A Day Off – 05/12/19


On Thursday, I took a day off. Unusual for me, I know, but it’s been a busy old month and sometimes you just need to channel Ferris Bueller and take some time to watch the world go by. So I dropped the kids off at school and instead of going to work I went to Covent Garden with not much of a plan than “do some Christmassy stuff” and meet Auntie Sabbage for lunch.

As plans go it’s not a bad one. I was too early for anything in Covent Garden to actually be open so I sat in Starbucks and had a toffee nut latte and a croissant. On the way in, I’d read an article in the Metro about festive drinks containing dangerous amounts of sugar and that really made me crave a Starbucks. I don’t think that was the intention of the article but it worked for me.

At 10, I set off for a wander around the market but still nothing was really open yet. So I went to Paperchase, which Eva had “fallen in yuv with” last year but, although the whole shop was fyuffy and sparkyee, there was nothing showstopping for Eva that wasn’t similar to the piles of fyuffy and sparkyee stuff she already has. Christmas shopping wasn’t going too well.

Still, Covent Garden is the most Christmassy place to spend a morning. Even if I wasn’t ticking anything off my to-do list, I was starting to get into the Christmas spirit. I mean, just look at the sheer number of Christmas trees:

And this one I think Eva would particularly yuv:

And there was a giant snowglobe, a mini ice rink and more Christmas trees:

The only thing that spoilt the look was this slightly gaudy pop-up that wasn’t really blending in with the ye olde Eliza Doolittle vibe of Covent Garden:

I’m sure the young folks love it. Eva probably would because it’s so shiny. Eva would also yuv this rabbit:

The stalls in the plaza still weren’t properly open so I wandered over to the Jubilee market where I scored some cheap woolly scarves for the kids in Gryffindor colours. First present in the bag!

I just kept heading south after that and stumbled upon a new shop called Neon Sheep, which was both cheap and sparkly. I picked up loads of stuff for Eva before remembering that it was Roo I really needed to buy for. A bottle of “Trump sucks” Kola Kubes and a desktop punch bag seemed to be the kind of thing that might amuse my boy. So it was lucky that Neon Sheep caters for the Trump-hating 10-year-old market. Plus the unicorn/glitter/fluffy stuff for Eva.

I’d managed to spend a lot in a short space of time so decided to go for a walk along the Strand, naturally humming “Let’s All Go Down the Strand” as I did so. Again, I had no real plan but popped into Somerset House to use the loos and isn’t it just another beautifully Christmassy place to hang out in?

It was at that point that I noticed a friend posting on Facebook about her stall at the Hatton Garden Christmas Market and I was only a mile or so away with time to kill before lunch. So I took a diversion down Fleet Street, past the Royal Courts of Justice and the very dramatic St Clement Danes’ Church:

There are so many nice and interesting buildings around there and it was just the kind of day to walk slowly and take it all in. The last time I’d been in Fleet Street was at the very end of the first day of our Monopoly weekend and trust me, it was not a day to linger that day.

So I got to Hatton Garden, hung out by the heaters and chatted to my friend for a while then back down Fetter Lane to meet Auntie Sabbage for lunch and a lovely cup of tea with a view at her office. And what a view:

And then it was time to go home and get the kids but let’s not dwell on that bit. Just know that I would highly recommend taking a day off if you can…there’s so much to see in London at this time of year and it’s so easy to miss. What would Ferris say?


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“The Pixie and the Pudding” at Little Angel Theatre – 30/11/19

Eva and I have enjoyed lots of shows at the Little Angel Theatre over the last few years but the last one we went to freaked her out a little bit. It was aimed at older children and my very sensitive girl didn’t quite cope. This show sounded a lot more on her level – it was aimed at 4-11-year-olds and the peril sounded very limited. You’ll be pleased to know that she came out saying it was “a very nice show” and denied that she was even a little bit upset in the middle when things weren’t going so well. I think that’s a pretty positive review.

So, what happened in the very nice show? It’s the tale of an old farmer who leaves a Christmas pudding out on his window sill every Christmas Eve for a pixie and the pixie returns the favour by blessing his farm with prosperity. Cows produce milk, roosters crow, chickens lay, vegetables grow. That was unintentionally poetic but I’ll pretend I did it on purpose. All is well until the farmer retires and new people take over – naive city folk – who dismiss the farmer’s note about the pixie and the pudding and then suffer a year of agricultural disaster. You can guess how it ends.

It may sound simplistic but it’s a charming little tale. There are songs to mark the passing of the seasons and they gradually become more melancholy as the new owners flail and falter. The two performers – Gilbert Taylor and Nix Wood – control the songs, work the puppets, play all the characters and sing the songs live as well, slipping into sweet harmony and occasionally a full-on dance routine. The puppets move with impressive nimbleness – at one point, the pixie is dancing inside a mixing bowl and leaping from table to floor with grace. The animal puppets were adorable and pretty much life-size. Eva was bought into the show as soon as Molly the Sheepdog appeared because Eva’s dog obsession shows no sign of abating. And Molly really did move like a real dog – so much so that I swear Eva let out a little sob when Molly was sent to sleep outside by the new owners. But as I said, she denies ever getting upset so who am I to doubt her?

There were a couple of emotional pinch points – Molly slinking off through the door with her tail dropping, the new owners facing up to the hopelessness of their situation – but it wasn’t ever overwhelmingly sad. There was a lightness of touch throughout and a lot of humour and liveliness, which stopped even the emotional ones among us getting too upset. The ending was joyous and full of hope so in every way, it was an uplifting Christmas show. Having said that, it wasn’t overly focused on Christmas so will still be enjoyable in the bleakness of January. In fact, I’d recommend it to take the edge off that ever-lasting month.

The take-home message was to have a little faith in the Christmas magic and to always treat your pixie well. Which is especially relevant if you end up taking a pixie home with you:


“The Pixie and the Pudding” runs from now until 2nd Feb 2020. For more details and tickets, click here. 

Disclaimer: I received free press tickets in exchange for a review but all opinions remain honest and my own. 

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Primrose Hill – 17/11/19


At bedtime last night, Eva asked if we could do “something exciting” after church today. To begin with, she was a bit vague about what that thing might be as she only knew it wouldn’t be chasing dinosaurs because they’re extinct. And while she toyed with the idea of riding a lion, it didn’t take her long to decide that it would be too much work to tame it. So, donkey riding it was. Or dog buying. I just let her go to bed and said we’d discuss it further in the morning.

