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Photography ~ London

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A hotel, a restaurant and an airline

I have three, no wait, FOUR, fantastic recommendations for you. I went to London the other weekend (no, not for the wedding, my invite must have been lost by the Spanish Post) and thoroughly enjoyed my hotel, found a great restaurant and a free product from the hotel which I recently ordered a larger bottle of their fabulous pillow spray.

Let’s start with the airline since I needed one of those to get to London in the first place. This was my first experience with Easy Jet and I was happily surprised at how smooth the transaction was with everything. I thought I had paid for my small suitcase to be carry-on but when I got to the gate she put a tag on it for me to check it when I boarded. In the end the plane wasn’t that busy so I was able to just keep it with me. With the return I did check it in London Gatwick and it was a super easy, do-it-yourself process. Plus the flight was pretty inexpensive and the flight attendants were some of the nicest I’ve experienced in quite awhile. Thanks Easy Jet! I will be a return customer.

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Okay, what do you want to hear about next? How about the hotel. I met Jeannie at the Andaz London Liverpool Street hotel. There wasn’t a single thing I can complain about. The staff was delightful, the hotel was modern and hip, the room was spacious and clean. It’s a 5 star boutique hotel located in the heart of bustling East London, just next to the Liverpool Tube Station. We used the Central and Circle Line for getting around and getting back but it also connects with the Hammersmith and the Metropolitan. Perfect for traveling cheap!

The rooms have free Wi-Fi, a free (non-alcoholic) daily stocked minibar and we were welcomed with a lovely bottle of Prosecco in the room when we checked in. And in the room they also had a free sample of REN & Now To Sleep Pillow Spray. It’s a soothing natural perfume, blending floral notes of lavender with deeply restful Frankincense, to relax both the body and mind. I loved it so much I just bought two larger bottles for my bedtime routine. I’ve been sleeping like a baby.

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You also have free access to the Health Club, where we really enjoyed the steam room. And the free apples for after you have sweated everything out. The last night we were a bit tired and decided to try their sushi restaurant. Try the saki sampler!

But the best thing and maybe it’s just me but the hotel serves complimentary (that means FREE to me) wine and canapes (one night it was small sushi rolls and the other some bread with paté) from 6 – 9 pm. It was lovely to come back from a long day of sightseeing and relax in the lounge area with a snack and a glass of wine. Or two. 🙂 FOR FREE Y’ALL.

And now what I know you’ve been waiting for – FOOD. The restaurant. It was fabulous. If you love Indian food you must go. Dishoom in Shoreditch (they also have a few more locations around London) was where I had the best Indian food of my life. It’s a big restaurant and they only take reservations for parties more than 6. So arrive a little early, put your name on the list and head over to the bar for a tipple or two while you wait for your table. I highly recommend the whiskey sour.

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Jeannie doesn’t eat foods with gluten and they had a large variety of items that she could eat. So feel free to eat your heart out. We shared the Crunchy Pomelo salad (with fresh kale, pink pomelo, pistachios, mint and coriander) and the okra fries (not gluten-free but Jeannie had a few). I haven’t had okra since my Oklahoma days! For the main dish I had the lamb Sheekh Kabab and Jeannie had the Chicken Tikki. It did not disappoint. They are also open for breakfast and the menu and teas look totes amazeballs. Just go already.

And I actually have one more rec for you. The good stuff just keeps on coming! If you do go to the Dishoom Shoreditch locatation and you feel like going out and dancing a bit, stop by Momento Lounge bar for some drinks and good tunes from the live DJ.

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And there you have it. Great times are made even greater with a good hotel, good food and good experiences.

But nothing compares to GREAT FRIENDS. And when you have this kind of happiness and fun together, it doesn’t really matter where you stay or what you eat.

Happy weekend y’all!!

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art · cool photos · england

Hanbury Street Art

Do you like graffiti? I’m not talking about the tags here and there but real amazing so freaking cool graffiti art, street art, guerilla art. Banksy is probably the most prominent graffiti artist but here are others I like – Natalia Rak (I love her murals), ETAM Cru, Eduardo Kobra (cool name), Fin DAC, Swampy, Swoon. There are so many kick ass artists out there. Who do you like?

While I was vintage shopping on Bank Street in East London, I stumbled upon Hanbury St. where it was a graffiti artists haven. It was AWESOME.

Check it out:

Coffee Dreams and Zombie Screams is my fav! Which one is yours?

If you like this, check out my Spray of Paint post from a few years ago with Mallorca street art. Cool stuff too!

art · drinkin' · england · shopping · travel · yum

A Weekend In London

SATURDAY:

First things first. I needed to return to the pub I worked at when I was a young, twenty-year old, think I know everything chica. Yeah, that was a long time ago, back when I was almost finished with college! Because now I am old enough to REALLY know everything. 😉

12:00 p.m. – Walk through Hyde Park to the pub. Check out my Hyde Park blog here.

