Half-Term Halloween Specials

Beyond pumpkin patches and trick-or-treating

With Halloween falling on a Tuesday and during half-term, there are more activities than usual over the weekend and even after Halloween itself. Here are three unusual ways to celebrate:

echo7 Recording Studio (Ewell) — Kids 9 to 16 can dance, sing or just chill out at echo7 Recording Studio. They have full use of a professional recording studio with 4,000+ songs to choose from complete with disco lights and microphones (including ones used by stars like Michael Jackson for Thriller and Taylor Swift). The two-hour session for up to 10 is £10 / person Monday - Friday (minimum £50) and £15 / person Saturday or Sunday (minimum £75). Extras like UV lights and paints, chocolate fountain with dips, pizzas and music video can be added. The Studio is open beginning at 8 am, parents can choose to stay or dropoff and best of all no need to worry about the weather!
7 Rosebery Parade, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 2EJ

Edible Cinema (Multiple) — Intrigued by the idea of seeing and tasting a film at the same time? When you get to your cinema seat, there will be a tray of small numbered boxes that are to be opened at specific times during the film. The menu is based on an interpretation of what is happening on the screen. The team behind the creative menu includes experimental chefs, food designers and mixologists. Past films include Grosse Point Blank, Trading Places, and When Harry Met Sally. Just in time for Halloween, Beetlejuice makes a return screening October 31 and November 1 at select Everyman theatres in London. Tickets are £35 and includes Bombay welcome cocktail, eight bite-sized canapés / mini cocktails.

Skywalk Adventure (Esher) — Located at Sandown Sports Club, Skywalk Adventure features two treetop adventure courses, including bridges, swinging logs, tightropes and zip wires landing into nets. The minimum age is 8 years and minimum height is 1.3 metres tall. There is an on-site cafe with hot pots, salads, sandwiches, snacks and wraps along with a fully stocked bar. They will be open extended hours October 26 - 31 as part of their SPOOKtacular Skywalk experience complete with supernatural sightings.  For a less Scary Skywalk adventure, they will be open as usual during the daytime. Admission is £15 for kids and £20 for adults for both courses (over 40% off regular prices). Booking by October 22 required.
www.skywalkadventure.co.uk +44 1372 701107
Sandown Sports, More Lane, Esher, Surrey KT10 8AN

For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

Mix it up

Making fitness fun again

Let's face getting older means it is much harder to maintain (much less lose) weight. Four ways to have fun trying:

Anti-gravity Yoga (Godalming) — The Fitness Hangout was the first studio in the UK to feature this New York City craze.  If you want to learn how to fly, flip and invert — this is your chance.  Using a silk hammock it combines traditional yoga poses and principles with elements from aerial arts, dance, gymnastics, Pilates, and calisthenics.  As well as being fun, it’s a complete workout that is certain to get you in shape while realigning you — we walked away an inch taller and smiling.
www.thefitnesshangout.co.uk +44 7779 110773
14, Woodside Park, Catteshall Lane, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1LG

Clubbercise (Multiple) Clubbercise® is one of the fastest growing workouts in the UK – burning up to 500 calories in 45 minutes. It combines simple, fun routines set to 80s, 90s and today’s hits. It is aimed at all abilities with high and low impact options — whether you are a beginner or a fitness fanatic. It is fun if you are a bit shy too — the main lights are turned out, disco lights go on and flashing glow sticks add to the fun. You’ll leave feeling you like you had a night out on the town without hangover or headache!

Paddleboard (Sunbury-on-Thames) — If you are looking for for a new challenge while enjoying the review landscape, this is worth a try.  Fortunately, the board was remarkably stable and I quickly found a sense of calm and focus&nbsp – different from that of being in a studio. The session included an introduction to paddle boarding, paddleboard yoga and core yoga moves.  Be prepared to work your core and experience a bit of an adrenaline rush from being just a little scared too.

