December 2014 Archives

Each year, the colour printing company Pantone® choose a colour for each new calendar year. In early December, Pantone® have released their colour for 2015, and the colour is Marsala (18-1438). Marsala is a deep red, named after the wine, and it is an earthy colour. Typically, the 'colour of the year' is an indication of the colour to appear in fashion and design over the coming months.


Some past 'colours of the year' are listed below.

2014: Radiant Orchid

2013: Emerald

2012: Tangerine Tango

2011: Honeysuckle

1) Pantone®. [5 December, 2014].

The Year in Review (2014)

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The year 2014 has been another busy year for me. I've taken a lot of photographs and here's a selection of some of the things I got up to but never posted about for the lack of time.

Lady Dinah's Cat Cafe Emporium (London's Cat Cafe). I visited the cat cafe a couple of days after it opened, and the cafe is located near to where I work, so I made other visits throughout the year. I also had some crowd-funding vouchers to use. My original post can be read here: London's Cat Cafe. On my second visit, I tried a bagel and macaroons. I spent half of my time on this visit working as I had my work laptop with me, so I did not spend much time with the cats. The bagels and other food are sourced from other locations as food is not made on site. The bagels are famous Brick Lane bagels from around the corner. 


Early was eventful. I bought flowers to brighten up the flat, and cupcakes are always a treat. We went to a birthday party in the Cotswolds for friends we have not seen for awhile who also love the MINI car. I loved the MINI birthday cake. They had also just fixed up their new house, which had to be completely re-developed. This was  a joint house-warming and birthday and was a nice party.


As the weather started to warm up in the spring, I saw a deal to explore the Williams-Martini Forumla One musuem at their headquarters. The hedges in the front were designed like a pit stop and race car. We saw the trophies, helmets, and famous cars. All of their cars are in the museum. During race days, they offer a watch of the game with live feed from the team. I had so many photographs of this.


The summer was also a busy one, and a lot of different things were going on which I have already blogged about.


In the spring/early summer, my partner and I had a horrible train journey home as there were delays and we were both fed up. As a treat, we went to the Thai restaurant in Basingstoke. We had cocktails to start, followed by a meal.

We celebrated my birthday in Ireland and went on a long road trip. I still have most of my photographs from that trip to go through and post! We went to Pizza Express restaurant when we returned as they sent me a voucher for a free bottle of Prosecco to celebrate my birthday.  

I had my birthday cake in Ireland. My partner surprised me with a small birthday cake that he purchased on our visit to Cork! We celebrated my birthday in a nice bed and breakfast in Kilkenny. 

On Fridays, most of the office got to leave early this summer. I am a contractor, so it did not apply to me, sadly. However, I was feeling in a summery mood as the first day was so warm. We had so many warm days this summer. The bloke and I decided to go to TGI Friday's for a meal on one of these days because there were huge problems with the trains at Waterloo, and I suggested that we just head to Charing Cross and walk to Covent Garden for a meal instead of being uncomfortable.

At the end of July, we had taken the Friday off to go to Liverpool to see Giants. We went down the road toward Newbury and stopped at the American diner for breakfast. I had pancakes, and he had a bacon sandwich. Service was incredibly slow, and we ended up stuck in stop-start traffic all the way to Liverpool and it took over eight hours on a journey that should have only taken 3.5 hours. 

Tube strikes were a bit of an issue, and I walked from Waterloo to the middle of Brick Lane on one day. There's a nice photo of the Thames.

I went out to the restaurant Cafe Galvin in Spitalfields with a colleague, and I had a chicken salad and a cocktail.


I visited Lady Dinah's Cat Cafe again. I interacted a little more with the cats but did not stay long this time as I had some laptop issues. (Thankfully, they have recently given me a new laptop at last!) They had amazing rainbow cake, made by one of London's best bakeries that I will be posting about in the new year, and nice hot chocolate. The kitties were more playful this visit, and they have started to close the cafe on Wednesdays, so I think the kitties were more active. My visit was on the first Thursday after they started to shut on Wednesdays.


The Bowler - Gourmet Balls (meatballs) had a pop-up at the Horse and Groom pub in Shoreditch. I popped in and had a try of the turkey Thai meatballs, which did taste yummy. The sauce was delicious. 


Most of my time this year was spent on Brick Lane at work. I've taken a photo from one of the windows in the office. I stayed in a hotel on Brick Lane to lessen the commute for a few nights. The view was impressive.

At the end of August, we went to east London to Secret Cinema. The next day we had lunch and walked around Stratford Westfield. We went to Jamie's Italian, which I have been wanting to try for ages but ended up not too impressed with. We had some fruity drinks and I had a brownie with toffee popcorn and ice cream. It was a little bit rich.

Bird restaurant on Kingsland Road as The Doughnut Hatch. I had a cinammon-glazed doughnut, which was alright. I have been wanting to try this restaurant for awhile now, so I will have to make this a priority in the new year.

A lot of sculpture trails took place later in the year. I tucked into some macaroons from Westfield Stratford after a quick nip around the Olympic Park when I went to look for the London bus sculptures.

Mother Clucker sells fried buttermilk chicken from a van in Ely's Yard near Brick Lane. This is one of the popular pop-ups for colleagues at work.

After shopping in Basingstoke in the early autumn, the bloke and I went to Cafe Rouge. The food is always pretty good. I snapped a dessert photo. This is a chocolate "melting-in-the-middle" sponge and was good.

I've never been to Wimpey fast food restaurant chain before. The bloke and I finally tried the one in Basingstoke. This restaurant has been here for a few years, but I never tried it.

I snapped a photograph of St. Paul's Cathedral from Millennium Bridge on one of the sculpture trails.


At the end of November and the beginning of December, I went to Nuremberg in Germany. I was impressed with the postmarks. I have been active in Postcrossing ( this year, and I collect stamps and postcards, so I got some special Nuremberg Christmas Market postmarks.

Christmas trees for sale began to pop up in early December in London, and I liked the "PimpMyTree" stand outside of BoxPark. The office had a small Christmas Friday party. Every Friday, they offer free drinks. In mid-December, they had food and carollers.

I went out for cocktails with a friend at the Basingstoke Tea Bar, which I reviewed earlier in the year.

Colleagues and I went out to St. John's Bread and Wine restaurant in Spitalfields, but the food is not something that I would typically have. The menu is a little strange. I settled on beans, ham, and duck egg. This was served cold. It was not to my liking. The desserts (I had chocolate cake and rapsberry ice cream) were nice. They also do an excellent brownie and the best bacon sandwich.

I made chocolate mousse. Yummy.

The Tower of London poppy display brought in many visitors. 

I love photographing macaroons.

I did some walking in London with the sculpture trails - Tower Bridge and London's Little Italy.


On some Thursdays and Fridays, Spitalfields Market brings classic cars (courtesy of classic car clubs) to the square, and I always like to see what they have on display when I walk past in the mornings, before the market opens.

I captured raindrops on flowers in front of a pub across from Spitalfields Market one day in the spring.

There's a flower shop near to a hotel on Shoreditch High Street. Next to the flower shop a hole-in-the-wall shops sells coffee and smoothies from a window. In the summer, they sold ice lollies. These were pretty dear, but I bought one as we had some very hot days in the summer. The lolly was pure watermelon juice.

