Blog Every Day in May: Travel Dreams

“If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would it be?”

Right now? Somewhere it’s not raining and where I don’t need thermal socks on!

But really, I do have lots of travel dreams. And in honesty, most of them are probably just that, dreams. I’m afraid I’m not very proactive when it comes to travelling….I’ve never prioritised it, found much time for it, nor saved the funds for it. My fiance, Adam, has by contrast travalled lots, and I look on his amazing travel photos in awe! I think it’s fair to say that if he’d not met me, he would probably still be going off on fun long trips, so I probably should plan on some travelling with him in the future, lest he resents me for spoiling his adventures!

I have a bit of a list of places I’d like to go to, and it’s constantly growing! Here are my top picks though….

Canada

Adam is always saying we should move to Vancouver, and I suppose as it usually makes the top three places to live in the world, it must have quite a lot going for it! I do love the look of the landscapes there, the idea of good clean living, skiing and all the niceness!

State of Washington

Now don’t judge me….it’s probably fairly acceptable to love Twin Peaks as obsessively as I do, but I can’t say I’m proud of how much I love the Twilight films! Still, that part of America has a real charm for me, and I’d love to go to the towns where these were filmed…and it would be an easy trip from Vancouver!

Tibet

Just because of Twin Peaks (again).

480304695_152411ea30_z

New Zealand

It may be because the climate appeals to me more than Australia, or the incredible landscapes I see in the films (Adam is forever pointing out, saying ‘I’ve been there, it’s in New Zealand’ when we watch things). It seems like an amazing way of life here too, and Adam speaks very fondly of the people there and how kind they were to him.

Peru

Ever since I first saw photos of Machu Pichu, I’ve wanted to go there. I would LOVE to walk the Inca Trail, and in fact as Adam does too we are quite likely to do so together!

3711055066_fa793073cc_z

Jordan

Some of my favourite photos from Adam’s travels were taken in Jordan, at Petra. I just adore the ancient architecture, and would be so excited to discover it one very early morning, imagining myself as one of those intrepid explorers who really did discover it after centuries!

230002900_c3c729ba47_z

Japan

This is my favourite country I’ve never been to! I know I’d love all the kitschness, the food, the cherry blossom season, the architecture (in all its varying forms!), the history and the efficiency! Adam has been but would happily return…and I’m fairly sure we’ll have to go before too long!

As well as these destinations, I would just LOVE LOVE LOVE to go on a few road trips / super-deluxe tours! I’m crazy about the idea of a road trip for months and months to really explore all of North America (there is so much I want to see there….New York, San Francisco, the deep south, Niagra, Grand Canyon….), and it’d have to be in a huge classic American Car or with an Airstream! I also adore the idea of an incredibly luxurious trip all over Italy…I’ve loved everywhere I’ve been to in that country (Rome, Florence, Sienna and Pisa) and would jump at the chance to explore more cities there, as well as the coast and the countryside. I think another great travel project would be to see all the original Wonders of The World…I know they don’t all still exist (or possibly some of them never did!) but to find the closest thing to each would be amazing. I’d also love to visit all the ‘new’ seven wonders, although I’m not sure I completely agree with all of the list!

If I won the lottery today though (the big bucks, obviously, not a tenner) I think I’d have to go wild and plan a round the world trip to see all of the James Bond film and book locations….I’m a bit of a James Bond nut and some of the places I’ve read about in the books and seen in the films just seem like the most exciting places on Earth! And with the big bucks lottery prize, I’d travel with Valextra luggage, sail about on yachts with hot crew, get jetted about in helicopters, stay in all the finest hotels, take photos on a vintage analogue Leica, and drink Champagne on my private balcony for breakfast. Just like James Bond.

Well, the title WAS Travel *Dreams*!

Ems x

PS. Thanks to Adam for the photos!

