Vienna: Must see and do

Well by now you’ll know that in Vienna you simply *must* drink lots of the excellent coffee, and eat copious amounts of cake and sausages. But what to do in between meal times?

We had such an amazing holiday in Vienna, and although a LOT of it was spent at the amazing Christmas Markets (half the reason for us going in honesty!) I think we did pretty well at soaking up what this gorgeous city has to offer….and here is what I’d recommend you do too….

You can’t really get away from Mozart in Vienna, although it’s not quite as Mozart-crazy as Salzburg! The beautiful statue of the composer in the Burrgarten is well worth a look, although you may have to fight through hoards of school trippers to get your photo!

I love the way you can see Vienna’s Gothic masterpiece, the Stephansdom cathedral from so far away, yet it sort of creeps up on you as you discover it up close. One side of the roof is decorated with a rather on-trend chevron tile design, whilst the other bears the Austrian eagle. Inside though is the real surprise, as we found it lit up in a rather crazy tie-dye effect!

The guide books said that if you only go to see one palace in Vienna, make it the Schloss Shonbrunn. And it is certainly worth the short U-bahn trip out of the city. The audio guided tour will take you through the palace’s tumultuous history and gives you an insight into the lives of its many occupants, including the famous Habsburgs.

The palace also boasts incredible grounds, including various themed gardens, fountains, a labyrinth and maze, and a stunning gloriette….the climb up to which is well worth the effort when you turn around to see the whole of Vienna before you.

And as if that’s not enough, your combined ticket will also let you into the palace’s own zoo, the fascinating Wustenhaus (desert house) and the breathtaking Palmenhaus (Palm house) which is actually a replica of the one in our very own Kew Gardens!

Vienna is home to the world’s first Lomography shop, and so a pilgrimage to its vast photo wall was a must for this analogue-lover. It also has a great little gift shop and the rest of the Museum Quarter in which it resides is worth a visit too.

We found out about the Globe museum by chance, and hadn’t planned it into our schedule at all, but as soon as we knew it existed we couldn’t miss it! The museum far exceeded our expectations, and not only houses some of the most visually impressive and historically important  globes in the world (including an entire room featuring globes from private collections) but also teaches you the history of globe manufacture using clever interactive exhibits….I had no idea it would be so interesting! A combined ticket also lets you into the Papyrus museum and the fascinating Esperanto museum!

Vienna is so famed for its musical history that it would be rude to visit without experiencing some live music. We opted for a rather touristy package at the Kursalon in the Stadtpark…..a sort of a variety show featuring chamber music, ballet and opera, this was the perfect taster and had everyone toe tapping along to the familiar tunes of some of Vienna’s greatest inhabitants.

And whilst we’re on music…..Vienna’s answer to the Hollywood walk of fame is great fun, with golden stars featuring famous composers’ names stretching from the Staatsoper, all the way under the U-Bahn station tunnels.

And whilst you’re there, take a look at the charmingly funny Opera loos! In London we have cockney cash machines, but in Vienna there is a public toilet where you can listen to opera! Love it!

I could also argue that no trip to Vienna would be complete without a good fix of Klimt either, and the Secession museum is a great place to get a feel for the artist. Home to his masterpiece the Beethoven Frieze, the building itself is just as impressive, with its owl motifs and Medusa heads over the door!

And just over the road is the colourful Naschmarkt, the city’s largest and most popular farmers’ market.

I personally couldn’t let the opportunity to visit an iconic Bond film scene pass me by, and so we took a bit of a walk over to the Wurstelprater Amusement Park (actually the world’s oldest amuseument park!) to see the Riesenrad…..those of you who are as fond of Bond as I will recognise the Ferris wheel and the sliding glass doors below from The Living Daylights. The 65m wheel also featured in the film The Third Man, as well as cult classic Sunrise.

Vienna really is one of those cities though that you can just amble around all day, and although we crammed in lots, I’d happily return again (in the summer perhaps) to simply soak up some of the lovely atmosphere there.

Ems x

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Tim Walker: Story Teller

Whilst working agency side in events, I remember gazing at a mood board picture that emblazoned a colleague’s office wall for inspiration. The photograph featured dresses hanging from a tree, lit up like fairy lights. I was hooked on the enchanting atmosphere of the image, as well as the lush colours and the ingenuity of it all. I have often thought of the photo, which was taken by Tim Walker, and if I ever get myself organised and put up the big inspiration board I’m planning in my head for my studio, it will most certainly feature.

And so as you’d expect, when I heard of an upcoming exhibition, entitled Tim Walker: Story Teller I was desperate to see it. Hosted by Mulberry in the East Wing Galleries at Somerset House, the show has been met with plenty of press coverage and favorable chatter. The opening party was filled with darlings of the arts and fashion industry, all delighted to be celebrating the work of one of the most exciting fashion photographers of our time. My Instagram and Twitter feeds were filled with beautiful people taking in the stunning collection of work, and had me aching to see it.

I was not disappointed when I finally got to see it this Tuesday, and despite the gallery being filled with noisy school children for most of my time there, I came away inspired, amused and in awe of the man. Any exhibition that features Tilda Swinton, Terry Gilliam and David Lynch was going to get plenty of interest from me, but it wasn’t just the case that photos of several of my heroes were featured…..it was rather more that part of their immense creativity and ingenuity filled the place. I can only assume that Walker adores them as much as I do (and they probably think the same of him!).

