Posts filed under life

Hampstead | A Local's Neighborhood Guide

I’ll be honest- I don’t know Hampstead very well. I have had a few friends live there over the past few years in London, but it’s always *just* far enough out of my way that I don’t go there just for fun. And I got lost there at 35 weeks pregnant with twins.. which doesn’t sound terrible, unless you know how HILLY the neighbourhood is. It was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back… but the effort/calories burned that day may have helped me get back into my regular jeans a few weeks earlier than expected.

Fortunately, it’s not up to me to give you this area guide. Melissa has lived there for several years and has made her home there with her English husband and their two sons. Melissa is a cool, smart lady with an impressive corporate career. She’s got great taste and a friendly smile that make her easy to talk to and a fast friend. Enjoy taking a spin around one of London’s prettiest and most loved hoods with Melissa. Welcome to Hampstead!


Hampstead, NW3

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Imagine a delightful little English village complete with cobbled alleys, stone churches and heaps of willowy trees. Now plonk it down 10 minutes outside the centre of London and you’ve found yourself in Hampstead! Most famous for its rich history and ancient woodlands (called the Heath), Hampstead is a modern neighbourhood with great pubs, cafes and shopping. I really believe you have to experience its charm for yourself in order to wholly translate the unique feel of this area. Hampstead is also a hotbed for a lot of great private and state schools.

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

Even though it has an English countryside vibe Hampstead is really connected so I’d give it an 8. We are in Zone 2 and I can get to places like Kings Cross, Reagents Park and Leicester Square in 10 minutes. We’ve got two tube lines, the overground and buses. The Hampstead stop on the Northern line puts you right smack centre in the village. The jubilee line to Swiss Cottage is just a short walk away and the Hampstead Heath overground stop puts you right at the bottom of the Heath near the duck ponds.

 

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

Even after living in this area for 7 years, I still love to get lost with the kids in Hampstead’s little nooks. We find beautiful new alleys that would be a dream to live on all the time! My favourite is Downshire Hill for its beautiful single-family homes with huge yards. I also love the 5 story Georgian townhouses on Church Row and the terraced houses with brightly coloured doors on Flask Walk.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

All the greenery and brick mansions in Hampstead definitely come with a premium price tag; I’d say a 5. Hampstead is one of the most expensive areas to live in London just behind Kensington and Westminster. However, the house prices are consistently rising so it’s a good investment if you are buying. We bought our 4-story maisonette (fixer upper!) four years ago and it’s still rising even after Brexit! I’m sure the great schools in the area have something to do with this. I also think the slower pace, sense of community and lush greenery in Hampstead really give back to your well-being and overall sanity living with a young family in a big city.

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Hampstead is very quiet with a bohemian and creative flair. The three type of people you will meet on Hampstead are celebrities, Hampstonians and young families. I think celebs like it here because they aren’t bothered by anyone. I’m always running into Josh Hartnett, Ricky Gervais and Isla Fisher. Hampstonians are the locals, born and raised in Hampstead. I think it says a lot that they send their children to the same schools they attended, which is hard to find in a transient place like London. Mostly, you will find families in Hampstead. We’ve got a solid expat community from all over the world but definitely a lot of Frenchies and Americans.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

You definitely have plenty of options for a nice cuppa. My favourite is Melrose & Morgan because I’ve gotten to know the staff well and they have picnic tables big enough for lots of moms and buggies to crowd around. On weekends the whole family heads to a casual little café called Mani’s for a well-priced full English breakfast and Monmouth Coffee. There are two more traditional spots for coffee in Hampstead called The Coffee Cup and Louis. The Coffee Cup is a Hampstead institution and Louis is a cool Hungarian bakery and tea room with the most delicious cakes.

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

My husband and I had our first date in Hampstead so we like to relive the night! If you drink or eat at one place in Hampstead, it must be The Holly Bush. Full of charm, fireplaces and dark panelled walls, it is supposedly one of the oldest pubs in Hampstead and it certainly is my favourite in all of London. 28 Church Row is also a favourite. It’s a small romantic spot nestled in a cellar complete with brilliant tapas and wine. La Cage Imaginaire is cute too.

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN HAMPSTEAD AS A LOCAL?

Our Saturday routine is as follows: First up we head to a farmers' market that is just next to our house for coffee, produce and weekend treats. We usually meet up with friends for a nice pub lunch at either the Wells Tavern or the Freemasons Arms (also really great spots for dinner!). We walk off our lunch on the Heath, usually starting behind the Wells Tavern and then walking up to Kenwood House. In the evenings we catch a film on the comfy red couches at the Everyman Cinema

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

£10-13 -- but I usually just take the tube as it’s only 20 minutes. 


