Wet and Wild Rides

Where to enjoy the last days of summer

Lee Valley Water Centre (Hertfordshire) — Lee Valley is a white water slalom centre that was used during the 2012 Olympic Games and has played host to the 2015 Canoe Slalom World Championships.

The white water rafting session includes basic paddling skills, safety and how to conquer the same rapids used by Olympic canoeists. To say the least, I am far from a confident swimmer, but did manage to pass the activity assessment. This was just the beginning of the workout. Unlike traditional white river rafting where you pass one rapid after another, they have the ability to send you back through the grade 4 rapids you just completed (often times more than once).

Given the risk of tumbling in and the need to move quickly and work as a team, I came to appreciate that rafters needed to be at least 14 years of age to raft on the Olympic course. Other water sports include canoeing, a 
floating obstacle course, hydrospeeding, kayaking, paddle boarding and tubing.
www.gowhitewater.co.uk+44 3000 030616
Station Road, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire EN9 1AB

Liquid Leisure (Berkshire) — Liquid Leisure boasts Europe’s largest aqua parks and one of the most comprehensive cable parks in the world.

Our first time out, we made the mistake of going when the cable was running at regular speed. Being new to wakeboarding, I ended up spending the entire session just trying to make it around the first corner. On a return visit with the cable set at slow speed, we were much more successful - making it around the park multiple times.

Unlike snowboarding or skiing where you have to get off and go back up the lift, once you master getting off the dock and negotiating corners you can continue to go around the park on your own as long as you can stay on and within your allotted time.

Other activities include banana boat rides, paddle boarding, 
water skiing and zorbing.  If you get a bit cold or need a break, you can head to the hot tub or the heated glass room to warm up. They also offer on-site camping with lake views, shower facilities and even BBQ complete with a bar.
www.liquidleisure.com+44 1753 542500
Horton Road, Berkshire SL3 9HY

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Entertaining Food

Seven places where food and entertainment go hand in hand

Chin Chin Labs  (Multiple)— As Europe's first liquid nitrogen ice cream shop, Chin Chin Labs makes each scoop from scratch. In addition to their version of chocolate and vanilla, the menu changes weekly with creative flavors like Basil Chocolate Chip, Blueberry Marshmallow, Gin Fizz Sorbet and Pink Guava and Pepper Crack to name a few. If you are not adventurous to try these, the Brown-wich (Pondicherry vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two cookies) is an easy go-to favorite.

Fat Duck (Bray) — For true foodies or those that want to experience food as performance art, this Heston Blumenthal three Michelin star restaurant has been previously recognized as Best Restaurant in the UK and World. Each course is beautifully presented and made memorable as evidenced by the many diners taking photos. It is too bad that their lunch is now priced the same as dinner and on the expensive side.
www.thefatduck.co.uk+44 1628 580333
High Street, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AQ

I Falafel (London) — While wandering Petticoat Lane Market, we were given a free, hot full-size falafel sample. This is apparently how they get you to join the queue. However, the line goes quickly with prep time of less than 20 seconds per wrap. So fast, I only managed to record the last seconds of my delicious order.
+44 7479 865005
3-40 New Goulston Street, London E1 7TP

Inamo  (Multiple) — 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.

Jin Go Gae  (New Malden) — This local, family-run restaurant serves up authentic Korean BBQ grilled at your table. Order the two-portion marinated meats which include beef, chicken, duck, pork or squid. Your meal comes with traditional Korean small starters known as 'banchan', including kim-chi (spicy preserved cabbage), seasoned beansprouts and pickled raddish. No reservations are taken for lunch so prepare to queue.
www.jingogae.co.uk+44 2089 492506
272 Burlington Road, New Malden KT3 4NL

Milk Train (London) — Who can resist soft serve ice cream served on a cloud of candy floss*? After selecting from vanilla and green tea flavors hojicha and matcha, you can add extra toppings and sauces for a truly unique concoction. There is always a queue, but everyone ends up leaving a with a smile.
44 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9HA

Yo Sushi (Multiple) — Yo Sushi is an affordable and efficient sushi place. They have a wide selection of items and kids will enjoy watching the chefs make the sushi and selecting items from the conveyor belt as it goes around. Hot items such as dumplings can be ordered too.

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Iconic London Shops

While Harrod's may be considered a 'must see' shopping destination, there are two other iconic flagship shops in London:

Fortnum & Mason Founded in 1707, Fortnum & Mason located in Piccadilly is considered to be London's oldest department store. Fortnum's signature, luxury picnic hampers, which made their debut in Victorian times at Royal Ascot and Henley Regatta, are still popular today. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon opened by HM The Queen is the perfect place to have a traditional afternoon tea and enjoy Fortnum's famous loose-leaf tea. Even if you are not a shopper, the colorful, creative window displays located throughout the store and stairwells are worth stopping in for.
www.fortnumandmason.com +44 2077 348040
181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER

Liberty London  It is hard to miss the Tudor revival building resembling a large home located on Regent Street. Indeed off the three large atriums, there are smaller 'rooms' (some even with fireplaces) that makes it feels as though you are wandering through someone's home. Since 1875, Liberty has been best-known for its in-house collection of print fabrics. Today, Liberty continues to collaborate with designers and has expanded its eclectic offerings beyond fashion to include cosmetics, home decor and jewellery*.
www.libertylondon.com+44 2077 341234
Regent St, Carnaby, London W1B 5AH, UK

