Category Archives: Places to Visit

Places to Visit

Boats at sea in Sandbanks

Throwback Thursday – Sandbanks

Boats at sea in Sandbanks

It was my final term of university and things were getting stressful. One morning my close friend and housemate popped her head into my room and said she was going to Sandbanks to escape for a while, and would I like to go too?

Minutes later the three of us (best friends and housemates) dropped everything, got into the car and ate chocolate covered marshmallows as we drove to Sandbanks, one of the finest places on the south coast. It was uncharacteristic behaviour for us all (we had exams to study for, dissertations to write, books to read…) but without realising it we all desperately needed a break and some quality time having fun together.

We were so excited to see the sea and skipped along the beach for ages before stopping for afternoon tea and cake. After more time on the beach we drove to Corfe Castle where we ran up and down the hills, posed for pictures, danced and sang. We’re an easily pleased bunch.

Afterwards we wandered around the area and saw a steam train. Then we found a lake in a field and sat by it for a while, lying back to gaze at the sky and zone out. When it got cold we drove back to Sandbanks (at which point I snapped the picture above), treated ourselves to dinner and drove back to our house.

This was one of the happiest afternoons of my life. I’m not sure what made it so wonderful, but looking back at the pictures from that day I’ve honestly never seen us look so good. Rosy cheeks and wispy hair really worked for us that day! Spontaneity had paid off and we took so much pleasure from the simple things in life that day – friendship, tea and fresh sea air.

Each Thursday I post a photo from the past, usually with a few words about where and when it was taken. You might like to read last week’s Throwback Thursday – Boston.

A Cup of Jo: 10 Surprising Things About Parenting

A Cup of Jo is one of my all time favourite lifestyle blogs. Her posts are consistent and the writing is just so likeable, for want of a better word.

As the queen of blogging prep she lined up a series of guest posts to keep the content coming whilst giving birth to her second child, including a series about motherhood in different countries. Parenting is not a topic I ever read about but learning about different countries and cultures through this perspective presented a unique take on different lifestyles.

I thought I’d round up the 10 most surprising facts I learnt about parenting, and life, in other countries through reading the posts. Here goes:

On appliances in Northern Ireland: ‘Priorities are completely different when it comes to home appliances. Washing machines are tiny. Refrigerators are tiny. I haven’t had a freezer for a year and half. But every home has an electric tea kettle. EVERY SINGLE HOME.’

On clothes in Congo: ‘Congolese women have serious style. Everywhere you look, they’re wearing fabulous, wild-colored, curve-hugging dresses. Old, young, thick, thin. There are no allowances for “mom-uniforms,” like workout clothes. If I wear sweatpants on a vacation day, the nannies all give me looks and suggest I have a dress made. Hiring a tailor for some custom work is not something reserved for the rich in Congo.”

On greetings in Mexico: ‘Mexican mamas do this really great thing where they teach their children to greet adults with a peck on the cheek. It doesn’t matter if the child is 2, 12 or 22. It doesn’t matter if the child runs into you at the local market or comes into your home for dinner. A well-mannered child will always saludar bien—greet properly with a kiss.’

On walking to school in Japan: “All the kids in our town meet in the road and walk to school together…as young as seven. The elder people in the neighborhood volunteer to make sure the kids safely cross the roads.’

On being a woman in Abu Dhabi: ‘while I was pregnant with Elena and went to the local hospital for routine visits, my husband would have to sit in a separate male waiting room.’

On street art in Mexico: ‘Diego Rivera, one of Mexico’s most beloved artists, believed that art should be enjoyed by everyone—especially the working class and the poor. So he dedicated himself to painting murals in public spaces. Mexico City is all about this idea of “art for the people.” ‘

On friendliness in Norway: ‘there’s no American pressure to be friendly and “on” all the time. It’s okay to be quiet and keep to yourself. I love getting a haircut here because I don’t feel pressure to make small talk with the stylist.’

