A family walk around a cemetery may seem like a little odd thing to do but Highgate is no ordinary Cemetery, it’s quirkiness and the nature that surrounds it makes it one of the most beautiful resting places in the country. It is one of the earliest private garden cemeteries in England.
Highgate Cemetery is split into two, with a road dividing both. You can wander around the east side by yourselves but access to the west side is by tour only.
A visit here has been on my list of places to visit for a while now and last weekend the boys and I managed a trip over there. We didn’t get to access the West side but we did get to go into the East side and have a wander about. The East cemetery is home to some of the illustrious figures of the nineteenth century, you will find many famous names, along with some interesting graves. It’s a place to remember the people have passed but also for us to celebrate their achievements.
The most famous person who resides in the East side is Karl Marx; the German philosopher, economist, sociologist, political theorist and socialist revolutionary.
Entry into Highgate East Cemetery is via a booth, where you pay adult entry fee only and pick up a map. The map has all of the notable graves marked on along with a list and what they were famous for, it’s clear and easy to follow. This means that you can walk around at your own pace.
As soon as you enter you get that feeling of calm and peacefulness. It’s a place that you can escape the noise pollution from beyond the gates and quickly immerse yourself within the tranquil surroundings.
We walked around admiring the memorials; not seeing a graveyard but looking at the art and the beauty of it all. Highgate Cemetery is a quintessential piece of victorian architecture.
There are many residents from all walks of life here; from political activists, designers, Tv stars and novelists. These include the author Douglas Adams, the Tv presenter Jeremy Beadle, Pop artist Patrick Caulfield and novelist George Elliot.
Although the Cemetery is a famous popular tourist attraction it is still a living Cemetery and are open for new burials. Known as one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, a series of victorian burial grounds within the inner city, Highgate is, without a doubt, a secret London attraction.
Highgate Cemetery West is now on my next place to visit, although this time I shall return with just the eldest and myself. This part of Highgate can only be viewed by tour guides and is where you can see the Egyptian Avenue, Lebanon Circle and Terrace Catacombs.
This is definitely a place that we will be visiting again in the warmer months and not on a wet, drizzly February day.
For the sixth year Canary Wharf, London is welcoming the return of the award-winning Winter Lights, where the area is transformed by 26 spectacular Light installations.
This wonderful spectacular event is free to attend and is only showcased for a fortnight, ending this weekend 25th January 2020.
Finding your way around
We wandered up to the city On Sunday to see the Winter Lights glow up the surrounding area with immersive light displays and exhibitions.
The best time to visit the displays is from 4pm, the earlier the better as the crowds do start to build up later on in the evening. We downloaded the map from Canary Wharf website to help us to navigate our way around but there are stewards dotted around the area that hand out a paper map too. This was far better for us as the children got to choose where they wanted to go.
The map not only shows you where the light displays are but also where you can find a toilet, parking, information, street food and train/tfl stations.
On the back of the map there are pictures that show you what each display or exhibition looks like along with the title and where they are.
Light installations and interactive art
The Winter Light Festival showcases light art and interactive installations by some of the most innovative artists across the globe working in light art today. Alongside some favourites that have been shown before are some newly commissioned artworks that have never been seen in the UK before. Some of the exhibitions can be seen for afar and some will allow you to get up close and interact with.
You are advised that the whole event should take about 90 minutes to walk around, but I would give yourself longer if you really want to experience it all and just enjoy the atmosphere.
My children and I didn’t manage to get round all of the displays, as some of them had huge queues, like the Luma Paint Light Graffiti and Sky On Earth. This is because they are interactive exhibitions.
The Most Spectacular Christmas Destination In London
Located in the heart of London in Hyde park, get ready to fully immerse yourself in the biggest and best Christmas fair that there is around. Offering an array of attractions, activities and entertainment for visitors of all ages.
Winter Wonderland is FREE to enter and it is huge! There are more than 50 rides, over 10 pre-bookable attractions, up to 200 bars and food stalls and London’s biggest Christmas Market to enjoy. The shear size of this place is phenomenal and the work that has gone into putting it together is really impressive. At night the park is transformed with hundreds of sparking lights.
Last Sunday we were invited along to experience Winter Wonderland ourselves. We have been once quite a few years ago to visit the Ice Rink and The Ice Kingdom, but didn’t really spend much time there. So we were looking forward to spending the day walking around and fully immersing ourselves into the Christmas Festive Spirit.
My eldest two boys arrived before myself and the youngest as we had a football match to attend first. They arrived just before 11 and managed to try out about three or four rides before we joined them at lunch time. Mornings are ideal for families to visit, we found it to be busy but with mostly people just leisurely walking around. The queues for the rides weren’t massively long, in fact the longest we queued for a ride was about 10 minutes and that was later on in the day.