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Creative Cuppas

With our summer coming to a somewhat abrupt halt, my thoughts naturally turn towards tea. While you can't go wrong visiting East India Company or Twinings, creative cuppas can be found at the following:

Blends for Friends (Multiple) — Everyone loves a cuppa, but how much do you actually know about what you're drinking? Their Master Tea Blender has tasted over a million cups of tea... and counting — not bad considering that the average person will drink 50,000 cups in their lifetime.  After learning about the history, origin, manufacture and different styles, we tasted a combination of 24 teas, learned the art of slurping and spitting (all in the best possible taste) and took a custom blend home.

T2 (Multiple) — It is hard to walk by this storefront without going in. T2 features rows of beautiful displays of teas along with colorful teapots, cups and countless tea accessories. The staff is friendly, helpful and go of their way for you to feel welcome. With over 200 teas to choose from (and try), T2 is a fun place to visit over and over again.

Yumchaa (Multiple) — As many coffee shops there are, there are not nearly as many tea shops.  Initially, a single market stall, Yumchaa now also boasts locations throughout the London area.  The quaint and cosy tea shops features a wide range of proper loose leaf teas you can smell before you taste - popular flavors that make good gifts include Notting Hill (black tea with apricot and strawberry) and Regent's Park (tropical fruit, strawberries and rose petals).

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Top pre-theatre picks

It can be tricky to find good food served in good time, here are some of my favorite London restaurants that manage to do both:

Christopher's Grill  Conveniently located across from the Lyceum Theatre, this stylish art deco restaurant offers a reasonably priced pre- and post-theatre menu served before 6:15 pm or after 10 pm. They serve modern American cuisine and are well-known for their martini bar.
www.christophersgrill.com+44 2072 404222
18 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7DD

M.A.S.H. (Modern American Steak Restaurant) Located within walking distance of Piccadilly Circus, the decor reminded me of US steakhouse with its dark red leather, mahogany and walls of wine. There is a pre-theatre two or three course dinner and they are good at getting people in and out efficiently.  Our steak selections included Uruguay and Danish cuts, with four different sauces to choose from.  
www.mashsteak.co.uk+44 2077 342608
77 Brewer Street, LondonW1F 9ZN

Sagar — We enjoyed indli (steamed dumplings with chutney) and masala dosa (large rice and lentil pancake filled with vegetables) at this small South Indian vegetarian restaurant. With reasonable prices and fast service, their location across the street from the Apollo Theatre is an affordable, pre-theatre alternative. www.sagarveg.co.uk+44 2087 418563
157 King Street Hammersmith, London, W69JT

Spring Located in Somerset House, the stylish main dining room is light and airy and exudes spring. In addition to their ala carte lunch and dinner menu and reasonably priced set lunch menu, they offer a pre-theatre Scratch Menu. This three-course meal is £20/person and cleverly made using ingredients that are overlooked.
www.springrestaurant.co.uk+44 2030 110115
Somerset House, New Wing, Lancaster Place London WC2R 1LA

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Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden

A unique and magical place

It is hard to put into words just how beautiful the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden in Ockley is. The drive there alone is stunning and once there you are surrounded by 200+ pieces of art thoughtfully placed in every direction you look.

The pieces vary from abstract to realistic works and materials range from ceramics, glass and wire to bronze, stone and wood. The self-guided tour booklet includes details of each piece, photograph, the artist's name, name of the piece, material used and the price.

The 10-acre Garden created by an award-winning landscape designer is in fact an outdoor gallery that happens to be open to the public May to October. As a result, you can easily visit more than once as new pieces are added once others are sold.

It really is "a truly unique and magical place"!
www.hannahpescharsculpture.com+44 1306 627269
Black and White Cottage, 
Standon Lane, Ockley RH5 5QR

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Mayfield Lavender in Bloom

A bit of Provence in Surrey

We first came across Mayfield Lavender on one of our regular shops to Costco in Croydon. Since then, we have made regular return visits.

The family-run 25 acre farm opened to the public in 2006 and features three varieties of organic lavender. It is hard to imagine miles of lavender less than 15 miles from central London!

There is an on-site farm shop that sells all things lavender from fresh bunches, oils and soaps to lavender-flavored honey, ice cream, shortbread and most recently cider.

The fields are open daily June 1 – September 15 from 9 am – 6 pm and there is a nominal entrance fee of £1 per adult and there is no charge for children under 16.
www.mayfieldlavender.com+44 7503 877707
1 Carshalton Road, Banstead SM7 3JA

A 7-minute drive away is Mayfield Nursery & Gift Shop set on 12 acres of land. Along with lavender, the orchard has over 450 fruit trees of apples, pears and plums.

In addition to their full-range of lavender products, they sell their own cider, juice and preserves and offer pick your own fruits in the fall along with a Christmas shop in the winter – making it worth a visit year-round!

139 Reigate Road, Ewell, Driftbridge, Epsom KT17 3 DW

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