Dazzle Ships Commemorate World War 1

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To commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War 1, two ships painted with dazzle camouflage have been commissioned. One of these is located on the Thames in London, and the other is located near Albert Dock in Liverpool. The dazzle camougflage is created with different geometric shapes. It is not meant to hide the ships; it is used to make the ships more difficult to shoot at because their speed and direction cannot be as accurately judged.

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Carlos Cruz-Diez, a Venezuelan artist, painted the ship 'Edmund Gardner' in Liverpool (above). This ship is part of this year's Liverpool Biennial art display that takes place with various artworks located in and around the city. The 'HMS President' was given the dazzle treatment by artist Tobias Rehberger, a German sculptor (below).

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For more information about these dazzle ships, visit the official 14-18 NOW website: http://www.1418now.org.uk/whats-on/dazzle-ships/ 

To remember the beginning of World War 1, now a hundred years ago, Liverpool put on a show with giant marionettes and men and women dressed in period clothing from 1914. The artistic talent behind the parade is Jean-Luc Courcoult of Royal de Luxe, and they are behind the life-like and theatrical giants. The giants for this 'Memories of 1914' event include the 30-foot tall little girl, her dog Xolo, and the 25-foot grandmother. The grandmother was announced only a few weeks ago, and she's the first marionette by the company to have silicon 'skin'.

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The marionettes are primarily made from wood and steel. The hair is made from horse hair. A series of pulleys allowes them to walk and show expressions. They blink and move and seem to embody the nature of their character by the way they move, blink, and show facial expressions. Xolo the dog even drolls. (There are water hoses that go to his mouth.)

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The dog's movements are very clever, and he can even run very fast. The tag wags, and he even has a set of teeth and his eyes are painted to show veins. (His eyes look more human than dog, but he uses his mouth, eyes and ears to convey the expression.) He can even stand on his back legs. 

Royal de Luxe put on various small and large scale shows, and Liverpool has seen the giants previously in 2012 when they marked the anniversary of the sinking of the 'Titanic'. This was in part funded by their Capital of Culture Year in 2008. The story for this event was inspired by a little girl's letter to a family member on the ship. The little girl met her uncle, dressed in a diver's uniform, and Xolo also played a part in the story.

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We opted to go up on the Friday to take advantage of one more day in Liverpool and to see the giants on a slightly quieter day. The press reported that many had queued for hours to see the grandmother in St. George's Hall on the Thursday, so I knew it was going to be busy. However, we were extremely unlucky with traffic, and a normal 3-hour car journey took us nine hours as we got stuck first before Newbury (Berkshire), just down the road from where we live, and the traffic was literally stop-and-start all the way to Liverpool. By the time we arrived, it was just after 7:00 in the evening, and the giant's were resting. 

However, we went out the next morning and did some touristy things before we went to Kensington Street (the Islignton side and not far from St. George's Hall) to wait for the giants.Grandma giant led the way.

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Her wheelchair was being driven along in front of her. That is one giant wheelchair for a giant grandmother!

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And look how large her slippers are! Grandma must like comfortable things. Can you imagine walking about town in slippers all day? Of course, she just woke up. I was amazed at how life-like her features and movements were.

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It took several people to control grandma giant's legs. They would queue up onto the vehicle behind her and one of them would jump off the vehicle to make the pulley move grandma's leg so it could 'walk' This was done in turns on either side, and once the person finished their turn, the rope would be handed to the next one in the queue. This looked like incredible tough work. I imagine grandma's legs are quite strong.

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About twenty minutes behind grandma was Xolo and the little girl. The little girl sat on top of a bus. The handlers were having a break.

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Xolo seemed to be the most popular with everyone. In the photograph below, a little boy pets Xolo. He got the opportunity to sit on top of Xolo just before.

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The little girl, Xolo, and grandma arrive by St. George's Hall for a story-telling. This brings the show into the World War 1 theme.

