21 September 2016

A night at the Luna Cinema

Take the beautiful Fulham Palace (which I have been wanting to visit since I first came across it in 2012!) add an outdoor film screening of Notting Hill by the Luna Cinema and you have the beginnings of what, to me, is classic London catnip. I have been wanting to do an outdoor cinema event in London for ages, and when I saw this, I was clicking book before you could say floppy-haired-Hugh-Grant.

My flatmate D- and I met up after work last night and, even though the Palace wasn't open, I couldn't resist poking my head into the courtyard before going around the side to where the cinema was set up. There were people handing out promotional items as we walked by (we scored a drink and a choc-chip cookie) and we happily took them before plonking down in a spot and settling in.

There we were, picnic blanket laid out in front of the inflatable screen, nibbles open and already nibbled at and Fulham Palace providing the setting behind us. While D- and I chatted, we watched other people stream in finding a spot to claim for the evening, catch up with friends, celebrate a birthday, or snap a selfie with neon-green cardboard glasses. My flatmate envied anyone who had brought a pillow or extra blanket...no D- you cannot steal that mans pillow, don't even think about it...

We were interrupted from enjoying the buzz of the night when the organisers came over the loud speakers to direct us to where the loos & food were, start a pass the (inflatable) cookie contest to win prizes, warn of squirrels who might get to the promo cookies and remind everyone of another contest by Double Tree to watch the movie in bed, to be announced later - this sent everyone in to a selfie taking frenzy. I shot daggers at all the selfie takers...dammit, if they all entered there was no way we'd win.

Finally dark enough, before starting the movie, one of the organisers stood up to announce the winner of the evening in bed - and before we knew what was happening, a photo of D- and I in neon-green cardboard glasses was staring back at us from the huge screen...Oh. My. God.

We'd won!

We won??

But I don't win anything!

We get to watch the move tucked up in bed but still outdoors? Free drinks and nibbles too?

D- couldn't stop laughing. I couldn't stop saying 'I cant believe it!' How we would have gotten from our picnic blanket, with all our stuff, to the bed, without the help of the two organisers, I don't know.

Needless to say, we would have had a great time even if we didn't win. D- and I both like the movie, we were all set for a picnic and the atmosphere was great, but winning was a super sweet cherry-on-top bonus. There is something so decadent about being curled up under a fluffy duvet with your head on soft pillows...while you are outside under the stars...

The only problem with winning was getting out of the bed at the end to go home!

So A) No, this is in no way a sponsored post by Luna Cinema or Double Tree and B) If you haven't been to an outdoor screening, grab some friends or your family and go. Its a fun way to spend a night (even if you don't win a bed!) and there are still several showings for another week or so. The Luna Cinema tickets cost me £15 which is almost the same as most normal cinema prices so it's a great alternative evening and, hey, at least in London, while the weather is still mild for September, why not make the most of it?

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05 September 2016

Day trip from London: London to Whitstable

This time last week I was returning from Whitstable, a charming coastal town, east of London. Being a bank holiday, the lovely Emma and I were more than happy to whisk ourselves away to spend the fleeting summer days by the seaside. We were lucky as the weather held up and stayed warm and sunny.

Aside from Margate, I've yet to visit another sandy beach in the UK. But Whitstable was charming. Maybe it was the last of the summer sun, maybe it was just the bank holiday weekend or maybe, Whitstable really is just that warm and welcoming.

Sandy beaches, sexy lifeguards, sun loungers, beach bars with amazing cocktails, ice cream every 100 meters, girls in bikinis and makeup, fit boys in budgie smugglers – you won't find any of this at Whitstable. What you will find is a long pebbly beach (similar to that of Brighton but minus the pier), lots of fresh oysters for sale, rows and rows of colourful beach huts, a pub with the best beach view in the country (I'm guessing!), a charming village high street, lovely sunsets and a chilled local vibe. To be honest, aside from the sandy beach part, Whitstable is my kinda beach.

