The past three days have been spent travelling up to London, in a bit of a “start of the Christmas holidays extravaganza!”. We’ve had a great time and I know how people are always looking for recommendations and reviews on places to go. We’ve been to Somerset House for ice-skating, The Ned for Sunday brunch (in a group of 24), Covent Garden, Wagamamas for lunch, London Zoo and their Christmas light trail, and finally today, BreadAhead, a Christmas cooking school for children. I thought I’d write a few words on each, in case anyone was looking for something to do!
As we are a large group, we booked this back in September and couldn’t wait to skate on their famous ice rink. It really is beautiful and very Christmassy. The outfit there is very efficient and the kids had a blast. A quick turnaround time sees people and machines getting the ice ready for the next session, while numerous hands-on-deck mean that people can easily exchange their skates for their shoes before heading on their way. Skate sessions last an hour and we paid £10.50 for children under 13 and £17.50 for children over 13. To book please click here. There is a cafe on site with lots of seating and they sell hot chocalate, tea, coffee and cake, amongst other things. Our children really enjoyed this and spent their full hour on the ice, reluctant to leave when the session time was up! I would recommend taking thick socks, (ski socks or similar, because the ice-skates can rub), gloves and a change of clothes as my kids were soaked by the end of the session and I hadn’t taken anything for them to change into!! Even their tops were wet!
This place is amazing!! Again, we booked back in September because there were 24 of us in our party and we had long looked forward to this. The place needs to be seen to be believed! Of course we visited here at Christmas time. We saw the beautiful Christmas tree and listened to the bands that changed frequently, from a swing band to a men’s choir taking centre stage and providing live music while you dined. The food was something else! There was a choice of three different roast dinners for main, or you could have lobster and salads, cold meats etc at the buffet where you could help yourself for your two hour sitting! There was also a dessert area that had the kids visiting again and again! There were cakes, sweets, cheese and biscuits and even hot desserts like crumble. The range of food on offer was vast and all extremely good value at £45 per head for the adults (including a glass of something alcoholic if you wished!) and half price for children, which included our teenagers (which often isn’t the case). Under 6’s go free. I would imagine this is a place you need to book for sure, even for a smaller group and is definitely worth looking up. More information can be found here.
ZSL London Zoo – Christmas Light Trail
We opted for combined Zoo and light trail tickets, choosing to go to the zoo later in the day and book the earliest session to see the Christmas lights. The zoo was very empty when we visited on Monday, at around 2.30pm and also lots of the animals had already tucked themselves into bed – it was a grey and cold day which I’m sure didn’t help. The boys had a great time in the reptile, bug and butterfly houses and saw some of the larger animals like the camels, lions and tigers which was great. At 4pm the zoo closes and you get put into a holding area which is the large restaurant and, if you’re quick, you can buy a cup of tea or coffee. The restaurant did shut quite quickly, and before we were allowed back out for the lights which was a bit confusing! However, the light trail is really lovely and quite spectacular in places. I think the highlight for our group was the tunnel full of lasers and smoke! At the end of the trail is a small funfair, where tokens are a very reasonable £2.50 and you only need one token for each ride. The boys enjoyed the merry-go-round, some swings and the helter-skelter, before choosing chocolate pancakes from one of the food stalls and catching a cab back to the tube station. Combined zoo and light trail tickets are £39 for adults and £37 for children, with light trail tickets on their own £19.50 for adults and £13 for children. More information can be found here.
This has been a real highlight of the holiday so far. An early train into town saw us spend the morning at Bread Ahead, cooking Christmas ginger bread biscuits. This cookery school mainly caters for adults, but does offer some courses for children and puts on seasonal classes, such as today’s. Situated in the heart of Borough Market, the venue is, as you would expect, a working bakery selling lots of lovely bread and treats from stalls outside its premises, and no doubt supplies the restaurant trade across the city! The two girls that ran the class were great with the kids, using easy to follow instructions and all the kids had an absolute blast. The gingerbread “dough” was already made for us – a demonstration while the biscuits cooked showed the children why this had to be made the day ahead, the gooey mixture made in front of us was totally unmanageable and would never have worked! The kids were soon rolling out and cutting their shapes. A unique twist was to cut a hole, or shape, out of the middle of your biscuit and fill it with crushed boiled sweets, which melted when cooked to make a stained glass window effect and looked so cool! While the biscuits baked, the children watched the demonstration already mentioned, and were soon working as a team to clean the large work station they had all shared. Once out the oven and nicely cooled, the kids all decorated their biscuits with piped icing before putting them in special cellophane bags with fancy stickers, and left with them all packed up in a lovely bag. J really enjoyed this and we will definitely be visiting again in the next holiday.