We are well in the throes of the British summer (*whispers* what summer) and with an active toddler to entertain each day during the holidays I remembered this location that I once drove past and being intrigued by the name. The Medicine Garden sounds like a place that’s going to make you feel better and I can now say it works well for people of all ages tucked away in Cobham. If it’s serenity in Surrey you’re after then this is the place to travel to and best of all it’s free to enter. Before I arrived I’d imagined it being like a secret garden and it did feel a little bit like this other than there is no gate, you just walk in from the car park. The weather was just right when we arrived sunshine and a slight breeze which made the whole place come alive. This walled Victorian garden is a creative space, a place to sit with friends and have drinks and a natter. A place to bring the children for a run around. A place to find a collection of independent shops and of course consume food and drink by way of cafe and a restaurant. Nearly everyone that I saw had a smile on their face and I felt that the three hours passed by quickly. I found out that there are lots of events organised throughout the year things like outdoor cinemas and BBQs.
With the recently renovated glasshouse in the courtyard, they have a lovely and very stylish cafe called the Hothouse Cafe. These days being able to drink a coffee at my own leisurely pace is a rare treat. I was able to drink my coffee but gave up my table to an 80 year old who kept telling me he was 80 years old. I told him I was half his age and he said ” yes but I am 80″. Jay soon got bored of this odd conversation and then urged me to take him to the dome positioned in the corner of the garden so I said my farewells to the octogenarian.
The concept of the garden is to encourage people to think more about the power of nature and inspire them to create a bit of ‘good medicine’ in their own gardens and homes. The design is based on an eight-pointed compass with each direction highlighting an important quality that we can creatively bring into our gardens and therefore our lives.
I have definitely taken more of an interest in gardening in the last year you might have seen my vlog of the herb garden I did recently, a new project at Along Came Jay HQ. Whenever I see a garden shop I like having a mooch around and there were lots of ornaments to look at and purchase of course. I’m glad Jay likes going to garden centres with me and he’s really also taken an interest in this herb garden and insists we plant some marjoram which I’ve yet to find. Within the Courtyard Community, there are also various independent companies. It’s a real eclectic mix of arts and crafts.
I also discovered a treatment room which offers therapies including reflexology, aromatherapy and holistic massage. Other treatments offered include osteopathy, reiki, manual lymphatic drainage (Vodder) which sounds interesting and scary at the same time. Plus they have morning boot camps, yoga and Tai Chi classes in the main garden for those keen on body conditioning.
The Food Studio offers a range of cookery workshops demos and talks from UK’s leading Foodies, Pop-up Events, private and corporate dining, as well outside event catering. I’d love to attend something like the Blid & Hatton Gatherings run by friends Surrey-born chef Maddie Hatton and Swedish native Helga Blid-Martinsson. They have joined forces to offer workshops which draws on the European tradition of cooking and ‘breaking bread’ as part of everyday life.
Something I’ve struggled with since moving to London and then Surrey is how busy everywhere is and the sheer volume of people travelling here and there. It’s taken a while to adjust to the frantic pace of life here in the South. Just like the Mayfield Lavender field I love being in these styles of outdoor spaces away from all the traffic and noise. I also know it’s a hard task keeping young children entertained. I was glad we made a trip here for Jay to burn of some of that energy he holds in abundance.
I would advise checking the weather before you visit as it started to rain as we left the car park and although there is lots of seating and awnings I think you can get more out of the visit not having to duck for cover. I forgot to take my vlogging camera so used my iPhone to snap photos instead. No doubt we will be returning before the summer draws to a close. Some places give you that feel good factor and this garden fits the bill perfectly.
Monday – Saturday 9am – 5pm Sunday and Bank Holidays 10am – 4pm
The Medicine Garden
Start spreading the news I am leaving today I want to be a part of it New York, New York
We attended my sister-in-law’s wedding in Danbury, Connecticut last month and pre-wedding accommodation was by way of a beautiful place called Candlewood Isle in Fairfield which was very ‘Dawson’s Creek’ esque!