The labyrinthine rooms of the East Wing Galleries were not terribly easy to navigate, but inspired the appropriate feeling of adventure and discovery…..you can’t be sure what you’ll find as you turn each corner and enter every alcove….will it be a giant doll, a skeleton looming over you, or huge snails climbing the walls?! The overall impression is one of playfulness, fantasy and box-of-frogs-style-craziness…..models sit for photographs wearing orchids like hats, people ride tinfoil dragons, and famous actresses are dressed up as literary characters and china figurines.

And whilst one could argue that you could simply view these images online or in a book, what the exhibition really exposes is the wonderfully inspiring way that Walker works to create what are undoubtedly some of the best photos taken in recent years, and certainly in my top list of favourites. Walker is portrayed as a sort of film director, the eye of a storm of creativity.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the show are the six Super-8 films taken during some of his more famous shoots. They provide such an insight into his methods, and are truly inspiring. They could only work in this rickety, over saturated format, as Walker’s work would be ruined by high definition, crystal clear video. These films though portray some of the nostalgia of his photographs, and put me in mind of an essay I wrote in A-Level Art…..we were asked to argue the strengths and weaknesses of still photos compared with video, and I remember quite strongly arguing in favour of the still image because I feel its power lies in a single moment, never to be seen or lived again. And it’s that idea that Walker says give his photos momentum and power. Of course there’s a lot more than that, which goes into making his photos just as successful as they are, but I am at least pleased we agree on that score, even if I’ll never match this genius’ creativity or technical prowess.

The exhibition runs until 27th January, so you’ve not got long to get to see it! I would highly recommend that you catch it though, if you’re interested at all in fashion, art, photography or simply in creativity. It’s free to enter and is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Enjoy!

Ems x

Living for the weekend….dealing with the post Christmas blues

That sky is grey again. And it’s all cold out there (and not in a Christmassy-winter-wonderland way). Still, the weekend is already here, and so I’ve been thinking of ways to fill it with fun stuff to take my mind off the fact it’s no longer Christmas. (Yes, I *am* still talking about Christmas, sorry)…..

Planning for the year

January is always full of the dulls. Everyone is shattered after the festivities, low on funds, and trying to catch up and get back to normal. But I find that there’s nothing like having something to look forward to to cheer me up, so I’ve been enjoying making lots of plans. I’ve bought tickets, made bookings, and started organising fun adventures to keep me busy and excited for the months to come. Get your diaries out!

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DIY Projects

With all the Christmas decorations gone, I know I’m looking forward to sprucing up the house a bit and starting work on some little DIY projects I’ve been planning. We have a Welsh dresser to sand and paint, and a few little tables and plant stands that I want to make-over. It’s a cheap and fun way to spend time, and you get the reward of something pretty to brighten your home at the end of it!

Bring in the Spring!

I don’t know about you, but I’m aching for the new season already! I’m bored of the cold and grey, and I want to see the Spring flowers come up. I’ve instigated this ahead of schedule by buying some lovely stocks to brighten up and scent the house…they look great in the Moomin Papa hat vase that I got for Christmas!

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Baking and Cooking

I know that every other person is on some kind of diet or detox, but I firmly believe that in order not to go cold turkey, you need to slowly wind down from the festive gluttony. I’m still not used to *not* having a pudding after every meal (yes, including breakfast) and being surrounded by naughty treats. And so to ween myself off, and hopefully shed a few of the holiday pounds, I think it’s only sensible to get doing some good home cooking and baking. You’re more in control when you make it yourself, so you can start to think more healthy and reduce portions, whilst still technically treating yourself and avoiding going into complete withdrawal! I have had some success with new recipes, including making French Onion soup for the first time in years….yum!

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Check on those resolutions!

It’s not too late to revise them, so have another look at whatever list you may have made and think about how realistic it all is. If you’re getting on well, well done you! If not so much, there’s no shame in re-working your list….you’ll do better for it in the end! I have done OK so far…..I have started getting myself sorted by way of a spider diagram (LOVE THEM), as well as playing around with the new pop-up studio Adam gave me for Christmas to help with my photography!

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Go for a walk

I’d much rather kick off the new year with a nice country walk than a fad diet or detox. It’s far more fun and much easier to stick with too! The weather has been pretty gruesome all told, but the rain seems to be staying away rather more at the minute so why not take a nice long stroll this weekend? Extra points for finding a pub lunch along your way!

Whatever you get up to, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Happy adventuring,

Ems x

Living for the weekend….. Tempting me back to London

Although I’ve made it back into London several times since moving (it’s just SO quick and easy!), I have mainly enjoyed my weekends locally. There’s still lots I want to do around here, and I’ve been really enjoying discovering more about my new ‘hood. But with a stack of fun things to do in London coming up all of a sudden, I know I’ll be tempted back soon!

As usual, there’s a whole host of special events and limited exhibitions taking place in London….and as of this weekend there are a good half a dozen that I feel were specially designed to tempt me back!…..

Tim Walker: Story Teller

Somerset House, East Wing Galleries

Runs until 27th January 2012, Daily Entry 10am to 6pm

Free Admission

I am so incredibly excited to see this exhibition which showcases the work of the amazing contemporary fashion photographer, Tim Walker. Known for his extravagant style, fairytale theatrics and playful scale, Walker is a total hero of mine. Supported by Mulberry (who hosted a star studded opening party this week), the show will focus largely on the photos themselves, but also features some of his best known props and set pieces.

