Last Friday Macalley and I went to London for the ZSL Zoo Nights at London Zoo. I had been last year; with my mum, and absolutely loved it, so I was determined to take Macalley there when I found out they were doing it again.
It was Macalley’s first time in London and mine without my parents, so it was understandably quite overwhelming, but the good kind where you catch yourself standing in awe; as we did when we got off the tube for the first time. We stayed at Holiday Inn Regent’s Park which made it perfectly placed to walk too and from the zoo within 20 minutes and on well lit roads, when the experience ended at 10.00pm. Our top floor room looked over the park and the stunning grandiose architecture of the surrounding Outer Circle of the park.
Once we had got settled in we decided to walk around Regent’s Park, one of the many beautiful parks nestled in Central London. We visited the tiny Cafe on the walk up to the zoo; that my mum and I go to every time we visit London, and sat in the brilliant sunshine for a while. When we thought we had got our bearings we braved the tube again to go to the Natural History Museum, a place I have loved since before I even visited the first time. Even Macalley who, as he put it, “isn’t a museum person” had a great time. From the blue whale skeleton hanging in the main entrance hall (and pretty much filling it), to the vaults of gemstones and minerals there was so much to see, we spent most of our afternoon hopping from exhibit to exhibit trying to drink it all.
I say spent most of our afternoon, because afterwards came the obligatory shopping. From a Waterstones with 7 floors to the best Zara I’ve been in, I fell in love with London for this alone- there is just so much more choice here. It had been such a humid day yet it almost felt airless on the tube and it was nice to spend some time back in the hotel before the zoo.
Yet as soon as we walked into London Zoo I was enthralled all over again, just like I had been the year before. There were delicate fairy lights that had been strung between the trees and the wonderful lanterns propped up all around us were made better only by the fact London Zoo Nights are 18+, so there were no crying children or huge crowds with push chairs, it was easy to navigate and there were no queues for the food or drink stands (watering holes). Although this may have been because I insisted on being there for when the event opened at 6.00pm.
My first task, as it had been last year, was to get my face painted! Yes I am still a child sometimes, but I wasn’t the only one! For £5.00 and in literally 5 minutes I gained an artistic tiger pattern around my eye, finished with glitter and gems- it really was beautiful. Now fully equipped; with a cocktail and my face paint, we started to actually explore the zoo. Whether it be because it was cooler or because it was quieter, or just nearer their normal active times almost all of the animals were active and visible and we were just in time to watch the penguins be fed.
After we had tired ourselves out walking around the zoo’s grounds we went and sat on the display lawn and watched some acrobatics and stilt walkers as well as a live comedian, and trying (and failing) to do well in the animal based quiz. It was a beautiful summer’s evening and it really could not have been spent in a better way. Full on fresh stone-baked pizza, and yet more cocktails we wandered back to the hotel, feeling surprisingly safe at dusk in such a big city.
We woke up the next morning and went to Buckingham Palace (Macalley’s tourist side coming out this time) and were lucky enough to watch the dress rehearsal for next weekend’s trooping of the colour. No Queen in her carriage but a tonne of beautiful horses parading and marching bands doing their thing. But before long it was time to head back to Kings Cross to go home, with one stop on the way; to Lola’s Cupcakes, my mum’s one request was that we bring her back one.
I would love to say that we then sat on the train in quiet contemplation, but the reality is; as is just our luck, our train was cancelled at the last minute. This resulted in a mad dash to the customer services and then to the next train we could get on, after being told the replacement option took us nowhere near our home and we would have to make our own way back from there. The long and short of it is, it then became quite an expensive trip- booking your tickets in advance makes over £100.00 difference it turns out.
But I am trying not to let that ruin a brilliant weekend. Blessed by beautiful weather and another wonderful experience I was still happy after our weekend away, if somewhat drained and sunburnt. At just £18.50 per ticket the zoo nights were cheaper than visiting the zoo during the day, with the added bonus of no screaming children and did I mention the animal themed cocktails around every corner? It really shows off the animals in their best light.
However possibly the best aspect of London Zoo Nights this year was it’s emphasis on the environment. I know some people aren’t fans of zoos, and I completely understand that, but London Zoo is one of the most progressive and long established zoo’s worldwide. Not only are they doing amazing work for the animals they are fighting to conserve but at the Zoo Nights they also demonstrated the amount of plastic we use by building a den out of littered plastic, and the damage it can cause, encouraging proper recycling of all of the rubbish produced that night.
Overall whether you are a Londoner or a visitor for the weekend, London Zoo Nights is a must! I’d encourage anyone with the opportunity to go and “see the zoo in a whole new light”.
P.S. Maybe don’t sleep in your face paint; no matter how pretty it is or how much you don’t want to take it off, for many reasons, not least the housekeepers face when she sees its perfect transfer onto the hotel pillow.