About these ads

Something from the weekend…. A stunning wedding weekend in Austria

I bally love a good wedding. And so an entire weddingy weekend was just bliss. I was honoured to be be invited to our friends Katie and Peter’s wedding, and even more delighted that it was all taking in place in Austria! If you’ve read my last few posts you’ll know that I was lucky enough to take a holiday to Vienna in November for the Christmas markets, and I was only too happy to get back there in the sunnier weather…..

Friday started out a little stressful, as in taking a little holiday, we had to leave the pup for the first time! It was worse still because Adam’s mum, who would usually look after him for us, is away at the moment so he had to go to her friend…..she’s a long time dog owner and lover though and we got him used to her and her house over the last few weeks by going for walks together and visiting her cute little cottage. Still, I was a bit of a wreck and properly welled up as we left him, despite the fact that he was clearly very happy to be having a bit of a holiday of his own!

After dropping Cooper off, we made our way to the airport and had a nice leisurely journey to Vienna. We had a couple of hours to spare at the airport at that end, before the coach arrived to take us to the wedding venue, so we indulged in a nice big dinner….I love the food in Austria, and very happily yummed up a large helping of Wiener Schnitzel with parsley potatoes, as well as some excellent coffee…..there’s no pretence with Viennese food, but it’s all such great quality and so very tasty!

20130423-184032.jpg

20130423-184039.jpg

After a few more guests had arrived on a later flight, our little coach took us south towards Graz, to the little village of Bad Waltersdorf where the wedding venue is. We made the journey fun by taking along some very sweet fizzy wine and lots of sweets, and so it didn’t seem too long a journey at all. We were taken directly to the Schloß Obermayerhofen and walked through the castle grounds up to the idyllic little chalet at the top of the hill. The Gaisrieglhof is a 250 year old farmhouse from nearby Pöllau, rebuilt here and used for the traditional pre-wedding gathering. Some guests had dressed in the traditional national dress, including the beautiful bride, and there were traditional musicians playing and wearing wonderful lederhosen! It was lovely to have a little pre-wedding catch up with everyone and drink a couple of glasses of the delicious local wine after our journey!

20130423-184045.jpg

20130423-184053.jpg

After our long day prior, we enjoyed a bit of a lie in on the Saturday morning and spent most of the day getting ready for the wedding in the afternoon. It was great fun getting ready with some of Adam’s lovely old school friends, and at 2pm we all took a taxi up to the Schloß from our hotel to start the celebrations. We were greeted by lovely cold drinks and yummy nibbles as part of the Agape feast, and before long watched the stunning Katie walk down from her room. We moved through to the pretty meadow behind the castle, where a cute gazebo surrounded by chairs was set up for the civil part of the wedding….it was beautiful to be out in the open air and the weather was certainly kind! There was a Catholic ceremony after that, in the gorgeous Baroque chapel, then music and fizz out on the castle’s terrace as the couple had lots of photos taken.

The wedding breakfast took place in another of the castle’s incredible rooms, and we were treated to an exceptionally good dinner (asparagus soup with herb dumplings, wild garlic ravioli, crusted lamb and a trio of chocolate desserts!) alongside some wonderful local wines. The speeches were all very funny and touching, and after dinner the happy couple took to the floor for a very impressive tango for their first dance.

20130423-184123.jpg

We whiled away the night chatting, drinking and dancing, and having a lovely time in great company. There was a midnight feast of gulaschsuppe (possibly my favourite thing we ate on the whole trip and absolutely divine!) and so we were very contented indeed when we finally got to our beds.

20130423-184113.jpg

After breakfast and checkout on Sunday morning, another coach took us back to Vienna airport where we dropped off our bags and then made our way into the Vienna Mitte to spend a few hours before our flight home. We’d not managed to visit the popular Zanoni Eis gelateria when we were there last, so that was an obvious choice….. we were a little overwhelmed by the masses of flavours though, but did finally manage to choose six different scoops to fill a nice large tub with (nutella, melon, pistachio, strawberry, coffee and chocolate!). They were all super-yum, but the melon was a definite favourite, and the treat was very welcome in the city heat!