1:30 p.m. The Scarsdale Tavern

I mean seriously, just look how cute this place is! Ahhhhh, my old stomping grounds for a few months in 199- …. er, awhile ago.  In the lovely neighborhood of Kensington.

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The food was super scrumptious. I finished everything they set in front of us. We shared the tomato, basil, pine nuts, roquette and buff mozzerella bruschetta. And hell yeah, we added the prosciutto! And then we shared the Scarsdale burger with stilton cheese. I have been dying for a good burger lately, Spain just can’t seem to find really good ground beef for some reason. And when I’m in England, vinegar goes on the chips. That’s fries to you Americans. Everything was so darn good. Plus my Guinness with black currants and then a cider. What a way to start off my weekend in London Town.

The Scarsdale Tavern – 23a Edwardes Square, Kensington   +44.020.7937.1811

4:00 The Tate Modern Museum

Not only is this a cool place to view international contemporary and modern art but it’s free admission (except for special exhibitions)! I love free. Amazing art.

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And through May, the exhibition – The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography From The Sir Elton John Collection is at the Tate Modern. It’s an amazing private collection of photography, drawn from the classic modernist period of the 1920s–50s. It’s £16.50 and well worth every penny.

Also, check out the restaurant at the top with panoramic views of the London skyline. It’s a nice place to grab a bite and a drink after a few hours of art viewing.

Tate Modern – Bankside, London   +44.20.7887.8888

8:30 Chiltern Firehouse

This is the new hot spot. The place to see and to be seen. There are two parts – the hotel side and the restaurant side, both are great. If you get here early enough and the hotel restaurant isn’t busy, that is the place to see the famous peeps. But the other side is just as cool and popular. We had some appetizers at the bar to start out with – fried chicken (YUM), deviled eggs and bacon cornbread. And then for the main course we had the Iberico Pork and the Welsh Lamb. So freakin’ yummy. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it. It gets busy quick so don’t forget to make a reservation.

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Chiltern Firehouse -1 Chiltern St., Marylebone  +44.20.7073.7676

 

SUNDAY:

Time to do some shopping. But not any shopping, I wanted to do some vintage shopping in East London. And off we go.

12:00 Vintage Shopping on Brick Lane

Grabbed a cheesy toast and a latte with an extra shot of espresso from Starbucks at the Bond Street Tube station and headed for the Liverpool Tube stop. Once there we headed north – walk up Commercial Street, turn east onto Fournier St and your second street will be Brick Lane. That is where all the good vintage shops are. First stop was Blitz on Hanbury St. This place puts the other shops to shame. Seriously good stuff here for good prices. Two floors of rails and rails of neatly presented vintage fashion. Good book selection too.

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If you want more of an eclectic selection, head back to Brick Lane and just a block up is the Vintage Market. Lots of smaller booths run with a large selection of clothes, jackets, hats, records, books. A bit claustrophobic but an excellent selection to browse through.

Blitz –  55 – 59 Hanbury Street   +44.20.7377.8828

The Vintage Market – F Block 85 Brick Lane   +44.20.7770.6028

4:00 Big Chill Bar

Vintage shopping sure works up a thirst! Right around the corner from the Vintage Market is the Big Chill Bar. A reggae vibe runs through this lounge bar with its own resident DJ. I had a cider, Donita had a Bloody Mary. Food looked good but we only had drinks.

Big Chill Bar – Dray Walk   +44.20.7392.9180

6:00 Tower Bridge

You gotta do at least one touristy thing when in London Town. Right? My choice, Tower Bridge. We walked (!) from vintage shopping on Brick Lane to Tower Bridge. It was about a 25 – 30 minute walk, but super easy.

Tower Bridge is AH-MAH-ZING. I love it. The details, the size, the blue! Construction started in 1886 and took eight years and five major contractors to complete. The bridge is 800 feet in length with two towers each 213 feet high, built on piers. It is a very, very busy bridge with traffic (bus, car, taxi, people) continuously travelling on it.

And I find it very beautiful.

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9:00 ROKA

I was craving sushi and luckily enough one of the hippest sushi restaurants in London is just a few doors down from my friend’s apartment. Even though it was so close we still had to use an umbrella because it had been your typical rainy, winter evening in London.

Donita had been at ROKA only a week before and Steven Tyler was there. He even stopped by to say hi to her and her friend. What a nice dude! Alas, Mr. Tyler was not there that evening but we still had a fabulous time. The tasting menus looked scrumptious but we opted for our usual fare – miso soup, edamame, some sushi and a roll. Super yummy. Even had to order another round of toro (tuna belly) for me. I gobbled it up and thought about ordering even one more. I decided for one more cold saki and then sadly … that was the end of my weekend in London.

