31 May 2013

(Mostly) Wordless Friday

How can you resist the many temptations London offers?
The siren call of ridiculously yummy freshly baked bread,
Chillin' with my homegurlcat

Ornate pubs,

And beautiful parks?

30 May 2013

Tokyo #travelthursdays

I actually can't convey in words how much I adored Japan. It's a country with it's own unique way of life and view of the world. It is the most exotic place I've ever had the luck to travel to, and as soon as we got there, we were planning our return trip.
Fast, eclectic, and exciting mix of innovative technology, and age old traditions it was simply a place that I could go back again and again.

I can't quite put my finger on what it was that I fell in love with, but almost everyone that I know who has been to Japan is exactly the same.

We visited several cities; Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Tokyo and Mt Fuji herself but there are so many more places I want to see.

Anyone fancy sending your roving reporter back? I will make Lolly Cake for you...

Where have you travelled to that stole your breath? 

29 May 2013

Attendant - Coffee recommendation

"I had a coffee in a toilet today" I exclaim to my long-suffering husband. "Oh, that's nice, did it taste good?" was his laconic reply.

It seems I've lost the power to surprise him anymore.

It's a fun place to grab a coffee, or surprise a friend and the best part? The coffee is tremendous.

The attendant is a Victorian gents loo that has been repurposed into a stonking coffee shop to match the high standard of local coffee shops. The converted scrubbed-to-within-an-inch-of-their-porcelain-life urinals line the walls, and have had benches sunk into them all the better to enjoy a caffeine pick me up (their coffee hit supplied by delicious Caravan). I didn't have time to try any nibbles, but they look really good.

Yes, it's a bit of a novelty, but it's funky and very well pulled off, much better than the carbon copy chain coffee houses. The barista staff are really helpful and friendly, and the owners have turned a iron-elephant into a usable creative space.

There is even outside service connected to a bell if you can't tear yourself away from the sunshine.

I thought there might be a chance I'd feel squeamish, but there was absolutely nothing. Everything gleams with cleanliness - in fact it's probably cleaner than your average chain store coffee shop that gets rammed with office workers, touching everything with their grimy, greasy mitts.

The old toilet units actually make really cool decorations, with all of their ironmongery intact. It is rather weird as a girl to actually be able to use a urinal. There's a first time for everything right?
They've also kept the original tiling which is beautiful. It's pretty easy to find, down the stairs outside the Crown & Sceptre Pub on the corner of Foley and Great Titchfield Street. They quite often Tweet the delicious things they have on the day's menus. They do brunch on the weekends, but with 8 single urinal seats and a bigger table at the end, you might need to get there early. For further info go here.

Best way to spend a penny (sorryimnotsorry). 

What is the weirdest place you've eaten/imbibed? 

28 May 2013

South of Normal - Reading Recommendation

Ever felt like you're stuck in a paper shuffling rat race job that's draining your soul and your life away? Norm Shriever did.

So he quit his well paying but life sucking job, and moved to Costa Rica with "nothing but a laptop and a surfboard, vowing to chase his long-forgotten dream of being a writer."

It's brave moving to another country, but compared to bowler cap doffing London, moving to Costa Rice sounds like another world entirely. A different language, a different harder way of life, third world prisons and drugs.

READ THIS. I actually couldn't put it down, each time I picked it up I lost at least two hours of my surburban life to a Costan Rican Paradise. Or is it?

Travel changes you, but will it change you in the way that you expect it?

(Please note any links to Amazon are through my Amazon Associates account, which means I make a little money (less than 5%) from any purchases made after clicking through these links and it adds nothing to the price of your book. This helps support my book addiction, so if you are interested in buying the book, please click through the top link)

27 May 2013

Kew Gardens

There are two tourist attractions that I whole heartedly think are worth queueing and paying for (oh, and the London Eye at twilight). One of them, the Tower of London features priceless Diamonds & Sapphires, Murder, Kings, Queens, 1000 years of history, Ravens, Torture & Beefeaters.  Worth half a day and £20ish? Definitely.

Kew Gardens is amazing, and absolutely worth the full price of admission. I don't even bother looking for deals (though they quite often have them) that's how much I enjoy it.

It doesn't matter if you don't like gardens, there is something for everyone.

I am absolutely no good with plants. The cat reminds me to feed her, but plants just slowly, accusingly, wither away. It's nice to see that I'm in the minority. Perhaps my admission fee karmically makes up for all the plants I've killed over the years (there is only one I managed to keep alive, and that's because it lived on my desk and most of the times that I took a sip of water from my glass I'd feed the plant).

Kew gardens. I've been about 5 times, and every single time we go I am amazed at the skill, the size, and the variety.

Take a picnic (the food in there is tourist trap prices), wander around the garden, say hi to the friendly inhabitants (the peacocks and squirrels in particular) and just enjoy.

Top tip: It does get busy on the weekends so the queue can be pretty horrendous - don't use the main entrance near the train station. Walk another 5 minutes and use one of the better gates. You'll thank me.

Once you get inside though, the gardens are so expansive you'll feel like you have it to youself except for the childrens areas *shudder*.

Forget the Chelsea Flower Show. This is where it's at.

25 May 2013

Coming out of the closet

I've have a guilty secret which is going to surprise my readers I think.

Hubby of course knows, my very closest friends do (you know who you are) and the people I've met as a result (and very luckily there are the lovely people who overlap) know my dark secret.

It's you.

Almost no-one I know, knows that I blog.

I'm not ashamed of it by any means, the world is becoming increasingly digital, and it's nice to have somewhere that I can be pretty anonymous, where I can share the stuff that I like.