We didn’t discuss it in the morning. She was still asleep when I left for church and it was much later on that I realised I had no plan to offer her, donkey-related or otherwise. So I had a quick look on the Time Out website before she came back from kids’ church and found the Primrose Hill Christmas Fair, which featured a dog show. We’ve been to a few dog shows this year as the kids are a bit obsessed with dogs but we only even seem to catch the tail end of them. And this was no exception. By the time we’d left church, caught a bus and a tube and walked over this bridge, they were about to start Best in Show

Still, the formalities of the dog show are really only formalities. The attraction for the kids is just lots and lots of dogs snuffling around and Eva notched up an impressive dog count of 182 by the end of the day. Only one could be the Best of the Best Boys though, and it was this boy, who matched his owner’s coat:

There were some great doggy antics to watch, even after the show had finished. One tiny pug slipped out of his collar and made a run for it and one dog tried to eat the basket of rosettes. The kids squealed with amusement at the adorable dogs inside the arena but it turns out there were adorable dogs all over the place. Hence Eva spotting so many. We kinda rushed through the fair to the food stalls because Nathan and I were both starving but as soon as we found them, we needed to change plan and find a toilet. We were right on the edge of Primrose Hill itself so we went into the park in search of the loos that Google Maps promised.

Guess what we found? More dogs! Oh yes. Including a pack of three Chows Chows all snuffling around each other. I wonder if they stick together like Bunchems if they get too close?

What we didn’t find were the toilets. They were under renovation and so we had to use a small block of portaloos that had little in the way of loo roll, soap and light. The cafe was also being renovated so we *still* hadn’t had lunch. But the kids had spotted the playground and so we delayed lunch once more while they had a climb:

If you’re wondering, the thing that looks like a giant climbing frame in the background is the bird enclosure at London Zoo. There was a sandpit and swings and Roo found some kind of metal hook thing that acted like a low-octane zipwire.

We eventually peeled the kids away and walked back around the zoo and into Camden, where Nathan and I finally scored some reduced-price sandwiches from the Co-op. It wasn’t quite the edgy street food I’d hoped for – more like bland Victoria Line food. But at least Eva had seen 182 dogs. And that is definitely “something exciting” isn’t it?

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Salzburg Without a Toddler Part 2 – 20/10/19


I realise that my last post about our Salzburg  trip launched straight into my epic Sound of Music fangirling without explaining quite how obsessive I am. Long-term readers will be familiar with my love of the Sound of Music but there are other reasons to visit Salzburg – the beautiful mountainous scenery, the architecture and, of course, all the Mozart sights. It’s just that, for me, the town is inextricably linked with SoM as are the surrounding mountains. So that might explain why we spent Sunday morning walking around in circles.

First off though, we had breakfast at our hotel. I’m normally a bit tight-fisted when it comes to hotel breakfasts but it’s much more affordable with two people than it is for four and when we woke up at 9, the idea of stumbling a few metres and having coffee on tap was very appealing. The pickled herrings and onions were less appealing – I like to sample the local cuisine but it was a bit early even for me to start on the pickles. Watched over by the portrait of a Salzburgian David Cameron doppelganger, we fuelled up on coffee and pastries and I outlined my plan for the morning – “just quickly before we go up in the cliff lift”.

Basically, I’d had a lot of confusion over bits of the Do Re Mi montage. I’d read something on Trip Advisor that made my brain think that the scene with the Fiaker (horse and cart) took place outside the Museum of Modern Art. When I realised that the museum was on top of the cliff, I spent a long time wondering how they’d got the horse up there. Late on Saturday night, it had become apparent that the bit outside the museum was the bit I’d thought took place on the bridge – the first time Maria teaches them the “when you know the notes to sing” part of the song. So the horse and cart must be somewhere around the Old Town. It would take us mere minutes to pin it down.

Or walk round and round every single street looking for a grey building that fitted this screenshot:

And experiencing a shedload of disappointment. But whenever God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window, right?

So we gave up. Went to the Billa supermarket to get a packed lunch and actually get on with the main plan of the day – to go up the MönchsbergAufzug and walk round the top of the Mönchsberg to Nonnberg Abbey. We weren’t exactly climbing a mountain but it felt a bit like we were. The lift was a few Euros each and we chose the “there and back again” option even though that would involve walking all the way to Nonnberg and back.

It was slightly disconcerting to get into the lift and hear “Space Oddity” playing – were we about to visit der Mond rather than der Mönchsberg? It turned out to be gaslighting us because for all the lift noises and Bowie countdown we actually didn’t move at all. The doors opened and we were still at ground level. Apparently we had to press a button once we were in the lift, something I’m not used to because the work lifts don’t have those kind of buttons. The second attempt was far more successful and we emerged to the kind of glorious Salzburg-view that you would normally find with curly golden writing over it:

And yes, it was the setting for that Do Re Mi segment and no, not the bit with the horses:

(Number 28 on the map if you’re still following these)

There was an exhibition on the moon landings at the museum, which explained the Bowie in the lifts. There were also a couple of modern art pieces outside, including Sky Space – an installation by artist James Turrell, which consisted of a hole in a roof over a tower. I don’t really get modern art…I think I’ve made that clear already.

I also don’t normally get the appeal of walking around in the countryside but it was a beautiful day and there were gorgeous views along the way. Everywhere you looked, there were mountains and castles and sunshine. Glorious:

After a bit of a steep climb, we stopped at the Bürgerwehr viewing point to have a breather and take in yet more cinematic views:

This mountain climbing thing wasn’t as hard as I’d thought…the lift definitely helped. And also it wasn’t a mountain. But still, we could definitely see some mountains from here.

Worryingly, the path started to dip down while we still a long way from Nonnberg. We could see it on the horizon so knew we would have to climb back up. Before we did that though, we had a chance to get a picture of us together thanks to a nice Syrian:

At this point, we could have visited the fortress, which would have involved a realllly steep climb but we had SoM sights to find and couldn’t afford to be distracted. So we pressed on to Nonnberg and it was totally worth it:

There’s the gate that Sister Berthe very slowly unlocks for the Nazis before sabotaging their cars and the same gate is used by the Von Trapp children when they come to look for Maria. There’s the church interior seen right at the start of the film and the garden that Maria walks through at the start of “I Have Confidence”. It’s been pointed out elsewhere that this shot does not reflect the view from Nonnberg:

I totally agree – Nonnberg isn’t in front of the Dom. But the same post suggested it was in the same location as the Do Re Mi bit outside the museum, which I disagree with. This shot seems roof level and the cliff lift goes way higher than that. I am kicking myself for not getting the exact location but I happened to take this shot of Nathan later on in the day, which almost matches:

And I think that was around the top of the Clemens-Holzmeister-Stiege, which are around 800m from Nonnberg and am impressive distance to travel between the lines “My heart should be wildly rejoicing” and “Oh, what’s the matter with me?”. Still, it’s even more impressive when, thirty seconds later, she seemingly abseils down the cliff face between the words “Oh I” and “must stop these doubts” because she’s walking through the arches at Residenzplatz by that point. And she’s not even out of breath. What a lady!!

