Archives for May 2015
Hello Big World, Small Me readers! I’m Amy and I blog at Amy and the Great World, where I write about my adventures around the world–mostly about my life here in Prague, where I am currently based. I’m honored to be posting on Sara’s blog today for her month all about London!
London is a city that evokes images of tea, red phone booths, the Queen (as well as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren!), the river Thames, and centuries of great writers, poets, artists, and world-thinkers.
It’s also overwhelming–especially for the first time visitor. Where to start? What to do first? What is “unmissable?” While I am hardly a London expert by any means (since you are here on Sara’s blog I have a feeling you know she is much more of one that I will ever be!) but I do wish I had access to this list during my first time visit in London. Here’s the makings of a wonderful first (or second, or third…) day in the incredible city that is London!
1. Hop on a red double-decker. While cliche and touristy, this is one of my favorite activities from our time in London. It’s a great way to see the city and get your bearings, and it’s fun! Seeing Big Ben for the first time from the top of an iconic double-decker hits high on my favorite travel moments. (The buses usually have a covered area, too–as we all know, London can get wet!).
2. Hop on and off as you choose! I would recommend Westminster Abbey, especially first thing in the morning, so you can avoid some of the lines, or Buckingham Palace, especially on days when they are changing the guard–which is not every day. Big Ben is also in that area, as well as Trafalgar Square.
3. Hyde Park. While the weather may impact this one, even on a rainy day Hyde Park is lovely. It’s nice to break away from the crowds for awhile and explore some green space. This will lead you to…
4. Afternoon tea at Kensington Palace. Specifically, in the Orangery. In lieu of a bigger lunch, order their full Afternoon Tea. It comes with an assortment of lovely food, including the required clotted cream and scone, as well as tea, of course. It’s in a gorgeous setting! You’ll feel like a royal yourself, just for a little while. Feel free to tour Kensington Palace itself. Much of it was closed during our time there for renovations, but the gardens are also so pretty, so explore! Plus, Will and Kate live there, so make sure to wave at Prince George and his new baby sister.
5. Visit the Tower of London. Hop back on a the red bus (it should take care of most of your transportation for the day) and cruise over to the Tower of London. Our hop-on hop-off tour included a boat ride down the Thames–so that’s how we went to the Tower! The Tower of London is so full of history, and I enjoyed just walking around the walls.
6. Cross the Tower Bridge. Not the London Bridge as many think, the Tower Bridge is yet another iconic symbol of London. We were blessed with beautiful weather–and if you’re lucky, you might see the Bridge open for a passing ship!–so we grabbed an ice cream each and moseyed across..after it closed up again, of course. ;).
7. Walk along the South Bank. After the Bridge, spend some time walking along the South Bank. This is the point in time where I simply fell in love with London–I’m not sure the views could get better than this.
8. The London Eye at sunset. This is an optional one, as it can be a tourist trap, but I loved getting a view of London from this giant Ferris Wheel. Buy your tickets ahead to save time!
9. Dinner in a pub. Finish of the day with a relaxing dinner in a pub. English food gets a bad rap–but I enjoyed every meal we had there, despite being prepared for some soggy fish and chips. Our hotel, the Chamberlain (a bit of a splurge for us, as it was my birthday), had a delicious restaurant, but the city is full of pubs for you to enjoy. Go ahead and pair your fish and ships (or steak and ale pie, or whatever you fancy) with a cider or a beer, for the full “British” experience :).
Some of my other favorite activities in London included King’s Cross station (especially for my fellow Harry Potter lovers), the British Museum (possibly my favorite sight–but I would recommend a large chunk of time for this!), Oxford Street, a show at West End, grabbing Indian food, more time in pubs, exploring Notting Hill…to name a few!
One of the things I love most about living in London is all of the fantastic gigs there are. Coming from New Zealand, they are few and far between and very expensive! But here in London you could see a gig almost any night of the week. I don’t go to as many gigs as I would like to as I’m a little out of touch with music at the moment and I rarely take the time to research when bands are in town. It is also pretty tough to get a ticket as most of them go on sale at 10am (does no one think of poor teachers who can’t sit in front of a computer) but here are some of my favourite gigs from the years in London.
Only last year this kiwi songstress was in town and I am so glad I got to see her, she is super talented, incredible live and makes me feel pretty proud to be a kiwi.
So Sam Smith is now HUGE all over the globe but I was very lucky to get tickets to see him last year at the famous Brixton Academy. Although he only played for just over an hour, he was of course spectacular and totally humble.
A great kiwi band that pops into London every year, these guys have released a new album and signed with Capitol Records in America, big things are happening. I love their new song and the video makes me crazy home sick. See it here.
Another kiwi great, I’ve been to see them twice here in London. Reggae masters and good ol skanking music. Again, it makes me so home sick to see these guys live in London but what a treat they are.
I’m not an emotional person but seeing this incredible Icelandic band live in London reduced me to tears. You may well know Sigur Ros music from BBC wildlife documentaries but seeing them live was a totally new experience. They had me captivated from the moment they entered the stage. If you ever get the chance, see them.
