London Best Bets

London Best Bets

When’s the best time of year to visit London? Anytime! Summer is warm and there are plenty of parks and markets worth exploring. Autumn is mild — as the mercury goes down, the holiday decorations go up. Although Winter has the coolest temps, it’s not uncomfortably cold and the post-holiday weeks are a great time to shop sales. Spring can be a mix of sun and rain, but there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor pursuits to pick from.

My past articles included London’s Top Ten, Twenty-two Top Shops, and 18 Favorite Places to Eat.  After a recent trip with my son, I am inclined to add to my never-ending London to-do list. Planning a trip over the pond? Put a few of these items on your itinerary:

VISIT

Exhibition Road: Home to numerous cultural institutions, this South Kensington “Museum Mile” includes Royal Albert Hall, Natural History Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Our favorite? The Science Museum – on display are 5,000 years of innovation; it’s STEM on steroids!  Check out tech treasures like the Apollo 10 Command Module and the Enigma Machine. Visit the IMAX Theatre, hands-on Wonderlab, and a well-stocked book/gift shop.

Borough Market, London

Seafood abounds at Borough Market

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:  Although a reconstruction of the Elizabethan era theatre, it’s very true to the original. Located Bankside (near the Tate), tours include access to the underground Exhibition Space.  Plan ahead and book tickets for outdoor performances in the Globe and inside the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Borough Market: This 1000-year old food market features endless stalls of fresh produce, fish & seafood, confectionery, cured meats, oils & vinegars, spices & preserves, and a multitude of bars and restaurants. After filling your shopping bag (and your stomach), take a leisurely walk over the London Bridge.

Greenwich:  This borough of London, located on the southside of the Thames, is well known for its maritime history. Visit the Cutty Sark (the restored 10th-century ship), the National Maritime Museum, and the Old Royal Naval College (home to one of the greatest baroque ceilings in Britain). The Royal Observatory overlooks Greenwich Park, and is the site of the famed Prime Meridian Line, which marks Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and divides the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

Greenwich Obervatory

Straddle east and west at the Prime Meridian

The Royal Institution (Ri): Founded in 1799 with the aim of introducing new technologies and connecting people to the world of science, Ri houses the Faraday Museum (in honor of the British scientist and his discoveries in the fields of electromagnetism). This petite, lower level exhibition celebrating the achievements of Ri members (many of them Nobel Prize winners), packs a powerful punch, especially for science lovers like my kids.

Small Car, Big City: If you love classic cars, the iconic ’60’s movie “The Italian Job,” or just want to see the city from a unique perspective, book one of these bespoke Mini Cooper tours. Two-hour to full day themed tours include Hidden Gems, Street Art, Beatles, Harry Potter, or Landmarks of London. Your adorable vehicle (and driver!) will meet you right at your hotel’s doorstep.

Small Car, Big City, London

Zoom around the streets of London in a classic Mini Cooper

SHOP

Twining’s: The oldest tea shop in London, this 300-year old flagship features premium teas from ‘round the world. It’s also one of the city’s narrowest shops – only twelve feet wide! Sample the flavors at the Loose Tea Bar or sign up for a Masterclass. There’s also freshly ground coffee for java addicts.

Maille Boutique, London

Maille Boutique

Maille Boutique London: At the entrance to Piccadilly Arcade, inside this corner store, lies rows and rows of France’s finest condiments. Pick from mustards, vinegars, chutneys, cornichons (those cute, miniature flavor-packed pickles) and more. Did I mention there are free samples?

Sainsbury Supermarket: No matter where we travel, we always wind up in a supermarket. It’s a great place to pick up affordably priced souvenirs and stock up on favorite local delicacies.  The condiment aisle is my favorite of course: we grab bottles of Belazu vinegar (it has a distinct thickness and texture) and delicious mango and plum chutneys and can’t leave without Cadbury Milk Chocolates (they’re sooo much creamier than the U.S. version!)  Just remember, put all liquids in checked luggage, not your carry on!