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After the grandmother's story telling, which was a grotesque story about the horrors of war and soldiers on the front line in the trenches, the grandmother fell asleep in front of St. George's Hall. Yes, she did actually snore too.

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The little girl and Xolo went to fall asleep under a parasol with her radio playing. There are several props for the characters. The little girl also has a scooter, goggles, a radio, and a suitcase.

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Later in the day and after the giants had a rest, I caught up with the giant's again near the Liver Building. I did not get a great view to watch the grandmother, but she told another war story. I could hear it better this time, and it was a letter written by a soldier from Liverpool. Grandmother also had several props, including glasses, a wheelchair, a walking stick, and whiskey flask. Apparently she could break wind and spits, but I did not see her do either.

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Xolo stole the show again, of course. The kids love him.

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Grandmother waved as she passed by on her wheelchair.

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On the Sunday, the giants put on a large parade before leaving the city of Liverpool. Confetti was used, and the grandmother, little girl, and dog walked down the Strand. We were at the far end where their giant beds were waiting.

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While the giants were being manoeuvered into their beds, we watched the parade of soldiers and some of us were handed the "Your country needs you" war flyers.

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The grandmother and little girl and launched into the air so they could be placed into their giant beds.

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Of course, this could not be complete without the World War 1 march. These guys were dressed in 1914-style clothing. 

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The little girl on her bed is tucked in with a big blanket.

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Up and down the Strand, Xolo played. I caught him drinking water from a bucket on one of the days. He also has a bone that he can carry.

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This is a quick one tonight as I wanted to get my photographs up and I hope you enjoyed these photos. Liverpool also has other artwork and events this year with their Liverpool Biennial, and Giant Spectacular was just one of these events. Some of these coincide with the anniversary of the Great War.

I visited The Tea Bar at the top of town in Basingstoke to listen to some live jazz, have afternoon tea, and drink cocktails. I liked the vintage interior of the Tea Bar with bird cage lights and colourful bunting.  We were seated in front of the stage. The venue do themed evenings with different types of music (from jazz to Motown to piano to acoustic), and they also have a comedy nights every week. I have noticed the Tea Bar around for some time now, and it is right on my doorstep, so I decided to make the effort to go.

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Cocktails

I decided to have a cocktail, and I was glad I did. (I honesly was not so impressed with the afternoon tea, but the cocktails made up for it.) The cocktails are served in a teapot. I had the Woo Woo, and it was perfect on the warm sunny day listening to jazz.

The sandwiches were next to arrive, and these were tasty. We had a selection to try on different types of bread. We had tea with this, of course, but it was teabag tea. Loose leaf tea does make a big difference to the tea experience.

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Sandwiches

After the sandwiches were devoured, we had the sweets. These included scones and cut pastries. The scones were served with a fresh strawberry, strawberry jam, and clotted cream.

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Scones with strawberries

The pastries were cut into small squares. I was not impressed with these. There was a chocolate cake one, which was very sweet. The other was a bread-pudding one and a white chocolate slice on an oat biscuit base. I did not enjoy them enough to finish them.

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Pastries

Below is a photograph of the interior with the bunting.

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There's a nice skylight above.

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I would go back for their cocktails and I did enjoy it, even if the tea and pastries slightly let it down. But I cannot complain because the music was free and we had a nice afternoon.

On my recent visit to Belfast, we spent a day exploring the Titanic Quarter of the city. There are several sights to see here, including the SS Nomadic, the Titanic museum, and the Titanic Dry Dock and Pump House. Additionally, we walked past Titanic Studios, where the television series Game of Thrones is being filmed, and we caught views of the two massive yellow cranes nicknamed Samson and Goliath. We arrived straight from Belfast City airport and dropped our luggage off at the hotel on the far side of the city centre before walking to the Titanic Quarter and exploring this area of Belfast. 