Aside from the cute beach huts (which I'm now obsessed with and totally want to rent one come next summer), I just loved the vibe of the place - is it weird if I say it was 'homely'? We saw so many friends and families hanging out together in front of their beach huts or having a meal on the beach. It was comfortable, friendly and familiar - that's not the usual vibe I get from a beach so it was a pleasant surprise and made it difficult to leave at the end of the day.

We were there at low tide and boy, was it out...meters and meters away from the shoreline and I'd barely reached the edge of the water. For those with swimming, they could wade even further out and still only be knee deep in water. The water was calm, clearer (and warmer) than I expected - next time I'm taking swimmers!

We spent the day walking along the shore line, snapping photos of the colourful beach huts, exploring a bit of the town itself and of course, grabbed a bite to eat.

If you fancy heading down the coming weekend, here are some handy tips.

Tips for visiting Whitstable

  • Try and grab a direct train from London Victoria rail station, it'll take roughly 1.5hrs so bring a book! 
  • Whitstable is only half an hour north of Canterbury so you could travel from there too.
  • To get to the harbour front from Whitstable station, just follow the signs, or easier still, follow everyone else...
  • Whitstable is known for fresh seafood – oysters specifically – we ate at Crab & Winkle but in hindsight, it would have been better to buy freshly shucked oysters and fish and chips and eat them on the beach.
  • Be sure to check out the charming Harbour street
  • Bring flip-flops! It is a pebbly beach so not the best for walking barefoot! 
  • Have an ice cream! You're on a beach, you cant not have an ice cream!
  • Stay till sunset, its beautiful

I know not everyone is a fan of beaches, and with us entering Autumn, you might prefer a different day trip...in which case, have a look here...I have 10 other day trip ideas to choose from!

As always, if you have your own tips or experiences you'd like to share, do leave me a comment :)

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31 August 2016

Why everyone should go on a street art tour.

I have been wanting to do a street art tour for ages, but, as always, the list of things I want to do is about as long as my arm, times 100. Anyway, what are bank holidays for if not to dust off that list, drag a friend along and go see some amazing street art in trendy east London's Shoreditch?

I loved, loved, loved the tour. I learned so much and it felt like I was entering an entire world hidden in plain sight. Our tour guide, Nelly, was a lady who has been photographing artists and getting to know them for the past 4.5 years (her Instagram is here).

Artist - Roa (the bird) only does animals and very well known. It took him a day to put this up. He is so good and respected that, even after the owner of the building offered the other side for other artists, no one took him up on the offer so as not to be compared with Roa - until the break dancing soldier that is, and the artist who did that did get a bit of a backlash.

Nelly was very knowledgeable and had a wealth of information to share. Some of the really interesting things she mentioned were that roughly 80% of the artists have a traditional art background (eg in fine arts or graphic design) and for a lot of them street art is a way to get exposure for galleries to pick them up or companies/brands to work with them.

There are so many unwritten rules about who gets to paint where, who can paint over another artists work and how long they have to wait before they can do it. Nelly also talked about specific pieces and, where known, what they meant. It really was an eye-opener. I'm so intrigued now that I'm itching to try another street art tour and maybe pick up a book on the subject.

Artist: Dale Grimshaw. Protest piece for the West Papua tribe being killed off by the Indonesian government because they have gold on their land.
If you're unconvinced, here are 10 reasons why everyone should go on a street art tour, in no particular order.
  1. It's like learning a secret language
  2. You see things hidden in plain sight
  3. Find out about community gardens that make you say "how'd I not know this was here?!" (None of my photos do the community garden any justice so I haven't included any)
  4. It's an open air art gallery showcasing some very talented artists
  5. Hear about the unwritten rules and hierarchy of the sub culture
  6. It challenges any assumptions, stereotypes, preconceptions and prejudices
  7. Learn to identify big name artists other than Banksy and Invader
  8. See something that, due to its nature, might disappear the next day
  9. It's free! Well tip based if you go with these guys (This is not a sponsored post!)
  10. Learn about paste ups, social interventions and the difference between tagging, graffiti and street art.
  11. Social Interventions - where an artist has taken something seen everyday and given it a twist..can you see it in this photo?
    This is a paste up, with a twist - The artist is Dr Cream, he designed a series of these, that, when put together, form an animation
    Tagging is the bit you see over the woman's face - essentially the street name of an artist. Kind of ugly, and personally, I think it's closer to plain vandalism than anything artistic.
    Graffiti - Stylised typography, usually with letters meaning something only to those in the know.
    Street Art - My favourite by far, it's anything that is an image and can be easily understood (the first five images in this blog post are also brilliant examples of street art
And just coz I want to...here are some more photos I took during the tour to whet your appetite. I do think there is a place for street art, after all, we are bombarded daily with advertising on the streets, why can't we have a little art instead? What do you think?