EAT

Afternoon Tea at the Dorchester: Served in The Promenade, the hotel’s lobby restaurant, this proverbial English tradition is worth the splurge. Sink into plush couches surrounded by gilded marble columns and lush potted plants, and indulge in a delightful meal of tea, champagne, and the savoriest finger sandwiches — smoked salmon, egg, chicken, prawn and cucumber. Next comes warm scones with glistening strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream and finish off with a tiered platter of cakes and tartlets. (And, unlike the Ritz’s Tea, no jackets required.)

Afternoon Tea at the Dorchester

There’s always time for Tea

Momo: Entering this West End restaurant is like stepping into a Moroccan Souk with its lush fabrics and decor. The menu is a North African/Mediterranean mashup: couscous, lamb tagine with pears and plums, and fresh mint tea.

Sakagura: Located in Mayfair, this Japanese Restaurant has an amazing Sake Bar. Try one of their Sake cocktails — my favorite, their Mojito with fresh mint and pomegranate. The restaurant is just steps off Regent Street on pedestrian-friendly Heddon Street, also home to the Ice Bar.

Yautcha: A member of the Hakkasan Restaurant Group, this contemporary dim sum house in Soho features a modern interpretation of a traditional Chinese Tea House with the busy vibe of a Hong Kong eatery. Dishes are designed to share.

Padella: This affordably priced, pocket sized Italian cafe with an even smaller menu has THE best homemade pasta. It’s situated just on the perimeter of Borough Market. Try to get a seat at the bar to see the chefs in action as they whip up your order, pronto! No reservations but arrive before they open to keep the wait at a minimum.

Da Corradi: This long-standing, old-school Italian bistro tucked into Mayfair’s Shephard Market, has generous portions, friendly and efficient service, and cozy seating — it hit the spot, especially on a cool and rainy afternoon.

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London’s Top Ten

London’s Top Ten

I know it’s impossible to boil down all that London has to offer to a list of just ten. But, if you happen to be making a stop in London, maybe as part of a longer visit to the U.K., this will help you narrow the choices:

British Museum, London

The British Museum’s “Great Court”

British Museum: From Aztec to Assyrian, Babylonian to Byzantine, Victorian to Viking, this museum’s vast permanent collection includes over eight million arts and artefacts from all seven continents. Always obsessed with archeology, my kids made a beeline for the Rosetta Stone (the key to deciphering the hieroglyphics) and the Elgin Marbles (having visited their original home at the Parthenon, Athens).

The 19th century, dramatic, Greek-revival style building had a modern, awe-inspiring re-design of its interior courtyard. The courtyard’s magnificent glass and steel roof brings the outdoors in – even on overcast days it’s bright inside. Go on a scavenger hunt to find real-life objects featured in the recent flick, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (filmed on location at the museum). Your youngster can even explore the museum after dark and spend their own “night at the museum” at one of the hosted sleepovers.

London Palace Guards

London Palace Guards, courtesy of londonpictures.com

Changing the Guard: The height of British tradition, this ritual takes place at Buckingham Palace every day at 11:30am from April through July, and on alternate days the rest of the year. (Check the website for exact dates.) The guards have watched over the palace since 1660 and the ceremony occurs when one regiment takes over from another. For more insight on all the pomp and pageantry, download the official Changing the Guard Royal Collection App.” Or view at other lesser-known London locations (Horse Guards Arch and Horse Guards Parade).

Changing the Guard, Buckingham Palace

During wet weather, the Buckingham Palace guards wear grey coats

Churchill War Rooms: Discover the original wartime bunker that sheltered Churchill and his government during the WWII Blitz. The self-guided tour reveals intense stories of those who worked underground as London was being bombed from above. The life and legacy of Winston Churchill is laid out in the interactive Churchill Museum, giving you a glimpse of what life was like during these very tense days from his rousing wartime speeches to his personal letters to his wife, Clementine. The Map Room (the nerve center where military personnel collected and verified vital geographic information) remains exactly as it was left the night the lights were extinguished in 1945.

Imperial War Museum-IWM: This unique museum’s exhibits tell the story of how everyday individual lives have been permanently affected by war from WWI to present day. See how ordinary Londoners lived through WWII, coping with rationing and evacuation, from the London Blitz to VE Day. Explore insightful displays featuring the undercover world of espionage, covert operations, and the secret missions of the British Special Forces. The museum gift shop has an excellent bookstore with non-fiction and historical fiction for children and adults of all ages.

