Taking a stroll through Barbican Conservatory - interior

Take a moment to relax in Barbican Conservatory, London

Discover Barbican Conservatory, the second biggest conservatory in London. It’s time to take a moment to unwind in the big city.

Within the Barbican Centre’s cultural and creative hub, you will discover Barbican Conservatory. Sitting atop the dedicated arts space on its third floor, the conservatory is brimming with natural wonder, all nestled within the buildings structure.

Taking a stroll through Barbican Conservatory - cacti

This beautiful indoor rainforest offers its visitors a moment to disconnect in central London.

Inside, you will discover a hidden oasis which is home to over 1,500 species of tropical plants and trees. There’s even Koi fish and terrapin ponds.

Taking a stroll through Barbican Conservatory - Koi Pond

Take your time when winding around the lower and upper garden. It is a beautifully tranquil and colourful space housed within glass walls. Plus, there’s plenty of photo opportunities to boot.

Enjoy leafy and verdant surroundings as you casually meander along stone walkways and across a picturesque wooden bridge delicately placed in the conservatory’s centre.

Don’t worry, there’s benches dotted around to allow you to take a moment to soak up the atmosphere within this impressive space.

Taking a stroll through Barbican Conservatory - Floral terracotta pots

If you head upstairs, you can fully appreciate the view of the conservatory from its balcony. So, take a left and you will discover a vast selection of bright and bold cacti. They come in all shapes and sizes, adorning the space from floor to ceiling.

If you are looking for free things to do in London, you’re in luck! Although opening times are limited, admission is free! There is even a pop-up bar onsite to allow visitors to truly soak up the atmosphere.

Learn more about visiting visiting the Barbican Conservatory in the Barbican Centre.

What else is there to see and do in the Barbican Centre?

The Barbican Centre is a grade II listed building within Barbican Estate. This fascinating residential area was entirely rebuilt from rubble. Bombing and fire had obliterated it during World War Two.

Today, it demonstrates the best of Brutalist architecture. This Utopian vision and architectural style was brought to life by British architectural firm, Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. The development was completed in the 80s. It’s simple, you will either love or hate it.

Taking a stroll through Barbican Centre

Once inside the vibrant Barbican Centre, you will discover so much to do and see, including:

  • Barbican Art Gallery and The Curve gallery
  • Barbican Conservatory
  • Barbican Film (three cinema screens)
  • Barbican Hall (home of London Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra)
  • Barbican Kitchen (serving bites to eats and hot meals)
  • Barbican Library (offers public lending and special arts and music collections)
  • The Pit (theatre venue) alongside other informal performance spaces
  • Barbican Shop (selling a selection of artsy and design-led gifts)
  • Barbican Theatre (designed by and for the Royal Shakespeare Company)
  • A selection of bars, cafes and restaurants
  • Conference and trade exhibition halls

There are plenty of free events and performances within. You can take a tour of Barbican Centre, participate in a talk or workshop or catch a film in Barbican Cinema!

Overall, Barbican Estate offers its visitors lots of open space and thus many places to simply unwind within its urban landscape.

You can access the Barbican Centre from nearby Barbican, Moorgate and St Paul’s Underground stations.

Have you been to Barbarian Conservatory? Where is your favourite place to unwind in the Barbican Centre?

Stephanie xox

The best things to do in London Bridge

London Bridge is an area bursting with history and landmarks. It’s the perfect destination to see London’s famed skyline with friends in tow.

On the southern bank of the River Thames, London Bridge offers an eclectic mix of cultural hotspots, celebrated attractions, global cuisine to suit every budget, markets and independent treasures aplenty.

Here’s the best things to see and do in London Bridge:

The best food and drink at Borough Market 

Feeling peckish? For cheap independent eats head to Borough Market, London’s oldest and most famous market.

Weave in and out the numerous stalls and sample whatever takes your fancy. Discover international street food alongside fresh produce galore. Pick up fruit and vegetables, sweet treats and pastries, homemade bread and artisanal cheese.

Once you are done meandering this foodie heaven, enjoy a drink or two in the area and soak up the atmosphere.

Cocktails with a panoramic view at Aqua Shard, London

Take to the sky in The Shard, the UK’s tallest building at 310 metres. If you are looking for breathtaking views with a more affordable price tag, head up to Aqua Shard on the 32nd floor in 15 seconds.

Try to get a seat before sunset for incredible cityscape views with a cocktail in hand. The restaurant and bar is more than a third of the way up the skyscraper and doesn’t require a reservation.

If you’d like to pay a visit to the 72nd floor, you can see up to 40 miles from The View from The Shard.

Step back in time with The London Bridge Experience and Tombs

Looking for a unique history lesson and some scares? Head to The London Bridge Experience and Tombs. This interactive and immersive guided tour is for the brave among us. You will discover over 2,000 years of (often gruesome) London and London Bridge history on route.

