LIVERPOOL.

This is the first time that I’d EVER been so far north and oh boy was I excited. As always, Sanaa and I were off on our jollies with our sturdy 4×4 (Bugaboo Cameleon). The destination was Liverpool; I don’t know if it was just the idea of new accents or going somewhere well known for their regional identity, but despite the gloomy morning, I was very optimistic for the day.

Brixton is my home underground station and we needed to get the Victoria line straight to Euston to get a Virgin Train to Liverpool Lime Street station, which is the closest to their town centre. All the stations had step free access, thank god, and it made the journey so much easier. Virgin trains are plush compared to all the other railway networks we’ve been on this summer. My advice is that you try and reserve a seat beforehand, as most people do, and you can also reserve the wheelchair space (there’s 4 in each carriage). The staff were so attentive, polite and friendly and there’s a shop in the middle of the train which has teas, coffee and light refreshments. Also, they have nice loos which, trust me, is unusual for a train. Anyway, this piece is about the city of Liverpool, not the fancy train we took.

Lime Street Station was super easy to navigate and built on a hill so as soon as you walk out you can see the bus station and one of the shopping centres. As soon as we started to walk around one of the first things I noticed was the architecture. It was all very grand, stone buildings and my guess is that they were mostly built in the Georgian and Victorian era.

I decided to just go for a walk which is not typical of my usual day trips and here’s what I found: the people of Liverpool are so welcoming. Everyone calls you ‘love’ and asks what you think of the town and if you like it.

Everything is cheaper than its London equivalent, that includes big stores and supermarkets. However, although it may seem unfair, I suspect it has something to do with the living standards in Liverpool being lower than the capital in general.They are incredibly baby friendly as a city and everything is very accessible but that’s also because everyone has a baby and if, like me, you watch the new season of One Born Every Minute then you can see why.

Finally, I have one word, glamour! My gosh were they dressed to the nines, there were no special events or anything. But, the Liverpudlian lot looked so glamorous and every street corner had an ad for brows or other cosmetics.

In the middle of Liverpool there’s a huge shopping street also they have a Liverpool 1 shopping complex with a cinema and lots of places to eat. This is where Sans and I stopped for lunch in Pizza hut with the kindest waitress who loved to see babies and spoilt her rotten while I ate. Liverpool1 also have around 8 fully working and tuned pianos with money buckets attached, I thought it was such a nice touch as it encourages people to busk and listen to some live music. It’s also a good and subtle nod to the city’s musical heritage. Behind the shopping area was my personal highlight of the day, Albert Dock.

Albert Dock

Albert Dock photo courtesy of visitliverpool.com

mattel play

Mattel Play! photo courtesy of liverpoolecho.co.uk

liverpool 1 piano

Liverpool1 Piano photo courtesy of liverpool-one.com

Made up of a few independent shops, a Mattel play and many of the national Liverpool museums. I went into the Merseyside Maritime museum which is home to many exhibitions and on the 3rd floor it has the International Museum of Slavery. I found the museum fantastic, the transatlantic slave trade is always a subject that can cause discomfort for descendants of both sides of the tale but I feel that the story was told truthfully, accurately and most of all, sensitively. It also explored what Africa had been like prior to colonisation as well as the long-lasting effects of what slavery had caused, and the diaspora it created. Entry to the museum was free, it had lifts and a cafe, too. I would recommend going to have a look but if you’d rather something else all national Liverpool museums are free and there are some paid ones too, such as Tate Liverpool.

My last stop was Mattel Play! there are only 2 in the world and I didn’t have much time before we had to catch our train home. Bless them. I was asking so many questions they just gave us (me) a tour. It’s a play zone for kids with no upper age limit they only have themes which include male and female characters to make it feel inclusive. They do supervised autism sessions so carers can have an hour or two to relax and have a cuppa if need be. Mattel Play! also do kids parties and have buggy parks, a lift and lockers. In short, they’ve got it all covered.

Then we had a mad dash to the station to catch the train home. I absolutely loved Liverpool, I was way better than I had imagined and I’m going back again soon because I barely scratched the surface. The city has over 25000 acres of parks alone and I didn’t make it to one. So of course, Sefton Park will be my first stop next time. Thanks for having us Liverpool, the pleasure was all mine.

NEXT STOP: Wilderness Festival 

BBB Travels are independent reviews by booksbabyandback.com

CAMBRIDGE.

On Wednesday we went to Cambridge, the famous university town. As always Sanaa’s trusty 4×4 (bugaboo cameleon 2nd gen) came with us. Cambridge’s reputation precedes it so I had high hopes.

The journey was so fast and straight forward it’s a wonder it’s taken me so long to go. From Brixton underground, we caught the tube to Kings Cross and from there we could get a fast train to Cambridge. It was a Great Northern train that got us there, I’ve never been on one before but they’re quite nice. The pushchair space also doubles up as wheelchair space too (only downside it’s next to the loos, they’ve got a baby change in them which sort of makes up for it) and can accommodate 3 pushchairs so a fun day out with friends and babies is easily obtainable. All together in less than an hour and 30 minutes we were at Cambridge station. All 3 stations had street to platform step free access, wahey that’s a first!

