The Kensington Baby | Inspiring your Lifestyle, Parenting and Travel Experiences
Blogging is my creative outlet away from the corporate world, focusing on my interests. Here you will find excerpts of my personal journey as a new parent; and curated content documenting my love for culture, fashion & travel.
We employed a nanny for Alexander once I returned to work. Whilst it's fabulous having an amazing nanny and the flexibility, there are also perks to nursery life, as mentioned in my blog about Choosing a Nursery or Nanny. My son is an active & sociable toddler, who likes reading, classical music, singing and exploring how things work. Nursery life provides diverse entertainment and activities, a large array of toys, and much social interaction to stimulate and develop a child's interest further. We decided that if we chose the nanny option, we would incorporate these aspects into his routine, via external private classes, playgroups and/or joining a private family members club.
For those who don't know how the private members clubs work, London boasts the widest range of private member's clubs in the world ranging from art, wine, wellbeing, social, creative or gentleman's clubs. Each club has it's own niche. The benefits of joining are that you get to engage your interests, or be exposed to new interests; meet a group of people sharing the same passions; have a staple place to eat, drink and be merry; and a place to work if you like. All for a fee in general of anything ranging from £800 to £5000. My husband and I have both been members or visited many members clubs in London and certainly see the perks. But life changes when you have children as you might not have enough time to indulge in what they have to offer, so we didn't really consider it again, until now.
The concept of family oriented members clubs is not entirely new. The Hurlingham Club has been around since 1987, visited by families looking for recreational time. It has an extremely long waitlist and so don't hold your breathe about getting in anytime soon.
Enter a new breed of family member's club. They come at a cost too and are often branded as posh, snobby and having members who join to mix their kids with celebrity and royalty children. But I promise you, this is not the case. This was reaffirmed after visiting and joining. These clubs provide a development and social haven for both parents and children, a home away from home with familiarity for your child, and a known location to travel to, hopefully quite close to where you live.
So what's the lowdown on these private members clubs versus independent classes? Having tried and tested all these options, I included what I see as the perks and downsides to each below.
MAGGIE AND ROSE
Maggie & Rose,dubbed the Soho-House for children, is London' first family members club with two outposts, one in Kensington and the other in Chiswick. It was brainstormed by Maggie Bolgor and Rose Astor, to provide a beautiful creative space for children in surroundings that appealed to adults too, pretty much a home away from home.
The Kensington club hosts a vast array of classes for babies, toddlers and children, each in different rooms with amazing set ups. You can choose from cooking, dancing, singing, gardening, art & craft, make believe, sensory play, music and dress up classes, which makes being a child so much fun! There is also a baby room with a ball pit and lots of sensory stimulation; a huge amazing soft play room for toddlers which Alexander absolutely loved; and a quiet room with vintage cars, books and toys to keep your little ones occupied. Outside, there is a small garden to allow for your little one to run around.
A shabby chic restaurant on site caters simple food without sacrificing quality or taste, and without added salt or refined sugar, just good healthy ingredients. There is also a cinema on site to catch a movie with your little one!
The Kensington club is the original Maggie and Rose club and it prides itself on hosting incredible social events, parties and holiday clubs for older kids. You can see how the social benefits are immense!
The group also have their own nursery, for an additional cost, offering full or part time care for your little ones from 1.5 to 2.5 years of age.
Maggie and Rose membership ranges from £150 - £300 a month, dependant on the type of membership you get and how many classes you sign up for per month. Overall, we found facilities for children to be incredible, there was just so much to do! It was evident that the children all loved their time there. It did have slightly less facilities for adults compared to Purple Dragon Play. However, this is reflected in the middle of the mark price range compared to other member's clubs reviewed. Furthermore it is regarded as an institution with an amazing reputation, and it is clear why the members love it!
PURPLE DRAGON PLAY
Purple Dragon Play has an international network hosting clubs from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, with London branches based in Chelsea and Putney. It offers a space where both children and adults can hang out, designed with children and adults in mind and underpinned by a culture of fun, happiness, community, respect and enrichment. The club is just lush with sleek, sophisticated and tasteful decor.
The Chelsea club offers access to a pool; play areas and dress up zones,;and a wide range of classes including cooking, ballet, sensory play and music. The club has multiple rooms each with its own play buddy, which is a qualified staff member to lead the activity in each room. There's a music room where Alexander loved playing different instruments from drums to the guitar, a creative room for budding artists, and soft play area with ball pit.
But the club is perfect for adults too, with a golf simulator, a library, and a wonderful restaurant to catch up with friends over lunch. Of course, you are also welcome to join in the fun with your little ones at their classes.
Purple Dragon has different levels of membership to suit your lifestyle including the the premier, early birds, night birds, or the out of towners. The prices from ...... dependant on the type of membership you get and how much time you wish to spend at the club each month. It is the priciest option reviewed but certainly also has the most facilities, which is why I believe it's worth it with the range on offer for both children and parents.
Cupcake, based in Parson's Green, offers a a social & recreational for the family, fitness space for mummies, and a development space for your child.
There's a creche open Monday to Friday from 8.30-1.30 pm where you can utilise the time to catch up on what you need to. For the mummies, there are four mummy and baby fitness classes per week including carrifit, yoga, barre and pilates. For your baby, toddler or child, there are 60 classes a week. These include art and craft, cooking, sensory play, soft play, toddler football & basketball, play songs, and music. There is also the cupcake academy for 3-5 years olds, for after school art, drama, cooking, ballet, football and tennis. Looking at the schedule, the downside is there aren't many options for Dads and not many classes for babies and toddlers take place on the weekend.
