A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

Postcards from London – with the London Pass

city cruises in london


The first weekend of the holidays we set off to London to review the London Pass. I wrote a detailed post about how that pass works here. In a nutshell the advantages are you can save money if you visit at least 3 attractions in a day, you can also be a VIP and skip the queues as there is no need to buy tickets on the day. If you like you can add travel to your pass.

We stayed at The Cavendish Hotel, which was a short walk from so many sights. We decided to walk from the hotel on Jermyn Street, behind Picaddilly Circus, via Trafalgar Square, to pick up our first attraction: City Cruises.

These air conditioned boats are a perfect way to see the city with children, it was a scorching day so we really appreciated skipping the queue with our passes. We saw so many amazing landmarks while sipping a cool drink in the lounge. We watched the bridges sail above our heads, discovered which one was London Bridge, and much to the kids relief could see that it wasn’t falling down.

london bridge


We learnt many interesting facts from the commentary, including that women in the second world war built Waterloo Bridge. Our next stop, the Tower of London soon came into sight.

tower of london

My kids at 5 and 7 loved the idea that the jewels were hidden in the tower, that really captured their imagination. My son was so busy plotting and scheming dramatic plans to steal them that he barely registered the queue. There is a lot to explore, more than we had time for before lunch!

steal the crown jewels

We crossed Tower bridge, but you could take in the exhibition which the pass covers. We were too hungry so we had lunch at Strada before taking in HMS Belfast. I will admit I wasn’t keen on this beforehand, but it was fascinating and a great opportunity to talk about war and peace with the kids. Here my daughter waves a finger at the waxwork postmaster for making her jump!

hms belfast


Then it was time to take our City Cruise back to Westminster. But not before we got to see Tower Bridge open. It was wonderful to be on an air conditioned boat and this time to watch the South bank, which was full of neon colour and festivities swing past.

city cruises london

Is the London Pass worthwhile? It really depends what you want to visit and over how long. Not all attractions are covered, but the main ones are.

I am not sure we saved much money on our one day pass, but we did avoid queues, and with the heat and summer crowds that was good. It was a very hot day and my kids are 5 and 7, so we left sightseeing to return to the hotel at 4pm, adults would have probably fitted more in!

A two day pass for an adult is £68, for a child it is £49. So £234 for a family of four for the weekend. You could easily get your money back, by taking a river tour, visiting the Tower, bobbing into Westminster Abbey on day one and chilling out at London Zoo on day two. You would benefit from the lack of queuing and ticket buying on the days too.

I think the savings would really come into their own with a 3 day London Pass (£81/£56) or 6 day pass, (£108/£76).


Champagne Afternoon Tea Offer

The Cavendish Hotel was a great base after a busy day sightseeing, do read more about the decor in the lounge and the experience of staying as a family. A Residence readers can book champagne afternoon tea in the amazing lounge for only £20, normally £30. A perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of shopping around Picadilly Circus, or to enjoy a break from sightseeing this summer. Just quote A Residence on booking, call 0207 930 2111 or tweet @Cavendish_Hotel and @AResidence.

Days Go By and still I think of you

greek mezze

Corfu, a place Mr A and I visited before kids, and somewhere we have fond memories of. For a long time, a screen saver of the sunset of a beautiful bar we scooted to, overlooking the sea and surrounded by olive trees, was what kept me smiling through tough days as a teacher. Since then I have met a handful of other people who also know of this incredible place and I always vowed to go back.

 A new survey carried by ICE found that majority of people choose their holiday purely based on the food available at the destination. I don’t know about you, but I am with them.

It was there I most remember eating the best Greek salad. Dirty Vegas, Days Go By was playing…I think you need it as a soundtrack to reading this post:

You are still a whisper on my lips 
A feeling at my fingertips 
That’s pulling at my skin

I feasted on Greek salad every day in Corfu, and I could still eat it every day. I love its freshness –  the saltiness of the olives and the creaminess of the feta, mixed with the sweetness of tomatoes and the crispness of cucumber and green pepper. A sprinkle of oregano, a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of vinegar. It really is the perfect taste and texture combo. I leave the red onions out, but traditionally they are there.

I love the easiness of Greek food, I was going to give you a recipe, but you don’t need one, really, just throw it all together. I love a Greek mezze too, pitta, hummus, tzaki, proper picky food, perfect for a hot day.

greek salad

You We swam through the Channel of Love in Sidari , which legend has it, will ensure you stay in love forever. We just celebrated 16 years together.

‘Days Go By and still I think of you.’

Right now I am feeling pretty harassed, I have post festival blues, the house is a sea of half unpacked cases after our trips to London and Camp Bestival. However, the cases are shortly to be repacked and we will be heading off to Corfu for a week. It seemed an apt place to take the kids to see.

‘Days when I couldn’t live my live without you’.

