Posts filed under england

Get Out of Town | Isle of Wight

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My childhood home back in Texas was one of those houses amongst my friends that we retreated to after many nights out. (And by nights out, I obviously and only mean awkwardly standing around our cars talking to guys in the Starbucks parking lot, wandering the grocery store in my mom’s giant poofy ballgowns from the 80’s, or wrapping/toilet papering someone’s house. Yes, I was super popular. Thanks for asking.) It wasn’t an especially grand home, but there was always a space for us to be there, no matter what else was going on, and there was always miraculously an endless supply of homemade treats mysteriously perched all over the kitchen. And the best part was, there was no unofficial barter that required us to hang out with my parents in return. (Though, being the late-blooming academic overachievers that we were, we actually did it anyway because nobody was gonna tell us that PaReNts~ArEnT~kEwL.) But there was something really special about coming home there as a student- both in high school and in college- with my friends…. Lucky me to have grown up in such a home.

Fast-forward a decade (or... two? Who’s counting), a few kids and a transatlantic move later… I no longer have that house to bring my friends back to here in London. And to be honest, I hadn’t really realised how far removed we were from that perk of life until we visited the Isle of Wight last weekend. 

My sweet friend Ruth invited us to visit her parents’ house with their family…. in April. So we finally found a date that worked in November (which I say less to brag and more to expose how regretfully overbooked our lives are) to celebrate Bonfire Night with them. 

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When we arrived, I immediately melted into that cosy feeling of HOME. Okay, not my home, obviously- but just a home that you’re really welcome in. (And okay, being a charming 17th century house in the countryside doesn’t really hurt.) The kids got right to work playing in the garden and wandering around the playhouse under the apple trees, while the ladies got busy on the enormous homemade chocolate cake and a giant pot of Earl Grey tea that was awaiting us. 

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Each bed had clean duvets and sheets puffed over the tops… and chocolates for us and wrapped presents for the kids. There were stacks of fresh towels, a baby monitor ready to use and baby gates that slid in and out of the wall to keep little ones from tumbling down steep stairs.

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We spent the weekend living as if we were family. (Thanks to friends that treat you as warmly.) Our kids played great together, the adults stayed up late by the fire drinking tea and chatting about any random thought that are brains come come up with after big days and enormous homemade dinners. Breakfast was warm breads from the Aga and a rainbow of homemade jam jars filled with treasure from past seasons in the garden.

On Saturday, we headed out to the blustery Compton Bay, where we found a surfing competition in full-swing. The waves were crazy from the weather, but a crowd of RVs with friends and family perched out the backs turned it from ordinary to extraordinary. The scene was complete with kids with wellies on and giant mugs of tea cheering on their dads below, judges chatting and laughing in their chairs as dogs climbed in and out of their laps, and friendly locals coming up to chat about our kids and where we were from. (Definitely not in London anymore…) My kids just stared off at the surfers below in the awe of the unordinary. What may have felt as normal as anything to everyone else there, felt exotic to us. 

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For lunch, we ate at The Cow. Like its name implies, the restaurant feels like a bit of a roadhouse and makes great burgers and beef dishes- like beef stew. (There are also veggie options, too. Actually, there’s just a lot to choose from!) I’d recommend doing the Burger Sharing Platter- where you get three of their smaller sized burgers and two sides. We shared between three people. In anticipation of a slice of chocolate cake back at the house when we returned, it was the perfect amount of food. We didn’t stay around for it, but there is a massive indoor/outdoor kids play centre. It’s got soft-play, giant jumping areas, and anything else that you need to occupy your kids and wear them out enough to fall straight asleep at bedtime. 

The next morning, after breakfast (warm, pain aux raisons from the oven, if you please) we headed to church in Ryde at St. James where they were having a special service for the 100th anniversary to the end of World War One. The church was really sweet and they were fabulous with the kids. (Viola walked out of Bible class with her own artistic rendering of a Leviathan, after they had talked about Job.) Afterwards, we had tea and custard creams in the church hall while we were chatted to by the regular members. 

The good thing abut going to the Isle of Wight from London is: it’s really an easy trip! Because our ferry wasn’t until 6 p.m., we had the whole day to linger over a homemade Sunday roast- complete with three roasted chickens, bacon-wrapped sausages, all the veggies… and a homemade cheesecake. The afternoon got drizzly, but that didn’t stop people from wandering out on a walk through the surrounding property, while others of us stayed back with babies, flicked through the endless cookbooks from the kitchen for recipes and ran loads of laundry with the main goal of getting to finish them off in their massive tumble dryer.

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The ferry ride back was easy and uneventful- only 40 minutes- and then it’s a two-hour drive back from there to London. All in all, it’s three hours to get you from London to the Isle of Wight making it a perfect weekend getaway for anyone looking to do something a bit extraordinary… without an extraordinary amount of travel. White cliffs and rolling hills await you. (Though I can’t guarantee that you’ll be lucky enough to have one of Granny Ali’s pots of tea and cake waiting for you, too.)

Though you can book a stay in the part of the property that we stayed in- The Brew House. It’s all attached to the same property and is really cute and cosy. It has two bedrooms, and the second has two twins and a baby bed. (Dream scenario for us!) You’ll find books and toys and a kitchen with everything you need in it to really settle in for a few days. 

Not only can I not wait to come back someday, but it also ignited in me the desire to have a home that can be such a warm glow of hospitality someday. Places like that are such havens in my memory, and I’m so grateful for the people who not only open their homes to others… but do it so beautifully. 


LOOKING FOR MORE OF THE BEST WEEKEND TRIPS FROM LONDON? 

Check out my other posts here or browse my travel guide to England.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 19, 2018 and filed under get out of town, england, travel.

Get Out of Town | Widbrook Grange, Bath

Well, well, well… look who has moseyed herself back into blogging after a nice little break? This girl. Life has been busy and full, and in the sake of full disclosure, a bit overwhelming for me. Traveling husbands, kids with chicken pox, a huge workload leave along with all the other invisible work that we do (groceries, meals, cleaning up boxes of puzzles) have left me crawling into bed at night. Thanks for always making me feel so okay to walk away from blogging when life needs it- I have always felt so comfortable to leave this space quiet when I need to and am always so grateful to come back to an engaged and friendly space. (I’m the luckiest girl with the best readers, truly.)

