Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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stand up. (Chancery Lane + Russell Square)

November 7, 2012

Last night I went to the Wilmington Arms (which, for the record, is inconveniently not near a Starbucks) in Clerkenwell in East-Central London to watch Toby deliver a 10-minute stand-up routine about being a “knitting geek” for a Science Showoff event. I got off at Chancery Lane:

 

stopped off at Pret and then settled myself in for an evening that was pleasantly surprisingly funny: I learned about Steven Seagal being an actual sheriff; that there is a new animated series of My Little Pony that sounds utterly hilarious; there was a celebrity a few hundred years ago who allegedly gave birth to bits of rabbit; the 4 ghosts in Pac-Man actually have names and personalities; and that my boyfriend is incredibly witty, funny and charismatic on stage. I am so proud of Toby for getting up in front of us all and entertaining us – he didn’t look nervous at all, and got lots of laughs. Perhaps in the near future I’ll get to go onstage again too! It’s been too long and internet delays / actually having a social life for once has prevented me from releasing my new album, but I swear and promise it’s coming!

We walked to Russell Square tube station and rather excitingly, got the Piccadilly line to Turnham Green (where it only stops early in the morning, and late at night – yes, we were out on a school night!) and then changed to the District to get home. I was thinking about my geeky qualities – at first, I couldn’t find any other than being a bit of a music obsessive, but then I realised: my London underground photo project (which is going quite well by this point – I think I’ve done around 80 stations!) is quite possibly the epitome of geekiness; also, my fondness for spreadsheets (e.g. the blood pressure spreadsheet, the annual Christmas gifts / winter birthday presents spreadsheet, the useful but ultimately ill-fated “have I snacked this evening?” spreadsheet) as an organisational tool for daily life might be evidence that beneath my exquisitely fashionable exterior lies the beating heart of a nerd. Enough!

 

I’m done.

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autumn wonderland (Prague, October 2012)

October 22, 2012

This week, Toby and I spent four days in Prague for our post-moving-house holiday – going away in the summer is passé darling, and we got it for a bargain having only booked it the Friday before! In fact, visiting Prague in the autumn felt like the perfect time to experience the city, as it was comparatively quiet to what one would expect (no stag dos) and the parks were full of trees’ leaves changing colour. It was a little bit chilly without being unbearable, and as we ended up doing a lot of walking, it wasn’t too hot to hike around in. It would have been lovely to have seen snow, but when we arrived on Tuesday morning, the city was shrouded in a somewhat forbidding but very atmospheric mist, which lifted as the day wore on (most days the weather followed this pattern, although Wednesday was a gloriously sunny day). Our hotel (Designhotel Elephant) was modern, comfortable, and conveniently located. I’ve posted a photographic summary on my tumblr, but I’ll go into a bit more detail with the snaps below:

Our flight was ridiculously early on Tuesday morning from Gatwick; in the future I would very much prefer to fly to and from Heathrow (getting home from Gatwick on Friday evening was even more horrendous). However, once we were on the plane I put my phone on Flight Mode and took this stunning picture of the sunrise above the clouds out of the plane window. We touched down in Prague at 9am and after dropping our belongings off at the hotel, we went for a walk along the river to get our bearings:

Before long, we found ourselves standing at the famous Charles Bridge (which I was familiar with from Kanye West’s video for “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”). As we walked along, there were many stands with artists offering to draw the typical caricatures, a band playing “Wonderful Tonight” (which was quite romantic), and a creepy man with a stuffed monkey playing what sounded like fairground music.

We left Prague Castle for another day, and wandered back towards Old Town Square just in time for the midday chiming of the Astronomical Clock. On our way, we also saw a cool sculpture by David Černý called Hanging Out:

Although it seemed fairly serendipitous at this point that we happened to arrive just as the clock was going to chime, over the next few days we seemed to show up on the hour at Old Town Square, and navigating our way through the crowds watching the clock became somewhat tedious. We next headed to what became our favourite café in Prague for some lunch: Bakeshop Praha:

2pm came along, and we were officially able to check into the hotel, which we did. We promptly fell asleep, went out for dinner at a nearby pizzeria, and that was the end of our auspicious first day in Prague.

