Family travel with flair

Review: Barbury Shooting School for kids...

Tweet I come from Texas, so really I’m supposed to know all about guns. But since I won that riflery award at summer camp age 12, my shooting prowess has largely been on the wane. Don’t get me wrong — I love shooting (I did say I’m from Texas, right?), but the opportunities to practice don’t come along that often. When my 16-year-old stepson received a voucher from his grandparents for a clay pigeon shooting day, my husband and I decided to register our 11-year-old daughter too and, while we were at it, have a private lesson for the two of us. Or rather a private lesson for me and a bit of easy shooting for him. The day out was at Barbary Shooting School in Wiltshire, just on the way to granny’s. The school is top-notch and runs loads of activities, from “have a go” days for taster sessions, ladies gun club meetings, multi-activity parties, children’s parties, and individual and group lessons. Here’s what we thought of it:   What: Our 11- and 16-year-old went on one of the Young Clayshots Day. The group of children — there were upwards of 20 that day, which one of the staff described as the biggest they’d ever had — were...

iPhoneography: Preparing for Chinese New Year in London...

TweetI’ve always loved Chinese New Year, even if we don’t always celebrate it in grand style. I also love walking through Chinatown in London whenever I’m in the West End. Compared with Chinatown in New York, which has taken over Little Italy and goes on for block and blocks, London’s Chinatown is basically one or maybe two streets. It’s tiny, really. But whenever I am on my way to Leicester Square Tube station, I try to structure my route so I can walk down Gerrard Street. Last week I was lucky enough to be walking by while they were preparing for Chinese New Year, so it was more colourful and busier than ever. I like that even on this one street I feel transported into a different world. Food hangs in windows that I can’t identify. Signs are written in a script I don’t understand. All around people bustle, carrying in boxes of exotic vegetables to the grocery stores, reading the menus outside the restaurants.   When I walked through last week, they were hanging lanterns for Chinese New Year. Huge boxes were piled up, as a worker unpacked lanterns — made in China? — that they would string between the buildings.     Of course the big question...

New York City: A girls’ day out in Williamsburg, Brooklyn...

Tweet No visit to New York City is complete without a visit to Williamsburg in Brooklyn — one of the coolest places in the city, at least for the next minute or two, if you listen to the buzz. (A lot of New Yorkers will tell you Williamsburg is past-it, and in my experience when the is-it-cool-or-is-it-over debate gets going in earnest, you know that the area has probably lost some of its edge and artsy cachet, but you can at last get a good meal and the loos in the bars actually flush.) The first time I visited Williamsburg was in the ’90s, when one of my coolest, most creative friends lived there. The walk to her loft from the Bedford Street subway stop went by a handful of trendy cafes on Bedford Street. The rest was a vision of ramshackle buildings, small houses with vinyl siding and guys loitering on street corners. Note: The guys were not wearing porkpie hats nor working as software developers. Nobody had a fixed-gear bike out of choice. Why go to Williamsburg now Now Williamsburg is home to a landslide of groovy shops, packed coffeehouses, and restaurants that give Manhattan’s best a run for their money. It’s got a reputation for being...

Jenography on Yahoo: The worst places to take children...

TweetWe all love talking about the best places to take our families. Well, last week I had the opportunity to talk about the flip side: the worst places to take children. As it turns out, there are very few “terrible” places to take children, judging from the places mentioned by the other bloggers included in the piece, featured on Yahoo! Travel. It’s mostly down to bad timing — like at the destinations I mentioned — or not enough planning or, ahem, “adult” situations in which the adults don’t act very grown-up. It’s pretty exciting to be featured on Yahoo! Travel, one of the biggest travel content providers in the world. I recently wrote another piece for them: I Flew Business Class While My Kids Flew Coach. So What? Check out the piece: The Worst Vacation Spots to Take Kids and Why Do you have any places that are no-go for children? Leave a comment and tell me what they are.    ...

Activities when flying: My new favourite kids’ activity book...

TweetSometimes we love to chat with our kids when we fly or go out to eat while travelling. Other times, we’ll be deep into grown-up talk (the economy, house prices, pension plans) and the kids just need something fun to do that hasn’t been acquired at the App Store. My mother-in-law discovered this great little book from www.2littleboys.co.uk, called Something to keep you happy when the grown-ups are being really boring at the dinner table, the everyday version. On the face of it, it’s just another activity book. But this one does it so simply and engagingly that it outdistances all the others I’ve seen.   Of course it includes a word search. But there are also challenges to create a family flag, play every-day-word bingo (listening out for words like “terrible”, “love” and “salt” and ticking them off, creating a message with code and more.     The company has 3 other versions of the book — Christmas, Wedding and Recycled. Cool, cute, inexpensive and lightweight so at the end of the evening or the flight when everyone is handing you their markers and their little toys, it won’t add much weight to your handbag. Something to Keep You Happy books £4.50 – £6.00 2 Little Boys www.2littleboys.co.uk...

Texas: The best ice pops in Fort Worth...

