Greenwich Lookout

On Top of the World: My New Favourite Spot in London

Greenwich Lookout

London has gone and done it again.

Whenever I think I’ve drained all I can from my favourite city, it pulls yet another fairytale site out of the bag.

On this occasion, it was beautiful Greenwich which knocked me for six.

Greenwich Observatory

With a gig at the O2 in the evening (Alt-J were incredible – give them a listen if you haven’t already!) Ryan and I had the late afternoon free to wander as we pleased.

It was then that I remembered Greenwich.

A friend of mine lives in nearby Eltham and had taken me for a stroll around Greenwich Park once before. I just had to show Ryan that view.

O2 Stadium

With cheeks flushed and hearts fluttering, we reached Greenwich Observatory and that fantastic panorama.

Having just missed out on the sunset (despite frantically scaling the hill) the crowds were slowly beginning to disperse, giving us a front row seat.

Greenwich View

Slowly, the lights of the city below began to flicker into life, creating an electrical display like no other.

London Skyline at Night

I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera as my cracked, tired iPhone didn’t even begin to pick up the brilliance of Canary Wharf by night.

You could even spot the glimmer of Tower Bridge and St Paul’s further down the river.

Seeing as it was right in front of us, we checked out the Prime Meridian Line, origin of Greenwich Mean Time.

To be honest I’m not too sure what GMT actually is apart from the fact that I set my clocks to it. A quick Wikipedia of it didn’t bring any further enlightenment – something about solar and sailors?! If anyone knows in layman’s terms then let me know!

Nevertheless we couldn’t resist giving the line a quick straddle.

GMT Line

At night a green laser shoots across the city, following the Meridian line. It’s pretty impressive.

GMT Laser

GMT Laser City

With stomachs rumbling we reluctantly left the view behind and stumbled back to Greenwich village.

This little suburb is probably the cutest in London. Lined with darling cafes and wonky Tudor houses, Greenwich is a prime example of London’s blend of old and new.

Sticking to the traditional, we headed for some hearty London Pie ‘n’ Mash at Goddards at Greenwich

Pie and Mash Shop GreenwichWith a classic white tiled interior, bargain prices and portions to keep even me happy – I was sold.

Pie and Mash

Pie and Mash SHop London

Pie, mash and beans washed down with a London Pride for just over a fiver?! I’m in.

I’m not going to be London for a while now so finding a new favourite patch was a great send-off.

But don’t think you can get rid of me that easily. In the immortal words of Schwarzenegger, ‘I’ll be back’…

Things I’ll come back to Greenwich for:

The Market – We glimpsed the vibrant food and trinket market as the stallholders were closing down. I’d love to have a nose when it’s up and running.

A pint down the pub – Greenwich has loads of lovely looking watering holes I want to explore.

Arrive by London River Bus from the City – You can hop onto the commuter and tourist friendly River Bus in central and jump off at Greenwich after soaking in the city from the Thames.

Have you been to Greenwich? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Let me know via my social media pages or in the comments below. 

Spiritland Shoreditch

Rediscovering Shoreditch

I didn’t see what the fuss about Shoreditch was.

Blasphemous I know.

I had been to Shoreditch on many occasions, predominately at night, and had repeatedly been left disappointed. The arty shops, cafes and bars seemed to be non-existent, the roads were choked with traffic and everything seemed lifeless.

But this time I cracked it.

Hopping off at Old Street tube station, Ryan and I headed straight for Shoreditch High Street. As it was a Friday night the streets were buzzing with people (90% of which had beards – so East London…) and the bars were beginning to fill.

With grumbling stomachs we stumbled across a covered street food market and rushed straight to Freebird Burrito.

Food Market Stalls ShoreditchThe burritos were quite small for their £5 price tag but nice enough, especially when enjoyed in such unique surroundings. Just remember to dress up warm!

Food Market Shoreditch

Pop Up Food Market Shoreditch

With the burritos polished off we moved on to the Merchants Tavern on Charlotte Road. A visit here had been the real reason for the trek across London.

Ryan is really into his music and had found out about the Merchants Tavern due to its new resident – Spiritland.

Spiritland ShoreditchSpiritland uses some of the most polished sound systems in the world. During Spiritland’s residency the Merchants Tavern is frequented by famous and lesser known DJs who take it in turns to pick out their favorite vinyls. You can kick back with a drink or some food and enjoy the music.

Brooklyn Lager Shoreditch

Spiritland Speakers

Spiritland merchants tavern

Entrance is completely free but drinks are standard London prices. (The bottled beer pictured was £5).

The best thing was that although the bar was crowded the atmosphere was so relaxed and the music, although unfamiliar, was great!

