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If there’s a way of really experiencing the authentic flavour of a place, it’s indeed through the eyes of a local. Walking tours, bike tours, hop-on hop-off buses and boat tours offer a fantastic way to see the best of an unfamiliar city. But what about experiencing your own town?
Having lived in London for the last 3 years, I’d never actually got around to grabbing a bike for the pure joy of exploring the capital. We often get stuck into the routine wandering and commuting, and although there’s always something to do in London (and I’ve got a long London bucket list to prove this), playing proper tourist is somehow left to the times where we get out of town.
So when Baja Bikes got in touch and proposed exploring London from a completely different perspective, I said yes without thinking it twice! To say I was pretty excited to somewhat rediscover London (and ticking the bike ride box too) is an understatement. Even Sam, who commutes to work by bicycle, was eager to explore more of the city on two wheels. So, come on and grab your bike (and helmet) – we’ve got some sightseeing to do…
The Regent’s Canal walk is one of the most beautiful ways to explore London. Hidden within the bustling streets just north of central London, there’s a blissful heaven of calm waters, rows of trees and colourful boats. Surprisingly the Regent’s Canal walk remains one of London’s best kept secrets, unknown to many tourists.
If you know me well, you know I’m someone that’s pretty keen on the idea of shopping for plants, especially when this means adding personal touches to your home and making it feel more…homely. Adding a little somethin’ somethin’ to different spots of the house is always exciting and has an incredible effect on not only the decoration and feel of our little London flat, but on our everyday mood.
Our house is slowly starting to look like a jungle and most of our plants are now having little plant babies! I get a little extra excited when I notice them growing a little leaf, so imagine how happy and proud I feel when they’re creating babies of their own! Funnily enough, I feel like I’m now at a point in my life where I’m legitimately playing grown ups. Being the plant lady that I am and needing some extra pots, it was only a matter of time before Sam and I headed up to Lower Clapton, where a new Conservatory Archives plant shop had recently opened.
The unexpected (but very much welcome) sunny weather in London last weekend had me truly wanting to soak up every beam of sunshine. I couldn’t have been happier to have clear blue skies and the regrettable coat choice weather well above the usual crisp degrees this time of the year. So obviously, we did what every Londoner does when the sun emerges from behind the clouds – pack up a picnic and invade the nearest park, or in our case, Kew Gardens (aka Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew).
Coincidentally, the annual Kew orchid festival was on, this time showcasing the world’s most biodiverse country and bursting with surprises in every corner. From February 9th to March 10th, wonderful colours fill the Princess of Wales Conservatory in celebration of Colombia’s remarkable biodiversity and vibrant culture, where orchids represent a key part of the ecosystems of this South American nation. Naturally, walking into the conservatory was arguably the easiest decision I had to make (especially when the entry is included in your pass!).
Did you know the Barbican Centre is home to the second biggest conservatory in London? Unbelievable, right? Concealed among the brutalist complex lies a dreamlike urban jungle with more than 2000 species of tropical flora. Often overshadowed by the impressive botanical collections at Kew Gardens, many tourists and Londoners are oblivious to the hidden oasis that grows within the heart of the city.
As a true London lover and someone who enjoys exploring the secret corners of my home, it wasn’t long until I added Barbican Conservatory to my Ultimate London Bucket List. I was somehow attracted to the flawless balance between the unnoticeable botanical scenery and its metropolitan surroundings.
Getting to meet the penguins was by far one of the most entertaining encounters I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. Have you seen how insanely charming they all are? What about those fluffy lil’ baby ones? Cute, right? And please let’s not ignore the fact that penguins mate for life! I am sorry but that is just too adorbs.
There is something special about these stunning animals that I’ve always found incredibly captivating. In fact, the Meet the Penguins experience at ZSL London Zoo was part of my Ultimate London Bucket Listfor a really long time. So naturally, Sam and I couldn’t believe our luck when the amazing ZSL London Zoo team retweeted our Friday night escape to Zoo Nights and crowned us as the (ehem, ultimate) winners of that week’s Meet the Animals competition!
So what was it going to be? Meet the penguins, the rain forest animals or the giraffes? Our decision was already made even before our beloved Meet the Animals Gift Pack reached our home. Although we wouldn’t get to “P-P-Pick Up a Penguin” *insert 80s tv ad theme here*, how could we resist meeting plenty of them?
Have you ever wondered what happens at ZSL London Zoo when the sun goes down? Thanks to Zoo Nights now you can find out! Once all the visitors have left and the night zookeepers are the only ones wandering around, the zoo is pretty much animal territory once again. Thousands of different animal species from all over the world call London Zoo their home. Opened in 1828, initially only with scientific and educational study purposes, London Zoo receives hundreds of visitors each day. Tourists, parents and their kids, hopeless animal lovers, school trips (loads of kids), researchers, more kids…
The zoo is only for kids yeah? Wrong. As a self-sufficient adult (midlife crisis approaching), I’ve always found zoos quite fascinating and educational. They provide answers to wildlife’s most important questions. Do platypuses sweat milk? How do different species make babies? What are baby goats called? You know, all the interesting stuff. During the summer, ZSL London Zoo offers the opportunity to learn all about fauna in the most excellent Friday night plan, Zoo Nights. And yes, you guessed it, it’s ADULTS ONLY (sorry kids). Get ready to explore the secrets behind the zoo’s doors after hours, with loads of entertainment, delicious food and of course, wildlife without the horde of children and crowds of school trips! I obviously had to add this to my Ultimate London Bucket List.