Looking for the right London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides: 

SHEPHERD'S BUSH | CHELSEA | DULWICH



*images courtesy of Melissa Reeve

Posted on August 18, 2017 and filed under neighbourhood guide, expat, london, life, kids.

Edie | One Month + An Official Welcome

One month old! Time flies when you’re… wiping buns. It’s been a great month. Edie is such a dream, and I just can’t stop kissing her… and, at times, also forgetting she is now part of our family. (Phrases like “Oh wait! Don’t forget the baby!” as we start to walk out the door to go somewhere seem far too common.)

I’ve shared this on my Facebook page, but in case you missed it- here’s a little video of Edie's arrival. I always feel like a huge dork getting out my camera to record moments that seem mundane… but I’m so glad I took the time to save a few of these. When they are knit together in this video, it makes a really special memory. I already love watching it and know that it will become something that makes me so teary in the yard to come.

Life is sweet with three. Granted- it’s crazy and unglamorous and what have you, but I can’t tell you how comfortable and cozy it feels to have a family of five.

Trying hard to our feet under us in a routine... but also, trying to enjoy the days of just being together and rolling with the days as they come.)  The kids have been so sweet with her, but the lack of a normal schedule, endless visitors and us being distracted is finally starting to show. Any advice on how to manage with the early days of adding a new baby to your family routines?



*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 9, 2017 and filed under babies, babies kennedy, home, kids, life, pregnancy.

Did Somebody Say... McDonalds?

This week has been a long week. The temperatures here are really warm… and while this may be a land of many charms, it does not have air conditioning like Americans are used to. It’s our eighth summer here, and still- it just feels suffocating for a few of the weeks of the year.

Anyway, it’s been a hot, long week home with the kids feeling so big and tired. And when it’s hot and you don’t have a car, getting out of the house this pregnant requires long, sizzling walks on pavement while you collect sweat on your body in places you can’t even mention. Beyond that, it’s been busy with big and little things filling up the days… and I’m sitting here at the edge of the weekend without much relief in site. (You know what I mean? The days are just kinda bleeding together and Saturday might as well be Tuesday.) 

In the midst of long morning of crying and fighting and picking up a million toys, I was just totally over the idea of going downstairs and staring in the fridge to conjure lunch. So I pulled out my phone and scrolled Uber Eats, knowing I wouldn’t actually end up buying anything off there because it would be a waste of money to spend that much money on a lunch for kids and myself.

But then, whaddaya know… the first option that appeared: McDonalds.

Now people, I don’t have a car. We don’t do drive through… because they don’t have it, and, well, we don’t have a car. I pretty much make everything from scratch that we eat. But just as the American in me would really love to crank her air conditioning down to a cool 65 right now, that same person sure did order 2 happy meals, a cheeseburger and French fries to be sent to her house with the enthusiasm of an American mom from the midwest on Black Friday when those Kohl’s doors open at 4am. Yeehaw.

And 23 minutes later, a knock on my door came and lunch was delivered. (To be honest, they forgot my fries- but I mooched from the kids and no one was the wiser.)

It might be one of the best £10 I’ve spent in a long time.

Now, if only Chick-fil-A would arrive in London… I would be able to merge all the great things into one life.

As we sat there- moods beginning to lift and a calm quiet wafting through the house like a sweet perfume, Viola randomly said: Harry, do you know that there is nothing you can ever do to make mommy stop loving you? Nothing!

Ahh… they don’t think I’m a mean, four-headed dragon, after all. Well, at least, not all the time.

And here’s to anyone else out there, who knows that while half of your friends may be horrified that you fed your kids McDonalds- your entire self can rest assured that occasionally giving your kids French fries and a dubious hamburger is actually a really great thing for everyone involved. Keep truckin’ ladies. This biz is hard work! I got your back.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 9, 2017 and filed under kids, life, love.

My Florence: Ditta Artigianale

Most people dream of foamy cappuccinos and strong cups of espresso served by brisk waiters in sharp suits when they imagine lingering in a cafe in Italy. Most of the stereotypical daydreams also come accompanied by a Puccini soundtrack... or, at least, they do for me.

While I spend a lot of my time in coffee shops, I had always enjoyed that Italy seemed immune to the hipster coffee scene. (In the same way that I really enjoy not being able to use my phone on a flight.) In Italy, coffee should be served standing at the bar or seated with great people watching in a cafe... and not in a modern setting with cool light fixture and bearded patrons with Apple products.

So when my friend, Grant, recommended that we go try Ditta Artigianale in Florence.... well, I wasn't so sure. Somehow the thought of a hip coffee shop in Italy seemed wrong. But Tyler loves "good coffee," and I wanted to see the Pitti Palace so we compromised and crossed the Ponte Vecchio.


