15 September 2017

How to spend a family weekend in Winchester

We very much enjoyed our recent weekend family trip to Winchester. One of my recent travel pledges has been to go and visit places outside London too. Whilst we enjoy exploring the nation's capital, there are so many fabulous places to see outside the Big Ol'Smoke too, and I have been itching to go and see them. When we were invited to visit Winchester as part of the Creative Winchester campaign I was more than excited. Within this post I'll tell you all about what we experienced and how we found Winchester, and add some top tips for families too. 

Please note, this post is written in collaboration with Visit Winchester. 

flowers in winchester park

How to spend a weekend in Winchester with kids - ideas for a family weekend!

winchester riverside

girl winking

winchester river


I loved walking around Winchester. The town is seriously picturesque, packed with historical tit-bits. It was by far the most important cities medieval England had and the closest thing to a capital. Winchester also housed the then richest man in the country, the Bishop of Winchester. You can still walk amongst the ruins of the old bishop's palace, Wolvesey Castle, where Mary Tudor had her lavish wedding reception after being married in the Winchester Cathedral

More modern times have seen the Cathedral as the final resting place for Jane Austen, just a stone throw away from her the last house she lived in. Nowadays Winchester is the watercress capital of England, thanks to the chalky, watercress-friendly river that runs through it. They even host a Watercress Festival every May. Incidentally, one of the most pleasant walks in Winchester must be the riverfront, lushiously green plants lining the clear waters. On your walk you can also spot a section of the old Roman Wall. It is pretty crazy to think how much history this tiny town packs in itself.

The modern town is quaint as well, with pretty alleyways, and very very nice shopping facilities indeed, with a rather nice-looking high street with the more upmarket shops as well as independent retailers. There were many rather tempting looking shops we didn't have time to pop by, fortunately for the benefit of my wallet.

wolvesey castle ruins

winchester new bishops palace with warped windows

winchester gate

mum and daughter in winchester

oldest part of winchester - yellow middle-ages houses

winchester cathedral on a cloudy day

purple flowers and winchester street


We got to experience some of the best bits of Winchester, so here are the highlights and my recommendations for when you visit there. 

Where to eat:

Winchester hosts many nice restaurants, from celebrity-chef led places to real local delights. For a lunch or a coffee stop our tour guide recommended Chococo, a perfect place to enjoy a sweet treat, and Cathedral Refectory, a popular lunch stop right near the Cathedral.

We can also definitely recommend Kyoto Kitchen, a contemporary Japanese restaurant much-loved by Winchester locals, for either lunch or dinner. First, I have to say, I've lived in Japan and I have worked in Japanese restaurants, so I know my sashimi so to speak. Kyoto Kitchen was hands down the best Japanese food I have had. The food was very Japanese, but with a contemporary edge to it and a dash of fine dining and a sprinkle of experimentalism, and it was just the most delectable combination.

We got to sample a huge selection of the menu and everything was top quality. The more adventurous starters must have been the beef tataki, a sort of a seared beef carpaccio with it's citrusy ponzu sauce, and the homemade chilli sauce with the deep fried squid. As for sushi and sashimi, the cherrywood smoked salmon sashimi and the Winchester Roll, rolled in locally grown wasabi leaf, were real highlights. The latter was a delicious mix of seaweediness of the wasabi leaf, saltiness of smoked trout and sweetness of the mango sauce. My husband on the other hand raved about the Tuna Tartare, with it's barbeque-like spiciness giving the dish a real kick. For mains we had salmon and seabass - both gorgeously prepared, with traditional Japanese flavours such as miso and ginger done in a fresh way. My fussy daughter on the other hand was very taken by the ebi tempura (deep fried king prawn) and ika kara-age (deep fried squid) - apparently the owner's young children fans of these dishes too, alongside the edamame beans.

As Kyoto Kitchen is a small restaurant, table reservation is recommended, especially during weekend evenings. They are welcoming to families and high chairs should be available too, although as it leans on the finer dining side lunch is probably better if you have a rowdy kid in tow!


street in winchester

kyoto kitchen in winchester shop front

japanese gyoza dumplings

japanese beef carpaccio dish

sushi dishes in kyoto kitchen

grating fresh wasabi

miso-covered salmon at kyoto kitchen



What to do as a family:

The town is a beautiful place to walk around. The riverside is a must visit, and the Roman Wall adds a bit of a history to it. The Winchester Cathedral and Wolvesey Castle are the two main historical features worth seeing in minimum. Wolvesey Castle, or the old bishop's palace, is now in ruins having been destroyed in the 17th century. The new bishop's palace was built right next to it, but unfortunately partly on the old moat and one wing had to be completely removed due to structural damage. When walking past the new bishop's palace check for warped windows which are still visible! Other than the historical sights, just walking around the pretty town is a nice way to pass time, and checking out the shopping too. 

