31 July 2014

Friday figments and photos, well Thursday tidbits...

With the monthly travel link up gearing up tomorrow (it's a staycation theme - anything goes; something you would recommend, a long weekend trip whatever you fancy just add your post to the linkup from tomorrow to the 7th August) I thought I'd juggle the usual blog calendar around a little. This, this is rock'n'roll baby!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figments of my international week - Adventures of a London Kiwi
 
I feel like this has been a week travelling around the world, all from my British home. The Netherlands
 
Figments of my international week - Adventures of a London Kiwi
 
 
Mystical Asia 
 

 

 
Bavaria
 
 
 
The Oriental Far East
 
 
 
 
Northern England and their bun shops (the "u" has to be pronounced to rhyme with pull)...
 
 
Zooming around Italy
 
 
And lastly a beach day in New Zealand.
 

See!

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30 July 2014

I'm learning to...

...Live life to the fullest...
 ...Listen to my body and not burn the candle at both ends. Much...
...Wine match judiciously...
 ...Treasure my expat friends as a second family...
 ...Not sweat the small stuff...
...Climb Windmills...
...Turn the outside world off and watch a silly movie...
...Slake my blogging addiction...
...Occasionally use centre justification of type to good effect...
 ...Take breaks...
...Make a mean blueberry pancake...
...Laugh at myself...
...Have the confidence to be the best that I can be...
...Know when enough is enough...
...Appreciate the simple joy of Toast...
...Take risks...
...Appreciate a well executed Ollie...
...Aim for the best doors of the tube trains I use frequently...
...Trust my gut instinct...
...Enjoy...
...Spell things correctly...
...Appear in photos...
...Understand that life is a crazy, wonderful journey...
...Find unicorns (though I'm never quite sure how to capitalise them)...
...Be thankful...
...Know that there will never really be an end to this list...


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29 July 2014

21, Covent Garden - Restaurant Review

Blazing summer sunshine, cobblestone streets, a plethora of oversized sunglasses and chattering tourists in shorts, flip flops & beach skirts. Hundreds of people are gathered around a central piazza to watching a performer's flashing knife tricks, whipping them up into delighted glee. You'd be forgiven for thinking that an Italian city in the peak of summer had been transplanted hundreds of miles over the ocean.
 
Luckily it's Covent Garden, smack in the centre of Zone 1 (in fact a nearby obelisk in Charing Cross station is the official centre of London). Always a draw for tourists, twilight pulls in the theatre crowds, attracted to Drury Lane, Shaftesbury Avenue and the nightlife of Leicester Square; hungry and thirsty. Luckily, we've found an Italian-inspired oasis that will surprise the most experienced of Londoners.
 
 
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of 21, but my (many) opinions are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn't happily visit own dime.
 
 
One recent summer evening saw us gallivant towards the piazza, not sure what to expect. Over the years, we must have walked past 21 a hundred times times. Never thinking to go in, it's a little gem of calm, good food and delicious cocktails. We were ushered to our booked table in their vaulted restaurant, catching a glimpse of chefs hard at work, before assuming our seats.
 
The day was baking. The sun was beating down outside, but armed with a delicious cocktail or two, the air-con on full and a beautiful salumi platter to much as a starter we could have cared less. Soft, flavourful whisper thin slices of cured prosciutto, finocchiona & carpollo toscana were served with divinely warm focaccia, garlic dipping oil, handfuls of crunchy pickles and aged balsamic.
 
 
 
Ever indecisive, we eventually plumped for pizzas, Italian style (while in Rome and all that)  simple, thin, crispy and packed with flavour. Mr Kiwi adored his Figaro (the goats cheese happily substituted with mozzarella) whilst I went super classic.
 
 
Tricolore: cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. It was scrumptious, certainly some of the best pizza we've tried in the longest time. Possibly the best out of Italy so far -  much to our delight. What's more, every slice proudly showed the Italian credentials of the toppings: mozzarella oozing off the slice in a manner befitting the best local pizzeria.
 