What to expect
Winter Wonderland is split into festive themed areas.
You will find
Santa Land – Explore the land of Santa, see his workshop, meet the elves or ride on the Santa Express. Enter through the Red Gate, a dedicated Family Entrance that takes you straight into Santa Land.
Arctic Circle – Visit The Magical Ice Kingdom; a spectacular snow and ice sculpture walk through and ride on a real ice slide
Circus Town – Here you will find the Circus Megadome that is home to Zippos Christmas Circus, Mr.Men and Little Miss Show and Cirque Beserk.
Bavarian Village – This picturesque area is the perfect place to unwind, with its cosy chalets, outdoor seating, bars, cafes and restaurants.
Thrill Zone – Home to the world’s largest transportable roller coaster The Munich Looping and many more rides for those that are not faint hearted
Traditional Funfair – Young and old will adore this area full of beautiful Victorian-style rides -the carousel, helter skelter and vintage fairground games.
Angels Christmas Market – Over 100 charming traditional wooden chalets will tempt you with unique gifts, traditional Christmas decorations and culinary delights
Zippos Christmas Circus
Step inside the Circus Megadome to watch this fun packed daytime show last just under an hour which makes it perfect viewing for the younger ones. The boys were transfixed from the beginning introduction from the circus Ringmaster to the end performance of illuminated acrobats.
The show is jam packed with energetic routines and dare-devil antics that will keep you on edge of your seat.
There were unicyclists, trapeze artists, tightrope walkers, roller bladers, acrobats and a juggler who entertained us with a repeat action of his Guiness World Record of keeping five boomerangs in the air at the same time and catching them all without dropping one. Unfortunately, on his first attempt he dropped the last boomerang but not to be downhearted on his second attempt he was victorious.
Zippos Christmas Circus is a fabulous family show that will keep the whole family entertained. Emilion the Clown kept the crowd entertained throughout, throwing huge beach balls into them and finishing the show by putting on a little mime act using people from the audience.
The Magical Ice Kingdom
An indoor Magical Ice Kingdom walk through experience with a temperature of -10c you really do need to wrap up warm for this attraction. This year the incredible Ice sculptures tell the story of A Christmas Carol. The moment you enter the Ice Kingdom you are transported into the wintry streets of London following Dickens’ Christmas tale of goodwill, where Scrooge is taught the true meaning of Christmas. The magnificent sculptures of the characters and settings took a team of very talented ice artists months to carve and create. This was, personally, my favourite attraction. I could have stayed in there for ages just taking it all in, if it wasn’t so cold. The Ice Kingdom really is Magical! The whole experience from the beginning to the end is amazing, there is so much to see. Every ice sculpture has so much detail and helps you to relive the Dickens’ timeless classic story.
I don’t think the children felt the cold as they slid down the ice slide; they love it!
Winter Wonderland has the tallest transportable wheel in the world. The giant wheel is 70m tall and is a new attraction to Winter Wonderland. We rode the wheel at about midday and only had to wait about 5 minutes to board. We had a ski-like pod to ourselves. As you enter the pod, you are given a welcoming pre-recorded message where you are given the option to listen to music on your flight. The views are amazing, although I did get a little freaked out when the wheel stopped at the top to allow passengers to get on at the bottom. Our flight took about 10 minutes and went round slow enough for you to take in all the sights around the park and across the city, also it’s a great way of looking around the fair from above and working out where to go next, especially if you ride during the day. The view is spectacular and you get to see the shear amount of time and effort that has been put into the organisation of building Winter Wonderland.
Real Ice Slide
Situated on the edge of Santa Land is the Ice Slide; a giant, 5-lane slope made entirely of slippery ice. After being given a helmet and a rubber donut to sit in you hike your way up to the top. We queued for about 5-10 minutes before we got to the top. Once there, you place your tube down in a lane and sit inside it. The friendly Winter Wonderland staff will then proceed to push you down the slide. You can reach a pretty high speed coming down, and it’s even better when you’re out of control and spinning around wildly as glide not-so-gracefully to the bottom. You get two turns on the slide per entry. It’s great fun to race your friends or family down the this spectacular slippery slope. There is also quite a breathtaking view of the park at the top of slide.
Ice Mountain Coaster
An indoor spinning roller coaster that takes you on a ride through a mountain cavern. We queued for about 15 minutes for this ride and that was mainly down to it being later on in the day. This was the last ride of the day for us, so we didn’t mind the queue. The queue went down rather quickly and soon we were all in the car ready to be carted off into the darkness of the mountain. We really wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was. We got flung from side to side and the car spun around making us feel rather dizzy. As the spinning coaster passed through the illuminated cavern we were transported through a world of penguins and polar bears.
