Since becoming a mum, my life has changed dramatically. This is no revelation, as most of you either have children, or know people with children and can appreciate how your life is essentially no longer your own once you have kids. This isn’t a complaint, I’m merely stating a fact.
Getting out of the house on the most basic of trips always proves to be a total mission, usually with fights over getting clothes on/off, minor setbacks such as soiled nappies, having to make about 57 trips up and down the stairs because you’ve forgotten some spare bibs/socks/nappies/bum cream/teddy bears/fire engine/beaker of water… you get the picture.
So it is no wonder that I don’t usually go anywhere of significance with the kids. It just proves to be such a massive faff that it isn’t worth it. We keep our trips out simple; dog-free parks (you know much I hate dog poo), a trip to the garden centre (any child can be bribed to be still and quiet with cake), Sainsbury’s (because what child doesn’t love being pushed around at speed whilst sat in a shopping trolley?), the playground (obvious), for a walk (because they need exercise, and apparently so do I).
I never, ever wish that I could have a day without them (honestly, I really don’t). They’re like my entourage and I feel totally lost on the rare occasions that I pop out without them. However, I do sometimes ponder over what I would do with my day if I had a day entirely to myself. You may think this would be an easy choice to make, but I found it quite difficult to decide on that ‘perfect’ activity. So here I shall list some of the things that I would consider doing on such a day.
I used to make fairly regular trips into London, either for work, shopping or on a public transport jolly. Hey, I love train journeys, thanks to my dad. We all know London is incredible for any kind of shopping requirement that you could throw at it. In London I have previously enjoyed shopping for anything from high street clothes on Oxford Street, to shoes at Neal Street, to body piercing jewellery in Camden, to cowboy boots on Portobello Road (for my dad – I got mine in Schuh). But really, you can do shopping any time on the internet, for whatever you need. I know it isn’t supposed to be as fun as shopping in real life, but I just don’t get the buzz from trailing around shops anymore.
However, I do miss traveling around to places in the city, and would love to get on the train and do a day trip to a few destinations with my trusty (topped-up) Oyster card. I would probably head to the bustling Borough Market in Southwark, just south of the Thames (yup, even better that we don’t have to cross the river!). If you’re a foodie you will fall for Borough Market. Traders cater for all tastes, just check out the pictures if you don’t believe me…
After perusing the stalls, I would get myself a tasty lunch and go sit in the grounds of the magnificent Southwark Cathedral to eat. After lunch, I would head to the river for a stroll along the south bank towards Tower Bridge, passing the impressive Hays Galleria packed full of shops and restaurants (although may pass on the food after my Borough Market fest), not to mention some glorious architecture. Not forgetting to marvel at HMS Belfast, I would continue on towards City Hall (the place you can find Mayor Boris Johnson). The building is pretty cool, with a lot of open space outside to sit and take in the view of Tower Bridge and the river.
Afterwards, I would head up to and over the iconic Tower Bridge, checking out the incredible view of the city to the west as I crossed to the north side of the river. It is hard to miss the modern and dazzling Shard on the south side of the river, juxtaposed with the historical Tower of London adjacent to Tower Bridge on the north side of the Thames. If you fancy a trip through London’s ages, I highly recommend a visit to the Tower of London. Brimming with 1000 years of London’s history, covering fascinating stories on Sir William Wallace (Braveheart) to the sparkling Crown Jewels, the Tower will feed your hunger for history all under one roof.
Walking on towards Tower Hill station, I would hop on the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) towards Greenwich. The DLR will forever prompt fond memories of day trips around London with my dad. It is exactly what it says on the tin; a light railway with short trains. No driver on board, instead it runs on an automated system. This means that you can sit right at the front or back of the train with a brilliant view of the tracks and feel like you’re the driver. I LOVE it!
I would stay on the DLR until Greenwich, which is back over on the south side of the river in southeast London. The journey would take me through the heart of the Canary Wharf business district, before heading further south. Canary Wharf is home to a branch of Charles Fish, a jewellery retailer showcasing some stunning designer jewellery. You can find my favourite jewellery brand Oak Fine Jewellery stocked there if you fancied treating yourself to some truly special pieces.
You know you’re near Greenwich once you’ve headed down into the tunnel under the Thames after Island Gardens, which I think is the most fun bit of the journey (especially if you’re sitting at the front or rear of the train). Greenwich is a super cool little town in southeast London, home to the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory. Another place that my dad took us to when we were children, the Cutty Sark is another fantastic, historical attraction to visit. Lovingly restored after the fire in 2007, the Cutty Sark is a tea clipper which captures the imaginations of adults and children alike. Do visit if you’re in the area.
The Royal Observatory is located at the top of a hill through in Greenwich Park. The Observatory is home to the Greenwich Meridian Line, which is where Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) originates. There is a physical line present on the ground where visitors enjoy having their photo taken, straddling the line. Another great place for families. After swinging past the Cutty Sark and through Greenwich Park, I would take a stroll through Greenwich market, which is full of arts, crafts, antiques and interesting finds.
I’m going to start to feel a little hungry again, so I would head back onto the DLR to Monument station, where I would head to towards Fleet Street on foot (or to St. Paul’s station if my feet were hurting!). There is an ancient pub just off Fleet Street called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. My old friend first introduced me to this pub many years ago, and for me it epitomises what you can imagine ancient London pubs would have been like; a labyrinth of dark, crooked corridors and rooms on several floors below ground. Said to be the oldest pub in London, It is accessed through an alley leading off Fleet Street. All you see is the façade of a small pub from the outside, but if you head there on a weekday evening, you will be able to access all of the basement floors (I believe it is closed on the weekend).
Full of nooks and crannies, they serve Samuel Smiths beer as well as all of your usual pub staples. They also serve a traditional menu here – no hint of gastro-pub in sight. Although I am a foodie and do appreciate fine dining, I would opt to dine at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese because of the historical atmosphere and for the fact that there is nowhere else that looks like this place. It is unique and I will always revisit when I can.
After dinner, I would take a bus over the river over Blackfriars Bridge, before taking another walk along a different stretch of the South Bank of the river, passing the Oxo building (now you really can get fine dining at the top of the Oxo tower!), as well as art exhibitions, designers, interiors, cafes and more.
Moving on, I would stroll past the London Television Centre, the place where you can find the likes of Phil and Holly from This Morning most weekday mornings, and sometimes out on the South Bank. I would then swing past the National Theatre before heading up to Waterloo station and heading home.
So that would be my day to myself. Possibly a little different to what you might have expected, or maybe not if you know me well. Either way, that would be a pretty cool day for me. I would of course have my camera with me to capture the numerous gorgeous photo opportunities whilst out and about. Notice how I didn’t go for drinks after getting off the bus? I would probably be exhausted by this time and would want my bed! But covering some of my favourite watering holes would need to be in a whole other blog post.
What would you do if you had the day entirely to yourself? I’d love to hear about it!