The Big Smoke…

Last month, with Lewis’s 12th birthday fast approaching, we were faced with the annual dilemma of what to buy the boy who has everything? Having not long been Christmas there was nothing that he needed, or even wanted, and although he is growing up fast I still wanted to give him something rather than the envelope of cash that he will most likely receive in the coming years. And knowing that Lewis has been desperate for a trip to London we decided that now was the time to venture to the Big Smoke and see the sights. And I for one was terrified.

I have been very honest about my battles with panic and anxiety, I freak out in a busy supermarket let alone the capital city. I carefully compiled a risk assessment in my head, the fear of terrorist attacks being at the forefront of my mind, but also so many other things to worry about. There was the worry of the train, of derailing, hijackers and head on collisions. There was the worry of the tube, of bombs, fires, suicidal passengers and freak earthquakes. The worry of the streets, of pick pocketers, muggers and murderers. You can imagine, I was really looking forward to this trip!!

And yet off we went, armed with our map and a selfie stick (which I also secretly believed may double up as a weapon!) and with the false bravado of a mature, sensible adult we took the Virgin Train from Manchester and in just over two hours, as we stepped off into London Euston, our sleepy little town up North felt like a very long way away!!

Thankfully we had brought Gaz along for the trip, or else we would still be at the station, crying and rocking in a corner having no idea where to go, what to do or how to get out of there! And despite my previous refusal to go on the tube, we found ourselves jumping on it to find our way to the apartment, which a friend had kindly sorted. And I’ll be honest with you, after a few sprays of Rescue Remedy, the tube was actually not that bad. Contrary to what I had seen and heard, there was a distinct lack of body odour or raging psychopaths, and we arrived at our apartment in one piece, clutching a bag of chips having already made the mistake of asking for gravy, and being looked at as though we had just landed from Mars!!

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Our apartment was lovely, over in Sussex Place just a few minutes walk from Hyde Park. After dumping our bags, the first on our sight seeing tour was the park itself, an expanse of greenery amongst sky scrapers, taller than we had ever seen before. We had been so lucky with the weather, blue skies and sunshine, and in no time at all I forgot all about my worries and seeing the look on Lewis’s face was just priceless. He didn’t stop talking the whole time, “Look at that!”, and, “Wow can we go there?!” and that, the smile on his face, was the very reason why I knew it was all worth it.

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As we made our way to Buckingham palace, Lewis’s eyes like saucers, we fought our way through to the gates and peered our heads in like the tourists we were. “Which one do you think is the Queens bedroom?” Lewis asked, “And do you think there’s stuff in every room?”.

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From Buckingham palace we walked to Trafalgar Square where we collected our tickets for the The Original Tour, bought using our Tesco Club Card vouchers for four times their value. There was so much to see in that area, shops to mooch round, buskers to stand and watch, and the atmosphere to soak up. Lewis loved the M&M store which smelt AMAZING!!

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After a walk through Leicester square, where we saw the paparazzi and the red carpet all ready for a film premier, we found ourselves at Covent Garden where we wandered around the shops and enjoyed the sunshine. We had already booked in at TGI Fridays, at Lewis’s request, and we all tucked into our food with the kind of hunger that only comes from having spent the day walking the streets of London.

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After our meal we made our way to the Theatre Royal where we had tickets to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A firm favourite for all three of us, we really hoped that it didn’t disappoint. And it absolutely didn’t!! I have never seen a production like it, the costumes, the scenery, the use of technology and special effects. It was truly astounding, and even more so for the fact that Lewis sat beside me, a huge smile on his face, completely enthralled in the show and afterwards turned to me and said, “Thank you! That was amazing!!”.

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By the time we made our way back to the tube station, our feet agony and our legs aching, I was far too tired to panic about the dangers of the tube at night, where in my imagination all of the muggers and murderers came out to play, and with just a short walk back to our apartment we were tucked up in bed by 11pm. And wow did we need that sleep!!

