I know it’s all about 2019, but let’s not be too hasty to shun it’s little brother 2018 (he still has a lot to offer!), and in that spirit – here’s what I got up to offline in the last three months of last year.
Another Visit To The Motherland
Where I got to experience the autumn season for the first time in years! This meant I got to experience things like roasting chestnuts, eating young walnuts and waking through Wuthering Heights-level mist, ‘Oh Heathcliff!”.
A Stop In Rastoke
On my way to Bosnia I spent a few hours in Rastoke, a town that’s known for its waterfalls and mills. It’s one of those fairy tale type towns you won’t believe actually exist until you see it in one of those listicles. I get it! I mean look at it. Add it to your go-to list guys.
No matter how many vitamin D pills I pop … S.A.D has kicked in, I did put in some effort to get out so most weekends didn’t go lost in the grey skies. I went to the cinema a lot, wandered around galleries and museums, gave ice-skating a go, had a ridiculous amount of cheese platters and mulled wine, went to one of the places Instagram recommended, tried Korean plum wine (I think it’s a keeper!) and crossed another Mexican place off my list.
I set foot on Eel Pie Island and enjoyed some random art Eel Pie Island Art Studios has to offer. In the 1960s Eel Pie Island was a music venue based at the hotel on the island and artists like the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart were all famous and musicy. Now the island is a private community of artists who open their studios twice a year for the public to visit and purchase their work. But really you just want to look at the weird things like the ice-cream/sweets inspired house, the Aquaman/Barbie artwork and adorable cats parading around.
What were you up to in the last three months of 2019?
With everyone on Dryanuary, NOSpenduary or Vegananuary it’s so tempting to spend your weekends indoors binging whatever Netflix throws at you. But don’t give in yet! Why not take a walk, a ‘green’ walk that is. London is full to bursting with walking routes, many within easy reach with public transport. Here are three to consider this weekend.
Wimbledon Common – Richmond Park Walk
Living in London is great, but sometimes I’m just starving for greenery and a place to walk without carbon monoxide in my face, you know? Only 20 minutes away from Central London there is Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park, two large green spaces which can traversed together for a nice day out. Wimbledon Common feels a lot more wild, with lots of little paths and a sense of getting lost, while it features a lovely little Windmill (NL♥) and you even get to cut across golf courses and encounter a horse traffic light! When you make it to Richmond Park you can explore the Isabella Plantation, go up to Poet’s Corner and King Henry’s Mound, relax by the Pen Ponds and of course, catch some beautiful deers in action (if you’re lucky you might even see one taking a bath!). When you’ve seen enough green stuff for the day, you can head out of the Petersham or Richmond Gates for a stroll by the River Thames, part of Thames Path major walking route.
Still need convincing?
This 128 km route lines the River Thames all the way from Hampton Court in the west to the River Darent in the east, with sections split between the north and south side banks. There’s a lot to see and do along the route, with highlights such as Hampton Court Palace, Parliament, Kew Gardens, London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Old Royal Naval College, the O2, Canary Wharf, Thames Barrier, and a lot lot more. One of my favourite stretches is the old industrial areas that are found between the Thames Barrier and the O2, with massive cranes and industrial materials, some still being used. If you feel a bit cheeky you can make use of the TfL Riverboats to get a different persective along London’s major river, plus it’s also a bit faster than your old feet.
Still need convincing?
Green Chain Walk
They say you don’t know South-East London til you’ve done the Green Chain Walk. Alright, you got me, no one’s said that, but they really should. This hodgepodge of little routes goes all the way from weird dinosaur models of Crystal Palace Park to the Clockwork Orange film location of Thamesmead, just on the River Thames. The routes can be a bit hit and miss, as there’s often a quite a bit of walking along roads, but there’s definitely gems to find here and it’s especially magical if you don’t know the areas, and feel like your exploring a hidden route with the only clues being little signposts every so often to guide you on your way. My particular highlights were the Lesnes Abbey Ruins and Woods, Oxlea Woods with Severndroog Castle, plus the route by Eltham Palace, which is a must-see in its own right.
Long before pubs, cocktail bars and gentlemen clubs were available in London, it was temples you went to for a drink or two, some misbehaving without being frowned upon by the Mrs and also to worship the god Mithras. Sadly, the temple isn’t open no more, and even worse it was buried under hundreds of tons of dirt until it was uncovered in the 1950s – after which it was moved away, but has since returned to its original spot for us to enjoy in all its glory.
The London Mithraeum houses the remaining of the Roman Temple of Mithras and a selection of Roman Artefacts. Since it was free I was expecting a cold, minimal hall where you’d be guided through quickly as possible, but these guys went all out with their presentation and used darkness, sound and light to recreate the structure and really bring the temple to live.
Another nice touch was the wall displaying 600 (out of 14,000 found) Roman artefacts discovered in the 2010-14 archaeological dig undertaken ahead of the construction of the office building. Everything from coins to combs and even shoes, all displayed amid a giant art piece depicting London back in the day.
Want to experience this bit of Londinium? The London Mithraeum is located in the ‘City’ (east of the main Picaddily/Oxford Street central area), it’s a 2 minute walk from the Bank station – and the entrance is free, but make sure you book your visit in advance.
