London - Seen & Done

May Recap: Awesome Things I’ve Seen & Done in London That You Should Do Too

May came and went by so quickly that I forgot to schedule in this post! Here are some things I loved and some things that are a big pass for me – hope it proves useful!

Intercontinental Park Lane
Stumbled upon this place when I was looking for a reasonably-priced afternoon tea that wasn’t too traditional. They were doing a Commonwealth theme one with a lot of delicious flavours to make your way through including Jamaican-inspired chicken sandwich, Australia-style pie and Nigerian-influenced cake. The Park Lane has put a spin on a classic British favourite, and they’ve nailed it!

Barbican Conservatory
This urban jungle is the perfect place to spend your Sunday afternoon and dream about all the nice things you could have if you weren’t a serial plant murderer. The best bit? It won’t cost you a cent.

Granger & Co
The brunch menu at Granger & Co is full of delicious goodies, but for me it’s all about the fluffy scrambled eggs with a slice of sourdough bread. I did share the hot buns (Australian pancakes) this time and I think it might be a new favourite. But don’t tell the scrambled eggs.

Horniman Museum
This quirky museum in Forest Hill houses a lot of stuffed animals, musical instruments from all around the world and African, South American and Siberian anthropology. Also has a great garden and park area where you can spend a lazy afternoon, plus there’s a food market on Saturdays.

Crystal Palace Park
A huge park with a free maze and dinosaur statues. What’s not to love? Did I mention the dinosaurs were designed before Darwin’s “On the Origin Of Species” so they’re slightly … inaccurate. The dinosaurs are also featured in the first episode of the Good Omens TV show.

St Dunstan In The East
A derelict church in a side-street, left to decay and now turned into a little park. You’ll find it on every ‘Hidden London’ list and it’s got crowded since the last time I was there, but it still has its charm and if you find yourself in EC3 then it’s a perfect spot for a pit stop.

Ice Cream Union
It’s a good thing I don’t go to Chelsea often as Ice Cream Union would make me bankrupt. But artisan gelato is something I am ok to splurge on – especially when it is all-natural and handmade. My go-to picks of pistachio and hazelnut were to die for, as was their take on the banana split. They also use compostable cups and wooden spoons. Win.

Wasn’t for me

Oblix @ the Shard
Yes for the view, yes for the mashed potatoes and yes for the raspberry dessert but I don’t think the food was wowing for the price you have to pay. If I ever have the urge to eat at the Shard I would save up and treat myself and my taste buds at Aquashard.

Dominique Ansel
So despite not liking the sorbet watermelon ice-cream last year I felt I wanted to try their rhubarb custard soft serve and went in open-minded and it wasn’t a success: the staff was just rude and I can’t be bothered with their kind of negativity. Ah well.

London

Open Garden Squares Weekend

Once a year, Open Garden Squares Weekend allows visitors to see some of the best private, rooftop and community gardens that the capital has to offer.

I haven’t had a chance to visit a private garden in London, but not too many Londoners have either to be fair. But thanks to Open Garden Squares Weekend you can get the chance to take a peak into some of them. Most of them are open on Sunday, but Royal Crescent (W11 4SN) was open on Saturday so I got to walk around one! They also had Croquet and Cocktails on (which moves to Inner Temple Garden (EC4Y 7HL) on the Sunday). A 15-minute walk from Royal Crescent gets you to Rosmead Gardens (W11 2JG) which was where the famous scene from Notting Hill was filmed.

The Phoenix Garden (WC2H 8DE) is where I used to escape the chaos when I worked in Holborn. If you find yourself going on Sunday afternoon you’ll be able to enjoy National Youth Jazz Orchestra performing too. As Bloomsbury is always nice to walk around I decided to stop by some of the places on offer there. My route included Bedford Square (WC1B 3HH), Ridgemount Gardens (WC1E 7AU), British Medical Association (WC1H 9JP) – (not open on Sunday) and Montague Garden (W1H 2LA) – who has poets-in-residence on Sunday. Highlights include seeing a fig tree at BMA, eye-catching colours at Phoenix Garden and learning the intriguing history of Covent Garden market at Bedford Square.

Next up were the rooftop gardens on the Bankside to enjoy some breathtaking views of London! My office has an amazing view over Canary Wharf, but sadly no green at all so I love to have a look at others for inspiration. If you are heading out on Sunday make sure to visit Nomura (EC4R 3AB) and Eversheds Sutherland (EC2V 7WS). They both have their own charm: Nomura has a huge kitchen garden as well as an envy-inducing seating area, while Eversheds has an inspirational kitchen/veggie garden and beehives. The other major rooftop garden, Cannon Bridge House (EC4R 3TE) will be open tomorrow and has a girl’s choir performing between 12-2pm.

