Category Archives: London

London

Walking in London

walking in london“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”
Steven Wright

“No city should be so large that someone can’t walk out of it in a morning.”
Cyril Connolly

Pick up a copy of the Evening Standard magazine today and read Will Self’s article about walking in and out of London. Then wrap up warm this weekend, leave your home and walk for as long as you can. Because like Self, ‘I truly feel that if all Londoners walked out of the city once a year, it would do more for our sense of civic pride than any number of mayoral or local governmental initiatives’.

So, where to walk to? Head out of London through Wanstead and Snaresbrook en route to Epping. Or walk alone into London and gain some perspective at the memorial to heroic self-sacrifice at Postman’s Park.

Walking in London (and out of it) is always worth it, I promise.

P.S. Will Self on skyscrapers

How long is your commute?

london underground tube train how long is your commute

It turns out that New Yorkers are just as obsessed with commute times as Londoners. Like Caroline from A Cup of Jo, the first three questions I’m normally asked (or asking!) at a party are ‘where do you work’, ‘where do you live’ and ‘what’s the commute like?’.

How long is your commute?

My commute is an hour each way on a good day. I guess that’s quite a long commute, but that’s London for you. It’s often quicker to travel from the suburbs into the city than it is to travel from one side of London to the other.

I have my commute down to a fine art. I know which chipped sign to stand next to in the morning so I can squeeze on the first of my two trains. When it comes to getting on the second train, I always wait for it to arrive at the other end of the platform so I can secure a speedy exit at the station closest to the office.

I know that there’s a faster route to work that would shave four minutes off my commute time, but I rarely take it. A seat trumps being squeezed in like a sardine any day, at least when there’s only four minutes in it.

An extra working week for every month

I recently calculated that for every four weeks of work I spend another working week travelling to and fro. That’s a cool 40 hours a month ‘wasted’ on a train.

Except I don’t think having a seat on a train is wasted time. It’s only wasted time if you’re not enjoying it. Since doing the sums I’ve tried to up my travel game, finding new ways to make the most of my time. My journey is mostly spent underground so a lack of Wi-Fi (and a broken iPod) has pushed me to think beyond the obvious.

At some point I’d love to use that time to learn a foreign language. At the moment though I use it to read short stories, listen to podcasts and catch up on long reads. Sometimes (like today) I manage to write a blog post too.

The best commutes though are the ones where I lose myself in stories. I’ve loved listening to Serial and reading articles published in the New Yorker, like Filter Fish by Oliver Sacks.

I’m just trying to make those 40 hours a month count.

I’d love to know more about your commute. Do you walk to work? Perhaps you travel by boat (like Alex when the tubes are down)? Do you feel like it’s wasted time or do you have a clever way to make the most of it?

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Serial podcast

serial podcastHave you listened to a podcast called Serial? It’s the most addictive real life story. For those of you who haven’t, here’s a little summary:

Last year journalist Sarah Koenig started investigating a murder, sharing her findings once a week on a podcast called Serial. She was investigating the 1999 murder of high-school senior Hae Min Lee in Baltimore. Hae Min Lee’s ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was arrested and is currently in jail for her murder.

The catch? He says he’s innocent. A lot of criminals say their innocent but the case of Adnan Syed was murky enough for Koenig to investigate further.

Koenig is an exceptional journalist with the most incredible voice. Each podcast discusses a different element of the case as well as interviews with Syed and other key figures. I won’t ruin the story for you (describing it as a story doesn’t sit comfortable with me, but I’m not sure how else to describe the flow of the podcast) but definitely try the first episode when you have time as I’m sure you’ll be hooked.

As for me, I’m waiting with baited breath for season two of Serial and a whole new story to learn about.

Have you listened to the Serial podcast? Would love to know your thoughts.

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Image: Corey Blaz

Explore London with Fotoruta’s iPhone photography class

Anyone who reads this blog knows that my photos aren’t anything special. Unlike most lifestyle and London bloggers I don’t own a DSLR and have no intention of doing so. If I can’t master the basics no amount of fancy technology is going to save me.

Thanks to smartphones I take more photos than ever and I do think mine have improved since I got Instagram a few years ago. That’s the great thing about social media that we often forget; being exposed to other people’s work is inspirational and the more we see, the more we learn and the more we think about our own work differently.

My photography skills still leave a lot to be desired so for my birthday Alex sent me on an iPhone photography class (fellow Android users rejoice – these classes are for you too).

The Fotoruta classes are as much about exploring London as they are about photography. Importantly, it doesn’t matter how much you know about London or about photography either – the classes are small and there is plenty of time to ask your tutor specific questions.

On the day I met my group in a coffee shop in Camden. There was our tutor Jahel, me and a family of four. Usually being the odd one out is really off putting but it really didn’t matter that I was on my own. The family were lovely and there are no partner up activities to make you feel left out.

