Five things to do on a day out in Notting Hill

Ahh, the gorgeous Notting Hill. Home to the famous Portobello Road…or maybe you know it from the movie with That Blue Door and Hugh Grants floppy hair…this colorful neighborhood has a feel all its own. A day in Notting Hill is always a good one, and is never quite enough! Here’s my list of the top 5 things to do for out a day out.

1. Portobello Road

Portobello road is iconic. I love an early Saturday spent browsing the stands, shops, and picking up a special little treasure for my kids (or myself, ha!). Some of my favorite shops to visit are Alice’s at the top end of Portobello (the antique shop made famous in Paddington as Gruber’s), Rough Trade – a cool record shop, and just browing the stalls filled to the brim with art, antique china, vintage toys, you name it they sell it.

You’ll no doubt have seen the colorful houses that line this street, and feel free to take photos but remember to respect the residents’ privacy, as some have grown weary of people standing on their steps. I really need to share my thoughts on this in a separate post, which I plan to do once I’ve had some time to sort it out!

2. Cafe Hop: Where to Eat

You’re going to need some food for all that walking you’ll be doing. My favorite places for breakfast/brunch are Eggbreak, The Dayrooms Cafe, Farm Girl (featuring THAT pink table), and Granger and Co.

For a snack, swing by Gails for a small cake or my favorite the maple pecan scone or a savory sandwich, or Ottolenghi for well, anything! Pedlars is great for vintage shopping, paper accessories, and they have delicious cakes and small salads/sandwiches.

For sweets, Biscuiteers have the most intricately decorated biscuits, Fabrique has life-changing Swedish style cinnamon or cardamom buns, and Hummingbird Bakery is cake heaven (my fave is the black bottom cupcake).

Grab dinner at the Electric Cinema, Taqueria, or The Chipping Forecast.

3. Shop till you drop

Westbourne Grove has lovely shops, from the newly opened French clothier, Sezane to the more established British brands like Paul Smith, Toast, and Jigsaw. Children’s shopping is great, too. My favorite stops are La Coqueta, BonTon, and Petit Bateau. For something special, Caramel Baby carries gorgeous things from Liberty print onesies to velvet dungarees – a total eye candy shop for me.

4. Colorful Houses

You know I can’t resist a colorful Notting Hill house! You can find houses in every color of the rainbow in this quirky neighborhood, and trust me, I do! I’m working on putting together a guide for those interested in visiting and seeing all these inspiring colorful houses. But a simple walk around the streets just off Portobello Road will take you to some lovely colorful streets.

5. Explore the hidden mews

Notting Hill is known for its gorgeous multi-million-pound mews homes, which were originally built as horse stables. Now, these charming houses are some of the more desirable property in London!

It doesn’t get more charming than St. Luke’s mews, home to the Love Actually pink house and other breathtakingly beautiful houses. Don’t be afraid to explore, but do be sure to respect the privacy of residents. Mews homes don’t typically have gardens, and homeowners make up for it with lavish gardens, including wisteria and jasmine vines, roses, potted trees, and more. It’s really something to see in person, so don’t miss the mews.

London in Bloom: Five Best Places to See Cherry Blossom

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Planning a trip to London? I can’t think of a prettier time to visit when the cherry blossoms are out in bloom. It’s no wonder it’s my favorite time of year in London.

So, when can you see cherry blossoms and where should you go to get the best shots of these lovely pink blooms? Here’s my guide.

London has several common varieties of cherry blossom, with the earliest blooming in mid-February.

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If you can believe it, I think this may be one of most famous trees on instagram! It might have something to do with the gorgeous pink door framed by the blossom. This house is instagram gold anyway, but when this tree is in bloom, it is literally swarmed by people wanting a photograph! You can find it on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. I snapped this photo last year on February 12.

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I love this instafamous cherry tree (yes, trees really are instafamous, i know, isn’t life grand!) in South Kensington.  It always blooms mid-late February, and can be found just off Thurloe Square.

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This tree is one of my favorites in London! It’s a different variety to the other types you typically find around London, but I adore it’s gorgeous delicate flowers, and the color pop in the colder winter months. You can find this one in Holland Park, close to St. James Gardens, and it blooms end of Feb/early March.

The fluffier variety of cherry blossom bloom in mid-April, and do they ever stop people in their tracks!

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They are so pretty, like little pink popcorn blossoms dotting the city. It’s my absolute favorite thing to see.

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A few trees can be found around Hillgate Place in Notting Hill, and the famous blossoms near St. Pauls Cathedral that perfectly frame the famous blue dome. Walking around some of my favorite colorful neighborhoods (Notting Hill, Chelsea, Holland Park), you’ll find some gorgeous blossoming trees.

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Of course, all blooming seasons are dependent on the weather, but if you can catch the elusive cherry blossom season, you’ll be glad you did!

Paris patisserie crawl: The highlights

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When my friend, Sara, invited me to a one day trip to Paris with the sole purpose of eating desserts, I booked my Eurostar tickets before even checking to make sure someone could watch my kids. Sara is a formally trained patisserie chef, and knows her way around the vast city of Paris with a patisserie on every corner.