 
Whilst we journeyed gastronomically around the Tuscan countryside, Mr Kiwi kept hydrated with thirst-quenching beer as I perused the cocktail list. Beginning with an elegantly presented 'Taryntini', a vodka and aperol creation (see first image) it was swiftly followed up with a delicious 'Tickled Pink', home-infused strawberry wine & Chambord.
 
 
We crowned our meals lightly, and with abandon - Mr Kiwi opting for two simple scoops of lovely ice cream, but I couldn't help myself as soon as I spotted the Afrogato on the menu. Beautiful vanilla ice cream, served with a scoop of Frangelico and piping hot espresso.
 
Move over husband, I think I'm in love.
 
tg8lZj on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
 
There are several levels to 21; external patios on the ground floor, the super quiet and private nooks of the basement vaults, and a couple of balconies called '21 - The Printroom' all set in this beautiful Georgian building. I'm going to need to explore the levels much more expecially as the prices aren't ridiculously tourist level either, not to mention the happy hour every day...
 
 
Service was friendly, perfectly attentive and the same with all the tables. There was quite a diverse set of groups tucked in their corners; families, couples, theatre go-ers and ladies loving the attention from their cute Italian waiter. One of the tables is rumoured to have a rather awesome aquarium as well - we will be back to 21, and soon!
 
 

28 July 2014

Strange keyword searches & another crazy blog milestone

My blog is a strange mish-mash of all the things I love (I've been told it's a 'strong personal brand' by PR "gurus", but suspect that's just code for 'we can't really niche you' - good!!) but the wild and wonderful search terms leading people to my corner of the internet that pop up are always a source of delight and wonder.
 
 
I like to think that like my life, post topics are a wonderful combination of the large and the small, touches of occasion luxury within the general awe we find in small details. An unexpected side of blogging has been the memory treasure trove this page contains - I'm not one to get personal in public, but looking back with the aid of blog posts has been so special.
 
But, I digress. Nothing new there then!
 

Hunting for something the other night (aka desperately trying every trick Google could offer to recover a lost post - I almost cried in frustration) I stumbled again across the keyword searches portion of the back of my blog. Recent gems such as;
 
Can you kiss people in England - Er, yes I hope so, in the correct occasions of course!
 
Inflatable support for floating power - Just speechless. Speechless I tell you.
 
Kane and Abel parental guide - Really not sure that it's a good idea to parent in this vindictive style.
 
McDonalds ceramic Victoria and Albert - Well, I know who to blame for that one...
 
The Great Gatsby - Ironic as I really didn't enjoy reading it!
 
Kiwi Zombie - That's me before my morning hit of coffee, certainly!
 
And that's just this last week or so. What were you thinking people??
 
 
Whilst writing, I'd also like to thank you again. One of my excitements is going to stay a ninja level secret, but I've passed a page views milestone - another crazy one that I never thought I could reach. The plan was never to aim high -  I never thought I would be doing much more than keeping an online journal the Mr Kiwi, a few of my friends and family would be reading. Blogging has encouraged us to do so much more than that. We are exploring our home properly, doing things we might never consider doing and opportunities I wouldn't have had the confidence to seize could have fallen by the wayside. 
 
 
Most importantly, I've met and connected with the most amazing community of bloggers, readers and passionate people.
 
Basically, you guys rock.
 
Peace out!
 
 

26 July 2014

How to keep cool in London this summer

It is absolutely baking this summer with temperatures rising over 30ºC (86ºF for my expat friends - as a sidenote, I've always thought that thinking in Fahrenheit makes everything seem warmer. Logically it doesn't make any sense but 86ºF is just more than 30ºC).
 
Let's be quite frank here, London doesn't really do baking hot so well. I'm not complaining at the sunshine, hold back those pitchforks people, but being stuck at a desk without a lovely sea breeze, soft sandy beaches or beautiful waiters waving palm fronds to keep you cool, it just doesn't really work. There isn't really air conditioning because we don't ever expect to have good enough weather, and then there's the tube. Let's just not go there.
 