Twin Peaks UK Festival 2012

Riverside Studios, Hammersmith

20th October, 9:30 am til late

Tickets from £60

It is happening again……‘ The Twin Peaks UK Festival is back this weekend at the Riverside Studios. Debuting in Twin Peaks’ 20th anniversary year in 2010, with a follow up event last year, the festival includes screenings, performances, actor Q&A, cabaret, and of course ridiculous amounts of donuts and cherry pie! Twin Peaks is my all time favourite TV show in fact…..so if you’ve not seen it I suggest you do!

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition 2012

Natural History Museum

19th October 2012 to 3rd March 2013, Daily 10am to 5:50pm

Adult tickets £10

This world-renowned exhibition has been an annual event for me for a good few years now. Hosting the 100 winning images from the competition on stunningly produced backlit screens, the exhibition is a must for all photography enthusiasts and wildlife lovers.

Hollywood Costume Exhibition

Victoria and Albert Museum

20th October 2012 to 27th January 2013

Adults £15.50 (advanced booking is advised with timed tickets)

This exciting exhibition includes over 100 of the most iconic and unforgettable costumes from a century of Hollywood filmmaking. Split into three galleries (‘Act 1: Deconstruction,’ ‘Act 2: Dialogue,’ and ‘Act 3:Finale’) the show promises to take us on a journey through the Golden Age of Hollywood, and is filled with treasures never before seen by the public, including the famous Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz!

Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition 2012

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Until 17th February 2013

Free Entry

The Royal Observatory Greenwich is again hosting the winning images of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. I’ve been going to this marvelous free exhibition for years, and wouldn’t miss it! The photography showcased here every year is just mind blowing, and this year features incredible new images of the sky, ranging from within our solar system to far into deep space, and including comets, nebulae, aurorae and the transit of Venus.

Crazee Golf

Tintype Gallery, Farringdon

Until 27th October 2012

Open Wednesday to Friday from 11am to 6pm, and Saturday from 11am to 4pm

Curators Oona Grimes & Teresa Grimes invite you to take part in a game of Crazee Golf…..and I can’t resist a game of crazy golf! Featuring 18 holes created by 18 artisits, the exhibition is an artistic representation of the ‘faux world’ of this wonderful British tradition.

Look out London! You’re not rid of me yet!

Ems x

Living for the weekend…. introducing my new ‘hood

As this is my first ‘Living for the weekend’ post since my move, I thought I’d dedicate it to my new home county of Hertfordshire. I figure it’ll help me get to know the area better, get an idea of what’s going on, and maybe even give me a chance to find some other local adventurers!

I’ll admit it though, when I started to look for events in my new local area, I honestly thought I’d only find a handful of things to do this weekend, and may have to stretch my search to neighboring Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. No such problem though! As soon as I started snooping about, I came across fun thing after fun thing to do! And in fact, I’m swamped with ideas! There’s such a wonderful range of things going on, and so many of them are right up my alley….how to choose???…..

Saturday

Hitchin Fashion Show

Hitchin Market Square

Saturday 13th October

Free Entry

Many fashion stores from Hitchin will be taking part in the second Hitchin Fashion Show, which takes place in the town square. There’ll be fashions from local high street stores, high end designers and vintage treasures, as well as a chance to see Hitchin’s very own Town Cryer!

 

Chorleywood Community Arts Centre Annual Exhibition and Sale

Saturday 13th October, 10am to 4pm

Free Entry

This annual event is a great opportunity to see examples of members’ work of all kinds, with many exhibits for sale. The day will also include demonstrations of pottery, painting and silk painting throughout the day!

Autumn Trail at Ashridge Estate

Ashridge Estate, near Berkhamsted

Saturday 13th October, 10am to 4pm

Entry from £2
Have halloween-themed spooky fun outdoors with a seasonal Family Trail around the beautiful Ashridge Estate, and answer questions along the way to earn a reward!

A Paper Garden City: Vanessa Stone

Foyer Gallery, Letchworth Arts Centre
Until 31st October, Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 3pm
Free entry

A portrait of Letchworth in wonderful designs created in paper cuts  by talented  local artist Vanessa Stone.

Kitty Quiz Night, in aid of Cats Protection Hemel Hempstead & Berkhamsted

Social Centre, Bell Lane, Northchurch HP4 3RD

Saturday 13th October, 7pm for 7.30pm start

£10 per person, including supper!

The Kitty Quiz Night is a remarkably popular event which regularly sells out! Teams are a maximum of 8, and the price includes a fish ‘n’ chips supper or veggie option. Please contact Colin 07507 914625 (daytime) or Vanessa 01442 879974 (evenings) for information and tickets or email vanessachenery@hotmail.com. This is a charity event and all proceeds will go to support the work of Cats Protection in the Dacorum area.

 

Autumn Charity Concert

All Saints Church, Hertford

Saturday 13th October, 7:30pm

Tickets £7

This concert in aid of Isabel Hospice brings together two popular choirs from Hertfordshire, with a varied programme to suit all tastes.

An Autumn Adventure

Brookmans Park

Saturday 13 October, 10.30am to 12.30pm

Free entry

Join the team at Gobions Wood Nature Reserve for a morning of autumnal activities and crafts. Click here to book online or call Susannah on 07876 508034.

Hertford Food and Drink Festival

From October 8th to October 14th

All around the Town Centre

Local businesses, the Town Council and other local organisations are hosting the first Hertford Food and Drink Festival. Expect farmers markets, a special apple day and demonstrations of all kinds!

