As well as being the longest day of the year Friday was my Dad's birthday! From time to time my Dad decides that he wants a bit of a fuss for his birthday, so to celebrate my brother and I pulled out all the stops and planned a magical mystery tour around London.
Inspired by Aileen Paterson's book Maisie's Mystery Tour we put together a day out full of all the things that my Dad enjoys the most, keeping each part of the day a secret until it was actually happening (thankfully my Dad was pretty compliant and didn't ask too many questions!)
.During the week running up to his birthday I sent my Dad a series of cryptic and (unintentionally) clues about where to meet us for his big day out, the final one being a picture the statue of Nelson Mandela at the Southbank Centre.
The Southbank Centre, located on the south bank of the Thames, is the ideal starting point for any mystery tour of London as it is right in the centre of town opening up endless possibilities. I chose the statue of Nelson Mandela as a meeting point, located just outside the centre because of our family's interest in Southern Africa - I lived there for two years as a teenager, and I can remember my parents explaining apartheid and the importance of Mandela when I was a small child.
Once Dad finally tracked us down (my clues were maybe a little too cryptic, apparently not everyone in my family knows the Southbank Centre as well as I do) it was time for the first stop on the tour - the real food market.
The real food market brings together artisan producers who are passionate about food and work in an environmentally and socially conscious way. They also make really good hot dogs, and my Dad likes a sausage in a bun. As well as hot dogs from the polish deli, we also tried our coffee from Bean About Town and beer from Meantime Brewing Co. and I finally tried arancini from Arancini Brothers (something I had been meaning to do for ages!).
Lunch over, we headed to the north bank to catch the Thames Clippers river boat. A common sight nipping up and down the river (I see them pass my office window on a regular basis) it is one of the best ways to get from central London out to Greenwich (an important stop on our tour).
None the wiser as to where we were headed, Dad seemed pretty excited about the prospect of going on a boat as we crossed the road towards the pier. I think the excitement was well placed, there really is no better way to see London than from the river.
We alighted the clipper at Greenwich, a place where my family spend a lot of time when my brother and I were small, and somewhere my Dad used to work. Wondering around, my Dad kept telling us anecdotes about trips to the area in the past, and as we steered him towards our next destination he pointed out the pubs he had frequented.
It isn't every day that your children lead you to a trading estate in south east London, close to somewhere you worked many years before. Thankfully, Dad didn't answer too many questions and as we approached the Meantime Brewery appeared genuinely pleased and surprised by our pick!
The Meantime Brewery tour is probably one of the best tours in London, and I will be writing a fuller post about it soon, but I can tell you now it (and the beer) went down very well.
Brewery visit over, it was on to the last leg of the mystery tour, and up to Blackheath for dinner at ZeroDegrees where DT, my Mum and sister in law turned up to surprise Dad. ZeroDegrees was a family favourite while I was at university, and while it was ok this time, it was maybe the one part of the day that I would do differently with a start over.
Notwithstanding my restaurant choice, the magical mystery tour was a hit and Dad had a great day! I will be blogging more about what we got up to over the next few weeks, so check back if you want to know more about what a brewery tour actually entails!