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The Titanic Museum and SS Nomadic in Hamilton Dock

One of our stops was to Titanic Belfast, a museum dedicated to the RMS Titanic. The museum opened in 2012 and is a new addition to Belfast and explains the story of the Titanic and shipbuilding in Belfast. The exterior of the building is meant to mimic a ship, and it is placed between the slipways used by the Titanic and its sister ship the Olympic, and others refer to it as "The Iceburg". The height of the building mimics the Titanic's height.

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Titanic Belfast

The bronze figure (pictured below) in front of the museum is meant to represent the figures that were placed on the front of ships. 

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Titanic Belfast 

Inside the museum is a museum is an interactive ride through a fabricated shipyard that explains how the ships were built. There's also stories about some of the notable people aboard the Titanic when it sank. There's also a viewing gallery where you can see video of the wreckage, and just below this is a representation of how the Titanic currently looks on the bed of the sea, but there were some technical difficulties with this when we visited.

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Viewing gallery (video of the Titanic wreckage)

There are also replica rooms for first, second, and third classes in the museum as well as the White Star Line cutlery and plates that would have been used in the Titanic. There's also a first class menu of the final meal that they had the evening that the Titanic sank. The grand staircase used in the 1997 Titanic film is also in the museum, but sadly general visitors cannot access this; it is only accessible with booked afternoon tea.

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Menu, replica dishes and a first class cabin on the Titanic

Just behind the new Titanic museum is the Olympic Slipway, where the RMS Olympic was built alongside RMS Titanic. This whole area (known as the Titanic Quarter today) used to be busy with ship-building.

At least 4,000 men were involved in building RMS Olympic. Three White Star line ships were built here: Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. Olympic was the first of the three. The Olympic was also a luxurious ship and contained a swimming pool, Turkish spa, a palm garden, and several different first class cabin decor styles.

We also visited RMS Titanic's little sister ship and the only surviving White Star Line ship, SS Nomadic. The SS Nomadic was based in Cherboug, France. It was used to ferry passengers from the harbour to cruise ships (like RMS Titanic) that were too large to come into the harbour. The ship was used to ferry passengers, luggage, and other items to the Titanic when it stopped to collect passengers at Cherbourg before heading off to its fateful voyage to America. (It also stopped in Queenstown, Ireland; Queenstown cannot be found on a modern map as it has changed its named to Cobh.) One of the famous passengers that boarded this ship for the Titanic in Cherbough was Molly Brown.

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SS Nomadic

We had a guided tour of the ship and were told that the different classes never mingled in that day. First class passengers would never see third class, and even the third class area was considered grand for the time. First class used expensive floor tiles, panel decorations, and a grander staircase. 

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First class passenger area

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First class bar

Considering this ship was passed around and a restaurant and a casino at one point, it is amazing that it has survived as much as it has. They also had done a great job of restoring it and souring any bits that were missing from the original suppliers, such as the windows. The rennovation had taken awhile, and there was an exhibit on this, and the ship only opened to the public last May.

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SS Nomadic

The decks were also separated for each class of people; we were told on the tour that different classes just did not mingle in those days. And the passengers would never see the crew working below the decks. We went up onto the deck and saw the wheel and Titanic Belfast museum.

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On board the SS. Nomadic with Titanic Belfast in the background

SS Nomadic is moored in a dry dock, Hamilton Dock. It is near to Titanic Belfast museum. The dry dock's gate (known as a caisson) has been kept and detached and is also located in this dry dock and in front of the SS Nomadic. This was a gate that closed off the dry dock. It is shaped like a ship's hull and is hollow inside so that water can be pumped out of the dock once sealed or drawn back in.

We also went to see Titanic Pump House and Dry Docks, which is located about a fifteen minute walk from Titanic Belfast, and this is where we walked past Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones is partially filmed. The real name of this dock is Thompson Graving Dock, but the Titanic used this dry dock, and the name of the famous ship is used to publicise it. Visitors can imagine the scale of the Titanic by looking at the scale of the dry dock.

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Titanic Pump House and Dry Dock

The Thompson Graving Dock was the largest dock in the world in 1911. The length of the dry dock is over 850 feet, and the Titanic and other large cruise ships used this dry dock when they were being fitted out. The pump house could drain the dock (23 million gallons of water) in about 100 minutes. The first ship to use the dry dock was the Olympic.