Artist: Otto Shada.
Originally from Chile, he was an architect
who turned artist. The galleries rejected his
work but after becoming popular on the streets,
he now has shows everywhere.

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21 August 2016

Countryside escape to the Peaks District

This time last week I was just getting into bed after a day full of road tripping, bubbling brooks, sleepy villages, long country walks, seeing sheep, cows and rolling hills, dinner in pubs in spa towns and bunting strung up in an incredibly cute village, hearty meals and lunch with breathtaking views. The were apple core throwing contests, cow pats to avoid, chats, friendly teasing, the crunch of gravel under boots, smells of campfires and laughter floating on country air.

The river Dove and Dovedale stepping stones

A few of us city slickers were invited up to Derbyshire for the weekend by my friend D- who had prepared a host of things for a calmer weekend in the country. One of the best things about the UK is the rolling green countryside and although I've seen a bit of the Cotswolds and the Lakes district, I haven't explored the countryside as much as I'd like. That weekend afforded me a peek at the Peaks district and it was breathtaking - my photos just don't do it justice.

If you fancy an escape - it's best to drive - there is an absolutely gorgeous (and easy!) walk that I loved and would recommend, it's from Dovedale to Milldale, can be found on Google maps, and only takes about an hour each way. We took a longer route, beyond Milldale, via some public footpaths, courtesy of our knowledgeable host, and I've since found many websites with guides to longer walks in the same area if you are interested.

Milldale - some of the cottages can be rented


Be warned, if you love cute cottages and tiny sleepy towns, you'll fall in love with Milldale - it has a handful of houses, a public phone box, a small takeaway snack bar, a bus service that runs every other day and that's about it. Totally want to move there.

Arriving at Milldale

Milldale's resident duck and greeting service

Matlock Spa where we stopped for dinner

The trip inspired me to get planning a few more escapes. Ashbourne and Matlock Spa have been added to my every growing list of places to visit in the UK and I cant wait to explore more. A big thank you to D- for organising a great weekend and to K- for being such a patient driver!

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11 August 2016

Kinky Boots London

Ladies, gentlemen and those who are yet to make up your mind...

It was a Tuesday  night and I had this urge to buy knee-length bright red boots and strut around London. At the same time, I was thinking 'Oh God! I hope this urge doesn't last!' I wasn't crazy, I'd just seen Kinky Boots and loved every minute. I was glued to my seat, my eyes following the actors around on stage, barely able to keep up. There was colour, attitude, hilarity and a touch of moving moments to give it heart.

The cast was brilliant, those actors playing drag queens can sure strut their stuff. I mean, I'm used to heels but never in a million years could I pull off some of the stuff they did! Splits, flips, jumps twirls, dance moves and more. (Were there specific training sessions on how to walk in six-inch heels? How many twisted ankles were there in rehearsals? And how on earth can you do a flip and land on heels!! Seriously, it shouldn't be possible.)

I think Lola and Lauren did an amazing job. Lola, had me wrapped around her little pinky from the moment she exploded onto the stage and Lauren was brilliantly awkward and perfectly imperfect.

Lola: [looks horrified] Burgundy. Please, God, tell me I have not inspired something burgundy. Red. Red. *Red*. *Red*, Charlie boy. *Red*! Is the color of sex! Burgundy is the color of hot water bottles! Red is the color of sex and fear and danger and signs that say, Do. Not. Enter. All my favorite things in life.*

Seriously, Kinky Boots was awesome. It was the perfect antidote to my mid-week-itis, going-back-to-work-after-holidays-itis and general feelings of 'meh'.  Its lively, fun, made me want to dance in my seat and put me in a great, bouncy, this is why I love London, kind of mood.