Cupcake membership for the whole family starts at £150 up to £200 per month, dependant on how many credits you sign up for. Cupcake had the most limited facilities, but I believe that this reflected in the price which makes it a cost effective option. We didn't visit the club as it did not offer what we personally were looking for. However, it certainly has met the task of creating a neighbourhood feel in a members club we have heard, and families who are members do love it!
During my maternity leave, I visited many independent classes in London ranging from baby sensory, play groups, story time, music, baby massage, and fitness. Alexander and I both enjoyed the classes immensely and you are able to sign up for these on the day via the Hoop App or Website, or book a 3 month session with the vendor directly. The great thing is that you can get a discounted fee if you book a few sessions in advance, and you also not tied into a long term contract, so you can try many classes to find the right fit. The flexibility is a big plus especially if your child might be unwell or sleepy on a particular day. The standard of the classes are great and the range available s so wide, we had so much to chose from, which is definitely a perk.
On the downside, the classes in the Central London area had one thing in common: a large proportion of nannies attending with the little ones. It was thus rare to meet other parents to share a bond and develop a parent network, a very different experience than I would have imagined, I have to admit. The social aspect as a new parent should not be underestimated and the private family members clubs can provide a wealth of opportunity for this. Additionally, the independent classes are very child centric, as they should be, but it means that recreation for the parent isn't really an option during this time, as an adult needs to accompany the child. This might work if you have a part-time nanny, au pair or family to help during these times of course. Most of the independent classes take place during the week, which can make it tough for working parents to participate in.
In most parts of West and Central London, playgroups and story time are free of charge but other baby and toddler classes come at a cost, where the charges range from anywhere between £10 to £25 per class. This can add up and on many months we could easily spend £300-£400 per month if we signed up for swimming, and 2-4 additional classes per week.
So in all, we do agree that the private member's clubs are certainly more restrictive because you are tied into a long term contract (short term contracts can be much more costly). But the perks of being able to socialise, the facilities offered, and to have a familiar play space and classes for your child outweighed this strongly. Of course, you can always join a private members club and still attend independent classes if you like.
For us, the private members club option was perfect and we can't wait to meet more members and make the most of the classes!
Have you tried any of these options? I would welcome your thoughts on the experience.
My journey from 'career-driven independent woman' to 'mom on maternity leave' to 'career mom' has been complex to say the least. Being a career oriented independent woman is not simple by any means. Like many of you, building my career to be independent, self-sufficient, a definition of my being, and doing something within the remit of what I studied and love, was a ideal turned reality. I spent a decade and a half dedicating time to my career: learning different areas of the business (pharmaceuticals in my case), working long hours (sometimes weekends and evenings), taking on projects out of my job scope, studying courses including a full legal degree part-time, and building my expertise to grow my career along a idealistic trajectory. It defined who I was in so many ways. Don't get me wrong, I always had life outside work. Work hard, party hard was my motto, and I sure did. I bet many of you can relate.
It's so amazing that now, even in this early motherhood journey, when the conversation about 'me' arises, it's usually revolves around a) my son or b) how I manage work around now being a mother. What's so striking is that it's never about who I really am, and these are questions mostly coming from people who know me. Which leads me to define who I am, not just a mom, not just a working mom, but a career focused mom who still maintains who she is, her interests, yet loves her son and new found motherhood to bits.
So how did I find myself here? Finding the right balance as a mom is so personal and needs to be respected. Before having my son Alexander, I worked in large global corporates, at times competing for roles with colleagues who were older (and male). Some of the corporates didn’t support a healthy work-life balance or fully endorse women in senior management positions with kids, which was evident by the fact that the senior management roles were taken mostly by males or women who were past their 'prime'.
Work defined me and I was happy to climb the corporate ladder taking on roles of increased responsibility, which also required more frequent global travel. I then found the love of my life, got married and we started planning a family. I have to admit, not until I was pregnant did I start thinking about how my latest role would complement life as a mother on a day-to-day basis. It's worth noting that we are the quintessential millennial couple in a sense: my husband is also very career driven and works in a high pressured environment which also requires frequent travel. Even then, I still believed I could have it all and would be the mother who would have help in the form of a nanny; and would spend quality evenings and weekends with my son. I couldn’t wait to welcome my son, but the thought of being on maternity leave, scared me as working was just a part of who I am. Frankly, I thought I would be bored after 2 months and would crave going back to the grind again. But I didn’t.
'Trying to do it all and expecting that it can all be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment.
Perfection is the enemy.'
Once my little one arrived, I couldn’t let go and my world revolved around him. He consumed me, but I also lost myself and any remote sense of balance too. It was so strange to think that I almost did a complete u-turn in my thought process. But after a few months, I realised I was losing my sense of identity. I had a knawing urge to find myself again and relaunch my career but in a way that suited my newfound family needs. But I didn't know how as I was in a permanent position where I had been recently promoted and felt that any change in my industry would mean a role that held the same challenges.
'What could you do if you weren't afraid?'
You could say I had a mini mid-life crisis in a sense as I opened my mind and starting exploring how my creative side could form a new career. I studied fashion design, a hobby & talent that I long had. Ironically, doing this reinforced that I actually love my career. However, I still mentally struggled with the juggle of motherhood and my career: how would I travel for a week abroad away from my son; how would we manage frequent work travel when we both have such pressurising careers; what would my day look like with a long commute when I returned home; how would we work the logistics of leaving early and coming back late; how would we manage all the mundane yet essential chores whilst having a child and jobs; and most importantly, what would quality time with our son mean. It made me reanalyse my needs and goals, so I resigned from my then job as I wanted a fresh start with a role that had more flexibility. I found myself extending my vast experience to new work as a consultant at a company that endorsed more flexible working. I didn't expect it, but the first few 2 weeks were tough. I felt so much guilt about leaving my baby, and didn’t know how to cope with working, travelling abroad, commuting, cooking, and spending quality time with my family. Mom-guilt is such a real thing, don't undermine it.
