27 April 2015

The time portal at 18 Folgate St



A fire is crackling in the hearth, the smell of burning wood faintly tickling my nose and memory. A walnut lays half eaten on the table among pieces of its cracked shell, a bit of tea is left in a dainty teacup. Its quiet, so silent I can hear the clock on the mantelpiece ticking, creaking floorboards and faint noises coming from the other other rooms.

I go deeper into the house, creep up the stairs softly and find myself in another room. The lady of the house peers at me from her picture over the mantelpieces, but where is she? Where is everyone? I stand by the softly burning embers and look around the room. A tea set is laid out on  the table in front of me. The candles flicker in their holders casting dancing light across all the colours of the richly decorate room, the green walls, crimson drapes, blue chairs and red armchair.

I continue my search through time for the family of silk weavers only to find I've just missed them, yet again. They've left in such a rush that the bed is unmade, the thick black coffee hasn't been drunk, yet the shoes and socks are there, lying in disarray. How odd.

I climb further but there is only poverty, laundry hung in the staircase, dirty sunken beds, cobwebs and dust, crumbling ceilings and flaking walls. The King has died and I can hear the gun salute echoing through the flimsy walls. It looks like time has not been kind to the Jervis family.

Back down through the rooms, there is a letter there, an upturned chair, a spilled bottle, a filled pipe, there are smells and sounds and really, "you either see it, or you don't".

If the thought of walking up to an ordinary door, ringing the bell and then stepping through time thrills you, then you need to check out this unusual house in Shoreditch. Its part painting, part still life, part museum, part sensory experience created by artist Dennis Severs. I really haven't experienced anything like it. It was odd. At times I felt like I was really nosing around someones house. And that house had fallen through a time warp - I could look out onto modern buildings from one of the rooms while being very aware that I was 'living' in a different time.

If you could travel in time, which era would you visit?



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20 April 2015

Thou shalt not covet Mayfair - Bloggers games night

Last week I was invited to a bloggers games night by Legal and General. It was a chilled night of Monopoly, meeting new bloggers, pizza and drinks. And, of course, coveting other players property.

I cant remember the last time I played a board game. A physical board game. There's something about the feel of the dice, paper money and figures, that just makes it more enjoyable than tapping buttons on a screen.



This group of bloggers got so excited, I kept jumping from their exuberant outbursts just behind me. I don't think I've ever seen anyone happy to own bits of cardboard or collect 8 Monopoly dollars in rent.

It was a fun night & property buying has never been so affordable in London! Kinda made me want to do a games night with friends.

Have you ever been to a games night?



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13 April 2015

How to meet people in London


Im interrupting my Valencia posts for something I've been wanting to write about for a while now.

When I moved to London, I didn't know anyone. I had no family, no friends, nada. I met my first friend in the hostel I was staying in, it was rather awkward. Since then I've made a few more friends, its not always easy, you do have to put yourself out there, but one of the great things about London is that there are so many people in the same boat, you are bound to meet others looking for friends too!

Also, lucky for you, I'm here to help you get started. If you are thinking of moving to London but don't know anyone, here are 7 ways to meet people in London (that don't involve going to bar or pub!) and, hopefully, make life-long friends.



Hostel
Obviously not everyone moving to London will stay in a hostel, but it is a good way of meeting people. Some people will be travellers but keep an eye out for people who are looking at shared accommodation websites or job sites. Like I said, I met my first friend in a hostel, I eavesdropped on her conversation and plucked up the courage to butt in and now we hang out every other weekend :)

Work
This might be a bit more difficult depending on which industry you are in. In my first job I made friends with the receptionist who was an Aussie who'd also recently moved to the UK. Everyone else seemed to be content with their own circle of friends. However in my next job, I met a bunch of people, one of whom I became good friends with and recently asked me to be her bridesmaid!

Meetup.com*
I met two more friends through this site. One of which has become one of my best friends. If you haven't heard of it, Meetup.com is a site that is all about getting people together to do stuff, any kind of stuff, whatever you are interested stuff. From knitting, to rock climbing, to culture-vulturing, to dancing and partying and absolutely anything in between and beyond. If you have an interest, no matter what it is, chances are there is a social group for it. I signed up to a few groups, and went to some socials and viola, met a bunch of people, two who I've remained good friends with. They can be a bit hit-and-miss as they can be set-up and run by anyone, so its a good idea try a few. Some groups charge a small fee, but usually you can go to a couple of socials before you decide whether you want to hand over your cash. I wouldn't recommend any that don't do that really. Being London, there are hundreds of groups and you can easily find something else.

