Posts Tagged ‘London’

Exploring Imagination

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

I requested a day off work and spent a long weekend down in London. I took the opportunity to attend one of the free talks organised by the School of Life at Selfridges as part of the Festival of Imagination. This festival comprises a series of talks and workshops that encourage creative thought and exploration of the imagination. The lunch time talk I attended was given by the creative development team, Vitamins, who discussed three of the amazing projects that they have worked on and developed. From a folding wheelchair wheel to a wall calendar, their main focus is solving problems through beautiful and thoughtful design.

My favourite project that they spoke about was a simplified user manual for smart phones. The original brief was from Samsung to find out how to make smart phones more accessible to older users. They developed a beautiful hard covered book which you place the new phone into and that provides you with straightforward, easy to follow instructions on how to install, set up and use the phone. As I watched the talk I imagined my grandmother being presented with this manual and being confident enough to set up her own phone. The research they undertook to get to the final product was fantastic – interviewing and conducting product tests with people of various ages to discover what made smart phones so difficult for older users. The final user manual is beautiful and practical – as all good products should be. You should look at their video for the user manual on their website – genius.

The talk was very inspirational – seeing three young people with such creative ideas and so much enthusiasm for their work was wonderful to see.

Hello, 2014.

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

It dawned on me last night that I have slept in four different beds over the past week. I have donned my backpack for three adventures, the feeling of being a traveller living out of a bag and adjusting to a new pillow has been enlivening. Last weekend I was in London, visiting friends and catching up with cousins. I then spent New Year’s Eve in Sheffield with my brother and his girlfriend where I had a great night’s sleep on a bed fashioned from couch cushions and doonas. Last night I stayed at my cousin Lesley’s house and in between all of these trips I had one or two nights back in my own bed in Manchester.

My weekend in London made me want to move back to a big city.

My weekend in London made me want to move back to a big city.

I am currently missing the feeling of travel and adventure. Every few months I get the urge to run away and explore the world, avoid reality and just enjoy discovering new places, people and food. I want to sell everything I own, buy a car and just drive around the UK, stopping in small towns, walking up mountains and reaching the most remote areas of the island. There has to be a way that I can do this without running out of money or going insane, I just haven’t quite worked out how. But as 2014 gets underway and I begin to realise that this time next year I will most likely be moving back to Australia, I am remembering all of the places in Europe in that I am yet to see. I know they will still be here and I can always come back, but they are so physically close to me at the moment and not using this opportunity would be such a shame.

This year I want to go to Budapest and I am vowing to see the Northern Lights. Where I will do this, I’m not quite sure but I’m sure a quick Google search of “How to see the Northern Lights” will provide some solutions. I also need to go back to Paris and I have never been to Ireland. Then I will also need to go somewhere warm such as Spain or Greece and I really haven’t seen much of the south of France. Plus I have barely even scraped the surface of discovering places within England itself.

Right. Better go and pack my bags.

Famous Food

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

I didn’t have time in London to put my previous ‘train-journey-written’ posts up so you will have to imagine some sort of magical time difference between this and the following stories. I am currently under the sea (Under the sea… under the sea… doo doo di doo doo doo doo) in a train in a tunnel. I learnt in the Eurostar magazine just a few minutes ago that I’m not actually currently surrounded by water, but the tunnel passes through the seabed. This is extremely disappointing. I like the idea of being merely metres away from fish, but sadly I am not. I’m probably metres away from seabed living worms or algae. I guess I’ll have to make do with this fact. I am less than 10 centimetres from a snoring woman who was going to steal my window seat and became grumpy when I insisted on having it. Within three minutes of departure she was snoring. It would have been a wasted window.

My day in London was a food-bonanza and on a high-profile scale. I appear to have turned into a food snob and only like eating at places run by famous chefs. That’s ok with me, I am willing to accept this status. My morning started with coffee and a piece of chocolate and almond torte at Princi bakery. It is an up-market Italian bakery/pizzeria that does very tasty food at ridiculous prices. It is one of the hip-and-cool places in the middle of Soho that you go to because it’s Princi. My chocolate torte was good but was certainly more almond than chocolate. It was a bit flavourless and could have done with more chocolate but that is probably just my own personal preference for chocolate-based cakes. If it is going to have chocolate in it, make it lots and make it dark. The coffee was very good and wasn’t over priced which was a relief. The café is beautifully laid out with a water fountain running down one wall, lots of large communal tables and a great window looking out into Soho. It was a nice experience but I think you can get just as good cake for half the price (eg. Forge Bakehouse.)

Fancy cakes

Fancy cakes

After using up some time visiting the Queen, a large clock tower called Ben and going future-husband spotting in the fancy-cars-and-houses area towards Kensington, it was time for lunch. For a few years now I have been in love with a Yotam Ottolenghi, a chef whose cookbooks and restaurants have redefined vegetables. I have been wanting to eat at one of his London-based restaurants and made it my mission to do so this trip. His Belgravia café is more a take away venue but I managed to get a seat at the one communal table. You can choose from huge piles of delicious salads with amazing combinations of ingredients, as well as pizzas, quiches and soups.