20130423-184150.jpg

20130423-184142.jpg

We had a little mooch around the city after that, going back to the fun clock in the town and also heading back to the wonderful Cafe Pruckel next to the Stadtpark…..we yummed up very naughty iced coffees that were drowning in cream and chocolate! We walked off the treats round the sunny park, and then slowly made our way back to the airport for the flight home.

20130423-184129.jpg

20130423-184158.jpg

We were lucky enough to catch a lift home with some other friends who’d taken the same flight, so our journey wasn’t too arduous. Still, we were pretty exhausted when we got back and flaked out almost immediately. The house didn’t feel like home though until our precious pup was delivered back to us on Monday morning….I’d missed him so terribly and despite having had a wonderful little holiday of his own and loving all the attention from his new friends, he seemed delighted to see us too!

Hope you had a lovely sunny weekend too!

Ems x

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

Vienna: Drinks

Whilst we were preparing for our trip to Vienna last year, it quickly became apparent that one thing we could greatly look forward to was some exceptionally good coffee. Adam and I are constantly frustrated by our country’s rubbish attempts at cafe culture (you know, the over-crowded chain cafes, noisy with crying babies and fake coffee-making noises, and the over-frothy burnt milk that is supposed to pass as a coffee) and although we’ve found a few exceptional places in London and in Hitchin, we were excited by the prospect of being able to get a great coffee in lots of places.

Our guide book also offered us temptations in the form of cocktail bars, Gluwein (the yummy mulled wine you can buy at the Christmas markets) and of course, lots of cakes and things to go with them. And we certainly weren’t disappointed either! We spent many an hour just relxing in one of Vienna’s lovely cafes, and were so pleased with the bar we first found that we didn’t bother going anywhere else!

So, here’s my round up of Vienna’s cafes and bars….

The first place anyone usually tells you to go in Vienna is Cafe Sacher. The famous hotel is located right behind the Staatsoper (opera house) and is a mecca for those wanting to try the iconic Sacher Torte. The dense chocolate cake was first created by the hotel’s chef Sacher in 1832, and the original recipe remains a hotel secret (as you’d expect for what they claim is the most famous cake in all the world!). And whilst the cafe is delightfully traditional and ever so proper (mind you choose the smoking or non smoking room as you prefer….not something we are used to any more!) and the cake is nice enough, it’s certainly more about the experience of going rather than the cake being any kind of special. There, I said it. Don’t hate me.

Purists may dislike me for it, but I actually much preferred our visit to Cafe Sperl, another Vienese favourite although a little more hidden away behind the Museum Quarter. The speciality here is Sperlschnitte, a sort of crispy-topped, dense chocolate torte-style brownie….and BOY is it special! The coffee here was perfect too, and I could have happily whiled away the entire day in the decadent surroundings (even if the service there is a little more brusque!).

I’m usually the sort of person who stays glued to their guide book and only ventures into places recommended by it….but that just makes it even more of a pleasure when I find somewhere by myself! Orlando di Castello didn’t need a Trip Advisor rating to draw me in….the huge shiny glass windows fronting onto one of the squares we visited for its Christkindlmarkt, revealed a stunning interior, and we all know I’m driven by appearances! This place is beautiful though…fresh white walls and furniture are accented with pretty red flower bud motifs, and the attractive looking menu was the sort I just like to stare at and then point at random to order. Despite that though, the coffees here were nothing short of amazing….we visited twice and tried several of their specialities (usually involving booze or ice cream…or sometimes both!) and we were wowed by every one.

Cafe Pruckel isn’t too far behind Cafe Sacher in terms of reputation. Right next to the Stadt Park within a gorgeously deco building, this is the sort of cafe that people sit in for hours reading the papers and slowly drinking their way through their long coffees. Despite the informality though, this is a buzzing cafe and the offerings are just delicious. We tried the Schoko Weicher and Topfelstrudel, both of which were deliciously rich and totally dreamy. And whilst I stuck with a (admittedly yummy) standard coffee, Adam went to town with one of their super-boozy, super-naughty coffee specials, which happily set him up for the cold outside!

