Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs

Dec 16th, 2015 Travel

Away from the ski slopes, at the end of a long, twisting, snow ridden, and frequently perilous, road lies a series of hot springs that take on an almost etherial and magical quality against the snowscape.

This is Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs – just outside Steamboat Springs – and we had ventured out, without the boys, to explore and possibly even decompress.

Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs

On our way, we passed these horses grazing in a field.

Horses in the Snow

Be warned, once you arrive, the trek down to the springs from the parking lot is steep and the log cabin assigned for changing, is cramped and rudimentary.  But it’s all part of the experience and the effort is very much worth it.  Don’t make the mistake I made of going barefoot down the steps once you have changed.  The distance down is further than it looks and the snow and ice gets very cold underfoot, very quickly.  I picked the wrong moment to embrace my inner Bear Grylls. Fortunately everyone else there was either similarly navigating the icy flagstone path (just not minus the footwear) or were luxuriating in the springs and so failed to notice my foolhardy attempt to appear rugged.

The more popular spring to the right is milder in temperature.  The pool on the left, where we spent most of our time, is considerably warmer – “hot” you could say – and contains pockets of blisteringly hot water bubbling up from the ground.  Geography not being my forte, I had to keep reminding myself that this is not man made.

Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs

Beyond the safety of the walled hot springs lies a natural river.  Which was freezing.  Perfect for a reviving dip and some natural plunge pool action.

Strawberry Park Natural Hot SpringsStrawberry Park Hot Springs

Literally, and figuratively, a breathtaking scene and experience.

On balance I think it probably a good idea that we left the boys out of this one.  These days I always end up feeling guilty if I exclude them from an experience that they might very well enjoy, but what with my school boy error in navigating the pathway down, and the emphasis at the springs on relaxing,  I feel as though adding two small boys into the bubbling mix would have been a bridge too far.

Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs

Steamboat Springs, CO

Dec 4th, 2015 Sport, Travel

Quite what a “steamboat” has to do with a landlocked, Rocky-Mountained, be-snowed ski resort town was never clear to me.  And, sadly I never found out.  I guess I should have asked, as it troubled me both before, and after, our trip.  But I was so caught up in the moment while there, and everyone was so darn nice, welcoming, and non ski-snooty, that I did not want to come across as gauche by asking the question.  Because that just wouldn’t fly.  Or slide for that matter.  Not in laid back Steamboat.  Especially as we are not a family of skiers.  Or at least we weren’t until we visited, the aforementioned, confusingly named, town.

We resolved on this trip to learn, and though we are certainly no team of Bodie Miller’s, we did alright.  Even if a do say so myself.  Particularly for a bunch of novice, city-dwellers.  We can navigate our way down the side of a mountain, albeit somewhat cautiously.  And we know how to stop when we get to the bottom of it without crashing into something, or somebody.   We know our “Champagne Snow” from our chair lift, our plough from our parallel, and we certainly know not to call our poles, “sticks” (talk about gauche).  And this is a start.

As only having been a failed novice skier before, I finally began to get the allure of the slopes. Both the boys took to it like a duck to water.  (Odd analogy on reflection, as any such lake would be frozen and any self respecting duck sheltering – but there again, this is a ski resort named after a nineteenth century riverboat, so indulge me.)


With the help of the folks at the Steamboat Snowboard and Ski School, the boys wasted no time in getting to grips with the basics:  “pizza wedges”, “banana splits” and the magic carpet.  All pretty impressive given the fact that the last time Jaxon saw snow it had quickly turned to knee deep Manhattan sidewalk sludge, and Skyer I don’t think can even remember seeing snow as he left New York when he was still too young.

Kids Skiing Lessons SteamboatKids Skiing Lessons SteamboatKids Skiing Lessons Steamboat

Jaxon quickly got to grips with the lower level bunny slope and graduated to the next level.  Yikes he was catching me up!  I can’t be THAT parent.  You know, the one whose kids ski and he just watches from the comfort of the lodge.  I had my work cut out.

