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 Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Donatello’s – Brighton

A couple of weeks ago my cousin got married in Brighton, it was a very small affair with just a few friends and family members. The weather was really miserable and it poured down throughout so she was unable to have photos on the beach like she was hoping or anywhere outside for that matter! It didn’t however dampen the mood of the occasion and the bride and groom had a joyous day regardless.

After the formalities at the registry office we had a table booked at the Italian restaurant Donatello’s situated in the heart of the picturesque Brighton lanes. I had arrived in Brighton earlier than expected with an empty stomach so actually stuffed my face not long before reaching the restaurant, I was therefore unfortunately too full to try out their delicious looking dishes.

The restaurant itself is really big and caters for weddings and corporate events. As well as the main restaurant it also has a side room where we were seated, an upstairs area, a conservatory and a roof terrace which I imagine would be amazing in the summer.

Our room was bright and airy, decorated with plants and mirrors and had low music playing in the background. Although we were in the window it felt very cosy and private.

The menu had lots of dishes on offer including a wide range of pizzas, pasta and steaks and there is a separate gluten free set menu too. The meals are very reasonably priced with 2 courses for £10 and 3 courses for £12.50.

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My mum is really not a fan of Italian food and never chooses pasta as an option but she went for the lasagne and surprisingly had no complaints, she actually said it was delicious and I must say it did look nice, I’m tempted to go back to Brighton just so I can try it!

Although I had no room for the main meal I did order a dessert (there’s always room for that!) and went for my favourite tiramisu which was served with cream and chocolate sauce.

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Everyone was happy with their food and we had around four members of staff waiting on us that were all attentive and pleasant. I would definitely pay Donatello’s another visit when in Brighton, preferably in the summer on the roof terrace.

Posted in London, Photography, Uncategorized

The Photographers Gallery – Soho

Working my way through my list of places to visit this year and I took the first trip to The Photographers Gallery in Soho.

 

The gallery is situated just off Oxford street and stands at 5 floors high, although it doesn’t seem that big when inside the building.

I wasn’t sure what exactly was on show before visiting so it was a bit of a surprise. The two exhibitions I saw were 4 Saints in 3 Acts and Instant Stories – Wim Wenders’ Polaroids.

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Described as a snapshot of the American avant-garde, 4 Saints in 3 Acts is the first exhibition to focus on the photographic dimensions of the ground-breaking American modernist opera. The show was renowned for having an all African-American cast that were recruited from the choirs and nightclubs of Harlem and offered unique glimpses of a largely unknown community. The photos capture the action on stage, behind the scenes and portraits of the classical music performers.

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Many of the photos on display were quite small and with the larger ones you could see the age of them by the wear and tear but this added to the history and story of the photos. A very simple but delightful exhibition.

Instant stories – Wim Wenders’ Polaroids

This collection of work offers a rare opportunity to see the personal and previously unseen polaroids taken by Oscar nominated filmmaker, Wim Wenders. Featuring over 200 images taken between the 1960s and 1980s of his journey across America he captures the people around him, still lives, street photography and landscapes.

 

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These images in particular caught my eye, it seems people were taking photos of their everyday food long before Instagram was around!

Again a lot of the photos were very small (obviously because they are polaroids) but there were also books so you could see Wender’s images close up. There was also a note board so visitors can share their views on the work which is a nice touch for the artists to get feedback.

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On the top floor was an opportunity to be part of the exhibition via Instagram. There was a set up studio area and rails of outfits and accessories so you could take your own photos and share online.

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As well as having work on show The Photographers gallery also has loads of workshops, talks and courses. There is a quaint café on the ground floor and a bookshop in the basement that you could spend ages browsing.

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If you visit before 12 when it is less busy there is free entrance so it is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. The two shows I saw are on until 11th February so I will be looking out for future exhibitions that I can see there!