Mmm... salads.

Mmm… salads.

I had eggplant with goats cheese curd; a red quinoa, rice, dried fruit and spices salad; and roasted carrots with chilli, herbs and a magical mix of spices.

So colourful and so delicious

So colourful and so delicious

It was all so good but again, I was paying for the experience to eat Ottolenghi’s recipes and £11 for a smallish plate of salad was quite a lot. But I’m glad I did it. Next time I will make sure to have room to try one of his desserts but I was feeling guilty from my morning tea and aware that I was going out for dinner so I resisted.

I think I deserve a medal for resisting these.

I think I deserve a medal for resisting these.

So that brings me to dinner. I was staying with my friends Angela and James who are soon heading back to Perth to join together in holy matrimony. As I won’t be at their wedding, I wanted to take them out for dinner to celebrate and Angela booked a table at the York and Albany hotel – one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants. They have a special set menu on weeknights if you eat between 6-7pm, which is exceptionally good value at three courses for £22. The food was very, very good – I had a celeriac soup with truffle and parmesan croutons (very creamy and delicious); beef with horseradish mash (tasty although a little chewy); and a chocolate fondant with honeycomb ice cream. The fondant was good – not too sweet and the honeycomb added a nice flavour combination. It was a very tasty meal and exceptional for that price. I would definitely go back.

It was romantically dark in the restaurant.

It was romantically dark in the restaurant.

And so concluded my day of famous food. The value and standard of Mr Ramsey’s meal out performed the others but I can’t say I ate anything that disappointed me. Thumbs up all around to London foodies.

Jolly Good London-Town

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Jolly good. Rightio. That’s rubbish. Woh?!

As you can see, I became fluent in Pom while in London. Considering I spent the first two days apologising in French every time I bumped into someone, I think I have done quite well. I have since returned to Paris and appear to have forgotten how to speak French. Not so good.

Anyway, London was fun although it is one of my least favourite capital cities in the world. I don’t know what it is about London but I always find it confusing, over commercialised and lacking personality. Perhaps it is because I haven’t spent enough time there but usually when I go to a new city there is something about it that really interests and excites me. I don’t get that with London. There is plenty to see and do and I love the ‘free museums’ concept but it feels a little bit stale. I do think it is a beautiful city when the sun shines and the buildings turn a brighter shade of grey and the parks are lovely, but there really is something miserable about London. I honestly felt that Paris looked bright and cheerful in comparison when I returned home, despite the dirt and grime.

A highlight of the trip was our adventures with Tom’s family. We met a few of Tom’s mum’s cousins and were taken on a tour and out for lunch and dinner in the English countryside. Now THAT is something I enjoy. English countryside is beautiful, no matter what the weather, with its rolling hills and green, green grass. It is so fresh and colourful and the little country towns are quaint and adorable. We had good weather for our outing in the country which made things even better, but it was so nice to meet some of Tom’s extended family and to experience a bit of England outside the capital.

England

Green grass, blue skies, white clouds.

We were generously housed by my friends Angela and James who let me sleep on their blow up mattress every time I come to London. They are great hosts and always take me on out-of-the-ordinary nights out – this trip was no exception. On our first night in London, they had organised a dinner at an Austrian restaurant where we ate huge pieces of pork, drank giant steins of beer and Tom and I played the cow bells with the restaurant owner/entertainer who sang Austrian songs throughout the night. It was quite a spectacle. Once again I left thinking, “London has one crazy night life, or maybe it is just Angela and James.”

Austrian bells

Ring a ding ding!

We did manage to visit a few pubs while in England which is something I enjoy. France doesn’t have the same pub culture and seriously lacks good beer and cider. We also gorged on a few decent burgers to fulfil a desire that had been burning since we left Australia and Jus Burgers.

Byron Burger

A Byron Burger

One thing that London has done right is its museum and art gallery culture – I presume it is because everyone needs somewhere to hide while it is raining outside, so they make galleries free to enter. Fantastic. It means you can wander into a museum or gallery and not feel bad about just seeing part of the exhibitions. You can pick the bits that really interest you and then head to the next gallery when you’re done. We managed to visit the British Museum and the British Library and thanks to James’s membership card, we got into the Miro exhibition at the Tate Modern for free. I had been to see a Miro exhibition in Paris a few months ago and saw an extensive range of his sculptures. This time it was mostly his paintings and it was nice to see some more of his work. I really like his style and found it a particularly pleasing display.

So that was London. I have already prattled on about the concert and the mud on my shoes so I won’t go into that again. Tomorrow we catch a plane to New York (it seems the hurricanes have moved on) which I am now very excited about. I’m not so excited about the flight over but I will survive. I will try and write from the Big Apple, even if it is just to say, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY ON THURSDAY!”

