The Attendant & Little Venice | London Wanderings

The weather the past week in London has been cold, wet, and frankly rather miserable. Since Christmas, the weekdays and weekends have been merging and the days are just flying by making me ever more conscious of how quickly this year is already going by. This weekend I finally found myself in London with no plans and an urge to get outside and breathe in some fresh air and stretch my legs. So regardless of the drizzly rain that kept making an appearance, my friend and I bundled ourselves up in coats and bobble hats and headed in the direction of Maida Vale to wander the canals and explore a part of London that neither of us had ever really ventured to. Little Venice is somewhere I have heard of in passing, but I’d never really given it much thought as to what it was or where this foreign sounding place was located. But a short walk from Paddington station, we found ourselves in a charming little area surrounded by stunning houses (emphasis on houses not flats or apartments, but proper houses with gardens, garages, steps leading up to perfectly Farrow & Ball painted doors!). One particular house even had an orangery style conservatory attached to the back which we spied, not so subtly, by standing on tip-toes and gazing longingly over their gate. Oh to dream!

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The canal that winds its way through this area has been suitably named Little Venice and when you visit you can tell why. Sweet little narrow boats moor alongside the canal and create communities along the riverbank with urban gardens full of the sort of items that can only look charming in such a setting. Even on a damp January day it looked beautiful, so I can’t wait to visit again this summer when the sun is out!

Since the rain had stopped we decided to walk to Marylebone where we had a coffee shop in mind that I have wanted to try out for a while. The Attendant is a underground cafe located just behind Oxford Street, inside and old converted public toilet. With just enough seating for about 20 people, this place feels both exclusive and stylish. Perched against converted urinals (yes it has been thoroughly cleaned), with ivy covered cistern dangling filament lamps above, this place oozes quirkiness. And to top it off, the coffee is top notch! I love finding fun new places to explore in London and now I know of this little place, I’m definitely going to be back for my coffee fix!

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Running away to join The Circus | Bank holiday fun

For a while now I have been trying to think of a way to treat my sister and flip the role of big sister treating little sister, something she has done so many times over the years. So now that I am settled in a job and on a steady wage, I wanted to play host for the weekend and treat her to a fun filled weekend.

There has been something I have been wanting to do for aaages, like months, maybe even years. Ever since seeing the episode in Sex and The City where Carrie goes to Trapeze School, I have wanted to try it out. After researching classes in London I found Gorilla Circus, and realising we had a bank holiday coming up I checked whether Alice was free to come up, and booked us in for a 2 hour beginners class. To make it even more exciting, I decided not to tell Alice what we were doing and kept it a surprise. I just told her to bring exercise leggings and left the rest for her to wonder.

The night before we went out for dinner to a little French bistro called Petit Pois which I had heard great things about, and it did not disappoint. Everything was perfect, and reminded me so much of the laid-back vibes of France that I miss so much. After a hot day, the heat stayed through till the evening meaning we comfortably ate alfresco out on the little street front, sipping red wine and dining on ‘the best steak I have ever eaten’! It was seriously good and cooked to perfection. We followed our evening with some equally good cocktails by dropping down into the bar Happiness Forgets located in the cellar of the restaurant.

^^ Seriously best food ever! ^^

Saturday morning we headed off to Regents Park, feeling so grateful the forecast was wrong again and it was dry rather than the thunder storms we were predicted all week. After dropping a few hints just as we were nearing the location, I let Alice in on the surprise and confessed it was trapeze class that we were heading to. There were a few worried looks and concerns of flexibility, but I think she was excited and luckily I know she’s one to give anything a go!

^^ The rig & Alice getting ready to fly ^^

^^ Alice mid flight ^^

We had the best time, and both got the nod to attempt The Catch at the end (something that I was really looking forward to doing). Alice was great, and despite always insisting she is as flexible as a brick wall, she looked like a pro.

^^ Alice doing The Catch ^^

^^ Me practising The Catch ^^

^^ Me doing The Catch ^^

I had so much fun, I could have stayed and trapeze’d all day, but so glad we didn’t as we are seriously aching today!! It just goes to show how fun exercise can be! Maybe I have found my new calling…

Dubrovnik, Croatia | Part Two

Looking down over the Old Town from atop the city walls was an incredible vantage point to see the whole town, coastline and out to sea.

^^ Looking down from the city walls ^^

One evening we caught the cable car up to the lookout point outside of the Old Town and we had planned this to coincide with seeing the sunset which I would highly recommend. The photographs don’t do it justice, they never do, but the sun was the brightest red and cast such a nice light over the landscape. Looking back down on the Old Town you realise how small the town is. But I liked this as it I felt we really got to know the place while we were there. I could spend days just wandering the little back streets and stopping for gelato or a coffee in the shaded courtyards.

To keep the holiday to a budget we restricted ourselves to eating one meal out a day and shopping at the local supermarkets for the other meals. The value of eating out in Dubrovnik is fairly inexpensive, more so if you buy food at the supermarkets, and so it was nice in the evening to treat ourselves dinner & drinks.