Corfu, my family, Greek salad and mezze. Bring it on! This one I made for me and my Dad and the kids after a morning’s gardening.

a greek feast

We have some Greek influences in our home, including this Alexander bust, and these jugs found in a charity shop. I am planning some more, do check out my Pinterest board.

Follow Penny’s board Greek Style Ideas on Pinterest.

My Entry in the ICS blogger challenge.

Summer picks – in need of inspiration?

nectar summer picks

How lovely are these summer fun ideas? I especially love the sunset walk. I don’t know about you, but I have a Nectar card I gain points from petrol and from food shopping, but I often to forget to check on the points on it. Now could be a great time to do just that, especially if you or your wallet are struggling this summer holiday.

To help parents keep the kids entertained this summer and save them money in the process, Nectar has launched the Nectar Summer Picks website, a brand new resource designed to help families make the very most of the holidays. The aim is to get families away from screens and gadgets and into the great British summer, it’s packed with creative activity ideas and days out that won’t cost the earth.  Nectar Summer Picks has the summer sorted – whatever the weather.

Don’t forget that, between the 23rd July and the 12th of August 2014, your Nectar points could be worth double, triple or more when exchanged for Double Up & More vouchers to spend on fun-filled days out this summer.

What are you waiting for? Do visit the Nectar Summer Picks website and let me know how you get on, I hope you save some money and get some inspiration.

Collaborative post.

From track to sofa, our retired greyhound


Max, our retired greyhound, is too big to sleep on our bed, but he tries. He’s allowed to jump on in the morning for a snuggle and if Mr A is away for a night he doesn’t think twice about nicking his place.

He’s been with us since November and has slipped into a happy daytime routine, after a quick walk he spends his days moving from sofa to sofa, I pop down from my office to find him on a different sofa each time. Often, he lies on my office floor, his gentle mumblings a sign that he is dreaming.

I often wonder what he is dreaming about. From time to time we are reminded he is was a top class athlete. He likes to chase tennis balls and the speed at which he accelerates after them is incredible. We don’t let him off the lead much, greyhounds are trained to chase and can reach 40mph, so you need to be sure they won’t knock anyone flying or go after a squirrel. But, we are beginning to let him run on an enclosed space near by, and its a joy to see his ‘zoomies’.

Max has been with us over six months now and he feels like part of the family. I didn’t really click at the time, but he came into our lives as my youngest went to school. Apparently its a common phenomenon. Perhaps that is why sometimes my youngest has to be reminded not to annoy him, although he’s learning rapidly about pet ownership and Max is endlessly patient with the kids. You can tell Max loves the fuss and having the kids lie next to him, and being a kid himself too.

Max won 20 of his 60 races as a racing greyhound, when I Google him by his name as a racing hound it’s fascinating, and to me it is important that I understand his background. Last night we walked past a cheering crowd at a sports tournament and immediately his ears pricked up and his whole body became excited and alert, did the sound take him back?

We were also warned to be careful when opening the boot, in case he mistook it for the trap opening, but he’s not made a run for it yet. He’s also mastered stairs, it took a bit of persuading him to slow down, to stop him skidding, but he draws a complete blank at stiles still.

My thoughts on greyhound racing have developed too, I’ve chatted to many people on both sides of the fence. I’ve heard amazing stories of the lengths owners and trainers go to, to look after their dogs. I’ve had some wonderful advice and support from trainers in forums. I imagine Max has been trained and cared for incredibly well, his behaviour is brilliant, he is healthy with a glossy coat, and has made having my first dog quite literally a walk in the park.

Of course, any sport that is dependent on gambling is open to abuse, our dog sitter showed us a photo of the state her now beautiful greyhound was in when she adopted him when he didn’t take to racing. There is also the issue of what happens after racing. There are an awful lot of dogs in the care of Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust where we met Max, who have finished their racing career and are looking for homes. As well trained pedigrees, well known for being gentle and obedient, retired Greyhounds make truly excellent pets.

retired greyhound

Why Camp Bestival is like a fine wine

Knackered Mother's Wine Club at Camp Bestival

We’re back from reviewing our third incredible Camp Bestival. Previously at Camp Bestival I have enjoyed a beer or two in a paper cup while watching acts at the main stage, or a Pimms in the Bollywood cocktail bar. Unlike the festivals of my youth, where alcohol featured high on the agenda, camping, kids and fun packed days mean that a drink is a one or two off indulgence to top a great day. So, if I am going to drink, I would like it to be a really special one.

I think Camp Bestival made some great additions on that front this year, in fact the whole festival is like a great wine, it gets better with age – so many wonderful new things on all fronts as I will cover in other posts.  Camp Bestival is so much more than bands and kids activities, and there is stuff for grown ups too, like a spa, massage tents, a literary institute with inspiring speakers and amazing food. Today I thought I would focus on drink.