How to keep cool in London this summer Hampstead Heath
 
Thankfully we do have one of the greenest cities on earth, and all these trees create little valleys for that incessant rainfall to collect (well, something like that anyway, biology was never really my strong point). London is crisscrossed with a myriad of Rivers; obviously there's the Big Daddy Thames, the canal network, hidden rivers and a surprising range of open-air places to take a cooling dip. Just be aware there is a high chance of chest hair...
 
Hampstead Heath bathing pools where both men & women's pools have been swum in since Victorian times: 
 
How to keep cool in London this summer Hampstead Heath

The newly opened, and fantastic looking Olympic Park Swimming Pool:
 
 How to keep cool in London this summer Olympic Park
 
The Serpentine, where crazy people also swim during Winter:
 
How to keep cool in London this summer Hyde Park Serpentine
 
Act like a London River Rat on Regent's Park boating lake:
 
How to keep cool in London this summer Regent's Park
 
Or just hide under a cluster of trees with good friends and a picnic.
 
 
For the more epicurean less sports minded, thankfully there is relief to be found in your very own kitchen; Guilt Free 'Ice-Cream' made with low (not no)-fat yoghurt, flavour and a little time:
 
Keeping cool in London - Guilt free ice cream - Adventures of a London Kiwi
 
Summer Smoothies bursting with fruity goodness and vitamins:
 
 
 
Heaven in a glass, my newest discovery of Afrogato - a scoop of ice cream, shot of Frangelico and a serving of espresso:
 
Keeping cool in London - Afrogato- Adventures of a London Kiwi
 
Or of course, my favourite Mojitos - home made, and fully customisable:
 
 Keeping cool in London - Easy Mojitos - Adventures of a London Kiwi
 
The choice is yours. How do you prefer your summer liquid?

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25 July 2014

Friday figments & photos

Sunshine, Marmite boxers, Mexican Street food, and a thrilling thunder and lightening storm clanging over London.










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24 July 2014

Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland

I've decided to grow old disgracefully. I'm going to die my hair purple, wear leather and live in a campervan that travels the length and breadth of every country in the world. I'm going to explore and marvel at everything the world has, until no stone is left undiscovered.

Charles Fort, Kinsale, West Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

Every morning will start with a delicious helping of eggs benedict, each sunset will be greeted with a something fruity, naughty and delicious. We will roll our bus wherever our delight takes us, stopping at every archaic delectation that hearkens through roadside signs, and every dive-looking motorcycle café that offers greasy coffee so thick you can tar a road with it. We'll play metal music with the windows down as we drift down highways, searching for the next place to take our fancy.

23 July 2014

Ozone Coffee Roasters: Restaurant Review Update

Comfort, routine and familiarity. It certainly has it's place in the busy, busy world that we live in, and I for one are no exception. My morning routine is so ingrained that without me I'm sure the shower would turn on, the coffee machine rumble to life and the train doors get stuck because of my bag jamming them open. In fact, my commute has become so second nature that on weekends when we're out exploring new corners of London, I'm known to hop out and change station platforms without thinking. Especially when we're going in completely in the opposite direction.


Ozone Coffee Roasters, just over from the Old Street Bermuda Triangle Roundabout is another such place that has become part of a routine I never want to change. Helping to soothe that little tic in my expat heart, it's somewhere that we keep diverting back to, time and time again. There is something about the Kiwiana carefully placed all over the beautifully industrial walls, the lovely Eggs Benedict, piping hot Flat Whites and ready supply of Lamingtons that sets up a siren call each time brunch is mentioned within a certain group of Kiwi friends.