I had a browse around online for points of interest and things I might like to see but I didn’t really do much planning, so instead of heading somewhere straight away I decided to go for a walk. There were street signs pointing towards the university buildings and town centre so I just headed in that direction. About a 5 minute walk down the road and we came to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. It £5.50 for adults £4.95 for concessions and under 16’s go free. As you can imagine there was a plethora of greenery. The fountain is a good place to remember because no matter how lost you get if you head back to it, you know the exits aren’t far. My top pick would have to be the Glasshouse Range, which are essentially deluxe open greenhouses. Each one comprised of micro plant ecosystems from around the world, it’s a sight to see! I’d say in hindsight, the botanic garden could have been my favourite part of the day but we got attacked by swarms of thunder flies, obviously it’s unavoidable; certainly it didn’t help that the 4×4 is so colourful I think the whole colony showed up.

Straight up the road with some local directions and the odd road closed due to works is the Fitzwilliam museum. My description of the Fitzwilliam museum is: if the British Museum had a younger sister which solely focused on the Old World it would be this place. There were loads of artefacts and collections, they allow photography if there’s no flash. The free entry is a bonus also they have different play packs to keep little ones occupied. For babies, they had a sensory mat with blocks and different textures. The guy at the front desk said we could use it anywhere, including near the open exhibitions it was nice to be in such a relaxed environment and Sans loved playing too. Alongside their constant installations they also have a few temporary exhibitions currently there are two to mark the 70th anniversary of Indian independence. For more information, you can find their website here.

After we left the museum Sans was fast asleep so I went for a stroll and ended up outside Kings College. It’s open to visitors for around £6 but if you don’t fancy paying most of the other colleges are free just check if they’re open for visiting the day you want to go. I can see why Kings charges for entry though, the architecture is so detailed and grandiose it almost has a magical feel to it. Coincidentally it was graduation day so all the students were walking out in their distinctive Cambridge university robes.

As Cambridge is quite small and everything is within walking distance there were only two things left to do on my list. A good friend of mine told me to go to Fitzbillies, a world-renowned bakery that’s been a staple in Cambridge since its doors opened nearly 100 years ago in 1921. They’re mostly well recognised for their Chelsea buns which have a distinctive syrup glaze. Of course, I had to try one and yep they’re as good as they sound! The decor of the whole shop feels like you’ve gone back in time its been preserved well. Fitzbillies also sell other cakes, sweet treats and have a full menu and an adjoining sandwich shop.

No more than 3 minutes walk west of the shop is the River Cam, where we were had a clear view of the Mathematical Bridge in Queens College and people punting along the river. I’m still not sure what you call the people who row the boats, in my opinion it makes sense to call them punters but apparently that’s not the correct term. So anyway, I’d have loved to take Sans on the river but the 4×4 simply wouldn’t make it on the boat.

Cambridge is a nice place and I did enjoy our time there however I found it slightly boring in comparison to my expectations. Possibly because Sanaa isn’t walking yet so most of the “attractions” had an understated effect. In addition, the pavements were mostly cobbled and narrow so getting around proved testing at times. Unless your aim is to go and relax not explore, I’d recommend Cambridge as a visit from London but a whole day was far too much time. The quiet was welcome nonetheless, just past our buzzing city it’s pleasing to know peace is near.

There aren’t any photos this trip because I forgot my camera and only had my phone which took DREADFUL pics.

NEXT STOP: Liverpool 

BBB Travels are independent reviews by booksbabyandback.com

BRIGHTON.

I know every single Londoner at some point does a day trip to the seaside which is usually Brighton. Believe it or not, I’ve never done one so naturally when I was deciding all the places to add to my BBB Travel list Brighton was at the top. With our 4×4 (bugaboo cameleon 2nd gen) Sanaa and I were ready for our next destination.

It was a small family trip this time, my mums birthday was the day after I had planned to go to Brighton and she had already said she wanted to come. I went over the day prior to book train tickets and be that extra bit organised. This isn’t necessary though you can easily turn up and buy a ticket at the station.
On Thursday morning, we met at Brixton station which has street to platform step free access and caught the tube to London Bridge which also has step free access platform to street. London Bridge station is currently undergoing a huge renovation so there’s a tunnel which is also about a 5 minute walk linking the National Rail platforms to the tube. The train we were catching was direct but you can also get direct trains from East Croydon and London Victoria, from anywhere in this amazing city it shouldn’t take more than 1hr 30 mins. Southern trains do have multipurpose space for pushchairs wheelchairs and bicycles but they’re a lot narrower and there’s only space for 1 in each carriage.