Anyway, in the midst of me wading through a few busy weeks, Viola’s school had their half-term break. (Culture lesson: In England, the school runs through the end of July, so we have a “half-term” break half-way through the term with a week off in May. It’s very strange to think we still have 6 weeks to go when everyone back in the US is getting out of school for the summer!)  We were busy with work and life, so we kinda dropped the ball getting anything formal together.

Thankfully, Tyler is a kind man who can read between the lines on my forehead. On Thursday, he booked us a night away for a quick little adventure and a nice break from regular life and, on Friday, we loaded up the car and headed west. 


WIDBROOK GRANGE

WHERE WE WENT

Out in the tiniest little corner of the Cotswolds, over by Bradford on Avon, there is a tiny little country property called Widbrook Grange. The property is a sweet little country manor that has been renovated into a pretty little escape complete with gardens full of roses, little ponds to throw pebbles in, secret nooks with tables for sunny mornings and unruly paths to explore with little ones. 

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The rooms are nice and comfy- we had a big king-sized bed with a sofa and a baby bed. We all fit into the room easily and had our choice of a bath tub or walk in shower.

WHAT WE DID

After we dropped our bags in our room, we spent the early evening exploring the garden trails. They climbed on an old tractor, picked flowers and wandered back to the far end of the property…. until a thunderstorm quickly had us running back to our room. 

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Back in the room, we fed the kids a little 5-course dinner we had picked up from M&S before arriving to the hotel (sandwiches, mango, yoghurt, crisps & a tiny Collin Caterpillar chocolate cake.) Spreading out dinner on a giant towel in a hotel for them is something that they really love…. And I hope that they continue to do so for a long time to come!

It definitely took way too long to get them down for bed. Like 1.5 hours. They were jumping and being SO crazy as we tried to get them to sleep… but eventually, we claimed victory and headed out the door for dinner in the restaurant hotel.

The staff at check-in gave Tyler a monitor that would work between our room and the dining room… along with a reservation for dinner for whenever we could make it over after bedtime. What a relief! Normally, I am so stressed trying to get kids down and then sneak away for something to eat, but this was so stress-free. 

And all the kids snoozed through dinner and it was just, well, it was really lovely. The summer sun was glowing even at 9:30, so we got to eat in the sunny remnants of the day and catch up on all the big and small things that seem forgettable in the chaos of everyday life. You know, the non-essential conversations that contain nothing logistical or relay nothing of functional importance.  We just had some some of those side conversations with details that flavour so much of why you liked each other in the first place. Talking about what we liked about certain books and movies. Talking about funny things people said to us. Talking about what we were excited to do on our vacation this summer. I needed some of that spice sprinkled in. That Ty spice. Haha! It sure makes a constant intake of daily grind gruel a bit more palatable, doesn’t it?

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The next morning we ate a sunny breakfast of warm croissants, eggs, bacon and fruit. We ventured out to soak up bit more of the garden life that we were so craving: roly-poly chasing, wall climbing & random singing were all on the agenda.

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After that, we checked-out and loaded up for lunch in Bradford on Avon. We fell hard for this gorgeous little town- it’s out of a fairy tale. We explored the churches, chased Harrison along the river and sipped Elderflower cordial. 

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This was an easy escape from London. It was two hours from our place there, and is a new spot that we can add to our list for simple getaways that work for the whole family. Next time, we’ll be ready with our swimsuits and hit up their pool!


Find more of my favourite places outside of London here on my England travel guide.

Or come along on another getaway to the Cotswolds via YouTube!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on June 11, 2018 and filed under england, get out of town, marriage.

Get Out of Town | Canterbury

The medieval town of Canterbury is filled with cultural history. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about this gorgeous little English town in The Canterbury Tales, although there is no record of him ever actually visiting. When I think of a quintessential town on the English countryside, this place comes to mind. Cobblestone streets, massive stone walls, green grass, and cosy little bookshops. Sometimes there is even a little market set up on the street for fresh fruit and vegetables! And it’s a great day-trip option as the train runs regularly from London Victoria Station and is just under 2 hours.

 I thought I would jot down just a few of my favorite spots in this quaint little country town. 

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CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL | This cathedral is a highlight of Canterbury and has been one of the most-visited places in the world for ages. It is the house of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I recommend taking a guided tour through the cathedral. In addition to the fee for entrance (£10.50), the cost for the guided tour is £5 more… but let’s be honest: the guided tour makes the visit way better. Otherwise, who is going to point out the Disney stained glass windows to you? (Seriously! There are some!)

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DANE JOHN GARDENS | If you’re looking for a space to spread out with little ones, this is a nice spot tucked by the main city walls. With playgrounds, plenty of green space to roam (without the fear of traffic), and even a little maze to play in- this is a great escape in the nice weather. Bonus points for it being free, too.

WILD GOOSE | Enjoy eating small local dishes (think: bubbles & squeak, roasted shallots with goats curd over toasted bread, and lamb cutlets with pea puree) in Canterbury West Train Station alongside the Michelin-recommended restaurant, The Goods Shed. The converted train station has a  fresh update from its Victorian roots that makes the setting bright and lively.

STATUE OF GEOFFREY CHAUCER | This statue of the famous author of The Canterbury Tales is on the corner of High Street and Best Lane.

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TINY TIM'S TEA ROOM | A quintessential English tea room on St. Margaret Street... this place is perfect for a break after walking around Canterbury. They serve good tea and the biggest scones!

CHARITY SHOPS | Canterbury is full of charity shops with good finds for really cheap. The British Heart Foundation and Emmaus are two of many, but from my personal experience- keep your eyes peeled for some old Burberry trench coats, mismatched tea sets & antique books all priced for next to nothing.

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THE WALL | Be sure to note the stone wall that trails around Canterbury leftover from it’s medieval days. It is not a bad walk at all and the views of the city below are magical. (Plus, as it sits alongside the train station- it makes for an easy route into town.)

BURGATE BOOKS | This cosy little book shop right next to The Elves and The Shoemaker is a gem. It is so fun to browse through the books by British authors. You’ll be able to find some of your favorite classics here for probably less than £2!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 13, 2018 and filed under england, day trips, get out of town, travel.

Get Out of Town | A Sunday Roast in the Cotswolds

There are some days when the routine of things just makes you feel a bit itchy. Or maybe it’s the appearance of a guest that gives you the motivation to do something a bit beyond ordinary.

Whatever the reason, we felt that urge on Sunday after church. We hopped in the car to head home and decided to hop on the motorway and head out an hour to a tiny pub we love in the Cotswolds.

If you arrive to Beckley (snuggled nearly to Oxford), you’ll find a few streets of dream-like cottages and homes lining its few streets.

