Spooked in Surrey

Historic haunted houses and more

Surrey is home to two well-known haunted historic houses. They are worth visiting — if you dare:

Chartwell House (Westerham) — Sir Winston Churchill made Chartwell House his home for more than 40 years.  He is credited with his own ghostly sighting while  painting a portrait of his father.  Churchill recalled that he appeared in front of him, they proceeded to have a conversation and then he disappeared after lighting a cigarette.  Today, visitors have noted the scent of cigar smoke while touring the home.  
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell+44 1732 868381
Mapleton Road, Westerham TN16 1PS

Ham House (Richmond) — With at least 15 resident ghosts, Ham House is said to be one of the most haunted in Britain.  The Grade I listed building considered “unique in Europe as the most complete survival of 17th century fashion and power” was home to the Duchess Lauderdale.  The presence of the late Duchess is said to be particularly strong - from the sounds of footsteps, her rose scent and appearance of figures in her mirror.

Bonus : Fireside Ghost Stories (Fridays October 11-December 13), Evening Ghost Tours by candlelight (Daily October 21-25 and November 5-8) and Spooky Storytelling (Daily October 26-November 3)
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hamhouse+44 2089 401950
Ham Street, Ham, Richmond TW10 7RS

With Halloween falling on half-term, there are plenty of kid-friendly options, including:

  • Claremont Landscape Garden : Spooky Walk (Esher)
  • Denbies Wine Estate : Spooky Train Ride & Storytelling (Dorking)
  • RHS Garden Wisley : Wisley After Dark (Woking)
  • Skywalk Adventure : Scary Skywalk (Esher)
Happy Haunting!

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London Restaurant Festival

World Class Dining October 1 - 31

Since 2008, the capital city has hosted the London Restaurant Festival (October 1-31). This year's month-long festival will feature 60 events and exclusive menus at 250 restaurants.

Highlights include Chef-hosted Lunches, Restaurant-Hopping Tours and Champagne Gourmet Odysseys. While many of these are already sold out, there are still reservations available at some of the best restaurants in the city. In partnership with OpenTable, the restaurants have been cleverly grouped by themes, including London Legends, Amazing Spaces, Avant Garde, Flights & Pairings, London with a View and Talk of the Town.

Some my favorites with specially-priced menus include:


  • Coq d’Argent Restaurant - Game Tasting Menu 5 courses £60
  • Floral by Lima - 8 dishes to share & a pisco sour £40
  • Galvins at Windows - 3 course Menu Prestige & a glass of Bellini £82
  • Hakkasan - 2 courses & glass of wine £30
  • Hawksmoor - 2 courses & a choice from 3 cocktails £30
  • Hotel Café Royal - Champagne Afternoon Tea £55
  • Inamo - 4 dishes & 2 drinks £29
  • Launceston Place - 8 course tasting menu & wines for 2 £298
  • Leicester Square Kitchen - Lunch & Pre-theatre menu 3/4 dishes £22/£27
  • Sanderson - Tipsy Evening Tea: £58
  • Skylon - Pre-or Post-theatre 2 courses £25, 3 courses £30
  • Ting Restaurant - 4 course menu & a glass of champagne £40
Even if you managed to eat out three times a day - it would take you over 2-1/2 months to get to all the restaurants on the list. Regardless of how many you get to, at least you'll have fun trying!
www.www.londonrestaurantfestival.com


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Downton Abbey Returns

Beyond the big screen

Three years in the making, Downton Abbey finally hits the big screen. If you didn't make it down to Leicester Square for the star-studded movie premiere, there are still ways to celebrate Downton's highly anticipated return:

. . . . Visit the "real" Downton Abbey and and Drawing Room of Lady Violet:

Highclere Castle (Newbury) — Highclere Castle was designed by architect Charles Barry best known for building the Houses of Parliament. The Castle is used for exterior and most of the interior shots. 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.
Bonus : Book afternoon at the Coach House before or after your tour for £30/person
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.
www.byfleetmanor.com
Byfleet Manor, West Byfleet, Surrey KT14 7RS

. . . . Surround yourself with all that glitters and gleams

The Silver Vaults (London) — The Silver Vaults is the world's largest retail collection of silver. Behind safe doors and within its vaulted walls are 30 specialty shops featuring designs and objects from around the globe. Pieces date from the 16th century to today and include tableware, cutlery, decorative pieces, gifts, jewelry, watches and more. Film A-listers, rock stars and royalty have all shopped here. In fact, Downton Abbey's Mr. Carson, Lady Edith, Lady Rosamund and Mrs. Hughes took part in a charity shopping evening featuring a Downton-inspired exhibition of silver pieces.