Jumble Sale Cats Protection Hemel Hempstead & Berkhamsted

Potten End Village Hall

Saturday 13th October, from 11:30 am

Oh boy do I love a good jumble sale….and one to help fund a local cat charity is even better! Expect stacks of books, toys, games, clothes, shoes, bric-a-brac, and household items at bargain prices.

Sunday

Hitchin Sunday Market & Car Boot Sale

Hitchin Market

Every Sunday, 7:30am to 1pm

Free Entry

In addition to the regular weekly markets, Hitchin Markets have recently launched a new venture offering a general market and a car boot sale every Sunday.  Pitches start at just £5.00, but its free to go and browse!

Family Deer Walk

Sunday October 14th, 8am to 10am

Starting at the B4506, end of Monument Drive, Ashridge

Adults £8, Children £6.

It’s an amazing time of year to see deer, as bucks compete for does and this family-based wildlife walk will give you a chance to experience the sights and sounds of the deer rut.  To book call 01442851227.

 

Phew! So much to do!

Ems x

Guest Post: Living for the Weekend with Siobhan Claude Van-Damme

Hello, Siobhan here from Siobhan Claude Van-Damme filling in for Emily as she moves away from London and settles into her new home.

As Emily leaves London, I’m going to look at all the wonderful things happening here this weekend with Open House London…… London will miss Emily and I think it is trying to lure her back with these great events is on. Here is my pick…..

Saturday
Daylight Music at the Union Chapel

Daylight Music is a great series of free music events held at lunchtime at the Union Chapel in Islington.  It is a great way to hear new music and a lovely way to spend Saturday lunchtime.  For Open House they are opening early at 10.30 on both Saturday and Sunday with the show starting at the usual time of noon on the Saturday.  It is a particularly good line-up on Saturday too with electro-folk from Golden Fable.  Though the events are free they do recommend a donation of £3 towards running costs which I think is a snip for such a well put together event in such a beautiful setting.

Daylight Music is from 12pm-4pm on Saturday and the Open House will be from 10.30am – 4pm on Saturday and Sunday and it free to attend with no booking required.

Angel Building

The Angel Building is also in Islington and open on Saturday (from 10am – 5pm) and it looks just stunning.  This RIBA and BCO award winning building is a glossy reinvention of an 80s office block showcasing some stunning technology and design.  I want to go and marvel at the views through the central space and at the energy efficient glazed skin it has been wrapped in.

Angel House will be open from 10am – 5pm on Saturday and 1-5pm on Sunday with last entry at 4.15pm.  No booking is required but you may have to queue.

The Jewel Box

While in Islington who could resist visiting somewhere called The Jewel Box? The name alone makes me think of Emily and her beautiful jewelley designs.  The architects describe the building on their website as follows

“Conceived as a series of jewelled boxes carefully inserted into the existing fabric, the proposals open up and revitalise what was a series of dark disjointed spaces. Timber and concrete have been combined in a simple palette of materials that wrap around the existing fabric, inviting the user through the space and into the garden. The remaining period architectural features are retained and celebrated whilst the rear addition utilises a double canted wildflower roof to bounce light deep into the floor plate.”

I can’t wait to see this.

The Jewel Box is open from 10am – 5pm on Saturday with tours every half hour until 5pm on a first come, first served basis.

Sunday

Lewisham Art House

I pass Lewisham Art House every day on my way to work and have had colleagues exhibit there but have never visited.  I think London Open House weekend could be when I finally get it together to go and visit.  Lewisham Art House is a beautiful Grade II listed old library that has been turned into artist studios in the heart of New Cross.  There are various exhibitions through the years and London Open House is a great chance to check out the architecture and spaces in this beautiful building.

It will be open on Sunday from 1-5pm with tours every 15 minutes and no booking is required.

The Horniman Museums and Gardens

Ems has written before about the Horniman and I would recommend this chance (and any) to have a look around at this beautiful setting.  I even considered getting married there at one point as I do love the place so very much.  As an example of the arts and crafts style of architecture it is interesting just as a building but this time you can get tours of the recently refurbished gardens and bandstand.

The Horniman Museums and Gardens will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am-5.30pm but garden tours will only be on Saturday at 2 and 3pm – you can book these by emailing marketing@horniman.ac.uk

 

The Capitol (Formerly Forest Hill Cinema)

I often head to Forest Hill and when I walk past the Capitol I am always slightly sad that this clearly once beautiful art deco cinema is now a Wetherspoons pub, even if I am glad it means the building is still alive.  As such, a chance to look around and see more of the building and explore the history of it is really appealing.

The Capitol is open from 10am – 5pm on Saturday and Sunday but you must book for the architect tours by calling 020 8291 8920

 

Enjoy!

Living for the weekend….. my London favourites

So this is the actual last weekend I’ll be living in London. I don’t expect to get a lot done, other than running my stall on Saturday and finishing the packing on Sunday. But I thought that with my impending farewell to London, I’d recall some of the best bits from living here, and share them with you….

Poppies Fish and Chips

On Tuesday we had our lovely friend Hannah to visit for the evening after she’d had a worky thing in town. Hannah wanted to go to Poppies before it was no longer our local fish and chip restaurant, and we were only to happy to oblige! The wonderfully kitsch 50s style diner uses sustainably caught fish, as well as other ingredients from Borough Market and even pies from my home time of Stoke on Trent! They have recently been shortlisted for a prestigious award, and will soon fight it out against the likes of Rick Stein in a bid to become the UK’s best independent fish and chip restaurant! And I really hope they win….the food has always been brilliant and the service is great to boot….I’ll miss it so much!