Once you head into the London Tombs, expect to confuse the senses with a live-action maze. These historic tombs and vaults have been voted the scariest attraction in London.

Play explorer on The Golden Hinde

Step on board The Golden Hinde, a full scale replica of Sir Francis Drake’s 16th century global exploration vessel. This celebrated ship is brought to life alongside costumed actors detailing its history.

The Golden Hinde entry – ÂŁ5

Feel on trend at the Fashion and Textile Museum

The Fashion and Textile Museum is one for creative types. Just up from London Bridge station on Bermondsey Street, step inside to discover their latest fashion and textile exhibition.

The Zandra Rhodes exhibition is currently on till January 2020, detailing the fashion designers extensive portfolio. Expect high fashion, textiles, theatrical costumes and original artwork. Explore 50 years of work at the museum she founded.

The colourful museum only hosts one exhibition space at a time. Once done, be sure to swing by the shop when exiting for beautiful and unique gifts.

Fashion and Textile Museum entry – ÂŁ9.90

Enjoy the beauty of Southwark Cathedral

A stone’s throw away from London Bridge station you will find Southwark Cathedral. The oldest cathedral in London, this stunning place of worship is a must visit.

Enjoy a guided tour or service inside the Gothic cathedral and take a moment to soak up it’s beautiful architecture from its gardens outside.

See where the elite used to party at the Winchester Palace Ruins

Admire the 12th century ruins of Winchester Palace. These tucked away Medieval ruins once housed one of the most grand and opulent buildings in Britain.

It was a place of comfort and celebration for the religious officials, royalty and the elite of London for over 500 years.

Unwind at Potters Field Park

Take a moment to pause with a coffee or lunch at Potters Field Park. This open green space allows for an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with some wonderful views of Tower Bridge.

See how London moves at the Tower Bridge and Engine Room Tour

Often mistaken for London Bridge, Tower Bridge is one of London’s most iconic and photographed landmarks. However, most people do not know that you can in fact go up the bridge, built between 1886 and 1894.

You will start with a short history lesson before making your way along the first of two partially covered glass walkways. The second walkway has a partially mirrored ceiling offering the perfect snap of the River Thames and oncoming traffic below. It also allows you incredible views of the Shard and Gherkin.

Once down, it’s a short walk to the engine rooms which continue to lift the bridge to this day. Learn about how these engines work and their maintenance.

Tower Bridge and Engine Room Tour entry – ÂŁ9.80

Enjoy British naval history on board HMS Belfast

To experience a monumental part of Britain’s naval past, step aboard HMS Belfast. The World War 1 ship is one of London’s most unique historical attractions. Moored near London Bridge Pier, this monumental wartime ship is sensational.

Once aboard, make your way up and down ladders as you explore the interior and exterior of each deck, discovering the museum ships vast history. Expect waxwork figures ‘in action’, access to the gun turrets and hear many stories of life on board at each level.

On deck, you can take a moment to appreciate the London skyline from the River Thames.

HMS Belfast entry – ÂŁ16.20 online and ÂŁ18 on the day

See how medicine has progressed at The Old Operating Theatre

Make your way up a spiral 52-step staircase and enjoy a glimpse of how far modern medicine has come. The Old Operating Theatre brings you back to the 19th century where medicinal technique was still in its infancy.

The procedures were often gruesome and herbal remedies took precedence. The highlight of the museum? The opportunity to stand inside Europe’s oldest operating theatre.

The Old Operating Theatre entry – ÂŁ6.50

Hunt for quirky fashion and other finds at Vinegar Yard

For vintage and retro finds, head to Vinegar Yard. This bustling flea market is brimming with antique treasures, arts and crafts and global cuisine to suit all tastes and preferences.

Be entertained at The Scoop 

Next to City Hall, the Scoop offers free theatrical performances, sporting and movie screenings at select times in the year.

800 people can enjoy events including Christmas by the River and Summer by the River within this impressive outdoor amphitheatre.

London Bridge will keep you busy for the entire weekend. To make the most of your time in the area, enjoy a London Bridge hotel stay.

Have you explored the London Bridge area? What would be your go to attraction? 

Stephanie xox

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The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own

Discover kawaii heaven at ARTBOX Covent Garden, London

Have you ever felt like you have died and gone to kawaii heaven? As you enter ARTBOX Covent Garden in London, those feelings will come to life. 

The ARTBOX Covent Garden shop is home to the cutest animated characters. Most importantly, it hosts a wall-to-wall Pusheen the Cat area. Now, if you a Pusheen and super adorable merchandise fan, you’re going to be pretty psyched. 

Upon entering this specialist kawaii retailer, you will meet animated characters and goods galore. Luckily, there’s plenty of plush grey cats!

