19 May 2015

Macaron and Mews

Adventure caps on and sweet teeth at the ready people, I'm taking you on a virtual macaron tour, that's macaron with one 'o'. And all these years I've been saying 'macaroon', silly me. The Macaron and Mews tour combines three things I enjoy, exploring London, discovering cute little mews and sweet treats. Is it wrong to like macarons, in part, just because they are colourful? (The correct answer I'm looking for is no ;) )

Our lovely and insightful tour guide, Yannick, took us around Belgravia and Knightsbridge. There were hidden mews, tiny pubs, cobblestone streets, window boxes overflowing with flowers, small courtyards and the most adorable houses and cottages just a street or two away from bustling main roads!

I could. not. stop. taking photos of all the little mews we went through.

We were blessed with good weather, and really, there are afternoon teas, quirky cafes, but, with (hopefully) better weather coming our way, I like to take full advantage of being outdoors and  enjoying the sun. So munching on a delicious macaron while gawking at admiring all the cute mews houses was perfect.

Speaking of munching macarons...

My favourite stop of the tour had to be Pierre Herme where I sampled the Envie macaron - a vanilla, violet and blackcurrant fabulous fusion of flavours creating a fairy tale-esq bite-sized dream. I may have fallen in love with the Envie.

It didn't hurt matters that we pretty much had the shop to ourselves and the attendant was super-nice, and chatted to us about the flavours and what was coming up in the world of macarons and Pierre Herme. But, no sooner had I had a bite of my first macaron of the tour, than I found myself itching to move on to the next macaron stop. Let me at 'em!

Yannick was great, he knew when to be patient and when we wanted to move on so the pacing of macaron, factoids and mews was perfect for our group. We went to a few more macaron stops, our biggest dilemma being which flavours to choose (ah, first world problems) and restraining ourselves long enough to take some photos.

Even with a sweet tooth like mine, with 5 macaron stops (all macarons included in the price of the tour!), I did end up having to saving a macaron for later. Not a bad thing, I made it into a treat later with a cup of tea :)

I'm not sure if I enjoyed exploring the hidden mews or eating macarons more. What I do know is that I felt like my 'explore London' batteries were recharged and I'd love to go and explore the mews again and try some more macaron flavours.

Do you have a favourite macaron flavour? Whats your favourite sweet treat?

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12 May 2015

Curiouser and curiouser!

You know I've become *slightly* addicted to immersive theatre ever since Punchdrunk. So when I heard of Alice's Adventures Underground, I decided to take a tumble down the rabbit hole and go on my own adventure in Wonderland - which just so happens to be under the arches of Waterloo station, don't you know?

Its a wonderful immersive experience, I wasnt just a bystander watching a scene unfold but I was seen, spoken to and given jobs to do - but I could also just watch. I loved the tunnel of books (and I totally want one), the Cheshire cat, the haunting Mockturtle's song, the acrobatics of tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, the Mad tea party and the cheeky Red Queen who kept blowing kisses to all those who were designated a heart suit during the court scene.

"Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail.
"There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle--will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go."
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Eat me, drink me
I chose the "eat me" option and was given a small candy before being shown through to be assigned a S.U.I.T and beginning my own adventure into the nonsensical, mad and utterly enchanting world of Wonderland. The lovely Emma, my fellow Wonderland adventurer, was given a different S.U.I.T so we were temporarily split up, but that was OK as we got to compare notes afterwards. The outcome of comparing notes? We want to go again and try the "drink me" path!

I don't want to give too much away, it really is a fun experience. Also, as a nice bonus to attending one of the shows, the card given to you, your S.U.I.T, can be used to go back into the quirky bar area (complete with maze, croquet space and live music on weekends) on other evenings and you can bring 3 friends - a great twist on a night out.

The show is running till the end of August so you still have time, just don't be late like the White Rabbit!

What do you think? Would you be game to take a tumble down the rabbit hole?

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07 May 2015

My First UK Vote

Its official, I voted. My first vote in the UK. I wasn't going to do it, to tell you the truth. If anything, all the media coverage did, was show that no-one really had a clue. But what else is new? Its always like that and I suspect that most of the time people just vote for the lesser of two evils. So it came as surprise to me, when I found myself looking at the manifestos of the different parties.

My subconscious mind had pushed and shoved and got my attention with the 'immigration policy' section. I know there are loads of more pressing issues out there, but as an expat, immigration policy is a huge deal to me. Its become harder and harder over the past number of years to live and work in the UK as an Aussie. The working holiday visa is great for those wanting a taste of British life, but what about those of us who want to stay?

I had to jump through hoops, to get my sponsorship visa, gladly I might add, as I do love London, but still, it wasn't a walk in the park. That visa was the only thing I was eligible for. I'm a professional, working in an area that is on the UKs skills shortage list and, thankfully, make a decent enough living so I can pay my exorbitant London rent and still have a bit left over to enjoy what this amazing city has to offer. But its so hard to move here that I'm sure it puts a lot of highly skilled people off.

Anyway, out of all the parties, only two had a policy that made me feel like I would be welcome to stay, and not in a grudging manner. So I voted, for whatever my two pence were worth.

I went to my polling station and got my slip of paper from the sour woman ticking off names. I swear, she hid the names on the page because I accidentally glanced at them when I gave her my address. Seriously?! Anyway, I took that itty-bitty paper to a rickety booth that looked like it would fall appart if someone so much as sneezed next to it. (By the way, what is it with pencils in the voting booths?? We have them in Sydney too. Are they going to rub everything out and change the votes later or are they so cheap they are worried people are going to steal pens? Honestly, if someone wants to steal a pen from a polling booth...let them have it!) My mark made, I dropped it into the box, dodged those people outside who also want your address for heaven knows what reason and I was done.

And you know what? Voting felt...great. It was such an unexpected feeling! I felt like somehow, that small action was a little turning point and I belonged a bit more here. Go figure.

Did you vote today?

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04 May 2015

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime

If you have read the book, you'll enjoy the play, its quite faithful to the book and is very cleverly done. Its both funny and sweet and thoroughly enjoyable. And there is the most adorable puppy at the end. What can I say, I like cute fuzzy things.

I went with a couple of friends, one who had read the book a while ago and one who hadn't read the book at all and they both enjoyed it as much as I did. The set, as I walked into the theatre, was simple. Deceptively so as I would later find out. Things kept appearing out of cupboards in the wall and floor. The boxes had a hundred different uses and the screen at the back was a really clever part of the set which at one point turned into an escalator.

In case you don't know, the story is told from the perspective of Christopher, a young boy who has Asperger-like qualities. It starts with him finding his neighbours dog dead in her front yard and follows his 'investigation' into its murder. But its really not as morbid as it sounds. Its really about family, truth and trust.

If you enjoy plays that are a little different, you should give this one a go. You will have a laugh, an 'awwww' and maybe, just maybe, Christopher will teach you a thing or two.

Have you been to a play based on a book?

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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.

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 :)

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!

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.

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 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. 

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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