February 2015 Archives

UK 2015 Glossybox Review: February

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Glossybox is a monthly subscription box that sends approximately five samples (or full size) makeup and skincare products. I've been reviewing my items in Glossybox since last summer. This month's theme is "LOVE", and four of the products this month are full size. This is a great box, certainly much better than Birchbox's this month, and it may even be my favourite box from them.


Each box came with a LOVE HEARTS candy/sweets to suit the theme for this month. On to the reviews...


So Susan Rose Quartet Lip & Cheek Palette: This is a cute product, and I love the packaging design for this. There's also a selection of four colours, which can be used on lips or cheeks. A little goes a long way, and the colours are quite bright when applied.

Royal Apothic Tinties (in coral): This product is a tinted moisturising lip balm. I received the coral colour, and I applied a little on my lips and was impressed with the colour. I have very dry lips at the moment as I've been suffering with flu, but I think this is a subtle moisturiser. This also comes in the cutest little pot and the packaging is also designed well. I like this product, and it may be one that I stick with and would purchase. 

B. Cosmetics Mascara: This mascara promises to lengthen, define, and volumise lashes. It can also be used to curl lashes by pushing the lash up with the wand and allowing to dry. The mascara is waterproof. The product also dried well and did not create too much clumping of product on my lashes, like some brands. I like it.

Marsk Mineral Eyeshadow in 'Fifty Shades': I received Marsk eyeshadow in a previous LoveMeBeauty box, before they changed their format. This shade is inspired by the film "Fifty Shades of Grey" and is a shimmery dark grey colour. The colour can be built up by using a wet brush. I like the product. 

Wilkinson Sword Hydro Silk: I am impressed to receive a new razor in my monthly box. This is perfect because I was actually planning to buy a new one. There's also an offer to buy refill blades and receive an extra free razor too, which I did!

What did you think of this month's box? It was a winner for me.

I love history and art, and the large terraced houses belonging to the Huguenot silk weavers have always impressed me; while I was working on Brick Lane and walked by these houses, I often wondered what the lives were like for those who lived there in the 1800s. (I know that tours can be taken at Dennis Severs' house at various times throughout the year, and although I worked on Brick Lane for just over two years, I never got around to booking a tour.) When I saw a display of textile designs was opening in Rodney Archer's house on Fournier Street, I just had to make a reservation during my lunch break on opening day (last Thursday, February 19).


Rodney Archer's house has been left with much of the original interior. He actually purchased the house in the 1980s, before Spitalfields and Shoreditch became the place to be seen, and lived there. The beautiful fireplace, photographed below, is from Oscar Wilde's house. He saw decorators removing it from the house and paid a small amount for it. It's beautiful.


More about Rodney Archer and the house on Fournier Street can be read on Spitalfields Life blog here: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2010/03/06/rodney-archer-aesthete/


The textile patterns on display are from the Antooine Donat Lyons factory, and they were created between 1840 and 1865. The curator, Trevor Newton, discovered the patterns in an abandoned silk mill, and they are so well-preserved and not faded because they had just been forgotten about.


The patterns have instructions on the back about how to create them on the looms, and they are dated. Some have pencil marks on them for corrections or annotations, showing that they were used in the factory. All of them are for sale. 


When I visited on the opening day at noon, the house was busy with people, and many of the textile designs had already been sold. Some of the visitors were extremely enthusiastic about them and bought several of them. The house was busy with people in all of the rooms and hallways, so getting photographs without them was impossible.


Donat's textile patterns were actually on display at the Great Exhibition in 1851.


The setting for this display is perfect in an actual silk weaver's house, and each pattern is shown without a frame and hanging on the walls, framed by the architecture and the interior design of the house.




The display is available to view until March 19, and an appointment must be made in order to see the pieces. The days open are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. For those of you who are interested, head to http://spitalfieldslife.com/2015/02/03/textile-designs-at-rodney-archers-house/ for contact information.

A month ago, I went to Forge & Co in Shoreditch (located on Shoreditch High Street) for lunch and cocktails. Although I have walked past this restaurant hundreds of times in the past two years, I have never been inside it. I kept thinking "I have to try this place", and I finally decided to put this to reality on the spur of the moment. I liked it so much that I intend to go back!

The Columbia Road Spring

In addition to a classic cocktail menu, I noted a special cocktail menu available at Forge & Co. The special cocktail menu included cocktails inspired after places in east London. Options included "The Columbia Road Spring", "Silk Weave Sour", "Docks on the Rocks", "Bethnal Green Blitz" and "Belle of Whitechapel". I choose "The Columbia Road Spring", which sounded like it may be a fragrant and sweet cocktail instead of a strong one. I confirmed with the waitress that it was sweet and not too strong.

Forge & Co menu

"The Columbia Road Spring" is named after the famous east London flower market, of course. It contains rose liquer, lime, cucumber, and Green Chartreuse. This was one of the most delicious cocktails that I have ever had, and it's so easy-going. It came with a petal on top.

Forge & Co

The interior of Forge & Co is modern with a large open plan floor and a bar in one corner. The restaurant was busy for a Thursday lunch time.

Forge & Co

I ordered the corn and herb-fed chicken, which came with sweet potato and coriander. The sweet potato is cubed and roasted. The chicken was tender and came with tasty gravy. I also loved the sweet potato cubes, which were perfect, and I have never been a big fan of sweet potato.


The waitress recommended a side and mentioned the buttered sprouts with bacon, so I ordered those. (The smoked mash is also meant to be good, but I already had sweet potato.)


The food was delicious, and this has become one of my favourite restaurants now and one that I certainly want to visit again.

As the cocktail was nice, I wanted to order another. I was recommended "The Clover Club", which contained Tanqueray, raspberries, lemon and egg white. This was another sweet and fruity cocktail. After finishing that one, I enquired after the other special east London-inspired cocktails on the menu and decided to try either "Docks on the Rocks" or "Silk House Weave", asking her to judge whichever is the less strong-tasting. They brought "Silk House Weave", and it was a little strong for my taste but still enjoyable. 


