Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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maturity.

February 24, 2013

This week has been a thought-provoking one. First of all, I attempted to get Beyoncé tickets to her show at the London O2 Arena but failed miserably at both of the pre-sale events I tried. Upon receiving my payslip on Friday, I had to make a difficult decision – due to having to catch up on tax I was owing from changing jobs in the middle of January, I didn’t get as much money as I had anticipated. Some budget readjustments on top of this showed me the unfortunate truth, that I had to give up trying for Beyoncé tickets. As much as she puts on a fantastic show, and as much as it would be a major life event to see her live (just as it was to see Jennifer Lopez for my birthday last year), money is more important. And I think the money would be better spent on clearing my overdraft, and then saving up for a holiday for Toby and myself later on in the year – something that we’d both enjoy. Although I would love for Toby to be present at the Beyoncé gig, I guess the mature decision is to put the money towards something we would both equally enjoy – Toby would have been there at least partly for my benefit.

This weekend we’ve had Claire and Ian staying with us, and the past two weekends we’ve had Karina and Hannah too. I like the feeling that people enjoy visiting us and I hope that they will have a good time and want to return. Yesterday we visited the Saatchi Gallery and its current exhibition of Soviet art really captured my interest. At times it was revolting, but it was consistently engaging and I enjoyed it a lot. This made me think that in a way, it’s a shame that studying as an adult is so much more expensive and has to be balanced with adult responsibilities, holding down a full time job, budgeting and so on. Because in my opinion, when I was an undergraduate student in my late teens, I didn’t have the maturity (not necessarily emotionally, but in terms of the fullness and sharpness of intellect) to fully appreciate everything I studied. Although I was by no means stupid, and I definitely put the effort in, I know that if I were to my degree again, I would be able to turn my 2:1 into a 1st with the brain I have now. I love my Italian class because I love studying; I loved my postgrad because not only was it a pivotal time in my personal and emotional life, but I was truly studying with freedom and with my eyes open. That time, there had been no element of following the pack to university hoping that everyone else’s instincts that it was the right thing to do were right on (as it happened, they were); I knew that doing my postgrad was me grasping my future and changing my professional direction. Study is important because it can be life changing, but I certainly also love it because I am addicted to the feeling of learning and enriching myself, in the belief that it makes me a better person.

After the Saatchi Gallery, we went to visit Pete’s new flat in Kennington:

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It’s amazing that someone our age has been able to purchase a flat in London and get on the property ladder – it’s so bloody difficult, and at the moment making ends meet while we’re just paying the monthly rent is proving challenge enough! We headed on to Clapham for a meal and drinks, and I saw Clapham with the same eyes I saw West Kensington earlier that day as we headed up to meet Christina at her flat in Fulham. I saw these places with the eyes of someone who now lives in Chiswick and has unwittingly grown accustomed to its middle-class pleasantness. All of a sudden, the assault of newsagent windows chock full of posters, cheap eateries emboldened by harsh lighting and residences with missing corners and unkempt windows was distasteful. I couldn’t reconcile my sudden, definite prejudice with the facts that I don’t come from a particularly glamorous part of Bristol, that at school I was surrounded by people who were from more affluent families than me and I was thus proud of my brain and my achievements all the more, that for my first year of living in London my flat in Earls Court was conveniently located and all that I needed, but it wasn’t particularly luxurious. How quickly I’ve learned to see things differently! I hope, while we have achieved a lot in terms of where we live and I appreciate the comfortable home Toby and I have created for ourselves, that I haven’t become a snob or lost touch with the essential things in life which are more important than symbols of rich or poor.

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As Toby and I have settled into life together in Chiswick, we joke that we are becoming middle-aged – drinks out with friends are a treat, and we’re often so tired that we are grateful to stay in (as much as we enjoy socialising!). In Clapham last night, after a meal at Strada that took too long to arrive, we went to a bar that was crammed full of people 5 years younger than us shouting at one another over music that was decent but far too loud, and yet: there was no dancefloor! After a cocktail, we threw in the towel – either I want to dance, or I want to talk, but not being able to either was frustrating! Is all of this this another sign of old age, and of shifting out of the up and coming generation into the hasbeens? Or (I prefer this option) have I just grown up and now I see the world through the eyes of an adult who is fortunate, wise and no longer has to suffer (as many) fools?

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Tube update: Ravenscourt Park & Stamford Brook

February 17, 2013

Despite the fact that we’ve been living in Chiswick for 4 months now, and I go through these tube stations pretty much daily, I have never actually walked past Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park. Toby and I finally did this after dropping Hannah off at Hammersmith so that she could make her way back to York – I am so glad that she enjoyed her weekend with us 🙂 It’s important to me that our home is welcoming to all of our guests so that people think of us fondly and return to visit us again in the future! We had a fabulous time with her, and it was so good to have catch-up time.

