Posted in London, Travel, Uncategorized

National Gallery – Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery is hard to miss as it takes pride of place at the top of the steps at Trafalgar square, with free entry and a vast amount of artwork on show it is no surprise that it is listed as the number one thing to do in London on Trip advisor!

I have visited the National Gallery once before but I was photographing an evening event so didn’t get much time to peruse the rooms. So as I was recently killing some time around the area I thought I would pop in and see what all the fuss was about.

There are some really beautiful pieces in the collection and the gallery is huge, I didn’t actually get a chance to make it the whole way round so will need to make another visit in the future! As you enter on the ground floor there is a map to help you find your way around, these are also dotted around the gallery and as it is a bit of a maze they are quite useful.

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The architecture of the gallery itself is also like a piece of artwork with high ceilings and beautiful ornate windows, it seems like the perfect home for some of the great masterpieces!

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I arrived at the museum as it was opening and there was already a queue outside but as it is so big inside and you can wander as you wish, rather than following a path, you may find yourself as the only person in the room. I imagine later in the day it gets really busy but the rooms are spacious and the seating is pretty fancy compared to the plain benches you normally see in gallery spaces.

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The National gallery is home to over 2300 pieces of art and they date from the mid 13th century to 1900 so more for the lover of classical art rather than the modern stuff. They do however play host to temporary exhibitions if you prefer something more modern. At the moment they are showing Tacita Dean: Still life which is a collection of mixed media including paintings, video and sound, displayed between two rooms. Unfortunately you cannot photograph this collection but you are free to photograph the rest of the gallery provided you don’t use flash.

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I would say whether you are a tourist or a Londoner you should definitely take advantage of the amazing collection of art from some of the most iconic artists of all time. Although I am a fan of modern art I can’t help but marvel at the talent of these artist for what they created during their period.

Which is your go to gallery to see great artwork?

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, London, Uncategorized

Icebar and restaurant Mayfair

As another location on the 10 places I wanted to visit in London this year, I decided to book a ticket for two to the Icebar in Mayfair for my partners Valentine’s gift (obviously I knew he would be bringing me along with him)

I had heard of the Icebar before but the idea of sitting in a bar in the cold didn’t appeal to me, I’m more of a sitting in the sun with a cocktail type of girl! However I do like to look out for different and quirky places to visit that I can experience as a one off and as I saw a deal on Groupon that included drinks and a meal I went ahead and ordered it.

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The icebar is split into three sections. As you enter and give your details (it is advised to book in advance) you are asked to wait in the normal ‘warm’ bar for the next icebar session to start. You can only stay in the icebar for a maximum of 40 mins so everyone that has booked will enter at the same time.

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On entering you are given a, not so flattering but very warm, cape to wear and you take your ticket to the bar to redeem for your cocktail. A normal ticket will give you one free drink which is served in a glass made of ice, remember to put your gloves on otherwise it will just slip out of your hand! You are advised to keep that glass if you want to purchase more drinks in this bar as they charge an extra £4 for another one. I was worried about using an ice glass but I actually really liked it, the part you drink from melts with the warmth of your mouth as you drink and it just feels like you have an alcoholic ice lolly.

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The icebar currently has a theme of ‘wild in the city’ with sculptures of animals enjoying themselves on vacation in London, the theme changes annually and is due to be revamped soon. There is a bit of a nightclub feel with loud music and the lighting occasionally diming. It didn’t feel as cold as I was expecting with it being -5 but it may be because there is quite a lot of people in the small space. As you leave the ice bar the warmth hits you like it does as you step off the aeroplane on a summer holiday.

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I was worried that when I booked a meal in the restaurant that I would be sitting huddled in a corner eating in the cold but the restaurant is a stark difference to the bar, in fact it is the complete opposite with the dark wood furnishings and warmth radiating from the two large screens showing a burning fireplace on the wall.

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The voucher that I purchased included a cocktail in the ice bar and a Bellini with the meal. I don’t usually order starters but as the deal included a starter, main and dessert I opted for the Grilled king crab in spicy butter, this included courgette crab roll topped with salmon cavier and the OH ordered coal roasted cauliflower with quails egg.

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The menu includes a choice of six starters, seven main courses and three desserts, there are also a range of side orders that can be added with an extra charge. The starter was really light with a nice mix of flavours and I hadn’t tried salmon caviar before, they reminded me of the tapioca balls in bubble tea but with a fishy flavour.