. . . . Enjoy a cuppa tea or shot of gin from the comfort of your own home

Across the pond in the US, The Republic of Tea based in California is known for packaging loose leaf teas and tea bags in cylinder-shaped tins.  The Downton inspired teas features some of the favorite characters from the show, including Lord & Lady Grantham, Mary and Violet, Mr. and Mrs. Bates and Mr. Carson.

Residents of Highclere Castle, Lord and Lady Carnavon, along American entrepreneur Adam Von Gootkin recently launched Highclere Castle Gin. The gin is produced at The Langley Distillery, home to some of the oldest working copper gins in the UK.

Hint : It may be easier (and more affordable) to find these products in their respective countries of origin.

If the movie is even a fraction as successful as the TV series, I would book, purchase and visit early to avoid disappointment!

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London Landmarks by Bike

Tally Ho!

If you told me that it was perfectly safe to ride through the streets of London visiting top landmarks, I would not have believed you. But the award-winning tour company Tally Ho! specializes in just that. Their unique tours have earned top honors, including TripAdvisor Hall of Fame and TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 7 years running.


Part of the fun is going around on their traditional British bicycles complete with ding-dong bells and wicker baskets.  Not to mention the knowledgeable local guides who are passionate about London and a bit eccentric too. While the 3-1/2 hour Landmarks & Gems tour covers a mere 5 miles - considering the City of London is known as the Square Mile (since it is 1.12 square miles in area), the tour covers quite a few of London's top attractions and hidden gems.


There are photo opps of landmarks, such as Lambeth Palace, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, London Eye and Covent Garden Market to name a few. Highlights include riding up to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard, viewing the Household Calvary, visiting a top historic pub and even an opportunity to unleash your inner-Banksy by ‘tagging’ London with spray paint.

Whether you are new to the area or lived here for years, this is a completely different and memorable way to see the landmarks of London!
www.tallyho.cc
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Portobello Road Market

Tips to navigate world-famous street market

Located in Notting Hill in London, Portobello Road Market is considered one of the world's most famous street markets and a must-see destination thanks to the popular 1999 film "Notting Hill". While the market is open daily, Saturdays are the most popular featuring 1,000+ antique vendor along with farmers, fashion and flea markets.

How to navigate the market and avoid the crowds at the same time:

- From Notting Hill Gate Station walk 7 minutes to Farm Girl Cafe (breakfast or coffee)
- Between Chepstow Villas and Elgin Cresent : Antiques & Bric-A-Brac (open at 9 am)
- Between Elgin Cresent and Talbot Road : Fruit & Vegetable

- Walk 3 minutes to Books for Cooks (lunch)
- Walk across the street to The Notting Hill Book Shop (photo opp)

- Walk 1 minute to Electric Cinema (movie) - Walk 1 minute to Biscuiteers (dessert)
- Between Talbot and Westway : New goods
- Westway : Fashion
- Between Westway and Golbourne ; Second hand goods

- Walk 2 minutes to Ladbroke Grove Station

With this combination of culinary and entertainment stops, even the most resistant shoppers will be able to endure the sensory-filled market walk.
www.portobelloroad.co.uk

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Summer Scoops

Sprinkles & Treatz

Despite a break from last week's record-breaking temperatures, there are three heatwaves and above average temperatures predicted in August. Here are two ice cream parlour* chains where you can relax and cool off:


Sprinkles Gelato This dessert parlour features over 20 flavors of gelato and sorbet that are used in 30 different sundaes, 'desserts in a jar', shakes, smoothies and floats. Other sweet concoctions include cookie dough, crepes, cupcakes and waffles. They have 16 locations, including two in London and one in Reading, Surrey.  Take a break visiting attractions in Balisdon (Balisdon Park), Brighton (Royal Pavilion), Portsmouth (Historic Dockyard) and Salisbury (Salisbury Cathedral).
www.sprinklesgelato.co.uk