For dessert, I had the chocolate fondant with chestnut ice cream. Well, it was meant to be chestnut ice cream (I was looking forward to trying a new flavour), but it was actually vanilla. I love good vanilla ice cream, and this hit the spot and went well together. It was not too rich as the outside of the chocolate fondant is a light chocolate sponge cake, and the interior is a liquid chocolate syrup.

Chocolate fondant and vanilla ice cream

Overall, I am very impressed with Forge & Co, and this is one of the best restaurants that I have visited in awhile. I will return, and I recommend it to my readers. 

Forge & Co is located at 154-158 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6HU. The closest station is Shoreditch High Street on London overground. Their website is: http://www.forgeandco.co.uk/

Like all of my previous reviews, I have not been endorsed to write this review and the views are my own.

Recent Street Art by the Rolling People

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The Rolling People and Cept, a collective group of street artists, were particularly busy painting up London's walls last year. Sclater Street was a particular favourite spot for them with new work appearing quite regularly over the summer and autumn months. You can see more of their work in my blog entries here and here. They also painted on the large Village Underground wall a couple of years ago.


Their work uses bright colours and superheroes and characters that do not look out of place in science fiction comics. 




A large mural was painted onto the wall of the Leonard Street car park.


Here's another shot of it with Mysterious Al's green Frankenstein.


Sclater Street was the canvas for a lot of their recent work.


I also captured some of their older work which I have not shown yet, and the older work is below.



Hopefully, the Rolling People will continue painting up the streets of London. Enjoy.

After our visit to Londonderry, we drove up to the Inishowen Peninsula, north of Londonderry and in the Republic of Ireland. The weather was sunny until we got further into the Peninsula, and then we had clouds and a few drops of rain. Inishowen is the most northern part of Ireland and it has a lot of history and some amazing views. Today's plan was mainly to serve as a road trip and to stop off at a few points along the way, including Mamore Gap, Malin Head, Glenvin Waterfall, and Grianan Aileach.

Driving north on the southern part of Inishowen, near Buncrana

We stopped at the tourist information point in Buncrana first, and I realised that there's actually a bit more to do on the Peninsula than what I read in any of the guide books before arriving. There's a fort (Fort Dunree) and a famine centre with reconstructed houses of the period that seems to be interesting, but we did not visit these. I would be interested in visiting these if I ever do find myself in this part of the world again. 

Coast driving north near Buncrana

The scenery along our drive was beautiful, and we caught glimpses of the sea as it opened into the Atlantic ocean. It was only a pity that the sun was not shining on the peninsula as it was in Derry when we left.

Sheep on a small road

We passed the fort mentioned earlier and followed the navigation toward Mamore Gap, toward Clonmany. These were some narrow dirt roads, and we had the roads to ourselves, at least in places. The roads also contained small flocks of sheep in places!

Amazing Grace Country

Finally, we got closer to the mountains and the Mamore Gap road. A sign along the road read "Thank you for visiting Amazing Grace country." This land is famous for the popular song "Amazing Grace", which is often sung in churches. Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and even Susan Boyle have sang the popular song.

The song was written by John Newton, who was a foul-mouthed sailor who worked on the ships for a slave-trading company. Newton ridiculed religion. On a trip back from Africa, a storm off the coast of Donegal nearly claimed the lives of everyone on board the ship, and the captain blamed Newton for the storm. The crew had to repair the ship and stay on Inishowen, and the storm incident and near loss of life caused Newton to change his ways. 

Mamore Gap

We drove further along and finally found our way to the top of the mountain with beautiful views of the sea in front of us. Visibility was not perfect, but we could still see and enjoy the views. 

Shrine and St. Eigne's Well

At the top of the mountain are a couple of little ancient shrines and a religious well, known as St. Eigne's Well. These still function as pilgrimage sites today, and the well is visited in August.

Sheep at Mamore Gap

Of course, sheep were on the mountains at Mamore Gap. I watched this mother sheep with her older lamb. They did not want to hang around us. We admired the views for a few moments and got some photgraphs.

Views from Mamore Gap

View of the mountain

After our visit to Mamore Gap, we drove down the mountain to heard toward Clonmany in order to visit Glenvin Waterfall, which is located on the outskirts of the village at Glen House hotel and tearooms.   

Sea views

Glenvin Waterfall is a fifteen-minute walk away on a well-marked and maintained trail through forest land. Sheep also have use of this land, and there are picnic benches near the beginning of the trail. When we arrived, the rain was coming down really hard. We quickly got our umbrellas out of the back of the car and decided to make the best of it. Had it been nicer weather, a picnic here would have been nice. Luckily, the rain ceased toward the end of the trail, and the sun came out a little. The trail followed a small stream and crossed it with bridges at some points.

Trail to Glenvin Waterfall

At the end of the trail, we saw the beautiful waterfall and took several photographs of it. We then had to make the 15-minute walk back, and I got some photographs of the trail and plants as the rain had stopped by this time.

We stopped at the small shop at the guest house when we returned to the car. The lady told us about the weekend's wash-out strawberry festival that she had the previous day. I wished I had asked for some strawberries and scones and clotted cream to take away!

Trail from Glenvin Waterfall

After the waterfall, we drove up the road to Carndonagh to see Carndonagh Cross. This location was one of the main centres of the early church in Donegal and is meant to have been founded by St. Patrick. This St. Patrick's cross has a drawing of Christ on its east side. The two pillars have carved David the Warior and David the Harpist. The crosses may have been constructed in the 7th century.

Carndonagh Cross

After the quick stop at the cross, we drove up the coast to Malin Head. Malin Head is used in daily shipping forecasts. In 1805, the British built watch towers here to guard against invasions from France in the Napoloeonic Wars. Later on, thest towers were used to communicate with ships offshore and Marconi Wireless Company set up a station in the tower. The concrete bunkers here date from World War II.

Bunkers at Malin Head

Sharks and different types of birds can be seen here, but it was extremely windy at Malin Head, and we did not see any bird or sea life. Someone had gone down toward the coast area and had placed a lot of stones around to form different words, which we thought was clever and must have taken some skill.

Malin Head

We just admired the views for a few minutes because it was so windy and a little chilly.