Along the main road sits the Abingdon Arms, a pretty pub that was nearly forced to close in 2016. Luckily, the community residents saved it and have turned it into a treasure within the local area.

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With a sprawling garden with grassy areas for kids to explore and enjoy in the winter (complete with fairy doors hidden on the bottom of tree trunks), it’s a total win for a day of great weather lounging in the sun.

But on dark weekends in January, I’ll gladly say it’s still worth the trek for its cosy tables piled up with Sunday roasts because their beef roasts really are the best I’ve ever had.

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My cousin, Austin, is in London for the week so we did our best to set him up for the experience. He imagined it to be like an American pot roast kinda situation walking into the place. Though a roast dinner will vary from what mama made back home (most notably for me, with Yorkshire puddings in lieu of yeast rolls), he likened the afternoon and meal to a warm home-like feel. Though not like my home because I can’t make gravy that good. 

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I forgot to take a picture of the massive plate of “veg” that came alongside this one. Buttered peas, roasted parsnips and carrots.... mmm.

Also, look at Edie! She’s grown so much and is the best little girl. I think I must kiss and call her “the sweetest little lamb” approximately a hundred times each day. I’m smitten with her. 

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So is her dad.... which is nice because they basically share the same face.

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So here you go. One of my favourite little hideaways. I promise if you take a trip out there from London, you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you call ahead to book a table so you aren’t broken-hearted when you arrive.

The Abingdon Arms | High Street, Beckley OX3 9UU

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Find the rest of my favourite places outside of London on my guide to England here.

Or come along on our getaway to the charming New Forest.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 19, 2018 and filed under eat, england, get out of town, day trips.

Bath with Coffee | Mokoko Coffee

Last week, I took a group to Bath for the day. This little town is definitely one of my very favourite day-trips from London. It’s three hours away, so it’s definitely a bit further than I’d like- but if you aren’t up for driving, a train can be an easy way to get there mindlessly.

But I wasn’t going mindlessly, I was planning a class, chatting with students and taking care of a baby on our coach trip there. When we got there, the combination of a long bus trip and early AM start had me sliding into that blur of fatigue. Luckily, our first stop (the Roman baths) was within reach of some coffee. Some might fine coffee, at that. 

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MOKOKO, BATH

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This coffee shop sits just in the Abbey courtyard in Bath- giving it prime real-estate by the city’s two largest attractions: The Roman Baths & the Bath Abbey. Mokoko is, originally, a Bristol-bron shop, but has grown into Bath. 

Expect expertly-made coffee… with all the hipster trimmings. An oat-milk flat white, you say? No worries. They’ve got you covered. (I jest, but that was actually my order. Ha! Takes one to know one, I guess.)

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But what good is cool, delicious coffee if it goes unmatched with something delicious to eat? Good question. Luckily, Mokoko has window(s) full of homemade cakes arranged very alluringly. Try their Hummingbird Cake. It’s just so dang good. Or just go ahead and try them all. You probably won’t regret it.

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But you may regret not snagging one of the picnic tables outside on a sunny day. What a place to sip some coffee, eat some cake, and smooch your baby. Lucky me!

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MOKOKO | 7 Dorchester St, Bath BA1 1SS, UK

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

PACK YOUR BAGS | An NHS Maternity Ward!

A few weeks ago, I started this post, planning to share it long before our new little lady made her entrance... but life had other plans! Here's a peak into my pre-Edie state of mind- and a few tips about what to bring to an NHS maternity ward.


Well, the time has come… I’ve officially hit the state of pregnancy where I feel compelled to bring my notes everywhere I go (a weird NHS thing I’m going to explain in an upcoming vlog!), plan a childcare schedule with friends in those “just in case she comes early” scenarios, actually put together the baby crib by our bed… and pack my bag for the hospital. At 36 weeks, my stomach feels more like I swallowed a squirrel with peg legs than the sweet bumps and flutters that once tapped around inside me. You can easily identify body parts: foot! bottom! back! The time is coming near, and I gotta get my act together.

So first things first… when you are headed to your third trip to the hospital, I’ve learned to focus more on what I’ll enjoy having post-hospital trip rather than those few days in there. You see, the first time around- I was shelling out cash on items that would be useful for those few days in the hospital without much care to beyond those walls. A cute hospital gown, fancy coming-home outfits that I paid way too much for, nice slippers to waddle around the hospital in, etc. This time, I’m putting that money into items that I can enjoy long after I get out of the hospital. So here we go… what’s going in my hospital bag to have a baby through the NHS in London.

I’m working alongside WAREMAKERS for this piece, as their very cool artisan-led company inspired me into putting this kind of post together. After all, there are tons of places I could go with gorgeous handmade-items… but something felt especially right about walking into the unknown of the birth of a baby as a big adventure. So while it’s just a London hospital, I always feel like I’m going into uncharted territory. 

If you’re looking to support a great company with a great mission, and hey- actually fantastic looking items!- WAREMAKERS is going to be right up your picturesque European alley. It took me one glance at their site to get their mission, love their cool aesthetic and become a big fan of the artists and brands they bring together. I have a feeling you’ll love what they are doing, too. (Especially, if you’re like me and have a weak spot for those If-George-Clooney-were-a-bag leather bags that just get better with age that you know will be with you on holidays for years to come.)


ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE | Ten | eleven

HOSPITAL BAG | I think for my first delivery, I literally rolled into the hospital with my things in plastic shopping bags. Ha! But as you know, third times a charm or however the saying goes. I actually didn’t have a good overnight bag (all of ours seem to be enormous roller suitcases), so this time I got an actual bag to take with me. The bag is from La Portegna  which is an incredible brand handmade in Spain- but also with a store here in Marylebone! I’m excited to remember this as “my hospital bag,” but really excited to take it with me on other adventures outside of London, too. (Also, check out their company history for the wildest inspiration you’ve ever heard of. Spoiler: It involves an exotic gift from Hemingway.)

ROBE | I like having a robe to wear in the hospital, it kind of allows for covering up all the lumps and craziness happening underneath it… especially when you have friends come by to meet your baby. It somehow adds a bit more dignity to the moment… but I always buy a cheap robe that I won’t fall in love with for ever. This is for two reasons. First, they’re going to get trashed with so many… fluids. Sorry if that’s gross, but it’s true. Secondly, I always buy up a size or two, since I’ll be wearing it in weird-post-baby-still-have-a-bump time. I bought a cute, soft-touch robe here for £10… plus, it has a cute pattern to help create a diversion from my post-delivery stupor.