While we were at Nonnberg, I had a small inspiration about that whole horse and cart thing and checked the Trip Advisor thread again – the one that had confused me earlier. Turns out that further down the thread someone had given the exact address for that sequence – Nonntaler Hauptstrasse, numbers 12-20. It was only a few minutes away from where we were, so we scurried down these steps:

And behold! A greyish building that could just be *the one*:

It was! John L on Trip Advisor had been absolutely right and all the signs were there – the funny shaped arch, the formal steps and this grey building. We were so happy that we sat down to have a sandwich right there and then. Or at least Nathan did. I was still full from breakfast:

(It’s where I’ve marked the little musical notes on the map)

Our next target was the Rock Riding School, backdrop for the Salzburg Folk Festival scenes towards the end. They have guided tours every day at 2 so we had an hour to get back to the Altstadt and and buy our tickets. Google Maps said it was 18 minutes. How hard could this be?

Google Maps didn’t mention that it involved climbing back over the Mönchsberg so the answer was “pretty darn hard”. It was a long way up and the little steps cut into the slope didn’t do much to relieve the gradient. If we’d taken the less scenic route via the roads, we would have scooped an extra location as well – the market where Gretl drops a tomato. Bah and grumble. It also seemed that Google had no real plan for how to get us down again because a dotted line to our final destination siggested a Maria-style abseil into the riding school. We weren’t up for that, so backtracked and took the aforementioned Clemens-Holzmeister-Stiege, which Nathan thinks are like the Escher steps. Fortunately, they weren’t and we managed to get down.

Tickets for the tour are described somewhat vaguely on the website but essentially – go to Max-Reinhardt-Platz at 1:45 and there’s a large building that takes up most of one side of the square. Look for a pillar with a large mask-like sculpture on it and the gates next to it will open when it’s time for ticket sales to start. We got there a few minutes early so had to go and use the loos (luckily I had a 50 Cent piece from an earlier trip) and then wait for the exact time. This is where the ticket office is:

It’s a 50 minute tour in German and English and it takes in not just the Felsenreitschule (riding school) but also the Haus für Mozart and the largest venue – the Großes Festspielhaus. It was a really interesting tour and we got to see the backstage area for the Großes Festspielhaus, which was massive and impressive. The acoustics in the auditorium are said to be amazing so the guide asked if anyone would step forward and sing in order to demonstrate. You don’t need to know what happened next, dear reader.

The Felsenreitschule doesn’t have such good acoustics because it’s carved out of the cliff face but it is an incredible space and obviously the most significant to us because we were racking up those SoM points (number 24 on the map)

But definitely worth paying attention on the rest of the tour as there are some great frescoes to look at and lots of good facts about the building. We even felt like we’d finally paid poor Wolfgang a bit of attention.

Afterwards, we sat down for a snack by these giant gherkins. We didn’t snack on the gherkins – I had a sandwich and Nathan had some milka biscuits  – so it really felt like I was consciously rejecting pickles all day. Most un-Katelike.

However, the gherkins were made of metal (more modern art) and I think the moment in the Festival Hall had been as much Kate as Salzburg could possibly handle anyway.

Suitably revitalised, we decided to make one more sightseeing push. So far, we hadn’t scored any aspect of the Von Trapp house – I knew that the patio belonged to Schloss Leopoldskron and was out of bounds to the general public. I didn’t feel much like getting the bus all the way out there just to squint at it across a lake. But Schloss Frohnburg seemed much more promising – it was the front of the house and only ten minutes away on the bus. We had  to get 24 hour tickets to get us back to the airport on Monday morning, so it made perfect sense to start them on Sunday afternoon and go and see if we could score one more sight.

And we did. The O-8 took us as far as the main road (stop: Poliziedirektion) and then it was an easy walk down the helpfully-named Frohnburgweg. You come out at the back of the house, which looks almost right (yellow house, big gates) but not quite. It isn’t until you go round past the goats that you find the front gates and drive, plus the road that Maria skips down at the end of “I Have Confidence” (No really, she covers a heck of a lot of ground in that song):

It almost completed the set of locations for that song, except I never bothered to find out where the shot of her crossing the square to get to the bus took place. Darny darn darn. Anyone know?

It’s fair to say that we were both a bit tired by this point. We went back to the hotel and although I attempted to go to church twice that evening, neither was successful and all we actually did was go for a pizza at O Poppo, which was very nice and not too pricey.

There were loads of interesting things we found around the city that I’ve kind of skimmed over in my rush to tell you about obscure SoM locations. So let’s whizz through them now:

Eva’s ideal dress – half sequins, half candy canes:

Signs that looked like pictures of Nathan and Eva walking together (man in hat, girl arsing about):

The world’s poshest McDonalds (move over Winchester):

Horse motifs everywhere and the occasional unicorn goat:

The very glittersome “Christmas in Salzburg” shop:

A padlock bridge:

Loads of Austrian traditional dress that I reckon Nathan would look pretty cool in (this is the women’s jacket but you get the idea):

Heart-shaped bushes:

And a strong push to differentiate Austria from similar-sounding countries:

As we sat at the O-10 bus stop this morning waiting to go back to the airport, Salzburg gave us one last parting gift – a beautiful sunrise by the Horse Pond. I really did hate to go and leave this pretty sight:

Auf Wiedersehen Salzburg!

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Salzburg Without a Toddler Part 1 – 19/10/19

Let’s start at the very beginning..

Although it may not be a very good place to start if the beginning is 5am in rural Essex. We were already behind schedule thanks to a diversion to Chingford’s only 24 hour petrol station and as I was sitting in the forecourt, loading the destination into Google Maps,  I had a bit of a shock. 48 minutes to Stansted? I may have boasted previously of our 28 minute drive to the airport…even on this blog… but this was the first time I’d relied on it because it had allowed us to set a 4am alarm rather than an unthinkably early 3-something alarm.