When you are geographically oh so close to the ‘Big Apple’ it would be rude not to visit. As both Mr M and I aren’t getting any younger we thought this might be our only chance to explore NYC toddler free. I knew that with all the travel components involved it would be way too much for our little cub so he got a week’s holiday with the grandparents and had a wail of a time!
If you haven’t been to New York, try and get there in this lifetime but be prepared for a lot of walking. According to the Apple health app on our phones, we walked 29.5 miles in 3 days. I quite possibly need a new pair of legs. It is exactly how I imagined it would be. New York City’s five boroughs are home to some of the world’s cherished landmarks and attractions.
One of the most recognisable landmarks, the Brooklyn bridge was built in 1883. The Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan to Brooklyn, with its limestone and granite neo-gothic towers the bridge’s pathway offers fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline and downtown Brooklyn. There were loads of tourists all stopping for photos selfie sticks pretty much everywhere. I saw a bride and groom having their photos taken trying to avoid the large groups of tourists passing them by. The other thing you can’t miss is the love locks and headphones attached to the bridge by visitors and (possibly locals) which apparently is a real problem for those who are responsible for the maintenance.
Our hotel was a five minutes walk away from the foundations of where the Twin Towers once stood. The memorial consists of two enormous waterfalls pouring into the foundations with the names of the victims cut into a metal rim around them. The 9/11 Memorial I thought was beautifully made to remember the thousands of people tragically killed in the attacks and those who died in the World Trade Centre bombing in 1993. Deeply moving standing there at the water’s edge, looking at a pool of water that is cascading into an abyss.
New York was made to be seen from up high in my view. No visit to New York City would be complete without a stop at this masterpiece of Art Deco design, and perhaps the most famous office building in the world. I have to say I preferred the Chrysler building and this was for me the most beautiful building in the City hands down and yet I don’t appear to have taken a photo of it. *slaps forehead* so the below photo is one I’ve grabbed off the web.
I did have a few moments thinking about the film King Kong and also Sleepless in Seattle (you know that final scene). But this was interrupted when I saw a romantic marriage proposal which was really sweet up on the 102nd floor. When the man went down on his knee I thought he’d dropped something and was looking for it so I very nearly went over to help, so glad I saw the box with the ring otherwise I would have ruined his perfect proposal! Mr M and I then chatted about our marriage proposal and how it didn’t quite go to plan…but never mind nearly 6 years on we are still very happy in love.
The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World has been a beacon in New York since 1886. The torch represents enlightenment and the way to freedom showing us the path to Liberty and the tablet she holds represents a book of law. A gift from the people of France, the Statue was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel symbolising freedom and democracy.
Located in midtown Manhattan at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, Times Square has often been referred to as the crossroads of the World. Full of bright lights and billboards, it also serves as the hub of the Theatre District. Naturally I compared it to London Piccadilly Square.
Hanging out with the locals
Grand Central Terminal is one of the oldest original pieces of architecture still standing in New York. This terminal is so pretty and even though I love St Pancras in London this terminal is simply stunning.
I love theatre nights in London so this was really a highlight for me. I was treated by Mr M to great seats watching Chicago which I really enjoyed even though I’m not a huge fan of musicals this one kept at a good pace and we even drank Malbec from toddler style non-spill beakers. The man sitting next to me was asleep all the way through but I thought Chicago was a fun show.
A Coconut and a Lychee Mojito.
Ever since visiting San Francisco in December 2015 fire escapes catch my eye wherever I go. In West Side story (I don’t really like musicals honest) the famous balcony scene took place on a fire escape and there are plenty of these in NYC.
Central Park is a great green space with loads on offer, I loved it and could see this would be the place I’d probably most visit if I lived in Manhattan. I did have a little someone on my mind. A few ice creams and lots of water later we left the park. I did have to stand in what seemed like a mile long queue for the Ladies ‘Rest Room’ whilst we watched the men go to the their side of the block watching us all unsympathetically. Why aren’t there more toilets available for women here and every where in the World!
