Interested in home swaps? Register with Home Base Holidays
Interested in home swaps? Register with Home Base Holidays
'This is Bea and Kas. We swapped homes several years ago and have stayed in touch. They are on a swap in Brighton at the moment and so we met them today. Here they are (and I promise we are on the other side of the table) having afternoon tea with us at the Haymarket Hotel - one of the best teas in London by the way.' - Sandra, London
It's always lovely to hear when Home Base Holidays members stay in touch, meet up as friends, and sometimes arrange more swaps.
On a sunny hot day like today, what better than to take a break from the bustling city and relax in one of London's excellent parks. Explore everything from the picture (picnic!) perfect St James's Park to the huge 2,500 acre Richmond Park where you might forget you are even in London. Here we list our top ten London parks.
1. Hyde Park:
Hyde Park covers 350 acres of central London. Hyde Park has something for everyone, you can enjoy swimming, boating, cycling, skating or just relax in this central London oasis. There are pitches for team games, tennis courts, tracks for horse riding and a spectacular children’s playground. The park is fabulous all year, a great place for summer time picinics or enjoying the Winter Wonderland festival during the winter months. royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park
One of my personal favourite Royal parks, St. James's Park covers 57 acres and is home to a wonderful mix of flowers and birdlife (don't miss the pelicans being fed between 2.30pm and 3pm daily!). The bridge over the lake offers great views of Buckingham Palace at one end and the London Eye and Horse Guards Parade at the other end. royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-park
Located in NW London, Regent’s Park is a Royal park that covers 410 acres and is home to London Zoo, the Open Air Theatre (performances end May to early September), and a boating lake. The view from the top of Primrose Hill is one of London’s best, with fantastic panoric views across the city. royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park
Located in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Richmond Park is the largest Royal Park in London covering a massive 2,500 acres. This beautiful park of hills and woodlands set amongst ancient trees, with plants, animals (including 650 deer) and butterflies, offers a peaceful respite to visitors. royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park
Located in SE London, Greenwich Park covers 183 acres and is the second oldest enclosed Royal Park. One of the largest green spaces in south east London, Greenwich Park offers a wide range of facilities and points of interest, including a child-friendly boating lake, six tennis courts and the National Maritime Museum just on the perimeter. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park is home to the Greenwich Meridian Line which represents the prime meridian, relative to which world time is calculated and the distance to every place on Earth is measured. royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park
Blackheath stretches across the very top of Greenwich Park into the pretty village. Tip: check out the views from 'The Point', a small area at the corner of Blackheath, with it's spectacular views over the city.
Hampstead Heath is located in NW London but just four miles from Trafalgar Square. The Heath has some of the best views and highest points in London for everyone to enjoy. It includes Parliament Hill, Golders Hill Park, an open air Lido (open 365 days a year), swimming ponds, splash pools, countless sports pitches and facilities, athletics track, playgrounds, stunning listed Pergola and Hill Garden and enough green space to really feel like you have escaped the City! Hampstead Heath
Kennsington Gardens covers 275 acres and was formerly the private gardens of Kensignton Palace. The park is planted with formal avenues of magnificent trees and ornamental flower beds. It is home to Kensington Palace, the peaceful Italian Gardens, Peter Pan statue, the stunning Albert Memorial and the Serpentine Gallery. There are two playgrounds, including the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens
Victoria Park is a fabulous 213 acres oasis located in East London's Tower Hamlets. Attractions include canals, ponds, a pavilion, tennis courts and a sports ground. Open air pop and rock concerts are held in the park during the summer. Victoria Park is not very far from a number of other attractions including Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Columbia Road flower market. Victoria Park
Battersea Park is a 200 acre park in the London Borough of Wandsworth in SW London. It is situated on the south bank of the River Thames opposite Chelsea. An inner city park with so much variety, hidden secrets, and activities. batterseapark.org
Trent Country Park is 413 acres of rolling meadows, lovely lakes, woodlands, and a beautiful mannor house. It forms part of London's Green Belt and being a country park it provides a natural, rural and tranquil atmosphere located on borders of North London. trentcountrypark.com
One of the biggest budget busters when visiting London can be the cost of accommodation. However, rather than booking a hotel or holiday rental, arrange a home swap in London and you will dramatically cut the cost of your London holiday.
By arranging a home exchange you enjoy free holiday accommodation but also enjoy the space and comfort of staying in a real London home.