Churchill War Rooms

The low-tech Map Room, unchanged since the end of WWII

National Portrait Gallery: This impressive collection of portraits of historically famous and important Brits who have shaped England’s history includes photographs, caricatures, paintings, drawings, and sculpture from the Middle Ages to present day. The Tudor and Elizabethan galleries served as the perfect history lesson for my middle-schooler. The museum is not just kings and queens though – check out the 20th century gallery for portraits of David Beckham, Kate Moss, Paul McCartney, and the much-critiqued painting of Princess Kate.

London Eye

The Eye looms large over London

London Eye: When this giant Ferris wheel went up in 1999 on the River Thames’ South Bank, it was the world’s tallest. (Las Vegas’s High Roller has since taken that top spot.) Still Europe’s tallest, the Eye offers the highest vantage point and spectacular 360 degree views over London. Take a ride in one of 32 glass-enclosed, spacious passenger pods (they hold up to 25 people) and walk freely around the capsule while it completes its 30-minute rotation. Have a special occasion coming up? Reserve a private capsule complete with champagne and chocolates!

Royal Parks: Yes, the sun does shine in London, so take advantage of the city’s eight sprawling Royal Parks, including St. James Park, home to Horse Guards Parade and the annual Trooping the Color, marking the Queen’s official birthday. Wander through Hyde Park and check out Speakers Corner (for weekly Sunday morning spirited public debates), The Serpentine (for peddle boating), and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

St. James Park, London

Springtime in St. James Park

Tower of London: There is a lot of ground to cover at this most famous fortress and UNESCO site that has also served as the royal palace, an armory, and the prison where the infamous Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Beat the crowds and make your first stop the Crown Jewels exhibit. This royal collection, still in use today by the Queen for coronation and national ceremonies, includes the Sovereign’s Scepter with its 530.2 carat diamond, the “Great Star of Africa,” the largest colorless cut diamond in the world. Next, check out the White Tower with its impressive arms and armor display. Join a 60-minute Yeoman Warder Tour, led by one of the iconic, red and gold-uniformed guards (also known as Beefeaters) or a Wall Walk, for a journey along the huge stone encirclement that forms the Tower’s walls. Make sure to book early to witness the Ceremony of the Keys, the ancient 700-year old ceremony – the nightly locking up of the Tower.

Tower of London

The White Tower’s impressive Arms & Armor display

West End Theatre: Although the West End refers to the area of Central London filled with major attractions, shopping, and entertainment, it’s best known for its theatre scene. On par with New York’s Broadway, the West End presents some of the best theatre in the world. Although West End Theatre generally refers to commercial productions, there are also many non-commercial venues with great artistic prestige, and a number of “fringe” theatres (equivalent to Off-Broadway) that provide alternative entertainment and hidden treasures. Check TimeOut London for complete theatre listings and for same-day discount tickets, visit the TKTS booth located in Leicester Square.

Westminster Abbey: This gothic-style building is one of the world’s great churches, with a history stretching back over 1,000 years. Home to coronations, royal weddings (William and Kate’s), burials and memorials, the abbey has commemorated kings and queens, statesmen and soldiers, poets and priests – it’s a venerable parade of British history. Audio guides are available or take the popular verger-led tour. It meets at the North Door, lasts approximately 90 minutes, and includes a visit to the Shrine (containing the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor), the Royal Tombs, Poets’ Corner, the Cloisters and the Nave. Daily worship services are open to the public – check the website for schedules of beautiful (and free) choral concerts and organ recitals.

Westminster Abbey, London

Westminster Abbey is a UNESCO world heritage site

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Please read my other recent London articles: 22 Top Shops, 18 Favorite Places to Eat, and Hampshire: Edu-vacation in England’s Countryside.

SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.  To become a SUBSCRIBER, enter your email address (top, right hand side of the blog or scroll towards the bottom if using a cell phone) and then respond to the follow-up email.

[blog header photo courtesy of london-pictures.com]

London: 22 Top Shops

London: 22 Top Shops

Harrods, London

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a souvenir is a memento of a special place you have visited. Mass-produced or hand crafted, it’s carefully transported home by a traveler. I would add to that definition: something that tastes good, smells good, or makes you feel good.