'You can be a good mom and still workout, get your rest, have a career, or not. My mother encouraged me to find that balance.'
But after a few weeks, I found a rhythm. Working allowed me to be myself again, enjoy my career which was important to me and spend quality time with my son where I was more present, engaged and happy.
This was a journey for me so as a new parent or mother and I am still realigning the 'balance'. I have a few tips to extend if you too are becoming a parent and are keeping your career.
1) Evaluate your Current Company's Leave Policy
Is your company or work environment child friendly? Consider what your company offers. These are some areas you should research ideally before joining the company or before your pregnancy.
Maternity and paternity leave
As an example, we also planned our maternity and paternity leave to coincide so that we both we present during and immediately after our son's birth. Consider how you want to structure this and enquire about how much time you have. Ideally, find a company with a generous leave policy so that you have options. In some countries, like Germany, parents can co-share the parental leave time allocated.
Childcare days when your little ones are ill
We found the first 3 months of nursery meant our son was ill almost every second week and we had to find back up childcare on these days.
2) Does your Company support Parental Flexibility?
You might want to ask whether your company has the option for you to work compressed hours over fewer days, to reduce your days/hours or allow more flexible working.
Consider your Role
what would this mean on a day to day level if you are a parent. Are your hours at work still feasible? How much time would you have to dedicate to your job (whilst still being good at it) and your child? Does this align with your childcare needs and budget?
If you cannot transition to a role that offers more flexibility to support your new needs, or find a company that is child-friendly, consider taking your experience and translating it to a more project management or consultative type of role, where you can manage your time accordingly.
Evaluate Work Travel
If you have a job that requires extensive travel, think about how you can cover childcare between yourself and your partner/spouse. If you both travel, are you able to cover to schedule your work travel for different times so there is no overlap perhaps or maybe you can deploy some outside help from the grandparents or a stay over nanny on occasional days?
3) Reevaluate your Career Trajectory
Where do you want to take your career after becoming a mother? This is a big question and one that should ideally be considered before falling pregnant. Does your career facilitate you being a mother or would you consider a sideways move into a role that allows more flexibility to have a family?
4) Focus on your Career and Your Home
Have those tough conversations at work. Set your boundaries with your manager early. Make sure they are aware of they of your childcare pick up and drop off times and which days are impacted in advance.
As much as your are giving it your all at home, on a similar note, don’t neglect your work. If your child is ill and you need time off, make sure you make up the hours it come in earlier or leave later that day. Don't use motherhood as an excuse to let your work standards drop or not shine. If your work is of the nature where you might have to stay late sometimes or work to finish a deadline on a project, don't disregard this each and every time. Prioritise what might need your time. You know best, trust your instinct on this.
5) Get good reliable childcare
Think about how much support you and your family need and base your decision on this. For us we considered our working hours and commute times. Full time nursery hours didn't work for us and we also wanted more one-on-one care for Alexander. So we chose a mix of nursery for 2 days, to allow for social interaction for our son, on days, when we both not likely to travel, and then a nanny for the remaining 3 work days.
6) Schedule & Plan
Plan your meals. Taking the thinking out of cooking, allows for better time management and makes life easier. Keep it simple. I used to love cooking elaborate dinners, but being a working mom means I now have a realistic, yet delicious and healthy menus that can provide us for a comforting meal quickly.
Eliminate doing tasks outside if you can accomplish them online. Ocado, services like Hello Fresh where ingredients are menus are provided, toiletries delivery etc. are great ways to cut corners. We do so of our shopping online now as it allows us to free other moments for quality activities
Get help with a cleaner and cook if you can. It’s the small things that add time and you will not have a lot valuable time in a day. Set that time for things that you want to invest in like time with your children, for yourself or your partner.
7) Become the Prioritising Queen
It's time to take prioritising to a new level. The truth is you won't be able to do it all like you used to, so it's time to decide whats important and needed versus what might be nice.
8) Quality over Quantity
For any time you spend together, make it a quality activity. Bond, have lots of laughs, enjoy
Don’t forget to relax. It’s okay to have that lazy Sunday on the couch or mosing around the house. Take that time out. You don’t need to be on overdrive.
9) Practice Mindfulness
Take it slow. Don’t push yourself and try to live your old pre-baby or single life. Things change, a lot.
Don’t lose yourself. Set time aside for yourself to indulge in your old hobby or find a new one that suits your new found motherhood and career.
I hope these help. Wishing you much joy and balance in your motherhood and career journey. It's goal to achieve the work-life balance, but its also an ongoing journey that you will no doubt adapt with each milestone.
So we are 23 days away from Christmas and with cyber week sales behind us, I thought it would be the perfect time to focus on Christmas and your baby boy's Christmas outfits. I have rummaged the shops and the web to choose 5 perfect outfits for your baby boy to perfectly suit your Christmas Grotto or family Christmas picture. Christmas is such a special time of year so I have focused on traditional designers who bring luxury childrenswear that you can hand down to future generations. Renowned for their detailed smocking, tartans, knits and luxurious fabrics, these are keepsake items that will be the focus of your special little one's Christmas moments and photos in years to come.
We had our one year cake smash for Alexander a couple weeks ago, DIY style. Due to popular demand, I am sharing my tips on how to organise one so that you achieve semi-professional style photos, if not more! It's a significant and fun event for a one year old, and provides great photo opportunities and memories, so I certainly recommend doing one. A DIY cake smash is perfectly achievable for a fraction of the cost, but requires much planning for fabulous photos with minimal mess. The entire cake smash cost us ~£60 (Cake: £15;
Background £8; Photo stand £25; Balloons £5; Outfit £10).