Spiritland’s residency is coming to an end on January 1st 2015, so get there quick! You can find out more about it here.

I don’t know where I had been going wrong in the past but I can safely say that I have rediscovered Shoreditch and can’t wait to see more.

Have you been to the Merchants Tavern? What did you think? What do you think of Shoreditch? Let me know via social media or in the comments below.

 

Brisbane GOMA

Top 5 Modern Art Museums for £1 or Less

Whenever I travel, I love to track down the local modern art museum and inject a bit of culture into my trip.

I usually end up getting as far as the foyer and leaving in a huff at extortionate admission fees, what about art being for the people, huh?!

Luckily these 5 gems are all either free or below £1 to enter- so suitable for us budget student travellers! They are a great place to walk around and learn more about the creative culture of your chosen destination.

So here goes, my Top 5 Modern Art Museums for a £1 or Less:

The Tate Modern: London, England

In my humble opinion, London is the best city in the world for free entrance to museums and galleries- from the Science Museum to the National Portrait Gallery. But my favorite of the lot has to be the mighty Tate Modern.

Situated on London’s bustling South Bank, the Tate Modern is a great place for a wander and to view some of the best art in the world.

When you’ve had your culture fix, head to the rooftop bar for stunning views of the capital.

Tate Modern London Cafe

MOCA: Shanghai, China

I’ve written about the MOCA on the blog before (check it out here) and can’t seem to stop banging on about it. At only £2 for adults and £1 for students, this gallery is a bargain.

Living in the western world, we often neglect the rising Chinese contemporary art scene when these artists probably have the most to say about the world we live in. Their work is brave, shocking, often illegal. They risk everything for their art.

It’s not just Ai Weiwei who is speaking out.

MOCA Shanghai

Photo Credit

GOMA: Brisbane, Australia

Australian culture used to be something that people joked was non-existent. But with an emerging popular art scene, more and more Ozzies are embracing places like the GOMA in Brisbane.

It’s a great place to check out the latest Australian artists and a couple of golden-oldies too.

Brisbane GOMA

Turner Contemporary: Margate, England

Small yet perfectly formed, the Turner Contemporary is one of my favorites. Named after the legendary JMW Turner, this pocket sized gallery has hosted some of the most famous artists in the world, from Tracey Emin to Turner himself.

Situated on Margate’s seafront, the Turner Contemporary could be the saving grace of the town bringing back the visitors Margate so desperately needs and transforming this corner of Kent into the new art Mecca.

Turner Contemporary

Photo Credit

MOCA: Bangkok, Thailand

A beautifully refreshing collection of art is housed here. I had never seen any South East Asian art before so was enthralled by how contemporary and interesting the pieces were.

The museum is often quiet so it’s like a cultural oasis in the heart of this throbbing city. Entry is £3.50 for adults and £1.50 for students.

moca BangkokPhoto Credit

What is your favorite Modern Art Museum? Have I left it off my list? Let me know via my social media links or in the comments below.

Borough Market Cheese

Borough Market

Borough Market StallBorough Market is on the top of many tourist’s must-see lists.

Despite being an avid London lover, I had never managed to make the trip. This had to change.

Walkie Talkie London

The Shard London

It’s not as if Borough Market is hard to find. Nestled in the shadow of the Shard, Borough Market is slap-bang in the heart of town and is the finest smorgasbord of London’s multicultural cuisine you’ll find.

The smell hits you first. Spicy curries, crumbly cheeses and freshly baked bread. It’s not long before you start to drool.

Borough Market Cheese Borough Market Meat Borough Market SpanishThe market offers fresh food at its finest.

Borough Market Juice Borough Market Food StallsCrowds huddle around the mouthwatering stalls, trying to decide what to have for lunch- which is one mean feat.

Head to neighbouring Green Market for some of the best street food in the country.

Green Market London

Borough Market CrowdIt can take hours to decide what to choose. If you can’t decide, why not have a bit of everything?

Borough Market Scotch Eggs Borough Market Meringue Borough Market Pig RoastOnce you’ve narrowed down the choices, head to Southwark Cathedral and join the crowds for picnicking en masse.

Snacking at its best.

Have you been to Borough Market? Make me drool by sharing your #foodporn pics!

For more information on Borough Market visit their site here.

Tower of London Poppies

Tower Poppies

Tower of London PoppiesAt the moment, no visit to London is complete without a trip to the Tower. A prime tourist trap all year round, The Tower of London is now drawing in crowds for a very different reason.

The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation is without doubt the best World War I memorial I have ever seen. Its only rival being the staggering  graveyards of Belgium and France.

Poppies Tower of LondonThe installation will eventually include 888,246 ceramic poppies when it is completed on November 11th.

That’s one for every British Military fatality. 