Day 2

Feeling well-rested, we headed downstairs for an underwhelming breakfast (never has so much choice been offered, and yet so few options be actually viable) and then made our way across the river to climb up to Letná gardens. Thus began the theme of hiking up extremely long and steep flights of steps. The view however was fantastic, and we also saw stood by the Metronome of Prague (which has a cable with many shoes attached). Letnà gardens were absolutely beautiful, and with wonderful weather we had a relaxing stoll through the park.

We made our way back to the city centre and wandered through the Jewish Quarter, seeing the Spanish Synagogue and the monument to Franz Kafka. This part of town also has the Prague equivalent of Sloane Street, containing stylish boutiques for Dolce & Gabbana, Bvlgari, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and so on.

In the afternoon, we went on a riverboat tour, which has become a holiday tradition for us. In the sunny weather, the city looked resplendent and amidst the tourists using their iPads as cameras, we got a few more beautiful snaps of the city. It was also nice to have a sit down! Especially as afterwards, we made our way to Wenceslas Square (the only slight disappointment of the trip, as it was covered in big chain shops – including Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and other British institutions, which was weird) which was more of a strip, and wandered to the former site of the National Museum situated at the top.

After  some well-earned rest back at the hotel, we headed out in the evening for a traditional Czech dinner – I had beef and dumplings (slices of bread dough) in lots of gravy, with cranberries and a dollop of whipped cream! It was a little odd, but quite hearty and rustic and extremely delicious! Toby had pork schnitzel with potatoes, which was also reportedly yummy. I also had a nice black beer to round off the night – and we discovered that apparently, smoking in bars / restaurants is still legal in Czech Republic! When I was younger, I remember thinking that smoking around food wasn’t really very considerate, but now having been removed from the smell of smoke in a bar for so many years, it actually gave the whole establishment a more cosy ambience. Interesting!

Day 3

As if we hadn’t done enough exercise for one holiday, today we made a huge tour of Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral, followed by walking around to Petřín Hill and down the steep slopes to Kampa Island for a beer, and then back home for sleep! The weather started off overcast but was deceptively warm, as we crossed the Charles Bridge once again and hiked up to the castle gates, where we happened to be just in time for the changing of the guard. Two troops of Czech soldiers, dressed immaculately in navy suits, marched about in a square-dance formation, eventually exchanged a standard, and then trooped back the way they came, keeping time to a brass band playing from the windows of the castle courtyard. Equally intriguing was an eagle which kept trying to get inside one of the castle windows, and a stray golden retriever that appeared from nowhere to roam around the courtyard (luckily post-changing of the guard). Toby and I nicknamed these the Eagle of Prague and the Dog of Prague, whose job was presumably to catch the Eagle of Prague. We never found out if he succeeded.

 

 

The architecture was breathtaking (as you can hopefully see), so we stopped for lunch at a little cafe overlooking the whole of Prague, before making our way round to Petřín Hill for some views which… overlooked the whole of Prague. Truthfully, I have never visited a place that has beauty literally around every corner; be it natural or man-made, Prague is a feast for the eyes and the soul. We didn’t quite make it up to the observatory (after all of the walking, we didn’t have another 299 steps in us) – but I don’t think we felt we needed to either.

 

 

Eventually we cautiously made our way back down the hill (which was as steep as it looks above), across the river via Kampa Island and some honey cake and a beer, to the Dancing Buildings. And that was about it for Day 3, as we promptly fell asleep upon returning to the hotel!

 

Day 4

The day we said goodbye to Prague – we did some souvenir shopping, lots of café-visiting, and it was nice to actually take our time around the city without heading for any sites in particular. We headed to Prague airport in the evening, and I phoned my parents to tell them how lucky they were that I decided to come back, as I was very tempted to stay in Prague! I had an absolutely wonderful time and could really imagine living there, as things aren’t too expensive (or rather, they are cheaper than London!) and the city is clean, crisp and beautiful – I know that I have used that adjective a lot throughout this piece, but it’s true! I highly recommend that if you haven’t been, that you take a trip there at some point – it’s romantic, cultural, historic, modern – a little bit of everything. You won’t regret it.