Ozone's specialty coffee, ground on-site makes it worth the journey into London early on a Saturday morning (I'm learning to build time in for habitual route following) and every time I can convince anyone to join me. Whilst I'm teased away on occasion to try wonderful new restaurants, when it comes to satisfying that Eggs Benedict need, it's to Ozone we return. In fact, it seems almost as important as the real Ozone layer to surviving London life. #SorryI'mNotSorry



We've learnt to avoid the brunch rush by arriving early on a Saturday morning (we've never ventured on a Sunday but I'm told it's super busy) ideally before 11am to get settled properly on a table where you can catch-up, gossip and relax. We only ever order their Eggs Bene - literally each time we laugh at our Kiwi selves as the only variations are the topping (Bacon, Salmon, Mushroom etc). We do have one friend who order other things occasionally; we don't really understand why, but we love her anyway. Their bakery selection is always heaped with scrummy patisserie and I feel a guilt at not expanding my Ozone gastronomic horizons, but it if ain't broke, don't fix it I say! There are some delightful things on their menu, but we just can't wrench ourselves away from the home comforts.


Our most recent trip to Ozone was unusually out of routine, but lovely for it. Hanging out with the New Zealand Business Women's Network members (of which I'm one of the volunteer social media addicts for) we spent the morning chatting with fellow London expats before cracking into our Eggs Benedict. True to form, 14 ladies ordered Eggs Bene, with two 2 ordering something unusual. Can you get any more Kiwi?


It was a lovely, easy way to chat, but the highlight was hearing from Ozone co-owner, New Plymouth native Lizzie Bain, about the journey setting up the business, lessons learnt and their determination to keep the ethos of the original business as their main drive - quality. Fantastic boutique coffee, a quality life for the staff and passion for their Kiwi roots. Just fantastic.


Actually, ignore everything I've just written. All of the lovely Eggs Benedict with it's golden bubble 'n squeak cakes (the only exception I'll bear to the Eggs Bene rules), the sensory overload coffee breaking through morning fugs and the Kiwi Chic.



I still don't really want you to know about this place - you'll take my table!

21 July 2014

The Olympic Park

This time two year ago, Londoners were panicking with excitement (or disappearing out of the country on holiday). My beloved adopted city was gearing up for the spectacle of the Olympics & the world watching how our venues and transport coped with the international onslaught of visitors. Was it going to be a train wreck - that is if us commuters were even able to get onto the trains - or a spectacular success?


Luckily it was utterly fantastic. The streets overran with an unusual level of British pride - union jacks hanging from every second lamp post (even Nelson had his), the rest resplendent with Olympic rings - competitive spirits were high and the joy of getting to watch so many world-class athletes give it their all was awe-inspiring. (Oh, and commuting was an absolute dream).


We were extraordinarily lucky to get diving tickets via the balloting system, cheer my fellow Kiwis on at the infamous Kiwi House (let's not mention that BBQ/incident/thing) and experience the euphoric atmosphere that permeated everything. Slightly more subdued, but no less exciting were the Paralympics. And who could have thought that athletes such as Ussain Bolt, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Oscar Pistorius and Tom Daly to name but a few, could be escalated to almost rockstar status for the next six months. What an experience.


Two years on, many exclamations of "oh, we must have a look at the Olympic Park" and a cross London Sofa search, finding ourselves with a spare hour or two in Stratford we decided a stroll to the Olympic Park was far overdue. Now free for the public to enter and wander around, families buzz through the landscaped attractions and there are huge plans afoot for the structures punctuating the horizons.
 


 
Couples picnic on the banks of the canal in amongst wild flowers, gossiping teens recline in ginormous sunbeds and elderly people stroll arm in arm through the sweet gardens. Kids monkey up a huge climbing wall, run pell-mell through fountains, scrape the skating bowl and swim through Olympic pools.
 

We wandered the circumference of the main stadium, walking down memory lane, taking our time to peruse the changes and enjoy the sunshine before we ended up near the canals again, turning tail for home. We're going to need a planned return trip - Mr Kiwi is especially keen to practice his bombing diving technique and compare it to those who we watch in the Olympic Diving.


What strikes me is the stark contrasts of the East End - crumbling quayside Victorian factories flanked with shining pillars of sky scrapers - all glimpsed from our meander.




The anorak in me couldn't resist a touch of tube geekery - these DLR cycle racks. If you're going to make something fuctional, why not make it fun as well?