On breastfeeding in Congo: ‘Mama NouNou told me that in her experience, if there is a baby crying on the bus, all the women on the bus shout, “Feed the baby! Give it the breast!” She explained it as, “Everyone wants the mama to know that she should feel comfortable feeding her baby—no matter where she is.”‘

On community in Japan: ‘Community is everything here. The town holds lots of events, and everyone goes. Once a month everyone gets together to clean the neighborhood and local Buddhist temple. When you’re out walking around you always have to “do greeting,” which is a formal bow and hello. It’s so nice, but also sometimes I think, leave me alone! In New York I could be anonymous and never know my neighbors.’

On school in Norway: ‘Most kids here start Barnehage [pre-school] when they’re one year old—it’s subsidized by the government to encourage people to go back to work. You pay $300 a month and your kids can stay from 8am to 5pm. They spend a ton of time outside, mostly playing and exploring nature. At some Barnehage, they only go inside if it’s colder than 14 degrees.’

On midwife visits in Northern Ireland: The absolute best part of having a baby in Northern Ireland (besides it being free) is that you don’t have to leave your house for any pesky doctor’s appointments. The first week I was home with Ollie, a midwife came to my house every day to weigh him and see how I was feeling. Once she finished all her visits, the “Health Visitor” took over, and now I never have to leave the house to take any of my kids to their wellness checks. It’s amazing. I’m still trying to figure out why the U.S. doesn’t do it. It would solve so many early postpartum issues.

On birth in Congo: ‘For a woman who gives birth in one of the many tiny maternity clinics around the city, the result of not paying the bill is often hospital lockdown—for mom, baby or both. We visited a friend’s charity clinic where women can receive care for no fee, but most American women would be shocked by the conditions. We wrote about them here.’ Please take a look at the photos – Carla.

Read all of A Cup of Jo Surprising things about Parenting around the world

I really encourage you to take a look at some of these posts. Living in the UK I found that reading the Northern Ireland one allowed me to see elements of British culture, life and politics so clearly. The 12 year old boys who sit around drinking tea after pushing each other around in the mud, the healthcare system which allows you to get whatever you need during pregnancy for free and the children’s books full of dark, adult humour that is just so typically British… it all made me smile.

These posts also gave me a glimpse into how others live around the world. There are cultural elements in practice that I adore and it felt like a privilege to learn about them.

Annie Hall at Fulham Palace London

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Annie Hall is one of my favourite films (it’s up there with Manhattan, and yes I most definitely am a Woody Allen film addict) so I was excited to see it as part of the Nomad Cinema line-up.

The Nomad Cinema is a roaming pop-up cinema that screens films in beautiful and sometimes scary locations across London. Last year they screened The Shining at Brompton Cemetery but I wasn’t brave enough to face a night of terror like that.

As part of their programme for this summer they screened an Evolution of Rom-Com series in Fulham Palace, London. The location was admittedly rather romantic and I gushed at the fairy lights all night long.

Have you been to an outdoor cinema before? It is great fun especially if you take a picnic and watch the sun set around you. My only tip is to take lots of blankets, cushions and warm clothes – even in August it gets rather chilly at night. I didn’t take enough so was shivering through the whole Annie Hall in LA scene – not ideal.

As you might have guessed from the picture there was a photo booth and obviously we couldn’t resist the opportunity to act out the lobster scene. It was great fun and really got us in the mood for the film. For those of you that haven’t seen it, I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite Annie Hall quotes:

“I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”

“Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.”

“You, you, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.”

For those in London you might like to know that the Nomad Cinema is run by the same people behind the Lexi Cinema. So the next time you feel ripped off paying extortionate megaplex ticket price head to the Lexi instead.

Tickets courtesy of Samsung Smart TV

Nicholas Hawksmoor: Methodical Imaginings photography exhibition at Somerset House

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A month ago in the heart of British summertime I went to see the free Nicholas Hawksmoor photography exhibition at Somerset House. Nicholas Hawksmoor was an English architect who is best known today as the man behind a number of London’s churches.

I rather like churches. I find many quite scary inside, especially when there are few people around and an echo is rumbling around the large open spaces, but that’s my imagination running away with me. From the outside I marvel at the architecture and if there is a bell tower I’m always enticed to step inside.