Shoreditch always attracts camera crew constantly. I've seen The Apprentice and commercials shot here. These guys were shooting a commercial, but I forget what the brand was.

A design agency located on Hanbury Street sometimes use their window for attracting pop-ups and games. Conker King was one of these games with a play on retro games and the game 'conkers', featuring conkers (horse chestnut, or buckeyes to my American readers) on strings. A set of rules is located nearby, along with 'Player 1' and 'Player 2' designated conkers.

I love Muriel's Kitchen in South Kensington (originally posted here), and this spring I noted that one had opened in a prime spot in Leicester Square. I got hungry on one day when I was spending the whole day tracking down Paddington Bears, so I decided to stop in and had a chicken burger and a brownie.

Gelateria 3BIS is located in Borough Market, and they sell ice cream and other snacks and coffees. I visited with my parents in the summer and we were just looking for a quick place to sit as we'd been walking for awhile and were tired. I had my favourite, pistachio ice cream. I did not expect much, but this ice cream is delicious and I intend to visit it again.

This Christmas, Marks & Spencer launched some new desserts for their Chrismas pudding range. These pictured were dark and white chocolate mousse stars and chocolate mousse crackers, and they were delicious. They also had other delicious-looking desserts on offer, but I did not try them. The mousse crackers were one of the best desserts that I had eaten in awhile.


Christmas this year was spent in Scotland. There's a photograph of the Christmas tree before we went away. We spent a day in Liverpool and ate our dinner at an Asian-fusion restaurant Yee-Rah and had cocktails earlier in the day at Albert Dock at Circo, a circus-themed bar. I took several photographs of Liverpool's Christmas lights too.

Here's hoping for a better 2015 for everyone.

Sculpture in the City 2014

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This year's Sculpture in the City 2014 (around London's Square Mile financial district) is even bigger than last year's. (For photographs of last year's Sculpture in the City, visit my write-up here at Sculpture in the City 2013.) This year marks the fourth year of the public art event and features work by international artists such as Cerith Wyn Evans, Lynn Chadwick, Ben Long, Julian Wild, Nigel Hall, Paul Hosking, Peter Randall-Page, Antony Gormley, Jim Lambie and Richard Wentworth. The sculptures will be on display until the end of May 2015.

This year for the first time, students in schools could participate in one of the workshops help to draw London's landmarks in the City, hear talks by the artists, and build their own sculptures.

'Stairs' by Lynn Chadwick is located at the corner of Bishopsgate and Wormwood Street and shows what appears to be two feminine figures ascending and descending stairs. The artist wanted to capture movement and relationships with space and made the figures show that they do not acknowledge each other despite their passing on the stairs. I suppose that this is a perfect sculpture for a large city.

'Stairs' by Lynn Chadwick

'High Wind' by Lynn Chadwick is located next to the Gherkin. The sculpture experimented with drapery and movement in wind in this piece. The piece freezes the moment when the woman's hair and dress blow in the wind.

'High Wind' by Lynn Chadwick

'Work Scaffolding Sculpture' by Ben Long was inspired by the 1960s spirit and Robert Indiana's work, such as LOVE. The word 'Work' is choosen to evoke survival and daily existence, similar to LOVE.

'Work Scaffolding Sculpture' by Ben Long

'Salvia' by Julian Wild is inspired by plants found in the British countryside. This piece is coloured after the small flower by the same name and includes a mass of twisted steel pointing to the heavens.

'Salvia' by Julian Wild

'Shapes in Cloud I; IV; V' by Peter Randall-Page represents three large granite boulders that have been sculptued into rounded natural shapes. They look a little like clouds. Capturing a photograph of these was difficult at the time because they were blocked off in an area where construction work was taking place. 

'Shapes in Cloud I; IV; V' by Peter Randall-Page

'Flow; Edge; Flux; Within; Fall' by Paul Hosking is a series of hanging sculptures from a tree in a churchyard. The work reminds me of paper snowflakes that I made as a child and would hang up in winter.

'Flow; Edge; Flux; Within; Fall' by Paul Hosking

'False Ceiling' by Richard Wentworh is located in Leadenhall Market and is a sculpture made from a ceiling of books suspended in air. The artist was inspired by seeing books appear for sale at second-hand markets and how common books are.

'False Ceiling' by Richard Wentworh

'Kiss' by Nigel Hall features two objects that rely on each other for support.

'Kiss' by Nigel Hall 

'Southern Shade 1; V' by Nigel Hall is a study of shapes in the world. The sculpture mimics shaded canopy of trees. It is located near the Lloyds Building.

'Southern Shade 1; V' by Nigel Hall

'Deadly Nightshade' by Julian Wild is located on the front of a building on Bishopsgate. The sculpture symbolises plants that grow in the countryside, and the colours choosen are to remind us that the brightest are usually the deadliest.

'Deadly Nightshade' by Julian Wild 

'Secret Affair (Silver)' by Jim Lamble is located in St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate Gardens. The piece is meant to invite viewers to walk through it and interact with it, and it also acts as a frame. I did spend some time shooting the piece at different angles, such as framing the steeple of the church inside the keyhole, but my favourite shot was the one below.

'Secret Affair (Silver)' by Jim Lamble

'Time here becomes spac, space here becomes time' by Cerith Wyn Evans is an illuminated installation appearing in Leadenhall Market. Both phrases are displayed but the words are reversed, depending on the point of view you are viewing the installation from.  

'Time here becomes spac, space here becomes time' by Cerith Wyn Evans

In addition to the above, there was one more piece that had construction work happening around it in front of the Gherkin that I was not able to photograph. The piece, "Box-Sized DIE Featuring Unfathomable Runination' by Onofre was visible but closed up. Apparently local Death Metal bands are invitd to play inside the box and the viewer is meant to view the box's vibrations when the music is played inside it.

The final piece is on display again this year, and that piece is 'Parallel Field' by Antony Gormley. A photograph of this piece can be seen by visiting my previous entry here: Sculpture in the City 2013.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber at Christmas

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Before Christmas, I visited the town of Rothenburg ob der Tabeur in Bavaria, Germany. The town is a well-preserved medieval town with the majority of its city walls intact. The town is located about the river Tabeur, and there are stunning views. Cobble-stoned streets lead off to picturesque buildings and towers. 


I had a day trip here from Nuremberg, and we parked at one of the western entrances and walked into the city walls and into town.



We came to the market square and went into several shops as the Christmas Market stalls were not yet open.


I admired the beautiful architecture.



We walked down the hill from the main street and popped into a few of the shops.


The following photograph shows one of the most beautiful locations from Rothenburg ob der Tabeur, at Kobolzeller Steige and Spitalgasse. I had to take several photographs. This was in the morning, but the area was still busy. I visited Rothenburg on a Monday, but I have been told that the town can get extremely crowded, and weekends may be one of the busy days. The town is particularly busy with Japanese tourists, and it is twinned with one town in Japan.




I loved the hidden areas of this town. Walk down any street, and there was always a surprise waiting for us.


