Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall

One of the high-on-the-list/do-not-miss things 
to do and see when in London 
is definitely going to the Royal Albert Hall. 

This architectural delight of a building just across Hyde Park 
and a 10-minute walk from South Kensington 
is in the heart of Albertopolis, 
a London area which comprises the Natural and Science Museums 
named after Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband. 

So, if you are like me and wanted to tick one box off
your London iconic buildings list, here's your chance: 
the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil is presenting 
its latest show, Amaluna, at the Royal Albert Hall.

A Mum in London

We were invited to the premiere of Amaluna; 
having never been to the Royal Albert Hall 
and having never watched a Cirque du Soleil's production, 
we promptly said yes and ticked off two boxes out of our London bucket list. 

And we were in for an unforgettable experience. 

For those that wonder if Cirque du Soleil is worth the money, 
I will quickly reply 'Yes!" 
The costumes, the impeccable performances, 
the live music, the props, the settings and the acrobatics 
transport the audience and can have one saying 'wow' every couple of seconds. 

A Mum in London

Is the Cirque du Soleil Amaluna kid friendly?
Most certainly, if your child can sit and watch a performance. 
The story is a quite simple love story 
and there are some moments where the music can be a bit loud, 
but nothing too scary for young children. 

In fact, on our way out we saw lots of families 
with very happy and excited kids, 
so I guess that when my little ones grow up a bit 
I will definitely be taking them to watch a Cirque du Soleil show.

In a nutshell: a breathtakingly spectacular circus show
for all the family.

Amaluna from the Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall, from 12 January to 26 February 2017 | Tickets from £20

Disclosure: Complimentary tickets.
All views and wording my own.

*All images courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

London's Best Views {Alexandra Palace} & Ribs {Bodeans}

Where can one see the best views of London?
Well, that's a question I get asked a lot.
And it has no straight answer
cause, you see, London is quite flat.

So unless you climb on top of one of the City's skyscrapers,
the best place to get a panoramic view of London
is to head north to Alexandra Palace,
one of London's most iconic palaces and the birthplace of television
{the first TV broadcast was made from there in 1936}.

Built on top of a hill and surrounded by a beautiful park,
the palace's terrace offers the best view of London's skyline.
On a clear day, one can see as far
as the Crystal Palace Transmitter in South London.

We went to Alexandra Palace on a sunny but crisp winter's day,
had a stroll around the boating lake,
the children ran along the palace's terrace
and we all soaked up some sunshine
before heading to picturesque Muswell Hill for lunch.

We were all very hungry and craving a big hearty lunch.
So, we went to Bodean's, the BBQ specialists,
and, let me tell you, hearty it was.

First of all, Bodean's is very child-friendly;
the restaurant was full of families enjoying their Sunday lunch
and staff were very nice to our little ones
{plus, they have a kids-eat-free policy from noon to 5pm}.

Secondly, the interiors are cosy and comfortable:
leather banquettes and wooden boards
make the restaurant ideal for those cold winter months.

Thirdly, the food is delicious and the portions enormous.
Bodean's speciality is BBQ meat and sauces,
which will satisfy the most demanding barbecue snob. 

Bodean's Muswell Hill Review

We picked the Nachos supreme {£7.50} with grilled cheese 
and an assortment of sauces for our appetiser: 
we were presented with a mountain of crisp nachos 
covered in grilled cheese and fresh sauces. 

We then shared the Boss Hog meat platter for two {43.90} 
with fries and coleslaw. 
The price might be a bit steep, but this platter is well worth it. 
Firstly, the reality is it can easily feed four adults, 
secondly the meat cuts were tender and full of flavour, 
and thirdly, this is the best BBQ I've had in a while. 

Bodean's kids' menu features children's favourites, 
like burgers, chicken wings and mac 'n' cheese 
and a selection of ice creams for dessert. 
The portions are enormous and both the dishes 
they chose were delicious and went down a treat. 

On the pudding front, one can choose 
from a selection of classic American desserts, 
like brownies, pecan pie and New York cheesecake, 
if, of course, one has space in their tummy after such a feast. 

In a nutshell: Excellent barbeque restaurant 
with a kids eat free policy from noon to 5pm.

Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, N22 | Nearest tube station Wood Green 
Bodean's Muswell Hill, London N10 | Nearest tube stations Highgate & Wood Green 
Check your nearest Bodean's here

 Disclosure: Complimentary meal.
All views & wording my own.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Battersea Arts Centre: A London Gem for Children

This weekend has been a revelation 
in terms of 'amazing-London-places-to-take-the-kids-out-to'. 
You see, we might live a short ride from it, 
but we had never been to Battersea Arts Centre before. 

Mistake. Big mistake. 
Because this place is absolutely brilliant. 

Set in an 1893 old town hall building with a rich history,  
{it was where the Pankhursts presided over the Suffragettes meetings, 
and where London's first black mayor was elected in 1913} 
it is now a thriving cultural hub with a range of activities. 

Stand-up comedy shows, interactive performances, 
festivals, children's theatre;  
they even have an indoor play area for children up to 5 
and a very cosy café with authentic vintage decor.

Battersea Arts Centre vintage cafe

Now, we were invited to Battersea Arts Centre 
to see The Night That Autumn Turned to Winter by Little Bulb Theatre, 
and all I can say is this were the funniest 50 minutes I have spent in a while.

You see, children's theatre
can sometimes be a bit boring for adults. 
Not this one. 

The witty humour and brilliant performances 
had me and my 5-year-old in stitches
{my cheeks were aching from all the smiling in the end}.

A Mum in London blog

The actors, a high energy extremely talented bunch, 
did not stop interacting with the audience in a fun, natural way, 
which had children of all ages moving along their hands 
and responding to the cues. 

The decor, costumes, lighting and sounds 
were worthy of a Broadway production 
and the story is the sweetest wintery tale, 
packed with equal measures of educational bits, 
beautiful music, and imaginative twists. 

So, if, this Christmas, you are looking for 
a heartwarming highly entertaining show for children,
go see The Night That Autumn Turned to Winter;
you won't regret it!

In a nutshell: an immersive theatrical experience for children 
that will have adults smiling along the way. 

The Night That Autumn Turned to Winter, till 8 January 2017, tickets from £10 | Battersea Arts Centre, SW11 5TN | nearest station is Clapham Junction

Disclosure: Complimentary tickets.
All views and wording my own.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Top Christmas Activities for Children in London: Frost Fair and Winter Tail

We Londoners are pretty lucky; 
London is one of the best cities to spend Christmas. 
The Christmas markets and fairs across town, 
the stunning decorations and jovial atmosphere 
can turn even the most Scroodgiest person into a holiday season fan. 

But Christmas in London is even more magical for children: 
with the Wonderland, the countless Grottos and shows, 
we are certainly spoilt for choice.  

To help parents navigate the festive season, 
I have put together a series of posts
with a selection of the best reasonably priced Christmas activities 
in London for all the family to enjoy.

Top Christmas Activities London, A Mum in London

Frost Fair Festival & Victorian Grotto, Museum of Docklands 

This weekend 3 & 4 December 
head to Canary Wharf for a weekend of frosty fun. 

The Museum of London Docklands will be transformed 
into a wintry wonderland full of surprises for families:  
enjoy enchanting performances, 
explore different Christmas traditions 
play fun games and do festive crafts. 

Entry is free and this event is appropriate for all ages. 

Plus, from the 3rd December, Father Christmas 
will be setting up his Victorian Grotto at the Museum of Docklands. 
With Victorian carols being sung in the distance 
and festive decorations all around, 
children can meet Father Christmas and receive a present. 
The Grotto ticket is £7 per child including the gift. 

Top Christmas Activities London, A Mum in London

Winter Tail, Chessington World of Adventures

Londoners' favourite theme park 
has been transformed into a land of Elves: 
we recently visited Father Christmas there 
and spent a day full of festive fun. 

A smiling Elf guided us through a pine forest 
to a cosy chalet where Father Christmas was waiting for the boys.
After greeting them both by their name, 
he offered them a big present and a treat. 
Then we went to the Elves' Kitchen and had messy fun decorating biscuits 
which we ate whilst watching a Christmassy play featuring pandas. 

