Body Worlds – London

Over February half term I had booked tickets to take the girls up to London to visit the Body Worlds exhibition. (I know – it’s taken until now to get this post written and published!) I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as we had been studying the body in school for Year 6 which included the circulatory system, the digestive system and the skeleton I thought it would be good to see what the body looks like close up. I got much more than I bargained for and would thoroughly recommend a visit.

The exhibition is on Piccadilly Circus on the same site that Ripley’s – Believe It Or Not used to be, so it’s very easy to get to. The entrance is on the ground floor and you are taken to the start of the exhibition, which is at the top of the building, in a lift.


You walk into a dark, black room with spotlights pointed on the bodies, this adds so much more focus to the exhibits. You follow a carefully planned journey around the body, each section focusing on a different element that could be the skin or the skeleton. You dive into the circulatory system; the respiration and the blood, the digestive system and even the sexual reproduction organs. Nothing is missed out.

Each section is mind-blowing and there are over 200 anatomical specimens that individually reveal what is happening under our skin.

Dr Gunther von Hagens, the brains behind the plastination technique used to preserve the bodies, has discovered an intriguing and compelling way to show us a greater understanding of the human body. Being able to see what lies under our skin so close up and to be able to take a look at some organs taken from people after misuse (lungs after smoking for years, the body of an obese person against that of a non-obese person) had a very deep emotional effect on me. Seeing the liver of someone who died of cirrhosis against a healthy liver clearly indicates what is happening on the inside when people become alcoholics.

At the end of the tour, there is a fantastic video which explains how the plastination process takes place. Well worth a watch!

I came out with a huge respect for my body and a determination to be more aware and conscious of how I treat it. I also loved seeing the awe on the girl’s faces as they too looked on with a curiosity and desire to learn that I wish could be found in all of their subjects!

I would recommend this exhibition to all ages. There is a sexual reproduction area that can be avoided should you wish, I chose to take the girls in and everything was set out in a clever, creative but very mature way. There is one specimen of a man and a woman having sex but as the skin is stripped off and the organs cannot be seen, I thought it was very educational.

As you leave the exhibition, and we really would have enjoyed going over it all a second time, you are asked if the show had any effect on you and would you make changes to your lifestyle as a result. I said yes, reduce my alcohol intake, take more exercise and eat healthily.

I am sure the girls have taken away so much from this day out and I am determined to revisit in a few years time to refresh their memories.

11 facts about Warner Brothers Studio Tours

The Harry Potter Studio tour

Indulging in a Warner Brothers Studio Tour is a dream for every Potterhead and while you don’t want to ruin all the surprises that it will bring, there are a few things to know that will help you get the most from your visit, such as the following:

You have to book in advance

Tickets and your specific tour time are allocated, so you can’t simply jump in the car and head to the Warner Brothers Studio Tours when the urge grabs you. There is actually no way to purchase tickets when you arrive, so you absolutely need to get online and buy your tickets well in advance, especially if you’re planning to visit during the school holidays.

The Great Hall has no ceiling

In the films, the Great Hall has a seemingly endless ceiling that is enchanted and reflects what the weather looks like at any one time. In reality, this was created with CGI and clever camera work, so you’ll notice that there is no ceiling at all in the Great Hall exhibit.

Diagon Alley

More than 500 concoctions were made for the potions classroom set

The potions classroom is one of the most exciting sets and even more so when you find out how much effort went into building it. More than 500 glass bottles were filled with various herbs, flowers, oils and animal bones (both real and plastic), then meticulously lined up on the stone walls. You can admire them all in close up on the tour.

Plenty of exhibits are interactive

harry-potter-cloaks

A lot of the exhibits encourage you to take part. Far from simply being a don’t-touch museum tour, it entices you to really get involved. Here you can bow to Buckbeak, fly a broom and even fight dementors, depending on when you book your visit.

All of the wand box names are those of the cast and crew

Ollivander’s room is incredible, with hundreds of tatty wand boxes all lined up on the walls, and if you take a closer look at them, you’ll notice that the names on them are all cast and crew members. Can you find your favourite actor and get a picture of their wand box?

honeydukes-harry-potter

You can actually buy Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans

And yes, there IS a bogey-flavoured one! Who didn’t love trying to think up some really awful bean flavours after Dumbledore confessed to eating a vomit one in his youth? Well now, you can buy a box and see if your worst nightmare is in there.

You’ll have to keep an eye out for Golden Snitches

Grab an activity passport at the start of your tour and a whole other world of hidden treasure hunts and Snitch spotting will open up to you. Great for kids that don’t want to miss a thing, the passport really pays off if you play along.

hogwarts-model-harry-potter
Model of Hogwarts

You can go at your own pace

Rather charmingly, the tours are not guided, so you can take everything in at your own pace and in a way that suits you. This is perfect for visitors with accessibility concerns or anyone with children, but be aware that once you’ve left an area, you can’t double-back, so don’t rush.

The oil paintings that line the walls of Hogwarts are pictures of crew members

Just like on the wand boxes, crew members have been immortalised in the form of the hand-painted portraits that line the walls of the Hogwarts sets. Talented artists were commissioned to complete the works of art and used the busy crew members faces for inspiration.