The Christmas Market opens from 11:00 in the morning, so we headed up to the market square, taking in the beautiful buildings. This town was lucky to have not been destroyed during World War II. It survived for a number of reasons, but one reason we read was that an American soldier or commander was familiar with it as his mother had a picture of it, so he knew it was important to keep it from being destroyed.



Nativity scenes are quite common in Germany, and the Christmas Market area in Rothenburg had their own display.


We visited the Kathe Wolfahrt shop, which is one of the largest in the world. Kathe Wolfahrt sells Christmas decorations. This one has a Christmas museum inside it, so we popped in here to have a look before the Christmas market opened. We learned about the history of Christmas decorations.


Photographs were not allowed inside the museum or the Kathe Wolfahrt shop, unfortunately.



We had lunch at one of the hotels in Rothenburg and ended up being the only diners. The food was nice, and I had chicken in mushroom sauce with another item that the Germans call "noodles", which may have been potato and batter/flour.


After the meal, we browsed around the Christmas market.






I had a mulled punch (non-alcoholic punch can be bought, and it's really meant for children). This came with a biscuit.



After the browse around the market, we went into the City Hall in the market square. For a small fee, one can climb up the tower to have a good view over the picturesque town.




Rothenburg ob der Tabeur is well-known for its festive fried and battered treat, the snowball (schneeball). Traditionally, this is covered in powdered sugar, but other varieties can also be purchased, such as chocolate. The dessert does not taste that great as it's just pastry crust and does not have much flavour.



I loved the little details on all of the buildings.



There are so many beautiful areas to this town. 



In the afternoon and after we browsed the Christmas Market, we had a walk around the city walls. This takes the majority of the time, and half a day is needed to just walk the city walls. I'll be covering this in a later post. 

Rothenburg was one of the most beautiful towns that I've visited, and it reminded me of several of the small towns that I have visited in Alsace-Lorraine.

Spitalfields Christmas Wreaths

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This year and last year, I admired the Christmas wreaths hung on the doors of the traditional silk weaver houses in Spitalfields. The silk weavers were Protestant immigrants from France who moved to London due to religious persecution, as France was a Catholic country. The king of England at the time (Charles II) allowed these French Huguenots to come to England as he knew that they were skilled workers, and the availability of silk changes fashion and changed the east end of London dramatically.


When they moved to London, they built these tall townhouses and the upstairs had a lot of natural light with large windows, so they used to weave the silk upstairs. The French influence can be seen in the shutter designs, and the buildings are beautiful with large doorways with some interesting door knockers.


 These photographs in this post are from this year and last year.












I hope that everyone had a good holiday.

Happy Christmas and 1000 Posts

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Happy Christmas to all of my readers. On this day, I am celebrating my 1000th post on! I first started my blog as my portfolio website with updates in 2001. I originally started it to provide updates and new pieces of work, and then included inspiration on topics such as technology, visual design, user experience, web development, photography and art. The blog has grown to cover a bit more based upon my interests in the subjects already mentioned.

Snowman cupcake

Happy holidays and New Year. I hope that you have enjoyed following me.

London's Christmas Lights 2014

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London looks pretty during the Christmas season. I enjoy looking at London's Christmas lights every year, and this This year had a mixture of new lights and lights used in previous years. I had a walk around west London on various days to get some photographs. 


Oxford Street used the same lights as the previous year. These are silvery-white orbs that go all the way down the street. They are simple yet very pretty.


The usual shops were lit up, such as Boots and John Lewis and Marks and Spencers. I recognised them from last year. However, I think Debenham's lights on Oxford Street this year are new.


Selfridges used its "Destination Christmas" sign with mushrooms on top on the main entrance.


New Bond Street has new Christmas lights which remind me of peacock feathers and diamonds. South Molton Street have used the same archway lights as they did last year.


Stella McCarney's shop in Mayfair was decorated with several lights. 


Carnaby Street's Christmas lights are always one of my favourites, and they always do a unique set of lights every Christmas. In the past, we had robins and Rolling Stones lips. This year, to celebrate the Christmas and 1960s music and fashion street, we had headphones and sunglasses and mustaches. When examined at a certain angle, these separate shapes form a Santa-like figure wearing sunglasses and headphones.


I was in this area during the Christmas light switch-on for Regent Street. I watched some fireworks get launched and brighten up the sky on Carnaby Street.



Regent Street's lights have been the same for a few years now. They simply replace the plaque in the middle of the lights. This year, their Christmas lights are sponsored by the film "Night at the Museum".


Here's some photographs of these lights lit up after the light switch-on ceremony.


Each year, the statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus becomes the centrepiece for something festive. Last year, it was a snowglobe. This year, Eros is surrounded by a pile of gifts that light up in different colours.


I did not get photographs, but I did see Seven Dials' new lights this year, which I feel are an improvement on the strands of lights that they have had for the past couple of years. Covent Garden retains its large red baubles and Christmas tree, although they do have a new reindeer, which I previously posted about here.

The Christmas lights are more prominent in west London, but the City of London and east London also have Christmas lights. The displays are not as large, though. Broadgate, near Liverpool Street, has its own ice rink. Outside is a giant lit-up reinderr.


I have included some posts from previous years:

2012 Christmas lights and window displays

2012 Marmite Oxford Street lights

2013 Christmas lights and Eros snowglobe

2013 Christmas lights

Nuremberg Christmas Market

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After Thanksgiving, the bloke and I jetted off to Germany to spend a few days visiting Nuremberg and its famous Christmas market (Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt). We arrived on Friday evening, the opening day of the Christmas market. We headed into the city's main square (Hauptmarkt) after dropping off our luggage at the hotel. As it was the opening day, the market was exceptionally busy.


On the way to the main square, we walked through Ludwig Platz where we saw a living nativity with donkeys, goats, an alpaca, and a camel. The Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were not living, of course. We saw the animals here almost every day that we walked past the nativity, though they do take them away at night.


The Christmas Market in Nuremberg consists of the main market, a children's market, and a sister city market. The sister city market is based on Nuremberg's twinned (sister) cities, and each has its own market stall that specialises in its country's products off of the main square. For example, shortbread and whisky were available to buy in the Glasgow stall. American sweets were available from the Atlanta, Georgia stall.


The Christmas market is huge, and it took us about half of a day to go through it and see everything. We did visit it a few times over the few days that we were there, but we had a proper look around all of the stalls on one of the weekday mornings when the market was quieter.


The market gets incredibly busy as the day goes on, and dusk is the busiest time to visit the market. At times, such as the weekend and the opening night, it was too busy to browse. I do not enjoy browsing busy places as it is impossible to have a proper look.


The fountain in the Hauptmarkt is called Schöner Brunnen, and during the Christmas market, all but one side is surrounded by stalls. A gold ring is located on the railing of the fountain, and turning this three times will make wishes come true. The fountain was always surrounded by tour groups during our visits to the market.


Upon entering the square, visitors will see a large gold tinsel angel. This is one of the symbols of Nuremberg. The golden tinsel angel is made of thin metal and is made to be a tree topper. It is a symbol of the Christkind, translated Christ Child. The Christ Child is a Nuremberg tradition. She is a giver of gifts and became a tradition for the market in the early 1930s.


