28 February 2015

What not to do whilst travelling (and a few hard-learned safety tips)

I was barely 20 years old, living on the other side of the globe to my family, knew maybe 6 people in London and had no real experience of the wider world. So when traveling solo to Prague, my first experience of 'European' Europe really seemed like a great idea, I somehow found myself on a plane flying towards a country I knew almost nothing about (bar living with two lovely, crazy Czech architecture students) for an 8-day holiday.

What not to do whilst travelling (and a few hard-learned safety tips)

If I met my younger self now, I would sit her down explain a plethora of things. I would point her towards the timeworn tips of a solo traveller blogger, tell her to patch together a Pinterest board and Tweet out the lessons learned - but back in the day we didn't quite have the same easy wealth of information at our fingertips (or social media addictions). Luckily, many years on I've learned a thing or two, so when TSB contacted me about working together to spill a few of the best safety tricks I've learned (many the hard way), I put fingers to keyboard.

Don't: Throw open a map picking a city simply based on how cheap the flights are and the beer varieties on offer (hey, I was young).
Do: Research how safe you'll generally be (especially solo women), know what acceptable local customs are such as how to dress and ensure that there is the possibility of central accommodation that doesn't have you walking around on your own late at night - then book the flights.

27 February 2015

Friday figments and photos

I'm falling in love. Falling in love with London all over again, falling in love with my new camera (all these are SOOC), and falling in love with the first sunny flushes of Spring again.

Her majesty (and a quick visit to my favourite Kensington folly - the Grade II listed Elfin Oak.

Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

This fella dancin'.

Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Beautifully traditional tea.

Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Incense blessings at Neasden temple, and a delicious vegetarian feast.

Neasden Temple - Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Coffee out of the insane rain storm and in a rather famous shadow...

Wembley Hilton - Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi


Wembley Stadium - Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Queen + Adam Lambert. What a concert. Brian May's incredible fireplace guitar, Roger Taylor's fierce drumming and rock vocals, Adam Lambert's incredible vocal range and Freddy Mercury, kept alive through love and video duets.

Queen + Adam Lambert. - Adventures of a London Kiwi


Queen + Adam Lambert. - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Queen + Adam Lambert. - Adventures of a London Kiwi


A delicious dinner full of cheek, cocktails, curry and creatives.

Dishoom Kings Cross - Adventures of a London Kiwi

And simply because they made me laugh - can you tell we were shopping in Chelsea?

Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

26 February 2015

Duck and Waffle - restaurant review

Duck and waffle has to be the second worst-kept, best secret in London. (The first is obviously MI6 - even I knew the game was up as soon as the head office of British intelligence was announced over automated bus tannoys...). Glorious views, never ending flat whites and oozy brunch eggs whilst hanging out in the clouds.

Duck and Waffle - restaurant review
Just that view - and it's not even the really pretty side...

With a weekend waiting list as long as your arm despite being open 24 hours a day (though there is scientific proof that 7am on a Sunday morning in the capital doesn't actually exist, usually due to excesses the evening before) when offered a table at fairly short notice it's impossible to say no, so say yes Kara, Kelly, Sam and Mina and I did indeed.

24 February 2015

Bacon & Egg Toast Bowl Recipe - Brunch in 20 minutes

I managed to astonish my better half (aka Mr Kiwi) this weekend. Upon waking to the smell of coffee brewing, he found me busily messing up the kitchen, apron on and rustling up a delicious smelling brunch. Not only was I awake before my traditionally late hour (a luxury I allow myself once a week), but food was being prepared. In our kitchen. There were no plans to dash out and meet the girls for a coffee, no crazy London landmarks to abseil (though I did manage to fit an incredible visit to Neasden Temple later) and no blogging to do.

Bacon & Egg Toast Bowl Recipe - Brunch in under 20 minutes
His: Bacon & Egg with a brown sauce base - served with a vat of baked beans and an 'I love football' mug of coffee.

We have a perfectly nice kitchen, it just suffers from what I call 'London Under Use Syndrome". With a lovely south facing double window and steps leading onto the jungle that we like to affectionally call the lawn (another of my domestic failings - I'm not really a growing things kinda gal unless you count trees - which somehow manage to keep growing despite my best efforts) it should really be the hub of our domestic life. It isn't.