I looked in a bit more detail. The M11 was closed for emergency roadworks. Yup, that would do the trick. The M11 is somewhat central to the whole half-hour drive thing. I hadn’t budgeted time for petrol and now this? It was gonna bit a touch tight. The only thing I wanted to be a touch tight were my jeans because I had gorged on so much strudel. But this was how it was gonna be. And it could be worse – the roads were quiet, we had Longpigs and Madness on the stereo and the back seat was entirely free of younglings. Although it was early, I was more or less cognitive to remember that I’d dropped them off in Winchester some 11 hours previously and we weren’t just sneaking out while they slept. It felt a bit like that tho.

We made it to the roundabout outside Stansted around the time we were meant to be at the check in desk. A tad late but well redeemable. Just no room for errr….errr, did we just take the wrong exit and go into the “paid for” drop off section? Oh marzipan. We tried asking some blokes in high vis how to get through to the car park and they said to just keep driving straight through. No mention of the barriers that would charge us £4 for doing that. Given that we were late, trapped and with people on our tail, we just paid. Most expensive 100m of our lives.

But you’ll be pleased to know that everything went remarkably smoothly after that. A bit of a queue for check in and security, obviously, but very little hanging around once we were on the other side. Just time to grab a soy latte and a sausage sandwich from Starbucks before boarding the plane to read a book that slagged off people who grabbed soy lattes from Starbucks. I think I was OK with the sausage sandwich though because it wasn’t like it was vegan sausage on gluten free bread. Like the drive up, I too was redeemable.

In just 1 hour 30, we were coming in to land over the mountains of Salzburg. I don’t mind admitting that I had a weeny tear in my eye as I hummed a little song to myself about going to the hills when my heart was lonely. I had another weeny tear in my eye as we stood under the “EU Citizens” sign at arrivals for possibly the last time. But, as Nathan pointed out, we’d already had two farewell trips to the EU – to France and Portugal– and he was looking forward to seeing where we’d go in January.

Somehow we were the very last to get through passport control and by the time we got to baggage reclaim the belt had stopped and our suitcase was nowhere to be seen.  Time to deploy my first proper interaction auf Deutsch and in what I hoped were not-too-panicked tones. The attendant told us to look in between the two reclaim belts, which was fruitless (fruchtenlos?) as there was nothing at all there. We really were starting to panic and she’d gone off to look for someone else’s luggage when we saw her  from a distance hauling our battered red suitcase out through the flaps. Never have I moved faster while also thinking and shouting rapidly in German. Happily, we got it back and walked out through the terminal to catch the trolleybus 0-10 into town.

Getting public transport in a foreign country is always slightly tricky but we figured it out. There was a ticket machine at the bus stop, which was right across the car park from the terminal. You could pay by card and, as long as you’re not a student or a senior citizen, there is only one viable option – the 24-hr vollpreis. You can use this for any 24 hour period starting when you validate it on one of the ticket punching machines on the bus itself. We were there for 48 hours so 2 lots of tickets suited us nicely, including the trip back to the airport at the end.

The O-10 runs every ten minutes or so and it’s only 15 minutes into the Altstadt (Old Town) from the airport. As we drove through the city, it looked very modern and not quite the Salzburg I knew so well from the Sound of Music. Then we went through a rocky tunnel and emerged into the Altstadt, just as I thought it would be.  The very first thing we saw was the Pferdeschwemmen – the Horse Pond – which is a distinctive Salzburg feature (no 25 on the map) and one I thought I recognised from the film but couldn’t exactly place where. A lot of googling later revealed that it was a snippet of the “My Favourite Things” instrumental montage (see top photo below) but also that there was a deleted scene featuring Liesl and Rolf that was shot there. At the time I didn’t want to have my head stuck in my phone to research – we’d only been in Salzburg for 30 seconds – so we just took some photos and walked on to see what else there was to see.

Round the next corner was the entrance to the Museum of Modern Art, with the Monschberg lift, which seemed to me to be an easy shortcut for climbing at least one mountain. I really wanted to go in but we had all our luggage with us and check in at the Hotel Elefant was four hours away. So we kept walking.

Although it turned out that walking with a large suitcase on narrow cobbled pavements wasn’t the easiest thing. After a few more minutes, we decided to go and throw ourselves at the mercy of the hotel and see if they could take it off our hands.

And they could! My awkward German was obviously compelling enough for them to take pity on us. So now that we were unburdened, we could wander free around the Altstadt and it was not long after that that we found our first confirmed SoM sight – Residenzplatz. It was where Maria has her revelation that she does, in fact, have confidence in herself after leaving the abbey. She walks through the archways still full of doubt but by the time she’s at the fountain made of what seems like merhorses, she’s perked up a bit. It’s a must see and we went back there several times, just to soak up the atmosphere. It’s also where they filmed the Anschluss scene, but that wasn’t the kind of atmosphere we were soaking up…more the confident epiphany vibes. It’s number 10 on the map:

You may have picked up already that there’s a running horse-theme to Salzburg. Not a theme of running horses but a running theme that is equestrian in nature. We’d already posed by two horse fountains. Would there be more? Spoiler – yes.

Next to Residenzplatz is the Dom – the Cathedral – which was chiming as we walked past it and I felt the urge to run through the square, splashing water on my face. I didn’t but I should have done – it was remarkably hot and sunny for an October afternoon. Especially after weeks or constant rain in London. The Dom was another location that features only briefly in the “My Favourite Things” instrumental montage  but by the time we’d figured that out it was the following night. Hence the picture below (top one is from the film, bottom one is me watching the film on my phone to work out where I should be standing. Number 8 on the map, partly obscured by the musical notes I’ve added on….)

Oh, and there’s also some modern art near the Dom. A giant Goldene Kugel. There was lots of modern art around the town but I’ll admit, I wasn’t as interested in it as I was in the SoM sites. Call me uncultured if you will:

Our next uncultured steps took us across the Mozartsteg, a bridge across the river, which also featured in that same “My Favourite Things” instrumental montage. I was a little confused at the time as I thought it was where they first put words to “Do Re Mi” but, contrary to what I’d always thought, that wasn’t on a bridge at all. Don’t worry readers, we found it later. Were you worried?

It was still gloriously sunny at this point, so we decided to flop down on the river bank, eat a large bag of crisps and read for a while. And yes, that same river bank did feature just after the bridge shot but again, I didn’t realise it at the time. I just wanted a sit down in the sun with a view:

Nathan was way happier than he looks in this photo, honestly:

Why wouldn’t he be happy? It’s not like I tricked him into spending his 40th birthday treat doing stuff that I was obsessed about. Noooo….