Another thing I hadn’t tasted before was monkfish which the OH ordered for his main. I gave it a try and was surprised by the meatiness of the fish, I really liked it and would definitely order it myself in the future. I opted for the cheeseburger, I was sold by the caramel jus flavour and there was a slight sweetness to it, I was more taken by the way it was presented on its own little tray with a couple of sauces in pots and a jar of sliced gherkin (although I forgot to eat those)

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With only a few choices for dessert we went for the chocolate brownie and the tiramisu ice cream sandwich. The brownie was delicious (what brownie isn’t?) although it was quite a small portion, just as well as the OH wasn’t too keen on his ice cream sandwich so I had to eat some of that too! We were expecting a normal wafer for the sandwich but it was more of a coconut macaroon which looked like a rice cake and was filled with coffee flavoured ice cream.

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Overall we had a really nice experience at the ice bar and restaurant. I figure if you pay for everything separately it could probably get quite expensive so I would definitely recommend looking out for an offer on Groupon but bear in mind they charge extra for any additional items you order (hello crumble cocktail) and service charge for the entire bill.

Have you ever had cocktails at -5 degrees?

Posted in London, Photography, Uncategorized

Fashion and Portrait in Covent Garden

I am in the process of updating my photography website and realised that my portfolio is lacking photos of people. I have photographed at events and photograph people around me all the time but as most of my projects focus on places and street photography, it is rare that I get someone to happily pose for me (it is usually my kids avoiding the camera at all costs)

So recently I have done a few shoots with fashion bloggers in and around London, the first being this shoot with Nupur in Covent Garden.

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Nupur came well prepared with lots of outfits and was a natural in front of the camera which made it really easy for me to shoot. We started at Neal’s yard which is a small yard down the road from Covent garden but is filled with colourful buildings, it is also filled with lots of people and it seemed to be a popular choice for photographers so we didn’t stick around too long and moved on to the more spacious Covent garden market.

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We ended the shoot by grabbing some lunch at the very healthy Suppa in Holborn which does a tasty chilli!

I was a bit nervous about shooting in such a public place but when you are busy taking photos you actually forget that there are people around you and in places like central London where it is so busy, nobody seems to care as they are all rushing around doing their own thing.

I was really pleased with how the pictures turned out and shooting fashion and portrait on location was much more fun than I expected. I am hoping to do a lot more shoots with bloggers in the future and I am currently offering a limited number at a reduced rate for anyone who wants to do a shoot in London. So, if you are working on a particular post or just want to update your profiles then get in touch. You don’t need to be a model or have any experience shooting outdoors, anyone is welcome!

Posted in London, Photography, Uncategorized

Gursky – Hayward Gallery

The Hayward is a newly refurbished, world renowned contemporary art gallery along the Southbank in London that has just reopened in all its brutalist glory after two years.

This was my first visit to the Hayward and I was quite excited to see the work of Andreas Gursky after seeing his work in books and online over the past few years, you really don’t get to appreciate the scale of his work until you are standing next to it looming over you.

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You may be aware of Gursky as he previously held the title for taking the most expensive photograph ever when his photo Rhine II (above) sold for $4.3 million in 2011. It was nice to see the photo up close although I must say it is not one of my favourite pieces and I wasn’t that impressed by it!

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There were a few smaller photos but it was his very large scale images that really got my attention, I loved to look at them from afar and then go up close to see all the detail. Particularly the one at the airport and the block of flats where you could actually see into the windows. (maybe I’m just nosey)

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You may notice a lot of people in my photos, the exhibition was quite busy but I could have probably photographed the pictures without onlookers, I do however enjoy seeing the way people interact with the work as much as looking at the work itself.

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Gursky is known for his spectacular large scale architecture, landscape photos that often feature crowds and global economy or contemporary life. A statement from the Southbank centre website states:

Gursky makes photographs that are not just depictions of places or situations, but reflections on the nature of image-making and the limits of human perception. Often taken from a high vantage point, these images make use of a ‘democratic’ perspective that gives equal importance to all elements of his highly detailed scenes.

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You may think from seeing this post that you don’t need to see the exhibition because I have shown it all to you but I don’t think I even photographed half of the pictures in this show, the gallery is huge and just when you think you have seen it all you turn a corner and there are more photos. The work goes right back to the 70s so it is a large collection and probably one of my favourite photography exhibitions I have seen (and I have seen a fair few)

Are you a fan of the work of Gursky or visited the exhibition?

Gursky at the Hayward runs until 22 April so there is still plenty of time to get down there. A gift aided standard ticket costs £16 with various concessions available with kids under 12 going free. Check out the website for further details.

Posted in London, Travel, Uncategorized

Travel Show – ExCel London

 

We descended on the Excel centre in London last week to visit our first ever travel show. I wasn’t sure what to expect but was hoping to get some inspiration for places to travel to in the future and hopefully get some information about countries that we are already planning a holiday to this year.

We were blown away by how massive the Excel Centre is and the travel show only took up a small space within it. We thought the room that held the Travel Show was really large but soon found out that most of it was actually taken up by the Bike Show so the Travel Exhibition wasn’t as big as expected and didn’t take too long to walk around.