Malin Head

On the drive back out of Malin Head, we stopped in a small antinques shop along the road with views over the sea. 

View from Malin Head

A few of the cottages along this road were much older and looked picturesque. They reminded me of the cottages we saw in the folk village. I think these cottages would be dark inside, though, as there are not many windows. I imagine that they are quite warm inside as they do not have windows on the front side that is facing the sea.

Traditional cottage in Ireland on Malin Head

We stopped at a small cafe on the way out of Malin Head and had a quick lunch of toasted sandwiches before we continued on our journey. It was time to leave Inishowen Peninsula with one last stop off at Grianan Ailigh (Grianan of Aileach), an ancient stone fort on top of a hill at the southern edge of Inishowen. To get there, we had to drive up another large hill, but we were rewarded with excellent views. Of course, the weather just off the main part of the peninsula was sunny and warm. 

View over hills from Grianan of Aileach fort

Grianan Ailligh is an ancient and large stone fort built on a hillside on the southern side of Inishowen, though technically not really on the main part of the peninsula. This fort was probably built around the time of the birth of Christ, and it was probably built here because nearby there is a sacred monument of a Neolithic burial mound (3,000BC). The fort is a very short walk from the car parking, so we walked up to it.

Grianan of Aileach

The walls of Grianan Ailigh are 4.5 meters thick. Two passages exist inside the wall and are 5meters high. An ancient roadway leads to the fort, and earlier forts also existed in this location.

Grianan Ailligh

I found the fortress fascinating. Climbing around the steps and seeing the views from this fortress was fun, and I could see for miles.






The stones are so thick, and I was impressed by the size of this stone above the door and how huge this stone is and how much it must weigh to have been maneouvered into this position.

Grianan Aileach doorway

Just to the south of the fortress is St. Patrick's well. These water features were probably well-regarded before Christianity but then taken over as important places by the early Christains to help the spread their religion.

Grianan Aileach and flowers

On the walk down the hill, I got some photographs of some pretty late spring flowers. After our visit to the hill fort, we got back into the car and headed toward Glenveagh National Park. Unfortunately, the traffic was very bad around on the way to and in the town of Letterkenny, so we were a little bit pushed for time and had to rush our next tour. By this time, the weather was perfect. We had sun, and the temperature was warm. Come back to read my post of Glenveagh Castle.

Changes and Goodbyes

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

On Friday, I said goodbye to my colleagues and clients as I embark on new challenges. I became a web development contractor a little over two years ago, and the design and media agency that I have been working for was the first contract that I have had. I have been there for just over two years and was hired for a large-scale project for a global car/motorcycle brand. I spent my first month on maintanance for an oil company's website before joining the large project that I was hired for.

Welcome to Shoreditch; please don't laugh at the locals

Before Christmas, they wanted to extend my contract six months, but I was worried about the "two year rule" (in contracting terms, this means that the government assumes you are permanent and will not allow you to claim expenses). The negotiation happened before Christmas break-up, so we hurriedly put through one month with the idea to extend in the new year when we had time and everyone was back from the holidays. However, the company decided to cut costs by cutting contractors at the time that my contract was up for renewal. They managed to hold on to me for one more month as otherwise they had no replacements ready, and I have been super-busy on that project. The past eighteen months have been particularly busy, and we've been under-staffed and promised another developer with the same skills, but that never materialised.

Brick Lane from the meeting room

I agreed to stay for one month and also received another position right after I renewed my one-month extension. I'll be starting my new position immediately, and that's exciting. However, this means that I will no longer be working on Brick Lane in London or in London for the next few months. The new company is based in the midlands, and I will be working from home after the initial first two weeks. I am happy that I do not have the long nearly-four hour daily commute to Brick Lane, which was slowly killing me. I will, of course, return to London on the weekends every now and again to get photographs of new street art and visit other interesting places. (I have noticed the progression of a new mural on the Village Underground wall, which I was disappointed to see was not going to be finished before Friday, so I will have to return to London one weekend in mid-March to get a photograph.)

Commute work, commute die

Last week was extremely busy and also sad as I'd been working with the same group of people for so long, and we made a really good team. I finally managed to get a couple of developers to hand over the past two years' worth of work to, but they only had three days with me and were thrown into the deep end a little bit.

The majority of the websites for the different European countries and divisions are now live, and we actually had two new websites launch this week. I will be adding some information about the websites soon. Hurrah! I hope it continues to go well. On to the next challenge for me...

Ampersand Hotel's Science Afternoon Tea

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

At the end of January, we went to Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington in order to indulge in our first afternoon tea of the year. Afternoon tea at the Ampersand Hotel begins at 2:30 in the afternoon in The Drawing Rooms. When we arrived at South Kensington, we had nearly two hours, which I envisioned would be spent walking around the Natural History Museum and the National Science Museum, befitting of our science-themed afternoon tea to follow. However, both of these museums had horrendous queues, and everyone (with children in tow) seemed to decide to visit. (The Natural History Museum was in the news a couple of days prior to our visit for informing that the dinosaur in the entrance of the museum would be replaced with the skeleton of a whale, so this may have increased the popularity of the museums that weekend.)


We had a quick look around the Victoria and Albert Museum, which did not have any queues. It was also busy, and we wandered around and found a room showing films with old footage. There was a documentary about the Crystal Palace that we watched. I've always been fascinated by the Crystal Palace. When we exited the museum, we had some rain but we soon arrived at the hotel, which is almost opposite the South Kensington tube station.


The Ampersand Hotel is a botique hotel. The interior of the Drawing Rooms and the lunch room next door look vintage but chic. The lunch room area is much larger and has pastries and desserts out on display. The Drawing Rooms is a smaller area at the entrance of the hotel. Blue carpets and chairs, stylish lights and wallpaper were the design of the room. Canvases decorated with animals in wine glasses were scattered around the room, and I liked the blue parrot-in-a-wine-glass.



The hotel seemed short-staffed when we visited. We were seated and given the menus, but they forgot about the champagne that I'd ordered and I had to ask them again for it. We were finally given it in the middle of our sandwiches. 


I ordered the Darjeeling black tea, and my partner ordered a jasmine tea. The tea is loose leaf and the ceramic tea kettle can be topped up with more water throughout. 