Once we’d put her on the Piccadilly line train, we wandered back through the King’s Mall arcade at Hammersmith (which reminded me of the Broadwalk near my nan’s in Bristol in terms of the sadness of a lot of the shops there – although we discovered Tiger which was excellently quirky, and I even dared to go into Primark), and then along the Chiswick High Road. We stopped for a lovely coffee and toasted sandwich at Artisan café, which was a light and airy space which rejuvenated us before continuing on our way. I also got some more book ideas at Waterstone’s – as well as Wuthering Heights, I have made a start on an ebook gay fiction series by Nick Alexander (50 Reasons) which I’m enjoying so far. I’m also spending time with albums by A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd. Here’s to the week ahead, and perhaps some more musical and literary discoveries! 🙂

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Tube update: Shoreditch High Street, Bank and St. Paul’s

February 16, 2013

This weekend, Hannah is staying with us and it’s great because I haven’t seen her for two months, which is too long! We’ve had an epic day out, which started with a haircut from my stylist Reza, who has moved to Base Cuts on Portobello Road (typically, he moves to Portobello Road just as I move away from it to a new job). This time, I took inspiration from Andrew Rannells, who plays “me in 5 years’ time” on The New Normal. Needless to say, Toby and I are fans.

After my haircut, Hannah and I walked over to Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, and had a brief shopping trip before meeting Toby at Caffe Nero and getting the tube over to Brick Lane, as Hannah wanted to see what the fuss was all about. After dodging in and out of hordes of hipsters lurking by faux-vintage clothes shops trying hard to look aggressively edgy, we noted some intriguing cafés, a row of cute boutiques along Shoreditch High Street, and eventually the station too:

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We had actually done a lot of walking by this point, so we decided to visit a couple of London’s landmarks that surprisingly, I hadn’t seen up close until today. The Gherkin for one:

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The Bank of England, which is apparently where the station Bank takes its name from:

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and St. Paul’s Cathedral, which looked surprisingly beautiful through the wintry trees, and is situated near a decent shopping centre!

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We finally made our way back home to Kew Bridge (via the Waterloo and City line, which I have never used before and may never use again, but I am glad I got to experience this shuttle train at least once!) to chill in front of the television. The Girl Who Played With Fire is coming up on dvd tonight! Although it was challenging to get myself up at 8am this morning, it was worth it as it’s only just gone 6pm and we’ve accomplished so much with the day! I think at some point I would like to revisit Columbia Road (Toby and I visited the flower market there a couple of years ago on a photowalk), explore Hoxton, and gain a little more insight into the trendy parts of East London and what makes them appealing.

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exploring Little Venice + Kilburn. (multiple tube update!)

January 27, 2013

Today, Toby and I had originally planned to go to see the Royal Ballet photographic exhibition at The Hospital Club near Covent Garden. However, because we couldn’t work out if the exhibition was open today (the page with the exhibition said it was on today, but the opening times for the venue states that they are closed on Sundays), we decided to go elsewhere. After a think, I remembered that one place I had always been curious to visit was Little Venice. Cue much singing of Duffy’s “Warwick Avenue”.

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Warwick Avenue and Maida Vale is another beautiful area of London, with lots of grand white terraced houses with the columned steps up to the front doors (one of my ambitions is to one day live in a house with white columns flanking the front door. Dream big.) and big leafy trees. We had a walk around Little Venice and its triangle of water – it was smaller than I expected, but there was still a pretty riverside mini-park: The Rembrandt Gardens:

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and then we ended up on the other side of the canal in somewhere called Sheldon Square, which reminds me of Big Bang Theory.

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After this, we moseyed on up through Maida Vale and onto Kilburn High Road. It’s not a glamorous location by any means, but the mish-mash of cultures (Muslim here, Jewish there, pan-European further up the road) and the busy hum of people gave the area a buzz that was nice to experience – once, at least. Toby and I were amused by some of the shops which looked like they had been imported from 20 years ago. If HMV and Blockbuster are now out of business, how shops such as “Computer and Mobile Land” and “Half Price Games” are still surviving is beyond me. The proliferation of Poundlands and Shoe Zones gave me the impression that my grandmother had had a hand in designing the street. Anyway, to complete the post, here are the tube stations that we managed to cross off the list on our walk from Maida Vale to Kilburn. Now we’re back home, I’m taking refuge on the sofa for the rest of the evening – and it’s well earned!

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Kew’s gardens.