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Titanic Pump House

We took a tour of the the Pump House, which is Victorian in architecture, and watched the video shown inside it to understand how the Pump House works. The video also showed scenes of Titanic in the dock.

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Pump House

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Pump House

Thompson Graving Dry Docks would have been very busy, and when we walked around the docks, we could hear 'sounds' of an audio recording coming from the dock to try to get a feeling of what it would be like to be there when the docks were a working place.

Belfast was the fastest-growing British city from 1821 to 1901, and the city's population grew three times larger than it was to over 21,000. Linen manufacturing and ship-building were popular industries. In fact, the River Lagan's course was straightened in the 1840s, and this increased ship-building. 

The iron keel blocks that the ships would rest on while in the dry dock remain to this day and are on display. There was a sign next to them, and one block would weigh as much as three cars.

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Thompson Graving Dock

There is another dock near to Thompson Graving Dock. It is known as Alexandra Graving dock. Inside this dock is another ship, the first World War cruiser HMS Caroline. It is the second oldest commissioned warship in the Royal Navy; the first is HMS Victory. She was the fastest ship ever built; it took 9 months to build. Most of her time at war was spent in the North Sea and Scapa Flow (Orkney islands) where she was in the Battle of Jutland and is the only surviving ship.

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HMS Caroline

Have you visited Belfast and the Titanic Quarter? Let me know what you thought of it, and what was your favourite attraction?

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A Visit to Windsor Castle

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I first visited Windsor Castle in the spring of 1998 with a group of fellow university students and instructors from Ohio University where I was taking courses to get my Bachelor of Science in Visual Communications. Earlier this summer, my parents had come from the states to visit so we decided to make a visit to the castle as they had never been there. I remembered some of the rooms in my last visit all of those years ago, but I don't remember some of other areas and exhibits.

There was a little bit of a wait to get into the castle, and we had rain. We waited patiently under umbrellas as the queue slowly moved. (Yes, tickets can be booked in advance but I did not want to make a booking as I was not sure that we would visit as we also had the boat tour booked: A Boat Trip and Wanderings Around Windsor.)

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Front of castle from the street

When we finally were able to get inside, there were views of the castle towers and gardens in the outer area. It was raining off and on, but it did not spoil our visit.

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Windsor castle flowers

There are good views of the castle tower.

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Tower

Around the tower were beautiful gardens with some nice views. We also visited a couple of other exhbitions, such as Queen Mary's doll house. The items are beautiful, and some of them are custom made and very expensive. The doll's house was built in the 1920s. Photographs are not allowed here, the same as in all of the other interior parts of the castle.

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Gardens at Windsor Castle

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Gardens

We visited the cathedral within the castle walls, and this is where some of the royal family are buried. We could not take any photographs inside this area, though, or inside the castle. However, we saw views and saw the areas closed to the public where the royal family live, such as the the building below.

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Royal family rooms

After the visit to the castle, we walked around the corner to 'The Long Walk' and snapped a few photographs of the front of the castle.

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Windsor Castle from 'The Long Walk'

At the end of the day, we decided to have a drink and a snack. We opted for tea on the high street in "The Crooked House" as it was toward the end of the afternoon. We sat by the window and watched the reactions of many tourists who happened to just chance upon the leaning timber-framed house and then reached in their pockets or handbags their camera or mobile phone out to take a photograph of it. I had a hot chocolate and a Victoria Sponge Cake.

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Hot chocolate

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Victoria sponge cake

We had a fun day out, despite the poor weather, and we managed to see a lot in the castle and in the town. Windsor and Eton (Eton is simply across the river) is a pleasant place to visit. I last visited in mid-December of 2012 when I went to see the Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime and explored the Christmas market and city/town of Windsor in snow (covered here: Wintery Windsor).