A bit outside the town is the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, which houses a huge amount of science-related activities for kids. You best drive up there or take the bus, as it isn't walking distance away. It caters for all ages, although older children will get more out of the science experiments. As an adult I found quite fun, and enjoyed trying wheelchair basketball and brainwave games, and I think older children would love the centre. Our four year old found many fun things to do too. The small outdoors play area and the inside soft play area will help in entertaining the littlest ones of the family. The planetarium hosts different shows during the day, so check the age recommendations and timings before getting there if you are keen on seeing one. There is a small cafe so you can spend all day there if you wish, although I'd stay clear of the machine-made coffee.

animal xrays in science centre

science centre from inside

girl standing on a podium in science centre
  

Marwell Zoo is another place to visit close-by to Winchester, and warrants at minimum four hours. I would make it a day trip really. Marwell Zoo is described as a walking safari, and that is what it certainly felt like. In many places you came unbelievably close to the animals, with either just the moats or a fence separating you. You felt you were really in their presence. I was especially impressed by seeing the tigers pacing past just a few meters from us and seeing the rhinos walking on the grassy fields maybe ten meters away. It was incredible. In many instances the views to animals were uninhibited by glass or wire, and you felt like you really were on a safari. We saw many animals we had never seen before, such as snow leopards and rhinos, which was quite special.  

There was also a land train with stops across the zoo which is useful with smaller children or if you don't want to walk too much, and a 15 minute rail train too, likely to appeal to the younger ones. There were several outdoor play areas for kids of different ages too, so the kids get to let off steam between checking out the animals. Many families bring in picnics as there are several good places to set yourself up dotted across the park, but you can eat at the park too, and the food is what you would expect - sandwiches, burgers, and so on on the slightly pricier side. We ended up skipping lunch as we had had a huge hotel breakfast and couldn't stomach the idea of even more food and opted for coffees - decent-quality and very well needed by the afternoon!


tiger walking past a dad and daughter

an emu at marwell zoo

mum and daughter looking at birds at marwell zoo

land train at marwell zoo

mum and daughter looking at each other

keeper at marwell zoo feeding meerkat

meerkat standing at marwell zoo

dad and daughter looking at animals

marwell zoo signposts

rhino in marwell zoo

mum and daughter pointing at rhinos at marwell zoo

mum an daughter watching rhinos at a zoo


Where to sleep:

And speaking of breakfast, it brings me to where we stayed over the weekend. We slept at the Holiday Inn Winchester which is located almost next to Winchester Science Centre. As usual for our experience of Holiday Inn locations, this was a pleasant stay with comfortable and neat rooms, good breakfast with all the possible continental and English breakfast options available. We also rather enjoyed the good selection of channels in the rooms and relaxed a bit by watching the toons with the little missy. The added good thing about Holiday Inn Winchester was also that they have a Kids Stay and Eat Free deal going on, where kids under 17 stay for free if sharing with parents, and kids under 12 eat for free with their parents - making family travel a tad bit more budget friendly. The hotel lobby was rather grand looking, and we spotted a wedding going around there too!

a mirror and a picture of a hotel room

holiday inn winchester room

a wedding couple at holiday inn reception


Overall, we had a fantastic time in Winchester, with our four year old exclaiming "I love Winchester!". We very much enjoyed it, and had a blast. There was lots to see and lots to do as a family, and we would definitely recommend a visit to anyone. And it's just two hours drive away from London too!  


Top tips for families:

Have you visited Winchester? What would you recommend?


And don't forget to check my video from Winchester too :)







1 September 2017

How to make a paper zoo: easy origami animals for kids

Paper crafts are great crafts to make with kids, cheap, easy and disposable. For this craft I have selected several easy animal origami patterns, which make for a perfect little paper zoo - imaginative, and fun to play with. I had great fun making these, and my daughter loved playing with them. The first few patterns I'm sharing are very very easy that can be done by young kids with minimal parental assistance. The rest of the patters are classed as easy, but a few were tricky for an origami novice like myself thus best left for older children or adults.

Please note, this post is written in collaboration with The Works

little girl with a paper zoo

little girl playing with jumping origami frog

Easy origami ideas for kids - how to make a paper zoo


I checked The Works for supplies for origami and found lots to choose from - from books on origami to stacks of origami paper. Origami paper is quite thin so folding it is easier, but you could just use normal white paper too. With white paper you can then ask your kids to colour in the animals and draw them faces. We used normal coloured paper as we wanted to have a nice and bright zoo. You can find both white and coloured papers on The Works too.

If you are using normal A4 or A5 sheets the only thing you need to do is to is cut them in squares. A simplistic tip perhaps, but I do this by folding the upper corner to the opposite edge, so the paper looks like a straight-edged triangle sitting on top of a rectangle on the bottom. Then just cut away the rectangle!

The easiest animal origami patterns are probably these bunny, bear and cat heads - these are very very easy and totally appropriate for kids. They will enjoy drawing faces on them too. These were my daughter's favourites and she adored drawing them little faces, complete with mouths and beautiful eye lashes.


showing easy animal face origami

butterfly origami

mum and daughter flying paper origami birds

mum and daughter playing with origami


You could also have some flying creatures in your zoo. These twirling birdies can be thrown like a paper aeroplane too and they will twirl to ground. Swanspelicans and bats are fairly simple and suitable for older kids. For adults these little budgie birdies and butterflies make a good challenge. As for land-dwelling animals, some ideas could be elephants, dogs, horses, foxes and penguins

Possibly the most fun are these little amphibians though - jumping frogs. There are two different designs you can use (these jumping frogs and these jumping frogs are particularly good), but both are pretty complex and suitable for older children really. Younger children will love to make them jump though and you could even have a race with them.



smiling girl playing with origami



And if you want - you could easily make this paper zoo into a Noah's Ark too. All you need to do is to fold a great big boat and if you are feeling brave enough, set it in the bathtub too!


What did you think of this paper zoo? Which one of the animals would you do?





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