I love The Doors and have done from a very young age so when I read that Ray Manzarek (who has now sadly passed away) and Robby Kriegar of the Doors were playing in London I jumped at the chance. I had just arrived and went with two friends from home. It was a totally surreal experience. I couldn’t actually believe it was them in front of me belting out the tunes I grew up on. I feel so incredible lucky to have seen them before Ray passed away. Long live the Doors!
This soulful Detroit singer has been on my radar for about five years. He is super cool and very suave and was a real show man. I’ve never seen an artist interact with an audience so much, he even gave out some Hennessy to the crowd. What a dude! It was wicked to see him here in London as I knew he’d never make it out to little NZ. Check out his soulful tunes.
We got given tickets to see this London girl at the Barbican Theatre as an engagement present. She was playing a special one of gig with The Guy Barker Orchestra. She was a real darling, chatted to the audience and played some really unique tunes.
OK this is was a total teenage dream come true. When I heard Five were playing I just had to fulfil my teenage dream. Myself and my friend Danielle bought tickets and were like two giddy school girls. We danced, sang and remembered all the moves from back in the day. The gig was a total blast from the past.
I got these tickets for Dans birthday a few years back and it was one of the only gigs I’ve bought seating tickets and I’m glad I did as it was truly magical and I could enjoy the light show from the seat. This guy is so beautiful and I fell completely in love. His heartfelt tunes really shone through in his live set.
Dan bought me tickets to see James Morrison for Christmas one year. I’m a total sucker for tear jerker tunes and this is the ultimate. He was great live and a proper sing along. Dan spent most of the night at the bar (with the rest of the boyfriends and husbands) but I was happy to be seeing him I didn’t mind.
The ultimate gig I have attended since living in London was the legendary Glastonbury. Without doubt one of the best weekends of my life. Not only was it a totally amazing experience with my friends, I got to see The Rolling Stones and I got engaged!
What’s your favourite gig you have attended in London?
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre has been on my ‘London list’ for years. I’ve walked past the Globe theatre countless times, always mumbling to myself that I should really get there this year, time goes by and plays come and go but this year I vowed to make it happen, I wrote it in a blog post so it had to happen.
Finally myself and some friends booked tickets to a show. I can’t say I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, I studied Macbeth in fifth form at school and I love Leo in Romeo + Juliet but that’s about as far as my knowledge goes. So I was a little nervous to say the least about attending one of Shakespeare’s plays but at least I knew the story, I’m not sure I can bear sitting through a show I don’t know as I genuinely don’t think I could follow.
We were lucky that it was a fairly mild night, we arrived at the Globe Theatre after a quick dinner at Pizza Express (thank you taste card) and went straight to our seats. We all decided we didn’t want to be down the front standing for hours while we watched the show so we went for the best seats we could find. They were £35, on the top floor and in the front row. I can assure you now it was worth spending the money. We had excellent seats and a great view of the whole stage. It is possible to nab tickets for £10 but you will be standing and for 5 ft nothing me that is just not an option.
Just being inside the Globe theatre was fascinating, you can see how well they have tried to keep this as true to the real one as possible. The Globe Theatre opened in 1997 mere feet from where the original was back in the 1600’s.
The show commenced bang on time and it began with a little musical number, the actors were jumping about the stage and into the crown and already it was exciting. The first half of the show lasted around an hour and a half. I was entertained, it was funny and I knew what was going on (bonus). The oddest thing was that the Globe Theatre is clearly on a flight path so literally every 3 minutes there was a plane going over, I felt sorry for the poor actors because when there was a plane overhead it was pretty hard to hear anything.
There was a break and a chance to grab a drink, hit the shop or get a cushion if your bum couldn’t take the wooden seat. I chose to go into the shop and purchase some post cards. For some reason this is something I do now, along with fridge magnets, I have no explanation for this.
The second half was entertaining but once the sun had set it was noticeably cooler and I definitely didn’t have enough layers on but the play overall was enjoyable and I’m so pleased I got to see such an iconic play at the most famous theatre. I left feeling like I’d had a genuine Shakespearian experience but I’m not about to start booking the next play (if you know what I mean). I do recommend going, I do recommend getting a seat and if you can get a nice sunny day and warm evening The Globe Theatre will be even better.
Have you been to the Globe Theatre? What did you see?
Back in January my friends and I gave our friend Jess a Meringue Girls masterclass as a birthday gift and in May our masterclass date finally arrived! We were both super excited about doing this very special cooking class as we are both fans of the meringue girls.
If you don’t know them, where have you been? They are at Broadway Market, currently at Street Feast in Lewisham, they have their own cookbook and the second one coming out soon, they are in Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and have had countless positive press. These girls are killing it to say the least! So Jess and I headed off to their bakery in Broadway Market for an evening of baking, drinking, chatting, packaging and of course eating.
We arrived at their cute bakery around the back of Broadway Market on a Wednesday evening, we were a little late (oops) and the meringues were already mixing away in the cute kitchen aids. Stacey one of the two meringue girls handed us a glass of prosecco and explained the ingredients and got us up to speed.