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We hopped on the 8am train from St Pancras, arriving at Gare du Nord just in time for the opening of the famous patisserie, La Pâtisserie du Meurice from the Worlds Best Pastry Chef, Cedric Grolet. Upon making final preparations to open the stunning shop, the staff opened their doors and each staff member greeted us all with a handshake. It was completely adorable and also lovely to see how much pride they put into their work. We tried one of everything, and I suggest you do the same. My favorites were a fresh-out-of-the-oven cookie and an “apple” with a savory apple compote inside. Directly across the street is the Jardin de Tulleries, with benches perfect for digging into the boxes and boxes of patisserie you just purchased.

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A quick 2 minute walk away is the delightful Angelina Cafe, home to the famous thick and rich European hot chocolate. I had missed this one on previous trips, so I was happy to finally try it. IT WAS ALL I WANTED IT TO BE AND MORE. The hot chocolate is perfect. I made off with a few souveniers for the little ones at home (including some incredible caramels).

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Next, we took an uber to Pierre Hermes on Rue Bonapart and I missed out on the millefuelle because I’m an idiot, but Sara’s looked amazing. Also, pistachio chocolate croissants. I decided on a very good strawberry chocolate tart, but still have millefuelle regrets – and yes, that is apparently a thing.

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At this point, I’m beginning to feel my stomach turning on me. Too much sugar. Time to take a break. We walk to a cafe selling something I hadn’t tried before, Praluline – a praline filled brioche – from the cafe, Pralus.

Time for a quick uber ride across town to the 10th, for a walk beside the gorgeous Canal St Martin. If I ever live in Paris, I’m headed straight for the 10th. We stopped into Patisserie Yann Couvreur, home of some highly delicious and instagrammable patisserie. Raspberry and lemon tarts make their way into my hands and once again I miss the millefuelle. Only 50 are made daily. *Le sigh* *C’est la vie*

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From here, I swing by the Bensimon shop to pick up a couple pairs of summer shoes, then we walk to the Gare Du Nord. Home by 9pm, bearing the fruits of our labors for my nice husband who “worked from home” with the kids.

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If you’ve been following me on instagram, you know that I recently took another trip with friends, where we took the earliest Eurostar out of London and the latest train back. We were able to add on lunch at L’as du Fallafel and breakfast at a favorite, Du Pain et des Idees for the chocolate pistachio snail pastry. Keep an eye out for cheap tickets – Eurostar releases £50 return tickets every season.

London is Pink’s Guide to Holland Park

One of my absolute favorite neighborhoods to get lost in is Holland Park.

Holland Park is the genteel, quieter neighbor of the wild and colorful Notting Hill. It’s like the older sister who grew up, settled down and decided to buy a few nice things. But, even though older, she’s not afraid to show the fun side. Let me walk you through some of my favorite landmarks of this lovely neighborhood.

I start my walk from Holland Park tube, walk down the hill and take a right onto Portland Street. Lined with colorful doors, and one of the London is Pink landmark doors, the Hill & Friends pink googley eyed door.Holland Park door HIll and Friends

You will approach a courtyard with some lovely shops at Clarendon Cross. Don’t miss The Cross and Summerill & Bishop – both lovely and gorgeous.

Head down Penzance Place for a glimpse of another London is Pink landmark, the tall pink house.

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Walk back towards Holland Park high street on Princedale Road. I always swing by Daunt Books for a quick peek at their books and to pick up another tote bag, because you can never have too many tote bags. Melt Chocolates is a great place for a hot chocolate or cheeky chocolates, and I love Hop Like a Bunny  – a gorgeous children’s lifestyle shop.

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Next up, Holland Park mews is a great place to take some photos, especially during wisteria season. The Beckhams house is a stones throw away, and I’ve even run into Mr. Beckham himself at the local cafe, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re into football stars!

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Take a walk through the Holland Park to admire the peacocks, and if you’re in the mood for a tour of a beautiful historic home, I can’t get enough of the Leighton House Museum. The recently opened Design Museum is also a great place to explore on a rainy day, and the gift shop is one of the best in London.

You’ll be in Kensington now, but I can’t end this post without a mention of my favorite local pizza place: Pizzicotto. Get the margherita DOP, and thank me later!

 

Southern Spain: 6 reasons why it’s the perfect February holiday

IMG_9009If you’re looking to avoid sweltering heat and crowds, here are six reasons why you should consider southern Spain in February (February half term holiday, anyone?).