Parkour (Multiple) — Originating in France, this is a form of fitness training that improves strength, speed, agility, coordination, stamina, endurance and precision. Parkour became popular after the famous jump scene in the James Bond movie Casino Royale. Learn how to overcome obstacles as quickly and efficiently as possible using your body. They also boast the UK's first dedicated parkour centre in Canary Wharf. All you need is a pair of tennis shoes and a sense of adventure.
www.parkourgenerations.com +44 2036 513364

For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

The Legend of Silent Pool

Award-winning Surrey Hills gin

We first came across Silent Pool, a spring-fed lake, while hiking the Surrey Hills. It is located at the foot of North Downs on the Albury Estate just outside of Guildford.

Legend has it that a woodcutters daughter who regularly bathed in the Pool is said to have drowned while being pursued by none other than King John.  It is said even today you can sometimes hear her screams at night or see her image floating on the surface of the water.

Fast forward to 2014 and the filtered spring water taken from the Silent Pool is used to make handcrafted Silent Pool Gin.  The recipe also calls for 24 botanicals  four of which come from the North Downs area, including chamomile, elderflower, honey and pear.  Apparently, they developed a winning floral blend as evidenced by a silver award at the International Wine and Spirits Competition just after its launch in 2015.

Beyond the gin itself, the botanicals are beautifully featured in cooper on the teal blue bottle (similar to the moss in the pool itself). Even if you are not a gin lover, it is hard not to be drawn to the bottle once the gin is gone you can just add water. 

The company offers 90-minute tours of their distillery complete with tasting session.  While the legend behind Silent Pool will remain a mystery, it is clear that the success of Silent Pool Gin will not.

www.silentpooldistillers.com+44 1483 229136
Silent Pool Distillery, Shere Road, Albury, Surrey GU5 9BW

For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

Downtown Abbey Fans

Who knew that the historical period drama, Downton Abbey, would become such an international hit? The award-winning show became the most watched television series in the world by its third season. Access two famous filming locations:

Highclere Castle (Newbury) — Despite Downton Abbey ending after six seasons, Highclere Castle, used for exterior and most of the interior shots is still open to the public. Tickets book up quickly. However, they have a limited number of 'walk-up' tickets on each Public Opening day. I haven't known anyone who hasn't been able to purchase these. It is worth a try - even if it means seeing the 'country house' set on a 5,000-acre estate at a distance.
www.highclerecastle.co.uk+44 1635 253210
Highclere Castle, Highclere Park, Newbury RG20 9RN

Byfleet Manor (West Byfleet) — Located closer in is Byfleet Manor, also known as Dowager Violet's house in the Downton Abbey. Book afternoon tea in the Downton Room, the Drawing Room of Lady Violet. The traditional tea includes a selection of homemade finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and selection of cakes and pastries. Our visit included a talk about the filming that takes place there and a walk around the gardens, complete with a river and island.
Byfleet Manor, West Byfleet, Surrey KT14 7RS

For the ultimate Downton Abbey fan, both venues now offer opportunities to stay overnight!
For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

Fondant-Free Cakes

Shows like Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss have popularized the use of fondant icing (also known as sugar paste). While the cakes look amazing, I find myself picking the icing off to be able to eat the cake on its own. For cakes that taste as good as they look, visit:

Bachmanns Patisserie and Chocolate Creations (Multiple) — The award-winning cakes at Surrey-based Bachmanns 'taste gorgeous and looks stunning'. The display case is always filled with beautiful and tasty individual desserts (particularly helpful if you are indecisive or just want to try more than one). If you find something you like, they can be adapted to feed large parties of 70+ for special occasions. Other items made fresh and onsite include breads, chocolates, croissants and pastries.

Choco Cake (Weybridge) — A Weybridge newcomer, Choco Cake makes unique cakes, chocolates and pastries.  Daily cake selections include carrot, lemon, Malteser and orange and almond.  Our favorite is passion fruit cake - available by special order only.  Other treats include chocolate bark, bars and hot chocolate spoons.
10 Baker Street, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 8AU

Hummingbird Bakery (Multiple) — This famous bakery bills itself as baking ‘authentic American cakes and desserts’. Indeed the portions are US sizes. They have huge cupcakes with black bottom and red velvet varieties being family favorites.  Red velvet is also available as a full-size cake.  The colorful six-layer rainbow cake topped with chocolate or vanilla whipped icing is a perfect addition to any celebration.

