2 adults and four children aged 5 – 15 costs £12.50. Under 5’s go free.

Dungeness Snack Shack, Crab rolls £5, Lobster rolls £9 also can be made on flat bread. Well worth a stop off. There’s a local fresh fish shop in the blue painted hut with a fabulous display of fish that you will want to buy and take home too.

Rochester fairies and elves trail

Rochester is a beautiful city just up the road from me, it’s always been there and I have, for the best part of my life, taken it for granted. It sits on the River Medway

It has a 12th century castle whose keep or stone tower is one of the best preserved in England or France. There is also the most beautiful cathedral that in fact, is home to the second oldest diocese in England.

Rochester was one of Charles Dickens favourite places and many of his novels are based here.

Anyway, I’m not here to fill you in on the history of Rochester, no! I want to tell you about a fantastic initiative they have throughout the pretty town, the Rochester Fairies and Elves Door Trail << Facebook link

Rochester Fairies and Elves trail

I know, isn’t it a genius idea? That’s a group photo of our Fairy hunters above.

I saw someone talk about it on Facebook and I knew it would be something the twins would love to do, so we asked some school friends if they’d like to join us, as we haven’t seen them all summer, picked a day and time and our Rochester Fairies and Elves Door Trail came to life.

Rochester Fairies and Elves trail

The fun starts at the Guildhall Museum which opens at 10am and you pick up your map, there are varying versions of the Fairies and Elves Trail map as more and more shopkeepers discover fairy doors of their own. Make sure you take a pencil with you as our Fairy hunters loved ticking off the pictures of the doors on the reverse of the map as we discovered them.

Rochester Fairies and Elves trail

Some of the shops with more fragile merchandise have started (for obvious reasons) to place their fairy doors in the shop window or very close to the front of the shop to avoid over excited children running in and boisterously running around hunting. The mums agreed this was a very wise decision.

Rochester Fairies and Elves trail

Baggins Book Bazaar, the biggest second hand book shop in England, even had a little poem offering clues.

As the children spend a really enjoyable time running up and down the high street in search of the tiny doors, you will be able to take in the beauty of the town and marvel at the fabulous shops there. I am definitely returning for a quiet coffee and stroll once the twins are back at school!

Rochester Fairies and Elves trail

Talking of food and water, there are plenty of options in Rochester that cover all sorts of diets and preferences. We stopped off at Tony Lorenzo’s for some fabulous milkshakes and smoothies and an enormous array of freshly made to order sandwiches and baguettes, you really must check out the counter,  I couldn’t make my mind up.

It took us just over an hour to complete the trail, there were a few more doors that require a bit of long distance walking which we missed out but we left the Eastgate library one till last and what a good idea as the fairy door is situated in the children’s section and there was a table and chairs with crayons and fairy print outs to colour in so that gave little legs a rest and kept the little minds busy too.

Once completed the Fairy door trail, head back to the Guildhall Museum where you will be handed a certificate for taking part.

Rochester Fairies and Elves trail

Of course if you did want to make a day of it I’d highly recommend a visit to the castle or the cathedral.

Ah and the news is they are organising a Fairy Halloween and a Fairy Winter Wonderland so watch the Facebook page for more updates.

Rochester Fairies and Elves trail

The cost of the Rochester Fairies and Elves door trail is free and there is plenty of parking at different spots in the town, I paid £2.40 for up to 4 hours.