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There was a talk about cruises on but we had already missed the beginning so didn’t stick around to listen, we also came across chef Lesley Waters cooking up a storm and talking about her own travel experiences. As well as looking at destinations there was a few hands on activities such as getting a massage, playing some crazy golf and trying out the seating with Singapore airlines, including the very plush booths which are like tiny hotel rooms.

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Unfortunately we didn’t come across any representatives for Holland or Dominican Republic as we are planning on visiting both places this year and would have liked some information but we enjoyed perusing between countries and came away with the desire to go travelling around Africa and Canada by rail as they both looked amazing from the photos!

We were not expecting to see holidays for sale but there were two really good offers to stay in Scotland and Malta for £99 per person, these looked like amazing opportunities but with a large family we like to research where we are going beforehand and have a good read of small print and these unfortunately had to be booked on the spot.

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The travel show is really useful if you are free to jet off  at the drop of a hat and need inspiration or want to speak to certain tourists boards, some were a bit more approachable and friendly than others. We left the Travel Show with lots of brochures to look through and ideas of places to travel to in the future!

Where are you planning to go this year?

Posted in London, Travel, Uncategorized

The Cumberland Hotel – Marble Arch

I mentioned in my post – 10 places to visit in London  that I have never had the opportunity to stay in a hotel in London as I have always lived here so it was something on my list of things to do this year. We decided that Valentines day would be the perfect time to have an overnight stay somewhere special so arranged a night at The Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch.

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The Cumberland is situated right opposite Marble Arch at the end of Oxford Street so a great location to see all the landmarks of the West End and a perfect position if you are planning a shopping trip, I saw loads of people that seemed to be from overseas carrying large Primark bags so that is obviously a popular choice for tourists.

As you walk into the hotel you are greeted with a wide open lobby space, it does look nice but I got the feeling that it was a bit wasted with a seating area on one side and nothing on the other.

We were told that our room was on the sixth floor and that it had just recently been refurbished so we were keen to see what it looked like!

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The Cumberland is part of the Guoman chain of hotels and has over 1000 rooms. The hallways seem to go on forever and I could easily get lost in here after drinking one too many! When we reached our room we were pleased to see it was nice and spacious and looked very clean and comfortable. It was a bit chilly but we soon worked out how to set the air conditioning on to heat the room up although this was quite loud so didn’t keep it on for too long.

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The room did have everything we needed (there was coffee in the drawer) but I felt it lacked a bit of character, this might be because it was just refurbished but it seemed to suit someone that was just staying over on business and didn’t have any personal touches.

The one thing I was most disappointed about was that I was imagining a long soak in a bubble bath with music playing (imagine Julia Roberts in Pretty woman but without the prostitution) only to find that there was no bath! There was a shower that squirted water from different directions but I actually almost froze to death being squirted with cold water while I worked out how to use it. It was also a shame that the view just overlooked other windows in the hotel as I imagine you could see some pretty interesting things along Oxford Street at night.

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Although the rooms seem to lack any sort of decoration, there was loads of pieces of art to see around the hotel. On our stroll down to breakfast, which was actually quite a walk, we admired the surroundings of the space which included sculptures and charcoal drawings.

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When we eventually reached the dining space we were shown to a table and told that the breakfast is self service and we could chose between cooked or continental. I must say there was so much on offer and I imagined having a large cooked breakfast but as with any opportunity to eat as much as I like I suddenly don’t have a very large appetite! I opted for pastries and muffin with waffles and pancake on the side, while the OH (who is currently a vegetarian) had scrambled eggs with mushrooms and beans which he enjoyed so much he went back for seconds.

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We had a really good sleep, the room was comfy, the amazing choice of breakfast was great and we enjoyed our time at The Cumberland but it felt a bit too basic to be a four star establishment, I feel like that little something special was missing.

Prices for The Cumberland are currently from £129 a night, we were lucky enough to get a friend and family discount as my daughter’s boyfriend works there (it’s not what you know, it’s who and all that!)

We would love to compare some other hotels in London, where is your favourite place to stay in the capital?

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Travel, Uncategorized

A ghostly walk in the City of London

When I was younger I loved all things ghostly, read the books and watched the horror movies but with age I find that the littlest things can keep me awake at night so I tend to avoid anything gruesome. I have however always wanted to go on a ghost walk around London and with it being on my list of places to visit this year, I couldn’t put it off any longer.

After Googling London Ghost walks I came across tours by Richard Jones. He has been in the business since 1982 and written 18 books on London and the paranormal so seemed like the perfect person to show us around the haunted sights of the city.

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As expected, churchyards played a big role in the tour and we passed many grave stones with Richard telling us stories of the chilling encounters of the long departed. Dressed as a Victorian undertaker and with the voice of a seasoned professional storyteller he really captured the attention of the audience. I was accompanied by my 19 year old daughter and was a bit worried that we might be alone on this walk but there was a really good crowd of people and Richard’s tours are obviously very popular.