23 February 2015

Neasden Temple - BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

With the exotic spice of incense, a bevy of beautiful Hindu gods playing instruments along the filigree walls of Neasden Temple welcomes visitors down an unassuming North London residential street, to a slice of India.
humble tribute to the inexpressible beauty, majesty and glory of the Divine - See more at: http://londonmandir.baps.org/the-mandir/#sthash.q0QgrIPO.dpuf

Neasden Temple - BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Tucked in amongst terraces of British semi-detatched two-up two-downs, the Neasden Temple rises like a beacon amongst steady red brick and aluminum windows. It is utterly beautiful, and even more so in consideration of the surprising setting - just look.

20 February 2015

Friday figments and photos: London life lately

I adore phography, but at the moment it isn't loving me. Having travelled and blogged for a couple of years now with just my phone - I blame Orlando airport's comfortable tables, so comfortable you leave your belongings there as if it was your own home - over Christmas I finally got a new camera. Bought after a lot of procrastinating (even I'm not sure why) I put some of the money from the sponsored posts lately straight back into my favourite hobby.

Friday figments and photos: London life lately

It's not a DSLR as I can't face lugging one around, but a wee compact that slips easily into a small bag and takes pretty stonking pictures in lowlight (perfect for moodily lit restaurant interiors). The only trouble is that I'm in that awful middle ground with it - I know what I want, just not how to do it

19 February 2015

Travel styles

I'm not a cool traveller. I can't spin perfectly tousled hair waves with a look of saltwater shimmer, and long flowingly effortless outfits that match the day perfectly. I can't instagram postcard perfect views on the hop, don't believe in footwear (or wearing stilettos to totter through a 2,000 year old excavation site - true story) and a suitcase just of bikinis isn't really my thing either (another true story I've witnessed lately). Researching fascinating secrets, quirky museums and experiencing life as a local (cue nibbles and canalside beers in Amsterdam) are pretty awesome though.

London staycationing

I don't think I'm a luxury traveller. Limo transfers from private jet* to 5 star hotels, exclusive behind the scenes private meals cooked by 3-Michelin star chefs and queue-skipping private entries to low-lit slick euro-beat clubs aren't really my thing. Dancing really isn't - you'll all be grateful for that, trust me. In many of the upmarket hotels we've stayed in, whilst full of opulent textural wallpaper, it seems as though there can often be character missing that can make a hotel room change a quirky trip into a paint by numbers exercise. That said, I rather do appreciate a rainforest shower after a footsore day of getting lost, a fascinating movie to get lost in and concierges to help with firstworld problems like missing phonechargers...

*ok, a private jet I could live with...

18 February 2015

Dans Le Noir?: restaurant review, a dining experience and a few ponderings

How do you begin with an experience such as Dans Le Noir? Translating literally to 'in the black', Dans Le Noir is a sensory eating experience like no other. Seated in the pitch black, with a menu of surprises, it isn't an average meal out, that's for sure. The underlying ethos of Dans Le Noir? is to create a "A sensory journey helping us to re-evaluate our perception of taste and smell."

Dans Le Noir?: restaurant review, a dining experience and a few ponderings

Sam and I entered the Clerkenwell restaurant foyer full of curiosity and nervous anticipation. As far as foyers go, it's fairly nondescript, but the excitement begins to build as we're seated briefly and asked to select our menu. Opting one for the 'surprise' menus; red for meat, blue for seafood, green for vegetarian and white for total surprise, my lovely dinner companion for the evening selects the red option whilst I figure that throwing all caution to the winds is the craziest option, and ask for the white menu. I'm a foolhardy foodie, me. The serving lady asks for any dietary requirements or food we can't eat (me, none; my dinner date, no pork) before reassuring us that it wasn't a problem and gesturing us towards the bank of lockers.

17 February 2015

Jean Trumpington, Coming Up Trumps - A Memoir


As a child I never really found anyone who I wanted to idolise. Pop stars were too stratospheric (even the Spice Girls), iconic designers too bourgeoisie and TV stars simply weren't 3D. In my late 20s, I have finally found someone - Jean Alys Barker, Baroness Trumpington born 23 October 1922.