Every year, young women between the ages of 16 and 19 can enter the competition to be the Christmas Market's symbol, Christkind. In this tradition, they open the Christmas Market each year with a speech and also visit the market nearly every afternoon. The ChristKind is popular with children, and every child and some adults wanted their photograph taken with her.


Another area of the square, in front of the Church of Our Lady, is sectioned off and contains the antique nativity scene.


One of the most popular items for sale are Christmas ornaments and Christmas craft items. Some of these are so beautiful but also so fragile as they are made of delicate glass. I loved looking at them, but I am put off buying them because I am afraid that they would not make the journey back in one piece, and if they did, I would be worried that they would break in storage or fall off the Christmas tree.


One tradition is the pickle tree ornament. Each year, the pickle is hidden on the tree. When the child discovers it, he/she will receive a special prize. The size of the pickle varies. For younger children, the pickle is larger so that it is easier for them to find. As the children get older, the pickle becomes smaller and more difficult to find.






The market stalls were covered in ornaments. It was impossible to see all of them. There were so many that I loved.





In addition to the traditional glass ornaments, visitors could buy ornaments that were cookies baked and then painted into Christmas designs. I remember making these types of ornaments when I was younger. 




Food is also popular at the Christmas market. Sausages, candy apples, chocolate, gingerbread, and Christmas cake were all popular. Nuremberg is most known for its special Nuremberg sausage and gingerbread. I had some gingerbread, and it was nice, but it was not the type of gingerbread that I am familiar with. A mulled wine drink is also popular, and this goes well with the gingerbread. Gingerbread, known as lebkuchen, dates from medieval times.



One of the most interesting stalls sold chocolate items that were shaped like tools and other everyday items. At first, I thought that these were antique items because they did look real. However, all items were made from chocolate with a dusting of cocao powder to make them look 'worn' and slightly rusty. Scissors, wrenches, faucets, bottle caps, horseshoes, clothes pegs, cameras, locks, keys, and scissors were some of the items. 


I also had a wander to the Christmas Children's Market, which was extremely popular with school groups of children. A small ferris wheel, carousel, and other games and crafts were available for the children. Children could make their own candles or ice and decorate their own gingerbread. Between the two markets is also a nativity trail with some nativity scenes. A large model train set with a few running trains was also at the far end of the Children's Christmas Market. Each of the market stalls in the Children's Christmas Market had a decoration on top of it. These varied from a family of bears making treats, a family sitting in a Christmas room, snowmen, Santa and reindeer, and a group of bakers.


Snowglobes were a popular item in the Christmas markets.


A couple of stalls also sold a large range of dollhouse items.


The best architectual structure (and oldest) was Frauenkirche, Church of Our Lady. Visitors could listen to church services here, and they had special advent services. Visitors could also climb up part of the way to the balcony to have an elevated view of the Christmas market, and this is the balcony that the Christkind stands on for the opening ceremony of the Christmas Market every year. At noon each day, the clock on Frauenkirche moves and little figures move around the clockface.


I took a few photographs from the balcony of Frauenkirche. The market was not the busiest at this time but the crowds were growing.



Another traditional item to buy at the Nuremberg Christmas Market at the prune men (Zwetschgenmännle). These little men and women are made from prunes and have a walnut head. A few stalls around the Christmas Market were selling these novelty items.


There are many different designs for the prune men, and a few of my photographs are below. They are said to bring happiness and luck.


Springerle is another Nuremberg traditional food. It is an embossed white biscuit design, and it is translated to "little knights". This cookie is from Renaissance times, and it is made with egg white and anise. Some of the deisgns have been coloured, otherwise they are simply embossed. I did try these, and they are a wafer-like biscuit with a slight anise taste. A few of the different designs can be seen below.


Nutcrackers were amongst the popular Christmas crafts.


Around the Christmas area (though not inside the actual market square itself) and main streets were a couple of different buskers dressed as Santa with small, cute dogs. 



Last but not least, a twenty-minute dash around the Christmas Market and streets of Nuremberg is possible in the German post (Deutsche Post) stagecoach. The men driving the horse would blow a horn to signal the approach of the carriage as we were taken around the market, and everyone would stop to look. I felt like a celebrity for those twenty minutes.







Also, if you love postcards and stamps like I do, do not forget to visit the special Christmas market stall for German Post. This is located across the road from the fountain. Tickets for the stagecoach rides mentioned above can be purchased here as well as stamps and postcards. Even if you have written your postcards, stamped or not, you can take your postcards here to receive one of two special Nuremberg German postmark stamps. I went back to this stall several times to receive the special postmarks.

Last but not least, I have put together a list of tips for visiting the Nuremberg Christmas Market. The list below mentions good points and what to avoid.

Tips for Nuremberg Christmas Market:

  • Some of the stallholders are dishonest and rude. I gave money for a glass of mulled punch across from the horse stagecoaches, and the stallholder tried to deny I had given her money even after I kept insisting, and she and her boss were extremely rude to me. I eventually got my money, but I had to make a scene by arguing. Make sure that the stallholder has your full and undivided attention throughout the transaction and force them to make eye contact with you.
  • Prices vary greatly for the same item and change as the market gets busier. Again, some of the stallholders are dishonest and will charge more. Look around first and note the price. If the price is not on display, ask and then continue to look for the best price. Prices can vary greatly fort he exact same item. Also, as I did visit the market several times, I noticed that the stalls changed their prices during busier times. I saw one stall sell one particular item for 2.50, and this price was raised to 3.50 as the day progressed and market got busier.
  • Watch your money and possessions as there are pickpockets. I did not have any trouble, but this was advice given to me.
  • Visit in the morning when it's quiet. The evenings and dusk gets extremely busy, and it's not possible to browse when it's too busy. The market opens at 10:00am, but some stalls open a little later, and the market is relatively quiet then.  
  • Try new things. Sausage, mulled wine, and gingerbread are a few items to try.
  • Get a map of the Christmas Market. A map of all stalls in the main Christmas Market, the Children's Christmas Market, and the International Christmas Market is available in the Tourist Information building on the market square. This is located near the church.
  • Look for prune men. The map available from the Tourist Information centre includes locations of the stalls for the prune men separately. 
  • Get your special stamps and postmarks. For those sending postcards, visit this stall opposite the fountain and receive a special postmark. Postcards and stamps can also be purchased here.
  • See Christkind. She makes an appearance daily at approximately 3:00 in the afternoon on most days. The brochure in the Tourist Information can provide more information as the timing and availability is subject to change.
  • Have fun!

London's Christmas Window Displays for 2014

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Every year, I enjoy browsing the various Christmas window displays around London. I have only included a selection of window displays from the larger department stores: Harrods, Selfridges, Hamley's, John Lewis, and this year I even stopped at Choccywoccydoodah to view their Christmas chocolate display. 

Harrods department store is the probably the most famous and one that springs to mind for those who do not live in London. Their window displays are always fascinating, and their windows had various Christmas themes featuring woodlands. One popular window featured a carousel with unicorns. The most popular window was one featuring Santa in his sleigh with a team of reindeer. This window was extremely popular with children and adults, so it was impossible to get a good photograph of it without someone in the picture and window reflections of people. Check it out if you're in the Knightsbridge area.