DITTA ARTIGIANALE OLTRARNO

This coffee shop on Via Dello Sprone is of the three Ditta Artigianale locations in the city. This local chain has various locations around the city, but if you're looking for a place to stay for a while- this is the one you want to go to.

The coffee is great. The classic latte is perfectly made- thanks to incredible high quality milk. (Good dairy makes everything better, doesn't it?) They shop also has fresh cold-press juices that are served in kitschy mason jar glasses, but taste fantastic. 

If you're feeling hungry- you have a range of food to choose from. Whether it's something small like a pastry or cookie or something a bit more substantial like a homemade croque monsieur or salad- they've got good options that not only sound cool, but they taste great, too.

With cosy nooks for work or chatting, an upstairs for hiding out, and a patio out back for some sunshine while your kids march around like tiny clowns- this is a perfect place to waste an afternoon.... or just for grabbing a great coffee to go on your way to the Boboli Gardens. 

DITTA ARTIGIANALE | Via dei Neri, 32/R, 50122 Firenze, Italy | Open 8AM-10PM


Looking for more great places in Florence? Check out my guide here and my Italy posts here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 6, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, italy, life, travel.

One Chance. Two Weeks. Four Seasons London.

I always feel like I need to explain things that I get to try and do as a blogger. First because I think it's fair and ethical to state what was given from a professional standpoint. When I say I recommend something, I want people to be able to trust that.

The second reason is because I think it's fair for everyone's sanity sake to know that some things are gifts or freebies or whatever. Otherwise, it's easy to think that everyone has buckets of cash sitting around their house to spend all day on fun things... and you might not. (Or is that just me?)

Anyway, all of that to say.... I was invited to get a facial at the Four Seasons London by my friend, Georgie. She is their PR head and a total Queen of coming up with fun, seasonal pop-up concepts in the hotel. If you ever see one that they are doing, it's a must for anyone living in London. They are so different and fun... and just really perfectly done. She's very talented!

Knowing her talents for making these special events, I knew it'd be good, but I didn't expect it to be THIS good. (And the price, too!)


FOUR SEASONS MOTHERS DAY URBAN POP-UP SPA

I'm going to make this post quick. Since this pop-up only runs through April 2, you really can't waste time doing silly things like reading blogs. You've got to get moving to book a space for yourself.

Here's what to expect:

When you get to the hotel, go straight up the elevator to the 10th Floor. Sign in, have a quick drink as you fill out your paperwork overlooking London below, and then head back to change your life... erm, I mean clothes.

unnamed-14.jpg

You'll get a robe and locker in the luxe locker room. From there, you head straight into the pool area for a leisure lounge on their in-water beds or hit the sauna & steam room. Or you be like me and take the worlds longest shower and shave every inch of your legs because you have the time (and a good Italian shave kit) to do so.

Work your way to the relaxation room for a drink and a magazine read for a while before your treatment. It's so relaxing and when else can you perch up somewhere so glam?

When it's time for your facial, you'll be escorted into the special suite. While the view is stunning, the garden-esque feel that the Chelsea Physic Garden has put together will take it to the next level. Fresh flowers and classical music with Hyde Park hundreds of feet below you make approaching that big fluffy warm feel somewhat like a dream.

Now, I have to say... in that environment and for the amazing price, it would be easy to expect a basic facial with mediocre products. I'd probably still be happy with the overall experience, but... the facial was incredible.

The pop-up is hosted between Four Seasons and the Hungarian skincare line, Omorovizca. All of the products used in the 30-minute treatment were from the line and smelled so botanical and fresh. And they weren't just cute.... with items like a rose-scented gold mask,  neck cream with white truffle, you know it's a lush experience.

About half-way through, Nancy (the therapist) brought these two glass ornament looking things out of a bowl of ice water and massaged the cream into my face. It was a crazy feeling.... but I am desperate to have it done again. Incredibly relaxing and refreshing!

At the end of my treatment- about the time you get a list of all the products you need- Nancy told me my skin was nice. ("I love your big cheeks." Hah!) Then she went on to tell me that it wasn't just dry... it was really dehydrated. I agreed- it's miserably dry. She said I was doing too much. I need to let it breathe. I need to stop putting moisturiser on it day and night. It needed to just do its thing for a while.

No products pushed. No treatments recommended. Just honest truth from someone who actually got my skin after thirty minutes. It was incredible.

The experience and the facial will be, undoubtably, a great experience... and for a special price of £50(!!!), you'd really be silly not to grab a space before they are gone!



Looking for other great spas in London? You may be interested in my visits to The Rosewood Hotel and The Baglioni Hotel.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*visit gifted. Opinions are my own.

Posted on March 28, 2017 and filed under london, life, love, beauty.