SLIPPERS | Speaking of slippers, I’m still buying some. Just some really cheap ones I can throw away the second I walk out of that hospital. You see, having an NHS baby means you share recovery rooms… and bathrooms. And I have to say, the bathroom I had after Harrison was born kind of traumatised me. Not because they weren’t clean and kept up… but maybe, the potpourri of 8-10 post-delivery women and all their output was too much. So slippers are needed to go around in the hospital, but I want nothing to do with taking anything that has touched those floors back into my home. Again, I buy cheap and simple ones like these.

SOCKS | While I do want to throw away the hospital slippers as soon as possible, I do think it’s nice to have splurge on some pretty socks to keep your feet covered while sitting around with a new baby/random hospital staff/etc, so this time I’ve got a hand-knit pair of wool socks from the English designer, Jules Hogan. (I actually think for what they are, they’re worth every penny. I can’t wait to take them to Iceland, too.) So yes, skimp on slippers, but spend on some socks that you’ll love to wear during your stay.

PAJAMAS | Now, I have to have a caesarean because of previous deliveries, so I’ll actually be given a gown to wear from the hospital, but if you are having a straight-forward delivery… you deliver in your own clothes! My friends have given birth in their husbands XXL t-shirts or bras… Obviously, these are clothes that they plan to get destroyed, so if you want to buy anything new- go cheap. (I typically do a Primark run before the hospital to get all of my hospital loungewear.) Again, don’t forget to buy up a size or two from your pre-baby size. You’ll be in weird territory between maternity and regular clothes for a few days, so some cheap items that you can easily loose after are nice.

BABY (HEAD) GEAR | I’m not sure why, but this surprised me the most: a hat for my baby. I suppose that because all US- born babies get the traditional striped-hat, I was expected the same when I gave birth here. But, no. You bring your own baby hat into the delivery room.  So yes, finding a cute hat is on my mind… and harder than you think. So many are enormous and I really want a small stretchy, jersey-like one. In the meantime, I've settled for these  but am still on the search via Etsy for something handmade. (Recommendations/hand-me-downs welcome.) We used a really sweet one of Tyler’s when he was a baby for when Harrison was born, but I’d like something a bit less boyish for this little girl. First-world problems, I know.

Do you need anything else for right after they are born? They do wrap them up in a little plain white blanket/towel after delivery- but you’ll need your own swaddles and clothes for them as soon as… well, you want them dressed. 

*Since I’ve had some crazy deliveries, can anyone else weigh in on what a “regular” delivery would call for? Do you give them their first diaper/nappie? The hospital has always put that on them for us after weighing/checking them… and they even put clothes on the girls in the NICU, which was sweet, but I know not standard. Any of your experiences would be so great to hear below in the comments!

Also, is now a good time to tell you- they don’t bathe your babies after delivery. They wipe them off (mostly) and then hand them over. They say all the gunk is really good for them, and that their skin will absorb it. (Which, I have to say- has been true of my babies… and neither really had cradle cap badly. Maybe God does know what he is doing afterall! Hey!) Did I read somewhere recently where this is becoming more common in the US, too?

NURSING BRAS & TANKS | First of all, I need to say: Welcome to the next year of your life. Go ahead and splurge on these, friends. They’re going to be on your body forever and ever from this point on. Want a tattoo? Maybe do a test run and see how you like wearing the same thing everyday (like a nursing bra!) for a year to see how you like the idea of permanency on your body. Also, the longer the nursing tank the better. These are pretty good and long!

ENTERTAINMENT | Maybe you get cable in American hospitals, but after you deliver in the NHS- you’re in a shared room with curtains separating you from other new moms. It’s a free system, so I can’t complain… but you can get real bored real quick. It’s good to bring your own forms of entertainment. Some people may brings books and small hobbies like knitting, but I’m planning on vegging out completely. I’ve already started downloading movies on my Netflix app and can’t wait to pop in my headphones and zone out. (These are things moms dream of when they have impending hospital stays, amiright?.) This amazing earbud case from the Danish company, Ham/Lerche, is so cool. This simple leather pouch keeps the tangled web of earphone tragedy from happening in my bag. Plus, it’s really nice leather that just looks cooler and cooler the longer it is around. 

On this note, don’t forget chargers of any sort that you may need…. And maybe bring a portable/battery one, if you have it? That way, if you get stuck in some random room waiting for a while, you aren’t stuck without an outlet? (Not sure this has ever happened to me before, but I’ll probably toss mine in this time just in case.)

WATER BOTTLE | I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of the hospital swag that my friends/sisters get when they have a US-born baby… especially in the form of those giant water bottles., In the early days of nursing, when you have that obscene thirst dry up your entire body as you nurse, I always think of how nice it would be to have 835 oz of ice water next to me. But we don’t get them in the UK, and we don’t even have ice… so, you know, whatever. I have purchased a water bottle or two with each kid, and leave them upstairs and downstairs so that wherever I find myself perched- I have water nearby. Bring one to the hospital, because they’ll just bring by small jugs of water and styrofoam cups for you at random.

DISPOSABLES | If you thought the above text was glamorous, just wait until we dive in here. At a NHS hospital, you bring your own party favours… as in, your own breast pads, pads/diapers, underwear (in my case, the higher the better to avoid contact with the incision), and any other type of disposable item you may also end up needing to use at home- you bring of your own to the hospital, too. 

Oh, and of course- that doesn’t just stop for you. Don’t forget your baby! They’ll need newborn diapers and cotton balls/wipes. Just make it easy and do one giant shop for it all and have it delivered to your house around 34 weeks. I also buy all the baby shampoo, nappie cream, etc at this point, too.

REGULAR PACKING ITEMS | Now that you have all the other stuff you’ll have to have, don’t forget to pack the regular items that you’d spend the night away from home with: clothes (to come home in), toiletries, makeup, etc. I had my entire bag packed and then realised I hadn’t actually packed any clothes to come home in or my toothbrush. And on that note, don’t let your husband forget to pack those kind of items, too. They don’t offer beds to them, but they can sleep in the chairs, if they want… and most new dads do want to stick around and see the baby, I’ve learned. Better to have a few items to make their life better, too, with fresh contact solution, a toothbrush and a fresh shirt or two!