The next day we were up bright and early as we had tickets for The Sky Garden which had been playing on my mind for the previous week. I won’t lie, I am TERRIFIED of heights, so much so that I have been known to panic, feel as though I am going to pass out, and end up sat in a corner with my head between my legs, sipping on water. As we approached the building and I saw the height of it, my heart was literally beating out of my chest!

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I have to admit, I felt much happier after the thorough baggage search and as we entered the lift I was secure in the fact that I was probably in the safest place in London at that point in time! And as we emerged from the lift and I prepared for a panic attack, the only thing that took my breath away was the view, it was completely and utterly breathtaking.

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We had a full hour up there, taking in the view, looking through the telescope and spotting the tiniest of buildings on the horizon, and feeling as though we were in a whole different world. And weirdly, it wasn’t scary in the slightest!

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Our next stop was a sightseeing cruise, included with our tickets from the Original London Tour. As we sailed down the river Thames, the sun beaming on our faces (so warm I even took my coat off, those who know me will tell you that this never happens!!), Lewis between us, it was the most relaxed I have felt in a long time. And slowly but surely I found myself falling in love with the city a little more and wondering why we haven’t been there more often.

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Lewis was mesmerised by West Minster and Big Ben, the places that he has seen on the television but never with his own eyes. He asked questions, he excitedly chattered away, and he didn’t flinch when I put my arm around him, gave him a cuddle and told him that I love him so very much.

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In the afternoon we did the open top bus tour, the most perfect way to see London, listen to the commentary via the headphones and actually learn some really interesting facts about London. We sat, in comfortable silence, our faces turning pink in the sun, and with the greatest view of the city, we watched the world go by. It was so lovely, so relaxing, so utterly perfect, until that moment when a low flying pigeon decided that NOW would be the time to relieve themselves…..right on Gaz’s forehead!! Lewis and I were hysterical with laughter, struggling to breathe as I scrabbled for my camera to capture the moment before he had the chance to clean himself up, (a photo which Gaz was reluctant to let me share!) And sat there, all three of us creased with laughter, tears streaming down our faces as we slapped our thighs and threw our heads back with wild abandon, that, right there and then was one of my favourite moments. Although admittedly, probably not Gaz’s…..

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By the time we came to sit down for a  meal we had pre-booked at Zizzi’s, courtesy of Tesco Club Card vouchers, our feet have never been so sore! We must have walked for miles and were so grateful when our food came that we devoured it without stopping for breath. As we sat there, our tummies full, recollecting the events of the two days, I realised just how much we needed this, the three of us. Because as much as Lewis never complains about the younger three needing our attention, there are times when it is important to give Lewis attention in his own right, to take him to places and to experience things that are more suited to his age, thing that are special, times we can make memories that aren’t centered around screaming babies, emergency nappy changes and Disney Princesses.

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And as we prepared to say our Goodbyes to London, I actually felt really sad. Although I have been there previously, I have never seen it through the eyes of my child, with someone I love, and that, I think, makes all the difference. Plus, and it might sound silly to those who have never experienced anxiety, but I felt proud of myself for facing my fears and refusing to allow the crazy thoughts in my head to ruin a wonderful experience for me. It was a major step forward, and one which I shall remind myself of often.

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And as the train pulled away from the station and Lewis lay his head on my shoulder, I wrapped my arms around him as he slept. I smoothed my hand against his cheek and dropped my lips to kiss his brow, and I freeze framed all of these moments, every second of our trip, every smile, the sound of his laughter, the look of amazement in his eyes, and I knew that those memories would last forever.

Especially the one about the pigeon…….

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83 thoughts on “The Big Smoke…

  1. How lovely! I completely sympathise and understand the panic of visiting a big city – I’m from Birmingham which I always considered to be pretty big, but it’s still so different to London. We visit the capital occasionally as we have family with an apartment there, but I’ve yet to venture down with my toddler – I’m not sure I could handle a buggy on the tube! I always worry I’ll be on the wrong train or forget to mind the gap. It doesn’t help that on one visit my SIL managed to get off the DLR one stop early and I didn’t… we spent 45 minutes trying to locate each other around Canary Wharf! #mmbc

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    1. Oh wow what a panic that would be! Honestly, if Gaz hadn’t come with us I would still be there now! I am useless with a map, can never tell which way up it should go, and I’m so on edge on the tube that I wouldn’t know our stop if it hit me in the face! I have no idea how people cope with kids there, I was grabbing Lews hand the entire time, there’s definitely some interesting characters about! We live in a small town in Lancashire, London really does feel like another planet! xx

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  2. Hi Laura, I get uneasy when we head to Athens (empty supermarkets make me sweat, and busy ones reduce me to a sniveling heap), but it’s never as bad as I imagine and we end up having fun.