During many visits to London, we have always returned with our bags a little heavier than when we embarked. We love to bring home a few reminders of our trip to share with friends and family, or to keep the “international flavors” of London alive in our home. We try to limit our browsing to stores not found in the States or other major cities around the globe.

Here is just a sampling of some of our favorite London shops arranged by neighborhood or street:

KNIGHTSBRIDGE/BELGRAVIA

Harrod’s: Head straight to the food halls of this famous department store for an endless array of goodies. On the second floor, explore the small but well-stocked bookshop and gift shop for fun Harrod’s logo products like tea towels and totes.

Harvey Nichols: Wander through the main floor of this flagship store for a dizzying display of beauty and perfume products then venture upstairs to the extensive food hall and sushi bar.

Harrods, London, England

Grab some sweets from Harrods’ gift shop

MARYLEBONE

Rococo Chocolates: This chocolatier offers uniquely flavored confections including Moroccan mint or chili pepper, dark chocolate. Lovely hand-painted chocolates come in comical shapes like cows, lobsters, and fish. My favorite—a mini carton of chocolate speckled hen’s eggs filled with salted caramel.

La Fromagerie: This country-style shop features a signature walk-in cheese room with an extensive variety of farmhouse cheeses. Fill your bag with homemade jams and chutneys, and hand-cured meats, or enjoy a hearty breakfast or lunch at their café.

Ortigia: An Italian company selling soaps and fragrances, beauty products and candles made from natural ingredients and olive oil sourced directly from Sicily, presented in handmade packaging that reflects the designs of the region.

Rococo Chocolates, London, England

Rococo Chocolates’ tiny shop is chock-full of delights

La Fromagerie, London, England

Stop by La Fromagerie for fantastic finds for foodies

MAYFAIR

Smythson: Although there is a store in Manhattan, I still enjoy visiting the Bond Street location of this British manufacturer that sells stationery and leather goods in a gorgeous array of saturated colors.

Burlington Arcade: Take a walk through this glass-covered, two-story shopping arcade that runs behind Bond Street from Piccadilly to Burlington Gardens. Follow your nose to Penhaligon’s for unique, made-in-England perfumes presented in signature Victorian-era designed glass bottles with distinctive ribbon-wrapped stoppers.

Piccadilly Arcade, London, England

On a rainy day, the glass vaulted Piccadilly Arcade would come in handy

OXFORD/REGENT STREETS

HamleysYou will need some time to explore this seven-floor toy emporium, Britain’s oldest and largest. Pick up stuffed Paddington Bears, Harry Potter collectibles, Tower Bridge puzzles and more.

Liberty: Known for their world-renowned fabrics, this department store, housed in an iconic Tudor Revival Arts & Crafts-style building, is filled with beautiful home goods, accessories, and clothing in their signature prints.

Selfridges: This British department store is far from run of the mill. Always looking for ways to stand out, it recently opened the world’s first in-store cinema showing classic and new releases. Why not relax after a “hard day” of shopping?

PICCADILLY/ST. JAMES/PALL MALL

Cath Kidson: Known for its home furnishings, accessories, and clothing created from their witty novelty and vintage inspired prints. Especially love their London-themed collection—adorably illustrated with iconic city sites like red double decker buses, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey.

Cool Britannia: Yes, its touristy and cheesy, but great fun. This is THE place for kitschy British souvenirs and novelty goods—from Beatles bobble heads to Union Jack boxers to red telephone booth salt and pepper pots.

Fortnum and Mason: This graceful 18th century department store is well known for its endless displays of loose-leaf teas, biscuits, chocolates, coffees, and preserves packed in their signature brightly hued tin containers—a feast for the eyes and the stomach!

Jermyn Street: Dating back to 1664, this little street tucked behind Piccadilly, lined with men’s tailors, shirt makers, and haberdashers, takes you back to a time when quality and craftsmanship was king.

Floris: British family perfumers since 1730, they offer a collection of perfumes, bath products, and home fragrances in their quaint, jewel-box like shop, still run by descendants of the founders.

Lillywhites: This large sporting goods retailer is the place to pick up jerseys and t-shirts emblazoned with the logo of your favorite footballers—Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool—that’s soccer to us Yanks.