Selfridges department store on Oxford Street is always one of my favourites to visit. This year, they had a variety of Christmas themes. In one, mannequins modelled lingere and dresses with white paper wolves in a woodland scene. Another showed a golden goose with eggs surrounded by food and wine. Another was a gingerbread house. The largest window on the corner featured jars of marmalade, a golden Hackney cab, and a Paddington statue from the Paddington Trail, which I will be posting photographs of later this month. The Paddington film is out, and Selfridges has a shop dedicated to the bear.


I had a quick browse at the windows at Hamleys toy store on Regent Street, which is always busy and gathers crowds outside. One of the windows was decorated to look like the interior of a house decorated for Christmas with several stuffed toys and a Santa inside. Hamleys is always popular.


John Lewis, who had a popular Christmas advertisement last year with their touching 'Hare and Bear' commercial featuring the song 'Somewhere Only We Know' by Lily Allen (originally by Keane), had a similar response to their Christmas advertisement this year. This year, the commercial featured a little boy and his penguin friend, Monty. The 'Monty the Penguin' commerical was highly anticipated, and after it was broadcast in November, it gave everyone the opportunity to start to think about the holidays. Tom Odell sang 'Real Love', a song that John Lennon had written in the 1970s, and this song is still in the charts. Consequentally, the shop windows of John Lewis feature cute penguins amongst the merchandise. The photographs taken below are of the Peter Jones shop in Sloane Square. The John Lewis on Oxford Street has the same displays.

Peter Jones / John Lewis

John Lewis' 2013 'Hare and Bear'

John Lewis' 2014 'Monty the Penguin'

Choccywoccydoodah is a chocolate shop. It has a shop in Brighton and one in London; the London shop is located off Carnaby Street. The popular chocolate shop also has its own reality television show. The shop always features wonderful chocolate creations, such as the Christmas creations below.


I hope that everyone is managing to have a nice holiday season. So far, it has been extremely busy for me and I have struggled to fit in everything that I would like to do before the big day. 

Below are window displays from the past years:

2011 Selfridges

2012 London Christmas lights and window displays

2013 London Christmas window displays

After enjoying our time in the Magical Ice Kingdom at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland this year (read about it here), we headed over to the Bar Ice, where I had a reservation. I think Bar Ice is the same company who run ICE BAR off of Regent's Street, which I went to a couple of summers ago (Nights Out: London ICE BAR). The reservation is for fourty minutes to spend enjoying (and freezing at) the bar. Bar Ice uses the same building as the Magical Ice Kingdom, but I think Bar Ice may have been a little colder.


Visitors are given jackets and gloves before they head into Bar Ice. This keeps us a little bit warm, and you do need the gloves as the free cocktail comes in a glass made completely from ice.


The room's walls, tables, seats, and the bar are made completely out of ice. There are a couple of ice sculptures in the room, such as detailing around the wall. This was not as impressive as the ICE BAR off Regent's Street, particularly as we had just come from seeing the Magical Ice Kingdom with its beautiful ice sculptures. We were a little spoiled.


The cocktails (alcholic and non-alcoholic) had a festive winter theme. I opted for "Cinnamon Sparkler", which contained Eristoff, Goldschlager (cinnamon schnapps with gold flakes), Cosmopolitan mixer, cranberries, limes, and orange. I liked it.


My partner had either the "Berry Blizzard" or "Jack Frost", but I cannot remember which one. Both of these contained strawberry. His came with a Twizzler straw. 


Unlike ICE BAR, the ice benches did not have matts to sit on, and I was wearing my dress. I was not about to sit directly onto an ice cold ice bench and freeze. 


We did not stay long at Bar Ice as my partner was feeling cold. I could have stayed longer and had another festive cocktail, but we decided to leave to beat the rush hour. We also needed to pack and get everything ready for going away on holiday to Germany the next day.

This year, I finally managed to book the "Magical Ice Kingdom" at Winter Wonderland. I tried the previous two years, but all of the spaces were taken as I had tried to arrange it too late. This year I arranged it early and decided that this would be something that we could do on Thanksgiving after our Thanksgiving lunch (Thanksgiving at Christopher's Bar and Grill), so we made our way across to Winter Wonderland for our time slot. The tickets were also discounted as Winter Wonderland had only been open for a couple of days and this first week is not as busy as the holiday season progresses.


This year's theme for the Magical Ice Kingdom was King Arthur's Kingdom. We walked around the trail and admired the woodland creatures (wolves, owls, squirrels, bears) made out of ice and large columns or stalagmites of ice rising from the floor. Pine trees seculded each area so that we could be surprised before we approached the next sculptures.


As we walked further along, we came upon the sword in the stone (or ice), a wizard (Merlin), a Celtic cross, and a large ice knight standing guard. The first larger sculpture that we came across was two jousting knights on horseback. Most of the ice used was clear, but the knights and their horses were snowy white.


After seeing the knights, we walked a few more steps to discover a fairy and a tree with a face. Merlin (pictured in one of the photographs above) was in this setting.


We walked further around, and we came to the castle with sculptures and a throne room. A photographer was taking photographs of the visitors who wanted to sit down in the thrones. Many people did do this, and they could purchae their photograph at the exit.


The lighting ranged from violet to blue in the throne room. Behind the throne room, visitors could walk up to go onto the slide. I decided to do this, wearing a cotton dress, which was not clever because obviously my legs stuck to the slide and the slide was extremely cold. This would have worked if that had provided a matt to give us to slide down on. (Wearing jeans would have worked as the material is stronger.)


After the slide fiasco, I continued to walk the trail. The next stop was a frozen fountain that people had thrown coins into.


This was followed by a sculpture of the Lady of the Lake holding King Arthur's sword while standing in the lake with two unicorns on the embankment. I thought that this one with the water was cleverly-created.


Further along the trail was the largest sculpture featuring soldiers and an archer in ice chain mail attacking a large snowy white ice dragon with glowing yellow eyes. This was impressive.


A little further along was a bar made out of ice barrels. Alcoholic of hot drinks could be purchased here. I was not able to get photographs because a large group turned up just afterwards and decided to buy some drinks and hang around the bar, but this looked awesome.

The final sculpture was a round table made of ice with a sword and chalice in the middle of the ice table. This was situated inside a stone (ice) circle of ice boulders.


I did not particularly want to leave, but we were getting a little cold by then as the temperature in the Magical Ice Kingdom was around -10 degrees Celsius so that the sculptures would not melt. When we did leave to go back outside, the outside weather felt almost tropical, and the outside weather was chilly before we entered the Magical Ice Kingdom.

I also had booked Bar Ice, Winter Wonderland's very own Ice Bar. The Ice Bar is new to Winter Wonderland this year, and it is actually a part of the same building as the Magical Ice Kingdom. We had to wait about an hour before our time slot came up, so we wandered around Winter Wonderland. Ice Bar London has a permanent location off Regent Street that changes its theme every few months, and I went the summer before last with friends and covered this in Nights Out: ICE BAR. My next post will feature my experience at Bar Ice Winter Wonderland.

London Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland 2014

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Every Christmas, the area of Hyde Park near Hyde Park Corner tube station is transformed into Winter Wonderland. This tripled in size three years ago to contain new areas, such as a Magical Ice Kingdom and more games and food stalls. Each year, it gets busier and more popular, and I did not go at all last year because I was put off from the crowds the year previously. This year, I decided to go back because it was a few days after the opening of Winter Wonderland for the year and I expected it to be quiet and not popular with crowds of people. I actually went on Thanksgiving, after visiting Christopher's Grill in Covent Garden (Thanksgiving at Christopher's Restaurant in London).


When arriving at Winter Wonderland from Hyde Park Corner tube station, the first area that one passes through is the Christmas Market. 


The usual rides are at Winter Wonderland along with new ones, and the ice skating is also available. There are plenty of games and rides to enjoy, and this year there is the Magical Ice Kingdom (featuring ice sculptures) and a special winter/Christmas edition of Ice Bar.


Food and drink, such as mulled wine, can also be enjoyed.


These are all available in wooden chalets.


There are also plenty of photo opportunities with animal sculptures, but there are not quite as many as previous years when people could pose with snowmen and penquins.


As usual, Winter Wonderland will be popular again this year. To avoid crowds, try to get there early or go during the week. Saturday and Sunday during the day are extremely busy. Transport for London also encourages visitors in peak times to use an alternative tube station as Hyde Park Corner gets congested. Knightsbridge is a short walk away as is Marble Arch.

Cereal Killer Cafe Opens on Brick Lane

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Today is the opening day of Cereal Killer Cafe (, a cafe on Brick Lane (closest tube is overground's Shoreditch High Street) that sells primarily cereal, but other breakfast foods and drinks can also be purchased. The Cereal Killer Cafe is the first of its kind in the UK, and over 100 different types of cereal are on offer. There is a large selection of American cereals, including favourites such as Lucky Charms, Cap'n Crunch, Honeycomb, Fruity Pebbles, Cocao Puffs, Cherrios, Wheaties, Life, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I did ask after one of my all-time favourites, French Toast Crunch, which has recently come back onto the market, but they did not have it but promised to get some in. (Apologies for the poor photos. I can't believe I forgot my camera!)


Cereal used to be one of my staple foods and I snacked on cereal regularly when I was growing up and well into my university days. When I moved to the UK, my favourite cereals could not be purchased (this was before shops started to carry American products, but these products can be found a little easier now), so I had to give up the snacking habit. 

The Cereal Killer Cafe is set over two floors, with additional seating downstairs and has cereal-inspired memorabilia throughout the cafe. Memorabilia includes a selection of cereal box collectable toys, limited edition boxes, and artwork made from cereal. Downstairs are also a couple of smaller television screens showing cartoons, and this brought me back to my childhood days in the states as I remembered watching cartoons on Saturday morning with a bowl of cereal. This cafe was very nastalgic and it made me feel a little bit like a kid again! 


Cereal Killer Cafe's menu comprises of a large selection of American and British cereals and a smaller selection of global cereals. Visitors can add milk to their cereal at no extra cost or choose a premium milk from a variety of flavours, including soy, strawberry, banana, chocolate, and almond. Toppings can also be added to cereal for a small cost, and these include fresh fruit, nuts, marshmallows, chocolates, Reeses, and raisins. 

In addition to the cereals and toppings, the cafe sells a selection of PopTarts, toast with a variety of spreads (jam, butter, marmite, nutella, marshmallow), hot drinks, cold drinks, and a selection of what they call "cereal cocktails". These "cereal cocktails" are non-alcoholic and are basically a blend of different types of cereals, milk, and toppings.


I had a Confetti Cupcake PopTart, a new type of PopTart that I had never tried before. I really liked it. I also had Life cereal, which is one of my favourites. Milk is free for a bowl of cereal, but I never have my cereal with milk as I dislike the taste of milk and I'm not keen on soggy cereal. 

The first 100 customers to Cereal Killer Cafe also received a special goodie bag with a cereal bowl (complete with in-built straw to suck up the remaining milk), a Kelloggs towel with some of its cereal characters, and a keychain/keyring.

Cereal Killer Cafe is located on 139 Brick Lane, E1 6SB. I am unsure about the hours as they do not appear to be posted, but I believe the daily opening time is at 7:00am.

UK 2014 Glossybox Review: December

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My beauty box subscription Glossybox arrived on Monday. I was excited about this box as Christmas is coming up in a couple of weeks, so I was really looking forward to the surprises and thought that the box would be a good one. However, I felt disappointed with my box's contents this month and received at least one product that I will never use and have no interest in. The last couple of boxes from Glossybox have been really good for me, but the first the first two were not, so I hope we're not going back to receiving products that aren't right for me. Anyway, on to my reviews.


First of all, I loved the Glossbybox Christmas packaging box design this month. The box also smelled really nice when I opened it. 

Bellapierre lip and cheek stain in coral: This is a full-sized product and it can be used as a blusher and as a lip balm. The shade is a coral pink colour. I tried it on my lips and cheeks, and it's a subtle colour. This is my favourite product in the box.

TRESemme 60 second hair treatment shots: This is a full-sized product, and four "shots" come in the pack. These claim to nourish hair. My hair is in a decent state at the moment, so I'm curious to see how these work with me when my hair is in need.

Anatomicals Day and Night Spot Stick: This full-sized product claims to zap the spots away. I had a couple of spots on their way out, so I had a quick test of the product last night and again this morning. One side is a night cream, and the other is a day cream. The night cream product stings (dries) the spot when used. This product does not seem to dry my skin out or act too aggressively like similar products from other brands, so I will have a proper test of it next time an acne problem arises.

SoSusan Dual Brown Powder: This full-sized product is my least favourite in the box and one that I will never use. I don't draw on my brows and it does not suit my needs. The biggest problem with it is that both shades of powder are brown. My brows are black, and the darker brown is still too light for me to use. I may be able to use them as an eye shadow. Overall, this is disappointing.

SkinPep Wrinkle Clear Peptide Serum: I am not so keen on this type of product either. I do not have any "fine lines or wrinkles" yet. If I did, this is the type of product that would need to be used and monitored over time. Actually, this product threw me off because I expected a cream, and it's actually a liquid, so too much came out. This is a product that I will be putting away for the future because I do not need to use it now.

With four full-zised products, it is a pity that almost half of the products were of no interest to me. What did you get in your December UK 2014 Glossybox, and were you happy?

My previous 2014 UK Glossybox reviews:

Covent Garden's New Shiny Reindeer

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This year, the large green red-nosed reindeer statue that has graced Covent Garden at Christmas time over the past several years has been replaced by a new fesitve giant redineer. This one is silver and is mounted on a green sleigh. The reindeer has small holes over its body, and it lights a pale blue colour at dark.


While in Covent Garden, you may also see and pet some real reindeer and visit the LEGO Santa and his team of LEGO reindeer a few yards away (Santa and Lego Reindeer for Christmas in Covent Garden).


What do you think of Covent Garden's new reindeer?

Christmas Afternoon Tea at Conrad St. James

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Yesterday I started to get into the Christmas spirit at last. We only returned from holiday on Wednesday night, and I was not feeling my best for the couple of days afterwards. Thankfully, I was feeling a bit better yesterday (even though I still feel like hibernating). I managed to write some Christmas cards and go out for my pre-booked Christmas afternoon tea at Emmeline's Lounge in Conrad St. James.