January 4, 2013

After a fine New Year’s Eve party and a bracing New Year’s Day walk (and post-walk viewing of The Princess and the Frog), the 2nd of January was the day Toby and I went to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Before Christmas, Toby’s eagle eyes had spotted an offer for the 12 Days of Christmas at Kew, which basically consisted of free tickets to the gardens. And so off we went! Although it was a cloudy and drizzly day, there was plenty to see and we had a fabulous time (I must be growing up / getting old, because visiting a place like this for 3 hours would have been my idea of hell only a couple of years ago). There were various intriguing sculptures:

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Conservatories filled with tropical plants and palm trees, desert environments and tanks with marine life:

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A part dedicated to alpine plants (with some very pretty narcissi) and a Japanese garden area similar to the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park:

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Some beautiful temples scattered around (dedicated to a lucky Princess Augusta), an impressive lake, and some intriguing statues:

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As the rain came down more persistently, we walked through more of the park area, along an avenue lined with thimble-shaped bushes, and to a Japanese pagoda.

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This is where the pictures end, but there was more! We came across an overpriced café/restaurant which I am sure served lovely food and drink but at more than I was willing to spend when out for a day in a park. And if we’d gone there for free, I think I would have felt even more aggrieved had we already paid to get in and then had to pay more to sustain ourselves along the way! There was a stinky compost heap, and located near that, the most terrifying part of the day: the Treetop Walkway. So it looks lovely on the website – take my advice and stick to viewing the pictures here. Because once you’ve climbed four floors’ worth of see-through metal mesh stairs, you’ve taken a couple of deep breaths (up until this point in my life, I was able to tolerate heights, but I’ve evidently developed a fear of them) and begun to walk round (the walkway is a large oval-shape), you realise that IT MOVES. The fucking walkway SWAYS. I am using caps because that is how much it freaked me out. I held on to the wooden banister and started to walk round more quickly, keeping my eyes looking at the (on that day, murky) canopy of trees to distract myself from: the fact that the walkway seemed to be held up by nothing more than sparse metal trees, the swaying which appeared to be becoming more violent, and the mesh floor through which one could see the ground far below. Toby was a few feet behind me and suddenly called to me that he felt sick and had to go back down; I gauged that despite feeling like the terror had been unremitting for at least 10 minutes, I was less than a third of the way around the walkway and so I decided to practically run with him back to the lift and get down and off the thing sharpish. Even while we waited for the lift, I could feel the structure moving.

I never saw or heard a giant crash or collapsing of the structure, and so I presume that everything was fine and that the Treetop Walkway is indeed meant to sway (perhaps it gives one a more vivid experience of what it’s like to be a tree). The view is fantastic, as you can see on the link in the above paragraph. But if you even think you aren’t a fan of heights, take my advice and stick to the website experience: don’t go up there, because it’s terrifying to anyone with nerves of less than steel.

And with that, we decided to say goodbye to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. It is a truly fantastic experience and well worth seeing once – I’d happily go back again next year if we can get free tickets again. Although it feels very “cultural” and its visitors were largely comprised of families trying to entertain their children before they go back to school and elderly National Trust devotees, it was wonderful to do and see something different, and to be wowed by the feats and ingenuity of nature. The aquarium-style exhibits were wonderful, and the conservatories are numerous and really immerse one in a tropical environment. And of course, that Treetop Walkway is an unforgettable experience 😉 It’s definitely worth a visit!

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family ties. (+ Mill Hill East)

December 18, 2012

In direct contrast to my blog the other evening about my extended family’s impending non-acceptance of my sexuality, on Sunday Toby and I journeyed up to Mill Hill East to meet his grandmother – for me, this was the first time and I was a bit nervous! But at the same time, I was very excited as it was meaningful to be introduced to more members of his family. In contrast to my family, Toby’s family have been nothing but welcoming and although at first Toby had met more of my family than I had of his, by this point he’s clearly winning the race. (He does have more relatives than me, to be fair.) I’ve felt nothing but welcome and love from them.

But first of all, we had to get up there. Mill Hill East is very far away from Chiswick. So far, in fact, that it has its own special branch of the Northern line.

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Eventually after the hour + journey, we arrived at Toby’s grandmother’s place, where I realised that I do have talents and hobbies, and can thus describe myself effectively and interestingly. I also enjoyed a couple of pieces of apple strudel, which is momentous for me because I generally avoid anything containing fruit like the plague. I had a lovely time and I hope that I made a good impression – I was myself, but I also feel that I presented myself well. I just wish that my own family would be as welcoming.

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Travel update: Stonebridge Park

December 2, 2012

I completely forgot that the other week, on our way back to London from Peterborough, Toby’s parents drove us via IKEA in Wembley, where we managed to get some much-needed furniture for the flat which I blogged about on HOMME FATAL here. As we had misjudged the size of their large-but-not-quite-large-enough car, Toby and I weren’t actually able to fit in the car along with the furniture for the journey back to Chiswick, and so we decided to meet his parents back at our flat and caught the bus to Stonebridge Park, where we got the overground back to Gunnersbury:

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I had never really visited this part of London before, and I am very intrigued to go to Warwick Avenue and Wembley Stadium, neither of which are too far away I don’t believe.