As soon as Nathan had smug-posted on fbook about how sunny it was, it clouded over. So we got up and decided to walk to Mirabelle Palace, home of the last bit of the Do Re Mi montage. Did we find all the relevant shots? You betcha:

The gates with the outstretched arms are the ones closest to the street, just by the marionette theatre. The fountain that the children walk on the edge of is yet another horse fountain, the hedge tunnel is pretty easy to find and the steps at the end are the ones with all the tourists jumping up and down them. The statue is off to the side – you cross over a little bridge by a playground (ah, shame we didn’t have the children) and there’s a sculpture park with the specific fellow sitting on his own by the trees – not in the main circle. Just in case he was feeling lonely, we gave him a Von Trapp-style pat on the head and a cuddle:

The weather was feeling not chilly but autumnal by now and we were flagging. We hadn’t had lunch, so we went back to Getriedegasse and bought some warmed-up bagels from the Spar, which we ate by the river under the watchful and hungry eye of a local doggie. He remained hungry, poor boy. Then it was 3PM and time to check into our hotel. Good intentions about going up in the cliff list melted away as the 4am start caught up with us and the lure of a nap proved overpowering. Our hotel room was like a cocoon – not much natural daylight and very warm – so we stopped for just a moment and woke up again at 6pm. I think we needed it.

For dinner, I really wanted some traditional Austrian fare so we went to a restaurant by the name of the Goldene Kugel – much like the sculpture outside the Dom – and ordered schnitzel, bier and strudel, which ticked all the boxes of being hearty, filling and very Austrian. It didn’t hurt that two of those things were among Maria’s favourites as well. We were going to struggle to get any wild geese or indeed snowflakes, but deep fried meat in breadcrumbs and pastry we could do. Nathan had the Apfelstrudel and I had a cheesecake version and I have to say that his was tastier. Which of course didn’t stop me from finishing mine as well as having some of his:

After dinner, we went for another walk round the Altstadt to work off some of the stodginess. Residenzplatz was deserted so I could skip about and sing “I Have Confidence” to my heart’s content. We hadn’t achieved everything we’d set out to do on Day 1, thanks to the massive nap, but we’d had a good try. And tomorrow is another day….whoops, wrong film….

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“The Dong With a Luminous Nose” at Little Angel Theatre – 22/09/19

We’ve been to the Little Angel Theatre quite a few times now – more than I can count anyway. It always feels like a bit of a hidden gem, down the leafy passageway from Cross Street, and it’s an intimate performing space which means that the audience can feel very close to the action. Most of the shows we’ve seen there have been aimed at the 3-7 market and have been charming but fairly straightforward stories. This was our first foray into Little Angel’s more grown up productions (aged 7-adult) and it was an abstract, wordless piece based loosely on an Edward Lear poem.

It certainly was darker than the shows for younger kids – quite literally at times, as the whole stage was plunged into total darkness near the beginning and then a single light shone out, marking the first appearance of the eponymous Dong. The themes of the show were fairly dark as well though – abandonment, loss, loneliness – and it was a bit much for my very sensitive girl, who said she felt sad as soon as Edward’s parents sailed away, leaving him alone on a chair overlooking the sea. She perked up a bit at the first mention of “The Jumblies” because she’d read a poem about them at school but Edward’s sadness never completely left him and I think Eva was having a bit of an empathy overflow with him.

Which is a shame because there’s much to enjoy about the show – the way that the score and the movement of the puppets blended together perfectly and the way that the abstract shapes looked almost human-like in their movement but still fantastical. The much younger child behind us seemed to be taking all the bright colours and shapes at face value and so was filled with nothing but happiness whereas I think Eva was still wondering when Edward’s parents were going to come back. She is 7, so just on the cusp of the recommended age, but it’s probably worth noting that a super-sensitive seven year old might not cope that way with the strength of emotion in the piece.

The fantasy sequences are interwoven with the more real setting of Chankly Bore where a phone rings but no-one answers and the people are featureless, murmuring shadows with the exception of Edward. It’s telling that he is set apart from the rest of them by the depth of detail on his puppet and the expressions that he’s capable of compared with the townsfolk. They carry out their lives around him – shopping for bread and throwing birthday parties – but he sits alone, his parents’ house growing derelict behind him until he finds some purpose in the shape of the Jumbly Girl. Then he is transformed from the dull palette of his usual clothes to bright colours, a clown face and even a mermaid-like tail at one point. By the end, he has adorned himself with the homemade luminous nose and although he is still imbued with sadness, he is completely different from the Edward of the start.

The show is slickly staged, with puppeteers moving as one to propel Edward across the stage and singing in complex harmonies as they do so. It is sombre and with only a few points of comic relief but it is moving, thought-provoking and innovative – certainly not your average puppet show! It’s running till 10th Nov and is a good show for children who are mature enough to deal with the big issues it raises, especially the idea of growing up and changing. For tickets and more information, take a look here.

Disclaimer: I received free press tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own.

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Christmas in September – 14/09/19

For the past few autumns, I’ve been at odds with the rest of my family about when the appropriate time to start singing Christmas songs is. Nathan traditionally had a 1st Dec embargo in place but that’s gone out of the window with the advent (pun intended) of my choir. We now start Christmas gigging at the end of November so that means starting rehearsal in September or, this year, in October. Working back from that logically means that I tend to spend August choosing and arranging the new Christmas songs. Which, according to my family, is TOO EARLY. This year though, the kids are doing a proper Christmas-themed show in Perform as opposed to an arbitrary Perform show with a song about snow tacked on the end. So they too are busy singing Christmas songs, even before I am. All of which means it’s definitely not too early to start batting that particular C-word about.

Sony Movies think so too, which is why they’ve launched their Christmas movie channel already – a full-day schedule of festive treats on Freeview 50, Sky 319, Virgin 424 and Freesat 303. And to celebrate, they teamed up with innovative Chin Chin Ice Cream to give away 100 Christmas Turkey Dinner Sundaes. Eva and I were in town today to teach English, so we jumped on the 38 afterwards to check it out for ourselves. Well, first we had lunch at My Favourite Cafe in Essex Road and then we jumped on a remarkably slow, hot and overcrowded 38 that terminated at Holborn instead of Piccadilly Circus and then had to walk. We earned that ice cream.