Wilton’s Music Hall

After our fish supper, we took Hannah just down the road to Wilton’s Music Hall for some cocktails. The historic venue hosts fabulous events, theatre, and music, but as it’s currently having a much needed refurbishment to its main auditorium, they are concentrating on the lovely bars they have. The Mahogany Bar downstairs serves a good range of beers, wines and spirits, as well as a few simple cocktails and free nibbles early on in the evening. Upstairs there’s an actual cocktail bar, as well as seating in some of the little rooms off their labyrinthine corridors. There’s also a ping pong table and regular quizzes, dancing and jazz music….we saw the resident band there (who perform every Tuesday) and certainly got toe tapping. You really have to visit this magical place though to get an understanding of its history and personality…there’ll be tours again once the refurbishment is over and I’d highly recommend you take a look in at least then, if not just for a tipple and toe tap before that.

Oliver Conquest

And whilst we’re on the tipples….. Our local, the Oliver Conquest has been one of our favourite finds since living in Central London. Having lured us in with a sign outside boasting their 40+ gin collection, they have now increased their library to over 50 gins! The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and will kindly keep a copy of their gin list behind the bar with your name on so you can tick off each one you’ve tried as you go. And whilst most of the gins need nothing more than a hunk of ice or a dash of their Fever Tree tonic, they will mix you a very fine cocktail and take pride in garnishes to match the qualities of each type of gin. Oh, and there’s a quiz too, as well as regular gin and other booze tastings…..AND they serve extremely good bar food (pork pies, nachos with a very good fresh salsa etc….).

Old Spitalfields Market

Another regular haunt of ours (as you’ll know if you read my Something From the Weekend posts) is the wonderful Victorian covered market Old Spitalfields. A true destination shopping experience, you’ll find great places to eat, independent shops and a few boutiquey versions of some well known brands. And that’s just around the edge of the real market! Seven days a week, you’ll find hand crafted treasures, bargain vintage finds and some brilliant flea market booty. They have special markets on certain days of the week, and on various Saturdays, including record markets, Judy’s Affordable Market, vintage pop-ups and this Saturday, the Designer Makers Market….which I’ll be hosting a stall at. With Christmas coming up, I can’t think of anywhere better to find something for everyone, and if you can’t make it to say hi this weekend, I’d highly recommend you make a visit in the coming months to fill your stockings!

St Dunstan in the East

On a hot, sunny day, there are few things I’d rather do than while away a few hours in my little City oasis. Largely destroyed in the Second World War, as well as being damaged in the Great Fire of London, the little roofless church now contains the most beautiful secret garden. This is truly one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to, and the stunning light and tranquil atmosphere there make for the perfect urban retreat. Whilst we’ve spent many hours there just reading, sun bathing and taking photos with the place all to ourselves, it has become more popular of late as a photography location so you shouldn’t be surprised to find models having their hair and make up done on the benches there before being snapped against the pretty foliage. Still, it’s the perfect place for a quiet picnic (I had my 30th Birthday party there in fact!), and you’ll not find many places more photogenic.
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The Monument

Very nearby is the Monument to the Fire of London, just 61m from where it started on Pudding Mill Lane. The huge Doric column was designed by Christopher Wren, and is worth visiting just to take photos from outside….although inside is where it really gets exciting. Within the column is a spiral staircase which takes the intrepid explorer right to the top, underneath the symbolic golden urn of flames. The views from there are just stunning, and it’s great for taking photos….there is a grill to stop you from falling / dropping things (much to my comfort) but the wires are far enough apart that you can poke your lens out for a clear shot. It’s only £3 for adults to get in, and you get a certificate to say you’ve done it too!

Mudlarking

Whilst atop the Monument, you’ll have had an amazing view of the Thames, and may even have spied a few mudlarkers along the banks! I have long been fascinated by the treasure hunters who trawl the urban beaches looking for exciting finds that come from the river. You can go on a guided tour in fact to show you the best places to look, and to learn about the history of the Thames and some of the things you can expect to find. It’s at least worth knowing where you’re allowed to go exploring and about the tides too….although I recently explored a little beach further East along the river, near Wapping where I got a wonderful haul! I was delighted to find lots of bits of slate that I’ll be using for presentation on my stall and around the house, as well as a pretty little glass and even a complete clay pipe! The more I looked, the more I found, and the more I filled my pockets with booty! It’s really a very rewarding activity!

Thames River Cruises

Still on the subject of the River, I have to recommend a river taxi along the Thames. There are occasionally free river taxis (like the one we went on last weekend for the Thames Festival), but if you’re not lucky enough to time your trip to coincide with those, the £8 or so to take a trip is very much worth it. There are lots of different companies offering different types of trips along the river from the various public piers. My first trip was from Greenwich on one of the City Cruises boats, which took us all the way to Westminster. Although you can take a more commuter friendly boat using your oyster card, I’d thoroughly recommend taking one of the sight seeing boats so that you have plenty of time for snapping photos. Most of the cruises will offer a free commentary from an unofficial guide, all of whom are super enthusiastic about telling you all about the places you’ll see from the river and the stories that go with them. It’s a lovely way to get about and to see more of London, and a great photo opportunity too.

