Friday, January 6, 2017

Insider's London

In this post...some tips for making the most of living in London

Suggestions for what to do while living in London - these are not my own....this list has been passed on within the ex-pat community from a longtime ex-pat before she moved away

now we get to enjoy all her tips!

England & Scotland Trips:

Royal Ascot - if you only do this once it worth every penny!!!  It was one of the best people watching and fun days out!!!

Edinburgh - Rosslyn Chapel (of Da vinci Code fame)

Fort William & Train to Malaig - one of the most picturesque train rides and you can do it round trip in a day (Harry Potter's bridge to Hogwarts is there)
Wales - St. Fagan's open air musuem, Techniquest - kids science museum (even the adults had a great time exploring)

Glamping - Highly recommend Featherdown Farms (Warren and New Barn - we also did Gilcombe and great farm tour but owner not as organized)

Oxford - Stay at the old Parsonage Inn!!

Cambridge - you must go punting so go in good weather

Bath - we took the big bus tour and got to see part of the country side too

Cotswolds - LOVE Burton on the Water, Stow on the Wold.....and many more great long weekend trip but you must drive it

Cornwall (northern) - we did Penzance and Mawgan (near Newquay) and enjoyed both.  But Mawgan and that northern coast line is incredible - visit Tintagle too (where they think the remains of the castle belong to King Arthur)

Isle of Wight - great family trip and the entire island is interesting: roman ruins, fossils, sea side all good stuff.  We stayed at the Waterfront Inn.  We took the ferry then train and rented a car - you need a car to get around the island

Greenwich - great day trip - take the boat one way and tube the other for a day trip.  Cutty Sark has been restored and is fun for all.  The Royal Observatory and standing on the Prime Meridian.

Family Vacations:
Spain - LaZenia  we always booked a villa from  on the beach loved this area as not really touristy and only 20 min from Murcia airport

Austria - Ski vacation in Kirkdorf, the boys learned to ski in the same area I did as a child  We booked with  Great kids skiing and great runs over 4 different areas, sleighrides, toboganing  it is great!

European Adventures:

Venice and Florence

Paris is a given as it is SO easy to get to.

Brugge - the best surprise as we had no idea what to expect and it was fabulous.  If you don't have much time skip Brussles and go to Brugge!!

Reims - Champagne tour from!!  I LOVED this, but then again I love anything with Champagne :)

Carcassone France - incredible walled in city near south eastern coast - if you go on a beach vacation in the region I wouldn't miss this!

Marrakesh - we really enjoyed our trip there but with recent events make sure you check with State Department to ensure it is safe to go

Top Tips:

Join English Heritage Trust and go to as many homes and castles as you want....even just if you see then as you are driving around the country.  That's how we discovered Dunne Castle in Scotland - it is featured in Monty Python when they toss the cow over the wall!

Register your Oyster Card - never run out of money and if you lose it they replace your card at the value you had on it.  It is easy!!

Family Rail Card - only £25 per year for up to 4 adults and 4 kids (you must travel with kids) and you get 60% off or more on fares!

Descale your appliances.  I know it is a pain but they will last much longer.  For toilets I love Harpic Power Plus Tablets - gets rid of brown stains in toilet!  Even washing machines and dishwashers need to be descaled if you aren't using the correct detergents.

Order Lightbulbs from LightBulbs Direct - they keep a list of what you've ordered so you know what types of bulbs you've gotten before.  We have 8 different types of bulbs in our house and it drives me nuts!

Most castles and palaces will validate your ticket for a year so you can go back with family and friends for a year!!  I know this is the case with Windsor and Hampton Court.

Need Fancy Dress (costume)? - my favorite store is Carnival Store @ 95 Hammersmith Road, London W14 0QH

Need a cottage or place to stay in South Western England -
Need a hotel: I like the comments and rates and we had great experiences

Panto - around the Christmas holidays lots of Panto shows will be put on around London.  We don't have anything quite like it in the US.  I highly recommend taking your whole family to a Panto.  I've attached an article that Farrell Harwood did for the Embassy newsletter.

Afternoon Tea - (not High Tea which is an American term) you can do this with or without kids.  I had the great pleasure of sampling a lot of Afternoon Teas during our time in London.  Each location offers something a little different to put their unique stamp on the experience.  I love the Dorchester as a quint essential British experience.  The Lanesborough gives you strawberries and cream.  The Berkley's Pret-a-Portea is inspired by the latest fashion designs.  All locations seem to have a signature Tea and it is worth sampling that particular tea!

Favorite Restaurants in London:
Duke of Kendal - Saturday nights Gilly the pianist is there and Sunday nights the locals sing all sorts of old song with some dressing up!
Hunan - 51 Pimlico Road Belgravia
Roast - Borough Market
Le Boudin Blanc - Shepherds Market - French food
Casa Malevo - Connaught Village - great Argentinian food - love the provoletto
Grazing Goat - Portman Village, great pub food and Bloody Mary's
Taqueria - Very good mexican - 137 Westbourne Grove - Perfect if you are going to Notting Hill/Portobello Road
Hush - Lancashire Court, great outdoor seating and brasserie food
Serpentine Bar & Kitchen (west end of the Serpentine) - great for a day out in Hyde Park. Great for the whole family!

w/ kids - Giraffe and Ask

Outside London:

The Fox & Hounds in Surry - right next to The Windsor Great Park - great weekend day trip as you could do tour of Windsor Castle too 
Isle of Wight - Crab & Lobster Inn PO35 5TR - you won't find it without GPS
Florence - Neone Trattoria
Reims - Le Grand Cafe

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