Chinese State Circus Returns

World's Greatest Acrobatic Circus kicks off UK tour in Esher

The lengendary Chinese State Circus kicks off their 2017 tour under the big top at Sandown Park in Esher (March 30 - April 2). Their newest show Dynasty features 30 world-class Chinese acrobats, aerial and martial artists and jugglers. The acts are based on traditional Chinese circus arts dating back over 2,000 years.

Having seen their UK tour in 2013 with my then 6 and 10 year old, I recall struggling to explain that we were going to see a 'circus' that didn't feature live animals. However, the action-packed show for audiences of all ages managed to keep their attention and did not disappoint.

In an age of technology and special effects, it is refreshing that a show centered around human skills stands the test of time.  
The show is scheduled to run through May with additional UK dates anticipated to be added.  There is simply nothing quite like it and should not be missed!

Tickets start at £10 for children 2-12 and £12 for adults with ringside seats at selling for £24 and £28 respectively. Book on-line to save an additional £2 per ticket.
Sandown Park, Portsmouth Road, Esher KT10 9AJ

Within walking distance of Sandown, Esher High Street boasts a host of places to eat before or after the show. Our favorites include:

  • Bocodito (Spanish)
  • Domo (Japanese)
  • Good Earth (Chinese)
  • Sherpa Kitchen (Nepalese)
  • Siam Gallery (Thai) to name just a few!
Other choices include Cafe Menta for a quick breakfast, brunch or lunch bite or The Best Kebab & Burger House at any hour.
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Mothering Sunday

Mum's go free Sunday, March 26th

One of the benefits of living in the UK is celebrating two Mother's Day. Two picturesque places offering free entry for Mothers accompanied by children are:

Claremont Landscape Garden (Esher) — Covering nearly 50 acres, Claremont is one of the oldest English landscape gardens with an original 18th century layout. Once enjoyed by royalty, including Queen Victoria, the Garden is on the Register of Historic Parks and described as the "the noblest of any in Europe". Unlike formal gardens of the past, these 'pleasure grounds' were designed to be natural, but in essence were made up of a series of planned views and vistas. Features include a turf amphitheatre, serpentine lake, stone grotto and thatched cottage complete with a kids play area and updated cafe. 1372 467806
Portsmouth Road, Esher, Surrey, KT10 9JG

Painshill Park (Cobham) — Located 5-1/2 miles away and ironically on the same road is award-winning Painshill Park, another example of an 18th century landscape garden. However, Painshill is over three times larger than Claremont. Follow the prescribed path to enjoy the best views. Some of the unusual follies (decorative buildings) you will encounter are a ruined abbey, Gothic temple and tower, Turkish tent and crystal grotto. Painshill views have been featured in the the past on Wedgwood plates commissioned by Catherine the Great of Russia to films of today, including the Picture of Dorian Gray (2009) and Suffragette (2015).

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Signs of Spring

Where to find spring year-round

British weather is the epitome of the oxymoron 'accurate forecasts' since it can change from day to day (or even by the hour). Even if it is difficult to rely on consistent spring-like weather, here are a few places where it at least feels like spring:

Medicine Garden (Cobham) — Within the walls of this renovated Victorian garden are a number of charming places to eat. The Garden Pod Café features sandwiches, salads and desserts that can be enjoyed inside, from fanciful chairs on the deck or on lawn chairs or picnic blankets in the garden. Recently named one of the best places for breakfast, The Hothouse Café also serves lunch, including beer, wine and bubbles. Within the courtyard, Blid & Hatton Gatherings offers cooking workshops, pop-up and private dining events.
Downside Road, Cobham, Surrey KT11 3LU

Petersham Nurseries Cafe (Richmond) — I love the setting of this restaurant within the nursery, complete with dirt floors. The menu is seasonal, always fresh and uses many ingredients from Petersham’s own garden. The Cafe is also open a limited number of evenings a year featuring a three-course meal complete with welcome drink and appetizer. A counter service, informal lunch can be taken in their Teahouse and includes seasonal quiches, salads and soups. Also, coffee, tea and desserts are served throughout the day.

Spring (London) — If you like Petersham, you will also like Spring. In fact, the head chef, Skye Gyngell, made her mark at Petersham Nurseries. Located in Somerset House, the stylish main dining room is light and airy and exudes spring. The Salon, which doubles as a private dining room, operates on a no bookings policy and is the perfect place to get a drink or light bite. 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.

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Art of the Brick Returns

Larger than life LEGO sculptures

After the successful debut of The Art of the Brick, named one of the world's 'Must See Exhibitions' by CNN, award-winning artist Nathan Sawaya is back with The Art of the Brick: DC Super Heroes (until September 3). Instead of the most iconic pieces of art of all-time made out of LEGO bricks, this exhibit features the most iconic Super Heroes and Villains from the last 80 years.

There are more than 120 works of art made of over 2 million LEGO bricks - making it the world's largest LEGO exhibition. Large-scale sculptures include Batman, The Joker, Superman, Wonder Woman and even a life-size Batmobile. Tickets are £11 for children 16 and under (children under 4 are free) and adults are £16.50. Discounted prices for family and groups. All tickets are £10 each on Mondays.
Southbank, London SE1 9PP

Conveniently located in a custom-built tent on Southbank, directly behind the National Theatre, there are a plethora of places to stop for a bite to eat before or after visiting the exhibition. Some fast and family-friendly places include:

For dessert or a treat, queue for freshly made Dinky Donuts (10 for £2) sold from a silver caravan* or SNOG frozen yogurt from their Routemaster bus when it returns to Southbank in May.

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Comfort Food

Not always healthy - but good for the soul

Part of the charm of living here are the myriad of villages that boast small, independently owned cafes. Here are a few we regularly frequent:

Blue Cafe (Leatherhead) — We find ourselves in Leatherhead for gymnastics training on a regular basis and happy to find this place. They serve reasonably priced breakfast, lunch and dinner - and even becomes wine bar at night. The desserts are delicious as well, in particular the cheesecake (and I am generally not a fan of cheesecake!). 1372 378441
52-56 Church Street, Leatherhead KT22 8DW

Hersham Cafe (Hersham) — Located close to my son's home football* pitch, Hersham Cafe serves good food at affordable prices. Breakfast is efficiently cooked to order portions generous enough to share. It is also one of the few places that serves tea 'hot' enough so it is worth taking away.
Sorrento Pasta Bar (Chertsey) — This family-run Italian restaurant serves up English breakfasts, homemade pastas and other Italian dishes. Classic spaghetti bolognese and penne arrabbiata are delicious. If you leave inspired to cook your own Italian fare, you can buy all the ingredients from well-known Carolo's Delicatessen next door.

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