ThinkingBob.co.uk*
I found these guys through Meetup.com, where they initially started out. They have since branched off to form their own social club and I am actually a paying  member. I like them because their events are a bit different, they get you thinking and you always meet interesting people. The people who run the club are lovely, really friendly and fun and if you ever meet Phil...well, lets just say he is quite the character! I enjoy their treasure hunts the most (I think it was this post that i mentioned the treasure hunt around Covent Garden where I saw a snowman lick a bin) but they have all sorts of socials to cater for different interests.

Internations.org*
Internations is an expat community website. They have forums for your questions, 'ambassadors' who are local points of contact for the expat community, guides about London and, similar to meetup.com, social groups run by members. Membership is free or paid, Ive opted for the free one. I haven't been to any socials yet, so I cant comment on how good they are for meeting people. However, I mention Internations for 2 reasons, 1) I wrote an article for them a while ago on finding a new home in London so, as a source of information, you know you are getting information from people who live and work where you are. 2) You can approach people directly. Today I met a girl who reached out to me through this website. We come from a similar background and it was nice to meet and get to know her a bit. I'd like to think we got along well and I do hope that I gain another friend as a result. 

Blogging/Tweeting/Instagramming
I have found the blogging community a great source of wonderful people who are open and inspired to go out, meet people, and have adventures. It really is one of the more unexpected benefits of blogging. I have met so many bloggers since moving to London and engaging in the blogging community. There are at least 4 bloggers which I have been getting to know over brunches, afternoon teas and other get-togethers. It really is nice to have someone as keen as you to explore this city with. So if you have been toying with starting your own blog, DO IT! If blogging isn't your thing, try Instagram or Twitter. You are bound to meet lots of people who share your interests and make new friends.

Sporting teams/groups
I'm not a sporty person, but I've listed it here because its worked for my friend K. She joined a running group where she met her fiance. If that isn't a recommendation, I don't know what is! I know there are a lot of sporting teams out there, you see them in the parks on weekends. So, if you are the more active type, this will be a great way to meet people too.

*Not sponsored. These are sites I have personally tried.


Do let me know if any of these work for you or if you have any other ideas to share!



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09 April 2015

My Favourite Fallas of 2015 (Part 2 - The Children's Fallas)


The Children's Fallas (Falla Infantil)

Each Fallas has an accompanying children's fallas. I really think that these were as impressive as the larger ones because of the sheer number of figurines and level of detail. The other interesting thing about these is that they highlight just how family friendly this festival is. Families with children of all ages were involved. They were in the parades and were out and about with the adults late into the night.

Kids took special pleasure in buying and setting off firecrackers - some of the more evil cheeky ones throwing them just near enough to scare the living daylights out of passers-by without actually hurting them.


This one time, when a particularly loud one was set off, I heard a high-pitched scream behind me. I turned around only to see a grown man gradually turn all kinds of pink with embarrassment. Even stuffing both hands in my mouth was hopeless in suppressing my laughter. Poor guy!

My favourite - The Onomatopoeia Fallas

This is one that I didn't need to understand Spanish to appreciate. Plus I had a few giggles at some of the sounds they had.



Apparently girls go 'Fiu' and guys go 'Proooufh'

Some of the other Children's Fallas
Don't forget you can click on any of the photos to enlarge them!


I later saw them burn this one...


I really liked this one too for some reason

A children's book writer/illustrator perhaps?




In case you missed it, check out the Special Fallas. And don't forget to come back soon for the remaining Large Fallas and Crema-the burning of the Fallas!






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07 April 2015

My Favourite Fallas of 2015 (Part 1 - The Special Fallas)


I spent about a week in Valencia. I wanted to be there early enough to get around to see all the Falles and have some time after the festival ended to see what Valencia was like without the festive atmosphere. I'll get into what Valencia was like in a later post, for now, I want to share some of the amazing Fallas that I had the pleasure of gawking at, mouth open, camera in hand.



History
The story goes that the tradition began with carpenters clearing out their scraps of wood at the end of winter on on the eve of the spring equinox and burning them in front of their workshops. This yearly 'spring clean' was moved to coincide with (or actually did coincide with) St Joseph’s day. The pieces of wood morphed into the sculptures seen today. The Falla have a long history of satire although some are just based on a particular theme.