    Your photographs of your time in London are amazing and show perfectly what a good time Lewis had. That is one birthday that will stay with him for a while. I never knew there was such a thing as an M&M shop! You’d never have got me out. The sky garden sounds pretty amazing too.

    So glad that you all had a good time and that was one amazing birthday present.

    xx

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    1. Thanks Debs. It was such a lovely two days, London is an amazing place for sure! The M&M shop smelled amazing, you can imagine! Every colour, shape, flavour of M&M possible, I wanted to just bury myself in them all!! xx

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  3. What a fabulous birthday celebration! So many lovely photos, it sounds like you all had the best time. Loved the bird poo story – I’ve had similar happen to me, and I don’t think my family have ever forgotten that moment!! London is amazing, isn’t it? I lived in London for around 10 years and I love it – it’s such a vibrant and interesting place to explore. I do relate to your anxieties though – despite living there, I still experienced some of that on occasion, and do still when I visit now. #bigpinklink

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    1. Oh wow I bet you had some amazing times there?! I don’t think that I would like to raise my family there but I think if I was childless and single it would be an amazing place to live!! Saying that, I’m such a homebody, and I also love chips and gravy and darn sarf, nobody really understands what we are on about!!! xx

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    1. It’s funny isn’t it how different London seems to those of us who don’t live there or nearby. I couldn’t get over the amount of people still walking the streets at 11pm at night, round here there is no-one in sight!! xx

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    1. Thank you! I cant believe how much there is to do! We spent two days there and only did a fraction of the attractions and sights. Next time I’d like to go in the tower and up the shard!! xx

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    1. Wow I envy you New York, that’s definitely on our wish list. I also get crowd anxiety but for some reason, I managed to hold it in this week. The big one for me is flying, I cant cope!! BUT if we want to get to New York one day, we don’t have much choice! xx

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  4. I get nervous going into London too and jump out of my skin at the slightest loud noise! But BB always loves it and now Little B is old enough to start enjoying day trips too. Our next stop is the butterfly house at the Natural History Museum which is now open for the year and well worth a visit if you haven’t already beenx #marvmondays

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    1. YES! That was me! Every slight noise I imagined was an explosion or a gun shot! Poor Gaz was black and blue from me clutching at him, ha! We didn’t do the museums this time as the weather was too lovely to miss, next wime we plan on visiting them all! xx

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  5. Aw I love this post! I can absolutely relate to your anxieties about visiting London. I too come from a sleepy village up’t North and I immediately picture exactly the same horrors that you mentioned, but your pictures look stunning and your little man has clearly had the best time! They do say that “the thing that happened to Gaz’s forhead” is supposed to be lucky! 🙂 So pleased that you had a brilliant little holiday together and I’m sure you’ll all treasure those memories for years to come.

    Thank you for linking up to #FartGlitter x

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    1. Our biggest city near us is Manchester and that’s over whelming for me, so London really was a HUGE challenge! I still don’t like the idea of the tube but it beats having to trek through the city, my feet were really aching by the time we came home! Thank you for reading, we had the best time. xx

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  6. What a lovely birthday for Lewis and some fab memories made too.
    The M&M shop! Oh my days, I’d be in my glory 🙂
    Admittedly I did laugh about the pigeon incident, I love your reaction, quick grab the camera! I would so do the same! Hehe.
    Thank you so much for joining in with #MMBC xx

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  7. I love this post. I am so pleased for you that you managed to put your anxieties to one side and have a nice holiday. I have terrible anxiety too so I know how difficult it can be but you all look like you had an amazing time!