10 STEPS TO FOLLOW
1) Firstly, choose a theme. Research this on Pinterest and Instagram. Popular examples include, a balloon theme, something vintage or a hot air balloon style. You can also do something brand new and make it your own. Be as creative as you possibly can.
Backgrounds come in so many designs, so choose one to fit your theme. However, remember that you will need a photography stand to hang these on.
Props require slightly more work to set up, but also have a fabulous effect. Bear in mind it might be slightly more work intensive and slightly more costly. Choose a white wall to display your props against, for the best effect.
3) Once you have chosen your theme, research and buy your propsand/or background canvas. Amazon, eBay and Etsy are fabulous resources for this. Some prop ideas are large jewelled, coloured or wooden number ‘one’, bunting, colourful latex or helium balloons that fit a theme, fans or hot air balloon lanterns. Don't make it too over complicated, keep props to the minimum for less distraction.
4) Research and buy your little one’s outfit(Alexander's outfit is linked here). It's a messy affair so I suggest you go as low key and with as little clothing as possible. Popular ideas are a little bow tie and shorts with braces (as Alexander wore) or a little mini skirt or tutu and cropped top for girls. A cute little hair band or hat is always a nice little accessory if you like. Outfits can be found on eBay, Amazon or Etsy. You can also accessorise with pearls for a little girl, if it's a vintage theme for example. Whatever you choose, bear in mind it will get very messy and possibly stained, so be prepared to throw it if need be.
5) So props, set and outfits are done, now time to choose your cake. I suggest choosing a colour that matches or contrasts with your colour theme for great photos. M&S and Waitrose have gorgeous pink, blue and white cakes or go with something from a patisserie if you like. Remember, this cake is going to be smashed and not much eaten, so don't go overboard here. Try to choose a cake with butter icing as it can be smashed easily, as opposed to fondant. White cakes can sometimes not come up so great on camera, if your background is white, so bear this in mind that you want a contrast effect.
You don't need a cake stand, sometimes laying the cake flat on the ground makes it more accessible for your little one, and don't need a high chair either. Having them roam around freely allows for the best shots.
6) Protect your cake smash area. Choose an area that can be well protected with a large mat or one that can be easy to mop up after. Ensure that the room is well lit and enables lots of daylight to stream in. Keep lots of tissues and wipes at hand, ready for the after math, as you will need it.
7) Plan your session taking into account a few factors: baby must be well rested, not hungry or tired, get help for the session (spouse, grandparent or friend) AND you need good light coming into the room
8) Take a few photos before the cake arrives so that you have a good idea of which angles you want to shoot to capture the best effect and lighting
9) Bring baby to the set, then the cake. This is important. Alexander first found the set fascinating and looked around and explored it, then when the cake arrived it was new and was worth focusing on. Not every baby will be excited to dive right in. Our little one doesn't have a sweet tooth for example, so needed lots of coaxing and cheering from his Dad whilst I shot the photos.
10) Edit your photos using light room or photo shop to have a brighter effect with lots of great contrast. But don't over ‘heal’ as a cake smash is meant to be messy and tainted.
Happy Cake Smashing! Do feel free to reach out if you need further guidance or tips.
Pregnancy is such a wonderful time, I remember the excitement to prepare the nursery and buy cute little clothes for Alexander With the vast options, choosing what items to have in the nursery was confusing though, there's now so many new items that are meant to make life for a new parent easier. I found it difficult to ascertain which items were must haves, which were nice to haves and which were just plain pretty to add for aesthetic appeal. Having been there done that, here are my recommended practical must have items for your new born baby, to help you settle into this new journey of parenthood easily (so you get as much of a good night's sleep as possible) and your new baby settle comfortably into his/her exciting world.
The first three months of a baby's life, also known as the fourth trimester, requires dedication to making baby feel cocooned, like they are still in your uterus. This is why many products are centred around making baby feel snug and cozy. Babies this young can also not see a far distance (approximately 30 cm only) and see black and white only, so neutral pastel nursery themes tend to be popular nowadays as they don't provide too much distraction and encourage a child's imagination.
I've included a list of my must-have items, from brands that I have used and loved. There's also some splurge luxury items, if you want to deck out the nursery in a few even more fabulous items!
Hip, hip, hooray if you are travelling to the Cote D'Azur in the Summer. It's a fashionista's heaven so be prepared to dress to kill as this is probably the most fashionable place I have ever travelled to.
WHAT TO WEAR
The French Riviera style in Saint Tropez and most of the Riviera draws on bohemian and hippie influences so it's all about boho chic. In Monaco, this style still works wonderfully during the day but by night, you might want to rock some heels and jazz up your outfit a bit, as the style is more sophisticated. Either way, white is the French Riviera wardrobe, so rock your attire with white clothing albeit lace or cotton dresses, shorts, trousers or swimwear. My White Dress Edit is below.
If you had a look at my blog on Alexander's First Year of Fashion, you will find that I love Petit Bateau and Mayoral for when we travel, to hot countries with lots of beach and pool time especially! These two brands embrace nautical designs that are ever so popular on beach holidays but so there are many other brands other there that are also wonderful, and I have included a few additions below.
The South of France is the mediterranean coastal jewel, and for me, of the world! It's better known for the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix, but there is so much more to it than just these famous events. I have been so fortunate to travel here many times for both leisure and work, and each time I arrive I find a new little town or village that I simply love, visit old favourite haunts, find a cute little boutique with the most amazing finds or restaurant serving the spectacular food. The French Riviera never seizes to surprise and wow. We thus decided what better place to celebrate Alexander's first birthday!