How well you know the area you’re photographing is irrelevant too. I’ve spent thousands of hours of my life walking through Camden whilst the rest of the group barely knew the place and we all got something out of it.

Before the day we were all encouraged to download specific apps. I’ve since learnt that this is as much about the camera functionality as it is about the editing options. One thing I really liked about this course was the focus on taking a good photograph; editing can be fun, but you need to understand what makes a good photo if you want to create something of value.

By the end of the Fotoruta workshop I discovered that what I liked to capture, and what I was best at capturing, mirrored my wider interests. I’m interested in the contrast between rich and poor. Old and new. Gentrification. Changing communities. Architecture. Juxtaposition. And (sadly) where better to capture that today than on the streets of Camden, one of London’s most diverse boroughs.

As you can probably tell I thought the Fotoruta iPhone workshop was great. If you want to learn more about photography so you can take better photos whilst out and about it is definitely worth booking yourself in for a class. Now for a few of my better photos from the day… Let me know what you think!

green building camden

A different perspective on Inverness Street

santander cycles camden

Having fun with new photography apps

camden town london

My 1000th photo of a building in Camden (probably)

street art camden london

Exploring the theme of loneliness

Check out more of my photos on Instagram and learn more about Fotoruta London here.

London Life

Sunday was always going to be all about Wimbledon, whether I liked it or not. I’ve never been a huge tennis fan but give me an excuse to make a themed afternoon tea and I’m on board. The match was pretty entertaining plus I got to use my new cake stand, so we’re all winners in the end.

Here are a few photos of London life from the last week:

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Contemplating which delicious recipe to make first from the Nordic Bakery cookbook

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A bloggers cocktail masterclass at the Pullman Hotel

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Drinks in the reading room at Paradise By Way of Kensal Green

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Brunch with friends at Duck & Waffle

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Pimms and finger sandwiches for the Wimbledon Men’s Single final

Dinner and cocktails at Mamounia Lounge Mayfair

A little while ago we headed across London to Mamounia Lounge Mayfair for dinner and cocktails. They’d invited us down to sample the new Chef Specials and who am I, queen of fusion, to turn down the opportunity to try a new take on Lebanese and Morrocan food?

Word of warning – my photos are seriously awful. It’s super dark in Mamounia Lounge which I like but that means my poor phone couldn’t snap a decent shot :(

Thankfully unlike my take on fusion, which is usually accidental and only happens because I’ve run out of ingredients and sure cumin is going to work just fine with leftover Vietnamese basil, the fusion dishes at Mamounia Lounge actually worked.

It was a Saturday evening so naturally we started the night with cocktails. You don’t generally associate Lebanese or Moroccan restaurants with excellent cocktails so I was surprised to see an extensive list of options to choose from. I tried the classic Mamounia which was like a mojito. It was excellent; incredibly sharp with an underlying sweetness to take the edge off the acidity. Similarly Alex’s Charlie Sheen was far more flavoursome than I expected; I’m not one for fruity cocktails but I could have drunk those all night.

After a round of drinks we tucked into a couple of starters. The homous with truffle was presented beautifully and had just the right amount of truffle. When it comes to homous I’m a traditionalist, but as I eat homous all the time it was good to go out and eat something different to what I eat most days of the week.

The second starter we shared were the sardines. I love sardines but they’re often presented in an unappetising manner and that puts some people off. This is definitely a dish even newbie sardine fans can enjoy. Even my nan would have liked them as they weren’t too fishy!


Personally I think starters are the best part of every meal so I easily could have ordered everything on the menu and enjoyed a mezze main. However we were keen to try more of the fusion menu so we ordered the sea bass and the stuffed vegetables to share.

There were two pieces of sea bass on the plate alongside some vegetables. This was plenty for me but those with larger appetites might need a side or two. Alex ate most of the stuffed vegetables but the mouthfuls I had were really good. Each vegetable was stuffed with a different filling, so even vegetarians get a bit of variety for once!

Pretty full we were just going to share a selection of briouat for dessert, but we were tempted into trying the chocolate fondant too. The fondant was cooked perfectly and the briouat went down nicely alongside a welcome glass of mint tea.


This isn’t the usual type of place I’d visit but I had a thoroughly lovely time. The service was excellent and on a Saturday night the live music and belly dancer make it a really fun place to visit. I’m looking forward to going back one summer evening for shisha on the pavement upstairs!

Our meal at Mamounia Lounge Mayfair was complimentary but as usual my views are all my own honest thoughts. A big thank you to Abby for organising and to everyone at Mamounia Lounge Mayfair for a lovely evening.

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Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2015

royal academy summer exhibition 2015

Gallery III of the Summer Exhibition 2015 (c) David Parry, Royal Academy of Arts

On a hot summer Friday night I found myself hanging out with the cool kids at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. I’d been invited to a Bloggers and Instagrammers event and the place was swarming with the best London Instagrammers around.