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One of the sights we learned about was The Old Bailey where many men have been sent to their deaths, as well as a court house it also used to be home to The Newgate prison and execution site. The Viaduct Tavern over the road is thought to be one of the most haunted in London, if you buy a drink when it is not busy they may show you the cellar and if you buy a few they may just lock you in there!

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Onto Cock Lane and coincidently this was one of the first roads that prostitution was legalised, it was however made famous by the Cock lane ghost who occupied one of the apartments after William Kent’s wife died in childbirth but was this all a hoax or did people really see her?

A short walk over the road and we reached the place that all Sherlock Holmes fans will be familiar with at St Bartholomew’s hospital. I am more familiar with the hospital after spending many of my teenage years visiting the orthodontists in there. At 15 I remember having an operation and waking up in a room with eight beds but I was the only person there, it was quite spooky and it wasn’t any less spooky on this trip!

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I didn’t realise that there was a museum at the hospital but with it being founded 895 years ago I imagine there is a lot of history to be learnt about it. It is also the only place where you will still find these boxes collecting for the poor. Apparently the money was used to treat the poor in the hospital when they couldn’t afford medical care so it was mostly filled by the poor who were constantly worried about getting sick and not being able to get treatment.

As you leave the hospital towards Smithfield’s market you enter a large grass area which was used as an execution site, many people including William Wallace aka Braveheart faced his death here and it was reported that Bloody Queen Mary would watch from the Tudor building in the photo as she burnt people on the stakes.

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Our tour ended at the last surviving remains of London‘s old Roman and Medieval city wall. It is quite fascinating to see this wall that was damaged in the war with a backdrop of the cities newly built glass office buildings. Reports of ghostly sightings and sounds are often reported in the area.

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I wouldn’t say our ghostly walk was particularly scary but more of a historical lesson. I am usually supportive of old spaces being regenerated but feel a lot more appreciative of the history that is held in certain locations.

I have just touched on a few things that were covered in the tour and although it was cold and tiring on your legs I would highly recommend for anyone interested in the history of the city to take one of Richard’s tours around London.

Posted in London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Photography Project – Views from the bus

I often find myself gazing out the window on long bus rides, taking in the sites and people watching. As I had my camera with me on my last bus journey I thought I would take some photos of the landmarks in London. I was surprised at how clear they came out considering how dirty the windows on the buses are so thought I would share a few on the blog.

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I didn’t actually notice a man playing the bagpipes on the bridge until I was looking at the photos and I love how the other guy is just casually taking a selfie with the London eye!

Do you see any interesting sights on your bus journey?

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Uncategorized

Searching for Spring in Dulwich Park

On my journeys around London I have been spotting little traces of colour, including a couple of trees on my road sprouting blossom! Spring is my favourite time of year and I love to see colour appearing everywhere (and the sun occasionally making an appearance from behind the clouds) so thought I would take a stroll to nearby Dulwich park to see if there was any signs of Spring around there.

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Although it is not one of London’s biggest open spaces, Dulwich park has a lot to offer and something for everyone. Runners and dog walkers are around at all times but there are quite a lot of sporting facilities available. The tennis courts and basketball courts are free and open from 8am until closing and there is fitness equipment dotted around, mostly near the play area so no excuse for parents not to get in a quick workout while the kids are playing!

There is a pretty little boating lake which is open between April and October where we have spent many an afternoon navigating our pedal boat into the bushes.

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Next to the lake is a lovely little café with indoor and outdoor seating, which serves drinks, snacks and hot meals. I don’t think I have ever been to the park and it has not been busy inside so obviously a popular choice for visitors.

In my search for colour I only seemed to come across these plants which have quite an autumnal feel so I had to rely on the artwork to brighten up the day.

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So even though Spring was not in the air it was still nice to get out and about surrounded by greenery and getting my steps up on my Fitbit.

Have you seen any signs of Spring where you live?

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Photography project – Haymarket Hotel

You may have seen my last post Boogie bounce with My PFF app where I attended an event at the Haymarket Hotel. In between bouncing around on trampolines, eating delicious food and talking about light bladder weakness, I managed to pop out and take some photos of the swanky interior at the hotel.

I loved the mix of traditional sculptures and ornamental vases with more modern pieces and quirky décor, particularly the fish wallpaper in the toilet! I did have a look around one of the bedrooms but I didn’t have my camera with me at the time so you will have to take my word for how luscious it was.

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I really liked the way each part of the hotel had a different style and there were so many little cosy nooks where I could imagine curling up with a good book, even this chair in the toilet looks inviting! Maybe one day I will get to try out an overnight stay!