Hello from London: a Vlog with Aspiring Kennedy

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On a crisp, sunny, beautiful London day last December, I wandered around Kensington Palace and gardens with Lauren Bryan Knight, otherwise known as Aspiring Kennedy. We had lunch at The Orangery at Kensington Palace and ended with tea and scones at Candella. Pretty much the perfect day. And my sister, who now lives in London, joined us at the end! 

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I first met Lauren in London a few years ago, and she's one of those people that you instantly connect with. She also happens to be really funny, a mom to three adorable kids, and wife to her great husband Tyler. Lauren also really gets travel, and she takes her kids all over Europe. She's also what I consider to be a real influencer (#overusedannoyingword), because people trust her. I work in travel and media, and know hundreds of travel journalists and agents - and while many of them are awesome, I'd take Lauren's recommendations first. (If you're going to London, use her guide! I always do. And here's my England/London guide, just in case.) 

We went on a lovely walk and talked travel tips, with and without kids. Here is the full 14-minute chat! 

The Lakes District - Best Gingerbread In The World

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Last Christmas, I bought gingerbread from a shop in NYC and took it in to eat it while enjoying the Rockettes' Christmas Spectacular. It was the most disgusting hunk of cardboard and tasted like stale black licorice. I don't even like fresh black licorice.

At that very moment, someone in the charming little town of Grasmere, in the Lakes District of northern England was eating gingerbread heaven. But it wasn't until recently that I got to try it for myself.

I bow down to this fabulous lady named Sarah Nelson who started making this recipe in the 1850's. Today, it is made fresh every day, only in Grasmere. It is unlike any gingerbread you know - more like a soft cookie, with a crumbly sugary layer over the whole thing.

The tiny shop fits maybe 6 people - so you won't have a lot of room or time to browse.

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Inside the shopIt is addicting - we bought a couple pieces, went off for coffee and tea at Baldry's nearby and then went BACK for a 12-pack of gingerbread each. It lasts only a few days which is part of what makes it so special. It's best in Grasmere, eaten with a cup of tea, and will always remind you of the Lakes District.

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Pretty daffodils outside the churchyard where the shop isEntrance to shopA great place to have tea in Grasmere - Baldry'sTempting treats in Baldry's

The Lakes District - Castlerigg

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Castlerigg one of those places you'll stop at for half an hour, tops, no matter how interested in ancient stones you might be. The day we went the wind was whipping around angrily so we stopped for about seven minutes.

It's just a ten-minute car ride from Keswick, if you choose to base yourself there, like I did.

Still, it's a MUST see in the lakes district and even cooler than Stonehenge. Set against a dramatic, stunning, hilly backdrop, this stone circle is thought to date to 3000 BC. which makes it about 5,000 years old.

Read a bit of backgrounder here but otherwise, just enjoy wandering around something incomprehensibly old. It's a spectacular sight.

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The Lakes District - Eerie Buttermere

About 20 minutes from Keswick is Buttermere, winning the award for the eeriest moment of my trip. We were there in the off-season so everything was tinted grey and was windy. I chose to visit Buttermere because there is a flat, easy, four-mile walking loop around the lake that I knew my parents could do.

But when we got there, I snapped a few photos and was ready to head back to civilization. In the summer, I am sure it must be gorgeous. But it was JUST. SO. QUIET. Quiet is something I crave when I leave NYC but this was just a litttttle too quiet. I am happy we went and saw it though - it is really beautiful...with a definite "Land Before Time" vibe (Littlefoot!!). 

I did pick up my favorite souvenir from the trip thanks to the Buttermere jaunt - slate cheese boards from the Honister Slate Mine.

On the way to or from Buttermere from Keswick, you'll pass the mine, which offers daily tours and has quite a long history. Slate has been mined here for over 700 years in some capacity. We didn't have time to do that, but I loved the gift shop.

The Lakes District - Keswick, England

Keswick, Lakes DistrictAhhh, the Lakes District. After a recent visit, I fell in love like I knew I would - stunning natural beauty, clean air, beautiful lakes, great people (both locals and tons of visitors from all corners of England), hikes, and best of all...DOGS EVERYWHERE!

So much is written about southern England - London, Oxford, Cambridge, the Cotswolds, Bath, etc.. I had a tough time finding great intel about the Lakes District so I hope this helps you as you're planning.

We based ourselves in Keswick, which was the best choice after seeing all the other towns. I loved them but they can get very crowded. In Keswick, we were further from the main lures of the district like Beatrix Potter & William Wordsworth sites but it felt much more like an authentic, only in England feel. We met so many wonderful people here.

If you have very limited time, I'd recommend staying in Grasmere (The Red Lion has great deals) to be closer to all the sites. But I think 3-4 nights is really ideal to get a good handle on all the lakes and to feel the local rhythm.

In Keswick, Howe Keld is a dream B&B - great owners, fab breakfast (smoked salmon & scrambled eggs, local sausage, pancakes, etc), comfortable rooms, cozy beds, great value. I had a single room and my parents shared another room. I saw many of the more expensive hotels and I'd pick Howe Keld hands-down.

My room at Howe KeldOne of my favorite pubs I've found anywhere in the world was The Dog & Gun and we went every night. One couple had five border collies; another from Cambridge brought their dog eight weekends a year. We talked for a long time to Joe & Caroline, who had a white boxer and filled me in on their recent trip to Vietnam. Basically, EVERYONE we met was beyond friendly - exactly what you want in an English pub. Bonus: The food is great too! Nothing on the menu is fried but there are great soups, salads, and roasted deliciousness.

Outside The Dog & GunEvery time the door opened, I'd look to see what dog came inJust chillin' Nothing is very far in Keswick. A five-min walk leads you to the beautiful lake, Derwentwater, which I'm sure looks much different in the summer. There was something wonderfully atmospheric about being here in the off-season though.

With my dad at DerwentwaterThe town itself is cute but not overly so - it hasn't been taken over by shops only for the visiting hordes. I saw kids skipping home from school, moms shopping with their babies, friends strolling around with coffees. 

Keswick's main streetKeswickKeswick town from the park  I'd highly recommend Bel Cibo for dinner one night while you're in town - we couldn't get into the so-called "best" Italian restaurant, Casa Bella, but stumbled upon this place instead. LOVED IT - cozy, great eats, and we met the most wonderful couple at the table over. They warned us about our next destination, Haworth, and I am kicking myself for not listening to them - but more to come on that disastrous night.

Big smiles at Bel Cibo after pizza & pasta - of course! The Lakes District is a good five-hour car ride from London, but it goes by fast. You can take a train but you REALLY need a car when you're there.

If you're doing York, consider renting at Heathrow, driving to Lakes District, dropping car in York, then taking train back to London from there, which is what I did.

You will love it - I can't wait to go back!