‘What do you call a sheep on a trampoline?’ asked the radio presenter as I tuned into a morning show – with 600 licensed stations in the country, EVERYONE in the UK listens to the radio. ‘A woollen jumper’ she revealed, and I chuckled – clearly we were both blessed with an 8-year old’s sense of humour. The silly pun lead me to Google, and I stumbled upon London’s first trampoline park, Oxygen Freejumping, situated in West Acton, in the borough of Ealing. An indoor space, it is open to everyone above the age of five, (there are special sessions for those under five), including your ‘105-year old grandma’, as mentioned on the official website. Here, you can take classes in trampoline jumping, play dodge ball on trampolines, book a family bounce session and more. As a treasure trove of useless information, I can tell you that research proves that working a trampoline for 10 minutes has the same health benefits as running for 30 minutes.
Jump-start your day
However, if you’d rather jump-start the day with a sugar rush, head to Choccywoccydoodah, on Carnaby Street. The store name, unsurprisingly, was the result of a drunken-spree. The two partners, both conveniently named Christine, had no certified training in chocolate or cake-making; they simply had a sweet tooth. One night, over one too many glasses of wine, they came up with the odd, yet unforgettable name. The naturally talented Christines soon became one of the most sought after chocolatiers in London. Today, they have an impressive list of clients, which includes the likes of Johnny Depp, Madonna and Kylie Minogue.
The store feels like you’ve walked through the magical cupboard in Narnia, to discover a whole new world – it’s a room painted in cheery colours, filled with sinful chocolate, whose sweet smell hits your nostrils like a (gentle) uppercut. I chanced upon chocolate hearts and lips, a Ganpati bappa crafted out of chocolate and cake and even an edible sculpture of David. Don’t miss the cosy cafe upstairs, where you can stuff yourself and wash it all down with a steaming cup of cocoa. You’ll be glad you decided to give the traditional English breakfast a miss.
Fancy a play-date?
Hamleys is an institution that’s part of every Brit’s life. It’s the oldest toy store in the world, with the brand dating back to 1760, and a place packed with wide-eyed adults and their offspring in tow. Today, it stocks everything from classic wooden toys to battery-operated flying machines. If you’re looking to make the trip particularly memorable for your kids, book the entire store exclusively for yourselves. Imagine – just you and your kids running wild through the multi-storied shop, before opening hours. Childhood fantasies can come true, sometimes.]
Be an East Ender
The district of Shoreditch and its surroundings are where the hipsters, the artists and the cool kids hang out, but the east didn’t always define cool; in fact, some historians believe that ‘Shoreditch’ morphed from ‘Sewer’s ditch’, due to the drains in this once boggy area. A predominantly working class area, by the mid 1900’s, the district and its outskirts became populated by struggling immigrants – and Bengali-speakers have left their mark in the form of street names in their mother tongue. The gentrification took place around 1996, and Shoreditch was cleaned up, but thankfully not too much – there’s still some fantastic graffiti lining the walls. The streets in and around Shoreditch still sport several popular pubs, but the crowds are drawn here by the quirky independent boutiques – I step into a store where a tutu doubles up as a lampshade. This is Rockit, a vintage clothing store that has dressed up the likes of Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse. The peculiarly named ‘Son of a stag’ stocks vintage denim for men, including rare Japanese brands; Modern Society, a luxury general store, stocks everything from candelabras to knitted sweaters, sourced from across the globe.
Eat that, fashionistas
I ate a Louis Vuitton bag. Before you raise an eyebrow, at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, you can also bite into a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, or munch on a Burberry trench coat. The afternoon tea service here comes with a fashionable twist, and is aptly named Prêt-à-Portea. The latest must-haves off the ramps of London are created out of cake and cookie dough, while colourful icing adds the finishing touches to the miniatures. They taste as good as they look, I assure you.
Play with your food
Museums can be staid places, but not so in London. The city has some of the oddest museums – the Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret, in Southwark, is the only 19th century operating theatre in all of England, and it sits inside the herb garret of St. Thomas’ Church. Here, you can learn about the history of surgery and come away shocked and/or surprised at the equipment used back in the day. Guided tours sometimes ask for volunteers, on whom mock surgeries are performed. Too scared? Then head to the garret to learn about herbal medicine. If you love comics, head to the Cartoon Museum, in Camden, for the best of British cartoons, comics, animation and caricature. Whether you love fans (yes, London has a Fan Museum, with hand-held fans dating back to the 11th century), or the silver screen (The Cinema Museum), this city has something to suit every taste.
‘Decorating Beyonce’s crown’, ‘Let’s get quizzical’ and ‘Quiz night’ are just some of the fun activities that have been held at ‘Drink, shop & do’, a restaurant, shop and activity centre in King’s Cross. I walk in and am handed a lump of clay, pictures of Dolly Parton, and the almost impossible talk of having to create her in play dough. The task keeps our little group busy over comfort food – delicious things on toast, where toppings range from avocados, jalapenos and pickled onions to sun-blushed tomato, tapenade and more. For those craving Asian food, there’s sweet potato and coconut curry, and there are fancy cocktails to sip on. If you’re wondering what the ‘shop’ in the title stands for, everything – from the cup you’re drinking from to the chair you’re sitting on – is for sale.
And then, it all goes down the drain
Step into a toilet for a night-cap, for a change, because several former public toilets across the city have been turned into bars, restaurants and cafes. While there are many crappers to choose from, these two stand out. ‘Ladies and Gents’ in Kentish Town, was until recently, a disused Victorian lavatory. Today, it’s the place to be seen on a Saturday night. There’s also the aptly titled ‘WC – Wine & Charcuterie’, at Clapham Common’s tube station. The underground wine-bar has maintained a hint of its former avatar in the form of mosaic flooring; cubicle doors were converted to table-tops. Don’t worry, the only smells that waft through the air are those of food and alcohol.