When we got into Brighton I was pleasantly surprised to see that the platform was level to the street and there was no need to call a taxi as the rank was outside. The best bit is that they had EVERY size car from saloon to minivans with ramps and all the accessibility bells and whistles, so I didn’t even need to break down the 4×4.
Our first stop was the Royal Pavilion (20-30 mins walk or 8 minute ride from the station). I bought the tickets and also cream tea online but they can be bought at the reception desk. Hand on heart I can say I’ve never seen such an aesthetically beautiful building from the 19th century, set out across 2 floors. The Pavilion was amazing well preserved you’d be shocked at how small the beds were and how big the kitchens were too. I would recommend the audio tour which isn’t usually something I would go for but I will say it did enhance the tour of the property especially as there aren’t guides for individual groups. Most artefacts were originals and of course all the decorations were grandiose and super colourful, there was a strong eastern influence (oriental interior/Indian exterior) consistent throughout. My description by no means does it justice and no pictures are allowed to be taken anywhere inside, they’re pretty strict about it too. Good news is that the restaurant where we had cream tea (scrumptious) has a terrace which overlooks the entrance and grounds where you can sit out but also take pictures, hooray!

As many good features as the Pavilion had, here’s a few bits and bobs I could have done without. Firstly, there is only one baby changing facility in the entire building, in addition to this in terms of accessibility and pushchairs it’s pretty pants there are no lift or escalators. There is a good reason though the building is grade 1 listed so no changes are permitted internally or externally unless they’re absolutely necessary. The Royal Pavilion does have a buggy park and a heap of really helpful staff who are always nearby. Overall, I would visit again when Sanaa is older, I think it’s a fantastic place for a toddler or older child to learn from and explore.

After we left the Pavilion we walked down to the beach which took around 10 minutes but we were strolling. It was such a nice sunny day and slightly busy too, compared to London I’d say nothing is ever too busy though. Right off the road was the famous Brighton Pier who knew it was so massive ; which has every single arcade game you could ever think of. It gives you a great sense of nostalgia and hours alone could be spent there. At the very end, there are some rides and rollercoasters overlooking the sea depending on how adventurous you are. We had fish and chips for lunch at the beach from a place called Seasiders it was way more food than I could eat, reasonably priced and tasty and fresh. Meanwhile, after much tugging and pushing (no not my labour) with the 4×4 Sanaa sat in her bassinet and had a whiff of the sea air then fell asleep while her gran and I had lunch. After a fun day out it was back home to London.

NEXT STOP: Cambridge

BBB Travels are independent reviews by booksbabyandback.com

COBHAM.

This is my first of many day trips from London with Sanaa and our trusty pushchair a 2nd Gen Bugaboo Cameleon A.K.A The 4X4 and Sanaa is still in her bassinet.

Scrolling through Instagram as you do I saw an event in Surrey  for the day after and decided on a whim to go.

Just past Kingston there’s a quaint little village called Cobham. I’d heard of it on the train into uni many times but never actually been. I knew the risk of things going wrong such as getting lost or forgetting crucial baby gear (which by the way is worse), so as preparation I did a google search about it and where it was. Its best known for being the home of the Chelsea FC training ground and having lots of walking trails river side and woodland alike.

From Brixton to the Medicine Garden (in Cobham) I would need to take the tube a train and a taxi. Brixton and Vauxhall both have step free access platform to street. The trains were South West at both ends and the middle carriage of the train have a multipurpose space for pushchairs , wheelchairs and bicycles, there’s two in each in case you’re going with someone else.

 From Vauxhall I took a direct train to Guilford, 10.50 and 34 minutes later I got off at the tiny Cobham and Stoke d’Abernon station.

Here’s where it gets slightly tricky, in order to leave the station I needed to go up and down two flights of stairs as well as across a foot bridge, back to London the platform is next to the street and all flat. For around 2 minutes I thought about trying to lug the 4×4 up the stairs by myself then I saw a caretaker and I shamelessly asked him to help me. Bless him he just did it for me. Never underestimate the generosity of strangers and remember to smile.

Outside of the station is a local taxi firm I had already called them to make sure there was a car available that was also big enough but you can also turn up. The catch is I wasn’t in London and they didn’t card so much for averting the risks. After a bit of to and fro a guy in the taxi  office let me know there was a cashpoint nearby so off I went and by the time I got back the car was waiting. The drivers. were so lovely and helpful overall.

When I arrived at The Medicine Garden I immediately noticed how serene it felt and looked, it’s a walled garden and creative space. Boasting free entry they sell crafts, have an open air cinema, do fitness classes and have spa treatments. There’s something for everyone, the venue is so perfect for the summertime especially with two on site cafes you needn’t leave (I didn’t try anything but will next time). There are baby changing facilities in the loos. The event I went to was actually for mums its called Mothers Meeting and thank god they had blankets because I honestly didn’t even think of bringing one, even if there wasn’t a reason I’d visit these gardens again for sure.

pictures courtesy of The Medicine Garden

Sanaa and I went for lunch on the high street (I like saying that it makes me sound less of a loner haha) after we left it had all the usual shops and restaurants so we ended up in Pizza Express. Which was very quiet there were 3 tables including us, when does that happen at lunchtime in London ?!? The staff were professional, friendly and didn’t mind Sanaa’s enactment of a roaring lion.

The journey home we were both a bit knackered from our mini adventure. It’s safe to say I’ll be back Cobham for this city girl it was a great slice of suburban life.

NEXT STOP: Brighton

BBB Travels are independent reviews by booksbabyandback.com