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, London, Travel, Uncategorized

Another 10 places to visit in London

 

At the beginning of last year you may have seen that I wrote a post about 10 places I wanted to visit in London. I do love to travel but the majority of my life is spent in London so I want to make the most of all the amazing opportunities and experiences that are on offer in the city. I managed to tick most of the things off the List which I have written about throughout the year and will share below, but I thought it would be fun to see what else is out there and create another list for this year. I’m not normally one for making resolutions but I do like to write a list of things I would like to do or achieve throughout the year so these will be added to that.

Ticked off from last year…

Sky Garden

Definitely one of my favourite places I have visited this year and would love to go back again.

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Emirates Cable car

Great experience although not much to see on the other side!

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Somerset House

I actually went to about three different exhibitions here throughout the year, really lovely setting and has an ice rink at Christmas.

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Kensington Gardens

I didn’t get to see much of the gardens as I visited late in the afternoon but had a lovely stroll around the Palace.

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Borough Market

Another place I have been to a few times, so much delicious looking food in one market!

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V & A museum

I never manage to see the whole museum when I visit the V & A because it is so grand so always ready to go back and have a mooch.

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Afternoon tea

Chelsea harbour was the perfect setting for my first experience of afternoon tea and I am now eager to visit some other posh hotels for more finger sandwiches.

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It is only from looking back at all my blog posts this year that I realise just how much I had squeezed into 2017 and I think having the blog is what motivates me to get out and see the world. I hope I manage to visit just as many places in 2018!

So here is my new list…

  • The photographers gallery – This is one that is carried over from last year and I am surprised I have still not made it, especially as one of my university tutors is a curator there and is always inviting us to events.
  • Matilda – I have been lucky enough to see some great shows in theatre this year, including Kinky Boots, Wind in the Willows and An American in Paris but I have wanted to see Matilda since it was launched so hopefully I will get the chance this year.
  • Imax cinema – Situated in the middle of the roundabout at Waterloo, I pass this cinema all the time but have never been inside. As well as having some really interesting 3D movies they also have the largest viewing screen in Britain so give a real immersive experience.
  • Ballie Ballerson – When you have spent years taking kids to soft play and ball pits then its time to find an adult version and Ballie Ballerson might just be it. With over a million balls and bottomless brunch on offer I think I need to try this place out!
  • Afternoon tea with a twist – After my first experience I would love to try some more afternoon tea experiences and love the quirky looking alternatives like Alice in Wonderland themed or on a bus.
  • The Saatchi Gallery – Another that was on my list last year. They are always putting on new exhibitions so I will be looking out through the year to see if anything interesting takes my fancy.
  • Overnight stay at a hotel – As I have lived in London my whole life I have never had the pleasure of staying in a hotel here overnight, one of the iconic ones would be a pleasure such as the Ritz or Claridges but not sure they would be in my budget.
  • Ghost walk – This is something that has to be done in the winter in the dark and a great way to explore the city in a different way. I love visiting historical places and hearing scary tales as long as it doesn’t give me nightmares.
  • The Jazz café – I do love live music but not really a fan of concert venues as there are just so many people. The Jazz café sounds like more of an intimate space to chill out and also has a restaurant. Will be looking out for future events there.
  • Ice Bar – Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of the cold, if I could hibernate for the whole of winter I would but at the same time I am quite intrigued by a bar and restaurant that is made of ice and gives out blankets to it’s customers, definitely a one off experience that I would like to try.

Looking forward to a year full of adventure and I may just get to explore a bit further than London too! Where are you planning to visit this year?

 

Posted in London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Columbia road flower market

I have wanted to visit Columbia road flower market for a while and with my recent photography project documenting the journey of the flower, I thought it would be the perfect time to go and take some photos.

On the bus journey over, the streets were empty as it was a cold, drizzly afternoon, that is until I reached Shoreditch and there was a real buzz as the streets were lined with people carrying bunches of flowers and Christmas trees.

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The flower market is open from 8am until around 3pm and I decided to go in the middle of the afternoon because I wanted it to be busy. I don’t think I was prepared for just how busy it was and trying to navigate through the market while taking photos is no mean feat. The road is quite narrow and the pavements have even less space, so although they are filled with what looks like quirky little shops and cafes it is hard to have a proper look when you are fighting your way past other people.