Emmeline's Lounge was decorated for the holidays with a large decorated tree as a centrepiece in the room. As we started to look at the afternoon tea menu, a small group of carollers entered the room and started to sing Christmas carols. We were sat next to the decorated tree. We sipped our unlimited champagne and listened to the carols.


The savouries were brought out to us onto three tiers. The top tier included brussel sprout salad, served in shot glasses. This was a puree with a cream cheese and brussel sprout taste, and it had quite a strong flavour. The plate also included turkey ballotine (turkey meat formed around stuffing) with cranberry on the side and venison parcels in pastry.


The next tier included the sandwiches: smoked salmon and lemon creme fraiche, beetroot and spinach, and gammon with mustard.


The third tier included four scones wrapped in a fabric napkin. The two scone flavours were orange and cranberry and Christmas spice. These were served with the traditional clotted cream and strawberry jams, but an additional preserve of blackberry curd was included. The scones tasted lovely and fresh.


I cannot forget to mention the tea. I had the Darjeeling tea, which is an easy-going black tea. This was served loose-leaf (the only way one should have tea, in my opinion), and came with a strainer.


After we had finished the savouries and got seconds of some of it, we were finally rewarded with our winter dessert scene. This was carried over to us in a frosted window display over a sheet of slate that contained the edible winterscape. I took quite a few photographs.


When the frosted 'window' was removed, we could take a glimpse at the edible cakes and pastries. They included meringue snowmen, winter berry Christmas tree, white forest yule logs, snowflake ginger macaroons, chocolate and orange battenberg presents, and Christmas postcard marshmallows.


The Christmas tree was my favourite. It was made of berry sorbet and had the richest chocolate 'brownie' base that I've had in a long time. This was delicious. The marshmallows and macaroons were lovely too. I almost forgot to mention this, but the snow that the pastries are sat in and around was also edible and formed of meringue and silver and gold chocolate pieces.


We had a lovely time at Emmeline's Lounge at Conrad St. James, and the Christmas carols and everything made us feel really special. This is one of the best afternoon tea experiences that I have had yet, and it put us in a Christmas mood.

Every Christmas for the past few years, Covent Garden brings us a themed Lego sculpture. This year's Lego is a full-sized Santa, sleigh, and nine reindeer (including Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer). The Lego sculpture in Covent Garden always proves to be popular with visitors to the area. This year's Lego sculpture was created by Duncan Titmarsh, and it took 700,000 bricks and thirty days to complete.


There's even a seat next to Santa so that visitors can sit next to him and get photographs to upload to social media. Visitors are asked to publish their "selfie" photographs to #LEGOsleigh on social media.


The Lego Christmas sculptures will be on display until the 29th of December. Make sure to walk around the sleigh; the gifts in the back of the sleigh are also all made of Lego. 


Last year, visitors could walk through a large snowglobe filled with London monuments made from Lego and the year before, a large Lego advent calendar allowed a 'window' to open up each day to display a surprise Lego Christmas sculpture.  

Thanksgiving was a week ago today. This year, I decided to try something different and go out for Thanksgiving lunch. I reserved a table at Christopher's Grill and Bar in Covent Garden for midday, and we arrived after having a quick look around some of the shops and the Christmas displays. When we arrived, our table was not quite ready for us, so we were seated in the Martini Bar.


The Martini Bar is impressive and a wall of windows lets in a lot of natural light. Each table had a gold mini pumpkin, which I thought was cute.


While we waited for our table, we ordered a couple of cocktails. As it was Thanksgiving, they had a couple of special cocktails on the menu. My partner had the Cranberry Martini, and I had an Apple Pie Martini. The Cranberry Martini contains Vanilla Vodka, Limoncello, Chambord, Ginger Syrup and cranberry juice. 


The Apple Pie Martini contains cinnamon-infused Zubrowka Vodka and fresh apple and maple syrup. I had a taste of the Cranberry Martini, but I much preferred the Apple Pie Martini. It did taste like apple pie. It was delicious, and I would have quite happily had a few more of those had they not been £11.00 a glass.


I watched the staff make our cocktails, and they were delivered to our table (below).


We were then shown to our table upstairs in the dining room. We walked up a spiral staircase with an impressive light/sculpture suspended from the ceiling. 


We were shown our table at the back of the room. (Unfortunately, they would not let us sit by the window, even though the window tables were empty during the duration of our stay; I prefer the window seats as food and drink photographs better in natural light and lack of lighting makes the images look a little grainy.) I was surprised that the restaurant was not nearly as busy as I was expecting. We were the first to arrive and be seated, and by the end of our meal at 13:30, only three or four additional tables were occupied. Many of them were couples like us, but the largest group contained six people.


We were served a choice of bread while we waited, and we had a choice of plain or herb butter to spread. While we waited, I ordered another cocktail, the Hollywood Star. It contains Vodka, apricot liquer, vanilla sugar syrup, lemon and pineapple juice, cherry syrup, and star fruit. Real vanilla beans were used, and you can see them floating in the cocktail photograph below. This also tasted nice, and it set me back £12.00.

Cocktail - Hollywood Star

Our starters arrived. My partner had the Maryland crab cake with rocket salad and red pepper mayonnaise. I had the roast corn and chorizo chowder, which had a vegetarian option that I ordered but failed to arrive as the vegetarian option. Despite this and pushing the chorizo aside, the chowder tasted lovely.

Crab cakes and roast corn chowder

After we finished our starters, the main meals arrived. We both ordered the roast turkey, described as "slow-cooked Ballotine of organic turkey." This was meant to arrive with corn bread, hazelnut and Michigan cherry stuffing, cranberry relish, buttered beans, and creamed potatoes. It did come with an extra miniature sausage too, but we were missing the corn bread. I asked after the corn bread, but the staff did not seem to understand anything and tried to tell me that the stuffing was the corn bread. After some back-and-forth, I think they realised as the manager came over with a plate of cornbread and apologised and stated that it was their first Thanksgiving meal of the day. However, we had nearly finished our meals by the time it arrived.

Turkey and all the trimmings

My verdict on the main meal was that the turkey was a little bland, and I was disappointed overall with the meal. However, we had our desserts to follow so I was excited to see if they could redeem themselves on these. 

I ordered the pumpkin pie with cream chantilly, and my partner ordered the chocolate fudge brownie with raspberries, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Pumpkin pie

For some reason, they cut the crust off my pumpkin pie, so I received the pumpkin triangle slice pictured above. This is a pity, because I do like a little more crust with the pumpkin rather than the little bit of what is underneath the pumpkin. Nonetheless, it was alright but it was not enough to redeem the meal. On the other hand, I had a spoonful of my partner's brownie, and it was delicious.

Chocolate fudge brownie

While I enjoyed aspects of the meal at Christopher's Bar and Grill in Covent Garden, I thought that the price was expensive for what we received. I was not impressed with the main meal, and the staff did not seem to be as responsive as I would have hoped as I had paid quite a bit, and they did not understand the menu. The cocktails (especially the Apple Pie Martini) were quite good but also expensive, and the desserts also tasted nice. Would I go back? I would go back for cocktails and a dessert, but I would not rush back and would not have another meal there.

