Thursday, 12 May 2016

London...Courtesy of The Willow Foundation


Since my last blog post was so depressing I thought I'd write about something a bit more positive. In April Michele and I went on a trip to London courtesy of The Willow Foundation.

Can you believe that there is a charity that will send you off on a lovely little holiday - free of charge?! Just so you can have a little time away from the endless treatments, hospital appointments and 'cancery' things that my life has consisted of over the past eight months.

Well there is! That charity is called The Willow Foundation.

The Willow Foundation was set up in 1999 by the Arsenal goalkeeper and TV presenter Bob Wilson. If I'm honest I hadn't heard of him but both Dad and Michele have said he's quite the football legend.

Bob and his wife set up the charity in memory of their daughter Anna, who sadly died of cancer at 31 years old. During Anna's 5 year battle with cancer she experienced some of her most memorable moments with her family and friends. Her self-named special days gave her a focus for quality of time and quality of life, providing a welcome distraction from the challenging realities of living with a life-threatening illness.

The Willow Foundation now endeavours to replicate Anna's special days providing similar positive experiences for young people living with serious illnesses.

To be eligible for a Willow special day you need to be aged 16-40, a resident of the UK and be receiving treatment for a life-threatening illness on the date of application. 

I had a look online at other peoples special days. They all looked amazing and I couldn't wait to apply. Everyone who reads my blog knows I do love a 'cancer perk' and this seemed like the ultimate in cancer perks! 

You have to fill in a form to apply and get a medical professional to sign it. I was so thankful when I found out a few weeks later that my application was successful I didn't know what to do with myself. 

I was put in touch with my Special Day Maker, who was a lovely lady called Zoe. Me and Zoe discussed the sort of things I like and what my Special Day should consist of. Nothing was off limits. At one point we even discussed sitting on the FROW at London Fashion Week but in the end we decided on a trip to London with a meal at a celebrity restaurant of my choice. 

Since im such a fatty...ahem...I mean foodie I really missed not being able to taste food whilst I was having chemotherapy. Even now I still can't stomach eating certain foods I once loved! Pies and curries being a prime example - much to Michele's dismay! So the celebrity restaurant sounded amazing. Zoe told me to pick a few choices and she would see if she could get us a booking. Unbelievably she managed to get us my first choice, which was a meal at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay's . A three Michelin starred restaurant.

I.COULD. NOT. WAIT!

We managed to fit the trip around my hospital appointments and injections and set off on the train on 15th April for two nights. Zoe had provided us with a detailed itinerary with maps and directions so that the break would all go smoothly.  

The hotel Zoe had picked for us was the Crown Plaza on the Riverbank. When we got to the hotel we were pleased to find out we had been upgraded to a suite. The room wasn't quite ready and I was very tired after the train journey so we treated ourselves to a little snack and a few drinks at the bar. 


Fabulous.

The suite was great and had everything you could possibly need. I loved the Elemis toiletries! 


As I can't walk very far yet I was really pleased Zoe had picked a hotel that was close to the London Eye as that was the one tourist attraction I really wanted to see as i hadn't been on it before. 

My mum and dad had just come back from London themselves and Mum had given me a tourist guide that they had in their room. I had been having a read through it on the train and read about the London Eye Champagne Experience. The queue to get tickets to the London Eye was quite long and I couldn't see a price list anywhere and certainly nothing that mentioned the champagne experience. Once I got to the front of the queue I asked the lady at the desk about it.

'The Champagne experience queue is round that corner love' gestering over to the left. 

I looked at Michele and both of us wondered whether we could be bothered entering another queue. But it was the one attraction we wanted to see while in London so begrudgingly we went round the corner to the other desk. No queue! YES! It only turned out to be about £20 extra and you get the use of the Champagne lounge and then get taken to your pod were you enjoy a glass of champagne whilst you're on the London Eye. The lady said they only run one experience an hour and so far we are the only ones going up at 4pm. 

We headed to the Champagne bar, which was empty, and we ordered some champagne cocktails for me to enjoy and to give Michele a bit of dutch courage - he doesn't like heights! 

When we were finished we were introduced to our hosts and then made our way over to the London eye.

'You guys are really lucky you know' said one of the hosts.

Now lucky is something I don't normally feel because of all this cancer shizzle so I was quite intrigued by this comment. 

'You are the only ones on the 4pm champagne experience so you will have your own private pod. Normally you have to pay £800 for a private pod'.