On the other side of the river you’ll find Tate Community Garden (SE1 9TG) with a grape vine and various types of flowers and and herbs. They also sell a selection of plants – in case you get inspired and want to transform your garden/balcony/windowsill. Around the corner is the Deanery (SE1 9JE), which is worth a look. Next to it is 49 Bankside (SE1 9JE), this lush garden was my final stop of the day and I loved the different variety of flowers there were in the small place. But the highlights were definitely the pond and fountain that were just begging to be photographed.

Tickets for Sunday are available here.

My ticket to visit Open Garden Squares Weekend was gifted.

London - Seen & Done

April Recap: Awesome Things I’ve Seen & Done in London That You Should Do Too

Before I go into all the awesome things I’ve seen and done in May I need to go cover all the April things I encountered…

GAIL’S BAKKERY
I used to love their bread, but since more and more places started doing sourdough I never really visit anymore. Now my only reason is when I crave a cinnamon bun as their offering is buttery but light with just the right amount of puff.

MERCATO METROPOLITANO
Probably my favourite indoor foodmarket with an outside seating area – plus its in South London! While getting my Mexican taco fix I stumbled across their recently-opened deli where they had not one but four types of Pecorino cheeses! Sadly, when I suggested I was going to put it on pasta they weren’t too impressed.

WANDLE TRAIL WALK
In search of more green moments I embarked on the Wandle Walk. I followed the Wandle from Morden to Wandsworth and saw lots of ducks and moorhens, parks and flowers and mills and more dogs than you can handle. I loved it, until new apartment building works on the Thames made it impossible to reach the end. Ah well.

TATE MODERN
It wouldn’t be a worthy recap without including a museum or two…I love Tate Modern, but the more contemporary/modern art museums I visit the more I realise the best thing about Tate is the building itself – and the fact that it’s free. I’ll go into this more in the next Museum Musings.

SOFT SERVE SOCIETY
My first ice-cream of the season was at Soft Serve in Shoreditch. Taro and coconut make a great combination flavour wise as well as in terms of aesthetics. Throw on some Pocky sticks, sprinkles or crushed Oreos and you’ve got yourself a party on your taste-buds!

BLEECKER STREET BURGER
These American-style, mouthwatering cheese-soaked patties are probably my favourite in London and I’m so proud they’ve come this far from their food truck origins. They are so soo good you don’t really need any extra toppings or sauces to distract you.

MINUS 12
Train stations can be depressing places, but leave it to Herne Hill station to have an actual gelato place – with a lot of delicious flavours to make your way through including a range of tasty vegan options. Definitely worth missing a train for.

V&A CHILDHOOD MUSEUM
Lovely building but the exhibition style, just like the toys on display, felt a bit outdated. However, if you’re near Bethnal Green with a few hours to spare it’s a great way to kill some time walking around and reminiscing about childhood.

Wasn’t For Me

DENNIS SEVERS HOUSE
Dennis Severs House has been on my list for at least 5 years! I used to intern next to the place and was always curious why people queued up on random days. The idea of the historical house is that the inhabitants just left the place and you get to take a sneak peak. It’s only lit by candle light and I did enjoy the details and little touches like actual vegetables and bread in the kitchen. But all in all it was not worth the £10 entrance fee and queue.

SKY GARDEN
As a reasonable critic I returned to this high-rise spot to check if my opinion from 4 years ago had changed. It hasn’t.

London

Exploring Barbican Conservatory

The other week I finally got to visit the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of…” – no not NYC, but a real concrete jungle hidden within the walls of the Barbican.

Ok, ok the Barbican Estate itself isn’t a secret or hidden spot: the brutalist gem is home to an art gallery, theatre, cinemas aaaaaaaaand the botanical conservatory. It’s actually one of my favourite bits of London and whenever I’ve visited I’ve had sneak peaks of the greenhouse, but it’s taken me far too long to properly visit it. Main reason being is that it used only open on selected Sundays and you had to prebook – but recently they’ve flung open the doors to all each Sunday and on some Bank Holidays, with no booking required (plus it’s free!)

So what does London’s second biggest conservatory have to offer? Though its smaller than the expensive and rather remote Kew Gardens, you’ll find over 2000 different species of trees and plants as well as a special cacti and succulents corner. I’ve been to a number of botanical gardens and what makes this one stand out is the concrete backdrop which gives it a feel of a derelict place or setting for a dystopian world. It’s a great way to spend an unhurried hour being closer to nature without having to take the trek. If you’re a big fan and want an excuse to stay longer, they also offer Afternoon Tea amid the greenery.