I know this because for the first time ever visitors were allowed to take photos at the Summer Exhibition this year, so I got to stalk their shots using the #RAsummer hashtag and I was seriously impressed with what I saw. The Instagrammers there on the night managed to create carefully crafted images that allowed me to see the art itself in a new light.

As for me, it was the first time I’d been invited to a gallery as a blogger, and the first time I’ve ever bothered to blog about a gallery in depth. I’ve dabbled in the past when I’ve visited Somerset House (for Mapping the City and a Nicholas Hawksmoor exhibition) but usually I’m so lost in the art at an exhibition that taking notes is the last thing on my mind.

Thankfully before we wandered through the exhibition we were treated to a very welcome chilled glass of wine in one of the many private rooms at the Academy so I could get my head in gear. We also received a comprehensive introduction to the Summer Exhibition which was delivered so passionately that I was positively brimming with excitement by the time it was over. The amount of people and work involved is bigger than I could have imagined, and gaining a better understanding of that has elevated this annual event even higher in my mind.

Michael Craig-Martin co-ordinated the Summer Exhibition this year and colour is at the heart of his strategy. Everything is eminently Instagrammable, from Jim Lambie’s multi-coloured staircase as you walk in to the vibrant walls of the main galleries.

As for the work on show, well, I’m not sure a blog post will ever do it justice. With 1000+ pieces of art on display including painting, sculpture, printmaking, architecture, film and photography there really is something for everyone to enjoy. And with most of the artwork for sale, you may even find something to take home and keep for good. Later this week I’ll be sharing five affordable pieces of art for sale at the Summer Exhibition so stay tuned for my top picks.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2015

Date: 8 June – 16 August 2015
Time: 10am – 6pm daily, 10am – 10pm Fridays
Price: £13.50

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Will Self on Skyscrapers

will self skyscrapers quote

“When it comes to skyscrapers I am, in the proper sense of the word, ambivalent: I hate them for all the obvious reasons – sometimes a cigar may be just a cigar, but a skyscraper is always a big swaying dick vaunting the ambitions of late capitalism to reduce the human individual to the status and the proportions of a submissive worker ant. ”

Will Self

 

London Life

As much as I love London, this was one of those weekends that made me wish I lived somewhere warmer, like Los Angeles or Istanbul. Every time I leave home I’m lugging around extra layers, a scarf and an umbrella just in case the beautiful warm weather changes its mind suddenly and we’re plunged into grey darkness and treated to a hearty rainfall.

It’s making me act like a bit of a hermit too. When the sun is hiding, we stay at home with Friday Night Cocktails.

gin and tonic

This week we kept it simple with a Gin and Tonic in my favourite Habitat glass (you can’t quite see the shape of the glass, but it’s angular and holds a lot of gin) and a Gin Martini (served in a champagne saucer, because, priorities). Sitting pretty on our bread-shaped bread board as we are yet to invest in that all essential slate or marble slab that every blogger seems to own (other things we’ve yet to purchase include a toaster and a television so the slabs are going to be a while).

After a Friday night in I met friends for High Brunch at Soho Hotel for (you guessed it) brunch on Saturday morning.
high brunch soho hotelMini eggs royale, spinach and goats cheese croissants, fruit pots, french toast, granola and muffins served on a cake stand and devoured in its entirety by yours truly and Katie, my partner in brunch crime.

After three hours of eating, gossiping and pondering the merits of whether anybody would find our weird conversations more entertaining than Made in Chelsea we hopped on the tube down to Embankment. We promptly had a quick wander around a small market and settled down to enjoy the sun over a glass of wine before working that off with a walk over the bridge and a meander down Southbank.

 

southbank skateparkInstagram always at the ready, I snapped this photo of a skateboarder who almost inspired us to don helmets and knee pads and join the party. After considering the prospect for all of two seconds we decided to leave the experts to it.

Sunday has no photos because, you know, rain. Any tips for what to do in London in the rain? I’m obviously in need of some inspiration!

 

London Life

After two months of manic weekends we spent Saturday and Sunday exploring Wanstead and Snaresbrook in East London. We spent Saturday walking through the woods in Wanstead Park, an outpost of Epping Forest, before having friends over on Saturday night. On Sunday we turned our attention to Snaresbrook and I may have visited Stratford Westfield for the millionth time this month. I swear that place is both a convenient blessing and a consumerist curse.

bluebell field wanstead park londonCatching the bluebells in season at Wanstead Park

eagle pond snaresbrookViews across Eagle Pond towards Snaresbrook Crown Court

the larder wanstead high streetLunch at The Larder on Wanstead High Street

mini driveway library wansteadThe cutest mini library in a driveway in Wanstead

eagle pond snaresbrookEnjoying the view across Eagle Pond in Snaresbrook