Ever Scout by Stacee Adams

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Best Playgrounds in London

Our days seem to revolve around Playgrounds, anyone else feel this way?? Even when we travel to a new city, we are always seeking out a place for the boys to run.  My boys are 4 and 6 now so they just want to get outside and have fun. I think its safe to say that I have been to almost every single playground in Central London this past year. Here's my guide to our favorites!

1) The Victoria Tower Gardens

This playground is located on the backside of the Palace of Westminster (opposite side from Big Ben) and it is the boys TOP playground in London. When you have views of the Thames, London Eye, Victoria Tower and Duck Boats floating by, it has to be the winner. Most playgrounds in London have sand pits. Sand is not my friend and my boys know that I don't allow them to play in it (Mean Mommy, I know!) unless we are dressed for it. I tend to loosen up in the summer months and we'll break out our swimsuits and water shoes.

Sand is my nemesis, but the boys are having fun!

2)  St James Park

We have visited this recently renovated playground at least a 100 times! Its conveniently located and has such a fun slide and rope bridges. There is also a large sand pit here too, but plenty of other areas to keep us occupied. Plus, you can not beat views of Buckingham Palace and the Saint James Park Lake while you watch your kids play.

 These swings are everywhere and super fun!

3) Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

There are several places to play in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens but our favorite is the Secret Playground located in the Will to Win Tennis Facility. 

Will to Win Secret Playground

This spot is at the corner of South and West Carriage Dr (very close to the Albert Memorial). There is a cafe here offering yummy coffee and treats. Simply walk through the cafe and you are in your own private oasis. There is even a Putt Putt course fit for the Queen!

Hyde Park Playground

Located just south of the Serpentine and North of Knightsbridge this playground is fully enclosed and has lots of places to play with slides, swings, a tunnel, and plenty of ropes to climb!

Diana Memorial Playground

This is probably the most intense playground in all of London. It is HUGE! It doesn't rank super high on my list though because it is not a very relaxing place for adults. The playground is so big, that you have to follow your kids around because you will lose them in 3 seconds otherwise. There is also a massive sand pit (you know this is not my favorite!!) and one of the coolest pirate ships you can climb. This place is hopping on a sunny day and you will most likely have to queue just to get in! But your kids will love it!!!

5) Victoria Park

This park is quite a hike from Central London and it is only for thrill seekers! The slides are some of the tallest I have ever seen. We spent an afternoon sliding here and it was way too much fun. Even the parents will want to get in on this action. As fun as it is, I might can overlook all the sand. :) The playground is located in the middle of Victoria Park close to the Skate Park. 

 Sliding too fast for the camera. 

Fun for all! 

Honorable Mentions go to......

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

Located between Glasshouse Walk and Laud St next to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens you'll find a small play area that packs a punch. We love the slide, small trampoline and swing. You can combine a trip to this park with the Vauxhall City Farm and your kids will be living the dream!

Battersea Park 

Located in the southwest corner of Battersea Park is a huge Children's Play area. It is easy for your kids to get lost here, so you'll have to keep a close watch on them. There is also a paid ropes course above you that looks super fun for older kids!

Trinity Square Gardens

Steps from the Tower Hill Tube stop and behind an ancient Roman wall, you'll find a unique place to let the kids blow some steam off before heading to the Tower of London.

 Some of the best Playground views!

 Stay tuned for the next installment of play areas...The Best Places to Cool Off in London....coming soon!!

I enjoy planning adventures for individuals or families around the globe so that they can focus on their time in destination and not worry about the details of getting there. Contact me at stacee@centurytvl.com for more info!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Edinburgh with Kids

Over Half Term Break, the family headed up to Scotland to see Edinburgh. Since I'm such a fan of Outlander, I have been dying to get up to Scotland since we moved to London. The scenery in that show is unbelievable!  I had a pretty good feeling that I would love it there, and yes, it was worth all the hype! We spent 3 nights in Edinburgh and it was the perfect amount of time to explore with the boys.

We took a train from London's King Cross Station. We debated flying or taking the train for this trip and are so glad we landed on taking a train. It is a million times easier to take a train than to fly with kids in tow! It took a little over 4 hours to get there and the scenery was gorgeous! It would have taken us at least that same amount of time to deal with transferring to the airport, going through security and then getting back into the city once we arrived. We were able to move around on the train, play games and eat lunch.