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Tube update: Goldhawk Road

October 15, 2012

I have 4 minutes left to blog this new tube update, and Toby and I are off to Prague tomorrow so I don’t want to risk forgetting to do it at the weekend – because I expect that my mind will be elsewhere by that point! Today we went to Westfield to do various travel related errands (book taxi to the airport, get currency), try out some necklaces for Toby’s possible birthday present, and get myself a brand new haircut which I wrote about on my sister blog. On the way, we passed another tube station: Goldhawk Road (which the blue tube station heading oddly spaces):

Next time I write, I will have been to Prague with Toby and my new hair! But for now, I have to go – one minute left!  Ciao 🙂

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sans l’internet. (+ Chiswick Park & Turnham Green)

October 14, 2012

I am sitting in Caffè Nero on a sunny but chilly Sunday afternoon writing this. Toby has gone home to our wonderful new flat in Chiswick, where we’ve been living for a week now, while I continue catching up on all the errands that need doing online (of which this – blogging – is the last). We’re not going to receive our home broadband until the end of October, and I don’t want to exhaust my phone’s 3G data limit unnecessarily, and so I find myself taking my laptop to cafes along the Chiswick High Road in order to use their internet connection.  This is how Toby and I have managed to research an exciting city break to Prague next week (which Toby booked the following day – I can’t wait to experience a new city and country, and I am sure to share some photos on here with y’all!), but just as we’ve been getting used to living in a new flat with a new layout, new light switches (when I’m wandering around in the dark, my hands automatically slap the wrong locations and I have to consciously remind myself where the switch is located) and a new commute to work,  so I’ve also been learning where the best wi-fi spots are. I actually wrote an entire blog on Monday afternoon in a Starbucks a bit further up the road, along with a picture of Chiswick Park tube station – but the wi-fi there was so erratic that the entire blog post seems to have disappeared. So:

 

And for good measure:

 

Chiswick Park was around the corner from a large Sainsburys where I spent an inordinate amount of money last weekend getting essentials for our flat. And then on Thursday evening, Toby and I got off at Turnham Green and walked to Starbucks in the pouring rain to use their useless internet. Caffè Nero’s service is far superior! This morning, we had Nana round for brunch as the first guest to our new abode, and among the many things we discussed was how we can’t live without the internet, but it’s nice (if inconvenient!) to not have it at our fingertips all the time. I remember the days of an old dialup modem that made the pingy-pongy noise as it connected – and nobody could call the house while we were online, because there was only one line… It seems like a bygone age, but it was only 12 or 13 years ago! Nowadays we can do more or less everything online, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the internet – but at the same time, I sit and watch television and films with Toby, we read books (I have started Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh – it’s very good and reminds me of my time at Oxford a great deal, and makes me realise that the university was a wonderful place but far too monolithic an institution for my taste) and magazines, I go out and about and socialise – my mum came up to visit London yesterday and I took her to Harrods, Sloane Street and King’s Road; it was wonderful. Without the internet I wouldn’t be able to blog and share my music, thoughts, reviews and so much more with you, and I would never be foolish enough to renounce it (nor would I even be tempted to), but while being without it is inconvenient for the multiple logistics of establishing ourselves in a new flat and area of the city, it’s refreshing in that it makes me actually connect – and remember how to connect – with the more natural and simple pleasures of life around me that we can risk taking for granted.

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a long walk.

October 4, 2012

I am enjoying Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, and I have just read the section where he talks about acquiring a Walkman and being thrilled to be able to block out the sounds of the world around him as he walks through New York. I have long been privy to this delicious phenomenon, and thanks to an earlier conversation about Mariah Carey with Hannah, I decided to start the holiday season early and play Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas II You album as I walked around central London this evening after a pleasant pizza and catch-up with Angie.