Kids Skiing Lessons SteamboatKids Skiing Lesson

Given my previous experience on skis (nothing horrendous, just a pervading sense of incompetence and ineptitude that had lingered long after I had petulantly thrown the skis and poles down in frustration) and skill level at the start of the week this was always going to be challenging.  But I resolved that for now I had to stay ahead of the boys.

I managed to make it down this green run which helped me keep my nose in front and my dignity intact.

Steamboat Skiing

Skyer just seems so comfortable no matter what situation we put him in.  Here it looks like all he’s ever known are the Rockies.

Kids Skiing Lessons SteamboatKids Skiing Lessons Steamboat

Back to the sanctity and safety of home base after a tough day of aches and pains and bruised egos.

Steamboat Springs

Away from the skiing we explored the low key streets of downtown Steamboat.  Skyer managed to find the best action of the morning at the local diner with some Mickey pancakes.

Mickey Mouse Pancakes

Leaving no alpine experience unturned, Jaxon and I also took to the ice in these specially designed bumper cars.  He got pretty good at driving ours – trusty number 8 – which allowed me to take a quick selfie of the two of us in the car – whilst in motion I hasten to add.  Something else they are catching me up on.

Ice Rink Bumper CarsIce Rink Bumper Car Selfie

Brrrr, it’s (genuinely) cold outside

Nov 16th, 2015 Boyhood, Life

Hard to believe, but it’s cold here in LA today.  The woolly hats entirely necessary.  No faux hipster styling here.  No beanie and scarf, while simultaneously wearing a T-shirt shenanigans.  It was genuinely cold.

Trying to get Skyer into a jacket was a challenge.  The hat even more so.  As he currently tends to do, he takes his steer from Jaxon, who, thankfully in this instance, is pretty tuned in to his personal comfort level.  As soon as Jaxon got a hint that it was fresh outside.  He bundled up.

Chilly Kids LA

Beachwood Boys Bundled up

Kids in Batman Hat

I have to say that personally, I’m sort of into this seasonal weather.  For one thing it gives me an opportunity to dig out some of my long neglected sweaters and jackets myself.  For another, there is more than something to be said for experiencing the “rhythm of the seasons”.  Maybe I am just still too cynical but I frequently find the irrepressible heat and sunshine taxing.  Like the bubbly travel companion who won’t stop talking, is always peppy and puts a positive spin on everything, LA weather tends to grind me down sometimes.  Jeez – I really am channeling the cynical today. And all it took was a hint of British weather to do it.  Guess we are all products of our environment.  Still, needn’t worry I’m told that it’l  be back up to 80 degrees by mid-week.  Crisis averted.

Jaxon really got into character with the whole biker jacket and NY hat attitude.

Cool kids fashion

Skyer needs little, or no, excuse to strike up a pose.  I’m not quite sure what this is.  Part yoga, part karate, part…who knows what…

Great leg stance though Sky.

Cool Kids Fashion

Off to school we go boys – “enjoy” this cold snap while it lasts.

Cool Kids Fashion

Halloween 2015: a tale of two costumes

Nov 4th, 2015 Entertainment, Life

I am personally a late comer to the whole phenomenon of Halloween.  Growing up in England it was not that big of a deal.  Now however.  Having kids.  In Southern California.  October 31st is a date that looms large on the calendar.

Trick or Treat is an institution here.  There is something undeniably magical and wondrous about walking around the neighborhood and being literally swamped by wave upon wave of miniature sized Batmans, Supermans, princesses and ghosts – of all ages – as you wander from one elaborately decorated house to another.  Each one more fantastical, welcoming and generous than the next.  As if there is an unspoken Halloweeners code to out-do each other.

It is impossible, for even the most cynical of hearts, not to be swept up in the theatricality of the whole event.  And it does feel like a real event.  As you join the masses of children shuffling along the sidewalk, and dodge the numerous children who are already experiencing sugar highs, it is impossible not to feel as though you are on the set of a Spielberg film.

For the first time – Jaxon had a costume change during the day.  Both boys began as rescue bots: Heatwave and Bumblebee respectively.

Heatwave and BumblebeeBumblebee Costume

Jaxon goes into fire truck mode as Heatwave.