The spiritual flame burned brightly in the Church of England at the opening of the eighteenth century‘ and the commission for building fifty new churches was created. Nicholas Hawksmoor was appointed one of the surveyors and the Methodical Imaginings exhibition at Somerset House looks at the seven remaining London churches still standing today.

Hélène Binet is an architectural photographer who according to Daniel Libeskind ‘exposes architecture’s achievements, strength, pathos and fragility’ every time she takes a photograph. Once again my knowledge of photography is minimal but I must admit this statement rings true – the fragility of the churches certainly came through in the photographs.

I walked around the exhibition with a sense of amazement although I can’t articulate why. One question I asked myself was what does their London location add? Even to an uneducated eye these churches are magnificent in their own right, but what they add to the history and architecture of London increases their importance. Knowing that these churches influenced other architects and their future London masterpieces as well as realising that his work has appeared in the literature of T.S. Eliot, Charles Dickens and Alan Bennett (amongst others) elevates their standing in contemporary London further.

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Only 12 of the 50 churches were ever completed, eight of which were designed by Hawksmoor. The exhibition might have come to an end but seven of the buildings are still standing today:

  • St George-in-the-East
  • St Anne’s Limehouse
  • St George’s Bloomsbury
  • Christ Church Spitalfields
  • St Luke, Old Street in Finsbury
  • St Mary Woolnoth in the City
  • St Alfege in Greenwich

I quickly created a Google Map to give you an idea of the distance between each Church. If you fancy a walk that takes you to the London Wall, lets you stop for beigels at the Brick Lane bakery and really stretches your legs this could be quite a nice one. Perhaps leave St Alfege in Greenwich for another day and take the time to hike up Greenwich Park too to get a great view over the city of London while you are in the area.

All images: Hélène Binet

Exhibitions at Somerset House

Somerset House is a beautiful building located on the Northbank of the River Thames. Until 1775 it was a Tudor Palace but today it is a neo-classical building and ‘an inspiring space for art, culture and creative exchange’.

When a building is this beautiful on the outside it is a shame at times to be confined to the inside. This is why I love how they use the outdoor space in different seasons, with open-air cinema screenings and water fountains in the summer, and London’s most romantic ice rink in the winter.

Over the next few days I’m going to blog about the inside, specifically three different exhibitions I attended recently. On the hottest day of the year and between numerous breaks for iced coffee I explored: Nicholas Hawksmoor: Methodical Imaginings; Blumenfeld Studio: New York 1941 – 1960 and Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You to Love Me.

I’ll do my best to translate my mesmerised thoughts into articulate prose over the next couple of days. Please feel free to chip in with your comments too – I’ll update the blog with your thoughts.
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Summer Holidays

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I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the sun graces England with its presence for just a little longer, as I’m now off on my summer holidays in good old blighty!

We’re off exploring the South of England and I’ll try to take lots of pictures so I can take you on a little virtual tour when I’m back. I’m not sure if I will be blogging while I’m away – as ‘the Internet’ is my day job I want to take a break from it for a week, but at the same time I love blogging and it will be nice to put the spare time to good personal blogging use.

If you have suggestions for where we should visit please comment below. Thanks to everyone on Twitter has given me such excellent ideas too!

Have a great week,

Carla

Image: Alex S

Barcelona Skyline

At the beginning of the year I took a last-minute trip to Barcelona with a close friend. Barcelona had never been at the top of my travel list but now it’s captured my heart! It was fantastic, full of colour and imagination, and I will definitely go back again some point soon. The people are friendly, the architecture it beautiful, the city brings a smile to your face and the food tastes better than in any other country I have visited.

We were only there for a few days but crammed as much in as we could. We ticked plenty of tourist attractions off the list (‎including Sagrada Família, Park Güell and the Picasso Museum) between copious amounts of tapas and red wine. It’s such a beautiful and friendly city.

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Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park London

Postman’s Park is an emotional place in London. At the weekend it offers a quiet place to reflect, and the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice is a touching reminder of the acts ordinary people have committed in order to save the life of a stranger.

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Think this sounds familiar? It’s famous for appearing in the noughties film Closer.