British Museum

As some of you may recall, my (sort of) New Year’s resolution this year was to see every room at the British Museum. The boyf and I are both members and love our visits there for the special exhibitions, but we did realise that we’d seen only a fraction of the permanent display and wanted to remedy that. We started quite well, ticking off rooms from a copy of the museum plan, but having had the busy year we’ve had, we’ve still not managed nearly half of the rooms! Which I suppose shows just how much there is to see and do there…and all for free too. Of all the museums in London and all over the world I’ve enjoyed discovering, this is the one I know I’ll always come back to. I’m so very proud to have a museum like it, and I’ll never tire of visiting or raving about it. There’s an amazing exhibition on at the moment too (Shakespeare: Staging The World), so if you’ve not been for a while, or at all, then do pay it a visit. I know I’m going to miss going so often!

So with all the Olympics and Paralympics fun gone….the special festivals and events of the summer winding down….and the sun being a little less accommodating to those wishing to just sit and bask in it….there will always be plenty of other things to do in London. And I suppose that’s what I’ll miss the most. Knowing that there’s always something to see or do, no matter what the weather or time of year. I’ll miss being able to walk to some of the best places in the country….but of course that won’t stop me from hopping on the train now and again.

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. Thames Festival and sun sun sun!

*snores*

I am again in need of a weekend to recover from the weekend. I was on a mission to make the most of this weekend, it being our last proper weekend in London….and by golly did we cram it in! I’ll be a bit of a packing zombie for the rest of the week, as I’m utterly shattered and just working on auto pilot now, but it was worth it!

Bright and early on Saturday morning, we were up and yumming up brioche ahead of our day out. After nipping into Waitrose to ask them to save some boxes for us (seriously, how many boxes am I going to need?!), we hopped over to St Katherine Docks to see the exhibition of classic and historical boats. Once we’d started to wander through the docks, we realised what a stunning day it was….and I started to wish I’d brought a hat and some sun screen!

We had a little picnic in the docks, whilst watching some sea cadets kayak around the central marina, as well as some performing keep-fit style displays and dance routines!

Adam has never been on a Thames river taxi, so it was very fortuitous that our last weekend of London adventuring fell on the Thames Festival and we could hop on the free river taxi from St Katherine Pier to Festival Pier. And we couldn’t have asked for a better day for it….so warm and such blue skies! We each took stacks of photos and enjoyed the talk from our guide who pointed out all the places of interest on the way.

We arrived to Festival Pier right on time to head up to the Riverside Terrace outside the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, where Graeae and Strange Fruit were to present their production of The Garden. I’ve been wanting to see them for nearly ten years, after I heard about them and their performance at the Greenwich and Docklands Festival. The story tellers stand atop of four metre high poles, on which they sway around and even start to flip and somersault! It was a very sweet story and just gorgeous to see them performing in the sun, backed by blue skies and the river.

After that, we happened across a wonderful choir performing inside the entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Hall….. Set up in the foyer, the South Africa House for London 2012 included an exhibition and a stage on which Take Note were singing. A small, amateur choir from South Africa, they had everyone dancing and bouncing…the music is incredibly moving!

Once they’d left the stage we took a wander down to the world food market behind the Royal Festival Hall, although it was so packed that we opted to walk a little further down the Southbank to find something to refresh us….. and although it didn’t get any quieter, we found just the thing right in front of the National Theatre. I’m a massive Fro-Yo fan, but Adam has always been a bigger advocate of ice cream….so it’s praise indeed that he chose The Little Mixing Factory‘s frozen yoghurt over their ice cream! And we were not disappointed! They blend fresh fruit in with their yummy natural yoghurt and the results are amazing! It’s certainly some of the best Fro-Yo I’ve had and very good value to boot!

Sweet treats in hand (although not for long…they were scoffed pretty quick!), we meandered along the Southbank amongst the thousands of people there. There were lots of stalls as part of the Thames Festival, as well as a Helter Skelter! The little beach in front of Gabriel’s Wharf was packed too with mudlarkers and sandcastle builders, but I was quickly distracted by the We Make London craft fair next to the OXO Tower. As it happened, my old college friend Nevada had a stall there for her delightful illustrations, pepper pots and baby clothes…it was so nice to see her and to peruse her gorgeous stall!

We hovered in the area for a little while, as the Rio festival was taking part there too, although there was nothing on stage just then so we continued our walk down the river to some more stalls outside the Tate Modern. It was pretty hot by then, and getting busier and busier with people, so we took a little back street short cut to Borough Market to get some refreshing juices (fresh lemonade for me…there is nothing more refreshing on a hot day!).

Refreshed a little, we walked further down the river for a snoop about Hays Galleria, and then onto More London where there were yet more stalls to look at, as well as the Blue Ribbon festival. The place was packed with festival go-ers and paralympics viewers in front of the big screen….and there was a big crowd at The Scoop watching some acrobats!

We were pretty shattered by this point though, so we walked back to St Katherine Docks where we’d started, and opted for an early dinner at Ping Pong to avoid having to cook!….and before long it was time to head home for a freshen up before making our way to our little ‘leaving London’ party!

We’d reserved a little area in our new favourite place, the Oliver Conquest, and arranged for a couple of dozen of our friends to meet us there for a send off. The pub boasts a list of over 50 different types of gin, as well as a yummy menu and lovely staff (who also know their gin!). Adam and I have been making our way through the gin list for the last few weeks….they kindly keep a copy for you behind the bar which you can tick off as you try each one! We’ve tried some amazing drinks there so we were really pleased to share the place with our friends. In fact, we were made up by the number of people who made it to see us off…..it made me a little sad to be leaving them all, especially after such a wonderful day in London too!