Heatwave Costume

Skyer gets into racing car mode with Bumblebee.

Bumblebee Costume

By the afternoon, Jaxon had decided to ring the changes and – still embracing the whole rescue / helping theme that is so beloved of boys – became a policer officer.  An unarmed police officer it should be noted.  A sort of US / UK hybrid copper I guess.

Kids Police Costume

We began the afternoon at a party down the street.  It’s great to see all the kids compare costumes and swap accessories.  A plastic Captain America shield for a plastic Policeman’s badge. Sadly no plastic was lost or damaged as a result of these endeavors.

There was an attempt by the kids to “make mummies out of the mommies” and wrapt them up in toilet paper.  I decided to spare their blushes in this post.  In any case we the tables were quickly turned.

Jaxon broke free and exclaimed “I am the ice man!”

Kids Police Costume

We begin our pilgrimage for cheap confectionary that we will never actually eat.

Yes that is a giant inflatable black cat that visitors walked under to gain access to the house. Suitably spookily decked out inside I should add.  Don’t ask me what they do with the cat for the other 364 days of the year.  I don’t think it’s considered polite Halloween etiquette to ask.

Cool Halloween House

Surely some one engaged the services of a professional pumpkin carver at this house?  Or am I even less “crafty” than I previously thought?

Cool Pumpkin Display

It’s hard to capture how elaborate some these houses really are.  Here giant spiders, industrial amounts of fake cobwebs, tombstones and hanging ghouls lead the way.

Cool Halloween House

Skyer “on the streets” mid trick or treat.  Eyes firmly on the candy prize.  Pumpkin bucket locked and loaded.  I am not even going to attempt to wrestle with the mixed messages of accepting candy from strangers, begging for things in general, or, for that matter, the concept extortion (trick or treat?) that the night sends to kids!  My head will explode if I try.

Bumblebee Costume

Skyer’s Birthday

Nov 1st, 2015 Boyhood, Entertainment

So Skyer is now officially three.  Yikes.  It’s a truism to say it of course, but the time has flown by. Skyer’s turning three also means that we have been in LA for two and a half years.  That’s already half the time that we lived in New York.  Hand on heart, I can’t say that I feel half as connected to LA as I do NYC, but I guess you could argue that I am getting there.  In any case, and as we all know only too well, it’s not about you anymore.  In fact, it’s not really about you at all.  It’s about a collective.  And that’s a good thing.  In fact, it’s a great thing.

Events like this certainly help.  We took over a gazebo in one of our nearby parks and set up for our Lego themed celebration.  Word to the wise, if you are planning on hosting a children’s party first thing in a public park, be prepared to negotiate with the “locals” upon whose patch you might inadvertently be encroaching.

Without wishing to be too self-congratulatory, the party went off seamlessly and without a hitch. So, rather than philosophize about the passing years, or the yardstick that kids provide on measuring my own life, I’ll simply say we had a great time and let the pictures speak for themselves.

Lego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego Birthday

We got the help of some professionals in setting up the Lego play area – complete with a phenomenon I had never seen before – “springy” sports Lego.  Which actually made a little game of basketball, soccer or hockey almost possible.

Lego PartyLego Party

The Lego villages were also a great hit.

Lego PartyLego PartyLego Party

The puppy dog bounce house – a tried and tested party fave – also worked well and was – more importantly – bump, and tear free.  Although they do get pretty sticky and sweaty – even in October – in LA.

Lego partyBounce House

Cupcake and “happy birthday” time.

Lego Birthday

Then, what better way to burn off the sugar, than with some piñata thwacking?  This time it was poor old Emmet who was in the firing line.  The kids certainly seemed to rejoice in taking him down.

Kids PiñataKids Lego PiñataKids Lego Piñata

Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye and thank everyone for coming.

Lego Party FavorsLego Party Favors


Oct 16th, 2015 Inspiration, Travel

Returning to visit London is always something of a whirlwind experience.  Co-ordinating and catching up with family and friends, as well as attending to some practical matters, in a short space of time is challenging.