I know that really, it’s still fairly early to be listening to Christmas music, but as I walked to Marylebone and Edgware Road (pics below), it felt more like December than October thanks to my iPod and the autumnal nip in the air, and I was wrapped up in the spirit of the moment. In 2 days’ time I will be in a new part of London, with new streets to explore and hopefully new parks to take walks in (especially when they get covered in snow!). I can’t wait for the experiences that await me in Chiswick, and I look forward to a magical holiday season too! 🙂

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officially moving out and up!

September 27, 2012

ACTUAL LEGITIMATE NEWS: we have signed the contract on the flat and we are moving to Chiswick next weekend! I am extremely excited to finally have my own place with Toby, which will have mirrors and wardrobes and a communal patio / garden, and the potential to have a parking space with a car! It feels terribly grown up to have found our first place as a couple, and somewhat accomplished to have gone from starting a flat-hunt to signing a contract in a week. I think that now I am going to compile a list of ideal housewarming / birthday gifts I need / would like to receive. Fun!

Also, Toby and I attempted to go and see Looper on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it hasn’t come out yet – so that was embarrassing. However, we ended up going to Fulham Broadway and having a lovely meal at Wagamama instead (and I also bought a book from Daunt Books on Fulham Road, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, which so far is hilarious). In order to get to Fulham Road from Conway Street, I took the 14 bus from Euston Square:

Short and sweet! Like the 74, the bus took forever to turn up; unlike the 74, it did not get hopelessly stuck in traffic for half an hour as soon as it did. I don’t know if I would necessarily take it again (and after next week, I’m unlikely ever to need to again), but it was a nice excuse to tick off another tube station. Look out for Turnham Green to Ravenscourt Park, likely to be snapped and posted in the near future!

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extraordinary day.

September 23, 2012

Yesterday was a fantastically eventful day. We woke up early (on a Saturday!) to head to Gunnersbury for our first flat viewing – a 2-bed in Chiswick.

We met with the lettings agent and saw the flat, which was beautiful and apparently wouldn’t be on the market for long. After some budgeting, some pressurised promises from the agent (the possibility of cheaper rent, the possibility of a flexible moving date – who knows whether any of these will come true!) and some falling in love with a wonderful space, we decided to take the plunge and put down a holding deposit. So in 2 or 3 weeks’ time, Toby and I will be moving into our own flat in Chiswick!  All being well – there’s the process of agreeing the move with the landlord, positive references etc. – but I don’t see why there should be any problem. Until it’s all confirmed, I don’t think we’ll be able to relax, but it’s very exciting!

So that was the morning.  At lunchtime we headed back to Fulham to share our good news with family and for Toby to get his hair cut, while I attempted and failed to concentrate on reading some Italian (my nerves and adrenaline were still all over the place after the flat viewing). Then before we knew it, it was time to head out for Toby’s colleague Kate’s 30th birthday party at Tower Millennium Pier, which was ON A BOAT (or actually, a ship).

The theme was Hollywood Glamour, and so Toby and I were dressed up to the nines as we weaved our way through the crowds of Chelsea fans surging towards West Brompton tube station. Once we got on the boat, we were greeted by Kate’s friends and family, and Toby’s other colleagues, and we had a fantastic time. There was a French singer and accordion player providing some background ambience while we ate a delicious 4-course dinner, and when we were standing on deck we were able to see the city lights surrounding us as we sailed down the river. Incredibly, Tower Bridge was opened for us not once but twice, and we felt like royalty as we waved to spectators on either side of Tower Bridge. It was a magical, unforgettable night – including unlimited drinks (though I was fairly sensible and have not even been hungover this morning).

As I sit here typing on my laptop having done such mundane tasks as laundry and washing up, contemplating the ironing while watching the rain incessantly pouring outside, it feels like yesterday was a taste of the exciting life I hope to lead more often as Toby and I become stronger and more successful. We have grown so much over the past two and a half years, and on days like yesterday we reap the rewards. I am so happy that even on ‘afterglow’ days like today, I feel lucky and appreciative of that luck. I just hope that we continue to be lucky with the flat that we want, and I look forward to posting more good news over the few weeks as we move in – fingers crossed!