Just because you are in a field, doesn’t mean you can’t have a really good glass of wine, or a really inspiring cocktail. The jam jar bar, with its caravans serving wine and cocktails was a beautiful space.


I was also lucky enough to go along to Helen’s Knackered Mother’s Wine Club Wine Tasting, while Mr A took the kids to the Lego tent. Helen is a great presenter, full of fun and of course very knowledgeable about wine. Earlier in the day she had spoken in The Guardian Literary institute tent, alongside other authors, DJs and journalists.


Her book Knackered Mother’s Wine Club in the words of India Knight ‘doesn’t just simplify wine, it simplifies life.’ And India loves it, and I have just ordered it.


We got cracking with tasting Prosecco, Helen taught us to smell and taste wine properly, suddenly my mouth was flooded with flavours and I was desperately rooting round my brain to put a name on whatever it was my nostrils were experiencing, pomegranate, passion fruit, cucumber?  I guess if you don’t exercise those thought processes very much they are a little slow.

The audience had lots a great questions, including Annie from Mannkesjur - just in case you don’t recognise her under the greasepaint – the theme this year was Circus, in case you were wondering…

The conversation started to flow and opinions started to form, here is Louise from My Gorgeous Boys and Mari.


I learnt early on I prefer Prosecco to Champagne, it’s lighter. Brilliant news for my pocket! Helen had some great tips on where to find the best of both, look out for Asda’s Prosecco which is often on special offer, and the champagne we tasted was made by the same vineyard who make very well known champagnes, but at a much lower price. So Helen’s book is going to save you money too.


It was lovely to spy some old blogging friends under the table, literally, not alcoholically speaking. Mummy Barrow (I know, she is a little disguised here) was in her element, with a jam jar cocktail AND a fine rose. Rose is not for me, but it went down well with rose drinkers.

It was wonderful to see Vanessa from HPMCQ so at ease in a field camping – she’s vowed to go again too! Vanessa is probably also looking so happy because she is drinking what I think was the best wine of the tasting, I shall reveal all shortly.

Mari’s ears pricked up at the sound of Italian wine.


Helen dealt beautifully with an increasingly chatty crowd, including her biggest heckler, her mum, who you can see in the white dress here.


She took a ‘break’ from serving 50 mums to photobomb my picture of Mari and Louise.


I made a new friend, Lisa has a lovely creative business, called Compass Creativity, she makes personalised wall art using maps and jigsaw pieces, lovely idea for a present, especially for special occasions and anniversaries. Speaking of which, Mr A and I celebrated 16 years together on Friday, at our favourite anniversary place, Camp Bestival! In case you are wondering, the yellow scarf is the finger knitting I did in the knitting tent.


I think we were tasting Old Bush Vine Grenache here, a bit potent for me, who is not a huge fan of red, but Lisa enjoyed it.

But I was really surprised by this red, it is a fortified dessert wine and Helen served it to us with a square of dark chocolate. It was like eating the most sublime cherry chocolate pudding, in fact I would happily forgo chocolate cake to eat and drink this combo instead! It would be great to wow guests after dinner.

seriously plummy grand reserve maury dessert wine

My overall favourite, the one I will always go for, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. My nose clearly thought so too and immediately flooded with the names for all I could smell, grass, bonfire, flint, earth – maybe being in a field next to the food tent helped.

Sauvignon is a popular wine, there are lots of poor imitations, so perhaps why it can be so hit and miss. I am going to look out for this one.

While I was being a knackered mother, my husband and children enjoyed the Lego tent. The kids played happily into the evening at a table in the jam jar bar with their Lego, while Mr A and I sampled the wares from the feast collective food tent, where Helen’s choice of wines were also available to buy – more on that incredible foodie paradise coming very soon – Helen did warn us wine wakes up the taste buds!

Kids Activities

I’ve just shared 20 things my kids loved and learned over on parentshaped, do go over and find out more about the amazing kids’ activities.

Vita Coco for Alcohol free refreshment

My kids enjoyed the Vita Coco Kids Beach at Camp Bestival. Vita Coco, as you would imagine, is made with coconut, which makes it lower sugar than juice. Its also full of protein and incredibly refreshing. I was pleased to discover my kids really loved it. It’s also for grown ups, Mocha was my favourite, a real summer pick me up!

Tickets for 2015

Early Bird tickets for Camp Bestival 2015 go on sale Friday 8th August 2014, and there is a payment plan, so catch them while you can! I will leave you with some video evidence of all the fun from 2012, why we first fell in love with Camp Bestival in 2012, what we loved in 2013 and a packing list.

I may have to treat myself to some new wine glasses now I am home, I am loving these ones, by Sagaform at Wayfair.

Disclosure – we were given tickets to the festival in return for preview and review and live coverage – in other words, I worked hard to party hard.

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