I had warned Eva that it might be slightly unusual ice cream but wasn’t sure myself just unusual it would be. The answer was…really quite. It was meant to be a turkey dinner in one bowl and certainly had that meaty-gravy taste alongside the caramel of the ice cream. I couldn’t help feel that it would be really nice ice cream without that meatiness and as it was, it was more interesting than delicious. Eva certainly wasn’t sure:

She eventually dug some of the cranberries out from the bottom, carefully wiped the ice cream off and then spun a fantasy tale about a giant cranberry that looked like a turkey. I finished her ice cream but more because I dislike wasting food than because I was finding it a super enjoyable experience. It wasn’t nasty, it was just…odd. The people at the next table described it as “remarkable” but I’m not sure whether they meant that in a positive or a negative way. Remarkable is a safe word for it. What it definitely was was Christmassy. I mean, you could taste all the elements of the turkey dinner in there and it did feel festive. But also odd.

On the way back across Soho Square, we spotted something which made Eva remarkably happy. She told me the other day that there were two famous nurses in the Crimean War and where did we end up today but in front of Mary Seacole’s house? It made a nice ending to a surreal Soho trip:

If this review has convinvced you to try the Turkey Dinner Sundae then hurry – they’re only available till Tuesday. But I’d probably recommend just sticking to the Christmas movies…

More information on Chin Chin here

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A Very Pottery Day – 07/09/19

The children have an obsession. Well, they have several and I am indulging at least one of them on a regular basis – it’s so easy to go to parks and let them look at dogs – but the specific one I was indulging on Saturday was Harry Potter. Roo read Philosopher’s Stone last year and Nathan is now manfully ploughing through Order of the Phoenix for bedtime stories….I don’t quite know what happened in between for us to get to this point but safe to say, Harry Potter has been a constant theme this summer.

So when I heard that Hamleys were holding a “Back to Hogwarts” event, it was time to visit. The activities started at 12 so naturally we arrived at 11 with an hour to spare before anything happened. There’s a whole “Wizarding World” in the basement of Hamleys tho, so we managed to entertain ourselves. In fact, Eva declared it “the most wonderful place I ever seen in my yife”. Although that was before she visited the World of Pink on Floor 2. She might have changed her mind.

There is a lot of HP stuff down there. A whole wand shop with a diadem of Ravenclaw sparkling in the window. An invisibility cloak video. A real live Golden Snitch whizzing about. A giant Lego Hagrid. And lots of other photo opportunities:

I don’t know whether the lego was only there for the event or if it’s permanent but Roo was very taken with the giant Harry Potter minifig made out of lego. You can tell it’s a minifig by the claw hands:

We were starting to tire of the basement – even if the kids weren’t – so I took Roo uo to the toilets on Floor 5, stopping off at Floor 4 to learn how to fly a drone. And not buy one. Sorry, charismatic drone salesman guy.

We’d just got back to the basement when two wizards declared that the Sorting Ceremony was about to begin:

Children sat on the lego sorting hat chair and the hat sorted them mainly into Gryffindor because a high proportion of children described themselves as brave and very few used words like “evil”, “badgerlike” or “inconsequential”. Both my kids told the wizards that they were Gryffindor, though *someone* bagged himself a Ravenclaw sticker.

It was another half hour until the Quidditch practice  – I don’t think it was really necessary to have already spent an hour in the basement – so Eva and I wandered up to the pink and sparkly floor while Roo and Nathan mooched around the Star Wars section. Eva gasped as we got to the top of the escalator and she saw how yuvyee everything was. She really could have bought the entire floor. So she says.

We got back down in time for Quidditch practice, which mainly involved sitting on a Nimbus 2000 identical to the one Eva has at home:

Thank goodness she didn’t bring it out with her like she did for Free Comic Book Day – it would have looked like she was shoplifting. It was bad enough that she was carrying her Harry and Ginny dolls everywhere when they were being sold in the shop:

The activities concluded with a Harry Potter lucky dip and both kids were indeed lucky, scoring a HP pencil case each. It was at that point that I realised we’d had two hours entertainment and a pencil case without spending any money. I felt a twinge of guilt but hey, money is tight at the end of the summer…you need to find thrills where you can.

We had just about enough to buy some lattice fries at Leon though. I was in desperate need of some food and Leon on Carnaby Street is bigger than it looks from the outside (sorry, wrong fandom). I had a healthy chicken aioli box and some not so healthy fries. Perfick.

Just one more stop to make then and I still haven’t decided whether this was worth it or not. We were passing through Kings Cross on the way back and it made logical sense to go and have our photo taken at Platform 9 3/4. The kids were knackered though and I was full of cold so we were getting a little grouchy by then. It’s changed a lot since last time we did this – back then, Reuben was a toddler and the photo opportunity was still into an exterior wall of the station:

Now that the station is all shiny and new, it’s an integral part of the Kings Cross experience. And it was a proper experience, with a professional photographer on hand, Hogwarts scarves and even a man to make your scarf look like it’s fluttering in the breeze. It makes it worth the 40 minute queue. We didn’t buy the professional shots though. I tell you, times is hard.

There was some altercation over a swing after that so let’s leave it there. It was a great day out and really tapped into the current obsession. The Hamleys activities have now sadly finished but go visit the shop anyway. It’s cheaper than the HP Studios experience!

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Hyde Park – 26/08/19

Sometime last week, Eva was jumping up and down in the bathroom as she waited for her bath to fill. “I’m so excited!” she kept saying “But I don’t know why!” Eventually she realised that it was because “Natayee” was coming to stay. Yes, it’s that time of year when we get a temporary teenage child wrangler for a week or so and the children have a wonderful time with her. Well, that was this week and they did have a wonderful time but first there was the small matter of picking her up from Victoria Coach Station. That was all the way back on Bank Holiday Monday, which defied the bank holiday odds by being gloriously sunny, and so we decided to go to Hyde Park en route to pick her up.

Instinctively, I’d go to Hyde Park Corner for a visit to Hyde Park but Google Maps suggested Knightsbridge and it’s actually way better if you’re aiming for the Diana fountain end. You get out at the north entrance and then there’s a short stroll down Serpentine Walk before you get to the park. Look out for these very fancy gates on the way:

It was middayish by the time we got there, so we picked a shady tree to sit under and eat our sandwiches. Not a willow, because the kids were convinced they were all Whomping Willows and therefore out to get us. I’m happy to report that we didn’t get whomped.

And we did find a new playground we’d never been to before! I’m not sure how we’ve missed it all these years – we’ve been to the Diana playground on the other side but not this one. I think it’s called the South Carriage Drive Playground and it looks quite newly refurbished. There’s lots of greenery, which is lovely for adventuring but not so good for sightlines. We set up a base, perched on a wooden fence in the shade and told the kids where to find us – luckily they are of an age where we can do that. I’m not sure how the experience would be with younger kids or a less than 1:1 ratio.