Our trip in July 2018 involved two weeks travelling to three main bases and we explored the surroundings from here: Mougins, Monaco and Saint Tropez. We chose these areas for their baby friendly vicinities, amazing restaurants & nightlife, things to do, sandy beaches and hotels. I can promise you that the French have the warmest hospitality towards children that we have seen to date when travelling, so it truly made the time memorable!
WHAT TO SEE
The Cote D'Azur is a long coastline but here are some top picks that we absolutely adore and revisit on family holidays.
Saint Jean Cap Ferrat
I love visiting this little town for the old-style Riviera chic. This is a little peninsula nestled between Monaco and Nice, that has the most incredible houses and sandy beaches. You will be stunned with the views of the Provencal coastline so don't be afraid to explore the place on foot along the coastal footpaths to see amazing villas and gardens.
My top picks to see here are the magnificent Villa Ephrussi de Rothchild; Paloma Beach which is one of the French Riviera's unique sandy beaches; Villa Kerylos and don't forget to lunch at the Cap du Eden Roc or the luxuruous Grand Cap Ferrat Hotel.
This is simply the most famous resort on the Cote D'Azur but this little fishing town was made famous by Brigette Bardot, a French turned Hollywood actress known for her sexy appeal and boho-chic style. Saint Tropez never ceases to disappoint.
You much to see around the Port but certainly don't miss the Place des Lices, a lively square where a market is hosted almost daily.
Although technically not Saint Tropez, the Plage de Pamplonne is a must see for it's wide sandy beaches and crystal clear water. For me, a visit to Le Club 55 or Club Tahiti is are must do lunch venues for delicious seafood, to spot some celebrities and take in the beautiful crowd. Definitely try the tarte de tropizienne, a French take on the Victoria sponge but lighter and more zestful, it's simply delicious!
Of course, you will find all the major high end designers, but also many cute boutiiques and many wonderful independant designers stocking amazing clothes.
This mountaintop village dating back hundreds of years so not what most people synononomously tie with the Cote D'Azur but trust me it's a must see. Found between Nice and Monaco, this beautiful little town is built entirely of stone. You will find the cutest little streets, restaurants, boutiques and will also get a glimpse of the Provencal village life. Catch spectacular views of the French Riviera and surrounding towns of Eze by visiting the Jardins Exotique d'Eze.
Wandering around this town is amazing and if you like stay at Chateau Ezato appreciate more of it. Certainly one of the most beautiful and unique hotels I have ever visited, it is quite simply surreal and will blow your mind with the phenomenal views & world class hospitality!
St Paul de Vence
Another astounding medieval town in the French Riviera that doesn't get enough air time. St Paul de Vence is truly beautiful with cobblestoned street, unique art galleries and boutiques. Stroll through the village exploring every nook and cranny.
Stay at the beautiful Relaix and Chateaux Le Saint Paul to truly immerse yourself in the town. If you unable to stay here, certainly stop for lunch at their decadent gourmet restaurant to discover a taste of Provencal cuisine.
There's so much to do and see in Monaco. It really is as marvellous as you may have heard. There are some lovely sandy beaches but generally Monaco is great to visit to eat, drink and be fabulous.
Shopping is amazing, as the country houses so many different luxury brands. The Cafe de Paris in the centre is a must do to have a St Germain Spritz, people watch and feel fabulous. Of course, there's the casino if you into seeing a glimpse of the James Bond life from the movies. Not to be missed are the Prince's Palace, Oceanographic Museum and Jardin Exotique de Monaco. You might be lucky enough to also catch a concert in Monaco City as the city usually houses many cultural acts.
In general, when you out, dress to kill, people watch and make the most of the facilities in some of the most awesome hotels along the French Riviera.
L'Auberge des Maures is one of my favourite restaurants in Saint Tropez for many reasons. The most amazing provencal style food, rustic, hearty and just beautiful; simply fabulous wine list and the warmest staff. They serve their own brand of liquer after the meal and be prepared to be amazed, absolutely delicious! The crowd is upmarket as like all of Saint Tropez, but the dress code is not overly fancy so your typical tropizienne boho-chic will work here to the tea.
4 Rue Dr Boutin, 83990 Saint-Tropez
Rivea at Byblos. I'm a huge Alain Ducasse fan so this has to be on my list but this restaurant really is quite simply my favourite Alain Ducasse restaurant ever as the food for me is just sublime! Its a more simple and delicate than Ducasse's usual style, and the location of the restaurant is just jaw dropping. In Summer, you have open dining with a huge flower covered wall on one side. It's housed at the Byblos hotel so you can't expect anything but a fashionable crowd who knows good food.
After my return to work full-time from maternity leave, the inevitable question dawned upon us: What childcare option should we choose for Alexander?! A difficult question that requires a careful choice, especially if you don't have immediate family/parents to help take care of baby. At first thought, for most parents it's scary to think that you might have to leave your little precious angel with a stranger. I know for us, it was, for sure!
That being said, childcare options in the UK are well monitored and have specific standards that need to be adhered to. Most nannies are highly trained so a well qualified and experienced nanny who may even speak other languages that you are seeking your child to learn, is fairly accessible. Similarly with nurseries, many have a high standard curriculum, good OFFSTED rating and adhere to general standards that are monitored by external agencies, so that your child is safe and secure.
We eventually chose the option of splitting his time between nanny and nursery, so I would like to share in this blog our guide to navigating your childcare decision. There are pros and cons to both options, as with any decision you make. But since it is such a HUGE decision, budget, lifestyle considerations and parental & child needs must be taken into account and analysed thoroughly before coming to a conclusive choice. Remember that you might not need to choose a clear option, like us. Choosing to go part-time with both a nanny and/or a nursery, could also get your child the best of both worlds.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
1) WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET?