A butterbeer stop is a must

butterbeer-harry-potter

If you dreamed of slipping away from Hogwarts for a glass of butterbeer with Harry and the gang, you can live at least part of that fantasy by visiting the Butterbeer Cafe. Roughly halfway through the tour, you can grab a frothy glass of refreshment or an ice cream. Take a seat and see if it tastes exactly like you imagined it would.

You’ll want everything in the gift shop

Even if you think of yourself as a savvy shopper, you will not be prepared for the levels of longing that will wash over you when you hit the gift shop. At the very end of the tour, a whole world of unnecessary but very covetable souvenirs opens up before your eyes and almost magically, you’ll load your basket with a full Hogwarts uniform, in your house colours, a few boxes of sweets and a fluffy animal familiar. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I don’t want to give everything away, so you’ll just have to plan your own visit and discover some surprises for yourself.

Spitalfields, London – shop till you drop and that’s not all…

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

If you love to shop and wander around markets then look no further as I bring you news of a place you’re going to fall in love with, Spitalfields Market.

Spitalfields is the heart of the East End and goes back almost a thousand years, yes really. In 1197, it was founded as St Mary’s Spittel – a hospital and priory. The field adjacent has been used as a market since the 13th century and today it attracts crowds from all over London and beyond.

Attached to this area is a fascinating history of immigrants who brought new trades when they settled here: silk weavers escaping from France, the Irish introducing the linen industry. The quarter became very popular with the Jewish community who dominated the area up until the 1970s when the Bangladeshi community moved in and with them brought new cultures trades and business that we know fondly of as Brick Lane today

Photo by Dil on Unsplash

Spitalfields became so popular it outgrew the area and had to be moved. Its current destination is Leyton and the regeneration has given birth to an incredible programme including a public art programme, an events programme, the restoration of several historic streets in E1 and a selection of some of the best retailers and restaurants London has to offer.

The Traders Market

Open 7 days a week, the Trader’s Market is an Aladdin’s Cave of independent stall holders selling hand made articles and unique pieces that you are going to love.

Arts Market

Sara Sherwood

If you are looking for a piece of art for a room or wall in your home, you are bound to find something you like at Spitalfields Market. There are prices to suit all pockets and a wonderful collection of various styles and genres including oil painting, photography and more contemporary pieces too. The beauty is you get to chat with the artist who is on site selling their products directly to you, like Sara Sherwood for example who paints the most awesome London landscapes. 

Street Food and Restaurants

Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

There’s nothing like a shopping trip to make you hungry and you are spoilt for choice with all the different options open to you. In fact, Spitalfields says – You could eat here every day for a month and not eat the same thing twice. If you fancy street food from destinations all over the world you’ll be pleased as if you prefer a sit-down meal. Sweet, savoury and the new and enticing are all on offer for you to try. It’s always worth checking out the offers page on the website before you visit.  

Bikes, bags, jewellery and chocolate are just a few of the products you can buy here and you won’t go home unsatisfied – actually you’ll probably be planning your next visit on the journey home! Check out their blog for up to date news on what to expect 

  

Ferdinand and The View from The Shard – Easter holiday activity

The View from The Shard

This morning we were up at the crack of dawn and off to The Old Smoke for a special treat – a trip up The View from The Shard in the company of Ferdinand, the friendliest bull in town who is due out on DVD in a matter of days.

The View from The Shard

The View from The Shard have had an un-bull-ievable idea for a family activity this Easter break, they’ve teamed up with Ferdinand and created a family day out where you get to experience The View – which is gobsmackingly awesome and lots of other activities too …  like a virtual reality game called Vertigo which I had a go at this morning. Think of The Shard when it was being constructed and walking across the steel beams with nothing beneath you – scary but a lot of fun. The girls were most disappointed that they weren’t allowed to have a go (over 12) but were happy to video me doing it.

We were given activity sheets and had to go on a treasure hunt looking for Ferdinand’s flowers, we located them all and popped our sheets into a box with our fingers crossed at winning the prize of a return visit.

The View From The Shard

Families who decide to try this amazing experience out are given goody bags with their entrance tickets including all of the following items

  • Ferdinand activity sheet
  • Bouncy ball
  • Pencil case
  • Official Guidebook
  • Keyring
  • Colouring set
  • Selfie stick

and you simply must go up to the Sky Deck where there is this beautiful floral display waiting for the best photo opportunity ever.

The View from The Shard

There is another virtual reality experience called The Slide which I didn’t have a go at – although I wish I had now. You lay on a wooden curved surface which moves up and down and tips slightly forward and to the sides, as you swoop and slide around The Shard and through the city skyline. A kind of Shard helter-skelter.

For every family that visits The View from The Shard for the Ferdinand experience, there is the chance to enter a competition to win a two-night break to Barcelona. The prize is for 2 adults and 2 children under 15 and consists of return flights from London to Barcelona, return airport transfers in Barcelona, 2 nights in a four-star hotel and travel insurance.

The View From the Shard

If you need even more to convince you, how about drinking a glass of Moët & Chandon from London’s highest champagne bar? 800ft above the capital sipping bubbles whilst enjoying views of up to 40 miles, that’s got to seal the deal surely?

The View from The Shard

Find all the information or book tickets online at www.theviewfromtheshard.com/en/whats-on/events/2018/ferdinand-the-bull/

Before you leave, make sure you visit the toilets at the top for a loo with a view…

The View From The Shard loo

Disclosure: We were given tickets by The View from The Shard for the purpose of this post.

A family day out in london #LondonLegend

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.