I can't go to King Cross without thinking of Harry Potter. Here are all the tourists waiting to have their turn at Platform 9 3/4. I recommend skipping this line by the way and just head straight to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour instead. They have their own version of Platform 9 3/4 with NO line!

 The boys hopped in a giant snow globe in the middle of Kings Cross and tried to win a Mini Cooper!
How fun would it be to drive this around town?

We arrived in Edinburgh around 4pm, dropped our bags and hiked up the Royal Mile to the Castle. We stayed in the Old Town in the Canongate area. The Royal Mile is the main street that is up on a ridge that runs from the Castle Rock down to Arthur's Seat (a 822 foot dormant volcano!).

The Royal Mile

 A little Edinburgh history, the city has two parts- Old Town and New Town. The Old Town includes the Royal Mile, Castle and a maze of medieval cobble stoned streets. The New Town is a planned neighborhood that was built in the 1700s. The two sections of town are separated by the rail line and the Princes Street Garden in the center.

The next day we woke up bright and early ready to explore. Rowe ordered a Babycino at Starbucks and the barista thought he said his name was Raul. We may have called him Raul the rest of the day!

After breakfast, we walked back uphill on the Royal Mile and visited the castle. This was a highlight of the trip for me. The views from the castle were phenomenal and I always enjoy seeing historical sights!

While we were up high in the castle, we spotted a playground down below in the Princes Street Garden so we headed down the rock after lunch.
The Princes Street Gardens used to be a lake but they drained it many years ago. 

A Castle playground with Castle Views!

After walking around New Town, we decided to head up to Calton Hill. This was probably one of my favorite spots in all of Edinburgh. You had views of the sea, the Castle, and Arthur's Seat.

The unfinished replica of the Parthenon.

Canons are everywhere in this city!

For our last day, we had hoped to take a tour of Scotland through the Highlands, but unfortunately we couldn't find a tour that would take kids under the age of 5. Since we hadn't hiked Arthur's Seat yet, we decided to give it a go!

Our boys are used to doing a lot of walking. In fact, we walked 10 miles our first day in Edinburgh! This hike was definitely challenging for them- especially Rowe, but we promised them ice cream at the end and that seemed to push them through. 

At the rocky top of Arthur's Seat- it was so windy that it took your breath away!

This picture does not convey how steep this part of the hike was!!

The family with Arthur's Seat behind us.

 Next we headed over to the Salisbury Crags- this part of the hike was a lot less strenuous than Arthur's Seat and we still had good views over the town.

After such a long hike, we took the boys to the best gelato in town- Mary's Milk Bar.

Edinburgh was such an easy city to visit and I can't wait to explore more of Scotland some day soon!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Day in the Life 2/1/17

This is the first time I have written a Day in the Life post- I wanted to capture what a typical day is like for me in London, so here we go!

Today I woke up a bit earlier than usual to head to my favorite Barre class by 7am. 

My Barre class is a 5 minute walk from my flat. And I totally forgot to take a picture, just imagine me working out for 45 minutes then rushing back to get the boys ready for school and eat breakfast. I always eat the same thing for breakfast everyday (give or take)- 2 eggs scrambled with cheese and a coffee. Sometimes I will add a side of oatmeal, pancakes or a delicious chocolate croissant if we have it. 

During breakfast, Badge and I always practice his spelling words- every week he has a test on Friday and has 8 words he has to spell. He writes out his words each week and we keep them on the door in our kitchen. We also have their Halls of Fame- where they post the house points and stickers they get at school. Rowe's class doesn't do as many stickers as Badge's.

I also forgot to take pictures of the kids in their uniforms (don't worry, I did way better the rest of the day!!) but I did make this fun video of us walking to school. School starts at 8:30am, and there is a 20 minute drop off period. We try to leave the flat no later than 8:40. I have to walk the boys into both of their classrooms. Rowe is on the first level but Badge is up on the 3rd floor. Most of the time I don't even wear a jacket when I take them because I am usually sweating from going down all of our stairs and then back up all the stairs at the school! For those new around here, it is a 2 minute walk to school from our building. Not a bad commute at all!

Once I got the boys settled at school, I had to tidy up our flat. It is always a disaster after the morning rush and I can't think straight until everything is back where it belongs! 