We spent about 4 hours walking around and taking in the festive atmosphere. I found the facilities to be clean and well staffed and there were plenty of friendly staff around to help with any queries or questions that you may have. There were plenty of places to sit down and enjoy some tasty food or a light refreshment. The prices of food varied from about £5 upwards. I would definitely recommend a visit to the Bavarian village for some refreshments, we bought some Churros for £5 and there was enough to feed the four of us. We found a fire pit to sit around to enjoy a glass of bavarian beer and a festive mulled wine, it really was lovely and got me feeling rather warm and excited for Christmas.
Although, Winter Wonderland is free to enter you will need tokens for the rides, which are available from token booths around the site. Contactless is also available. Rides vary from £2 up to £8 per person
I would highly recommend pre booking attractions as they can get booked out rather quickly on a weekend
Zippo’s Circus – £14.00 per adult and £10.50 per child
Magical Ice Kingdom – £10.00 per adult and £8.00 per child
Mr Men Show – 10.50 per adult and £7.50 per child
The Big Wheel – £9.00 per adult and £7.00 per child
This iconic area of London with its cobbled streets, winding alleyways and array of exciting bars and restaurants is one of London’s most popular areas. Step away from the tourist track and be amazed with the hidden gems and bustling back-streets.
Within walking distance from London Bridge Hotel you will find all of the top tourist attractions such as The Shard, The Golden Hinde, The Globe Theatre, Tower of London and The River Thames. Take a step back from all of these areas and discover what this area really has got to offer
Gelateria 3BIS- Borough Market – Park St
For a welcome and friendly Italian experience head on over to 3BIS gelateria where you can grab home made gelato, frozen yoghurt, crepes, waffles and much more. Within walking distance from London Bridge station, it’s the ideal place to stop off for a sweet treat after a busy day shopping or sight seeing. They offer a broad selection of flavours that you can enjoy inside or out.
We opted for a Mango and Rasberry sorbet in a cone, but you can also choose to have it in cup, and some chocolate filled cannoli’s. A new product that are selling is the chocoshot cup – a flavoured cone cup filled with your favourite gelato flavours.
3BIS also supply to events, such as weddings and parties. You can hire a gelato cart to turn your event into a special and unique one.
Bird & Blend – Borough Market – Park St
Bird & Blend is an award winning tea company who are on a mission to spread happiness and reimagine tea. The shop is light and airy and the staff are friendly and full of knowledge about all things tea. They offer a wide selection of tea blends and if you’re not sure on what to buy the staff are more than happy to make one up for you to try.
Not only at Bird & Blend can you get a perfectly brewed tea but you can also grab tea gifts, tools to make tea and even book onto one of their mixology tea blending and tea tasting experience workshops.
We are big fans of Matcha tea so was pleasantly surprised by the huge selection of flavoured tea to try. The member of staff that served us was brilliant and very friendly, offering us lots of advice on what delicious blend of tea to try. As it was a hot day we went with cold blend tea, which he mixed in front of us and even allowed the children to join in with making their own tea; they were shown how to use a bamboo whisk and how to add the special ingredient that made Unicorn Fizz drink change colour.
We tried and Iced Black Matcha and Coconut, MojiTEA, Unicorn Fizz and an Iced Gingernut Matcha & Apple drink.
I couldn’t recommend this place enough, the staff were friendly and approachable, the quality and taste of the tea was perfect and reasonably priced.
One thing I noticed about the area around London Bridge was that no matter where you turn there is always something to catch your eye. The street art and buildings are amazing. Wander through the railway arches and follow the Low Line walk, which spans the length of the Old Victorian Rail viaducts from London Bridge to Bermondsey. The Low Line connects the neighbourhoods and communities, celebrating the heritage of the railway arches, unlocking places of interest along the way.
The buildings still show signs of the old days. Something I always tell my children when we are visiting a new area is to look up. When walking along we tend to just look straight forward but when you look up you will notice the infrastructure and architecture of old buildings. There is always an historical, strange or artistic inspirational find.
Flat Iron Square
Flat Iron Square is a new foodie hub in Bankside that is nestled in the heart of London Bridge. It offers a unique cultural and culinary experience with tantalising food vendors, restaurants, street food, bars and live music. It’s a great outdoor space that runs along the railway arches and hidden behind a grass wall. The garden is a welcome space to sit and enjoy time with family and friends in a casual and vibrant environment.
This is a nice little hidden secret within London, very vibrant and a great place for lunch. Head over here for a vibrant and buzzing atmosphere and a variety of food and drink options. Not only was there a DJ on when we was there but they had a big screen up showing a sporting event.
We opted for some light bites from the summer menu at the Lime Hut, which were zesty and rich in flavour, all freshly cooked on a huge pan in front of you.
The younger of of our group opted for a sugary treat from Waffle On. Yep, you guessed it, they sell freshly cooked waffles with a selection of toppings.