Jean Trumpington, Coming Up Trumps - A Memoir

Many people live normal lives, loving their families, working as close to a 9-5 as they can get away with, holidaying in the sunshine and trying to stay out of trouble. That wasn't ever going to be the case for Jean Trumpington. Educated privately to a Major in the Bengal Lancers and an American Heiress, she left school aged 15 having never taken an exam before being sent to Paris to study art and literature. Her family moved in circles of privilege (which included the then Prince of Wales, later the Duke of Windsor, and his paramour Wallis Simpson) before the Wall Street crash dampened their fortunes slightly. By her Mother's standards anyway.

16 February 2015

Bletchley Park - World War Two, secrets, code cracking and Alan Turing (2.0)

Last Monday we began enthusing about a day trip we took to Bletchley Park. A mansion house with enigmatic links to World War Two, codecracking and Alan Turing - not to mention Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly's performance in The Imitation Game - we fell in love with this home of nerdvana.

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking and Alan Turing

During the war, German armies encoded every message with the aid of an Enigma machine - thanks to a series of lettered rotors, which were reset each day, Enigma machines could be configured in 150 million million million different ways. To read the encoded messages all that was required was the initial code setting to crack it.

14 February 2015

V-day - Myth, legend and chocolate


You know what I'm talking about. The overhyped Hallmark marketing campaign that is the Valentines day takeover of the world. Smug coupled-up partners, disappointed single-pringles and a few couples who shouldn't really be together, but they're roughing it out. Until the 15th. I have to say that I rather like Valentines Day. Not the crass over-hyped consumerism, but the idea that there is a day in the year just to celebrate someone loved. (Yes, I'm a soppy git - if you've read this blog for awhile - thank you - you'll probably know that this may never change...)

Link to: Valentines Day - Gluten free cherry and chocolate cake

Science allegedly says 'Hormones throughout the human body create the feeling of love which the human mind and its emotional world never accepts as a truth, as it thinks that there can be no meaning in a life if there is no love and passion’. Is it true? It certainly sounds pretty scientific. I'm lucky enough to have my Mr Kiwi (my grouchy, pub-loving blonde - our story here) puts up with me (and my affair with this crazy blog), my Macaron loving ways and need for exploration. Hurrah for hormones!


13 February 2015

Friday figments and photos

A week of sadness, sunshine and sentiment. If you haven't already (and even if you have) please, do something for me. Call a friend that you haven't spoken to in a while, hug your family and treat yourself to a moment of luxury. If you're unhappy, please don't hesitate to ask for help - ladies, men, everyone. We need to remember. We need to celebrate. We need to love.

Reasons I love London - Neon beacons of the Underground

London life lately - Adventures of a London Kiwi 
Reasons I love London - Dirty burgers

London life lately - Adventures of a London Kiwi

12 February 2015

Afternoon Tea at Brown's Hotel (and a hashtag of bloggers)

Over a year ago a blogpost went up entreating a group of blog junkies friends to share their travel wishlists for the year ahead in a one-time linkup. Kelly and Rebecca and I had the crazy idea to continue the tradition on with variation of themes, and 13 months later we've been treated to 340 wonderful blogposts on subjects as diverse as Travel 'pinch me' moments, The most fantastic, weird or memorable 'fish out of water' experiences and A Room with a View.

Afternoon Tea at Brown's Hotel (and a hashtag of bloggers)

We're lucky enough to be joined each month by bloggers who live all over the globe: Canada, the UAE, Sunsvall Sweden, Oxford, America, Hawaii, New Zealand, the Arctic Circle, Yorkshire... I could go on! Many of the months have also been co-hosted by terrific travelistas from all corners of the world, bringing their own cheery smiles to the metaphorical table.

Afternoon Tea at Brown's Hotel (and a hashtag of bloggers)

To celebrate our anniversary, we were thrilled when 25 of our lovely linkers were able to meet face-to-face in a private room in Brown's Hotel, in the heart of Mayfair. Travelling from all over the UK and London, we gathered with glasses of bubbly to toast the many absent friends who we weren't able to catch up with, before turning to the serious work of cake enjoyment literally at hand.