ROKA –  30 N. Audley St., Mayfair    +44.20.7305.5644

What are some of your favorite places, haunts, restaurants in London?? I can’t wait to go back. But I also miss Cornwall, England. Maybe I can talk Felix in going there soon. Cheerio mates!

england · travel

London ~ Hyde Park

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Thought I’d pop on over from my island of Mallorca to the slightly larger island (the 9th largest in fact) of Great Britain to see my friend who is working there for a few months. More specifically, I went to London. I was supposed to fly in and out of Gatwick but due to airline malfunctions, I flew into Heathrow. From Heathrow I grabbed the Heathrow Express, which takes you to Paddington station, where you can catch the Tube or a taxi. My taxi ride was quite short, to Oxford Street, but the whole time from airport to front door was around 25 minutes. I love it when things are that easy. It was a rainy evening but it was London, so that made everything okay.

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Since I got in so late (thanks plane!), we just hung out in her apartment, drank some wine and ate my favorite snack, hummus. You just really can’t go wrong with good hummus and crackers. And it was soooo nice to have an actual apartment in LONDON to chill at! Made it all feel very luxurious, just how I like it.

Next morning, up and at ’em! Started the day by walking through Hyde Park.

Hyde Park is HUUUUUUUGE. So many different directions to go, so many things to see. A little bit of background history for you. Hyde Park was created for hunting by Henry VIII in 1536. Do you get that song in your head when you hear or see the words Henry VIII? “I’m Henry the Eighth I am, Henry the Eighth I am, I am.” I hope you are singing it now too. Anyways, Hyde Park is contiguous with Kensington Gardens, which are often assumed to be part of Hyde Park; Kensington Gardens has been separate since 1728. But their total area together is 625 acres (253 hectares), so a little bit smaller than NYC’s Central Park.

We entered at the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane, walked past the Marble Arch and the Speaker’s Corner, which has acquired a large reputation for protests and demonstrations. And then we headed towards the center of the park. There are many walking paths to choose from but we needed to get to the southwest corner of the park at Kensington High Street. We passed by some cool older buildings – The Old Police House and Magazine Cottage. Then followed Policeman’s Path towards the Serpentine Bridge. The bridge marks the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, the eastern part of the lake is the Serpentine and the western is known as the Long Water.

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Large numbers of swans nest in this area. It was a beautiful place with the Lido Restaurant on the Serpentine if you feel like resting and doing a bit of people and bird watching. The Princess Diana Memorial is just south of the Serpentine.

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial wasn’t what I expected. I’m not really sure what I expected actually but when I think of fountain, I usually think of something large and spitting water with a statue or two of something beautiful. Made from 545 individual pieces of Cornish Granite, this memorial is an oval, stream bed that is quite shallow. The design aims to reflect Diana’s life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom.

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There are three bridges where you can cross the water and go sit in the middle. The fountain is surrounded by lush grass where you can sit and enjoy the sounds, the day, the birds, your company, the silence, whatever you would want. This is what the artist, Kathryn Gustafson, wanted to accomplish. Diana was seen as a contemporary and accessible princess, so the goal of the memorial fountain was to allow people to access the structure and the water for quiet wading and contemplation.

And my last memorial from Hyde Park (actually from Kensington Gardens) is the Albert Memorial. The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens is one of London’s most ornate monuments. It commemorates the death of Prince Albert in 1861 of typhoid. It’s located directly across from the Royal Albert Hall.

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There are just so many things going on with this memorial, which is humongous, by the way. First of all, there is a seated Prince Albert, who is now covered with gold leaf. Then, you have the Frieze of Parnassus at the base of the memorial, which depicts 169 individual composers, architects, poets, painters, and sculptors. Then, at the corners of the central and outer area, there are two allegorical sculpture programs: four groups depicting Victorian industrial arts and sciences, and four more groups representing Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas at the four corners, each continent-group including several ethnographic figures and a large animal. (A camel for Africa, a bison for the Americas, an elephant for Asia and a bull for Europe.)

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Within the canopy features several mosaics showing poetry, painting, sculpture and architecture with two historical figures on each side – King David and Homer, Apelles and Raphael, Solomon and Ictinus, and Phidias and Michelangelo. Near the top of the canopy’s tower are eight statues of the moral and Christian virtues, including the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues. Above these, towards the top of tower, are gilded angels raising their arms heavenwards. At the very top of the tower is a gold cross.

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WOW! That’s a lot of beauty, stuff, things on the memorial. I didn’t think I would spend so much time writing about Hyde Park but I realized there is a lot, so for you I dedicated a post to it. Go see it yourself! Or if you have been what is your favorite area, memorial, of the park?

And that, is Hyde Park, my friends. Stay tuned for more London goodness!

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