Living in rainy England there is little opportunity to wear nice dresses and so I enjoyed packing some clothes that I haven’t worn in a while, or ever! The below white & blue dress was bought in Australia and it was so nice to wear it again. If only we could have some more sun here in England!!

Before we arrived I googled islands surrounding Dubrovnik and came across the island of Lokrum. Only a short boat ride away, Lokrum is 0.31 sq miles in size and is home to lush botanic gardens as well as a the deserted Benedictine monastery. What I hadn’t expected to find there was the original Game of Thrones Iron Throne! Within the old monastery there is a small Game of Thrones museum featuring video interviews with the cast and the actual throne that was/is used on set.

We decided to walk the botanical gardens to work up a sweat before finding a spot to swim. Up a steep hill we came across the old fort ruins & admired the stunning view below of the tall ships docked off the island. I wish I wasn’t seasick/slightly scared of open water, as the boating life looks so appealing!

On the southern side of the island there is a small salt lake known as the ‘dead sea’ which is the most picture perfect spot. We returned here two days in a row to sunbathe and swim in the lake with the peacocks in the trees above. The island is home to wild peacocks and bunny rabbits who roam the island freely and are the sweetest little things.

On the last night we donned our finest frocks and took a last walk around the harbour and Fort Lovrijenac. On our way to find a restaurant for dinner we made the mistake of showing an interest in the parrot man. Next thing I know I have three sat on my shoulders!

Dubrovnik, you were amazing & the most beautiful place. I hope to visit you again one day…

 

 

Dubrovnik, Croatia | Part One

A couple of months back my friend Katherine and I started talking and saying about going somewhere hot for a few days over summer & we threw a few destinations into the mix and began weighing up the pro’s and con’s of each place. We wanted sun, sea, a little culture/sightseeing, but most importantly somewhere where neither of us had been before, and could both explore but also be able to relax and recharge away from work.

Croatia is somewhere that I have personally always wanted to go and have heard nothing but good things of the country from people who have previously visited. We decided that due to time restraints we would fly into Dubrovnik and spend our entire 5 days exploring the Old Town and surrounding islands. The airport is conveniently situated a 30 minute coach ride away, and there are companies such as Atlas who run shuttles frequently & cost approximately 70 Kuna return (£7 gbp).

We booked a small apartment through Airbnb which proved to be the most affordable and convenient option for us, however there are many hostels & alternative apartments to rent within the Old Town. Our apartment was a minutes walk up some steep steps off the main Stradun or Placa which runs through the centre of the Old Town. It was the perfect location with restaurants, shops, water fountains (note: it is advised to not drink the tap water, however the water fountains situated around the Old Town are perfectly safe to drink from so we used these to refill our water bottles) & the harbour only a minutes walk away.

^^ The stunning port & the little street where our apartment was located ^^

^^ If only we could spend every day jumping off cliffs into turquoise waters ^^

^^ Wandering the streets and making friends with the stray cats ^^

^^‘Stand by the pretty old door so I can take a photograph’ ^^

Dubrovnik has in recent years become more well known and popular as a tourist destination due to the hit television series Game of Thrones and I won’t pretend this wasn’t a strong factor in deciding to holiday here this summer. Both Katherine and I are fans of the show so we only though it right to succumb to our inner fan girl and combine sightseeing with some additional film trivia. On our first full day I had advance booked us on to a Game of Thrones Walking Tour which at 3 hours long promised to show us all the filming locations and let us in on some juicy behind the scenes scoop.

The tour was brilliant and perfect for what we had expected and wanted. Both factual concerning both Game of Thrones and Dubrovnik/Croatia as a country, but also fun and relaxed to allow us to explore and capture the city at our own pace. We covered most of the Old Town & Fort Lovrijenac or St. Lawrence Fortress which is located up on the cliffs just outside the Old Town. The tour included tickets to access the city walls and having shared with us all she knew, the guide left us half way around the walls leaving us to wander the rest on our own. The views from the wall looking down on the Old Town & then out to sea were incredible. The sea is so clear in Croatia with it being so rocky that there is nothing but clear water straight to the sea floor making it a crisp blue/green colour and so so inviting!

^^ The Old Town walls & pirate ships ^^

**of course I got snap happy and took so many photographs so I have split the post up into two parts. Part 2 to follow shortly**

 

Chelsea Flower Show – Part Two

Some more photographs of our day at Chelsea Flower Show 2016…

^^ Following the bigger display gardens we moved on to perusing the smaller Artisan Gardens and got to see the highly talked about Senri-Sentei Garage Garden, created by Japanese designer Kazuyuki Ishihara. The compact design featuring colourful Japanese trees, water feature and greenery, is both practical and stylish with the feature piece being the vintage mini sheltered beneath the lush canopy. This gold winning piece is Kazuyuki Ishihara’s 4th consecutive win in the Artisan Garden category and I can see why. ^^

^^ The enjoyment of these kind of events for me is not only seeing the main attractions, in this case being the display gardens, but also exploring the smaller trade stands and meeting all the creative people & seeing what craftmanship they have to offer. To me the above Shepherd’s Hut is just dreamy! I would loveee to own one of these and have it nestled in the bottom of a quiet field next to a little stream and have sleepovers in there. I’d wake up and make tea & cook eggs on the wood burner! Ahhh I digress….