10 February 2015

Love isn't just a four letter word

As bloggers we do present a carefully curated version of our lives to the world. We choose to share the passions we adore, sun drenched plates of deliciousness and smiling photos of happy moments. Sadder moments, frustrated escapades and imperfect arrangements often escape the publish button, but they are there - after all our lives are real.

Blogging communities can often be intense, precious and fleetingly close. Bread broken, laughter at crypticly obscure references and the clink of wine classes, all as normal restaurant goers look on in laughter. It can also be sneaking into the kitchens to play chef behind the benches, drinking red wine until the waiters join you and calling chicken to all of the early leavers.


A bright light of the London foodie community has been extinguished too early. Enjoying several evenings knife and fork in hand together was enough to have created soft memories of a bright laugh, wicked sense of humour, unexplored skill with a camera and a quiet melancholy.

We're a disparate lot bloggers; a medley of opinion, introverts armed with a keyboard, a melting pot of culture and a cluster of honed tastebuds exploring the city one plate at a time. But, we're empassioned, adore twisting the written word into passages of gourmet chiascuro, delighting in much, disliking pairings of flavours based on childhood memories and touch each others lives in incredible, subtle ways.


Please, do something for me. Call a friend that you haven't spoken to in a while, hug your family and treat yourself to a moment of luxury. If you're unhappy, please don't hesitate to ask for help - ladies, men, everyone.

We need to remember. We need to celebrate. We need to love. 

(I've disabled comments intentionally, it just doesn't seem right today.)

9 February 2015

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking and Alan Turing

Bletchley Park has been on my 'must do list' for far too long. The crazily designed mansion house, the World War Two secrets, code cracking and Alan Turing connection - just all of it. I must have said to myself a hundred times 'right, this weekend we go' before being overwelmed with a hundred excuses - other tasty offers, causes for procrastinating about chores or simply a dismal grey rainy day.

Why oh why didn't we venture out sooner?

 Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking and Alan Turing

Around an hour from London Euston on the train, the subject of The Imitation Game (starring the enigmatic BAFTA nominated Benedict Cumberbatch) sits unassumingly between Cambridge and Oxford. 

6 February 2015

Friday figments and photos

Snow, waffles, dining in the pitch black, wanders through London, code cracking, drinking tea, grouchiness, halloumi testing, cat-sitting, bad coffee, never ending flu, lobster, trying not to stress the small stuff, loving blogging, dress-buying, celebrating the uniqueness of Waitangi Day on the other side of the world, super salads, waffling on and creating crazy lists.

TGIF.

Life lately - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Life lately - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Life lately - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Life lately - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Life lately - Adventures of a London Kiwi
 
Life lately - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Click me for the latest travel linkup - the unexpected benefits of blogging


Just an average week then. How about you?

5 February 2015

16 signs you're a travel addict

I think I might have a bit of an addiction problem. It occurred to me the other day when dreaming up our next trip that I have an unhealthy view of the world (ie. the view that I work inbetween my holidays) and that I'm not alone in this.

Friday figments and photos - the Tromso Edition

A few of the signs that you're a travel addict;
  • Films make you want to travel, books make you want to travel, music makes you want to travel, sitting on the bus makes you want to travel.
  • Your wardrobe mostly consists of snowshoes, flip flops, travel guides and different sized travel bags and suitcases.
  • The realisation that cheesy touristy stuff can actually be ace, you just have to learn all the hacks to make it much less awful.
  • Long haul is your jam: you know exactly which pharmacies in London sell the best homeopathic jetlag tablets (because you've literally tried every trick in the book) and what time flights should be booked to work in with your sleep pattern.
  • You've slept sitting up, along airport benches, on dusty coaches, on trains - in fact sleeping in your own bed seems weird.
  • Local travel? Yes please. International Travel? Yes please! Jet lag? Oh, go on then!
  • Your email inbox is flooded with travel deals, blogposts with exotic locations and a weekend not either a) planning something fun or b) out and about feels like an utter waste.
  • You co-host a Travel Linkup asking other bloggers to tell you about their wonderful adventures.
What to do on a long-haul flight - Adventures of a London Kiwi
  • You work to fund your next trip.
  • Home decoration consist of maps, postcards and stunning travel moment photos.
  • You can't buy milk because every coin in your home is in overseas currency.
  • Once you've booked a holiday somewhere, every waking hour is spent researching things to do, places to see.
Lord of the Rings: Hobbiton, Middle Earth aka Matamata, New Zealand
Hometown tourism, oh yeah.
  • You're already planning the next trip before the return flight touches down on the tarmac.
  • The bucket list on your blog contains 30 places to visit, and even before the last bucket list expires, the next one is being drafted.
  • Deep down you know that you will never, ever be free of your wanderlust.
  • You read articles called '16 signs you're a travel addict' and metally go 'yes, yes, yes, ohh yes'...
I think I might need to start a Travellers Anonymous support group.
My all-time favourite book.