The Special Fallas (Secció Especial)

These are 10 Fallas that are commissioned and are among the largest and most elaborate of the Fallas. And they are LARGE! Towering 4-5 stories high, coming across one of these squeezed into a small square or intersection was mind boggling. Armed with a paper map marking all the special fallas, I wandered around Valencia, spotting a coloured moustache here, towering orange hair there and a large lions head being danced on by a man singing in the rain.

My favourite Special Fallas

Taking pride of place outside the large market hall, this was one of the first few Fallas I saw and easily was one of the more brilliantly colourful ones.


Other Fallas in the category including the winner for 2015

Unfortunately I somehow missed two of the special fallas in my wanderings, oh well, might need to brush up on my map reading skills for next time.

The winner for 2015

See the Queen being pulled in two directions?

Next up will be the Childrens Fallas, other (Large) Fallas, and lets not forget the crema, which is the burning of the Fallas, so be sure to check back soon!

What do you think of the winning Fallas? Would you have voted for it?




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03 April 2015

Guilty Pleasures #Travel Linkup




Guilty pleasures.

For me its those things that you know you shouldn’t be doing but cant help doing it anyway. Its your own inner voice going "Sam, you know you shouldn’t be doing that…" while your heart goes "I don’t care…stupid inner voice *grumble* *grumble*" We've all been there, we've all had that moment, and we've all gone with our hearts, the guilt of knowing we shouldn’t, only making that act of indulgence all the more deliciously enjoyable.

Here are my guilty pleasures, both travel and non-travel related, in no particular order. See how many you share with me :)

Sleeping In

…on weekends when I really should be out there making the most of it.
Because its a bright Sunny day in London
Because its only a two day weekend
Because I'm in London. Period.
(coffee in bed with a good book falls into this category too. As does spending hours reading in general.)

Travel
…when I know the exchange rate and how I'd be smarter to save it.
I almost died hitting the 'pay' button for hotel accommodation in Valencia. In the general scheme of things, it wasn’t really unreasonable, but when I found out how much it would be in Aussie dollars…! I almost got my flatmate to click the button for me it was that hard. But I loved, loved, loved my trip and it was SO worth it! The experience of that is something money just cant buy…yes, I've just moved into the 'Justification' phase of guilty pleasures.

And while actually travelling, sleeping in, wandering aimlessly, not making the most of where I am
...because I know how much it costs and chances are, with it being a big world, I might not be back.
Ive been away on travels and felt guilty pleasure in just lounging in the suuuuper comfy hotel bed when I should be out exploring. Also I've swapped lining up for 'major sights' for wandering around, getting lost and getting a feel of the place, but sometimes I do love doing that more you know?

Vampire Diaries
(TV series)

…When I know I should be watching something "better"
Ian Somerhalder. First time I saw him was in another guilty pleasure TV show called Young Americans. I was hooked. Hot. Just Hot. Plain and simple. And he is possibly the only reason I watch the show. Don’t know who he is? Go Google him. Now. I'll wait……………………………Done it? Good. You're welcome ;)

Chocolate.
…like you need me to explain why…!
Ferrero Rocher, After 8 dinner mints and Muji chocolate especially, coz they are expensive to boot!

Buying books.
...when libraries are free and e-books are cheaper and don't kill any trees.
Unless its a really great book, I'll only be reading it once so buying a book that will just sit on my shelf after I've devoured it in a few days seems a bit of a waste of money. But I get such pleasure from walking into a bookshop, shelves lined with adventures, romance, mystery and magic, and adopting one, or two, or five into my home :) Luckily on my birthday last year, my friends just gave me book vouchers, I couldn't have been happier! When I'm feeling poor, or way too guilty, I'll buy books from charity shops. I cant help it, I will always be a book lover.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Join the travel link up with Emma, Kelly, Rebecca or guest host Polly and share your story or find more to read!



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30 March 2015

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Hiya!

So sorry if you were expecting a post today. Im in the process of writing up one about the Fallas of the Las Fallas festival that is just taking waaaaay too long. The bulk of the writing is done but there are still lots of photos I want to include and maybe a video too of the crema which is the burning of the fallas on the final night of the festival. Bear with me and check back soon. If you think you'll forget, you can always subscribe so you get emailed when its up!

Hope your week has been off to a great start!


Sam




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