1) Nursery: Nursery is a slightly cheaper option with fees in Central London ranging from £1500 for a community nursery (partially state funded) to £3000 (private high end nursery) for 5 days a week, full time care. Nursery times are usually 8 am - 6 pm, but you will find nurseries offering places part-time, either during the day or afternoon, or full-time, depending on a parents needs. Most nurseries have a garden and specific teaching styles - consider what these are when making your choice. Research the waitlist as it is important to know when to apply and what your chances of being offered a place are. Many nurseries in Kensington & Chelsea for example, might require the application to be submitted during pregnancy or straight after baby's birth, if you have any chance of being selected due to the demand.
2) Nanny: Nannies vary in cost ranging from £11 - £16 an hour, net pay. As nannies are employed by the parents, all PAYE tax, National Insurance and Pension contributions, will be your responsibility to pay. In essence, your nanny costs may vary from £1500 to £3500, as a gross monthly salary to a live-out full time nanny. It's a big amount and big responsibility which is why full-time nannies are not usually the most popular choice. Nanny Tax is a useful website that helps you calculate the full gross monthly salary due to the nanny after you negotiate a net hourly rate. An additional cost to consider are the agency fees which range from 4 times the weekly net salary of the nanny to 20% of the nanny's annual net salary (£2000 - £6000), as a one off introduction fee if you make and conclude a firm contract of employment. Bear in mind that you can also source a nanny privately via recommendation, social groups or childcare blogs, which might lower or exclude the agency fee. To help lower the cost, you may also be able to offer your nanny accommodation as live-in nannies tend to cost less.
2) WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITISED NEEDS FOR YOUR CHILD?
1) Are you a routine driven parent or more relaxed? Its important to know what type of style your child responds to most. If you are a very routine driven parent, a structured format might suit your child more, which might be a nursery or structured routine with a nanny. However, if you are more relaxed and your child prefers this interaction, consider how the nursery day is structured, whether there is flexibility to adapt the approach to the child so that there's more down time, if needed. With a nanny, you are able to dictate your child's schedule and make it more bespoke.
2) Does your child require any extra educational needs? Perhaps your child is a music maestro or a mathematician?! Consider this when looking at a nursery or nanny. Are they able to strengthen or develop your child's skills? Or perhaps you want to expose your child to a certain language? These are important questions to ask. Some nurseries offer language classes that you might need, and there are many private classes that a nanny could also take your child to. A good place to start is looking at the nursery curriculum or nannies experience in child development, to see if they will suit your child's needs.
3) What is your child's personality like?If your child likes social interaction, a nursery might be the preferred option as there are many group activities and lots of people for your child to socialise with. However, if your child prefers a one to one interaction and/or requires more downtime, a nanny maybe more suitable. Remember that nurseries in the UK have a 1:3 ratio, meaning one key person dedicated to three children, for children under two years of age.
4) Does your home have the facilities your child needs or do you have them easily accessible from home?If you live in Central London, you might live in a flat with no garden or access to a garden close by. This might be something a nursery has. A nursery might also have more toys, activities and classes than a nanny has access to, depending on where you live.
Adversely, you might have the above and not need it in a nursery. Remember that if you have the budget, many parts of London have extracurricular activities such as sensory play, music concerts, language classes and art classes available from private institutions, for an extra charge (£8 - £25 per class). Play groups and social groups might be a small charge (~£5) or are sometimes free. I use the Hoop App or Website for much of our planning for our little one and always find tons of things to do. I am able to book in advance to plan a structure, or on the day if I want to be spontaneous. This still could still be a resource you can tap into if you have a nanny, to ensure that your child still has the exposure to social groups, play groups and extra activities.
5) How do you feel about your child being in a group setting? It can have a positive effect but remember other group individuals can also impact your child's behaviour both positively and negatively, so have a think about how you feel about this.
6) Do you require an offsted registered facility? You can check the OFFSTED registration of a nursery online and some nannies are OFFSTED or Level 3 Childcare trained (the latter is the minimum qualification most nursery key people have) or you can state this to be an option in due course. Consider the age and development needs of your child to decide whether you require this.
3) WHAT ARE YOUR PARENTAL NEEDS?
1) What are your working hours? Most nurseries are open from 7.30 am - 6.30 pm. Please factor that nursery drop offs entail leaving home earlier than usual, being at the nursery on time, dropping your child off then venturing to work. Add this extra time to your commute and consider that you might need to rise earlier. Same with child pick ups. A nanny is more flexible in this case as you remove the requirement to travel to and from a nursery, and a nanny can adapt to the hours you need.
2) Do you have parental leave with your contract of employment? Many nurseries have a general rule to call the parent when a child is ill, or has a fever. This means that you will have to leave work to pick your child up in this case if a fever or illness persists. A nanny will not require this unless the child requires parental attention during illness. But bear in mind, if a nanny is ill, you might need a back up childcare plan.
3) Are you comfortable for your child not having dedicated care? This is an important question to ask as at a nursery your child will share attention with 2 other children, per key person, if your child is under 2. Are you comfortable with this? I have to admit, I wasn't when Alexander was younger but as he gets more independent and mobile, it makes things less complicated. Go with your gut and your child's personality with this!
4) Are safety and security a concern? A nanny will be able to provide security for your child in the comfort of your home in a space that they know well. Bear in mind, that full background checks are the parents responsibility, do not rely on an agency for this. The usual check is a DBS check, in the UK, which is a police clearance. Check for paediatric training; first aid training; OFFSTED and/or Level 3 Childcare qualifications (if required; and background checks with prior referees. A nursery will usually have accredited staff at varying levels but please double check the accreditation of the key person looking after your child. Hygiene and sanitation should be up to ahigh standard in a nursery.