For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App

London Fashion Week Festival

London Fashion Week (LFW) is one of the highest profile fashion events in the world and one of the ‘big four’ (New York, London, Milan and Paris). 

London Fashion Week is limited to members of the press, buyers or if you are a celebrity. However, tickets for London Fashion Week Festival September 21-24, which follows directly from LFW, uses the same exhibition and catwalk venue. The event features expert talks and designer shopping event, including emerging to high profile designers. You can also add 'catwalk' shows and a designer tote bag. Go to soak up the atmosphere and inspire your wardrobe with the latest trends before they appear on the high street.
The Store Studios, 180 The Strand, London WC2R

More fashionista fun:
  • The World of Anna Sui (Fashion & Textile Museum) — For the first time an American designer is featured as part of a retrospective exhibit.  Anna Sui was named one of the "Top 5 Fashion Icons of the Decade" and awarded the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).  The exhibition runs through September 30th.
  • www.ftmlondon.org+44 2074 078664
    St Martin's Place, London WC2H 0HE
  • Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion (V&A Museum) — This exhibit highlights the work of Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. Balenciaga is considered a master couturier of high standards and admired by fashion icons, including Coco Chanel and Christian Dior. Over 100 pieces are featured in the exhibition that runs until February 18, 2018.
  • www.ftmlondon.org+44 2074 078664
    183 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF

7 Scrumptious Soho Stops

Conveniently located in London's theatre district

Clustered over a few blocks on Warder Street, there are good places to eat that do not require a lot of time.

Starter (or for a light meal)
Hummus Bros No reservations needed for this establishment just walk-in and be seated family style at their Soho location. Hummus is served with a range of toppings from chicken and falafel to beef and aubergine - all served with fresh pita bread.  Nothing fancy just excellent, healthy and filling. Enjoy!
www.hbros.co.uk+44 2077 341311
88 Wardour Street, London W1F 0TH

Princi— This location in London is the only one outside of Milan. Think Italian bakery and pizzeria of the Ottelenghi variety – glass cases full of focaccia sandwiches, pastas, and pastries. The cafeteria style service works well for a quick bite before or after the theatre*.
www.princi.com+44 2074 788888
135 Wardour Street, London W1F 0UT

Inamo — Inamo is considered London's only interactive restaurant where guests control their dining experience.  The digital projections on your table surface can be changed with a swipe of a finger, including selecting a tablecloth, ordering, watching the chefs and playing retro games.  The Asian cuisine meant to be shared includes award-winning fresh sushi.
+44 2078 517051
134 - 136 Wardour Street, London W1F 8ZP

Pho — Pho is London's first Vietnamese street food restaurant and has grown to include locations throughout the UK.  Their authentic dishes are made fresh and in-house.  Their famed Pho (rice noodle soup) dish is served 15+ ways and is accompanied by basil, chili, lime and other items so you can season to your own taste.
www.phocafe.co.uk+44 2074 343938
163-165 Wardour Street London W1F 8WN

Wahaca — Mexican street food selections include burritos, quesadillas, tacos and tostadas. The portions are a bit on the small side so you may need to order more than one, a starter or a drink. My favorite location is still the Southbank location one located in large, reclaimed shipping containers, including a take away* option below with picnic table style seating.
www.wahaca.co.uk+44 2077 340195
80 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 0TF

The Hummingbird Bakery — Hummingbird Bakery bills itself as baking ‘authentic American cakes and desserts’. Indeed the portions are US sizes. They have huge cupcakes with black bottom, cookies and cream and red velvet varieties being family favorites.  You can even have them delivered to your door.
www.hummingbirdbakery.com+44 2078 511795
155a Wardour Street, London W1F 8WG

Snowflake Luxury Gelato — Winners of 25 Great Taste gold stars, the largest gelato bar in London has as its motto 'serving happiness'. They have 50+ flavors of Italian gelato and sorbets all made daily depending on what is available and freshest. Even gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free versions of some of their flavors are available.
www.snowflakegelato.co.uk+44 2072 471045
102 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 0TN

For more: Download the London via Surrey Book App