It was all last minute, mind you, I scored FRONT-ROW tickets for £20 thanks to a nifty little app which I've now added to my 8 tips for booking theatre tickets post.

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken - Oscar Wilde (quoted by Lola)

Seriously, go see this show if you haven't already, and if you don't leave with a smile on your face, and feeling just happy to be you then I really will buy red boots and strut around London, twisted ankles be damned.

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07 August 2016

My favourite Tallinn moments

*brushes off cobwebs*

Hello? Is anyone still here?

So I'm back at work tomorrow after having four (yes, four!) weeks off to travel and move flats. And in a shameless bid to avoid thinking about it, and cling on to the last few hours of holiday, I've come back to my poor, neglected blog to tell you about some of my favourite moments from my most recent trip.

I was in Tallinn, Estonia, a with a friendly population and a history that's been upset more times than the tea cups at the Mad Hatters tea party. I could hardly believe that, despite being inhabited for hundreds of years, as a country, Estonia is only 26 years old! I was in Tallinn with my friend E- for 4 nights and we managed to cover a LOT of ground - I kid you not, that girl made me cycle almost 40km! I was very sore the next day, I can tell you that much. Anyway, its easy to get lost in the what & where of travel but for now, here are the moments that stand out.

Sunset in Toompea

E- and I were lucky enough to find an AirBnB in Toompea - the older part of the old city. One evening, after the crowds had gone home, I stepped out for a wander around the quiet cobblestone streets with nothing but my footsteps echoing and the faint sounds of an old couple painting the corner building before tourists arrived the next day. I found one of the lookouts and watched the deep blue sky blur with the tangerine and crimson horizon at sunset. It was a moment of peace in the hectic exploration of Tallinn that really let everything sink in for me, not least that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel and see such a city.

Exploring Kalamaja

While I loved Tallinn's Old Town, it was great to explore the Kalamaja area. Part creative city, part old wooden fisherman houses, it paints a different picture of Tallinn. Throw in lunch at a disused train carriage (not quite basement galley but just as cool), a market and E- and I giggling as we staged typical instagram photos using some of the street art and old houses and you have the makings of a great afternoon.

Door spotting

Tallinn has this thing about doors. Really. E- was on a mission to 'collect them all' and so in exchange for my helping her spot them, she's kindly let me borrow her collage. Isn't it awesome? It was a little bit of the 'everyday' Tallinn that was fun to see.

Cycling to Rohuneeme

Call me crazy but the marathon cycle from Tallinn to Rohuneeme and back actually made it onto my list of favourite moments. Why? Because the route took us along the coast line, through residential streets and natural parks - places that most tourists wont see. It was calmer, simpler and it was a nice escape from the beaten track. I loved seeing the new residential developments, the 'grand design' type homes, the shared gardens, people stepping out their homes for a hike, hearing 'you're welcome' when saying thank you to a pedestrian who gave way to us and a multitude of other little things. It helped that the cycleways were separated from the road and drivers stopped for you at crossings.

Finding the secret drawer

A drawer full of notes from travellers over the past few years covering everything from what to order, to what to see in Tallinn, to advice on life and a few drawings. It was under our noses at a little restaurant we went to and E- and I spent a good hour or so going through every last note, and of course, adding our own.


Waking up to bells and tour groups.

Some sleep lovers will hate this but in Toompea I woke up to bells ringing almost every morning. There was something so 'old world charm' about this that I loved - despite the sleep deprivation. I'd wake up and have a coffee while watching the cruise ship tourists walk down our street from our window, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in one direction and St Mary's Cathedral in the other, and to me, all of that combined to make one unique and memorable picture.

I may be forgetting others but those are it for now. I'll be back with a 'things to do' in Tallinn blog post in case I've inspired you to add this place to your travel list, and if I have, do let me know!

Have a great week!

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