So this adventure in NYC alone meant we walked 62,281 in 3 days and I did have some neck ache from constantly looking up at all the sky scrapers towering above me. On one of the days we had to run very fast to catch a river taxi back to the hotel and I seriously hadn’t run like that in a long time. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest and I couldn’t keep up with Mr M but fortunately we made it just in time. Just thinking about it gives me the sweats!
New York is an exhilarating metropolis. As Frank Sinatra sang ‘ If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere’ well I share the same sentiment about London!
When the subject of visiting my brother 6000 miles away in Orange County, California came up in 2014 I laughed hysterically and quickly dismissed the idea because the thought of taking baby Jay on a plane scared the living daylights out of me. I hadn’t seen my big brother for 5 years that’s pretty bad considering we get on very well. Then in October 2015 after some major arm and leg twisting the flights were booked. Jay’s Uncle Buck wanted to meet and hold his nephew rather than look at him via a 2-dimensional Skype format and wanted to show me his home I’d heard so much about.
I was excited about going to California (I would move out there if I could) but the anxiety of planning the whole trip was in full swing. That “I’ve got so much to do but don’t know where to start feeling.” This was going to be our first flight as a family of three and a direct flight time of 11 hours to Los Angeles not to mention the travel time in between. Our outbound flight was was one of the hardest things I’ve done, FACT. Jay cried right on take off and this continued for 3 hours. Although I’ve been getting better at not getting flustered in tense situations I was tested to the max. I kept it together for a bit but then sort of fell apart and the mummy tears flowed. Mr M was calm and seemed to be the stronger force but I found it hard seeing young Jay in distress. I knew it was tough going for us as well as the passengers lucky enough to sit next to us. I thought we were going to be asked to leave the plane via parachutes. You may have heard about the John Lewis Tantrum – Gate well it was sort of like that. BUT the passengers looked at me sympathetically. I still felt awful. To make matters worse Jay was a little sick at one point but thankfully his beloved blanket was saved otherwise it would have been game over. The relief to come off that plane in Los Angeles was immense but then it was a long hour standing in the queue for US Immigration and Customs. By the time I walked through those arrival doors and saw my brother’s face I was a blubbering mess. A reunion etched in my mind forever.
I should say the return flight home went perfectly praise the Lord! but I had prepared much better. Jay was no trouble whatsoever and was a happy boy a complete contrast to the horrors we had previously experienced. Mr M and I even managed to watch some inflight entertainment together drinking plastic cups of vino. Not sure how many.
So how do you stay trapped in an aluminum canister with your sanity intact?
Preparation in advance is paramount. Of course some things do happen out of your control like flight delays and sickness but if you sit down some weeks before your trip and start writing little reminders this will make life a tad easier. I think it’s important to write down or store the details of where you are travelling to as in the flight number, addresses, contact numbers at hand in the event you are required to fill out the visa entry forms. Plus keeping the essential items at hand before they are stowed in the overhead locker. There are plenty of other things you can do.
Check with your Airline before you travel
Go to the airline website and take 5 mins to read their information. An example is checking stroller requirements and the types you can take on board due to limited space. Each airline will have different specifications so best to avoid any unnecessary hassle or you may be asked to check the item in. As you come off the plane always check with staff where you can collect your stroller, buggy as I nearly forgot mine!
It’s quite a challenge in the tiny toilet space under fluorescent lights, praying for 3 minutes free from turbulence. I was thankful there wasn’t a nappy poonami to deal with during both flights but that was just luck I think! I kept the nappies, wipes, and cream in a separate bag under the seat. Usually trying to dress Jay is like battling with octopus legs but both Mr M and I managed to get through the nappy changes with little fuss. I did see a flight attendant help a lady who was struggling so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also pack a lot more nappies than you’re likely to need.