The sandwiches for the Science Afternoon Tea are a little different to other afternoon teas; they are savoury gougeres (flakey pastry similar to a croissant instead of bread). The fillings included Gloucester old spot ham, smoked salmon and cream cheese, coronation chicken, and cheese with fruit chutney. These were alright, but I am not too fond of the type of pastry.


The second tier up contained the scones, and these are absolutely delicious. The scones are white chocolate and served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. They were among the best that I have ever had. 


Last but not least were the pastries. The waitress poured dry ice in a bowl around one of the pastries so that they would 'smoke' and look like a science experiment. This was amazing, and I took a lot of photographs of it as it smoked away.


The pastries included a Hazelnut, walnut and chocolate cake with mango mousse 'volcano' and meringue 'rocks'. I thought this tasted like salted caramel and could not really finish it as I am not a big fan of salted caramel. This tasted a little too salty for my liking, and I could not even taste the mango. This included a chocolate dinosaur on top. Each afternoon tea contained two chocolate dinosaurs - one white and one dark.


Next up was a pistachio macaroon with cherry sauce in a little plastic 'pipe' beaker.


Following that, we each had a  raspberry cake planet, made with raspberry sponge. White chocolate made the planet's ring. 


Last but not least was a green citrus cocktail provided in a beaker. This tasted nice. The dinosaurs seemed almost too 'cute' to eat, and we saved them to last. 

My favourite part of this afternoon tea were the delicious scones and the dry ice being added to the plate to produce smoke to make this afternoon tea feel extra special. Service was friendly enough, but they did seem to be short-staffed, and I kept having to ask whenever I needed something; we were not asked throughout our tea how things were or if we needed more water for the tea. At the end, they accidentally overcharged me, and I had to sort out with the manager following my visit for a refund on the overcharged amount. Fixing the issues with the service would have made a better experience for us.

At the end of January, the bloke and I visited Le Chalet, a pop-up restaurant on the roof of Selfridges on Oxford Street, run by "Q Grill" and branded "Le Chalet". The restaurant has a winter and alpine ski lodge theme with cocktails and food inspired by the winter months.


I wanted to visit "Le Chalet" in December, but we just ran out of time as December was busy for us, and the restaurant was extremely popular with everyone who decided to head to Oxford Street to shop for gifts. As a result, I resorted to booking a table in January on the last Friday in January after work. I'd previously gone to the pub for lunch with colleagues earlier that day and I was feeling worn down as the week had been a stressful one. By the time we arrived at our 6:30 booking, I was feeling exhausted and drained of all energy.


We were seated by the window, but we could not really see the view outside as it was dark. I would like to see what the restaurant looks like in the light. The window area was chilly, though, so each seat had a woolen blanket, which I used to drape around my arms.


We ordered our cocktails first. I ordered "Winter Orchard", which contained Beefeater, Poire William, apple juice, and Fireball. The bloke ordered Honeycomb Old Fashioned, which is a whisky cocktail with honeycomb.


The interior is decorated with fairy lights and pine trees and wintery decorations. 


For starters, we ordered the "toasted ancient loaf with salted butter". This came with separate butter and salt to dip the bread in. The bread tasted nice with both the butter and the salt.


I ordered the buttermilk chicken schnitzl with blue cheese fondue. The food was delicious.


We ordered two sides: a side of broccoli with chili and garlic and a side of tartiflette potatoes. My partner ordered the coal charred Suffolk pork chop.


For desserts, we ordered ice cream and sorbet. My partner had lemon sorbet and vanilla ice cream. I ordered a lemon sorbet on its own. I tried a bite of the vanilla ice cream, and it was delicious.

I was so full that I almost missed dessert; I would have loved to have tried one of the other desserts, but I could not even finish my chicken. 


Overall, the food was delicious. This is certainly one of the better restaurants that I have been to. The cocktails were perhaps a little too strong for my taste, but I would have liked to have tried a hot chocolate cocktail as they are quite popular. By the middle of the meal, I was actually extremely exhausted and just wanted to be at home and could not stop yawning. Yes, it had been a stressful week at work and I received some unfortunate news the evening before my visit.

I would visit again to try a chocolate cocktail and a dessert and admire the decor during the day, but I am unlikely to get the opportunity to do this now. "Le Chalet" are open and serving on the rooftop of Selfridges department store on Oxford Street (London) until the end of March if I have inspired you to go. Make sure that you make a reservation in advance to avoid disappointment. 

Spitalfields Great Pancake Day Race 2015

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

After watching the Spitalfields Pancake Race just off of Brick Lane last year (Spitalfields Pancake Race 2014) and the year before (Spitalfields Pancake Race 2013), I decided to watch the Pancake Day race again this year. The Great Spitalfields Pancake Race is located just off of Brick Lane on Dray Walk, literally opposite the office where I currently work. Perfect!  


Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, takes place a few weeks before Easter. This is traditionally the day before fasting began, so milk and eggs and other products would need to be used up. The day was a 'half-holiday' at one time in England. Pancake races were a tradition and held in villages and towns. These events are not so common anymore, but there are a few in London - South Bank, Westminster, Leadenhall Market, and this one at Spitalfields.

The Spitalfields Pancake Day Race raises money for charity for the London Air Ambulance. The winner of the race receives a special engraved frying pan, and there are also awards for the best costume. This year, the two 'clowns' from the previous years were there, and they were joined by a new female 'clown'.


This year's event was three times as busy as the previous year's, and it was a bit too busy for my liking. I believe the extra crowds were due to more publicising as well as Pancake Day taking place in the middle of half-term week this week. I noticed a lot of children and families watching this year's race, and I had not noticed that previously.


In the past two years, entrants included Spitalfields City Farm, Cath Kidston, Aldgate Towers (construction), women celebrating their 60th birthday, and the Tramshed. This year, we had entrants from Cafe Galvin restaurant, another construction company, Big Chill Bar, and Tatty Devine. Spitalfields City Farm was in the previous two years, but they were missing this year.