Tower of London The display is visually shocking. The poppies have been crammed into every available inch, pouring from one of the windows and towering over the entrance.

I was there on a Monday afternoon in half-term which was horrifically busy. The best time to view the poppies in relative peace are the mornings and evenings.

Tower of London Poppy DisplayThe concept has captured the imagination of the nation, sweeping across social media and news networks. It is expected that nearly 4 million people will see the poppies before they are dissembled on November 11th.

Such a surge of interest in the poppies is testament to how, even 100 years on, World War I and its victims are still being remembered as they should.

If you would like to buy one of the ceramic poppies visit this link here.

Have you been to see the display? I’d love to know what you thought!

Tower of London WW1

Notting Hill Carnival

Red Stripe Beer

It is one of the biggest street-carnivals in the world. A celebration of Notting Hill’s thriving West-Indian population, who definitely know how to party. More than a million people take to the streets to gather around booming sound-systems and follow the kaleidoscopic parade through the upmarket streets of Notting Hill.

I had only been once as a small child, strapped into my buggy and thrilled by the passing sights. I have fleeting memories of a park, a hot dog and not much else. So, returning as a fully-fledged adult, I was childishly excited to see what awaited me.

London Underground

Before we chucked ourselves into the madness of the crowds, we left the tube at Bayswater in order to get ourselves sorted. Just a stop away from Notting Hill Gate, Bayswater is still swathed in carnival spirit but avoids the majority of the crowds. The streets are clearly signposted and volunteers are on hand with maps and instructions to guide you towards the carnival route which is only a short stroll away.

We stocked up on Jamaican ‘Red Stripe’ beer- a carnival must- at the local Tesco in order to avoid having to pay the bumped up prices closer in. A pack of 4 was on promotion for only £2.50 whereas a single can goes for £3 minimum along Portobello Road. So buying as much as you can carry is definitely a budget busting idea.

Red Stripe Can

As we bumbled along in search of the party, we were suddenly swept up in the parade itself! Now this was a massive surprise as I expected the parade to be cordoned off with red-tape and guarded by over zealous stewards. The fact that you could actually be a part of the parade yourself was great! Can I just put it out there how much I want one of these costumes?!

Notting Hill Carnival Parade

Notting Hill Carnival Costumes

Notting Hill Carnival Dancers

After a while we left the parade in search of one of the most famous sound systems, Abi Shanti. On our way we passed hundreds of police officers who kept an eye on the celebrations. Smoking weed is pretty much legal on carnival days, and there’s a really friendly and inclusive atmosphere but the carnival’s previous bad rep does mean that you need to be cautious. Watch out for pick-pockets or those who have had a bit too much to drink.

Notting Hill Carnival Police

The streets were rammed and I have never been so envious of the Notting Hill pads which just looked so achingly cool! It is definitely one of my favorite London areas.

Notting Hill Carnival Crowd

Notting Hill Houses

Portobello Road

Portobello Green

Notting Hill Carnival PartyAfter a while we stumbled upon Abi Shanti. I wasn’t massively keen on it as it was overcrowded and the music didn’t incite as much of a party atmosphere. Also, pretty much everyone was white? I don’t know how that happened but I wasn’t keen so we headed out in search of more. One of the best was the Latin Rave Street Jam, where some amazing Latin dancers twirled their partners in the street. It was also great to see how the carnival is branching out to represent other local cultures.

Latin Dancing

Latin Dancing Notting Hill

We stopped for lunch at one of the hundreds of food stalls selling traditional Caribbean fare. I’d shop around if I was you, the prices seemed to vary substantially, from £5-£9 for portions of Goat Curry with rice and peas. I tucked into my first ever meal of goat and massively enjoyed it. The meat just fell off the bone and the rice was perfectly cooked. Not bad for street food!

Goat Curry

The rest of the afternoon was designated to dancing. Channeling my inner-Beyonce (we all have one), I got down like a local and danced until my feet were ready to drop off.

Notting Hill Carnival Soundsystem

Notting Hill Roof Terrace

Notting Hill Party

Laughing Gas

The carnival shuts itself down at 7pm, prompt. One of the greatest tips I can give you is to get out way before then. As soon as the music stops, the trouble starts. On our way back to the tube we passed ambulances, riot police, fights and incoherent drunks wanting to lash out at anyone who passes. Apart from that, the carnival was an absolute delight and I would recommend it to anyone; families, couples, groups…

If you’re thinking of going next year, here are my top tips to get the most out of your day:

– Wear shoes! Not flip-flops or sandals but proper shoes. People will trample all over your toes and there is wee EVERYWHERE. You do not want to go home with soggy feet.

