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Bucket List No 20. Watch a film outdoors / No 959. Watch a film al fresco

12 Oct

There is something unfailingly optimistic about my attitude to summer. I’ve lived here for about 33 years so you would think I’d have a more realistic approach, but no.

Here’s just one example – every year I convince myself that August is always sunny in England. Amaya’s birthday is in August and both years I’ve planned an outside party with no back up plan.

We're here!

We’re here!

So it was with this sunny attitude that I booked a ticket with Luna Cinema to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel in Dulwich Park. The day before we went, it rained non-stop. I’m not exaggerating even a tiny bit. It didn’t stop raining for a single second all day. So I was a bit anxious but Saturday came and…it was sunny! Not particularly warm but dry and sunny!

We booked the ticket with extras so we had seats and food and there was no need to cart around chairs. Although we did take a much needed blanket along.

Our VIP seat

Our VIP seat

I kept forgetting we were sitting outside until I felt my husband’s ice cold arm (he never feels the cold) or saw a plane flying overhead.

Dulwich Park is a beautiful setting too and the Grand Budapest Hotel is well worth watching. It’s slightly surreal, really colourful and while a lot of open air cinemas only show old classics (think Top Gun, Dirty Dancing, Ghostbusters), this film is relatively new. Having a baby hasn’t changed things as much as I had expected but cinema outings are definitely something that has fallen by the wayside, so it was lovely watching something we hadn’t seen before.

Next time I would go better prepared – which basically means I’d take a lot more food and drink. Partly because I’m greedy. and partly because the choice of snacks to buy once you’re in is quite limited, but there are no restrictions on taking in whatever you want. People were turning up with massive wicker baskets of food and bottles of bubbles.

One lucky couple won the raffle to watch the film in a king size bed, complete with pillows and duvet. I’d take one of those in if they’d let me.

Waiting for the film to start...

Waiting for the film to start…

Whether you are a regular cinema goer or it’s a rare treat, the novelty of watching a film outdoors is brilliant and I’d love to try a more dramatic setting next. Top of my husband’s list was Brockwell Lido but I really want to do the hot tub cinema. At least that way, I wouldn’t need to worry so much about our unpredictable English summers.


Bucket List No 2. Enjoy a 5 star afternoon tea / No 676. Enjoy a hotel tea

5 Oct

Afternoon tea is brilliant.  You get to eat all that stuff that’s not so good for you, but it’s served up so daintily that you really don’t care. Mostly though, it’s the whole ceremony of making time with people and spoiling yourself which is so much fun.

Apparently, afternoon tea came about in the early 1800’s. Traditionally, two main meals were eaten – an early breakfast and an evening dinner. How did people cope?! Well Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, couldn’t and started having tea and a snack in the afternoon to keep her going. At first secretly, but then word spread and well to do friends started joining her and so the afternoon tea tradition was born.

Afternoon tea

Girl’s day out

If you’re going to do this, you need to spoil yourself. I took my mum to the Dorchester and we absolutely loved it. Partly because it all felt so decadent – the staff are lovely, the room where tea is served is stunning with a live pianist, but also because it is one of the first girl’s dates we’ve had in a very long time.

Swit swoo!

Swit swoo!

After some wise advice from a friend at work, we paced ourselves. The regular process of afternoon tea is sandwiches, followed by scones and finishing off with cakes and pastries. It’s the scones that will take you down, especially when served with clotted cream, so go easy on them and save some space for the end.

Less scones = more of these

Less scones = more of these

We even got an extra little something of white chocolate, pear sauce and a sliver of gold before the scones. The Dorchester, unsurprisingly, know how to do a cracking afternoon tea.

This is the perfect girlie day out so take your besties, your sister, your mum or all of them and book yourself a swanky afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea at the Dorchester from £45

No 904-905. Take a Turkish Bath / Bucket List No 13 – Enjoy a spa day

1 Jan

Apart from voucher deals, a visit to a spa tends to mean a big splurge…until Spa London came along.

With six locations around London, the ethos behind Spa London is to make the pampering experience more affordable while still offering the luxury of a spa. The one in York Hall comes highly recommended by my cousin who teaches swimming there, but if you want a bit of London history head to Ironmonger Row Baths.

Ironmonger Row Baths

Ironmonger Row Baths

Initially a public wash house, which was then turned into a Turkish Bath, it is now a fully equipped gym with a hammam downstairs. You can pay £25 to use the facilities for four hours and there is plenty to keep you busy. Two saunas, three thermal rooms, two steam rooms, a monsoon shower (which lights up and blasts you with cooling water jets), an ice bucket shower, a plunge pool and a relaxation room with herbal teas and fruit.

I booked me and my sister in law a Turkish Bath which cost £60. As well as all the above, it includes a full body wash with black soap, body scrub and a massage. They even washed us down with warm rose water poured from clay jugs which made me feel a little like Cleopatra.

Fluffy bathrobe and slippers

Fluffy bathrobe and slippers

When we arrived, we were given a bag with a fluffy robe and slippers which puts you in the right mood for getting pampered. It’s so much fun trying everything out and we even braved the ice bucket and plunge pool (twice!). The relaxation room is really lovely with wooden loungers, fluffy blankets and soothing music. There were a few people who had dozed off in there while we tried to eat our apples as quietly as possible.

Relaxation Room - my favourite bit of the spa

Relaxation Room – my favourite bit of the spa

This was a really lovely way to spend a day and have some much needed catch up time. Definitely take a friend to giggle with, but be warned, the spa experience can be addictive. Our plan for 2015 is to keep an eye out for voucher deals and try as many spas as possible. This could turn out to be an expensive, but very enjoyable, new habit. 

No 242. Visit London’s Aquarium, No 568. Get Stuffed (and enjoy London taxidermy) & No 621. Visit the wonderful Horniman Museum

9 Dec

South East London has some real gems and without a doubt, one of these is the Horniman Museum. If you have kids, it is a godsend and if you don’t, there is still plenty to enjoy.

The Horniman Walrus

The Horniman Walrus

Frederick J Horniman was a tea trader who collected souvenirs from around the world and put them in this amazing local museum. There are Egyptian mummies, stuffed animals, different exhibitions, lots of interactive rooms for curious young minds and a sensory music room which is great if you have a little one who needs to have a nap (Amaya was out for the count within two minutes).

Enjoying the Sound Garden

Enjoying the Sound Garden

Then downstairs there is the aquarium. Now be warned, this is a local museum and is nothing like the grand scale of London Aquarium but it is a lot of fun and you can stare at the large, colourful tropical tank for ages.

Tropical fish

Tropical fish

The grounds are also stunning. On warmer days, they are dotted with people of all ages who have found a tranquil spot for a picnic or a chilled out afternoon. For kids, there is an animal walk, a sound garden and a conservatory. The café overlooking the gardens is a perfect spot to take a break.

The bandstand and the grounds

The bandstand and the grounds

The Horniman Museum and grounds have so much to offer but more than anything, I can’t believe this place is not even a 20 minute walk from where we live. I’ll always miss Whitechapel but local treasures like this remind me there is life outside the East End.