Creative costumes included pirates, Where's Waldo (or Wally or any other names he goes by), egg-splats, and super heroes. Without further delay, the remainder of my photographs from Pancake Day 2015 are below.

The winners of the race this year were nfpSynergy. Best-behaved were a mother and her young children, dubbed "Two Point Four Children". The best-dressed went to The Rotters, which was a group comprised of two children. I actually liked the group dressed as pirates, the "Where's Wally" and Tatty Devine's smashed-egg-on-head. If I had to choose a winner, I would have a difficult time!

This was followed up with a trip to The Diner in Spitalfields Market, where I had my own pancakes. The Diner actually has a special Pancake Day pancake menu. I ordered the Oreo pancakes with marshmallow fluff. I also ordered a side of bacon, and it came with maple syrup as well. They were good. Red velvet cupcakes and savoury ones could also be enjoyed.


Newest Street Art by Art is Trash

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

At the end of last year, Francisco da Pajaro ("Art is Trash") came back to London and created some new artwork on the streets, featuring trash and other discarded items. He came to London initially during the summer of 2013 and created so many pieces, and I covered as many of those that I could photograph here (Street Art: Art is Trash Francisco da Pajaro). His work was highly regarded and covered in the media at that time.


The artist is originally from Barcelona, Spain. As the artwork is made out of trash, it does not last long at all before it is torn apart of taken away by the garbage collectors.


One of the better pieces that I saw featured an abandoned chair, which was transformed into a figure. This became a tribute to the street artist Robbo, who passed away earlier last year and who currently has many street art tributes dotted around east London after all this time.


Below are some of the photographs that I got of various pieces and drawings around east London. There's a lot more that I did not get to photograph, and these can be seen on the artist's official website.



Francisco da Pajaro's official website: http://www.franciscodepajaro.com

UK 2015 Birchbox Reviews: February

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

February's Birchbox theme was "Birchbox Loves", but this was one box that I was not in love with! (For those who do not know, Birchbox is a monthly subscription box containing five or six samples of beauty and skincare products.)

As stated, I was not happy with this month's Birchbox. I'd previously received two of the products (theBalm Stainiac and Caudalie Vinoperfect), and I was not keen on this products at all. I let Birchbox know, but they did not do anything about this. I received a Caudalie Vinoperfect product item in my very first Birchbox (June 2014), and I am just not keen on the range or the brand at all. Additionally, I have been wanting to try products from theBalm, but this was one product that I had previously and did not like at all. I received this product from Birchbox when I ordered the MysteryDuo. (In fact, I got the Stainiac and an oil by Caudalie, so talk about super-disappointed.) Well, onto the reviews...


London Butterflies Whipped Body Butter: I loved the packaging by London Butterflies. This product came sealed in a glass jar in a brightly-coloured square box. The product is a pale pink colour, and it melts into the skin without feeling heavy or greasy. It also has a light floral scent.

theBalm Stainiac lip and cheek tint: This was a product that I had previously received from Birchbox, but I was not keen on it. It's a lip and cheek stain. It's just not the type of product that I use, and I found it to be a little bright and a bit sticky. I really would love to try other products from this brand as I've not been lucky to receive any, but I love the packaging design on their other products.

Cynthia Rowley eyeliner pencil: This black eyeliner pencil is easy to apply and simply glides on. This is my favourite item in the box.

Caudalie Vinoperfect serum: This is another duplicate product that I received in my June box. I am not keen on the Caudalie brand as I am not convinced by it and did not enjoy using the products. 

Green People Intensive Repair Shampoo: This product is for dry, chemically-treated, dyed, or constantly blow-dried hair. I am actually not sure why I received this product because none of the above apply; my hair is healthy and not 'dry'. However, the product is marketed as natural and a little is meant to go a long way. I'm not blown away by this product as it does not suit my needs. It seems to work okay as well as shampoos go.


Every subscriber also received Oats + Chia from The Chia Co this month. I received the chia seeds a few boxes ago but was not really convinced. This time, I received the chia seeds mixed with oats. The packaging mentions that water should be added to the mix. I dislike the texture.

I certainly hope that March's box is a lot better. Birchbox have a way to go to convince me to continue my subscription after May. This month, they took a couple of steps back, and their rate for me has been roughly 50/50. I also subscribe to Glossybox, so it may be that I keep one subscription box and discontinue the other.

This Valentine's Day, I had reserved spaces for the bloke and I to go to Swingers. Before I continue - No, not *that* kind of event; Swingers is a pop-up crazy golf course located in Shoreditch. The pop-up nine-hole golf course (with bar, street food, and music available) opened in September last year. It closes at the end of this month, and advance tickets for golf are sold out, but tickets to access the venue (grounds tickets) can still be purchased. It's possible to get a ticket for the venue and buy tickets for golf, as long as they're not too busy.


Our journey started in Basingstoke (dubbed 'Beautiful Basingstoke' today) where we got the train to London. Basingstoke train station had Valentine's Day balloons and hearts all over the place, and London Waterloo became "London Waterlove" for the day! All of the stations were given romanticised names as South West Trains embarked upon their social media campaign #SWTValentine. Note that our train was running late! No surprises there...


After arriving into Waterloo, we made our way across London to Shoreditch where the venue is located in an old warehouse off of Curtain Road. Our slot was the 12:30 slot, and that is also the time that they open. 


We were among the first to enter, so we were the very first two to play our round of golf. We were also told that since we were first, we'd get through the nine-hole course very quickly and could come back to play another round.


We received our golf clubs, balls (I had a green one and the partner had a red one) and score card and hit the course. I needed a little bit of practice as it's been a few years since I have played a game of crazy (putt putt or miniature) golf.


As we started to play our second hole, we were asked if we wanted to place an order for drinks. The staff at Swingers do come around to ask players if they'd like to order a drink. You do need to have cash to pay for it. We ordered a couple of drinks and resumed our game.


The nine courses were all varying in difficulty. I took a photograph of a few of the different holes. One required getting the ball to go inside a loop-de-loop. Another required hitting the ball up a spiral ramp. Others required going around a 'pond' or on a narrow patch between sand bars. 


