It is, astonishingly, free to visit the IWM but donations are appreciated. As we walked around the corner from North Lambeth tube my five year old son started jumping up and down with excitement – ‘Mummy, those are the biggest guns I have EVER seen in my whole life!’. He was over-awed by the submarines, Spitfire, Sherman Tank, and Polaris missile on display, but gradually his questions became more philosophical, leading up to the real stumper “Why do we have war, Mum?”
The museum is certainly more thought-provoking than I expected. I noticed a group of people collected around a small black object, shaking their heads with bewilderment as they read the information next to it, and hesitating to move on. It was the “Little Boy” bomb, the same model as was detonated over Hiroshima. There is a Holocaust Exhibition at the top of the museum but it is not suitable for children.
A Tibetan Peace Garden, originally opened by the Dalai Lama, forms part of the beautifully kept gardens around this museum, and there is a park off to the side where you could take a picnic.
After visiting the museum we walked to the river and crossed at Westminster Bridge – my favourite view of London.
Where did all the Aussie families go? I’ve noticed an Antipodean exodus from London over the past couple of years. Guess the weather finally got to them…
The British Museum has been filling the cultural deficit with Australian Season which runs until October 2011. Over half term they’re even keeping the nippers happy with Australian Adventure activities in the Great Court, from 11am to 4pm. It’s free, just drop in.
The museum runs a mind-boggling mixture of free and paid events and will get its own blog post one of these days. Or perhaps 67 posts – one for each of the rooms open free to the public stuffed full of unique antiquities and wonders.
After the museum the kids will probably need a good run about outside. And you might need a break from saying ‘don’t touch that darling you’ll set off the alarms’. Fear not, Corams Fields is just a short walk away.
On Wednesday 1 June the big screen at Trafalgar Square will be showing Manon live from the Royal Opera House. It’s free! There’s a cafe on site or you can bring your own picnic. And on Monday 4 July they have Madam Butterfly. Arrive early for that one to join in a national opera hum-along Just the idea of that makes me smile…
This centrally located gym has a running track, weight training equipment, cross trainers, balance bars, and much more. You can also hire a tennis court or multisport pitch for an hourly fee. There is no subscription due, you don’t have any paperwork to fill in, and you needn’t feel guilty if you haven’t used your membership for a week or so. It has the added benefit of fresh air.
Because it’s more than a gym, it’s a park.
Kilburn Grange Park, just off the Kilburn High Road is my favourite park for getting fit. It also has two well-equipped children’s playgrounds.
After your workout, sit quietly in the rose garden. If you stay perfectly still, a fieldmouse will climb up one of the lavender stalks to say hello – there are lots of them in amongst the herbs and flowers.
A beautiful building, handsomely restored – one of the most delightful spaces in London.
If you’re there on a weekday you can often see the art all alone, just like a millionaire with their own private art collection. But free.
At the time of writing you can see Kerry Tribe’s ‘Dead Star Light’ – eerie installations exploring memory and doubt. I was also very taken by Christine Borland’s ‘Cast from Nature’ – I felt a deep compassion for humanity in her work. The space is just perfect – lots of light from those elegant windows, the blonde wooden floor, and the silence in the room with just the faint sound of the traffic outside. If you paid a fortune to see “Bodies – The Exhibition” and were left feeling empty and unsure about the indignity of it, Christine Borland seems to be asking the very same questions. Both exhibitions are free.
Camden Arts also has a very intelligently edited bookshop – one of my favourite places in London to buy gifts. Their cafe boasts the sign “the best coffee in London”. I would agree. They also serve gluten free cakes and biscuits, which is a particular selling point for me. The lovely staff create a friendly but peaceful atmosphere. There’s a little bookshelf in the cafe with children’s story books, recent copies of magazines and newspapers, high chairs, and a really helpfully designed baby changing room with space to put the buggy. The disabled access is impressive too – a separate dedicated entrance with automatic door, and a proper sized disabled toilet with adult changing table.
The garden outside the cafe is the jewel in the crown – on a sunny weekday I love to take my laptop and work outside, drinking too much tea and enjoying the buzz from the chocolate covered coffee beans.
London is apparently one of the most expensive cities in the world. I hear that it’s a place where City boys shout into their upgraded phones while running up five figure wine bills. A merciless place where the hardest hearts prosper, ambition is all, and people are obsessed with the superficial.
That’s not my London.
My London is free. My London is in the parks, the museums, the community centres, the galleries, the libraries. Long walks through tree-lined streets. The river. Taking my son to a city farm. Volunteering. Selling clutter at a local car boot fair – you can even make a profit with that one. Although I have to admit that we squandered all of our profits on sausage sandwiches last time…
In my London we eat a packed lunch, know all our neighbours, walk everywhere, and shop local. In fact, my London isn’t so different to the small Derbyshire village that I grew up in.
I’ve lived in North West London for ten years, and I’ve fallen in love with this city. In this blog I’d like to introduce you to my London – all the best things that I’ve found here. And they’re all free.