I am packing all of my essential makeup items (waterproof mascara, French face cream, toothbrush, deodorant, lipgloss that never goes away) in this pretty French linen pouch from Catherine Dang. I’ve been looking for a simple pouch to put in my backpack/travel bag for ages, and this is honestly such a great find: no obnoxious glitter words on top, great design with French linen and the perfect size for stashing in a slightly larger bag, and- to be candid- a much better price than the comparable “designer” ones I found with a similarly pretty aesthetic. 


There we go. I feel like that is a pretty honest breakdown of all the “essentials.” Having a baby is cute and amazing… but it’s not always glamourous. (Though, Tyler did used to work for a Dallas-based hospital system that served champagne & lobster to new mothers in their maternity unit, so maybe it actually IS in the US suburbs or in private healthcare!) I’m sure a few more items will make their way into my bag before we leave, but I’m not sure Nutrigrain bars and outdated bags of Cadbury eggs from Easter should make the official list.

I’m really grateful though for the opportunity have such amazing (and kind!) doctors take care of us. What we have learned is: if you have a straightforward pregnancy, you’ll find no frills care without a lot of handholding… because they know that this is a really natural process and the general checkpoints along the way will get you to having a healthy baby. But for people that need help and hand-holding (Hi!I I’m Lauren, and I’m traumatised by delivery!), you’ll get the help and care you need. Being a “bells & whistles” case is never the situation you want to find yourself in, but I can tell you- when you’re there, we’ve found that the staff will be some of the most attentive and gracious people. 

For more information, you can find a list that the NHS has provided on what to pack for you hospital bag here on their official site



*Images original to Aspiring Kennedy.

*This post was made in part by sponsorship from Waremakers.

My Notting Hill | Granger & Co.

While this place may be listed in *both* my London and Notting Hill guides, I figured I should respect the old adage that "A picture is worth a thousand words" and give a full, photographed post on Notting Hill's hippest and most delicious breakfast spot, Granger & Co.


Granger & Co. 

When we were viewing flats for our first move to Notting Hill, the estate agent was bragging that the flat we were interested was just around the corner from... well, I didn't know the name he was talking about, but it seemed like a brunch place that was really popular.

Fast-forward a few years and I've got a new baby and family in town visiting us. We want to eat breakfast and head out to... well, who cares. Maybe that place out the front door that is supposed to be so popular? We went, we got a table and we totally flipped out when we ate our food because it was so good. I felt a bit foolish that I had waited so long to try this place (that we realised was called "Granger & Co.") that had a constant queue out the front door.

Now days, it's one of those places Tyler & I go for sweet memories and great food. We meet friends traveling to London there, we took Harrison there during his first week of life, and now we have weekly morning dates there. 

So while it serves up on sentiment for us, it also makes for a killer meal. (And let's be honest, that's what you really want to care about.)

Without further ado, I present everything you need to know before eating at Granger & Co. 


A Local's Guide to Granger & Co. 

1. The ricotta hot cakes with bananas are the most popular dish. (And rightly so, they are insane.) They're as puffy as clouds, covered in a generous pat of honeycomb butter and served with banana & warm syrup.

2. You're also gonna want to get the sweetcorn fritters. With a side of avocado salsa- think chunky guacamole. Don't skip on this. It's important.

3. Get half orders of each of the above! It's not listed on the menu, but it's a local secret. This way, you can also share a raspberry muffin, an acai bowl or a side of their world-famous scrambled eggs. You'll never taste anything fluffier. 

4. Granger & Co. is Bill Granger's restaurant. Bill is from Australia and Australia makes good flat whites. What does all of this mean? Get a flat white and get a great cup of coffee.

 

 

5. If you have little ones, order one of their adorable babyccinos (foamed milk with cocoa powder on top) and a few chocolate chips on the side.

6. Go before 9am... or be prepared to wait. Again, this is not a "just in case," this is an absolute fact. The lines on the weekend are weep-worthy. Plan ahead if you have plans to go the Saturday market on Portobello Road.

7. If you're not up for the wait, you can go up to the bar and order a coffee and grab a pastry for the road. Service is fast & friendly... and you'll have one of the best cups of coffee in the neighbourhood. (Their flat white is only £2.80!) 

8. There are now three locations- Notting Hill (on the famous Westbourne Grove), Kings Cross and Clerkenwell. All three are exceptionally tasty, and the latter two are often less of a scene than the overly popular Notting Hill location.  (Though you'll only catch me taking baby bump pics outside our old flat if you come to the Notting Hill location.) 

Granger & Co. | 175 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W11 2SB. Open 7AM-12AM.


Find all of my favourite places to eat and shop in Notting Hill in my Travel Guide to the neighbourhood.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | York's Teddy Bear Tea Room

Hello from a train to Edinburgh. The rain drops on the windows compete in number to the fingerprints of my children. Ha! Only 46 minutes left, but who's counting?

I wanted to share this adorable stop in York that has become a favourite on mine in the past few years: Stonegate Teddy Bears. While the store downstairs will lure in children with its shop windows stuffed with, you guessed it, teddy bears- the tiny tea room upstairs is what will get mom & dad to gladly stick around.

The Teddy Bear Tea Room

Perched above the adorable Stonegate Teddy Bear shop in the city centre of York is the Teddy Bear Tea Room.

Wind your way up the stairs to the second floor (well, third, if you're an American) and head to the room on the left. If the table by the window is open, snag it and enjoy the gorgeous views of the nearby York Minster.

The menu has been newly expanded to a range of items that spans across your daily meals- from breakfast, lunch and tea. While there are endless option listed, make sure to ask about the daily rotation of cakes- as they are homemade and absolutely worth getting.

While portions may be bigger than you might expect, don't worry- I can proudly say that a single person can polish off a slice on their own.

The room was decorated for Christmas and Michael Bublé's Christmas album was playing on the speakers. With the cold winter night coming out above the street and the Christmas mood set, I realised that it was officially that time of year. What a way to start the festive season!


My mom heard we were going and offered to buy each of the kids a teddy bear. (Classic Grandma move.) Viola immediately found the most sparkly one with a pink scarf and named her "Cinderella Bear Two," as "Cinderella Bear" is at home on her bed. Harrison grabbed a panda, among 40 other items, but since this was the cheapest and cutest- we decided that was the one for him. He hasn't touched it since.

We love the Teddy Bear Tea Room and it's one of those simple stops that makes traveling to the same place a fun adventure for us... and our kids, too! ;)

Find more of our favourite places in York here, as well as my travel guide to England here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy
 

A Quick Getaway to... 2011

I started my blog in 2010 when I was working in Dallas, and my friends pulled me into this weird/new/online world of blogging- but it wasn't until we moved to Oxford that my blog shifted into the style and feel of what it is today.