"The Girl Effect" Street Art

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On Sunday, Brick Lane and the surrounding area will host "The Girl Effect" (http://www.girleffectlive.com) to celebrate women. I captured the Village Underground mural, which I saw in progress earlier in the week. This mural displays "The Power of Girl" in bright colours. As my previous post stated, there is so much going on in London this weekend with Whitecross Street Festival taking place today and tomorrow and "The Girl Effect" taking place tomorrow. Both feature street art, festivals, and music. (JessieJ will be performing at "The Girl Effect".)

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The Power of Girl

Unfortunately, I am not going to make it over to London this weekend to take part in the festivals or in any other events taking place at the weekend. (I need a break and commuting to east London every day for the past twenty months has worn me out and I have been feeling particularly exhausted recently.) However, check back for photographs of the aftermath as I will be snapping photographs of any new street art come Monday morning!

Just before "The Girl Effect" mural on the Village Underground was a mural by Woozy, a Greek street artist whose real name is Vaggelis Hoursoglou. 

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Woozy

The work did not last very long, and the work was left in an unfinished state. Anyhow, I have photographed this and a couple of other pieces in east London, and I also included one in the previous entry 'Meeting of Styles' London Street Art Festival 2014. One of the pieces (the last one above) below depicts the Athens Riots a few years ago.

Street Art on Whitecross Street

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Whitecross Street, near the City of London (not far from Bunhill cemetery) and in the borough of Islington, is another area where visitors can find street art. Each year for the past few years, the street hosts a summer street party "The Rise of the Nonconformists". This year, it happens at the weekend coming up (Saturday July 19 and Sunday July 20). Visitors can watch street artists at work, enjoy the street market and street food and enjoy the festival on Whitecross Street. More information can be found on the official website here: http://www.wxstreetparty.co.uk

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Street furniture art by Teddy Baden and others

Teddy Baden, Saki, Ben Wilson, Inkie, and HIN are a few of the street artists who plan on being a part of the festival this year. Last summer, I was able to get some photographs of street art by Malarky, Conor Harrington, Teddy Baden, Ronzo, and Don 'Paul' Smith. (I did not attend the festival last year, though, but I saw the aftermath of it!) 

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Nemo and Conor Harrington

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Conor Harrington

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Paul Don Smith

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From top left: Ronzo; Nemo; Nemo, Malarky, Teddy Baden

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Ben Eine

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Malarky

For those looking for something fun to do at the weekend, visiting the Whitecross street festival may be just what is needed. East London has quite a few events this weekend. Head over to Brick Lane and Shoreditch for an event celebrating women, "The Girl Effect". Have a great weekend!

I visited Aqua Shard to indulge in afternoon tea and appreciate the views. I had some visitors (my parents), and they wanted to go up the Shard to see the views. I suggested afternoon tea, so this was booked in advance to enjoy before we headed off to the Royal Albert Hall to see Star Trek ("Star Trek" at the Royal Albert Hall - Jenikya's Blog). Last year for my birthday, we made a visit to The View from the Shard (the top viewing platform), and pictures from the top can be seen here: 310m Above London: The View from the Shard

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Aqua Shard

The views are good, but unfortunately they did not honour my request for a seat next to the window, so we were sat in the middle of the room and could not enjoy the views. That was the first failure. The second was poor service. I kept having to signal to the staff to take our initial order, for top ups on our tea, for extra water for the tea, and for the bill. (Note that it also was not very busy at the time as our reservation was toward the end of the afternoon tea sitting and tables were either empty of becoming empty.) 

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We received the sandwiches and got a selection of salmon, chicken, ham, and cucumber. These were served with edible flowers (pansies) and looked pretty. The sandwiches tasted okay. We also had our tea, and I had the Royal Air Force tea. It was alright but not my favourite choice of tea and I wished that I had picked another type.

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Sandwiches

After sandwiches, we got the three-tier stand filled with scones, pastries and other sweets.

