A London Adventure

Last week, we were lucky enough to be able to house-sit for some family friends in Putney, giving us six days back in the big smoke, mixing business with pleasure, showing Munchkin the big city, visiting our old stamping ground in NW London and seeing lots of friends.

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It was a lovely change from normal life, and a real eye-opener for us – being the first time since Munchkin was born, and since we made the decision to move to the country to have our children, that we had a chance to see ‘what life could have been like’.

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A well-timed nap…

And there were some wonderful positives which we hadn’t expected:

Doing business was easy – meetings in the London Edition hotel, The Connaught and Granger in Notting Hill were effortless to get to and easy to arrange. It was wonderful to pace the London streets, seeing Spring blooming everywhere, and familiar landmarks at every turn…

There was so much to distract and amuse – people, dogs, bikes, buggies and the whole crazy city smorgasbord of life that London offers also functions as a continuous conveyor belt of amusements for a child. Munchkin squealed and stared, she giggling and gazed, she wondered and watched – there was just so much to see.

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Duck-spotting by the river….
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Stepping out for some fresh air with teddy….
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First escalator…
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Roaming free, on the mean London streets…

Gorgeous green spaces – sure, we’re not short of green spaces back in the valley, but – in all their wild beauty – they aren’t the easiest place for a toddler still new on their feet. Manicured lawns, pristine playgrounds, freshly-painted fences, perfect parks – there was a surprising amount of space for Munchkin to run around freely – and safely.

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Peeping munchkin…
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Mega slide joy…
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Wondering what wonders are beyond the sliding doors… (Dulwich Picture Gallery)
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Running fast… (Hampstead Heath)

Rainy day distractions – as above, we live a very outdoorsy life in the country, and why not? That’s why we moved here. But when it rains and you’re left with nothing but the eternal hell that is ‘soft play’, you realise that the country has its limitations. Not so in London, there are SO many things to do, come rain or shine. Theatres, museums, attractions, shops, galleries – all specifically targeted to children. Some of them are free, or very cheap. I would love to have this kind of wealth of choice near us.

We especially loved our time at the Barnes Wetland Centre and the Horniman Museum, both perfect places to keep children amused, even in wet weather.

There were the wonders of the Horniman Aquarium (£4, entry to everything else FREE)….

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…and the Horniman’s room of curiosities…

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Plus their amazing outside space, and little ‘zoo’….complete with chickens, rabbits and sheep…

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And at the Barnes Wetland Centre – (an annoying £13 per adult, seems a lot for some ducks, but Munchkin loved it)….with ducks a plenty…and even some ducklings…

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Duck-spotter…
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Little baby ducks…
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Smiling at the ducklings
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Yellow ducks proved the most enticing…

It seems so easy to walk everywhere, and the reins we took for Munchkin came in so handy…

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Stepping out on Hampstead Heath…

Even the shops were seemed especially targeted for children…we had so much fun buying shoes in Biff Kids in Dulwich…

….while Waterstones on Putney High Street has an entire kids section at the back – with colouring books and even a slide…

Everywhere we looked were buggies and babies, and mummies and daddies, and it felt like a much safer place to be than I had expected. The wealth of things to do, the change of pace, and scenery, the different people and places, smells and sights. It was no doubt a sensory overload for Munchkin, who coped admirably, despite the temporary change in lifestyle, and I felt excited by the new worlds she was experiencing. And how well she took everything in her stride.

It was a trip filled with new experiences, some learning curves and new memories made. And I would definitely do it again.

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That said, it was rather wonderful to get back to the country too. We took a little walk in the late afternoon sun, where Munchkin splashed in a puddle, to a soundtrack of tweeting birds – and, it was there, surrounded by warm Cotswold stone and the green, green valley, that we finally felt like we were home…

My love affair with London lasted over ten years and was a passionate, all encompassing relationship at the time. Turns out, it took two years and one baby to get the city out of me. And, while I didn’t feel like an outsider or an imposter in London, I now know I feel more at home on winding country lanes and in sleepy villages. And it’s just another way, like so many others, that being a mother has changed me irrevocably.

“There’s nowhere else like London. Nothing at all, anywhere.”

Vivienne Westwood

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