With digital detoxes being all the rage, you might feel bad for spending an evening endlessly scrolling through the world of Instagram, but there might be an upside! Recently I wasted a few hours on the ‘gram but instead of liking and stalking people, I focused on all the London-focused ads that were thrown at me. So here we are, my non-sponsored – What should I see and do in London according to my sponsored Instagram posts?
Visit Honest House Christmas Market Honest House is London’s newest ethical marketplace and they were advertising their Christmas Marketplace on the 8th + 9th December on Brick Lane. This sounds right up my alley (or lane!) and if my trains are working this weekend I’m actually going to check it out as I’m curious about some brands. #GoGreen
Go To An Exclusive Gigs With Sofar Sounds
I’m actually signed up to them, but so far (HA HA) I haven’t tried to get tickets for any of the shows as the timings have never worked for me. I should look into making it happen at least once, preferably with an amazing band of course.
Staycation at Hotel Kip
Is it just me or does this sound like the dream: stylish monochrome interiors paired with comfy beds which don’t cost you the earth. But sadly I can’t justify a staycation in Hackney when I live so close to the Overground that brings me to my own comfy, less classy bed.
Treat Yourself At The Boutique Spa
When I was thinking about ‘New Year, New Me’ the answer presented itself in the form of an ad for The Boutique Spa and promised to help me with my nails, facials, massage, waxing, teeth whitening, Botox & fillers, micro dermabrasion AND laser hair removal. At the end I’ll be a whole new Tea. Where do I book?
Drinks at Hackney Coffee Company
Can’t say I’d take a train to get a coffee, but their logo is going to stick with me so if I ever find myself hungry in Hackney I might pop in for coffee, cocktails or food. Or all of the above.
Staycation Kimpton Fitzroy
Apparently Kimpton Fitzroy wanted to let me know they’ve opened in London. Sure, I want it, but do I look like I can afford a night at the Kimpton? Maybe I can sneak into Fitz’s Bar for a drink?
Dine at Hot Stone
Hot stone and bowling was a very popular activity for birthday parties when I was growing up the Netherlands (yes we’re weird!). I love it in theory, but wouldn’t it be more fun if you could bowl with the hot stone afterwards?
Book A Secret Adventure
I’ve actually looked at Secret Adventures before, but never got a chance to book anything. I have since subscribed so who knows I might be sailing underneath the Tower Bridge in the future and being smug how little I paid.
Trip to Fictional Country of Belgravia
It’s as if IG knows I’ve run out of annual leave days so they served me with another London hotel for a staycation: COMO The Halkin in Belgravia. Maybe I can pretend I’m heading to the fictional country of Belgravia that’s featured in Netflix’s finest The Princess Switch and they’ll give me a royal suite?
Galleries … So Many Art Galleries
I’m never sure if I want to step into one of those smaller galleries. I have lots of opinions about art, but I wouldn’t win any debate and I feel like you need to be able to when you walk into one. Out of all the ads I’ve seen John Martin Gallery and Hales Gallery tickle my fancy.
And For Days I Don’t Feel Like Leaving The House…
Stay in and watch obscure film via streaming service MUBI or buy DVDs via BFI. Funfact: I’ve been a MUBI fan since attending a party they hosted at Cannes Film Festival years ago, but their Cheesy Christmas Movies selection is zero so I’m going to stick to my gold old faithful channels for my Xmas film fix.
Who doesn’t love visiting a museum? I know it’s of my favourite rainy Saturday morning activities and now the season has started I’ll be doing another round of museums and seeing which one is truly worth your visit. I want to make it as fact based as possible, so I’ve opted for a traditional grading system.
I’m looking at the 4 things that are most important to me: location, exhibits, value for money and the layout. So, how easy is it to find your way around? Do you need a map? Does how they’ve arranged all the exhibits make sense or leave you more confused than when you entered? Is it far from the city centre and can I combine it with a visit to something else? To top it all off, there are extra points to be had for places with a wow factor.
Kicking off with the Museum that’s been the home to British art since 1897, it’s Tate Modern’s overlooked and dusty uncle: Tate Britain.
Location – 15/20
Tate Britain is located in Pimlico, not really a must-see London neighbourhood. Though I did see a lot of people with carry-on suitcases so it might be an Airbnb nirvana? It’s about a 10 minute walk from the Pimlico Station or Vauxhall Station in Zone 1.
Pretty quick to get to, but since it’s a bit out of the center and there isn’t really another activity you can combine it with I’d say it loses some points.
Exhibits – 10/20
Holds a permanent British collection, offering an overview of paintings, photographs and sculptures by the island’s finest. It has all the big names but not the world-famous works you might know for them – it’s like the the B-sides of an album.
Value For Money – 20/20
Like most museums in London, anyone can browse the permanent collection for free while temporary exhibitions start at £13, which is very fair for the capital .
Layout – 10/ 20
To make sure you don’t miss anything, do grab a map as it’s easier to navigate. The placement of the paintings is hit and miss: in some rooms there would be 20 crowding a wall, while others would have a lot less, making it feel inconsistent.
Wow Factor – 10/20
Points for the gorgeous neo-classical portico entrance, the dome ceiling and for that forgotten corner that’s left from how the building used to be in the 90s.
Total: 65/100 points. It’s a reasonable enough art museum, where you’ll have lots to enjoy, but it falls down for its lack of big-name pieces and it doesn’t have the grand magic of its newer, hipper brother on the South Bank – Tate Modern.
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