Wow! That's not bad is it?! This break is just getting better and better. 

We watched as 20 or more people got in to a pod and we were ushered in to the next pod. On our own apart from the two hosts wheeling our box of champagne behind them. It was almost a bit embarrassing. Everyone in the crowd looked at us as we got in to our own private pod. 

Is this what Posh and Becks feel like? 

Any embarrassment soon faded as we got in to the pod, cracked open the champers and enjoyed the views of London. 







Once we got off the London Eye the hosts suggested we go on the River Thames cruise, which was great as we got there just before it was due to leave so there was no waiting around. We really enjoyed it and it was great for me as we saw lots of the sights whilst seated rather than having to do lots of walking. 




After that we got the tube to Buckingham Palace. I was extremely tired by this point. After all this was probably the most walking I had done in about six months. It was lovely to see the Palace but since my invitation for tea with the Queen had obviously got lost in the post we headed back to the hotel. 






As I was so tired we thought we would eat in the hotel. The hotel had a lovely Pan-Asian restaurant within it called Chino Latino. The food was really nice albeit a little expensive. We then finished the night off with a few cocktails at the bar - obviously I left my diet back in Silsden. 

We had a nice breakfast at the hotel and then chilled out in the room until it was time to head to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay for lunch as I didn't want to be too tired and not enjoy the lunch. 

Not only had Zoe arranged and paid for taxis to and from the station to the hotel she had also arranged for taxis to and from the restaurant so I wouldn't get tired, which was really thoughtful. 

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is quite a small French restaurant in Chelsea. We were both a bit nervous when we first arrived as it was so posh. I never thought I'd be lucky enough to eat in a three Michelin starred restaurant! 


Once we were seated our host asked us if we would like an aperitif. 'Maybe some champagne?' She asked helpfully.

Yes. Let's start as we mean to go on. We might as well. 

'What champagne would you like'? She then reeled off a load of French. Presumably these where different types of champagne. 

Shit. 

Where was the Moet or the Verve Cliquot? 

We had thankfully already looked at the wine list online as we didn't want to waste all our money on a £50 a glass wine - yes that is an option at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay's! However, neither of us had thought to look at the champagne list.

Double shit.

'Perhaps the house?' The waitress suggested.

'YES'! Me and Michele answered simultaneously. 'That would be great'.

Phew. That could of hiked up the bill. The Willow Foundation had given us £250 to enjoy but that doesn't stretch as far in Restaurant Gordon Ramsay's  as it would do in Pizza Express. 


We enjoyed our champagne and chose our wine (that we had already decided on at home) Michele went for a £20 a glass Red. In true Kirsty Brade style I went for very reasonable glass of White for just £6, which I decided meant I could have three glasses.

The food was fabulous and the Maitre D  even let us have a tour of the kitchen before we left. 

Here's what we ate...









We had finished lunch by about 4pm and headed over to a local pub called The Chelsea Potter. We made quite a few friends in there and stayed until midnight. Slightly disappointed I didn't meet Binky from MIC but we had a great night! 

In the morning we enjoyed another breakfast at the hotel feeling quite worse for wear. 

The first thing Michele said to me in the morning was 'We tore the arsehole out of London last night'.

I liked that. I think that's how I want to live the rest of my life. 

After breakfast we headed over to Borough Market. Borough market was actually suggested to me by one of my nurses who administers my Herceptin injection. She's a Londoner herself and this market is a bit of hidden gem. I would really recommend it if you are visiting London. They sell so much lovely food and I only wish we hadn't eaten such a big breakfast before we went.

After the market we headed over to Oxford Street and I did a bit of shopping at Topshop. Then we went to Harrods. I was extremely tired by this point and was desperate for a sit down. We found a cafe, which happened to be a Qatar cafe. It was interesting to say the least but I just didn't have the strength to hunt out another cafe at this point so we spent £14 on two coffees that tasted of curry. 

After we had had a bit of a rest we carried on having a wander around Harrods. I really wish I had a fatigue crash downstairs by the champagne bar. Gutted.

After this we headed back to the hotel for lunch and to catch our taxi back to the train station. 

Thank you to Zoe and the rest of the team at The Willow Foundation! We had a wonderful weekend in London. 

If you would like to apply for your own special day please go to https://www.willowfoundation.org.uk/have-special-day/apply




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