4) VISIT YOUR OPTIONS TO TEST THE WATERS
Once you are sure, or if you are still unsure, visit a few nurseries and interview some nannies to get an idea of what would suit you and your child best. Some important questions to ask are below. Remember, some nurseries require an application or site visit very well in advance so check the waitlists.
For a Nursery:
- What is your Offsted Rating?
- How many children would my child's key person have?
- What activities do you provide?
- How do you support learning and development?
- What meals are provided?
- How do you track a child's development?
- How do you keep a parent informed of a child's progress?
- How do you ensure safety of children in this facility?
For a Nanny:
- Do you have Paediatric, First Aid and Childcare Training? Please may I see these certificates
- How would you plan a typical day?
- What developmental activities do you introduce to children?
- Can you potty train, wean, etc?
- How do you help a child reach different milestones?
- What is your view on discipline?
- How would you like to take your holidays?
- What is your motivation for being a nanny?
- Are you prepared to engage in nursery duties, nursery drop off/pick up, or other?
- How would you handle a emergency (give example)?
- What sort of activities do you enjoy with children?
5) MAKING AND/OR ACCEPTING AN OFFER
It is highly advisable to make an offer pending certain requirements if you interview a nanny: Extensive reference checks and trial day(s) or week(s) of babysitting, to ensure that there is the right chemistry between your child and your nanny. Remember much of it comes down to whether the nanny and you have similar styles and good communication.
If you are offered a place by your nursery of choice, I advise that you do a trial. Many nurseries offer trial day(s) or an hour for free, some at a small cost, but I recommend it as its not a decision to be taken lightly. Remember, on a tour, you only have a small snapshot of the day your child might be exposed to. This is your chance to see how your child fits in, whether they take to their key person, enjoy the environment and activities. On the same note, don't always expect instant adaptation as not all children warm to someone they meet immediately.
I hope this helps your decision making process. Do reach out if you need any advice.
Many parents presume that shopping for baby boys clothes can be boring. I can assure you, this is not the case, and especially in London, you will find the most unique styles imaginable! It took me time to find great brands, but once I did, I knew what I loved. Many fabulous brands are independent and may not be at your usual high street or department stores. It is useful to do some browsing when you are pregnant to find which stores stock the styles/brands you like, which brands will fit baby best & facilitate an ease of undressing/dressing; and what the size banding really will mean for your baby. Different brands, depending on which country they are from, can fit each baby quite differently. There also is the question of longevity where some brands, because they are styled smaller, may not fit baby for too long.
Personally, I prefer dressing my little one quite traditionally, I love the look. It captures the essence of his babyhood. For me, it brings back sweet memories of the stories I used to read from Beatrix Potter, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton. Spanish and English designers have the reputation for being makers of the best traditional clothes in beautiful soft fabrics, creating timeless heirloom pieces. Expert tailoring, unique designs, bespoke pieces, and unmatched quality in the fabrics are showcased. Traditional clothes are typically epitomised by smocking, knitted pieces, cute bonnets, peter pan or frilly collars, cashmere cardigans, beautiful linen & frills, and hand embroidery. These designers create pieces that look classic, elegant and practical. You will find that our little one sports many of these brands whether indoors, playing in the park or on holiday too.
When we are on holiday and baby is involved in messy play time on the beach for instance, I switch to brands that embrace a valued history but are styled to be a little more hard wearing and pragmatic. For this reason, I often opt for popular timeless French brands for their nautical designs capturing seaside adventures, high end quality, and practicality. I have included some of my favourite brands for traditional wear and holidays below. I hope this will help your shopping experience.
Shanti | The KensingtonBaby
Marie Chantal Whilst pregnant with her third child in 2001, Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece founded this designer childrenswear brand, focusing on her love for classic and timeless designs. Marie-Chantal’s modern, contemporary style combines traditional silhouettes with a playful twist, creating wonderful, unique baby, toddler and children’s boutique clothing. Princess Marie-Chantal’s personal style and distinctive design point of view influences every collection created in London. The brand offers classic designs and new, eye catching details in high-end soft and comfortable fabrics for the perfect balance of style and comfort. You can find princess dresses, formal wear and adorable newborn onesies.
Foque With fine attention to detail and beautiful handcrafted finishes, Spanish designer Foque specialise in traditional clothing for girls, boys and baby. I love the cute Peter Pan collared clothes, vibrant colours for seasonal styles, neutral palette, high quality knitwear and beautifully finished designs.
Known for their knitwear, Spanish designer Artesanía Granlei have been creating beautiful traditional clothing for babies and young children since 1980. This fairly young brand produces amazing knitwear of excellent quality with a generous fit.
Paz Rodriguez Paz Rodriguez continues a traditional approach to design. Beautiful baby bonnets, knitted jumper dresses, lined hooded coats and more are all finished with dainty detailing and exquisite craftsmanship. The brand is available online, at department stores and children retailers such as Harrods and Children Salon; as well as many bespoke Spanish Clothing retailers online.
Rachel Riley Rachel Riley is a British award-winning children’s clothing brand. She designs classic luxury childrenswear & is best known for our quality & style, with prints designed in-house, traditional craftsmanship including hand embroidery, hand smocking & use of fine soft fabrics. Think liberty print, Peter Pan collars, cute hand smocking and gorgeous linen. The brand is available online and at high end department stores and children retailers such as Harrods & Saks 5th Avenue; and AlexandAlexa and Children Salon online.