Don’t do what I did which was ask for a Bayonet when booking the flights over the phone! totally different item Bella (*slap on head*) but it did make the woman on the other end of the line literally LAUGH OUT LOUD. The bassinet will clip into the wall in front of the bulkhead seats (those with a wall in front of them rather than another row of seats), but the cabin crew won’t be able to install it for you after take-off until the seatbelt sign goes off, for safety reasons. The bassinet is designed for infants up to 8 months old (and weighing a maximum of 11.8kgs/26lbs). Jay’s quite a long toddler and seemed to be ok other than the problem of his feet sticking out of the end but it was still comfy for him as he managed to sleep well. If the infant is more than 11.8kgs/26lbs or older than 8 months at the time of travel, they may not be able to use the bassinet and you may be moved to allow a suitably aged infant to use the bassinet. The bassinet was great for us as it meant we could put Jay in there for his sleep rather than in our arms. The photo is blurry which is when I also realised my iPhone camera wasn’t working – it wasn’t a good day.
Pack carrier / zip lock style bags
Ziplock bags and taking extra carrier bags in general are useful for your hand luggage too. Bear in mind you will have to put all liquids over 100ml into a clear bag at security so check nothing like that is left in your hand luggage to avoid further delay. You may want to keep all medication together like calpol, sachets etc in a clear bag.
Change of Clothes
Absolutely mandatory in my opinion as accidents do happen. A change of clothing is essential not just for baby/toddler but also for you. A mum who was traveling from London to Auckland sitting a few rows behind us was dealing with her sick 13 month old and she didn’t have a change of clothing after her son threw up on her. I offered a t-shirt but it was too small. She ended up wearing her husband’s shirt. Not sure what he ended up wearing! I took 3 muslin cloths too which were very necessary in our case. As we were taking a late afternoon flight to Los Angeles I changed Jay into his pyjamas before boarding the plane and also took additional warm clothing as it can get a bit chilly with the aircon.
Sods law my bag was selected to be open and all food was then meticulously inspected. Fair enough that’s part of the security process but it did cut into my ‘let’s sit down and relax time.’ Remember to check you have sealed food pouches. You can actually pre-order baby/toddler food to collect at the airport in places like Boots The Chemist for instance. I didn’t do this because I had already purchased mine. I did take a sealed tin of formula which I then opened on the plane. I packed plenty of biscuits, snacks and crisps. I fed Jay his dinner before we got on the plane and attempted to give him his milk feed on the plane which didn’t work well as he was distracted by all that was happening around him. I’m sure that is not the case for all children and breast feeding and bottlefeeding your baby on take-off may soothe them and prevent ear pain. Sugar-free lollipops are good for older toddlers. Check your meal requirements with your travel agent at the time of booking or at least 24 hours prior to your departure. Jay did eat from our meals and didn’t go for his child’s meal. Where possible, the cabin crew serve children’s meals before serving adults, so you can feed your child before relaxing and enjoying your own. I would also remind the staff that you have a child meal ordered as they can often miss it. They can also provide warm water to make milk feeds as and when you need it.
Never underestimate the power of a new toy. I bought a couple of new distractions presented to Jay which worked wonders. I didn’t bring out all the toys at once but timed it. Sticker books, and a no mess colouring book with a water pen were a hit. We avoided toys which had lots of pieces. Of course the Electronic babysitter our iNanny aka iPad was taking care of Jay and we stocked up big time downloading games, CBeebies episodes on the iplayer as well as YouTube vids prior to flying. Give yourself some time to do this don’t think it will all happen quickly. Just make sure it’s charged! We used an App called Downloads Lite to help make the process easier. The area at the back of the plane was made use of where the air stewards let Jay play and helped pass some of the time.
Kids Activity Packs
Some Airlines have Kids packs available to keep the little ones occupied and some go even further like Etihad Airways which has a dedicated sky-nanny/nursery on board for some flights, great if you can get them!
Switch to Local Time
Nothing worse than having a baby/toddler with you who wants to sleep all day and play all night because their time zones are messed up. We changed our watched to the local time straight away unless you are only travelling with an hour or so difference.
I hope these survival tips help to make your flight just that little bit easier. Mentally prepare yourself before you go. It will be long, it will be tiring, they might not sleep. I know I didn’t. Yes it is a pain when the ‘put on your seat belt’ sign is switched on frequently and you have a toddler wanting to jump off your lap and run like a loony down the aisle.
Long hideous flights, like labour, will eventually be over too.
Good luck if you are travelling with your little humans soon!