When we lived there, I would write (with fresher eyes than I have today) about all the cute and quirky things that we were experiencing together. We lived on a shoestring budget, so everything from booking the cheapest tickets RyanAir could offer (even if we didn't know where that destination was without googling it!) to shopping in "old" produce sections of the market stalls for dinner was a daily adventure.

And while I think that was what gave me something to talk about it- the real fun of our first years here was because of Oxford. While life would seem very normal at times, we would also find ourselves in some of the most gorgeous places with such extra people. The dinners on long wooden benches with the paintings of prime ministers and authors hanging over head, the end of term balls held in quadrangles with Alice in Wonderland-esque fantasy all around us (hookah tents! hot air balloons! servers spray-painted from head to toe in golden glitter passing around trays of drinks & food!)

When our time there ended, our amazing group of friends dispersed to the far corners of the world to do really amazing and great things. We are so proud of them, but oof! We miss those moments when we all were carelessly running around Oxford as kings.

Tyler's class just had his 5 year reunion (you may have seen in on Instagram), and I had been so busy that I hadn't put much thought into what the weekend was going to be like before we went. But when we got there and walked into the quadrangle of Christ Church, time seemed to flip back seamlessly into life back when we lived there. We saw so many of those faces- I can't tell you how much of a homecoming it felt like for all of us!

There really is a special magic to old friendships- friendships that love and get you, regardless of how big or small life may have made you. You just can't make old friends. (And you sure can't beat a place like the old dining halls of Oxford to catch up with them!)


Find more of our Oxford days here and my city guide to Oxford here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Get Out of Town | England's Jurassic Coast

 

Last weekend, we trekked out to Dorset for our friends' wedding. It was a classic British wedding from start to finish: adorable little country church, women crowned with enormous fascinators and hats, and a tented reception sat amongst a well-groomed garden... with a wedding singer blaring Robbie Williams, "Angels."

 

The only thing missing from my expectations was Hugh Grant bumbling his way through the Best Man's speech. Otherwise, it was the complete experience.

 

 

While I was hopeful for all of the English wedding cliches, I didn't have much in my mind about what Dorset would be like. We were headed to the Jurassic Coast, and- if I'm honest- I was not expecting much. I mean, I've been to Britain's beaches. While they may be nice, they really don't compare to so many other places.

But the day after the wedding, we woke up at our tiny B&B, Crawford House. We spent a lazy morning over homecooked breakfasts then packed up our bags and hit the beach to have a picnic with the newlyweds.

 

 

We parked the cars and took a ten minute walk down towards the beach, Durdle Door. When we walked up to the overlook of the coastline, my jaw dropped. I started yelling at Tyler to "COME HERE. YOU'RE GOING TO FREAK OUT. COME HERE." Was this really in England? Or had we been mysteriously transported to somewhere to Spain? France? Italy?

 

And the other element that upped the experience was that it full sunshine and over 90 degrees. I was loving every moment of it. (Minus the 20 minute hike back up to the parking lot. Woof!)

 

 

Can you believer this gorgeous place? As much as I think I've uncovered England, moments like this remind me that I have so much more to discover. What a refreshing look at a country that I've become so comfortable with over the years.

Any other hidden gems that you know of in England? Please share them below!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Feels Like The First Time.

 

Of all the towns in England, Oxford has my heart. It's the first "home" that we had when we moved overseas and it stole our hearts in a big way. Maybe it was the gorgeous dreaming spires or maybe it was the enchanting balls we attended as students, but either way- we fell hard for the tiny town that blooms such great minds.

Every time we take student groups there, I have to try hard to be cool. The truth is: I'm bouncing with excitement to show them such a special place. Oxford! It's one a kind. It's the stomping grounds of so many great minds, and I've yet to meet someone who lived there who hasn't been as enchanted by this small town like we were.

I have so many memories of it throughout the year: in the sunshine of the summer, in the snow at Christmas, in the dark nights of fall where the crunchy leaves kept you company on the way home. But the most memories I have from Oxford? Are lonely rainy days when I would wander the town by myself looking for adventures and cheap thrills. (Literally, we were so broke as students.) So when we returned this fall and the day turned soggy on us, it was a little disappointing... and a little welcoming.  Felt like being back, as residents of that magical little world.

Here's a little peek behind the scenes of what my daily life looks like on the job. (Thanks to my good friend, Noah, for snapping up some cute pictures of us during the day.)

 

Is there a time of your life that you wish you could magically go back to? A place that existed for a season, but just isn't what it was now. For us, it would be Oxford complete with all the friends that made it that time so sweet. While it's always fun to visit, we know it wouldn't be the same to live there again... because it's actually the people that were there that made it the time it was. But, sigh, we'll hold those days close to our heart.

 


 

Visiting Oxford? Check out my Oxford page for all of our favorite places to be and eat. You won't be disappointed!

 

 

*images by Noah Darnell for Aspiring Kennedy

 

Get Out of Town | The Lake District & York

 

Did you have a nice weekend? We did! We had an amazing time in the Lakes and in York. I'll give the unexpected combination of great weather + Christmas festivities the bulk of the credit, but man, we couldn't stop talking about how much fun we were having. (Which, to be honest, isn't always the case when traveling!)

I'll hit you with some of the highlights... and way too many pictures.

We started out Saturday with a visit to Wordsworth's Dove Cottage. It's situated on the outskirts of the tiny town of Grasmere, and the setting is just so beautiful. We played with the cat that lives in the garden, read some of Wordsworth's poems with my students in his garden, climbed around all the windy paths we could find, and got our shoes way too muddy.

While we were near the village, I had to stop and get us some Grasmere Gingerbread from Sarah Nelsons because I love buying it for my students. We always love having a little picnic of gingerbread and fudge in the church cemetery near the Wordsworth's family graves. Viola loved it, too. She is getting some molars in and this might be the first smile of the day from here.

We spent the rest of the daylight in Windermere- eating a cozy lunch at Sutherlands and wandering through the Beatrix Potter Museum. Viola was loosing her mind running from display to display. It was awesome. We had tea in the tea room afterwards and ate carrot cake and mini-cupcakes on pretty blue and white china. 

When I was booking hotels for our stay in Ambleside, I had the hardest time. We eventually found some rooms at Thorneyfield Guest House, and were really content with the find. I thought it was weird, but then when we arrived, we realized why: the Christmas lights were being lit that night. It was a huge party though out the village. Complete with a parade, real reindeer, ice skating and fireworks. We bowed out early to eat pizza in our room with a movie, which actually made it all the better to me.