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    1. Thank you! It’s difficult isn’t it when your mindset is so negative and every noise, movement causes alarm! London is a very scary place for an anxious mind but actually, it was really lovely and I was having way too much fun to notice!

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  8. Well done for going and beating your anxiety. Looks like you all had a fab time. The pics are lovely. I know what you mean about birthdays being after Xmas. My daughters is 2 weeks after Xmas x

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  9. What a lovely birthday treat! Looks like Lewis had the best time of his life. I’m jealous with him, lol. I have not actually been to London, and seeing the places you’ve visited made me more interested to visit London at some point. Lovely post! #TwinklyTuesday

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  10. Oh what a lovely lovely post. I’m so pleased for you that you had such a wonderful trip. Your photos are amazing and you look such a happy family. It’s brilliant that you got some much needed time with your handsome boy. I love the way that you say you loved seeing it all through his eyes, it’s such a different experience I always think. A massive well done on beating that anxiety too, every time you manage to do something like this, it will make you stronger. Be proud of yourself!! #bigpinklink

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    1. Thank you! Yep I most definitely will be reminding myself of what I am capable of, I would hate for my anxiety to impact on my childrens lives too so this meant a lot to me. Lewis had such a great time, seeing the look on their faces always makes it worthwhile doesn’t it? I’m already thinking about our next trip, this time next year I might even be persuaded to get into an aeroplane!!! Thanks for hosting! xx

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  11. What an action packed weekend you had, I can’t believe how much you saw and did. It’s lovely to spend time alone with just one kid and he’ll remember this very special birthday for a long time. The smiles on all your faces are lovely #happynowlinkup

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  12. So pleased you had a great time 🙂 You all look so happy in the photos. Thank you for the short review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We’re going in a few weeks time and I wasn’t sure what it would be like. Sounds really good.

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  13. A great birthday treat and well you did packed a lot in to your visit. We love to visit London two when we have a chance it is so different from here in the country. Glad you had a lovely time #Sharewithme

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    1. Ooh you SHOULD go! It’s FAB! I was in tears at the end, just the orchestra and the staging and the applause at the end, it gets me every time! Thanks for reading! xx

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  14. Oh man these pictures are brilliant and absolutely gorgeous. You have made London look fab, which it is! I do love being tourists in the capital and its so exciting to see all of the sights!!! What I love most about these pics is his big cheesy grin in every picture…he is so HAPPY to be there with you guys, what an adventure!

    I too have anxiety about terrorists in London too. I was going to get a train in the hols with the kids to the museums, but I just got a little too freaked out. Your not alone in that haha x #bestandworst

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    1. Thanks lovely, it really was amazing! I’ve never done the whole “tourist” thing in London, I got well into it, I even asked could we buy union jack flags at one point! (There was a resounding NO!) I know you can’t live your life letting these terrorists win but I also know that the odds of a terrorist attack happening London as opposed to my anonymous little town up North are far higher. It’s sad isn’t it that we feel unsafe in our country, I can’t see how it will ever get better to be honest. xx

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  15. Always nice as a Londoner to see London through a visitor’s eyes. Reminder of what a fabulous city it is (despite the need for carrying a selfie stick as a weapon haha!).

    And, pigeon poop on the head – it is a sign of good luck! So great news all round! #puddinglove

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    1. Haha well luckily I didn’t need to use the selfie stick for weapon purposes! Although there was a rather scary incident at Trafalgar Square where two buskers wielding juggling knifes squared up to eachother! You couldn’t see me for dust!! Thanks for reading!! xx

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  16. Ah sounds like you had a lovely time, hope the birthday boy had fun! Your pics are lovely – and how brilliant that you could use Tesco Card Vouchers! A useful tip. Mother would completely relate to your anxiety about a capital city – Mother stresses about taking me up the road to the park! And glad the rescue remedy helped 🙂 x #PuddingLove

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    1. We love our club card vouchers!! Makes up for the thousands of pounds we give to tesco each year! Rescue remedy is a must have for the scary streets of London, but if you can get passed that then it’s fabulous!! Xx