Treatz Treatz dessert parlour creates shakes, smoothies, sundaes and waffle baskets using 40 gelato flavors.  Their 'epic' desserts include American pancakes, cakes, cookie dough and more. They currently have 16 locations, including London, Woking along with High Wycombe, Luton, Slough and Wembley. You can also order via Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats and they even provide gelato, crepe and waffle or cold stone ice cream carts for off-site catering events.
www.treatz.co.uk


As much as I enjoy all the boutique artisan creameries abound, there is something nostalgic (and gluttonous :) about visiting these over-the-top dessert parlours.  Sweet dreams!

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Five Ways to Beat the Heat

With temperatures set to soar, here are five ways to cool off:

While the London Underground and double-decker Routemaster buses can be warm . . .

...Take to the air
Emirates Air Line — The air conditioned cable car 90 metres (300 ft) is higher than than the O2 Arena Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks. The 10-13 minute (5 minutes 7 am - 9 am Monday - Friday) ride offers birds eye views of London and starts at 3.50 / adult and 1.70 / child (lowest prices for Oyster and contactless card travelers). If you are still hot, you can even go cable wakeboarding, stand up paddleboard (SUP), including yoga / pilates and even hydrofoiling (think kitesurfing without the kite and wind) on the Royal Victoria Dock waters.
www.emiratesairline.co.uk
www.wakeupdocklands.com+44 2039 503951
Wakeup Docklands, 1 Dock Road, London E16 1AG

...Travel by water
London Waterbus — The traditional narrow boat on the Regents Canal has is celebrating 60 years of service and stops at Camden Lock, Little Venice and London Zoo. The Waterbus and one way fares from Camden Lock and Little Venice start 12 / adult and 9 / children and one way fares into London Zoo (including zoo admission) start at 30 / adult and 22 / child. Booking online is suggested - especially on the weekends.
www.londonwaterbus.com+44 2037 639881

Thames Clippers — The MBNA Thames Clippers is the fastest and most frequent boat service on the River Thames with 17-stops starting at Putney Pier to Royal Arsenel Woolwich Pier. Major attractions along the route include Big Ben, London Eye, Shakespeare Globe, St. Paul's Cathedral and Tower of London to name a few. Similar to Emirates Air Line, discounted fares are available for Oyster and contactless card travelers. A 'hop on hop off' ticket is available along with a combination ticket offer with Emirates Air Line cable car.
www.thamesclippers.com

If you have fond recollections of running through the sprinkler like a kid, here is your chance to . . .

...Play in the fountains

King’s Cross : Granary Square Fountains — With 1,080 jets that cam be controlled and lit individually, this is one of the most popular attractions at King's Cross - especially on a hot summer day. At dusk the fountain is lit by multicolored lights for a colorful light show.
Bonus : In the winter, arrive between 4 pm - 5 pm the fountains become a video game and can be controlled using the Granary Squirt app via your smartphone.

www.kingscross.co.uk/fountains-granary-square
1 Granary Square, Kings Cross, London N1C

Southbank : Appearing Rooms — This cleverly designed, seasonal attraction sprays walls of water. You can time your entry in a way to stand in the ‘room’ without getting wet - unless of course you would like to or guess wrong! The fountain is on Noon - 9 pm Monday and 10 am - 9 pm Tuesday to Sunday.
www.southbanklondon.com/south-bank-centre-appearing-rooms
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX

While you probably know that one of the coolest places in a home is the basement, but you may not know where you can . . .

...Eat underground

Cafe in the Crypt — Across the street from Trafalgar Square is St. Martin’s in the Fields Café. This 18th century building with its brick-vaulted ceilings is a great place to stop in and escape from the summer heat and stream of tourists. They offer a basic afternoon tea minus the fancy cake stand and have an affordable ‘cafeteria’ style lunch.
www.cafe-in-the-crypt+44 2077 661158
Ducannon Street, London WC2N 4JF

And if all else fails, enjoy a frozen treat at Chin Chin Labs, Milk Train, Gelateria 3Bis, Gelupo, La Gelatiera, Snowflake or Udderlicious.

Stay cool!


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