10.09

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It’s safe to say that I’ve been a bit hyper organised when it’s come to getting Ottilie’s birthday plans sorted and in my diary this year. Knowing that I’d be entering my 9th month of pregnancy over the weekend she turns two, I’ve been extra keen to get things organised for my little big girl! I may or may not have had some of her presents stashed away since June. JUNE.

Given how Ottie’s all-out obsession with trains and buses has been going strong for a good couple of months now, we decided to take her to the London Transport Museum for her birthday treat! She actually turned two on Sunday 9th, but given how crazy attractions like this can get over weekends, we headed up on Thursday last week instead. And that turned out to be the best decision we could have made, because the museum was super quiet and we had it mostly to ourselves!

I’d been a bit nervous about whether or not Ottie would love it as much as I hoped she would- you can just never tell these things in advance with toddlers, can you?

But in all honesty?…

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She LOVED it!

The buses especially were a big big hit- there are a couple that children can take turns ‘driving’ which Ottilie thought was the best thing ever, but she was just as mesmerised by the model train that runs back and forth a track along one of the galleries, by the little cut outs on her stamper card, by the pretend horses that stood harnessed to a century old London bus…she was in heaven the whole time!

Jason and I were so impressed by how well set up for children the whole museum was, whilst also being full of interesting displays for adults too! I think Jason got as much from it as Ottie did, ha!

In fact, testament to how great museum is that we stayed for a full two hours whilst Ottilie ran around exploring and shouting ‘I SEE ANOTHER TRAIN’ at the top of her voice- and as anyone who knows how short a toddler’s attention generally is, two hours is like two days in normal time!

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I thought the ticket price was pretty great too, children (under 18!) go free, and if you book online it’s just £16 per adult for a full year’s admission (vs £17.50 if you buy tickets in person on the day). If we lived in London, I reckon we’d be back once a month! Definitely planning on heading back before our passes run out next September.

All in all, it was just the perfect family day out. I may have done that classic hormonal Mum thing of shedding a little tear at seeing my baby’s face alight with joy and excitement when we first got there, and I’m so glad we had some quality time just the three of us before our family grows in a couple of weeks time and the chaos increases 10 fold!

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04.12

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C A R B   D A Y   I S   T H E   B E S T   D A Y

So, last weekend I decided to tackle London for the first time since I had Ottilie. It’d been such a long time since my last visit (back when I was 34 weeks pregnant, and looked like I’d swallowed a melon), and I missed the city with my whole heart!

It felt like a pretty huge deal, heading up into London by myself with an 11 week old baby. Ottie’s becoming pretty chilled these days and doesn’t tend to cry all that often, at least compared with the newborn days when she used to have a regular 7pm meltdown that meant Jason and I spent many an evening eating our dinners one handed whilst attempting to bounce a shrieking bundle with the other arm!

But still, the idea of trying to get us both organised and ready to catch our train on time, and keep Ottilie fed, cosy, dry, and happy all day long whilst moving around the city felt like a daunting one.

And yet it was a doddle! Ottilie cooed and smiled her way through both train journeys, took her naps snuggled in tight to my chest in the sling, and seemed to love looking around her as we travelled through the city.

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The first stop on our travels was to meet Tania and Michael at Where The Pancakes Are, a sweet little brunch spot over near Borough Market that Tania had been wanting to try for a while. And I’m glad we did, because those pancakes were fantastic!

As soon as we got to the restaurant I passed Ottilie over the table to her Auntie Tania, and judging by the look on Ottilie’s face, she was pretty happy to see her!

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We decided to share a couple of the dishes between us- the vegetarian pancakes with halloumi and roasted red pepper (delicious!) and the banana, chocolate and hazelnut pancakes (even better!!)!

The pancakes are made with buttermilk and are thick and fluffy, and that Nutella-esque spread was a dream. Ottilie spent brunch napping (with a belly full of milk that she’d enjoyed on the train) and all I could think of was how excited I am so begin introducing her to all my favourite foods in a couple of months time!

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High on chocolate sauce, we moseyed our way along the river back towards Waterloo, in search of the South Bank Christmas market. I’ve been every year for the past three or so years (I’ve lost track…) and figured Ottilie might just stay awake long enough to see the Christmas lights!

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As it happened though, the walk took us such a long time, with the crowds of tourists meandering along with us, that by the time we made it to the market she was snoozing contentedly on my chest in the wrap, whilst the rest of us had managed to work up enough of an appetite to be hungry for a pot of mac & cheese!

Two types of carbs in the space of less than three hours? Now that’s the way to spend a Saturday…

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02.08

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R O L L I N G   B A C K   T H E   Y E A R S

Back when Jason and I first met and started dating, I was just getting ready to move to London and start studying ballet and contemporary dance full time.

Jason would come up to visit me at the weekends and the odd midweek day too, and so we spent those early days and weeks of our relationship getting to know one another whilst wandering through the British Museum, and through the galleries of the Tate, and over lingering lunches and late, post-dance class dinners.

We look back on those early days so fondly, remembering how young and carefree and fresh we were, with so many amazing adventures ahead of us!

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We decided a few weeks back to put a date in the diary for a day spent in London, to spend some quality time just the two of us before the baby arrives in the next five or so weeks.

It turned out to be one of my favourite date-days we’ve ever had together!

We had no plan at all other than to head to South Kensington to be within reach of the museums, and so spent the train journey into London deliberating over where to head for lunch.