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  17. Oh my goodness what a fabulous birthday experience and such amazing pictures! I was in London briefly for about 1 day many years ago and I had such a ball. I someday want to go back and do it over again, taking my kids would be especially fun! Happy birthday to your cutie and thanks so much for linking your post up up with the Happy Now. I hope you keep coming back each week 🙂

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    1. Taking your kids is a whole different experience. Seeing London through the eyes of Lewis was just magical, I am looking forward to planning more trips and showing him more of our country. We are very sheltered up here in Lancashire, at twelve maybe he is ready to see that there’s a whole world out there for him to explore! Xx

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    1. Ooh you should go! London is one of those places that you have to go at one point in your life and just be a tourist. I’d still be nervous going again but hopefully not as bad!! Thanks for reading! Xx

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  18. That sounds like a wonderful trip. He obviously had an amazing birthday treat! I am a Londoner born and bred and I have never heard of the sky garden – I will have to check it out., thanks for the heads up!
    x Alice
    #passthesauce

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  19. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post with all those fantastic pictures, made me so nostalgic for home. I can’t wait to take our son back to London and show him all the sites. Glad you had a great time and that Lewis enjoyed his first trip to the big smoke. Thanks for linking up #PuddingLove

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    1. It’s an amazing place isn’t it? It was lovely to experience that with Lewis, I look forward to taking the three youngest when they are older too. So much to see, we only saw a fraction I’m sure! Thanks for hosting! xx

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  20. Awww well done lovely! You did so well to overcome your anxieties and give Lewis what sounds like the best birthday present ever. You can see in the pictures just how happy he is. It sounds like you all had such a wonderful weekend, I cant believe you packed so much in to such a short amount of time! Such a lovely memory to make and look back on 🙂 Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Emily x

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    1. Thank you! We were exhausted when we got home, London is full on isn’t it?! Looking forward to our next trip there though, so much we didn’t get to see too! xx

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  21. I was so happy when I saw this in the linkup. The selfie stick, and the line about Gaz coming with you or you’d be rocking in the corner. And of course the pigeon. How I laughed! But seriously well done for confronting that enormously long list of potential London hazards! As a Londoner myself by way of a few years in Paris too and a frequent New York visitor I was always so at home in the city. Normally I probably wouldn’t understand the anxiety but as I now live in the Med, which is so totally different from the city life, I must admit London can be daunting. I was like the village idiot last year trying to negotiate the train travel with the kids as Hubby stayed in Malta. And er…even though I’m a Londoner, we did that open top bus tour 2 years ago and were booked on that boat ride too (til the downpour cancelled that) courtesy of my parents and I was like an excited TOURIST!! Thanks for linking to #passthesauce

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    1. Haha I’m still laughing about the pigeon, Gaz still doesn’t find it funny! Our largest city up here is Manchester and even that daunts me! London is a whole different story! The tube, and all its dangers, is scary enough but working out which line to get on and which stop to get off is mind boggling!! We always say one day we will go to New York (have done Paris but can’t see me going back any time soon since the attacks!) but I’m not sure there’s enough Valium in the world to even get me on the plane!!!! Xx

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  22. What a gorgeous post full of wonderful memories. London isn’t that bad is it 🙂 We go quite alot, it’s only 45 mins on the train from us, my husband commutes there every other week for work (although this does worry me as he works in Canary Wharf), it can be quite daunting if you’re not used to the hustle bustle, I certainly wouldn’t want to life there but to visit it’s fab. It sounds like you had a truly fab time and thanks for sharing with the #bestandworst get the next trip planned!! 🙂

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  23. OH looks so amazing. I love london I go alot for work but never have taken the kids except to the usa embassy to get their passports which is up soon so I think this time I might make a nice weekend away with us all to the big smoke and venture out. Looks like the weather was amazing for you all too that always helps. I will have to check out the apartments where you stay as we need to be near hyde park too. I always find hotel rooms hard with two small ones apartments are better. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

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    1. The apartments were lovely, perfect with children as I agree, hotel rooms become so claustrophobic! We are already thinking about our next trip down there, would love to go at Christmas! Xx

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