Waterstones: Yes, this is a huge international bookseller, but their Piccadilly store is a great place to pick up travel books or children’s and young adults’ books you might not find at home. The top floor café makes a good pit stop to grab a snack (or use the facilities).

Farlows: This outpost for fly-fishing supplies was on my boys’ list. Wanting to stock up before heading out to Hampshire, they carefully perused row after row of flies, and thanked the patient salesman who placed a few complimentary samples in their tackle box upon check-out.

Cath Kidson, London, England

Cath Kidson caters to the child in all of us

Fortum & Mason, London, England

Fortnum & Mason’s iconic biscuits

Farlows, London, England

The boys picked out fishing flies at Farlows

CITYWIDE

Markets: Check the local paper, your concierge, or Timeout magazine to find opening days and times of the city’s best markets like Portobello Road and Camden Market.

Museum Shops: Some of the BEST bookstores and gift shops are located in museums. My favorites include: the British Museum, Churchill War Rooms, Imperial War Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, National Portrait Gallery, and V&A Museum.

Supermarkets: For inexpensive food gifts, stop by Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose. All have rows of chocolates, condiments, chutneys and other delights. My son never leaves without some Cadbury dairy-milk chocolate and I always grab a few bottles of Belazu balsamic vinegar glaze.

Royal Collection Shops: For all you “Royal Watchers,” these shops, located at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, have a wide variety of quality-made products inspired by items in the Royal Collection, from fine bone china adorned with the Palace Coat of Arms to Victorian-style costume jewelry to stuffed corgis (the Queen’s top dog).

Churchill War Rooms, London, England

Put museum bookstores on your browsing list

London, England

The Royal Collection is sold at the palace shops and at Harrods

GETTING HUNGRY after all that shopping? Check out my recent article: 18 Favorite Places to Eat in London, also arranged by neighborhood. Cheers!

TRAVEL TRIP: Bookmark this article on your smartphone and take it with you on your next trip to London. And, combine your visit to the city with a weekend in the country — click here to see my recent article on Hampshire, England.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: to view my previous posts, and my ENTIRE blog, please click here: uniquefamilytraveler.com. To become a SUBSCRIBER, please enter your email address in the box on the upper right hand side of the blog, or scroll all the way to the bottom on a smart phone, and then make sure to respond to the follow-up email (check spam folder).

London: 18 Favorite Places to Eat

London: 18 Favorite Places to Eat

London, EnglandIsn’t sampling the local food and enjoying a taste of flavors not readily available at home a primary reason to travel? If you haven’t visited London recently, the thriving restaurant scene that has developed there will pleasantly surprise you and satisfy your desire for culinary diversity.

On our last trip to London, we had the chance to enjoy a variety of cuisines from high end to street fare. Smoked salmon, dim sum, and, of course, the fish & chips, all tasted better than their U.S. counterparts. Make reservations in advance if you can, even for lunch, and check out OpenTable.co.uk, the online real-time restaurant reservation service—it’s a great way to secure a table. Also, contact your hotel concierge—an expert at finding a seat at the busier spots.

Here is just a sampling of some of our favorites arranged by neighborhood:

KNIGHTSBRIDGE & BELGRAVIA:

Daphne’s: Recently refurbished and reopened after a fire, this local Italian restaurant has a smart but not uptight atmosphere and a hearty menu—a great choice for lunch or dinner after visiting the Natural History or Science Museum.

Harrods: Fill a picnic hamper with an endless variety of treats in this store’s extensive food halls. From chocolates to cheeses, macarons to meat pies—the list goes on forever. Or, take a seat at Harrod’s more than 25 restaurants including Mango Tree for delicious dumplings and The Terrace for a light lunch overlooking London.

Oliveto: This is actually one of six casual, low-key Olivo restaurants, all serving a variety of authentic, homemade, Italian specialties from the isle of Sardinia. My favorite – Oliveto’s crab pizza.

Zuma: A modern twist on the traditional Japanese izakaya style, where dishes are meant to be shared. Order the seared beef skewers with soy, garlic, ginger, and chili, or scallops with ume boshi (Japanese plums) and mentaiko (Pollock roe).