Next morning, it was a fry up we needed for breakfast (despite yumming up some of the amazing Oliver Conquest nachos, there was still a lot of gin to soak up!), so popped to our other local for a veggie breakfast before making our way back to Waitrose to pick up the boxes we’d had saved. I couldn’t resist a bit more packing once back at home, just to test out the boxes you understand (I’ve gotten addicted to packing!), but it was so lovely outside we decided we should really go out again soon after.

The wheelchair marathon was passing very near to our flat, so we walked down to Tower Hill to watch a bit, before walking a little further to our favourite place in London….. I’ve written about St Dunstan’s before (I had my birthday party there in fact!) and I must have taken hundreds of photos of the place. It’s a little ‘secret’ garden inside an old church in the City. It’s one of the most tranquil and magical places I’ve ever been too, with its lush planting, incredible light and beautiful architecture. As it was the last chance we’ll get, we took the opportunity to sit there for a few hours, just reading, chatting and sun bathing. It felt like the perfect Sunday activity in fact, and I felt so very relaxed for it.

Having caught a bit of sun, we ambled home, where I took a nice nap before making supper. We scoffed another load of my summery sausage dish, then slobbed on the sofa to watch the Sixth Sense (which I will never tire of watching!). That ended in perfect time to watch the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, and so our evening finished watching the fireworks for the Thames Festival and the closing ceremony from the flat windows….and hearing them too! So loud!

As you can imagine, I was fast asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow after all that, and I awoke sleepy but very content with our wonderful last weekend of fun in London!

Ems x

Living for the weekend……8th and 9th September 2012 in London

Well, this weekend sees the last weekend before our final week in London…..and whilst I know we’ll be packing and planning and organising, we still want to make the most of being in central London so we’re sure to pop out for some adventuring. As usual, there’s lots to tempt us…..and what’s more, I reckon you could do the lot in one day with a good pair of walking shoes!…..

The Garden

Friday at 6pm , Saturday at 1pm and 6pm , and Sunday at 1pm and 6pm

Southbank Centre (Riverside Terrace, in front of Royal Festival Hall, and Queen Elizabeth Hall)

FREE

I’ve been wanting to see the remarkable and incomparable Strange Fruit for years and years, and this weekend they are performing alongside Graeae to present  The Garden at the Southbank Centre. A “gravity-defying outdoor theatre in three stories of love, consequence and hope,” you’ll find the story tellers swaying through the air on four-metre-high poles, all as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme.

Homage To Rio

Saturday

Bernie Spain Gardens, next to the OXO Tower

FREE

From there, walk East along the Southbank of the Thames, and just a little way to The OXO Tower and the adjacent Bernie Square Gardens. There you’ll find special performances to mark the Olympics handover from London to Rio. Performers and artists from Rio and the UK have teamed up to create the largest Rio-style float ever seen in the UK. Expect flamboyantly costumed dancers, DJs, and plenty of Samba!

Blue Ribbon Village

Saturday and Sunday

More London, Tower Bridge

FREE

Next, keep walking down the Southbank and past London Bridge to Tower Bridge and More London (you can grab a bite at Borough Market on the way!). This weekend, the buzzing site will include a river and environmental zone with stalls and attractions from charities and businesses involved with the river’s ecology, wildlife, history and the industries that the Thames supports. There will be plenty going on, with swash-buckling sailors, pond dipping, willow sculpting and kayaking! It sounds perfect for kids (and adventurers like me)!

Classic Boats

Saturday and Sunday

St Katherine Docks, Tower Hill,

FREE

After that, just walk over Tower Bridge and head down the East steps on the North side, and into St Katherine Docks…..and so to discover  a replica Phoenician sailing ship, along with a collection of beautiful classic and historic boats in the Docks’ Central Marina. In addition, you’ll find the London Area Sea Cadets showing their boats and knot tying skills, and there’s even a free river taxi between Festival Pier and St Katharine’s Pier, to get you back to where you started or if you don’t fancy the walk there. Sailings are on the hour from Festival Pier and half past the hour from St Katharine’s Pier. The first taxi is at 10am and the last is at 6pm.

Last Night of the Proms

Saturday from

On the BBC, at Cineworld and Odeon cinemas, and ‘Big Screens’ all over the UK

I know that after that I’ll be ready for a long sit down, so why not settle in front of the telly to wave your union jack through the Last Night of The Proms?! It’s an amazing programme as always….I’m particularly looking forward to Puccini’s E lucevan le stelle from Tosca, Dvořák’s Carnival Overture, You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel, and of course the old faithfuls Pomp and Circumstance and Jerusalem. Whilst die-hard Prommers will be queuing on the South Steps for the limited number of standing tickets still available on the Last Night itself (just £5.00!), the BBC will be covering the evening so you can watch from the comfort of your home…..but if you’re wanting to soak up the atmosphere, you can head to selected Cineworlds and Odeons to watch in 3D, or find your nearest ‘BigScreens’ venue (including Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Dover, Edinburgh, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Salford and Swindon) where you’ll be able to watch out in the open.

Thames Festival Night Carnival and Fireworks Finale

Carnival from 7:15pm to 10pm, along Upper Ground, Blackfriars Bridge & Victoria Embankment

Fireworks from 10:30pm to 10:45pm between Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges

FREE

And because I love a big finale…….the Mayor is throwing quite the party to wave me off from London. And there are few things I love more than a carnival and fireworks…..