It can can also be a little bitter sweet.  Flashes of regret, and thoughts of the parallel life that I have left behind, bombard me.   The realization that, for me, life there has stopped, yet for everyone else it has progressed unabated, is challenging to process.  Mostly because I do not want to it to be true.  I want my friends and family to be preserved.  Static.  Frozen in formaldehyde, Han Solo-esque, ready for me to release upon my return.  I guess what I am experiencing is a sense of loss, or regret, or missed opportunities?   The dislocation of time and geography and a litany of unknown possibilities.  Wait a second, is this getting too heavy?  Oh man, stream of consciousness!  Time to turn off the inner monologue.  This is, after all, a blog about kids and being a dad right?

Enough of the self-reflection.  Although…I will just say that it does feel a little strange to be a visitor in your own town.  I take the opportunity to visit some of my old haunts and areas.  The images and the memories come flooding back in visceral waves of nostalgia.  Increasingly – and somewhat worryingly reminiscent of an old foggie – I catch myself looking for what has changed or altered.  “Ah yes, I remember when…” (add annoying, frequently pointless, observation)  A phenomenon that I find simultaneously reassuring and depressing.

This time I took a spin through the City.  The Financial district.  Which on the day I visited was shrouded under grey skies, rain lightly, yet ceaselessly, descending adding a cold starkness to a place not known for its warmth to outsiders.  Much of the architecture is familiar and remains largely unchanged of course – including the Gherkin which was being built before I left – but there is also much that is new – such as the Heron Tower.  I love modern architecture and cityscapes – the exhilaration and pulse of a city is intoxicating.  Los Angeles has pockets of this vibrancy.  But you have to search it out.  In London, it is everywhere.

The Gherkin

I love this shot of St. Paul’s Cathedral as it’s not how you would typically think of the Cathedral.  It seems to be almost framed by the row of buildings on either side.  The juxtaposition between the narrow, claustrophobic streets and the looming silver grey of the dome create a powerful image of classical London co-exisiting with the modern.

St Paul's CathedralHeron Building

I also am lucky enough that my sister’s family lives in London, and that they are amenable to putting me (and when we have traveled as family, all of us) up when in town.  This time around, being as I was on my own for the first few days, it was a great opportunity to have some snuggle time with Luca and Ivy.  The brother / sister dynamic is certainly totally different from the brother / brother one that I am used to with Jaxon and Skyer.  I could not believe how composed both Luca and Ivy are.  I kept trying to convince myself that it was all genetic and had nothing to do with parenting styles – but I’m not convinced.  Certainly gave me more than a moment’s pause for thought as to how to handle Jaxon and Skyer.  And there I was, thinking I was doing such a bang up job!

These two though are fully paid up members of the Beachwood Boys Club (event thought one of them is a girl!) and I love having them in my life.  We here at Beachwood HQ, just wish we got to see them more often.

Saturday morning began with a good old fashioned English Breakfast – ably assisted by our two resident sous chefs.

Cute kids

Then out to one of the many local parks that grace the area.  Where both Luca and Ivy rocked the hipster chic – with obligatory retro bobble hat and no socks.  Doesn’t get more insouciant than that.

Cute boy in sandbox

This next one is from another sand box (oops sorry sand pit) this time on Clapham Common the next day – as I said a dizzying array of parks in this area.   By this stage in the weekend, Ivy had moved on from her hat faze and was all about clinging on to the last moments of warm weather.

Cute kids in sandbox

I have another confession to make.  When I’m now I visit the West End I go into full blown tourist mode.  I don’t know what has happened to me.  And I’m not all too sure that I care.  I can’t help but marvel at the Burlington Arcade.  I fully admit that it has a series of impractically priced miniature stores – sort of like a high end Lilliput – but it is still the best “shopping mall” in the world.

Burlington Arcade

In any case, I am always a sucker for a vintage rolex.  This particular place is great should you ever wish to commemorate a specific year.  Sadly this time, I was just window shopping.