There’s a small kiosk for ice creams, drinks etc but surprisingly no toilets nearby. Still, a fun enough place to spend half an hour or so:

But this was all sweaty work for a 30c day, so it was time to head to the Diana Memorial Fountain, stopping off to changes in the loos by the Serpentine Lido. We’d been there on an unseasonably warm day in February but had got a little chilly by the time we were traipsing round H&M in soggy clothes. This was more the kind of day to visit. Nothing but blue skies as far as the eye could see.

There was a small problem though. The water wasn’t working on half the fountain. The bottom half was fine and, in fact, spurted out more furiously than I’d ever seen it on one corner. But the majority of the top section was just dry, hot granite to walk on. Not overly refreshing. So I suggested we stay in the cool water in the bottom half but no, the kids had to complete a loop every time. Luckily, the water came back on after 2 or 3 circuits and we could finally enjoy the fountain in its fullness.

Around this time, I’d got a call from Nat saying she’d be a couple of hours later than planned. So we stretched out our paddling as long as we could until our heads were aching from too much sun. Then we wandered back to the playground, without even bothering to change the kids out of their swimmers. The aim was the ice cream stand we’d seen earlier and it was most definitely needed by that point. I had the berries and cream ice cream pot,which was insanely expensive but very tasty and I got to finish Eva’s too as she ran off to play again.

She was enjoying it more than she looks here, honest..

The next step was to decide how we got to Victoria Coach Station. It was about a mile’s walk which would have been more than manageable on a cooler day. So instead we took the unwise decision to wait at the bus stop opposite Harrods for the C1, which seemed to take hours to come into view, even longer to make its way through the traffic towards us and more hours still to propel us the short distance to Sloane Square where we were unceremoniously turfed out. We were not yet at Victoria. An overly concerned man told us that another C1 was right behind but I was done with bus stops, so we started to walk the last half mile, spotting what looked like the Batmobile on the way:

It is always nice to have a wander around posh parts of London, like Eaton Square which didn’t seem in the least bit square but did contain some private tennis courts. We’d found some interesting passageways between Hyde Park and Harrods as well, like this one which looked like Diagon Alley until you spotted the branch of William Hill:

But the best street, weirdly enough, was the one that the coach station itself was on, Elizabeth Street. We’d never approached from the north before so had never realised it’s full of shops and cafes which are completely decorated in flowers. You can guess which one of my kids yuvved it:

Pity the coach station itself is nowhere near as beautiful. I noticed for the first time though that there is a library next door so maybe next time we’ll go and read a book while we’re waiting!

We eventually scored ourselves a Nat and made our way home via Victoria not-coach station. Which is all the excuse I need to tell you about the beautiful new toilets there. They’re free! And have been made over with shiny brass doors, white tiles and plants. There’s even a friendly women showing you which cubicle is available. If I had an award to hand out for “Most Improved Bog” they would definitely win it. Definitely worth skipping the coach station loos and heading to these. Just look at them:

Some would say that’s a bum note to end the summer holiday posts on but I think it’s just about perfect. Happy September!

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West Bay and Windsor – 15-16/08/19


Yes, I know those places aren’t anywhere near each other but they alliterate and we’ve been to both this week. Well kinda. It was actually the next bay over from West Bay. But again, see the alliteration! We’ve spent hours in the car this week playing Harry Potter alphabet games, so you really start to appreciate a bit of alliteration after a while. What would Godric Gryffindor do?

So, not-quite-West Bay. I think it was actually called Hive Beach and we chose there because it had a cafe and toilets and a National Trust car park that we could use for free because Holly and Chris are NT members. It had that same, orange-cliff Broadchurchy look as West Bay, which feels a bit sinister if you’ve watched the show. But what could be sinister on a day when the sky is a deep blue, the sun is shining and there are an abundance of adorable doggies on the beach? Nothing, that’s what.

The waves were a little terrifying though. I’ve been a bit wary of the sea and kids ever since Eva nearly drowned herself at Frinton two years ago, so she and I just stayed at the very edge of the surf and let our toes, ankles and occasionally knees get wet. It’s hard to describe what exactly it was about the sea that made me think it wasn’t a safe day, but the point at which the waves were most swollen was just past the shore edge and it looked like it got very deep very suddenly. There were quite a few young teenage kids in there, who seemed to be enjoying it, but one especially kept making me worried when he seemed to go further and further out to sea and not get himself back. I definitely wasn’t going to chuck my little non-swimmer in there when even swimmers were struggling.

(He was fine last I saw him by the way. I probably didn’t need to panic)

Apart from the paranoia-inducing waves, it was idyllic. There were rocks for the kids to climb on, a grassy area to sit on by the ice cream hut and the smell of fish’n’chips in the air. Obviously Eva dropped her ice cream on the path cause she was arsing about, but we picked it back up again and it was mostly OK. I had the salted caramel flavour and it was pretty amazing. She had the Strawberry and Path Grit and didn’t complain too much. We were sad to leave but we had a long way to go before bed so had to get on the road.

Because bed was, as you might have discerned by now, in Windsor. Which is 3 hours’ drive from the Dorset coast but not as far as driving all the way home. We had family to meet in Windsor the next day so it did all make sense, promise. It just seemed a little illogical at the time.

We got there just before bedtime, after a stop at a services somewhere near Southampton for a McDonalds and a raid of the shop for breakfast items. I was pretty successful and emerged with a variety pack of cereals for only £2.79 – given that a packet of digestives cost about the same, I think I did pretty well. Eva had ordered milk with her Happy Meal so that would do for breakfast too. Sorted.

We even managed to follow Google Maps’ insanely complicated instructions, which involved joining the M25 at J12, coming straight back off it at J13, doing a U-turn around a roundabout, driving back the way we’d come alongside the M25 and then doing a mad loop-de-loop before being spat out into the middle of the most immensely confusing roundabout this side of Slough. Luckily, we got it all right first time and there were no other cars trying to do anything that might have got in our way so I had enough time on the long straight road that followed to take some photos of the glorious sunset:

I’d impulse-bought the hotel stay at the De Vere Beaumont Estate on Booking.com and the reviews had been mixed. The photos looked amazing but the bargain price suggested the only amazing thing would be the level of disappointment we experienced. As it was, both were kinda true. It was a beautiful house from the front, with equally beautiful grounds. We would be staying in the not-so-beautiful part at the back, which was partway through being renovated. But we’re very used to that kind of set up through our years of church weekends away at Ashburnham Place and we’re not at all fussy.