After our two games, we decided to grab our lunch. As it was Valentine's Day, they were giving out free glasses of rose sparkling Cava (CordonRosado) at the food ordering point. We each got a glass.


My partner ordered from "Flippin Cow", which sold a selection of hamburgers and a chicken burger option. His included cheese and onion rings on the burger, and they do include a signature relish, but he had his without this. We had to wait awhile for his to be ready, so I watched them cooking the burgers at the back of their pop-up. They used a blow torch to melt the cheese around the burgers. According to the SwingersLDN website, different street food stalls serve guests during the duration of the pop-up, and Flippin Cow is in residency here for one month.


I ordered the cheese pizza from "Pizza Pilgrims". I have never had pizza from them before, but I have heard that it is meant to be good pizza. And I was not disappointed. The pizza was delicious with slightly chewy and tasty bread and delicious cheese and sauce. "Pizza Pilgrims" is their permanent street food vendor for the duration of the pop-up.


A long bar area is also available, and they do have themed cocktails, but we did not have any. (I may have had one had I seen the cocktail menus available). Each day also has its own DJ with the main party happening in the evenings. The music being played was love songs for Valentine's Day, and I'm glad that the music was alright and nothing tacky. When I think of love songs, I tend to think of cheesey 1980s power ballads, which I really dislike. I'm glad I was not forced to suffer to this type of music while I chewed on my pizza and sipped my rose Cava.


We had an awesome fun day, and I'm glad we got to go; it did make a good Valentine's Day activity. I'd originally planned to go after work (as I work in east London and about a ten or fifteen-minute walk from the venue), but the tickets for the after-work slot had all been booked by the times I went to check for more tickets.

For more information about this pop-up and to make a reservation, visit their website at http://swingersldn.co.uk.  

Happy Valentine's Street Art and Update

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Happy Valentine's Day to my readers. I had my free tour of London's new Walkie Talkie tower (20 Fenchurch Street) today during my lunch hour, so photographs and a write-up will be appearing soon. I've also got many more interesting pieces in store over the coming weeks, as soon as I am able to find some free time to edit the photographs and write about them. This past weekend, I was extremely ill and did not leave my bed from Friday early evening. Whatever the bug was, it floored me for a few days. The cough and congestion continue to linger, and I've only got about 85% of my ability to taste. 


A couple of days ago, I had a wander around Shoreditch and Brick Lane to see if any new street art pieces had appeared. I found this little gem on the Pedley Street disused Shoreditch underground station. The piece is by Graffiti Life, a collective group of artists who paint custom street art and advertisements for brands and the occassional piece on a couple of different walls in east London. The walls of the disused underground station is one of the places that they share with other street artists, though some disregard them as they are not the typical "street artist" and are a bit more commercialised.

I have liked some of their work in the past, and this piece is another "win" for me. It brought a smile to my face because it features in a classic episode of The Simpsons. The not-too-bright policeman's son, Ralph Wiggum, gave this Valentine's Day card to Lisa Simpson. The card shows a smiley "Simpsons-style" caricature of a train with the play on words "I choo choo choose you" above it in the smoke. The train's face looks a little like Ralph Wiggum, and everytime I read the "I choo choo choose you", I hear his silly voice. By the way, I can do a pretty good impression of Ralph Wiggum.

Whatever you plan to do this weekend, I hope that a good time is had by everyone. Enjoy!

Street Art: Crisp

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Street artist Crisp, originally from Australia, is not a stranger to London. He's currently based in Colombia, but he visited London recently and pasted up some tribal masks in east London. I managed to photograph several of these on my various walks around east London. Masks do seem to be a popular subject in street art in the past year; French street artist Gregos pasted some masks up early last year, and Yazz did the same at the end of the summer.


Apologies for the poor photographs of the artwork below. I only had my mobile phone with me on the days that I walked around to take the photographs as my standard compact camera has fluff inside the lens. The image above is taken with my Leica, but it's a little too large to lug about on a daily basis.  


Crisp's masks are tribal-inspired with black line patterns and bright colours. 

I recognised some of his stencil work from a few years ago now, which normally feature social and/or political messages. If I am correct, I don't think the artist produced any art in London since 2012.

View Crisp's photostream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/67908889@N05/
Official website: http://www.crispstreetart.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Crispstreetart

Days Out: ArcelorMittal Orbit

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The ArcelorMittal Orbit is an 115-metre tall architectual sculpture (tower) that was designed by Anish Kapoor. It is located in London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the Stratford area of east London, and it was built in 2012 for the Olympic games. The sculpture gets its name from the steel company, AcelorMittal, because they funded part of the cost. The sculpture tower closed after the Olympic Games (due to the land around it and temporary buildings being cleared) but reopened in the spring of 2014.

AcelorMittal Orbit

The sculpture is meant to be viewed at different angles. From the ground, each angle of the sculpture looks a little different as the red steel winds its way up the central column. When I first saw a photograph of this, it reminded me of a theme park ride.

ArcelorMittal in Olympic Park 

During the Olympic Games, I could have got tickets for the Orbit as I saw them available, but I did not have tickets to the Olympic Park at the time. Then, tickets to the Olympic park became available, and the Orbit tickets for the same day were no longer available. D'oh!

Top observation area

We arrived at the tower and admired the view of it. While on our way to the lift to the top, we were told about the large steel 'bell' at the bottom of the structure and how it was meant to look 'rusty' and imposing. After admiring the size of it, we took the lift up to the top to the top-most observation deck.


We saw views over the City of London and the Shard.

Olympic Stadium

We saw views of the main Olympic Stadium and could see inside it where construction vehicles and diggers were doing some work. I could imagine what it would be like on top of this sculpture during the Olympic Games and the views inside the stadium. The atmosphere was amazing during the Olympic Games, and the park was so busy. It's now only a shadow of its former glory with empty land and construction vehicles dotted around.  

View of the City

Looking east, we saw new flat developments. The colourful ones were built as accommodation for the athletes but have been sold as flats to Londoners.


The Aquatics Stadium is located just to the north with the large shopping mall, Westfield Stratford, behind it and off to the side.