What was your moment of addiction realisation? (Just remember, admitting you have a problem is the first step to a health).

3 February 2015

Striding all over London (Guest Post: Mr Kiwi)

Luxuriating in the New Zealand sun, I made a bit of a mistake over Christmas. With one of Mr Kiwi's presents languishing in the far-away land that is our local Post Office depots, I received a thrillingly excited Skype call. "A fitbit? This is amazing! I've always wanted one, how did you know?..." Erm, well, I had to come clean about the fact that not only was I a bad wife, but that it was a guest post courtesy of Legal & General sending a fitbit to review. You know those blogposts, the ones where all you fancy is a night off, drinking cocktails with your mates whilst your better half hunches furiously over a computer keyboard in order to pen a review?

One of those.

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Striding all over London 

The addition of a Fitbit Flex to my daily routine has had something of a transformational effect on my January. I had never really considered a wearable device as a means of actually improving fitness but I have to say I'm loving it.
Yes I’m loving it, but not without a degree of trepidation at the prospect. See, but for wifely pressure to test this new gizmo, that precious hour or so after work might - on occasion - be spent seeking solace in some fermented entertainment following a long day at the coalface. But apparently not now – things were about to change.

“…yes dear…”

My most recent stats
 Having mastered the art of fastening the rubber strap to my wrist, I was on my way on the1st of January with a daily goal of 10,000 steps. How far is that? How long would that take? How can it possibly calculate this, and will it be consistent? Time will tell but, for now, my focus was on the walk after work from Westminster to Marylebone.

Avoiding the most direct route through a pitch black Green Park, I meandered via Horseguard’s Parade, crossing the Mall and through Mayfair and on to Marylebone - about 45 minutes. Two days in and my wrist vibrated at Berkeley Square again (hitting 10,000 steps), so my faith was increasing. So why stop at 10K - why not go for 20K? So my walking spread to the mornings too, for which I earned a badge for smashing my target.
The weekly roundup...
It has been great fun to see my performance represented graphically in weekly reports - not to mention 8Ibs lost in a month, thanks also to a calorie counting focussed mind. The only real shame is that there is no in-built UK food database, but it becomes a minor issue as links to other dedicated apps get around this.

I admit to not having explored all features, but that will come. I will certainly keep using Fitbit to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and recommend it to anyone else.

Ps. A list of hostelries passed on this adventure is available on request... just remember, everything in moderation.

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What he doesn't realise it that it's also a surefire way to check that all that time wasn't spent "walking" aka boozing in the pub with his mischievous work mates...

2 February 2015

Why I adore blogging (February's Travel Linkup)

Lets be a little frank here - some days I'm pretty sure that I appear to be a disgustingly enthusiastic puppy. I don't exhibit the infamous British reserve but tend to gush with delight at something I enjoy with the excitement of a Labrador with a bucket full of tennis balls. And y'know, I'm ok with that. I've always been an 'all or nothing' kind of person, and always wanted to write the kind of blog that I loved reading; a quirky, passionate diary of adventures both large and small.

Why I adore blogging (February's Travel Linkup) - Adventures of a London Kiwi

But when setting up my little corner of the internet I didn't realise quite the affect that having a blog addiction would have on my life. Living in New Zealand I always felt a little stifled. Nothing nasty, just that there was something big and crazy in the world waiting for me to discover. Cue arriving in London, beginning to explore this wonderful city, getting boring and taking it for granted before realising that I was the thing that was wrong all along. I didn't appreciate my home or take advantage of any opportunities I had. Blogging was a self-propelled kick-up-the-pants.