To help bring the Thames Festival to a close, an incredible parade of illuminated dancers, drummers and lantern carriers will parade along Upper Ground, Blackfriars Bridge and Victoria Embankment. Expect (amongst many, many others)…. a Victorian travelling circus extravaganza of exotic birds and unusual animals….. ArtStart’s celebration of Dickensian London….. The Phoenix Catchers…. Walking With Giants….. and Mandinga Arts’  Chimera project featuring costumes and puppets, “weaving together human and animal, flora and fauna, fantasy and reality.”

The festival will end, as tradition dictates, with over a ton of fireworks exploding form a barge on the river itself. We watched comfortably last year from London Bridge and got a great view, although if you want to be closer do plan ahead and go early for a spot on Blackfriars or Waterloo Bridges.

Aaaaaand…..sleep!

Ems x

Something from the weekend…..mainly eating and shopping

It was with a great deal of difficulty that I dragged myself out of bed this morning……it appears that I’m too old now for starting off the weekend with a 3am bedtime and lots of wine. Still, it was a super fun weekend, and I did manage a little relaxation time too! And we’ve only got two weeks left in London so I want to make the most of it!

After work on Friday it was off to the Post Office with the stacks of things I had to post….I’ve been listing lots on EBay to get rid of some things I don’t use any more before we move. That out of the way, we made our way to Hither Green, where we’d been invited to our friends Siobhan and Matthew’s new place for supper. We were a little early, so we took the opportunity to try out You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, the lovely little florist/coffee shop at the station, where I’ve been wanting to go for ages. It was nearly closing time, so we had our flat whites served to us outside on the pretty melamine tables….and the coffees were perfect! It’s such a darling little place, full of treasures and pretty flowers, and the yummy offerings are a real bonus!

By the time we’d finished, we were in good time to pop round the corner to our friends, for our first snoop around the place! It’s such a lovely flat…..really well laid out and organised, and Matthew and Siobhan have added lots of personal, colourful touches to make it special. The place also smelled amazing, with a lamb tagine in the oven, as well as Sophie Dahl’s chocolate cake……we were ravs by the time we finished chatting and drinking gin and Prosecco, so devoured the delicious meal which came along with yummy roasted veg and home made aubergine dip. The chocolate cake was the real triumph though….topped with creme fraiche and fresh berries, it was perfectly balanced and incredibly moreish.

As usual, we lost track of time in our hours of chattings and ended up taking the night bus home……it was a lovely walk over Tower Bridge from the South of the river though from the bus stop, and we flolloped into bed absolutely shattered at 3am!

A lie in was very much needed on Saturday morning, which fitted in perfectly with our days plans……we were heading over to friends Richard and Tara’s place in Farringdon to meet up for a nice late brunch. Knowing that the meal would probably cost us most of our day’s Weight Watchers Points, we opted to take the 40 minute walk there, through the City and Barbican (which gains us extra points). It was a lovely morning for a wander, and I know I’ll miss taking walks in the City, past the Guildhall and the pretty little gardens.

It was the first time we’d been to their new(ish) place too, and we enjoyed meeting their giant house rabbits! Our friend Sam was visiting for the weekend too, with her daughter, so the six of us popped around the corner to Giant Robot for a slap up brunch. It was a Bloody Mary to start for the most of us, and then their ‘Giant Omellette’ to eat….. both were utterly delicious and I left stuffed and sleepy!

We needed the walk back too, in order to wake me up a little and walk off the gluttony….so we ambled over to Old Spitalfields Market, where we met friends Kate and Jason to potter around Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair. I’d been eying up a little Hornsea Pottery Fauna Deer Vase the last time the fair was there, and I’d decided that if the stall still had it, I’d get it! And sure enough, the pretty I Heart Vintage stall was there as usual, and their shelf of cutesy deer ornaments still contained what I was after! I snapped it up and also spent a while snooping their other treasures and getting ever so tempted by various vintage tins, cuckoo clocks and weather houses! I managed to be good though, at least until I came across a stunning green gingham melamine drop leaf table…..I’ve loved the style for ever and moving into the bigger house means we have space for such things. I plan to use it as a desk in my little studio and can’t wait to set it all up!

It was straight home after that (after all, Adam did have a table to carry!), and most of the rest of the day was spent drinking cups of tea, eating and reading, until it was time for an early night.

Sunday started with another naughty brunch of Belgian waffles, banana and maple syrup…..merely to set us up for another day out and about! After having stuffed our faces we jumped on the tube over to Pimlico to go to the car boot sale there. It runs every Sunday, inside and out, and I’m a little miffed that I only recently discovered it and this was our first visit! It’s crammed with booty, and we spent a good while mooching about the various offerings.

I picked up a great haul……several little bits and bobs from a big gingham cloth of treasures on the floor (which Adam had to forcibly remove me from rooting in), a beautiful Toile bed linen set (exactly what I was after for a guest room in the new house), a wonderful little man’s travel set (which will be added to my Etsy shop when I have some more vintage stock), and a darling little sweater with tortoises on it! I’ll post some pictures of my finds soon!

We still had a little energy left for adventure, and needed a cup of coffee, so we walked just round the corner to the Tate Britain. It’s undergoing a lot of work at the moment, so we found it tricky to make our way about, but we eventually found the cafe, only to be served two rather rubbish Americanos. Still, it was worth popping in just to see their awesome collection of Turners (my favourite) and their brilliant shop!

After that though we were pretty shattered, and so once home it was more cups of tea and reading until it was time for a supper of butternut squash risotto and a quick film before another early night! Rock and roll!

Ems x