After spending our time looking around and admiring the view, we decided to leave the tower via the staircase that winds slowly down the sculpture. After each few steps, we were treated to a different soundscape as we descended. The soundscapes included the Orbit under construction at various points in time, a nature reserve, Columbia Road Sunday flower market, Brick Lane's Sunday market, Bow bells, and sounds from Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Descending the Orbit

I visited ArcelorMittal Orbit on the day that the London Bus charity sculptures for 'Year of the Bus' were on display in the Olympic Park, so I got a photograph of some of these buses on the bridge as I descended the Orbit.

'Year of the Bus' sculptures

I got a final photograph of the Orbit with a hazey January sun in the background.


Have you been to the AcelorMittal Orbit? Were you lucky enough to visit it during the Olympics? Apparently four proposals happened on the top of the tower, and three of these were during the Olympics. This year, you can also absail down the tower.

Londonderry Derry and the City Walls Walk

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

After spending the day exploring the Causeway Coast, we continued on our journey to Derry (Londonderry), which is a city in Northern Ireland that's close to the border of the Republic of Ireland. This city was our stop for the evening before continuing on our Ireland road trip. The City Walls and the political Bogside Murals are two of the major sights to see for tourists. There's also a couple of attractive churches and a craft centre and guildhall. The majority of our time in Derry was spent walking the city walls.

A dog stands outside his home near St. Columb's Cathedral

The city walls of Derry are the only remaining intact city walls in Ireland, and they were never breached. The city of Derry's nickname is "The Maiden City" comes from this fact.

Our bed and breakfast for the night was located in this area of Derry, so our city walls journey started here. On the walk to the walls, we looked at the Bogside murals. Bogside is also the part of Derry where the Troubles took place. The area is still a working class area, and with all of the reminders of this sad event, it does bring about a strange feeling.

We entered the wall walk at Butcher's Gate, which used to be the location of a whiskey distillery that shut in 1921 but was once the best-selling whiskey company to the USA market.


We went off the wall briefly to check out the city. The main two streets of Derry are built in a grid and intersect at area is known as "the diamond" (what the Irish call their "town square"). 


On one of the streets up to the diamond, I discovered a building draped in a large patchwork quilt.


After a small diversion, we climbed back onto the walls to continue the wall walk. One of the first gates we came to was Castle Gate. Castle Gate is named after a 15th century castle that used to occupy the same spot. The city of Londonderry survived two sieges without the enemy pentrating its walls, but the city outgrew its walls in the 18th century. Castle Gate was built for increased traffic at that time. It's one of the new gates added to the city walls.

During the Troubles, there was a checkpoint at main gates to the city, and people would be stopped and questioned (or searched) during a visit to the city because there were a lot of bomb scares and protests.


Not far from Castle Gate, before Magazine Gate, is Hangman's Bastion. This bastion got its name because a man nearly killed himself when he became trapped in ropes when he attempted to escape. There were eight bastions around the city walls, and four were large enough to have four cannons.


After arriving around Shipquay Gate/Magazine Gate area, we left the walls and had a look at the Craft Village and the guildhall. The Craft Village and traditional thatched cottage were constructed in the 1980s to give the city pride in their shared history. 

Craft Village

We admired the Guildhall, which is next to Shipquay Gate. During Halloween, the Guildhall home to Ireland's largest Halloween carnival. Live music and fireworks take place, and this would be amazing to visit one year. Halloween is not a big event in England, and I've always enjoyed the holiday. (The university that I graduated with my Bachelor's degree from in the US was known to have the livliest and largest Halloween parties.) 


(The next day, we returned to the Guildhall to go inside it as we had heard that it was beautiful. Unfortunately, a private event was happening in the big room upstairs, so we were unable to enter.)


The next gate that we came to was Shipquay Gate. It was here that we read more about the city walls of Derry. An explosion in the cathedral in 1567 destroyed most of the town, so queen Elizabeth instructed a new fortified town to be built to protect it from local Irish chiefs. Derry became the first planned town, and it was funded by merchant companies in the City of London in return for grants of land in Northern Ireland. The city walls were built between 1614 and 1618 and are 1.5km long and eight meters high. In some places, they are 9 meters wide. Originally, only four gates were constructed and two of these had drawbridges. On the side opposite the bog (Bogside), a dry ditch was dug for added protection.


The names of the gates refer to the city's past. Shipquay Gate was named because boats were tied up there until the 18th century to ferry people across the river. (The street was named Bridge Street after a bridge was built over the river, decommissioning the ferry.)


A little further along the walls is Ferryquay Gate. Ferryquay Gate was built in 1865 on the site of one of four entrances to the city. It had a drawbridge to allow people to cross over the dry moat. In 1688, this gate was locked by the fourteen Apprentice Boys as they waited on city leaders to make up their mind about King James II's proposal to replace a Protestant garrison with Catholics.

Ferryquay Gate

The carved heads above the archways in the gate are of Governor George Walker and Rev James Gordon who urged citizens to refuse James II's troops. After the refusal and the locking of the gates, the city was under siege in 1689. A small boy was able to get through the gate here to relay messages to the outside world about the siege. Times were tough and the city started to run out of food. Food was rationed, and city occupants had to eat rats, mice, and domestic pets to survive. There were also stories of bringing dead horses in from the battle to be eaten.


Further along the walls is Newgate Bastion. The first shot of the siege of 1689 was fired here. Near this gate was Ireland's first covered market and St. Columb's Hall. The Hall was used to practice abstinence from alcohol, housed a school, and hosted pantomime. In 1970, Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana made her first stage appearance in the Hall. The Millennium Forum theatre is also near here, and it was opened in 2001.


After crossing over Newgate, we came to St. Columb's Cathedral and read about its history. The church's tower became a signalling port and lookout post, and a flag was used to be put on top of the spire to signal ships. During the siege, the lead from the spire was used to make bullets.

The cathedral is also said to have inspired the hymn "Amazing Grace" after the writer, a slave-trader who repented his actions, nearly died during a shipwreck off Inoshowen peninsula. Writer of several hymns, Cecil Frances Alexander, worshipped here. 


After returning to the walls from a brief look at St. Columb's, we came to Church Bastion. Two watchtowers were built here, near the cathedral, because the guards complained about having to stand watch in the rain. The bastions became gardens in the 19th century, and most of the towers were demolished. 