ARTBOX Covent Garden specialises in kawaii Japanese items. Inside, there are unique wall-to-wall displays.  Expect to find plushies, stationary, clothing and sweet treats. 

ARTBOX Covent Garden is a specialist Japanese kawaii retailer 

As you explore, discover Pusheen’s friends and lots of familiar Sanrio faces. These include Hello Kitty, Gudetama, Rillakuma, Moomin, Sumikko Gurashi, Tokidoki and My Melody.  

Basically, when it comes to Pusheen, you will find plushies, stationary, pin badges and homeware galore! 

In addition, you’ll find the beloved Tofu Cute with their own concession stand within. Not to mention their selection of Amuse plushies, Japanese sweets and drinks! 

Therefore, if you are into all things cute, ARTBOX Covent Garden is the place to be. Surprisingly, the Pusheen craving doesn’t have to end there. Thankfully, it will next be fulfilled at the ARTBOX Cafe in Brighton! 

Which is your favourite kawaii character?

Stephanie xox

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Exploring The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, London - shopfront

The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, London review

The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities is a peculiar haunt in Hackney, operated by Viktor Wynd and The Last Tuesday Society.  

Before you enter this cabinet of curiosities, enjoy a tipple in the absinthe cocktail bar upstairs.

Housed in a former call centre, this quirky natural history museum is wall-to-wall with oddities and artwork. Its collection spans several centuries.

Exploring The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, London - two headed lamb

Accessible by a steep spiral staircase, you will enter the basement museum. Here, discover a two headed lamb, dodo bones, Fiji mermaids, ‘fairies’ and a complete skeleton of a giant anteater – and plenty more!

Scattered around, tribal art, erotica, fossils and items of scientific interest lines it’s cabinets and walls. Alongside this, extinct animal parts and taxidermy in abundance.

Exploring The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, London - cabinet

So, what did I find in The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities?

The tribal pieces were particularly fascinating. Shrunken heads, skulls, intricate artwork, dead babies in containers and lots of human remains – eek!

There’s also photo opportunities with well-dressed safari and mythical taxidermy gentry.  

Exploring The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, London - fairy

The museum presents the largest known public collections by artist and occultist, Austin Osman Spare. It also hosts many interesting pieces by Anglo-Mexican surrealist, Leonora Carrington. 

Expect the good, the bad and the damn right weird in this oh so peculiar East End London gem! You won’t want to miss it. 

Have you been to The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities? Which item would freak you out the most?

Stephanie xox

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Tracing Shakespeare’s life in Stratford-upon-Avon - Shakespare's Birthplace interior

A day in Stratford-upon-Avon with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Shakespeare bestowed upon the world a love for literature, producing nearly 200 known works in his lifetime.

In sleepy Stratford-upon-Avon, you can discover snippets of his world. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust presents a variety of attractions in the area. Here, visitors can discover the literary great and are taken on a journey through Shakespeare’s life. 

The adult annual pass includes all five properties and is only ÂŁ22.50, allowing for unlimited visits within 12 months!

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust attractions include:

  • Shakespeare’s Birthplace 
  • Shakespeare’s New Place
  • Mary Arden’s Farm
  • Hall’s Croft
  • Anne Hathaway’s Cottage 

Tracing Shakespeare’s life in Stratford-upon-Avon - Shakespare's Birthplace

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Discover Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon’s town centre. This grand Tudor home presents a living museum of Shakespeare’s childhood and a timeline of his life and work. 

As you enter, explore the Famous Beyond Words exhibition where you will be presented with informative videos, artwork and memorabilia dedicated to the playwrights greatest works and a variety of fascinating artifacts. 

Finally, you will move on to the properties beautifully landscaped gardens. Here, you can learn more about Shakespeare’s plays on a 9 metre interactive wallbook, immerse yourself in live performances by actors on request and become mesmerised by talks and workshops within the home on Shakespeare’s family life and his father’s glove making business. 

Afterwards, be sure to check out the giftshop for beautiful stationery and books. 

Tracing Shakespeare’s life in Stratford-upon-Avon - Shakespare's New Place

Shakespeare’s New Place

Shakespeare’s New Place allows visitors to wander around the site of the playwrights final property, where he died in 1616. 

Although the original home no longer stands, the re-established neighbouring property presents a fascinating exhibition with artwork and artefacts. Surprisingly, this includes a signet ring believed to have been owned by William Shakespeare himself!

Finally, take time to appreciate the restored sunken Knot Garden and the large landscaped Elizabethan Great Garden. Here you will discover plenty of places to take a moment and reflect on his life.

The Great Garden is also home to grand and enchanting series of commissioned bronze statues by Greg Wyatt dedicated to Shakespeare’s famous works. 

Tracing Shakespeare’s life in Stratford-upon-Avon - Mary Arden's Farm

Mary Arden’s Farm

Mary Arden’s Farm was the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother. Today, it is still a charming working Tudor farm and only a short drive outside the town centre. 