Inspiration came via Google Maps, which I was scouring whilst looking for best route to take from South Ken station over to Jojo Maman Bebe (my spiritual home these days, of course…). I spotted The Ivy Chelsea Garden on the map, immediately launched into a sales pitch to Jason about how great I’d heard the food is and how it’s such a beautiful restaurant, and that was it! Sold!

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The restaurant is totally gorgeous, with a bright and airy botanical feel to it.

We started with a couple of mocktails in a colour palette that blended in with our surroundings just perfectly- a peachy-hued iced tea for Jason, and an apple and elderflower spritz for me. Both delicious!

Though if I’m being honest, were I not pregnant I’d totally have been drinking something spiked with copious amounts of gin, which would’ve been just that little bit better ;)

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And when the food arrived, it more than lived up to expectation.

I ordered the roasted butternut squash with herbed grains and crumbled feta (praise be for waiting staff who can tell you straight off with 100% confidence which cheeses on the menu are and aren’t pasteurised! Made this pregnant woman a happy one!), whilst Jason went for the classic chicken and chips.

Oh, and a portion of the truffled arancini to share, which strangely enough tasted 1000x more delicious when they were almost cold at the end of the meal, than they did piping hot at the start!

We both spent the meal waxing lyrical to one another about how delicious each of our dishes were, and trying to keep from eating too fast so as to leave room for dessert…
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Which, as you can see, we managed! Troopers, aren’t we?

Now, I need to take a moment to discuss this dessert with you, because it’s truly one of the most fantastic I’ve ever eaten.

Hot, salted caramel sauce is poured over a chocolate bombe set in a sea of milk foam, and as the bombe melts, it reveals inside a scoop of the most delicious vanilla ice-cream and popping honeycomb pieces.

It is, in short, DIVINE. I haven’t stopped thinking about it all week since we went!

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After a spot of shopping in the sunshine along the King’s Road, and a much-needed walk back up to South Kensington, we headed to our second and final stop for the day- the Natural History Museum!

Neither Jason or I had been there in years, and had the best time reliving our childhood visits whilst wandering through the dinosaur exhibits (still as magical as ever!), and marvelling at just HOW huge that blue whale model really is.

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After we’d spent a couple of hours exploring the museum, we headed back out into the sunshine to soak up the last of the day’s rays over coffee and juice. 

It really was the nicest…and the whole time all we could think of was that the next time we head into London to spend the day together, there’ll be three of us instead of two! 

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17.12

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H A R K   T H E   H E R A L D   A N G E L S   S I N G . . .

A few months ago, my Mum messaged my sister and I to let us know that, as a Christmas treat, she’d booked us all tickets to the King’s College Choir carol service at the Royal Albert Hall.

We’ve all loved the King’s College carols for as long as I can remember, and they’ve been part of our Christmas celebrations always.

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We arrived into a London early in the evening, and found it to be unseasonably mild yet seasonably sparkly.

Fairy lights lit up the trees along the roadsides, and wreaths hung on almost every front door we passed as we made our South Kensington station over to the Albert Hall. Dinner was eaten on the hoof, and comprised of a selection of M&S’s finest treats…

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I always feel as though the Royal Albert Hall is kind of hidden. It seems to be tucked away so well that it only appears at the last moment as you walk towards it, lit up though it is with warm orange lights.

Though of course, the lights outside were nothing to what was within…

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We took our seats in the hall, and, like almost everyone else there, spent a good ten minutes or so gazing in awe and snapping photo after photo of the beautiful trees either side of the organ.

It looks like scene from Hogwarts, don’t you think?

Though perhaps that’s just because I’m rereading HP and the Philosopher’s Stone at the moment, and have just got to the description of Great Hall and its twelve sparkling trees lit up with golden bubbles and real fairies…

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We found songsheets tucked between each of the seats and so warmed up our voices with a little discussion about our favourite Christmas carols, whilst the Philharmonic orchestra began to warmup on stage.

At 7.30 on the nose, the lights dimmed, and the King’s College choristers stood up ready to sing in the centre of the stage, with the Philharmonic choir to their left and right.

The opening notes of ‘Joy to the World’ began, and what followed was just…magic.

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Choral music often leaves me with a lump in my throat, but hearing it live like this was something else.

The voices of the choristers, some of whom looked so little they can’t have even reached a double-digit age yet, were so beautiful and angelic and haunting that my hair prickled and goosebumps came up on the backs of my arms.

The music seems to wrap around you, in that space, especially if you take a moment to close your eyes and feel it ringing around the hall.

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My favourite pieces from the night were ‘O Holy Night’, which was played with the full orchestra and has been my favourite piece of Christmas music for as long as I can remember, and ‘The Shepherds’ Carol’ which is my Mum’s favourite piece but was a new one to me.

The evening ended with three carols for us all to join in on- O Come All Ye Faithful, Good King Wenceslas, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. As we all sang, I noticed so many of the families sitting around us leaning closer to one another, heads on shoulders and hands holding hands.

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It made my throat tight, hearing 5000 people singing those familiar songs with their messages of love and peace, and feeling the festive spirit in the room.

It truly was something special.  

After the concert finished, Mum, Cesca and I nipped back across to Embankment, and then walked the final way back to Waterloo across the river, which, as I’ve said so many times before on this blog, is my favourite thing to do in London when I’ve got a little time on my hands.

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It was a pretty perfect evening, all in all.

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Posted in CHRISTMAS, FAMILY, LONDON

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