City Hopping

Monday, August 29th, 2011

A monumental fact has just dawned on me that I probably should have realised earlier but it wasn’t until I sat still and thought about it for long enough that it all hit me in the face. I shall announce it in point form.

  1. Yesterday I was in London.
  2. Today I am in Paris.
  3. Tomorrow I will be in New York.
That’s three huge, giant, overwhelming, heaving, crazy cities in three days. Awesome.
P.S. It’s my birthday in three days.

More Mud

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

It is currently 12.15am on Sunday 28 August and I have two woes.

Woe #1 – Underworld Concert

The main reason why Tom and I came to London was to go to the South West Four festival to see one of my favourite electronic groups, Underworld, play. I love seeing them live and have on previous occasions flown to other cities within Australia to see their concerts. So it wasn’t a completely out of the ordinary decision to buy a ticket to a concert in London seeing as it is just a 2.5 hour train ride away. I now wish I had saved my money.

The concert was out in Clapham, an area of London recently targeted during the riots. I wish they had locked up a few more people because I’m fairly certain half of the people at the concert would have been on the streets throwing bottles through windows last week. It was an interesting bunch of people – I always feel out of place at electronic music festivals as I stand in my fully-dressed attire waiting patiently for a certain dj/band to get on stage as drunken 18 year olds flirt, dance and throw themselves around provocatively nearby. I hate Australian crowds, but this was worse. EVERYONE was drunk. Usually it is only about 80% of the crowd – this was 99.9999999% with Tom and I being that last remaining percentage. Not only that, but at least six times during the four-hour period that we were at the concert I had guys with large wads of cash walk past asking the crowd if they’d like ecstasy, cocaine or marijuana. And there were a few ‘Yes, please’s.

Normally I would have just stood to the side and tried my best to ignore the idiots around me but it was a little difficult to move as every step you took resulted in you sinking into more mud. It had been raining for the past week or so in London and if there is one thing that rain, land and lots of people equal, it is mud. It was as if Tom and I had returned to the North Sea and were attempting to mudwalk with a bunch of intoxicated losers. It was awful. I had had prior thoughts of “Maybe I should buy some cheap shoes to wear in case it is muddy” but decided against it. When I arrived and saw what was in store I bid farewell to my Campers and plunged straight in. At least I am now a seasoned mud-walker and I didn’t fall flat on my arse. I did get a bit girly about the fact that my perfectly wonderful shoes were getting covered in mud. So when we were finally in front of the main stage, we picked a standing spot and stood there. The less we moved, the harder the mud beneath our feet.

When we arrived John Digweed, one of my brother’s favourite DJs was mixing it up on the stage and it was good. It was very good. But unfortunately he finished and was replaced with a guy by the name of Laidback Luke. Lazy Luke would be more appropriate – all he did was slop together a bunch of random songs with popular tunes/lyrics/choruses in order to make the audience say “YAY! I like this song!” and therefore make him look good. I felt like an old-woman-mother-figure standing with a frown on my face, not understanding the music of the youth of today. But finally he finished and Underworld came on stage.

Their set was short. And quiet. And there was no encore. And the crowd weren’t supportive and hardly cheered at all and were too busy smoking (there was a stall selling cigarettes); drinking; taking drugs; looking hideous with their ridiculously short shorts, bad hair cuts and general poor dress sense; and being obnoxious. Basically, it was no where near as good as when I saw them in Perth – now that is saying something. I would even rate seeing them at Bondi Beach on New Years Eve with evil drunk Australians as a more enjoyable experience than tonight. Such a shame because I had such high expectations. I don’t blame Underworld at all because they did their best and their music was awesome. But I just couldn’t hear it and was too busy trying to stop a stupid girl next to me from standing on my feet.

We did have delicious indian food for dinner though so I guess that’s a positive.

Woe # 2 – More Rain

We are supposed to be catching a flight to New York on Tuesday afternoon and there appears to be a bit of weather about on that side of the world (aka. a hurricane.) That’s a tad worrying as I don’t really want my flight to be cancelled or delayed as I had planned on being there for my birthday. At the same time, I also don’t want it to rain there because it has rained enough here in London. So hopefully that will all blow over (get it? Ha.)

Bed time.

I Have Two Minutes…

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

I have about two minutes to write this so it will be short. Ready?

  1. Yesterday was Tom’s birthday. We ate cake, went up the Arc de Triomphe, and had a delicious dinner at Tom’s favourite restaurant, Le Jardin D’En Face. It was so good. I will describe more later.
  2. Today we are getting on a train and going to London for a few days. We’ll be back on Sunday. This means I don’t know if I will write anything between now and then. Don’t miss me too much.
  3. We had some more visitors from Perth and we climbed to the top of Sacre Coeur. We have done a lot of climbing lately.
  4. I have to go and pack my bags.
  5. That is all.
  6. Bye!