What I love most about it is the opportunities that you can end up making for yourself.

I've met some really lovely people as a spin off of blogging, found a few new interests as a result, tried several delicious restaurants and have begun to properly explore the crazy place that London is. It's also kind of weird that it's making me more confident outwardly in the 'real world'. I'm putting myself forward in ways I never thought that would happen.

I love my secret. Even when I'm having one of the horrendous 'I hate London days', and I do, it's not all scones and daisies, it's something to distract me. By far the best bit is all of the other blogs and bloggers I've met.

Thank you.

I hope you are having a lovely lovely weekend.

24 May 2013

(Mostly) Wordless Friday

Another busy week, another week closer to the end of the year. Isn't that depressing?

Well, don't be depressed. It's Friday, almost the weekend and a long weekend at that! Ah, I thought that would put a smile on your dial (well, all the Brits and our American cousins anyway. Sorry everybody else, here's a cute cat to console you. You are welcome).

This weeks jobs included a few boring odds & ends, including pet insurance. check out the second two questions from last.

 Who, our beastie who is scared of anything that moves towards her unless it's food?

And speaking of food... salt and pepper shakers in an Indian curry house. See, I told ya.

22 May 2013

Bluebird - Restaurant Review

In the heart of Sloaney Kings Road (read: ridiculously posh London), where all the characters from Made in Chelsea hang, is a funky café that upon first impression promised a lot.

Decorated funkily, with primary colours adorning the walls, groupings of individual plates painted and mounted, and some really interesting light fixtures, we sat down and were prepared to eat a delicious, recommended brunch.

I'm afraid for us Bluebird was a pretty, damp squib. I try to be fair about everything, and don't like to play a downer, but at the end of the day I'm honest.

My Eggs Benedict without muffins (tomatoes substituted) looked a little lacklustre, but to be honest the ones that did have muffins were just as sad - it looked as though they had dropped by their local supermarket to pick them up.

They say that you eat with your eyes first and your nose second. It was also fairly pricey, which we had expected, but not for such ok food. £9 for my Eggs Bene (which I could have made a home for £2.00?), and £4.50 for an Iced Coffee.  Eggs Royale (with Salmon were £11.00 and not much improvement). In London, eating somewhere nice, you expect to pay around £7-8 but you expect a little more for your buck. The plate was also the size of a large side plate.

The service was a little slow despite quite a few staff, and much to our disappointment very inflexible - you are given an extensive menu, but it's not apparent that actually you can only have one corner of it; but that in around an hours time you could have the rest. Ice Cream was cheekily requested, and the serving staff's bosses said no. I could understand if it was Beef Wellington, but a couple of scoops? Their loss.

It surprised us because you would think that being the Sloaney set, they must get spoilt brats all the time with their Nannies, and occasionally wheeled out by the jewelry dripping second/third wives, and would want to be more flexible, especially with the menu prices they charge.

Would I recommend you go? Not really. The Lawn is set up in Wimbledon season with big screens and could be great fun, but we were disappointed. Our experience was all style over substance I'm afraid.

They did have a magnificent collection of wall mounted dinner plates which made me smile. Small things, I know.

21 May 2013

Travel Guides - Reading and exploring Recommendation

One of my favourite things about travelling is the planning. I can happily spend hours pouring over recommendations, reviews and suggestions about a new travel destination.

A small selection of travel guides collected over the years.
We've very luckily been to quite a few countries in the last few years, and during that time, we've whittled down our favourites. Travel guides, we've tried a few. But there is one or two brands that seem to hold their place in our luggage.

The internet can be a wonderful thing, and really helpful whilst planning and sitting in your accommodation, but when you are walking the mean streets of a foreign country you don't want to be fiddling with and iPad or a massive tourist guide, making yourself into a target for shysters.

On the move:

These Eyewitness Pocket Guide babies are the bomb. Teeny-tiny enough to fit into a fairly normal size pocket (16cms x 7cms x 7mm) they hold all of the highlights of your city, a petite phrase section and a pocket map that makes life a whole world of easy. I could almost be tempted to sing a song about the maps; a good general area map pointing out landmarks, a metro map (where applicable), a street index and a detailed map of the most central area. I love planning our days with these - they section the city off into hunks & I spend hours picking out the things I was to see, marking them and organising days so they make the most sense.

They are also pretty cheap and frequently updated.

Pre-planning and during trip planning:

Either the Eyewitness in-depth books or Lonely Planet guides. Full of info, great photos and some natty travel tips. I love that on the hostel/travelling mates circuit there is a lot of sharing love that goes on as well (thank you Zela). These are great for a real in-depth looks at the areas you will be staying in. The beauty of these bohemoths is that the information doesn't really ever go out of date (bar a few opening times) so you can beg, steal or borrow one of an awesome travelling mate who can give you the low-down on where not to go, of if very lucky snaffle one at a hostel book exchange shelf. (I'm trying out a couple of ebook versions on my next holiday - wish me luck!)

The 'money-can't-buy-they-are-so-good' guides:

You are very, very lucky to get one of these. Especially if you are a foodie, and have a particular foodie mate who includes it in a box of goodies. You are a legend Julie.

Ps. I'm not sponsored or any such thing by Eyewitness, I just love the junk in their trunk.

(Please note any links to Amazon are through my Amazon Associates account, which means I make a little money (less than 5%) from any purchases made after clicking through these links and it adds nothing to the price of your book. This helps support my book addiction, so if you are interested in buying the book, please click through the top link)