So my flat went from this.....

 ......to this!!!

 Now that I can breath calmly with a clean space, I sat down for awhile to work on the menu and respond to a few work emails. I have not always been the best at this, but I went an entire month planning out all of our meals. I order groceries to be delivered about every 4 days, and if I have a solid plan, I find that I don't have to visit any groceries stores in between. Shopping here is not easy, as you'll see in a minute. I get very burned out though on trying to come up with meal ideas all the time! We have a short list of meals that we love but sometimes we still get stuck in ruts. Please send all healthy and delicious recipes that you have!!

 Rowe's birthday is on Saturday (How can he be turning 4????) and I needed to find a few things for him. I am taking cupcakes to his school on Friday and he requested Paw Patrol themed cupcakes. There are 36 kids in his nursery (there is one teacher per every 6 kids) so I knew I would not be able to do my typical fondant decorations. Usually, I am the crazy cake decorating lady but I held back this year and decided to purchase the cupcake toppers. I found a neat cupcake kit online, but I wasn't able to order it without paying silly shipping fees, so I decided to take my chances and visit some local shops. 

Since I'm in central London, there are not a lot of large grocery stores. Most of them just have the basics and are not any larger than a convenience store. I visited the largest store (about a 15 minute walk) first and didn't find the cupcake toppers but did find the Paw Patrol character the boys have been wanting!

The next shop was a 5 minute walk away and I finally found the cupcake kit but there was only 2 boxes. I needed 4. I did a quick search on my phone and saw another store 1.5 miles away. I debated what to do- there wasn't a good way to get there other than walking and it was raining outside. 
 Finally, I decided to just push through and walk there. I had to stop by the post office anyway (to pick up a package) and a little walking couldn't hurt me! Here are some of the sites along the way...

 There are beautiful, old churches everywhere you look!

Not something you would see in America- school children playing outside in the rain. It wasn't just sprinkling either!

 One of my favorite spots in London and probably my most photographed location. 

Does your walk to the grocery store allow you to wave to the Queen??

Such a typical British rainy day!

 Finally arrived at Store #3 and got the rest of the pupcakes! 

At this point, I was tired of walking in the rain, so decided to hop on the tube to get back home. I was right next to Piccadilly Circus. It wasn't the most convenient tube ride since I had to change trains after one stop, but it was nice to be dry. 

 The screens (the curved black on the building) in Piccadilly Circus (like NYC's times square) have been turned off  temporarily for maintenance. 

 I enjoy riding the tube as long as its not rush hour. During rush hour you have to push your way into the train and it is not glamorous! I was ready to get back home after all these errands!!

I arrived back home by noon and made myself a chocolate protein smoothie since I was starving. I sat down to do a little work before I had to pick up Rowe. It makes me sad to see the picture of Lulu- I just miss her cute little face so much!

 I also unloaded my shopping bags and put everything away. This may not look like much, but its still a lot to carry around while you are out walking! I bought the boys those cute I love You chocolates for Valentines Day! 

Rowe gets out of school at 12:30, so I walk out of my flat at 12:30 to pick him up. :) There is always a long line to get in the school, so I know I will still be waiting even though I leave at 12:30. 

 Its only 12:30 and I have already walked 5.7 miles!!

I picked up Rowe and waved at Badge. I usually see Badge walking on the stairs as he is going to lunch at that time. I tried to take a pic of him but my darn camera wouldn't work fast enough! I'm really going to miss these days of getting to see my kids a few moments out of the day. I pass them on the streets as they are going to sports or park. I also see them from my kitchen window quite often too. My friend Mimi calls me the CCTV because I will send her pics of the kids throughout the day. :)

Most days, we head back to our flat and eat lunch. Today we had a special play date scheduled! I met my friend, D'one, and her daughter at the Purple Dragon. They have a membership to this adorable, swanky kids club. The club has a restaurant, tons of play areas, cooking and art classes, a music room and an indoor playground. It is so much fun for the kids (and parents)!

We ate lunch in the restaurant and then the kids ran around while we chatted. 

Rowe having fun and Paige giving her ready for the camera face!

Rowe always like to take the cooking classes but he never eats the food he makes- its a little too healthy for him! On the menu today was a Chinese New Year Cake- it had onions, radishes, flour and a tiny bit of sugar in it. Doesn't it sound yummy????