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I had plenty of photos of flowers from my trip to New Covent garden market so what I really wanted to capture was the people.

Being a flower market and with a street lined with cute shops it obviously attracts people with their cameras but a lot of the market traders don’t seem too impressed by this, one asked me to delete his photo as he was “fed up of people taking photos to put on Facebook” I was going to tell him that they would more likely end up on Instagram but didn’t think he would appreciate it either way!

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The market obviously attracts lots of customers but I think a lot of people also go just to have a look and take photos. I didn’t actually buy any flowers but the prices seemed pretty reasonable. I would like to go back in the Spring when it’s a bit warmer to buy some flowers but I think I will go a bit earlier or later in the day when it isn’t so busy.

Have you visited Columbia road before?

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

10 benefits to staying at a villa

We have been on many family holidays and are always torn between booking a villa or a hotel. With the miserable weather outside and my current dreaming of sunnier climes, I thought I would put together a list of advantages to staying at a villa.

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Exploring the James Villa holidays website, I came across lots of Villas in the Gran Canaria region. Gran Canaria offers beaches with an expanse of white sand and is architecturally rich with numerous cultural scenes. With the annual temperatures rarely going below 18 degrees across the Canary Islands it is a great place to visit all year round.

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So if the pictures are not convincing enough, here are a few reasons to stay at a villa…

  • Spaceit is no fun, particularly if you have a large family, being squashed together in a couple of rooms and racing to get a chair by the pool is not a problem when you don’t have to share it with other holiday makers.

 

  • ComfortA villa is a real home away from home with all the amenities you would find in your own house, unfortunately this includes the washing up but most have a dishwasher to help you along with that.

 

  • Self cateringthis may be a negative for some but I love exploring the local supermarket when I go away and seeing the price difference compared to home is so amusing (I’m easily pleased) plus I want to eat when I’m hungry not when the hotel announces that it’s lunchtime. Eating out is great a few times but the cost soon adds up when you have a lot of mouths to feed so being able to cook is a great alternative.

 

  • BBQNothing gives you the feeling of being on holiday like a BBQ and most villas have a built in one accompanied by an outdoor dining space.

 

  • PrivacyNo need to feel self conscious in your bikini by the pool when you are the only one there! Also nobody likes to be interrupted from their afternoon nap by somebody paying a visit to change the sheets!

 

  • Energy savingIt’s a short walk to the pool when it’s outside your back door and you don’t have to drag wet towels across holiday complexes when you’ve finished drying yourself off. You can also chose how close you want to be to the town centre or beach at your convenience.

 

  • SecurityI always worry about leaving my possessions poolside when I go for a swim but no need to hide your phone or other valuables inside your shoes while staying at a villa.

 

  • RelaxingYou want to let your hair down on holiday and let the kids be themselves (which often means making noise) but you don’t want to worry about disturbing the room next door or in turn, having to listen to annoying neighbours through the walls. You don’t have to at a villa.

 

  • FreedomA holiday is the perfect time to forget about your daily routine so why follow one on holiday? If you want to go for a moonlight swim and eat your breakfast at lunchtime then why not?

 

  • EconomicalYou are charged one rate rather than per person which can work out a lot cheaper for larger families and does not include a lot of the hidden costs that hotels have.

 

Well I think I have managed to convince myself that a villa is a great choice of holiday home, now I just have to find the flip flops!

Have you stayed in a villa before? What would you add to the list?

*Written in collaboration with James Villa holidays, all thoughts and opinions are my own

 

 

 

Posted in London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Photography project – Albert embankment

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Albert Embankment lies at the side of the river Thames and stretches from Vauxhall bridge to Westminster bridge. As it doesn’t have all the attractions that Southbank on the opposite side of Westminster has, it is a lot quieter which makes for a rather peaceful stroll.

I thought I would take a few photos on my walk…

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There are so many lovely views along the river, I don’t think I could ever get bored of them.

Where is your favourite place to take a wander?