– Go to the loo! Girls this is mainly aimed at you! Lads are usually ok as they can go anywhere but it’s not as easy when you have to squat… People open up their bathrooms to the public and charge £1-£2 for the privilege. Queues for the toilets can take hours though so not a good idea to have to rely on them if you’re in a big group. Keep yourself hydrated but be warned!

– Bring alcohol with you. Same with soft drinks and snacks. As with most events these things are crazy expensive when you’re there so come stocked up!

Don’t rise to it. If you’re not good in a crowd then Notting Hill isn’t for you. People are going to drunkenly bump into you or tread on your toes. Most of the fights or disturbances I witnessed began this way. It’s so not worth it.

– Move around. Make the most of your day. Check out a range of sound systems and make sure you get a look at the parade. Be warned though as some floats chuck paint and mud into the crowd. If you’re not willing to walk around covered from head to toe in god-knows-what, then be warned!

– Dance! Get into the spirit of things and have a good ol’ boogie. That’s what carnivals about and you just have to get involved.

Enjoy!

 

 

A London Pit-Stop

Trafalgar Square

I take any opportunity I can to go to London. It is one of my favourite cities in the world (along with this bunch) and as I live only a stone’s throw away in London’s commuter-friendly belt, I relish any chance I can to explore its streets. So when I was invited to a birthday brunch in Eltham, I knew I could slip in a little visit to the city.

I was offered a tantalising glance at the city on my way to Eltham; a typical London suburb in the South-East sitting peacefully in the shadow of Canary Wharf. Jumping on the train from Charring Cross I watched as the city sprung into life and then crumbled and melted away into suburbia. My appetite for adventure began to stir.

After a long and pleasant brunch I was back on the train, in time to watch the commuters board theirs headed for the opposite direction. As the city slowly flickered back to life I pressed my face to the window, watching as the sites flicked past.

In the balmy summer’s evening, Londoners sat sipping pints at al fresco pop-up bars, sitting under strings of fairy lights which were yet to turn on. Children played in the parks and buskers warbled on the streets. As the train squealed into Charring Cross, I was desperate to immerse myself in the crowds.

One of my favourite things about London is the way it greets you, shining and proud, from the dark belly of the underground. Bursting from deep beneath the ground you emerge squinting in the light. Surfacing at Charing Cross, your confused eyes are greeted by the mammoth National Gallery Museum which sprawls across impressive Trafalgar Square.

National Gallery London

Nelsons Column

At this time of year London is heaving, and I mean HEAVING, with tourists. Before you can even catch your breath you are swept along with the thousands of tourists headed for Trafalgar Square. I was unprepared by the forcefulness of this excited and determined crowd and looked for a way to escape. Now, I know your Mum probably warns you about wandering down dark alleyways but I felt I had to lose the crowds somehow, so I ducked and dived down the nearest side road I could find.

Leicester Square

However, in this part of London you are never too far away from a tourist attraction. My detour took me to Leicester Square and then onto Chinatown and deep into the heart of Soho. China Town London

China Town London Shop

I tried once more to leave the pull of these overcrowded streets and found myself in Soho Square. Soho Square is one of London’s many green spaces, every now and again you will stumble across these little oases and they often come as a welcome surprise.

London Park

As the weather was so fine, this particular green pocket was crammed with picnickers and fitness addicts. Unperturbed I wandered around its gated edge and stumbled upon one of the only deserted places in the whole of London Town. A little Catholic Church.

London Church

The Church doors were flung open, beckoning in visitors and worshippers alike. Its welcome was overlooked by the distracted and flustered tourists so I spied an opportunity to have a look around.

Catholic Church London

Catholic Church London Empty

Catholic Church London Candles

The church was so peaceful and unexpectedly beautiful that the return of sound when I left its silent nave, shocked me. I began to slowly head back towards Charing Cross, it was now getting late and the crowds gathering outside the local watering holes were alive with alcohol induced conversation.

London Pub

I found myself wandering through the streets of the Seven Dials. Spiralling from its central point, the limbs of the Seven Dials are home to quirky pop-up shops, organic restaurants and hidden courtyards. Although it is an inevitably popular area, it never feels overly touristy, which is refreshing in this part of London!

Seven Dials

Seven Dials Bunting

Seven Dials Courtyard

Neal's Yard London

When my feet began to throb I dropped into one of my favourite Mexican chains, Tortilla. Mexican is my cuisine of choice and these foil wrapped burrito beauties are to die for.

Mexican Restaurant London

With my last guacamole filled mouthful, my time in London was over. Hopping back on the tube, I began to check my diary to pencil in my next London date. Although infamously expensive, the greatest joy you can get from London is purely from walking around. Following in the footsteps of hundreds of years of curious flanneurs, London will long have an inescapable hold over me. And I am fine with that!