Zuma Restaurant, London

Zuma’s mouthwatering beef skewers and scallops

Harrod's Food Halls, London

These lovely cakes in London’s famous food halls are actually only about 5 inches in diameter

Harrod's Food Halls, London

Hours can be spent wandering through Harrod’s fabled food halls

MAYFAIR & PICCADILLY:

Caviar House & Prunier: Stop at this seafood bar for a pre-dinner drink and a taste of caviar and Smoked Balik Salmon, sourced directly from Norwegian farmers and prepared following the recipe of the purveyor to the Russian tsars.

Cecconi: A classic Italian restaurant serving simply prepared Venetian cuisine; it’s just across the street from the Royal Academy of Arts.

The Coburg Bar: Located in the Connaught Hotel, this bar boasts a warm, country house feeling – the perfect place to end a day of sightseeing with a nightcap.

Dorchester Hotel: Visit The Promenade in this iconic hotel’s lobby for afternoon tea, or come back at night for jazz at the bar. Downstairs is China Tang for genuine Cantonese food.

Hakassan: This hip and dramatic, belowground restaurant offers excellent dim sum.

Scotts: The place for seafood, it’s just around the corner from the Connaught Hotel. If the restaurant is booked, sit at the Oyster Bar for a fun change of pace.

Shepard’s Market: Not a market, but a charming, hidden piazza with sidewalk cafes and Victorian pubs, between Piccadilly and Curzon Street.

The Wolseley: This café-restaurant offers traditional full English breakfast. For the uninitiated, this includes fried eggs, slabs of bacon, baked beans, broiled tomato, and toast placed unbuttered in quaint metal racks. Lunch and dinner is also served in this impressive, high-ceiling setting.

The Ritz: Enjoy traditional afternoon tea in this hotel’s famous gilded salon, The Palm Court. Enjoy a selection of loose-leaf teas, cut finger sandwiches with fillings like cucumber and egg, and pastries and teacakes. Leave room for the freshly baked scones served with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserves.

Tea at The Ritz, London

At The RItz, the teacakes and scones are continuously refilled by your server

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Indulging in Afternoon Tea at The Ritz — a real treat for my son, Jack!

MARYLEBONE HIGH STREET

Relais de Venise: This Parisian bistro offers something very unique, just one choice— green salad with walnuts dressed with mustard vinaigrette, steak frites in a secret-recipe, herb sauce, followed by a selection of cheeses and desserts. Reservations aren’t accepted, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

SOHO

Randall & Aubin: Originally a French butcher shop, they offer a no-fuss seafood menu in a retro, turn-of-the-last century setting. Take a seat at their counter-style tables and order the fried haddock & chips served with yummy, minted peas.

CITY OF LONDON

Heron Tower: The financial district’s tallest tower features several restaurants including Sushi Samba on the 38th floor. Enjoy a blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine and 360 degree views of the city.

Borough Market: Peruse row after row of London’s freshest produce, meats, confections, seafood and more or take a break at one of the Market’s many sit-down eateries including Roast, well known for its breakfast.

CITYWIDE

London’s Famous Markets: Grab a slice of local life with a visit to one of London’s numerous markets available throughout the city on various days, including Camden Market with its eclectic mix of street culture and street food.

Camden Market, London

Camden Market’s Global Kitchen dishes out the best in London street food

Caviar House & Prunier

The Seafood Bar at Caviar House & Prunier — a nice place to linger

Coburg Bar, The Connaught Hotel, London

End the night with a handcrafted cocktail at cozy Coburg Bar

Travel tip: Bookmark this article on your smartphone and take it with you on your next trip to London. And, combine your visit to the city with a weekend in the country — click here to see my recent article on Hampshire, England. 

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: to view my previous posts, and my ENTIRE blog, please click here: uniquefamilytraveler.com. To become a SUBSCRIBER, please enter your email address in the box on the upper right hand side of the blog, or scroll all the way to the bottom, and then make sure to respond to the follow-up email (check spam folder).

Hampshire: An Edu-vacation in England’s countryside

Hampshire: An Edu-vacation in England’s countryside

I’m pleased to announce my guest blogging stint for Four Seasons hotels,Have Family will Travel,” which details our recent trip to Hampshire, England. After spending a long weekend in London, we ventured out of the city to experience the English countryside, making stops in Stonehenge and Bath before arriving to the Four Seasons Hampshire – a lovely Georgian estate in Dogmersfeld, 48 miles southwest of London.