Tweet When we visited Fort Worth last August we went to some great places to eat. One of the most whimsical was Steel City Pops, which makes gourmet popsicles. Gourmet popsicles, right?  Sounds a little precious — until you look at the list of flavours: Blackberry, Cranberry Orange, Hibiscus, Mango, Peanut Butter, Blueberry Cream, Avocado, Vanilla Bean, Pistachio…. I wanted to eat every one of them. Steel City Pops has an interesting backstory: a man’s lifelong dream of owning a restaurant, inspiration from a chance discovery of a shop selling Mexican ice pops, and a first shopfront in Homewood, Alabama. Now Steel City Pops has 7 locations, 5 in Alabama and 2 in Texas — one is in Dallas and the other is in Fort Worth. The Fort Worth shop is also conveniently located just a street or two away from Rodeo Goat, acknowledged as one of the best places in town to have a burger. That’s worth a visit too. After enjoying burgers and cheese fries there, we walked over in punishing 35° Celsius heat (95° Fahrenheit) and arrived ready for something delicious and frozen.       The shop has windows on one side in front of counter seating, where you can watch them make the pops,...

Surrey: Family geocaching at Polesden Lacey...

Tweet“Do you know what geocaching is?” I asked my 11-year-old, as we drove to Poleden Lacey. “You find things using a GPS. It’s boring,” she replied, staring out the window in the back seat. “How do you know? Have you done it before?” “I used a GPS once. It’s better if it’s just a map.” Ah, the enthusiasm of youth. After a wonderful Christmas break in which I became reacquainted with an area outside of Zone 3, I resolved that our family would get out and do some of those things we’re always saying we want to do. One of those goals is to use our National Trust membership to see some wonderful estates, historic houses and gorgeous countryside. This is a bit more difficult in winter, when many properties are shut for the season. But we discovered Polesden Lacey, about an hour’s drive away in Surrey, was open and also offered free geocaching. What is geocaching? I confess, geocaching always sounded a little made up to me. Like my daughter, I thought it needlessly complicates the simplicity of a fun treasure hunt. But you mustn’t let the little ones get the upper hand in cases like this. So my attitude on the drive down remained doggedly optimistic. “Let’s...

Is it wrong to fly in a different cabin from your children?...

TweetI’ll be honest: I really deserve to fly business class. Not because I’m better than other people, but because I enjoy it so much. So much. If airlines understood the deep wellspring of pleasure I get from it, the Mariana Trench of joy, they would fly me everywhere in business simply because of the good it would bring the world. Everything from the early boarding to how they hang up your coat before you sit down, the benefit of your own personal overhead bin, a real printed menu from which to choose meals and a seat bigger than Scotland. To be truthful, I probably deserve to fly first class for the same reasons. (Note to self: Research is in order.) Dilemma: 2 seats up front, 2 seats in back The problem is that flying business is still relatively rare for me and my family, involving special fares and accumulated miles. Recently we had the option of booking 2 business class tickets to America for Christmas…but it meant the other 2 tickets for our family would only be premium economy. Sometimes you hear about celebrities flying first or business class while their children sit back in coach with the nannies. In Home Alone, Kevin is left behind precisely because his...

New York City: Touring street art in Bushwick, Brooklyn...

TweetWhen we visited New York City, we asked each of the kids what was the one thing that they really wanted to do. The teen boy knew right away: He  wanted was to see some street art. We’d taken a walking tour in East London a bit before that. It had obviously made an impression. An illuminating walking tour A friend recommended Levys’ Unique New York. Levys’ Unique New York is a true New York-style tour guide outfit, run by the Levy family. How New York are they are? They got the accents, they got the New York vocabulary (“Sorry, kids!” our guide Matt Levy kept having to say in the course of his colourful stories) and local knowledge? Fuhgeddaboudit! Matt also sported a moustache with personality, which is practically standard-issue in this area of Brooklyn these days. We met in Williamsburg and headed out to Bushwick, the place to see street art thanks to the Bushwick Collective, an outdoor gallery initiative created by a local-born businessman. (Find out more about it in this piece from the NYTimes.) Amazing art The work is stunning: Long, wall-length pieces. Bright assaults on your eyes. The work is vibrant and beautiful. You round a corner and suddenly you’re confronted with astonishing and...

3 top tips for ice skating at Natural History Museum...

TweetIce skating is a regular part of the Christmas season for us. Maybe it’s because I grew up with visions of myself twirling on ice like Dorothy Hamill (the US equivalent of Jane Torville in singles skating). This rarely happened. I grew up in a semi-arid desert, the nearest rink an hour and a half drive away. These days in London, you’re never far from someplace where you can get your skates on. Here’s a peek at the rink at the Natural History Museum this season. Plus, scroll down for my take on other London ice skating rinks.     The Ice Rink at the Natural History Museum, near Exhibition Road. Til 4 January 2015.  www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/ice-rink   Other great holiday ice rinks in London Somerset House – The classiest rink of them all, set in the courtyard, with club nights and a Fortnum & Mason affiliation. Less of a family feel but a magical setting. Til 11 January 2015. Westfield London indoor rink – No rainy weather, no chilly wind. Whether you think skating next to New Look, Topshop and a bustling food court out of the fresh air is a fun twist or against nature depends on your outlook. My daughter loves it. Just remember to do your...

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