Stacey then demonstrated what to do once the mixture was ready. I have always been curious about how they create their cute meringue kisses and I was about to find out, yay! So you need to choose your flavours for the mixture, as well as toppings for when the meringues are actually on the tray and choose your colours for the piping.
So you choose your colouring (all natural, no food colouring here) and begin to paint the colour on the inside of the piping. You can choose how many colours you want and do it in a stripe. You then put all the meringue mix in the bag, shake it about and start pumping out those kisses. It is harder than it looks I can tell you that but it was so impressive to see the different colours appearing on the meringues.
We shared the piping duties, admired our work and quickly got it into the oven ready for baking.
During this time of the people on the masterclass were offered crisps, dip and of course the most delicious meringues on the planet. Because it was a lovely evening the doors were open and it was a good opportunity to chat to fellow bakers, have a read through the meringue girls book and make a real eton mess as well with the strawberries and cream.
It was then time for the next part of the evening which my very creative and crafty friend Jess loved. The meringue girls provide every little crafty thing you can imagine and it’s up to you to get creative with the boxes, ribbon, stamps, stickers, paper and whatever else you can find!
Above is my friend Jess’s gorgeous crafty bags, I’m less crafty but gave it a good crack and was pretty pleased with my efforts.
Before we knew it the delectable meringues appeared tray by tray and it was so nice to see our handy work all finished. We tucked in for our first taste of our very own meringues and I was not disappointed with my efforts. They were still warm and the most important part was that the middle was gooey!
We were able to take home everything we made as well as meringues that were provided for eating that didn’t get eaten which was fantastic as it meant we got to try all of the meringue girls flavours. If you are into baking or know someone who is, I can confirm that this was such a fun night and I highly recommend it.
The masterclass cost £70 and ran for around 3 hours, you can take everything you bake (plus a few extras).
Details for how to book are on their website http://www.meringuegirls.co.uk as well as recipes, press and other pretty things.
I said recently that I needed to take a break from afternoon tea as I had partaken in a little too many recently but of course when I saw that the St Pancras Renaissance were doing a special Cloudy Bay afternoon tea I knew I had to try it.
Firstly because it is at my favourite place in all of London, if you follow this blog you know that I adore St Pancras and especially the Renaissance as it has sentimental value.It’s a special place for myself and Dan because we spent our wedding night there and got wedding photos done there. You can read about my stay at this iconic hotel here: St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
So onto the afternoon tea, Kelly (the afternoon tea Queen) and I met in the beautiful lobby of the hotel where the afternoon tea is served. It is light, warm and has a modern feel in an old gothic building. We were given the afternoon tea menu along with the chosen wines. All of the wines were from the Cloudy bay, a New Zealand wine from the Marlborough region and not being biased at all but we all know New Zealand wine is the best. Kelly and I chose the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
Our sandwiches came out swiftly and I must say on first glance I was very very impressed. The first thing that caught my eye was cranberry bread, this is not something I have seen before at an afternoon tea. There was a combination of the traditional sandwiches and tiny little bread rolls.
The sandwiches were as follows: Honey roast ham on wholegrain bread, smoked Scottish salmon with crème fraiche, cucumber on beetroot bread, roast beef, horseradish cream on onion bread and my favourite of all egg mayonnaise, mustard cress on cranberry bread. The cranberry bread was such a nice touch and made the traditional egg sandwich another level!
After I had cleared my plate we were offered more sandwiches so I went for my favourite egg sandwich and also the roast beef as both were so delicious I had to have more. Once we devoured our sandwiches it was onto the scones.
We received two scones each, as Kelly is gluten free hers looked very different indeed – bigger! Mine were soft, still warm and were served with strawberry and apricot jam.
The main event was without doubt the sweets. These had been sitting on the tray for the duration of the afternoon tea and all of the colourful sweets kept catching my eye so I was keen to get on with scoffing them!
I started with the Strawberry & pistachio layer cake because it was a bright green colour. This sweet was so soft and melted in my mouth, the pistachio flavour was really mild. I then moved onto the chocolate cake with passion fruit gel which was so worth the calories! I love chocolate and I’m always a bit gutted when it’s left off an afternoon tea menu.
What I loved most about the sweets was just how beautifully they were presented as well. The real surprise was the lemongrass and mango dome which was something I had never tasted before. Kelly’s gluten free goodies looked divine and I admit I was totally green with envy after seeing her mini pavlova.
Overall the afternoon tea was thoroughly enjoyable, St Pancras Renaissance is an iconic venue, the staff were very attentive, we were rushed in any way and the standard of the food and drink was beyond expectations. As we were leaving I took a moment to take in the ambience of the place, it is just such a beautiful building.
The Cloudy bay afternoon tea runs until the 24th of May and costs £45 with a glass of Cloudy Bay wine or £35 without. So get booking in for this very special afternoon tea.
Thanks to St Pancras renaissance for providing us with a complimentary Cloudy Bay afternoon tea.