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Afternoon tea Aqua Shard

The scones were fruit and plain scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The pasty selection included lemon meringue tart and fruit mille-feuille, and out of everything, the lemon meringue was my favoutie. The pastries tasted a little dry, and they were nowhere near the best that I have had during my visits to other afternoon tea venues.   

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Fruit pastries

The main treat featured Shard-shaped opera cake, made with white chocolate and a flakey pastry. Also included were pots of chocolate-coffee with a mousse-like texture. Both of these sweets tasted like coffee, and as I dislike the taste of coffee, I could not finish them. They were disappointing but looked yummy. It's even more disappointing when the food looks nice but doesn't taste nice.

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Mini Shard

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Afternoon tea sweets

After the afternoon tea was finished, we went to the windows to enjoy the views. We did feel a little like we were intruding around others, but we did request a window seat when I made the original booking and we did want to enjoy the views; in fact many of the seats were empty by this time as it was the end of the afternoon tea sitting.

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We also went to the toilets, and these are probably the best views from toilets that I have ever seen. The toilets were located on the south side, so we had views over the southern part of London.

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Toilets at Squa Shard

Unfortunately, although the views and food looks nice, I do not recommend afternoon tea at Aqua Shard. We experienced poor service, less-than-average food, and they also did not honour requests when I made the booking. The afternoon tea is expensive for what it is (when compared to other venues), and I did not feel that it was good value for money when compared with other venues.

For those who want to visit to enjoy views, better value would be to go to the viewing platform on the top floor. (I will note that I would try one of the restaurants in the Shard, but I would avoid the afternoon tea and bar area at Aqua Shard, and judging by reviews on TripAdvisor, others have also noted the same issues with the service and the food so I am not alone in these thoughts.) 

Last weekend was the street art event "Meeting of Styles" which saw several street artists paint new murals across several locations in east London. Locations included Pedley Street, Sclater Street, Redchurch Street, Hewett Street, and New Inn Yard. "Meeting of the Styles" takes place in several cities worldwide and is an excuse for street artists to get together and paint and meet each other. Over the weekend, the walls were transformed with new work. Unfortunately, I was unable to be there during the event but I managed to capture several photographs of it on Monday.

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Lost Souls, Ryan Kai, XI Design and others transformed Sclater Street.  

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Core, Kaes, Masai, BraveOne, Chu and Inkfetish painted the walls on Pedley Street just off of Brick Lane. Some of these, including the one by Inkfetish and Chu, did not last very long. In fact, Inkfetish was annoyed and left a message in response to his work being so quickly painted-over by Graffiti Life. I thought that this would create an outrage as the piece did not last long, and I was actually surprised that Graffiti Life did not wait a little longer to paint over this piece. However, this is the nature of street art. Sometimes even really good pieces do not last long at all. (I do find the one by Chu to be a little offensive, so that is possibly why part of it was painted over.)

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The large wall on Pedley Street was painted on with a collaboration of artists (Gent and Vibes and others).

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Also on Pedley Street appeared work by Cenz, Rolling People, and others.

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Redchurch Street saw new work by Jim Vision, Zadock, and Zina.

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Some work was painted off of Great Eastern Street and in a car park there.

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I also captured the above on Hewett Street, including a couple of pieces that have been there for a bit longer that I had not captured yet.

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Lost Souls also painted, in collaboration with others, near Redchurch Street.

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The site of Shakespeare's theatre in New Inn Yard was also a location, and Cenz, Dank and others painted there.

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On the Monday morning after the event, I captured the above work in progress.

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Brainwaithe Street near Shoreditch High Street station saw a lot of new pieces by various artists.

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And the car park on Sclater Street saw some new work painted onto its walls.

New Lion Street Art by Faith47

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Artist Faith47 was in London recently and painted a couple of new street art murals new Brick Lane. Exotic animals feature often, and last summer she painted tigers near on of the current spots. I covered this here: Street Art: Faith47, Cernesto, Rolling People, Edwin, and many more. "Marauders - the strong and the weak" is the title of one of the murals. Both feature male lions.

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