Onsite, admire the varied livestock and enjoy live action performances by actors in period costumes. See falconry and goose herding demonstrations, as well as being able to take part in a wealth of interactive activities and educational talks.

This expansive 23-acre farm is delightful to stroll around. Expect historic buildings, lush greenery and plenty of hidden treasures to be found. 

Enjoy watching butterflies in wild flower and fauna embellished meadows, reignite your childish side and climb the viewing tower, spot carved wooden animals hidden within the trees and crawl through lengthy willow domed structures.

On departing, the gift shop offers wholesome local produce and pretty trinkets. 

Tracing Shakespeare’s life in Stratford-upon-Avon - Hall's Croft

Hall’s Croft

Hall’s Croft is the Jacobean home of Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna, and her husband, physician, John Hall. 

Once inside, step along creaking wooden floorboards to discover their family home and life and follow walls and rooms lined with medicinal herbs and vials. Once upstairs, you will also find the beautifully crafted The Bard’s Rest sofa centrepiece upstairs.

You can also enjoy the Method in Madness and Living with History exhibitions. 

Method in Madness delves into medicinal practice and use in late 16th and early 17th century. It details how John Hall would have worked and how doctors understood the body and mind to function during this time.

Here, you will learn about medical advancements, see the garish tools used to operate and authentic apothecary and uroscopy stations. 

Living with History is found within the onsite Hall’s Croft Cafe. It presents life in Stratford-upon-Avon, past and present, through the eyes of local documentary photographer, William Mulryne. 

Once you have finished admiring the photography take a moment in the Hall’s Croft walled garden brimming with medicinal herbs or even enjoy some tea and cake at the cafe. 

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is the childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife and is a short drive outside the town centre. Here, Shakespeare courted a young Anne Hathaway and the pair soon fell in love. 

The property was originally a farmhouse and the family reared sheep on its 90-acre land. Unfortunately, as we set off a little later in the day, we had to miss Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. 

However, if you set off early, all of these attractions are more than doable in a day! Although, if you miss one like me, the annual pass also allows you to return on a later date!

Thus, I shall certainly be returning to visit Anne Hathaway’s Cottage soon. 

Have you discovered Shakespeare’s life in Stratford-upon-Avon? What is your favourite piece of work by Shakespeare?

Stephanie xox

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A spring clean with Fantastic Services - car

One-off deep clean with fantastic services

You know the drill, you’re busy at work, the cold weather has well and truly set in and you are well overdue a spring clean.

However, when do you find the time? Fantastic Services offer a variety of cleaning services for the home across the UK, as well as gardening, landscaping, tradesmen, removals and storage, waste removal, inventory services, pest control and appliance repair.

A spring clean with Fantastic Services - hallway interior

What cleaning services do they offer?

Their domestic cleaning services in the UK include:

  • Regular cleaning
  • One-off cleaning
  • Carpet cleaning
  • End of tenancy cleaning
  • Holiday rental cleaning
  • Upholstery cleaning
  • Window cleaning
  • Conservatory cleaning
  • Oven and BBQ cleaning
  • Curtains and blinds cleaning
  • After builders cleaning
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Home organising

A spring clean with Fantastic Services - bathroom interiorA spring clean with Fantastic Services - sink cleaningA spring clean with Fantastic Services - bath tap cleaning

One-off deep clean review

We opted for a one-off deep clean as we are in the process of putting our flat up for sale. The service included three cleaners coming into our one bedroom flat for two hours at an arranged time to suit us.

Before they began, they asked me which areas they should focus on, focusing on a customised cleaning check list. Taking a room each in turn they blitzed our place.

They made the bathroom gleam, polishing up all ceramic and metal surfaces. Honestly, it looked like a show bathroom once it was done, I don’t think it was this clean when we bought the place.

In the combined kitchen and living room, our kitchen area garnered the most attention. Surfaces were cleaned and polished, the oven was bombed and blitzed, as well as the microwave. Our upholstery was also given the once over, with the sofa cleaned

Throughout the property, interiors of windows were made to shine alongside their sills and skirting boards were cleaned. They finished by hoovering the place, adding a perfumed spray across all carpets.

A spring clean with Fantastic Services - room interior

So, what did I think of Fantastic Services? 

Afterwards, the cleaners asked me to inspect the property. It’s safe to say, I walked back in and found myself in awe. Everything sparkled and smelt sensational.

I found the Fantastic Services cleaners to be thorough, professional and oh so polite. I will definitely be using them again in the future.

If you would like to take advantage of Fantastic Services and their incredible cleaners, you can use the code LDNGAL to receive ÂŁ10 off your first service.

Are you overdue a spring clean? Have you used Fantastic Services before?

Stephanie xox

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This Fantastic Services one-off deep clean was exchanged for an honest review