As I mentioned, we didn’t venture bar-wards too much after finding our favourite place…..we loved the tiny and charming Loos American Bar near the cathedral, but it was far too smokey for us and crammed from early on….and we had great cocktails (and burgers!) on our first night at the late opening bar in the Museum Quarter….but the only place we really settled in was Kruger Bar. You’re asked to leave your coat with the lovely lady at the little foyer kiosk, then if you prefer to sit in the smoking or non smoking room (nicely separated by glass so non-smokers aren’t bother at all!). We were presented with a very comprehensive leather bound cocktail menu and brought yummy nibbles as we settled into our gentlemans’ club style leather arm chairs….and what’s more is that our order even satisfied my cocktail-snob of a fiance! We tried a good few of our favourite classics as well as some of the house specialities, and all were great quality and good value to boot. I’d definitely recommend nesting-in here for a few pre-dinner martinis, or for your post-opera night caps.

Prost!

Ems x

A few days in Vienna

This Friday I’m lucky enough to be jetting off to the beautiful Vienna. Friends of ours are getting married just south of there on Saturday, and whilst we won’t get to spend too much time in Vienna itself, preparing to go is reminding me of the wonderful holiday Adam and I had there last November.

Just in time for all the Christmas markets opening up all over the city, we spent a few days in Vienna and absolutely adored it. It’s a stunning city, with lots of open space so that you can stand back to be wowed by the wonderful architecture. We loved the palaces and museums, as well as the incredible food and amazing coffee shops. We were delighted to see dogs everywhere and welcomed into shops, cafes and restaurants.

The Christmas Markets were definitely the highlight of the trip for me, but I can’t wait to see the city again in the warmer weather.

And as I’ve been promising other wedding guests some tips on where to visit whilst there, I thought I’d share some of my favourite bits about Vienna here on my blog over the next few days…..there’ll be a post about our best food and coffee recommendations, where we most loved visiting, and some of the must-see sights. I’ll start tomorrow with food….as that was definitely a huge highlight for us both!

Enjoy,

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.
CNV00014

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

Treasure hunting at the Capital Car Boot

If you read my weekend post yesterday, you’ll know I had rather a lot of fun finding treasures at the Capital Car Boot on Sunday. I’ve only recently heard about it, and rather sadly this Sunday was probably the only chance I’ll get to go….although who knows!

The car boot is on every Sunday in Pimlico, come rain or shine! It’s really an awful lot better than the other car boots in London I’ve been to….it has lots of variety, but only ‘proper’ car boot stalls (no dodgy dealers!). Most of the sale happens in the car park of the venue, with lots of the sellers literally selling out of their car boots…..there are some other sellers inside, as well as refreshments available.

We had a great time there….well over an hour in fact….and it’s a nice area to potter around in afterwards, with the Tate Britain nearby, as well as some lovely pubs about. I’d definitely recommend it to the intrepid treasure hunters, who like me, enjoy a good snoop about a bunch of random stuff….and I’m sure even the die-hard car-booters enjoy a good barter and bargaining there!

I snapped up a whole load of treasures, all at a bargainous price….and I thought I’d share with you here!……

Pillow cases in a lovely Toile Pattern…..

…..and matching duvet cover for one of our new spare rooms

Super cute tortoise sweater

Amazing Gentleman’s travel set

A whole load of treasure I found in a big heap of random stuff on a gingham cloth!……

…..including a lovely string of pearls……

….a Snow White charm…..

…..some tiny wooden skull beads…..

…..a tiny wooden die…..

…..a pretty pearly jewel…..

….a little secret treasure keeper charm…..

…..all wrapped up in a little Woods Ware ‘Beryl’ sugar bowl!

It’s worth following Capital Car Boot on Twitter and/or Facebook, as they give passwords to gain free entry with each week!

Happy treasure hunting!

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