After two nights, we drove on to York. We stuffed ourself with breakfast from The Apple Pie Bakery (our favorite!), tossed our bags in the coach and hit the roads. 

And then the roads smacked us right back in the face. The tiny roads getting us there were really hilly... and our bus driver won't be winning any awards for his driving in the foreseeable future. After about two hours, we begged for some fresh air. When the bus stopped, we all tumbled out, breathed in the air and tried to let our eyes focus on an unmoving object. Once we did, we realized we were standing outside an adorable Tea Room & Sweet Emporium. We went int and were delighted to find a bustling little country shop selling sweets from big jars. I bought bags of candy and some water that totaled up a final price tag of £3.15. 

York is such a sweet town. It felt so festive with little tents selling handmade crafts, the narrow streets playing Christmas music and an obligatory Egg Nog Latte from Starbucks. And seeing as we how we were in York, we also had to indulge in a Sunday roast topped with a Yorkshire Pudding.

Viola fell asleep in her stroller and I ducked into York Minster for Evensong to hide from the cold. It was very welcome break from the business of life lately. I feel like praying has become hard for me to do because it requires me to stop and focus on one thing. I tried to really focus and pray while I was there. (It was hard to do for the whole hour.)

And next? Well, I had to pop on a train and head back to London for a few classes today and tomorrow. I'll meet Tyler, Viola and the group in Edinburgh tomorrow night... but in the meantime, will be stealing cuddles from Amber's new baby, Maia!

 


Also, I've updated my travel pages for The Lake District and York with my new finds from the weekend. If you're headed there, be sure to check out my list for a few of our favorite places to go.

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 17, 2014 and filed under travel, england, get out of town.

Over The Rivers and Through The Woods.

This morning, we are leaving for our annual twelve day tour around the UK & Ireland. It's the standard end-of-semester trip that we take my students on, and it's always so much fun. (How could it not be though, right?) While it's a lot of work, I'll have Tyler there to be an extra set of hands... thus confirming that if he ever gets an office job, I'll be devastated.

We'll be going up through the Lake District, York, Edinburgh, Stirling, St. Andrews and over to Belfast, Giants Causeway (see gorgeous image below!), Dublin, and the Cliffs of Moher. Oh man. It's going to be a busy two weeks!

giants causeway northern ireland

I've never been to Belfast- or Northern Ireland, for that matter- and I'm so excited. First to see this place that I've heard so much about from Megan and Stephen, and second because... well it's another country to add to my list!

We've got big plans for the Christmas Market and the Titanic Museum... but let's get serious: I'm gonna need some good recommendations for where to eat. Go ahead and drop your favorites down below. Much appreciated, love.

 

 

*image via

A Dork's Guide To Tea.


This week, my students are learning all about the tea trade. We've seen the Cutty Sark (amazingly restored tea clipper that is in Greenwich), we've talked about the expansion of the British Empire, later this week we'll have a cooking class on how to make scones... and today we are having afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason to discuss the introduction of tea to British culture and the impact it has on culture today. (Yes, I love my job.)

Since I've taught this before a few times, let me toss out some random tea facts for you: 

- Did you know that regardless of what type of tea it is (green, white or black), all tea comes from the same plant. The difference in type comes from which part of the plant they use and how long it is "fermented."

-Tea is fermented! Though not for as long as wine or beer.... just a few hours in hot drying trays does the trick.

-The average Brit drinks eight cups of tea per day. That's a national average and it is astounding to me. Eight cups a day!

-The tradition of putting milk with your tea started years ago. The upper class started putting a bit of milk into their tea cups before pouring the hot tea in. This cooled it down and prevented the thin china from cracking.

- As a result, putting your milk in first is a trait more aligned with the upper class. 


There you go. You all get A for today's lesson.



Oh, speaking of tea- have you seen the London Tea Club? Each month you get fancy vials of tea delivered to your door of cool new blends. It looks like an amazing way to try out teas you may never knew existed... or even better, make the coolest gift to give a friend.

*image via pinterest

 

Posted on November 4, 2014 and filed under england, afternoon tea, london.

To A Tea | BB Bakery Double Decker Tea Tour

The day my students first arrive in London, we typically take them on a private coach tour around the city with a guide. It's a tradition that is expensive and (slightly) boring, but we do it so that they can see all the famous places they've been thinking about for so long and to get them familiar with the city. 

Earlier this summer my friend, Stephanie, sent me a tweet about BB Bakery's Afternoon Tea Bus Tour. (She always finds the best stuff and sends it to me.) Afternoon tea served on a vintage route-master while cruising around London? Brilliant.

So instead of doing our normal tour, I swapped the plans and we all did this as a group. It ended up costing almost the same and was considerably more awesome. Totally touristy, but if you can get over feeling a little dorky, it is really fun! 

photo 2-1.JPG

The food was really good, too. Going into it, I wasn't sure if the "tea" would just be an afterthought, but everything was really delicious. While I wouldn't say this is a place to meet up with a friend to catch up (because the price tag is a bit hefty at £45pp), it is a great way to celebrate. Save it for visitors to London, birthdays and hen parties- it's worth the splurge for special occasions of that caliber. 

They can also accommodate (in a yummy way!) vegetarians and those in need of GF alternatives.

 

Sound like fun? Visit the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour page here for more information.


Not your cup of tea? Check out the other tearooms I've tried in London in my To A Tea series.

 

 

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Here vs. There | Dining Out

 

Having new students arrive so often leaves me with the chance to ALWAYS be seeing & explaining the cultural differences between the US & Britain. I also get to answer a lot of the same questions again and again. (Will they take US dollars? What is a pudding? Why is everyone so quiet on the tube? Etc.) Generally, I like it. My dorky side enjoys explaining the cultural nuances so it's pretty fun to constantly rehash the same conversations. Though I have yet to come to a good defense for their passion for meat-flavored crisps. Gag.

The biggest hurdle for visitors to adapt to in Europe is definitely dining out. The ingredients and portion sizes are always noted, but it's the speed of service that always gets people. (Do you think that they forgot about us? Do these people not want to make money? And the most popular, Where the %&$! is our bill?)

Moments like that are a definite contrast to life in the States where you can always count on being asked if you "saved any room for dessert?" as the pre-printed ticket is slid on the table. 