Big shoutouts to the two little turtles that were chilling in their own private pool and the many colourful fish jostling with each other to get a massage from a water pipe. Plus the many, many photographers you’ll get to spot in their natural habitat. And who can blame them really? I mean look at it…

Overall, the Barbican Conservatory is small, cute and a lovely little reminder that even the greyest concrete can be beautified by nature.

London - travel

To Shoot Or Not To Shoot + Where To Take Guiltfree Photos In London

From Notting Hill in London and Rue Cremieux in Paris to Rainbow Row in Savannah, residents everywhere are complaining about people disturbing their day-to-day lives while holding photoshoots outside their front door. We’ve all been guilty of a snap or two in front of a colourful house, street art or cute doors. But who’s actually crossed the line and walked into someone’s porch, done a yoga pose leaning against a front door or even filmed a dance routine? And while it’s not exactly someone’s house, is trampling through flower fields for that perfect pixie photoshoot really worth it?

Is this an increasing phenomenon? We can all agree that articles like 12 Instagram Photo Spots in Paris That You Have To Visit, 15 Best Places to Take Pictures in London and 7 Pretty Cafes in New York are more and more ever-present, whether on blogs, or even bigger sites like CN Traveller and Visit London. I even recently read that 37% of Dutch people look for Instagrammable places to visit during a city trip – that’s quite a lot!

Now, of course this isn’t a new thing, remember picture postcards, seaside photo boards, and of course photographs in general (we’ve all got our horror stories of Auntie and Uncle bringing their holiday snaps to share), plus famous pop culture photo spots like the Beatles on Abbey Road and any movie set in Paris, New York or London. Today, the latest flavour is Instagram or your favourite social media platform of the month.

So why do we all want to snap ourself while on our travels? Is it for the memory, immortalising that moment, or for the likes? Either way, layouts, arranging people and composition can be a tough cookie to crack, especially if you’re in a bit of a rush, meaning it’s often so much easier to replicate something than to think of one yourself. Have you ever found a nice photo spot and suddenly found quite a few other people want to join and see what the fuss is all about?

William Shewell Ellis via Eastman Museum

This is definitely something Kodak must have realised when they introduced Kodak Picture Spots in the 1920s. Interestingly, the Kodak signs started as roadside markers across the US highlighting general points of interest to photograph, which helped popularise picture-taking behaviour. Then they found their way into Disney theme parks, national parks and historic landmarks. But now we’ve gone from helpful signs saying ‘Why not take a photo here?’ on landmarks and tourist sites to ‘No photos allowed’ to protect against people’s houses getting a tad overrun by influencers. So what’s the answer? Shooting-guilt free I reckon.

instagram photo spot Covent Garden London


Want to keep your shoot guilt-free?
How about keeping these in mind?


Covent Garden is frontrunner when it comes to curated photo opps that don’t invade people’s porches. It recently started off with flower-decorated swinging benches, but now includes seasonal curated corners as well as the Covent Garden Infinity Chamber, as well as sponsored sections which pop up from time to time. If you want all of these to yourself go out and explore it on Christmas Day, when it’s all empty.

The red phone boxes are the ultimate London landmark and as no one uses phones anymore, you’ll free as guilt-free as a zero-calorie ice-cream (but beware their aroma if you step inside!). You can find the famous red ones in Covent Garden (the market, and nearby Broad Court), Bloomsbury (Byng Place), Parliament Square and Smithfield Meat Market. There’s also a sponsored phone booth in Spitalfields Market that’s designed and placed with the aim for everyone to take a photo and display the big DW in the background.

Street art murals are perfect backdrops if you’re looking for something colourful. Some of the best examples include the Redemption Bar angel wings near Old Steet, the colourful Lakwena mural right behind Liberty in Carnaby Street, or pretty much all of Brick Lane. Don’t forget to credit the creator when posting these, it’s the least you can do.

For an overdose of photo-spot cuteness head to cafes like created-for-the-Gram Peggy Porchen, flowery heaven Dalloway Terrace or the pink perfection that is Sketch. They’ve built their identity around creating the perfect photo setting. So get yourself those overpriced scones or eclairs and take as many shots as you like.

Shall we make make an unwritten pact to not disturb, distress or bother people (or nature) in their natural habitats, even if it means missing out on that perfect snap?