  1. Off-season = Lower costs and easier to book. We had a lovely stay in both of our airbnb’s in old town Marbella and in Seville (right across from this gorgeous hotel). Costs were outrageous (sub £100/night for 3 bedroom properties!) and we booked just a month ahead of time without worry.IMG_9144IMG_9636IMG_9082
  2. Empty beaches. Marbella’s crowded beaches were all but empty. With temperatures reaching 24 C a few days in Marbella, it was warm enough to slip on our swimming suits and play on the beach. Sure, it may have only been us and a few other Brits enjoying the warm (to us!) weather, which made it all the more special. It is the Costa del Sol, after all!IMG_9022IMG_9027
  3. Shorter queues for all the good cafes and restaurants. We never waited long to get into some of Seville’s hot spots, including our favorite tapas place, La Brunilda, and my favorite place for quick tapas and churros con chocolate, the buzzy Bar El Comercio.IMG_9132
  4. People-free photos of El Alcazar and Plaza de Espana. IMG_0109
  5. Perfect season for exploring. For this American-turned-Brit, I’ve grown accustomed to the cooler temperatures and me (and my kids + husband!) cannot handle the heat anymore. Anything over 27 and we all wither like a sad little flower. Daily temperatures from 20-25 left us happy on our city walks. Enough Vitamin D for it to feel like a sunny break, without the heat exhaustion. Our drive from the coast to Seville took us past mountains and valleys dotted with fluffy blossoming almond trees and beautiful craggy olive trees.IMG_9242IMG_9637
  6. February or not, you can’t miss Ronda, located about an hour up a very windy mountain road towards Seville. Even though it is higher in the mountains, we didn’t come across any snow (though we did see snow in Grenada from our airplane). The mountain air was refreshing, and the views of the bridge are SO incredible. We only stayed for a couple hours, but it was one of the most memorable parts of our trip. IMG_9145IMG_9147

Top tips: Definitely rent a car for Southern Spain if you can. We’re already thinking of returning to visit Nerja, and staying among the olive groves (I have my eye on this stunning place). Also some touristy spots, like the Alhambra in Grenada, book up weeks or months in advance. We couldn’t get tickets for our trip, but we’ll make it there next time!

13 best activities for kids in London

56679AE0-0172-421B-B4D2-8F026E85502DThe lovely thing about living in London is it caters to whatever you need, and the same goes for families. We feel lucky to raise our kids with London as our playground. Endless parks, museums, kids clubs, restaurants, and friendly people (and pups, of course) to make any outing enjoyable.

These are some of our favorite places, tried and tested, and always hard to leave!

IMG_1046 2The Best Museums for Kids (and my tips for each)

Natural History museum – Use the exhibition road entrance, and have a plan for what you want to see. It’s always crowded, but you can find some more peaceful spots in the wildlife garden (open during warmer months) or the gem and minerals hall. Don’t forget to walk upstairs to the very top for that famous view – one of my favorite viewpoints in London.

Science Museum – Wonderlab opened last year catering to kids all ages featuring hands-on activities, including three slides to educate kids about friction. Amazing. Day passes at £8. Downstairs is a another interactive learning space, The Garden, with water play and plastic boats, building blocks, and other fun perfect for babies – 5.

Victoria & Albert museum – Head to the education desk to pick up a themed backpack with activities to help your kids get creative in seeing the treasures of the V&A. I always learn from the backpacks, too, and there are a range of backpacks geared towards different ages.

London Transport Museum – Home to one of my favorite gift shops, my kids have always loved this museum. Lots of hands-on activities and a big double decker play bus where kids can role play being a bus driver or a chef or a number of other things. We really love it here, and once you buy tickets, they are good for a year.

IMG_4497Playgrounds

You are never too far from a playground in London. Some are hidden away, and some are more obvious like the Diana Memorial Playground with the pirate ship near Notting Hill. This is also where I sat next to Adele while our kids played together and I was too starstruck to say anything to her. Can you imagine?! Here’s my proof. Yes, it’s Adele’s back. You just have to trust me on this one, ok.

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We love the adventure playground in Holland Park complete with roaming peacocks, and when we want to get out of our neighborhood, we’ll head to Hampstead Heath for their fun playground (and paddling pool in the summer) or one of the many playgrounds around Regents Park (our favorite is the playground with the huge slide on the Southeast end of the park).

B49E0C6B-AF5B-4B54-B7AD-17533051297DAfternoon Tea

Feeling like some tea and cake? We’ve experienced some of our favorite afternoon teas with our children (and one of the worst when our three year old was NOT having it – you win some, you lose some).

Our favorite places for afternoon tea are the Palm Court at Langham London (best scones in London and kids get Hamley’s teddy bears) and the Science afternoon tea at The Ampersand Hotel. Or if you just want a quick cake, get to Peggy Porschen for their seasonal cupcake or Hummingbird for the black bottom cupcakes, trust me.

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Off the Beaten Path

Hyde Park horse stables – Book riding lessons in Hyde Park or just pop over to the mews where the horses live and say hello. The staff are very friendly and welcoming to visitors.

Electric cinema kids club – Big cushy armchairs, bins full of sweets, but book at least a week in advance.

Greenwich day out – Ride the ferry to Greenwich, walk onto a real 19th century sailing ship – the Cutty Sark, walk to the top of Royal Greenwich park for the views (and the royal observatory if you have time), visit the food markets, and another favorite museum – the National Maritime Museum.