Home Base Holidays is a London based home swap holidays website and has a large number of tempting home swap holiday offers.
This is a lovely article on home swapping sent in by Judith, a long-term Home Base Holidays member (and very experienced home swapper). Judith wonderfully describes how home swaps can be such an enriching way to travel.
“This July we are heading off to Clearwater, Florida for a month in a luxurious condo with a pool, over looking the warm, turquoise Gulf of Mexico. We’ll have a classic American sedan to drive and - apart from the airfare - it won’t cost us a thing.
It's not a home exchange either.
However, imagine a seashell plopped into the ocean and the ripples it creates. This holiday will be one of many ripples made by a home exchange that dropped into our lives some years ago.
In the days when the Home Base Holidays listings thudded onto the doormat as a wadge of photocopied A4 sheets, we were written to by a lady called Brenda Bobbin.
Even in the postage stamp size black and white photos, her apartment looked amazing so we went for it. She was there with golden hair, sea blue eyes and a sunny smile, to greet our family of four.
Dazed and jaded from the flight, we all piled us into her car and she drove us off to a wooden shack with an enormous smoking
metal drum outside, to be revived by steaming platefuls of delicious BBQ.
The next morning she set off to London and we settled in to a routine of swimming, walking, sunbathing and shopping at Piggly Wiggly for 5 Layer Dip, crab salad, homestyle slaw, onion bagels and enormous steaks for the grill. (There was the addition of Margarita mix for the grown ups.)
We went to see the Miami Dolphins play baseball, parasailed - spotting turtles paddling far below, sailed a catamaran at sunset and screamed on the Bush Garden rollercoasters. But it was those long sultry days we remember most, everyone doing their own thing be it dipping in the pool, chilling out in front of a huge American television, strolling the beach collecting shark’s teeth or reading in the breeze on the roof terrace. Then gathering on the white beach for an amazing sunset with a sundowner, chips and salsa.
This time it will be just the two of us as the children had the audacity to grow up and get a life. There are bound to be moments of nostalgia - maybe a tear or two, such are the fond memories of being there as a family. On the other hand it'll be much cheaper.
Brenda and I have kept in touch all these years, much easier now by email. She's visited us in London and at our French house. We have been back to her place four times. This year, once again, she has generously invited us to spend a month in the appartment while she’s away.
She’s a valued friend and it's only through Home Base Holidays that our paths could ever have crossed.
Whilst arranging a different exchange to San Francisco, I’d mentioned to our hosts that one of my ambitions was to drive in a Cadillac down Highway One. On a sunny Californinan morning a gleaming, classic red Cadillac rolled up outside the door of our borrowed Twin Peaks abode. “Hoodie Hoo" was the cry and we were whisked off by Tim and Brad down the Pacific Highway for peach picking and tacos overlooking the ocean.
Tim and Brad were old friends of our lovely exchangees who had arranged this treat. We invited them both for dinner. They reciprocated. Now, 8 years later they still send us a box of home made jams every Xmas and we have visited one another both in the UK and the States.
There have been numerous other house swaps that have resulted in the fact that if we or our kids were travelling nearby, I would have no hesitation in contacting the past exchange parties to meet up for drinks or beg a spare bed for the night. We would welcome the same call.
There have, of course, been fabulous exchanges after which we haven’t kept in touch with our reciprocal guests but due to mutual respect have still had amazing experiences in their homes.
When you house swap you don’t just exchange a building, you dip a toe into someone’s else’s life and I do believe that careful and thorough correspondence is important as a pre-cursor to finalising the arrangement. It’s not essential, but certainly more rewarding if your counterpart is simpatico. If they are, then you have the potential to make lifelong friends and contacts across the world. In this day and age when the world is fragmenting and we need a bit of reassurance about the generosity and commonality of the human spirit, isn’t that a marvelous by product of a holiday?” - Judith
Interested in home swapping? View Judith's beautiful home exchange offer in France.
Judith has recently put her writing talent to good use by publishing a very entertaining e-book, 'Chez Mwah: How to Languish in the Languedoc', on her family's experience of owning a holiday home in France. Check out Judith's e-book (Chez Mwah: How to Languish in the Languedoc) - it is a perfect holiday read.
Find your perfect home from home! Find your ideal home swap so that you can explore a new location on a short weekend getaway, a two week break or even arrange a long term exchange. Start planning your home exchange vacation.
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