Petit Bateau Since 1893, Petit Bateau has applied its savoir-faire to create the best quality apparel for women, men and children. The house is renowned for its chic aesthetic, using the finest quality cotton to create timeless staples. From the famous yellow raincoat and soft knitwear to classic breton stripes for babies, children and adults. Expect to find famous sailor stripes, bold colours, pretty polka dots, and cool preppy outfits. All the clothes are designed and made to allow the child to live happily in their clothes with freedom of movement. It is no coincidence that in 1918, Petit Bateau cut the legs off long underwear and invented the pants we know today. This is why I find this brand perfect for active holidays! The brand is available online and at high end department stores and children retailers such as Harrods, AlexandAlexa and Children Salon online.
Mayoral Creators of beautiful Spanish clothing for children for over 75 years, Mayoral are the go-to for everyday casual wear, with something for everyone from birth to 16 years. This is a brand your baby could grow with. I love the nautical designs, focus on practicality and their is a huge range for baby boys, which I adore. The brand is available online and at high end department stores and children retailers such as Harrods,AlexandAlexa and Children Salon online.
Summer in London is magnificent. Think long days, beautiful sunsets and a bustling city filled with happy vibrant people. Summer in London means that pavements spill over with people flooding bars and gastropubs, barbecues are on the go, the lidos are all the rage, and parks are filled with laughing families and friends. It also means that many of the city residents leave for holidays in mainland Europe in July and August so the city is not so full. This is what I love about the season. Perhaps this article can inspire you to embrace Summer in London.
Having lived in Central London for more than 14 years and really making the most of the city, we got to know the city and what it offers VERY well. But this was a different Summer for us, it was our first proper Summer with our little one as he was born at the end of July last year which meant August was a month of recovery. I have collated 10 of our favourite activities that we shared with him this Summer. I hope you enjoy trying these if you live in the city, on your next visit, or something similar in your local vicinity!
1) This Summer we spent more time in the parks than anywhere else. Baby loves crawling (and walking on the grass), picnics, and also the Royal Parks for a picnic, afternoon concert or row on the lake. We stay close to Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Holland Park, so these are our go tos. However, Regents Park, Hampstead Heath and St James Park often got a visit from us too. We sometimes packed a picnic from a yummy local patisserie or Harrods food hall; ordered from the local restaurants via a Deliveroo or Uber Eats;or grabbed something from the park’s local cafes if we were short on time. Our baby loves the swings so the children's play areas at Hyde and Holland Park, work a treat.
2) We took baby to London Sea Life Aquarium and London Zoo as he loves the colours and animals, especially after the safari in South Africa. We also visited a few locations with family visiting such as Kensington Palace & the Shard for immaculate views. We are considering getting a London Pass as he gets older as this offers entry to top 80+ attractions which we will certainly use.
3) Kensington has some of the top London museums, which are free, with the only paid for entry being special exhibits. The National History Museum, V&A Museum and Science Museum are some of baby's favourites so we spend much time there, especially on rainy days. We do plan on taking him to the British Museum to learn about History when he is older.
4) Baby loved the boat tour of the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich and saw many major icons like Big Ben and the London Eye on the way. Its perfect as its a different mode of transport and let him take in so many sites along the way.
5) The Royal Albert Hall puts on some excellent children’s concerts if your little ones love classical music, which our little one loves. He loved the children's orchestra we attended and there's plenty more on till the rest of the year that we have pre-booked.
6) London has some amazing lido’s to cool off! We often use the pool at our gym but the lido at Parliament Hill has been a different experience for baby. Lots of children and sunshine. Photo Credit @spather on instagram.
7) We embrace the markets that London offers such as the Portobello Road market for antiques and quirky finds or the Borough Market for delicious food. London’s cosmopolitan nature means that the city offers so much from around the globe and the little one gets to try new foods or experiences.
8) Alexander adored Kew Gardens with all the beautiful flowers, extensive gardens and even a bit of history thrown in for the adults with Kew Palace. We visited in Summer and Winter as its such a treat.
9) A seasonal favourite we tried this year with baby, is the Holland Park Opera, which hosted a child friendly ballet by the Royal Ballet School. Our child was mesmerised and thoroughly enjoyed it. He sat through a 2.5 hour ballet with a 30 minute break with no complaints. That surely says something, doesn't it?
10) We attended only one of these with baby so far this year, but I thought to include some baby friendly Summer offerings that we tried in the past.
- If you up to it, the Notting Hill carnival happens on the 26th of August so try to visit to celebrate some Carribean culture. This is Europe’s biggest street party! The Sunday family day is recommended for children
- Wimbledon is the most famous tennis tournament in the world and takes place in London in July. Book resale seats as early as possible, watch at Wimbledon Hill, find a great open-air screening or view at a pub.
- The Royal Ascotisthe United Kingdoms most famous horse races that takes place at the end of June. There are different enclosures to visit so please check the official website before booking tickets. The Royal Enclosure, which we attend below, is by invitation only and does not allow children, but the Queens Enclosure is available to book tickets and allows children. Each enclosure has a very specific dress code which needs to be adhered to to permit entry. The Royal Enclosure for example is synonymous with sartorial elegance so morning suits and top hats for men, and dresses below the knee and hats with minimum 30 cm diameter for women. Its a fantastic full day out and is lots of fun. You might even spot some of the royalty that attend!
The beauty about London is there is always something new going on, whether it be new pop-ups, restaurants, activities, shows, concerts, festivals, etc. Have a look at Kidsorted and Timeout for special features on any particular week or weekend. We use both these websites a lot for something different to do.
Hope you also enjoy some of the experiences we had. Let me know if you tried any of these and how if you enjoyed it!