After our Thanksgiving meal, we went across London to Hyde Park Corner to go to Winter Wonderland. My verdict on the day was that I had fun doing something a little different on Thanksgiving this year, even if it my expectations were not met.

Our first attraction along the Giant's Causeway was Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge; we visited in the morning after staying the night in Ballycastle (with an evening visit to the Dark Hedges). We were actually not quite sure what to expect from the rope bridge as some visitors found the heights and swaying of the bridge to be too frightening. I'm not the best with heights, but I wanted to see if it was really that bad. There is a small entrance fee, but the walk to the rope bridge is about a fifteen or twenty minute walk along an attractive coastal pathway. There are some steps a slight hill climb along the coastal slopes, but it is an easy walk.

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

Our morning was overcast, but fortunately the rain was not pouring down. We arrived a little before the rope bridge was opened for the morning, so our first stop was a car park on the hillside above. We had views over the rope bridge and gave us a glimpse of we were about to get ourselves into. Unfortunately, a large tour bus turned up in the same car park not long after we did and they all piled out to get a glimpse, so we got back in the car and hurried down to the attraction's entrance. 

View of the rope bridge from neighbouring hillside

When the Carrick-a-Rede ticket office opened up, we were the first in queue. The tourist group had turned up, but they were milling around the gift shop and cafe. As a result, we had the pleasant walk to ourselves, though we did walk it quickly so that we could be on the bridge without anyone else in our way. The weather was overcast, but it was a pleasant walk with views over the sea. 

Cliffs on Giant's Causeway coast during the walk to the rope bridge

There were various information boards on the walk to the rope bridge, and some of these informed us about plants and birds and other wildlife that could be discovered. Lucky visitors can see basking sharks or seals. 

Carrick-a-Rede island comes into view

The island of Carrick-a-Rede soon came into our view. Notice the colour of the rocks in the photograph above. The island and area around was an ancient volcano that errupted 60 million years ago. The mouth of the volcano is the chasm that visitors cross when they walk over the rope bridge. 

Approaching the rope bridge

This attraction started its life as a working place. The area was popular with salmon, so fishermen used a bridge to check on salmon nets, which could catch approximately 300 fish a day. In those days, the rope bridge was much less secure. In fact, it only had one hand rail, and the wooden slats were further apart. Fishermen would have to walk across the bridge with only one hand rail, carrying all of their fishing equipment. Some did fall to their deaths here. 

The rope bridge was removed and stored away in the winter months as the fishing did not operate all year around. Since 2002, salmon fishing is banned here as they are endangered, but at one time, approximately 100 people were employed in the fishing trade here.

The rope bridge

We finally arrived at the rope bridge, and there are a few steps to descend to get to the bridge. The cliff drop has railing around it, so there's no chance of falling as long as visitors do not cross the safety railings in place. We walked down the steps to the rope bridge. The rope bridge is 100 feet above the sea, but it was not too frightening at all. 

Crossing the rope bridge to Carrick-a-Rede

We made our way across the rope bridge. It did sway a little bit, but it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Once we put our feet on the solid ground of the island of Carrick-a-Rede, we admired the views. By then, a light rain had arrived, but we enjoyed looking over the sea cliffs and Sheep Island in the distance. A small part of the island is not accessible, and it was popular with seagulls. The stone here is the volcanic rock and has formed in columns similar to the famous rock along the Giant's Causeway coast.

Carrick-a-Rede and Sheep Island in the distance

We saw some beautiful flowers on Carrick-a-Rede. The photograph below shows Sea Pinks.

Sea Pinks

After admiring the views (and getting a little wet), we decided to go back across the rope bridge. By then, the large tour group that we saw on the hill had come across the bridge to the island. Aftering exiting the bridge, we walked up to a different trail on the coastal slopes above to see views over the rope bridge.


We re-joined the main coastal trail and had to rush back to the car as the rain got a little harder. Overall, it was a nice visit and one of the highlights of our trip to Ireland.

Coastal path - Giant's Causeway coast walk

Our next stop would be Giant's Causeway, which is located just up the road from the rope bridge. On the way, we made a stop at Dunseverick Castle, which are striking ruins on the side of sea cliffs. This old fort had royal Irish connections and dated from 500 B.C. and the Kingdom of Dalriada ruled here. An ancient road from Tara (where the kings of Ireland ruled) went directly to this castle. St. Patrick visited the castle in the 5th century. It was attacked and captured by the Vikings in 871, and they later destroyed it in 926. 

Dunseverick Castle

Enchanting Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

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An enchanting roadway of large beech trees on both sides is a popular spot for tourists looking to capture the beauty in photographs and to visit one of the locations for the popular television series Game of Thrones. The trees were planted by the Stuart family who wanted to impress visitors as they approached their home.


The trees look imposing and beautiful in different lighting at different times of the day, in different weather, and in different seasons. When we visited, it was partially-sunny and in the early evening.  


The road was slightly tricky to locate, but the postcode should lead you to the right area and there's a restaurant or hotel nearby that uses part of the name 'dark hedges'. Basically, just drive around the vicinity of the postcode and look out for a row of trees. I believe the postcode took us around to the other side of the road where we could not see the trees, near an old field, so we continued around. 



When we arrived, there was one other parked on the road ahead of us. They had just got out and were taking photographs. They were there a lot longer than we were, still snapping away. Not long after we entered the road, another car turned up. Then another. And another. Pretty soon there were eight cars on this road spoling the view. (Being early evening and approximately 6:30, I would not have expected it to be this busy).


Snapping photographs of the beautiful Dark Hedges was impossible as there were so many people and cars, so we did not stay long. As there was at least one car in most of my photographs, I had to do some photoshop work to a couple of the pictures.


The road is meant to be haunted by a ghost called the 'grey lady' that disappears as soon as she passes the last beech tree.



The beech-tree-lined road is picturesque, so I do recommend it. Perhaps a better time to visit would be very early in the morning, and I think that this would be a beautiful photograph with some fog.

I found a gem of a coffee shop / cafe several weeks ago. This shop, The Antishop, is a recent and welcome addition to Brick Lane. The shop sells sweet and savoury items and drinks. Many of these shops exist on Brick Lane, and I've only tried a handful of them. This one looked welcoming enough and was quiet, so I gave it a chance. I was glad that I did.


The cafe is small inside and features a few tables upstairs. At the time of writing this, I know that they have been busy installing a gallery in the basement. This has probably been completed by the time I get around to publishing this entry.

I've visited a few times now, and the brownie is the best I've had in London. I was actually dubious before I bought it, as 95% of the time, I am disappointed. I purchased it on a whim. Another bakery on the upper part of Brick Lane did have a nice brownie, but I went back a couple of times and they were inconsistent. Rough Trade East have a decent brownie, but you need to be lucky and get one of the ones in the middle of the batch. The Antishop also do a salted caramel version, and this tasted alright, but I am partial to the original chocolatey brownie.


The macaroons were also nice. I've tried a few different flavours. Overall, this is a nice place to sit and relax for a break. Although it is gaining in popularity, I still find it to be a quiet place to have a drink and something sweet. 

The Antishop
80 Brick Lane
E1 6RL

Monday - Sunday: 8am-8pm

For more information, see The Antishop on Facebook.


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