Chessington's rides are closed now for winter, 
but the Zoo and Aquarium are as open as usual. 
What's more, visitors have got the chance to see the lions' newborn cubs,  
which were born this Autumn at the zoo.

Tickets for the Winter Tail cost £20 
and include the Grotto visit and present for children, 
plus a hot drink and snack for adults 
{babies under 12 months go free}.

Museum of London Docklands Frost Fair Festival on 3rd and 4th December | Victorian Santa from 3rd to 23th December, info and book here
Winter Tail at Chessington World of Adventures until 2nd January 2017, see info here

Disclosure: We received complimentary tickets to both events. 
All views and wording my own.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Ballet for Kids: Frequently Asked Questions

It is believed that ballet is one the best forms of exercise for children; 
after spending most of my childhood afternoons in a tutu and pointes
I would definitely agree. 

The benefits of ballet in physical, emotional and behavioural terms 

make it one of the best after-school activities for children. 
But when it comes to enrolling one's child in a ballet class,
parents can have lots of questions.

Luckily, Julie Altree, Director of Pre-Ballet 

at London's Mayfair Danceworks International Ballet Academy
answers some of the most frequently asked questions 
parents have about sending their kids to ballet 
and gives precious advice.

Ballet for Kids: frequently asked questions

What is the best age for children to start ballet?

There is no "best age" as such. Children can begin to dance as soon as they can walk or toddle! So why not bring them along to a Pre-Ballet class? Some parents worry that their child won't have the focus and discipline to take part in ballet, but Pre-Ballet classes are geared towards helping little ones enjoy dance and music at their level. These classes are a colourful and imaginative introduction to the world of ballet. The emphasis is on creativity and fun in a child-friendly environment. 

If your child dreams of a career in ballet they should be building to a more technique based training from age six or seven. Danceworks International Ballet Academy aims to have their students taking a professional class by the age of 12. However, if you do have an older child who develops an interest in ballet, they should still be encouraged to try out a class. Ballet can be a fulfilling hobby and there are a few late starters who have made it: Misty Copeland, soloist of American Ballet Theatre, started dancing at 13.

What are the benefits of ballet 
for the physical and emotional development of children?

The physical benefits of ballet include improvements in muscular strength, flexibility and range of motion. Ballet teaches children to find and hold a good posture throughout moving combinations. This legacy of postural awareness is a lifelong gift and will save much back pain in later life. Balance and coordination will also improve along with proprioception. Jump combinations will improve stamina and cardiovascular health. 

Pre-ballet classes will help children to pick up useful skills such as listening to a teacher, observing and following activities, building a circle or line, taking turns and working as part of a group. These skills can transfer to nursery or school situations. I've noticed that the children grow in confidence and independence with each class. A really important benefit is happiness. The children and parents seem to enjoy the class so much. For an older child the benefits are even more sophisticated; finding their own motivation, achieving a sense of pride and accomplishment which can boost self-esteem. Taking part in a performance can help develop commitment, artistry, teamwork and confidence. 

Ballet and boys: is ballet training for young boys different?

In the early years, the training for boys and girls is the same. It's only later that boys and girls will take specialised classes; boys will focus on jumps and pirouettes, girls will take pointe class. There are some ways in which we teach boys a little differently, for example, port de bras, the way we move our arms, boys are encouraged to be a little stronger, with clean, simple lines.

How can parents choose the best ballet/dance class for their child?

You can, of course, check out websites. These will give you a wealth of information about the school's mission, the teachers, their experience and qualifications and the class timetables. But I think the best way is to try a class! You can see how your child responds to the teacher and the class. 

You should be looking for a safe environment, a knowledgeable and approachable teacher who has a good rapport with the children and is able to control the class with appropriate firmness and fairness. Every child and every teacher is unique so trial a class, see if your child is comfortable, happy, engaged and feels encouraged. With a pre-ballet student, I'd advise persevering for a few weeks; sometimes it takes a little longer for the child to feel confident, especially for a shy child.

Danceworks International Ballet Academy (DIBA) offers pre-ballet classes for children aged 18 months to 4 years at their central London studios in Mayfair (nearest Tube station is Bond Street). You can book a free trial class.

Many thanks to Danceworks International Ballet Academy 
and Julie Altree for this interview. 
Photo courtesy of DIBA.

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