 Play time!

We ended up leaving a little late from the Purple Dragon and walked the 20 minutes back to our little street corner. I was a little late getting Badge from school, so he was the last one left in his class! Oops!

 After school snacks! 
Rowe wouldn't eat the Chinese New Year cake! :)
 Badge changes out of his uniform after school and picks out his clothes. I told him that he didn't match and he replied "I do match! Look! Dinosaurs (he points to his shirt) and dinosaurs (he points to his shorts)!!! He did have a good point! :)
 After school play time- Badge made the big red road at school so we all took turns driving on it. 

 Then it was time for homework- Badge gets a homework packet on Tuesday and it is due the following Monday. Usually it is only 3-4 pages of work. I try to at least have him do a worksheet a day, read a book and practice his spelling words. He is an extremely smart kid and super well behaved at school.....but at home during homework time....it is horrible. I could never home school. :(
 This is me during homework time. 

And everyone is happy when the homework is over!! 

 Now, this is the MOST exciting part to my day.....

I have been trying to get tickets to the Harry Potter Play for months. Most of my friends here bought their tickets a YEAR ago and they are just going to see it now. I could buy tickets for February 2018 but I have no idea if we will even be here then. So I have tried every Friday to get tickets- they release 40 tickets in an online lottery at 1pm on Fridays. That never worked out for me. 
Then I heard that if you checked the website throughout the week, there are occasionally tickets posted. I checked the website 3-4 times a day for months. I occasionally came across tickets, but there were just too expensive. They sell premium tickets for £199 that are available most of the time. I was willing to spend no more than £140 to see both shows. The show is actually in two parts, so you see Part 1 one night and Part 2 the next. 

If you don't know me, then you have no idea how much of Harry Potter fan I am. If there is anything Harry Potter, I'm there! I have read the books through at least twice, seen all the movies, been to Harry Potter World in Orlando, visited the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studios here in London and of course I have been to Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross. I just had to see this play while we were here in London!

I even went to stand in line for Returns at the theatre the other day, but was turned away. I was ready to give up but I also still had hope that one day it might happen. 

So as per my usual routine, I checked the website around 5:00pm and I found tickets!! In my price range! And they are amazing seats! Probably the best part is that I don't have to wait to see it, I'm going on Thursday and Friday night!

I literally danced around our flat for a good hour. This is really a dream come true for me and I'm super excited. (2/3 Update: I dreamed about Harry Potter all night long last night! I'm obsessed!)

I cooked dinner for the boys. I didn't feel like really cooking tonight so I just made the boys some leftover chicken, peas and made them each a smoothie. Then I fixed a caesar salad with chicken for Normer and I to eat. 

After dinner, Rowe jumped in the bath tub and I sorted through our laundry. We have a laundry service that comes a few times a week. We have a washer and dryer combo and it just takes way too long to do laundry, so very thankful for this service. 

 Badge loves art so he used his London stamp set. He made the London Tower Bridge and his school building. 
 Another new thing I started in 2017 was laying out everyone's uniform the night before. It makes my life a million times easier the next day!

 I realized that Rowe's smock (he wears this over his uniform) had a stain so it looked like I would be using the washer/dryer tonight!

 I helped Rowe finish his bath and then checked to see where Normer was on his commute. 

 Almost home!

 Once Normer came home and ate dinner, we did out nightly tradition of playing games. Usually we play two games, but I was feeling tired and it was almost 8:00pm- getting late! 
Tonight we played Go Fish- some of our other favorites are Memory and Uno. The boys also like Chutes and Ladders but it is just so boring. Would love some suggestions for any games that involve a little bit of strategy! 

After we got the boys were down, I stayed up a little bit to see Normer but I was feeling very worn out from this long day! Plus, I knew that tomorrow was going to be a big day! I had a hotel site visit lined up, 40 cupcakes to make for Rowe's class and Harry Potter tickets!!

Before I went to sleep, I checked to see how I did with my fitness goals- a total of 8.7 miles and 21 floors climbed. No wonder I was tired when I did a Barre class on top of that!

Good night!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my day- it was a little stressful trying to remember to take pictures but maybe I will write about another day next month! Let me know if you liked this post! :)