The pace in Europe is just... slower. It, generally, suits my style. Though sometimes I get confused in dining out in London. They seem to pick & choose between "metropolitan city" and "quaint village" paces at moments of varying discretion. Overall though, I like it lingering over a meal and sitting with a coffee for until I feel completely satisfied with food and conversation. 

What about you? Do you love it or does it drive you crazy?

 

 

 

 

*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 2, 2014 and filed under england, europe, travel, life as an expat.

Pack Your Bags: The Lakes District (England)

I've blogged about the Lakes District before

(and the previous post may even have more information),

but I always feel the need to add the new places

that I discover upon my return to familiar sites.

So here a few extra glorious stops

for you to make

if (and when!) you find yourself

in the glorious Lakes District in England.

... and some selfies of myself + Viola.

(I'm sorry and you're welcome.)

*  *  *

The World of Beatrix Potter

After skipping this stop

over the previous years,

I finally decided to give this stop a chance.

Woah baby,

this was way cuter than I imagined.

If you have a kids

-or fond childhood memories involving Peter Rabbit-

make this stop

when you go to Windermere.

(And, if you're in the lakes, you should go to Windermere.)

There are gorgeous "It's a Small World" like scenes

for each of the stories by Beatrix Potter,

sans the boat ride, unfortunately.

Complete with a stop by Mr. MacGregor's garden,

tea + cakes at the cafe downstairs,

and a knit hat complete with bunny ears from the children's shop-

this was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

{Editor's Note: You don't need to pay to enter the cafe or gift shops.}

Admission for adults: £7

*  *  *

When you're in Windermere,

eat lunch at

The Hole in The Wall Pub.

It's completely cozy

and ticks all the boxes

your mind will have

for the stereotypical British pub.

*  *  *

Sarah Nelson Grasmere Gingerbread

The birthplace of gingerbread

is a tiny shop near the church in Grasmere...

and the women working in the closet-sized shop

wear old-fashioned aprons & bonnets.

You may be a bit surprised at the biscuit-like

(read: "cookie-like" if in America)

consistency of this forerunner

to Starbucks gingerbread loaf.

Oh, and get some homemade fudge while you're there.

I mean, you might as well.

Then take the spoils of your visit

and wander lonely like a cloud

through the church cemetery

and pay your respects to the Wordsworth family.

*  *  *

I always stay at the

Ambleside Central Hotel

in, well, Ambleside...

but last year, we detoured and stayed at the

Red Lion

in Grasmere.

Also a good option! Less to choose from at night for dinner

since the town is much smaller,

but the hotel was super cute & cozy.

*  *  *

For more of my favorite stops in the Lakes District,

hop back to my earlier post

for fun places like Beatrix Potter's home, Hilltop Farm,

my favorite place for breakfast, The Apple Pie Bakery,

and Wordsworth's home, Dove Cottage

and more

here.

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 15, 2013 and filed under "England", "english lakes", "travel", england, get out of town.

Pack Your Bags: York, England

You've probably seen on Instagram 

that I'm on a fast & furious trip

around the UK (and soon-to-be Ireland).

While this is all fresh on my brain, 

I'm going to spend the next few days

spitting out pics & information

on new places that I'm discovering

so that, someday, you'll have some good options

for when you start planning a trip of your own.

______________

What the US feels towards the North vs South

is similar to how the UK feels

towards their North vs South...

except flipped.

The South of England is, stereotypically,

harsher, busier, ritzier, more educated... and snobbier.

The North of England is, stereotypically,

easy going, slow paced, cheaper, less intelligent.... and nicer.

Obviously, these are stereotypes

and you can meet both types

in either place.

BUT.

There is something to be said for the

kind attitudes

and the cheap meals

and the crazy Billy-Elliot-esque vocabulary

that you start to experience

once you roll up into the upper area of ole Blighty.

All of that to say,

I love when I find myself up north.

Especially if that means I'm in York.

York is a small town

(compared to the other "big" English cities),

but it has loads for tourists to enjoy.

I love these things:

York Minster

Obviously, this church is a headliner

for most people's visit to York.

It's massive and it's stunning.

Go at 5:15pm for

the daily evensong service

to get in and enjoy the church for free.

(You'll also hear some amazing choir singing in the 45 minute service-

but go 15 minutes early to snag a seat up close to the action.)

*  *  *

Yorkshire Pudding

I love nothing more than eating something

in it's birthplace.

While of Britain enjoys a Yorkshire pudding,

I've never seen them as big as they are in York.

{Editor's Note: A

yorkshire pudding

is not sweet. 

It's a savory bread-cup that is a perfect bowl shape

for gravy on top of your roast meat & vegetables. 

Imagine a breadbowl... but less soggy.}

If you can get to a pub for a proper Sunday roast,

York makes it easy with two options

that are centrally located and open daily:

York Hog Roast

&

York Roast Co.

Don't blow the chance to try this in person...

Mmm.

*  *  *

Betty's York

If you want tea

and you want to be fancy,

go to Betty's.

This gorgeous tea room & shop

give all the service and ambiance

you could ever hope for

in an English tea room.

This opulent surrounding

could hold its own

around any fine establishment

from the South.

*  *  *

I found myself eating cake & tea

in a places called, none other than, 

The Teddy Bear Tea Room.

The downstairs is a teddy bear shop

and, up some narrow & windy stairs,

is a small tea shop + cafe.

It's not entirely impressive,

but the very top floor

has a great view overlooking the York Minster...

and you can get any cake + tea for £3.80

The carrot is awesome. 

I'd go back- baby or not.

{Though, admittedly, better with baby.}

*  *  *

sometimes it's fun to fall headfirst into a tourist trap... especially when you said trap lets you hold an owl.

If you go to York,

the other main tourist attractions you need to see are

The Shambles

(as in "Bloody Shambles")

and the Medieval Wall around the city.

Both are free to access, btw.

The Shambles are a tiny street of crooked buildings

and exposed-beam architecture

that draw your mind back hundreds of years.

The walk around the

city walls

offers gorgeous views

and a fun activity for an afternoon. 

*  *  *

And if you want to shop somewhere really neat?

Stop in the store,  

The Imaginarium.

With curious objects, a luxe finish out, 

and friendly young men in dapper clothes attending you,

you'll find it hard to not walk away with something pretty in your hand.

__________

Ah, I can't wait for you to experience York. 

Let me know if there are any favorites you have

from past trips there

that I can try out

the next time I find myself there!

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 15, 2013 and filed under "England", "travel", "york", england, get out of town, travel.