Saturday, 15 August 2015

Pandas, Penguins and Ponchos at Edinburgh Zoo!

Visiting Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival is a great experience, but an even greater time to make the most of other fantastic attractions in the city, such as the fantastic Edinburgh Zoo and of course the famous pandas!


After squeezing up through the narrow stone staircases of the atmospheric Scott Monument on Princes Street for stunning views of the city (no queue, just £4, and free for kids), we made our way to the Zoo which celebrated its centenary in 2013!


The Scott Monument and Princes Gardens

On arrival, my 5 year old nephew Dylan was immediately enticed by the lovely (and very reasonably priced) gift shop, but settled on the agreement that we would have a look at the end.

We headed out with our little maps but the rain started, so to make sure the experience was not dampened we bought plastic ponchos from the gift shop. With our little poncho-wearing blue ghost companion, and our own bat-like outfits, my sister and I headed straight off to the penguins. I was amazed to see the various species co-habiting and the enormous size of the enclosure! Penguins everywhere; fluffy gentoo chicks standing huddled, large king penguins with their stunning black, white and yellow markings waddling over to nose at the people looking in on them, and rock-hoppers frolicking and diving in and out of the crystal clear water.





There are lots of great vantage points to see the penguins from, making it very easy to enjoy the 2.15 penguin parade no matter how busy. The parade is something the penguins are never forced to do of course, so it’s not guaranteed but even if they decide not to play, watching them being fed is enjoyable anyway.

When it was time to visit the pandas for our booked slot (free but no guaranteed sightings of course), we weren’t too hopeful due to the weather but it turns out the male panda Yang Guang actually likes the rain and generally being outdoors so we had great joy in seeing him enjoying his bamboo and had front-row views from the indoor viewing area to his ground foraging when he came very near! Yang Guang was enormous and looked so wonderfully fluffy and cuddly; I was amazed and awed to see a real panda in the flesh and did my best to instil this appreciation in my 5-year-old nephew, who thankfully was not more interested in the fire extinguishers this time, as has happened on previous occasions!




We made sure to visit the Asiatic lion where we could clearly see her perched proudly up high in the huge outdoors enclosure. As well as more expected exotic creatures, there are some wonderfully diverse and unusual species, some endangered, and all with such clear and interesting information displayed such as eating habits, and habitats.

The stunning and rare Scottish Wildcat was delight to see, not only because she looked almost exactly like our cat Poppy but a bigger version with an enormous tail! There are some great displays with information about the Scottish wildlife and the process of ‘rewilding’ to get the landscape influenced by native species other than humans again.

The monkey area is full of impressive and entertaining monkeys - of a range of species - and the indoor viewing areas are great for when it’s raining as the monkeys seemed to head indoors too!




Around the zoo there are great interactive and colourful displays with impressive facts for children, such as penguin breeds and sizes, and their various calls and meanings.




The zoo has a lovely layout with gardens and green areas, and the hills and slopes make for great views of the surrounding area as well as good exercise; especially important for me, currently being an expectant mother who is rapidly expanding!

Edinburgh Zoo is in Corstorphine just outside the city centre, and very easy to get to on the buses (£1.50 per journey for an adult). It is £4 to park if you arrive by car which often works out cheaper if you are in a group.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sky Garden: Free and Unusual Attraction in London with Amazing Views

Free Attraction in London - Garden in the Sky!

Free attractions london city sky garden at top of skyscraper


The best thing about the Sky Garden at Number 20 Fenchurch Street is not the fact that it is free, it is the views over the river and the city, and the beautifully maintained indoor garden. There is an excellent cafe / restaurant with a fantastic array of healthy and tasty choices (and the biggest cookies)! 

The area at the top of this new and futuristic building is spacious and enjoyable to walk around to appreciate the garden as well as the views over London from all angles - indoors and outdoors. The Tower Bridge, The Shard and other South Bank landmarks are clearly seen from the outdoors viewing platform and the views over other parts of London are equally stunning from other indoors areas in the large space which is helpfully made almost entirely of glass. 




To visit the Sky Garden and get your free tickets you need to register online in advance at the website. The nearest tube stations to 20 Fenchurh Street are Monument, Bank and Tower Gate and the building is easy to find - in the centre of the city area of London looming high over the surrounding buildings.

20 Fenchurch Street as seen from street


While you're in the area other exciting and unusual attractions in this area of London are Spittalfields Market for clothes, arts and crafts; the Borough Market famous for its extensive delicious and fresh selections of international food produce, and Cornhill and Leadenhall Market with their exclusive and upmarket selections of shops and boutiques.