Four Seasons Hampshire, England

Four Seasons Hampshire

Relaxation time on a family vacation is key, but we also relish enriching and educational experiences for our boys, 12 and 15. Travel can broaden their minds, sharpen their skills, and encourage them to embrace new environments. From outdoor sports steeped in history to excursions back in time, the experience sparked their curiosity as they pursued their passions in this country home away from home.Four Seasons Hampshire, England

Riding: Although I am a novice, I was eager to visit the Equestrian center. Advised to wear thick trousers, I was professionally outfitted with riding boots, gloves, and helmut.  The instructor gave me a quick tutorial, and then led me on an informal half-hour hack through the fields. Riding up high offered a lovely new perspective on the estate grounds, and we even had a chance to circle near Belvedere Pond and say “hello” to my boys as they fished.  I’d like to think they are quite impressed with their mom’s horsemanship!  Children will love the “Own a Pony” experience: two hour sessions for kids seven to 16 on how to care for their own horse, ride included.

Image 1Four Seasons, Hampshire, EnglandFishing: After pulling on complimentary Wellingtons in the lobby, the guys ambled down to Belvedere Pond for a morning of fishing with John, our expert guide. He came well equipped with fly rods, reels, flies and nets, and loads of advice on the fine art of fly-fishing. Shouting “Fish on!”, the boys were in their glory, catching and releasing colorful rainbow trout. They returned the next day for a round of rod-and-reel fishing.

Hampshire, England, Four Seasons

The boys couldn’t wait to drop a line in Belvedere Pond

Four Seasons Hampshire, EnglandFour Seasons, HampshireIMG_0852Clay pigeon shooting: After a quick walk to the estate’s South Field, we were warmly greeted by Brian, the nattily dressed shooting instructor. He spent several minutes outlining the safety instructions and describing the five-platform shooting circuit, dispensing equipment and ear protection. Brian provided plenty of assistance to my younger son, a beginner, and gave expert tips to my older son and husband, both experienced riflemen.

Four Seasons Hampshire, EnglandCycling: We picked up a pocket map from the concierge and headed out for an off-road adventure, exploring the miles of trails that traverse the property. The Spa provided us with bikes of all sizes, helmets and water bottles. On our ride, we stopped at Tundry Pond and biked near the farms to greet the lively pigs in their pens and the shaggy, longhaired Highland Cows dining on pasture land.

The Four Seasons Hampshire all season pool

The Four Seasons Hampshire all season pool

Canal walk: One afternoon, we walked along the scenic towpath of Basingstoke Canal, which winds its way throughout the estate.Four Seasons Hampshire, England

Hampshire, England, UK

DAY TRIPS FROM HAMPSHIRE: 

Stonehenge & Bath: Iconic Stonehenge is the ancient stone circle aligned with the movements of the sun, raised 4,500 years ago by a sophisticated prehistoric people. Bath is the site of the famous Roman Spa, which still flows with natural hot water—the UK’s only hot springs. Together, they make a perfect historical day trip.

Stonehenge, England, UK

Stonehenge

Bath, England, United Kingdom

Bath

Highclere Castle, England, UKHighclere Castle: Even if you’re not a “Downton Abbey” fan, a visit to the massive, real-life home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnavon is worth it. An added bonus was the Egyptian Exhibit displaying King Tut’s artifacts famously discovered 100 years ago by the 5th Earl of Carnavon and archeologist Howard Carter.

Hampton Court Palace: We could’ve spent hours exploring the rooms of this historic royal Tudor/Baroque palace on the Thames. The kids also loved the lush Privy Gardens, the Hedge Maze, the 240-year-old Great Vine and the Chocolate Kitchen.

Hampton Court Palace, England, UK

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

Hampton Court Palace, England, UK

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

For tips on sightseeing, shopping and eating in London, please read my recent posts:

London: 22 Top Shops
London Top Ten
London: 18 Favorite Places to Eat

Looking for an expert tour guide in England? Check out Mirandus Tours for top notch walking and driving tours of London and the countryside.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

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