But isn’t it just so dreamy ^^

^^ The popular Behind Every Great Florist display of the Queens head & the rose garden which smelled just divine ^^

^^ The Orchid display was pretty amazing with coloured blooms creating a tunnel in which you could walk through & see the flowers up close. The below images of lavender were to encourage my mum to plant more lavender variation in our home garden & I can’t get enough of the lilac colours and calming smell ^^

^^ The Allotment. I love this kind of garden & one day hope to have a house with a garden big enough to grow my own vegetables in metal troughs and have an rustic wooden greenhouse. The combination of picket fencing, marigolds, wild plants, and the addition of the genius mirrored shed, makes this display one of my favourites of the day! ^^

^^ The day ended with a last stroll through the gardens and a Pimms in the afternoon sun listening to ‘The Barron Knights’ who were playing the show. It really was the perfect end to a perfect day ^^

Chelsea Flower Show – Part One

Working in garden retail there is very rarely work perks that really get me excited. But when my buyer approached me last month with the offer of free trade passes to Chelsea Flower Show I jumped at the chance to go.

The weather was unpredictable all week (standard England!) so planning for the weekend outfit wise was rather tricky. I had bought a lovely new floral skirt from Zara earlier in the week and I was dying to take it on its first outing but watching the weather forecast change from sun to cloud to rain over the course of the week, it started looking less and less likely I would be donning said skirt and instead would be wearing my signature jeans and converse.

The day started early & we awoke to the sound of dripping on the outdoor stairwell. After peeping through the curtains my suspicions were confirmed… rain! Argghh! *Channeling positive thoughts* I jumped in the shower feigning ignorance of the disappointing weather outside and mentally rethought my day’s attire. However I needn’t have bothered fretting as after 15 minutes, the forecast had miraculously changed to bright sun all day! I genuinely think the weather people just look out of the window that morning and make up the forecast as how can it have gone from predicted thunder storms, to rain, to bright sunshine in the space of one shower! I was not complaining though, but deciding to air on the side of caution I went with a black skater dress, converse and denim jacket rather than the original planned white skirt and sandals. And for once looking back I am so glad I decided on my outfit choice – just enough skin to catch some of those rare English rays, but layered up enough for when those dratted clouds pass over.

On the instruction of my buyer who had been the Monday before, we headed straight to the Show Gardens and the poppy display. The design of these gardens are so well thought through and even though I admit I skipped reading about each one in detail, the story behind each one was really interesting. Here are a few (okayy the first batch – flowers are so easy to photograph I couldn’t help but get snap happy) photos of these displays…

^^ Lilacs & Oranges ^^

^^ Loved this garden with the long natural pond & rust person statue ^^

^^ The Harrods Garden with the house & the most beautiful blush coloured flowers. Now that is my kind of garden ^^

^^ We flashed our trade wristbands and were granted access to the backstage area (hello fancy toilets!) and came across this stunning succulent wall ^^

^^ The amazing Poppy Display & The Chelsea Pensioners. And those red colours, ahhh love it!! ^^

** Post part 2 to come…**

London | Regent’s Canal

I’m a country girl through and through. Living in London these past 9 months (9 months!! How has it been this long already!) I have realised this more and more. That being said, I do love the gritty hustle and bustle of city life, but when my favourite places in London are big open, green spaces or quiet canal paths, I know my heart belongs to the countryside.

I know that London living is not for me long term, but since this chapter of my life requires me to live here, I am embracing everything London has to offer. Being based in East London I am really fortunate to have Greenwich only a short train ride away, and the Thames literally a stones throw from my front door. And with the Thames comes canals which zigzag their way throughout our Capital. On the Sunday just gone, with the forecast dry I decided to take a walk along Regent’s Canal towards Broadway Market, Hackney.

Every Saturday Broadway Market and the streets surrounding fill with a collection of market stalls selling the most delicious food and treats, as well as crafts, antiques and vintage thrift finds. With the sun shining and a coffee in hand, in my opinion it really is the best kind way to spend your Saturday! Since I went on Sunday there was no market stalls to peruse but when the sun is shining and the brunch punters are spilling out of the restaurants onto the street enjoying the warm English weather, you find it impossible not to embrace the relaxed vibes & slow down and just wander the streets in search of Sunday treats. For me this was my black americano and fresh baguette from the sweetest little bakery called Pavilion.

Its been a few weeks since I last went to the Saturday markets, so I’m sure it is only a matter of finding a free weekend to venture this way again and I’ll be sure to take along my  proper camera this time.

But here are a few photos of my Sunday walk taken with my iphone 6s…

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^^Seeing all the colourful barges along the river really makes me want to go on a little boating holiday. It seems such a peaceful way of life ^^

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^^ Even the gritty grey parts of London have character ^^

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^^ The mouth of the canal where it meets Limehouse Marina ^^