Whilst walking around we came across a very interesting, but rather odd yard and was lucky that we managed to have a quick look just before it closed for the day. Crossbones Graveyard is the site of an old burial ground with an extraordinary background. Back in medieval times it was a graveyard for prostitutes, by the 18th century it became a burial ground for around 15,000 paupers and is now a sacred place and sanctuary in the heart of the City dedicated to the ‘Outcast Dead’.
Now a garden of remembrance, with shrines, open to the public and to celebrate life in all imperfection.
It was once the final resting place for the’ Winchester Geese’ which is a rather quaint term for medieval prostitutes who were licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to work in the brothels.
As you enter the yard you will walk under a wooden structure which is in fact carved out to be the wings of a Goose
Along the top it says
‘Here lay your hearts, your flowers, your book of hours
your fingers, your thumbs, your ‘miss you, Mums’.
Here hang your hopes, your dreams, your might have beens,
Your locks, your keys, your mysteries’
A very interesting place full of history, there are plenty of places to sit and contemplate and reflect on life. An incredible space that truly moves you, despite being in the City it has a peaceful silence.
An unusual find but one that we were glad that we had stumbled across. Possibly somewhere that we wouldn’t have normally visited but has definitely opened our eyes to exploring backstreets a little more.
This is a collaboration post. The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views and pictures are my own
Living at home with very busy boys it can be hard to find the time to spend quality time with each one of them. The boys are normally, either, running or playing football and myself or Dad spend our weekends ferrying them around from one place to the next.
Last weekend we were invited out by Whittard of Chelsea to attend an Afternoon Tea for two at there Tea Bar in Covent Garden. I took this as the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with my middle boy.
Whittard of Chelsea Tea Bar is an extension of the Whittard of Chelsea Covent Garden store.
Situated in the middle of Covent Garden Piazza, downstairs within the flagship store you will find more than your average tea and coffee shop. The Tea Bar features a specialist bar that serves a menu of full afternoon tea alongside 100 loose leaf teas with delicious cakes and savouries to compliment their astonishing tea menu.
Whittard Tea Bar also serves a selection of alcoholic drinks, tea infused cocktails, sandwiches, hot chocolates, coffee and all day afternoon tea.
As we arrived we were immediately greeted by the lovely friendly staff, who made us feel very comfortable throughout our visit. The Tea bar is rather small inside and you get that cosy feeling from the rather relaxed atmosphere.
We were shown to our table and offered the menu. Oh my! I had never seen so many choices of different types of tea that was on offer. They had a pretty extensive list of teas available and we had no idea what to choose. Luckily, our host, Marta, was there to offer some advice on what to try. After telling her what tea we normally drink she recommended the Jade Formosa Oolong for my son and the Matcha Guricha for me. Marta also offered us her plethora of knowledge on tea; Oolong tea is a traditional chinese tea that the leaves are wrapped into small beads and can be brewed multiple times.
We were served our tea and given 3 timers; 3, 4 and 5 minutes. We were advised to give our tea between 3 – 4 minutes to infuse.
The tea was every bit of what you would expect from Whittard, it lived up to its expectation. Full bodied with a herbal richness.
The Whittard Tea
We ordered our afternoon tea and opted for The Whittard Tea which is their signature spread of sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea for an afternoon of champions.
As we waited for food to arrive we sat and sipped our delightful tea and chatted about school and work. It was lovely to spend time with my son in such a charming and relaxed surroundings. Sitting in the tea rooms you wouldn’t think that just beyond the window was the busy hustle and bustle of London.
It wasn’t long before our host was heading our way our afternoon tea.
I was also served up a glass of pink prosecco that was infused with strawberry and mint. I must say, I don’t normally drink but this was very refreshing and smooth. A very summer taste. I certainly could have had more than one glass of this fine drink.
The Whittard Tea consisted of selection of handmade finger sandwiches – smoked salmon with lemon cheese; coronation chicken; cucumber; egg and cress Scones. Scones with clotted cream and tea-infused strawberry and mango preserves and a choice of five bitesize cakes.
The hardest choice was what to put on first on the scone; jam or cream?
The presentation was beautiful as was the taste. Freshly prepared food, with delicate flavours that sent my taste buds into overdrive. A sensational selection of excellent food to indulge in. A perfect british tea time experience.
Outstanding service, delicious food and a fantastic variety of drinks including vast tea choices Whittards Tea Bar is definitely a place to visit and a quintessential location to book for a Mother’s day treat.
Not only can you book for afternoon tea you can also browse round the shop and buy some amazing gifts that they have on offer. I would definitely recommend the Easter Tea; a treat that is better than eggs. A nutty oolong tea with subtle hints of chocolate and buttercream, finished off with a scattering of sugar bunnies. Not only is it palatable but it also smells amazing.