The room was clean and fairly simply decorated and the beds were big and comfortable. That’s all we ask for at the end of a long drive. We’d booked a family room, which meant two beds – one double bed and one double sofa bed. Reuben was not at all keen to share the sofa bed with Eva, so we used the big square sofa cushions to make him a bed on the floor and he was perfectly comfortable. Reception also provided kids’ activity packs when we checked in, so that helped to sweeten the general mood. We also had extremely detailed instructions on how to use a bathmat, which was most educational:

The kids were up early the next morning, so I cracked out the service station cereal, along with the McDonalds milk that had been chilling on the windowsill next to the open window. Served in hotel mugs, with a side of Tunnocks caramel wafers and grapes, all procured from WHSmith in Rownhams Services. Yes, I am too tight to pay for hotel breakfast.  Once we’d all got up and been fed, we went for a swim at the hotel leisure club which was a total luxury. They even provided towels, which was lucky because I hadn’t packed any. Well, it had all been a bit impulsive. There was a box of swim noodles at the side of the pool, which meant that Eva could swim all by herself and even Nathan could float a bit better than usual with one. It was a lovely way to start what was sure to be a fun-packed day in Windsor.

We weren’t meeting the family till 3ish, so had some time to kill. The swim had made me starving and a cup of cereal-tinged tea and another wafer in the hotel room didn’t really take the edge off. Lucky that we had a table booked for brunch at the local Harvester, which was about 3 minutes’ drive away. It wasn’t our usual pre-Legoland stop off (the Windsor Lad), although we would later drive past that one around five times. It was called the Bells of Ouzeley and had a riverside view, including the exciting spotting of a paddle steamer, which I’d never seen in real life before. And no, of course I didn’t get a picture. Do you think I’m made of foresight?

Of course, before any brunching could be done, we needed to extract the kids from the hotel and the climbing frame they’d found out the back, just next to the giant war memorial and the Wicker Man-esque Parliament of Hares.

Yes, we were late for our booking. We made it by 10:45 and breakfast officially finishes at 11:30 so I can’t say we got the absolute best out of the unlimited cooked breakfast options but we made plenty of trips to the breakfast bar before it was swapped out for salad, and Eva made a bowl of cereal last so long that we were still sitting there well past midday. No one chucked us out tho, and we paid the bill via the app so didn’t have anyone hovering anxiously over us waiting to see if we were able to pay for that mountain of meat that Reuben had consumed. Although we did have the source of the meat looking at us with extreme judgement in his eyes:

Eventually, we did leave and went off to see what Windsor had to offer. We parked in the car park at the Riverside station, purely on the basis that it used the kind of parking app that Nathan already had downloaded onto his phone and neither of us could be bothered to download a new one. It was a fiver for the day, which seems pretty minimal by London standards but I understand some people might balk at that.

I recognised the Cote brasserie across the river as one we’d been to for a wedding reception around nine years ago. So with a misguided sense of purpose we set off across the bridge to see what that bit of the town was like. On the way, we spotted several ceramic lions who formed a “Lions of Windsor” trail. I tried to access the trail map on my phone but the rain was playing havoc with it so I couldn’t but isn’t it more fun just to discover them as you go? Even in the rain?

Possibly, possibly not. The road we were wandering down seemed a bit short on lions and generally a bit short on anything that the kids might find entertaining. There were gentlemen’s outfitters, flower shops, one antique bookshop, a few restaurants…but nothing we could hang around in for long. I was longing to find a WHSmith or similar, where they could at least shelter from the rain and browse the latest David Walliams book. But no. A barber with a giant sparkly Bowie portrait in it provided a few seconds’ entertainment but in general, this summed up the mood:

Then we found Eton College. Lots of bits of it. A Natural History Museum that would have been open to the public on a different day. A library that wouldn’t be open for another hour. A gold painted phone box lined with bookshelves that I, for a mad moment, considered sheltering inside and reading for a bit. Would all four of us fit in and have space to move our elbows? It seemed unlikely.

I thought again. It was probably time to check the map and see where all the shops of Windsor had got to. I swore I’d seen something about a play cafe somewhere. And a Lush. It didn’t look like they were on this road.  My phone still wasn’t responding well to the rain, so we huddled under a tree, restarted it and checked the map.

Ahhhh, we were in Eton. No wonder we hadn’t found the rest of Windsor yet. We’d gone wrong as soon as we set foot on that bridge over the river. If we just turned back the way we came, there would be all manner of delights awaiting us. Of course, we first tried to keep going the way we were walking but that led us down a single track road with no pavement, so turning back eventually seemed the best course of action.

Almost as soon as we got back across the river, things looked brighter. Here were some public loos, with pictures of women in beautiful dresses that Eva yuvved! And a Warhammer shop! More lions! And, hallelujah, a WHSmith.

I’m aware that this post seems to have been sponsored by WHSmith. I assure you that it isn’t. I just like to practise extreme expectation management and it was everything I was hoping for. An “Eva section”, filled with sparkly and fluffy stationery, the world’s biggest Sharpie collection and an illustrated copy of “Prisoner of Azkaban”. It was the point at which we felt like we were showing the children a good time. See, expectation management.

From there on in, it was all good. We browsed a sweet shop that had a whole Harry Potter section and then found a department store called Daniel that had a whole Harry Potter section. As you might be able to tell, HP is quite the flavour of the month round here. Eva declared that she wanted to buy everything in the whole of the shop and I felt mildly embarrassed that I was carrying her Hermione wand around, which made it look like we’d just shoplifted it. I promise we didn’t. I just didn’t expect to be somewhere that stocked Harry Potter wands that day.

When my sister messaged to say they were ready to meet us, we had to drag the kids away. We never did find that play cafe but it’s obvious that Windsor offered more than you’d think at first glance. They even have a Smiggle! That’s like a whole shop of “Eva section”.  The central area was all based around the Windsor and Eton Central station (nb NOT the station we were parked at), so once you find that you’re sorted. And the station itself even has a few things to look at. Like the royal train:

A lion that Eva can camouflage herself against:

And a lifesize portrait of Harry and Meghan, made out of Lego. How VERY Windsor.

So, if you’re ever in the same situation as we were just remember to keep an eye on the map. Eton might be full of history but it’s not the best for keeping kids amused. Head for Daniel and the delights of Windsor Central… Oh, and if you’d like to see all the lions we collected…here you go:

If you’d like to do the same and have a phone that functions in all weathers, find the map here. Enjoy!



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