Vintage RolexVintage Rolex

I don’t know why I shot this street sign of Saville Row.  I was passing a corner I must have walked down a thousand times before, and I just felt the urge.  There is something so simple, iconic and sharp about the way that the letters looked.  Maybe it’s because Jaxon is really into his letters at the moment and I knew he would like the symmetry and the clarity.  I’m not sure that comes across from my photo but I love the image all the same.

Saville Row

And then I really like this building directly opposite.  Again I have no idea why, but I find the corner of Saville Row and Vigo Street quite evocative, so I wanted to capture the moment.

cool building London

Now this next one you’ll have to forgive me as I have no excuse.  I think for me it was the contrast of the slate grey sky, the taxi cabs shimmering shadows on the rain slicked streets, and the garish bright lights of the billboard that created a crisp vignette of London.  Again so familiar to me and yet – for now at least – not my home.

Picadilly Circus

This one of the House of Commons, I snapped from the window of the cab on the way back to my sister’s those.  A cheesy tourist shot undoubtedly, but it was such a beautiful sunny day – with crystal clear blue sky – and I had landed at Heathrow only hours earlier. There was something euphoric in the moment for me, which sadly I’m not a good enough photographer to capture, but I couldn’t resist.  And I didn’t know if I would get another chance with the sunlight hitting the building so perfectly.

House of Commons

Finally this picture was taken with my iPhone from the roof deck of Google’s offices in central London.  What a view.  and what a day.  The panoramic views are on all four sides of the building. You’re not really supposed to take pictures, but I sneaked this one while no one was looking.  The prospect of more illicit Google photography alone, is sufficient reason to go back soon.

Aerial London

London – Chiltern Firehouse

Oct 13th, 2015 Entertainment, Travel

London has definitely changed a lot since I left.  Architecturally, emotionally and culturally. Perhaps it’s also the fact that I now view London through the lens of parenthood that my perspective of it is altered.  I am certainly significantly more acquainted with the playgrounds of Balham and Clapham than ever before.  Perhaps also, I approach London from the rose tinted perspective of visitor than resident.

With that being said, the Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone, by any criteria, is a gem.  Staying in a hotel in a city where you grew up is, I feel, always going to be a slightly awkward match up.  All too readily, I find myself slipping into the role of bumbling tourist, whilst at the same time inwardly critiquing and analyzing my experience with a fervor and toughness that is the preserve of the homegrown. Familiarity breeding contempt sort of thing.

With that being said the Chiltern Firehouse passes every test with flying colors.  Super friendly, yet chic.  Rock ‘n roll, yet cosy.  Aspirational, yet welcoming.

The entrance and courtyard are truly wonderful.  Creating at once a sense of  heritage London, coupled with a modernity and sophistication.  It feels as though you are being let in to an intimate secret, right in the heart of London.  That paradox – between the intensity of the outside world and the intimacy of the interior creates a certain magic in a lot of hotels – here the effect is enhanced by the narrow corridors and hidden doors of the converted firehouse, creating a labyrinth of found spaces.  Oozing warmth and charm.

Chiltern FirehouseChiltern FirehouseChiltern Firehouse

I don’t want this to turn into a full blown hotel review.  So hopefully you get the idea.  Overflowing with charm and personality, we were even told that the Chiltern is a family friendly hotel – with the exception, I assume, of the bar!

We really loved the exterior courtyard that you pass as you enter the front door.  Very special.

Chiltern Firehouse courtyardChiltern Firehouse Courtyard

Aside from the cocktail bar – which was jam packed with glamorous types every night – the oyster bar was also a particular favorite.

Chiltern Firehouse Oyster BarChiltern Firehouse Oyster Bar

And then here is what a dozen of these beauties looks like when served up in the restaurant.  All from different regions around the British Isles.  All with their own unique flavor and texture. Really delicious.

Chiltern Firehouse Oysters

We ate in the restaurant for breakfast and dinner and the food is good without being world class. You definitely come more for the ambiance, the celebrity spotting (the night we were in we saw Bryan Ferry and Janice Dickinson – not bad for a Thursday night) and the people watching as much as the cuisine.  The open kitchen is also a great feature of the restaurant and really gives you the feeling of being at the heart of something vibrant and special.

Chiltern Firehouse Restaurant