A maze of tunnels is under the city to allow soldiers to move around without having to go above ground. One entrance can be seen near here.


Bishop's Gate was the next gate that we came to, and it is the final gate on the walk. This gate crosses over Bishop's Street. Marks of Marks & Spencer opened a market here in 1909.


We came to another bastion, located at the end of the Grand Parade section of the city walls. At Double Bastion is Roaring Meg, the most famous canon. It could take up to 6 men to fire her, and she did see action during the 1689 siege. The force of the shot could make the canon roll back six meters. In the 18th century, a windmill and pleasure gardens were placed on the slopes below with a grove of Spanish chestnut trees and a classical casino.

Roaring Meg

The Grand Parade is the longest and straightest area of the walls, and I thought that it was the most attractive. Fourteen sycamore trees are planted on the walls. They symbolise the thirteen Apprentice Boys and their lookout. The fruit of sycamore looks like a bunch of keys, so they represent the keys to the city.


The Grand Parade was used for exercises and parades during the 18th century, and it was a fashionable to pramenade along it. It was laid out like a garden. A monestary was built here, at the top of the hill, and it was replaced by an abbey in the 13th century. It served as a church until St. Columb's Cathedral was completed in 1633.


St. Augustine's Church is at the other end of the Grand Parade. 


Opposite St. Augustine's is Royal Bastion. One of the soldiers, Robert Lundy, refused to admit additional troops to the city during the siege, and he was considered a traitor and replaced. During the centenary of the shutting of the gates in 1788, a crowd burned an effigy after parading it through the streets. The tradition continues each year at dusk on a Saturday in early December.

Have you visited Derry and walked the city walls? 

Our next stop on the Ireland road trip was Londonderry (Derry). We visited after stopping at Dunluce Castle on Giant's Causeway. This post features the bogside murals of Derry.

Derry's population has a large number of Protestants, and according to signage there, it probably had the largest Catholic discrimination in the northern part of Ireland. In the 1960s, Civil Rights became popular and and citizens of Derry took note of what was happening across the world and started peaceful demonstrations against discrimination. However, the police broke up the peaceful demonstrations with some force.

You are now entering free Derry

After the protests and riots in 1969, the slogan "You are now entering free Derry" was painted on the side of a building. It has become a symbol of resistance. The houses on this street (Lecky Road) were all destroyed in 1975, but this one wall of a house remains with the slogan repainted onto it.


Many of the street art murals in Derry have the political themes and themes of the Troubles. Civil Rights, peace, and war are other themes of the Bogside Murals. (Belfast's murals also focus on these themes as well as religious, famous people, victims of the Troubles, and neutral subjects.) The Bogside Artists (http://www.bogsideartists.com), who created the murals in Derry, refer to their murals as "The People's Gallery".


On July 30, 1972 at 4:00 in the morning, "Free Derry" (Bogside) was invaded by British troops in armoured vehicles. Operation Motorman, as it was called, tore down barricades with bulldozers. The mural artists decided to depict an individual hammering through a wall to represent this, and the title of the work is called "Motorman".







A couple of the murals we noticed had been damaged with paint.


One of the saddest murals we saw was the one below, titled "Death of Innocence". It shows Anette McGavigan, who was shot by a British soldier. She was the 100th victim and one of the first children to be killed during the Troubles. 




We also saw a clay brick face sticking out of the brickwork.  


The Bogside murals and the murals of Belfast are traditionally painted in working class areas of the city. From the Londonderry City walls, you can actually see some of the murals. The area may feel a little daunting with the murals and its sad history, but it was not. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Bogside and did not have any problems in Londonderry at all. So, let's hope for peace.

Bogside and murals from Londonderry city walls

In my next Ireland post, I will be looking at Londonderry and the City Walls walk. 

Hoxton, London

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Hoxton is an area of London located north of the City. Originally a village, Hoxton was located about a mile outside of the city walls, separated by moorfields. Its name (ton) derives from a farmstead, owned by Hocs/Hocqs (or a similar spelling). London's old city walls were demolished in the early 1400s and Moorgate was built so that people from the City could easily visit the village of Hoxton and enjoy its popular gardens. In the Victorian times, railways took the rich from Hoxton and left those living in poverty in the area. Almeshouses and an asylum (its remains are part of the community college) were built in Hoxton, and it was a place that attracted non-Conformists who did not have to adhere to any laws outside the City. Hoxton has quite a bit of history and has changed a lot over the years. 

As mentioned, Hoxton is not far from the City of London, and the City's tall buildings can be seen from Hoxton Market. 

Looking south toward the City from Hoxton

Hoxton Community Trust Gardens is a small patch of green land with a clock tower that originally belonged to a hospital. When this was demolished to make way for Homerton Hospital, the clock tower was put into the gardens.

Hoxton Trust Community Gardens

Hoxton Market and the patch of green square pictured above are located north of Hoxton Square.

St. John's Church, Hoxton

Hoxton Street Market takes place on Saturdays, and the sign at the northern end of the street marks the end of the street market. Modern houses are built just to the north.

Hoxton Market

Hoxton contained many workhouses for the poor, and one of them is the building below, labelled "St. Leonard Shoreditch Offices for the Relief of the Poor". It was a workhouse, though, and not an office.

Buildings in Hoxton

Hoxton is historically noted for cloth selling (haberdashers), and the guild was here. Perhaps this is what inspired the items on the Hoxton Street Market signage.

 Hoxton Street Market sign

In 2013, the council have worked hard on publicising the street market.

Hoxton Buildings

Hoxton was also the location of Gainsborough Pictures, a film and movie production house, and Alfred Hitchcock, amongst others, worked here. This was demolished in 2002 and located in northern Hoxton, near the canal. 

Hoxton timber building, close to Shoreditch High Street

I discovered a pub on Hoxton Street with nice handwritten font/typography.

Nice handwriten font on a pub in Hoxton

Since the 1980s, artists and musicians have been moving into Hoxton as it was cheap. The area around Hoxton Square was popular for fashion, and a derivitive of the mohawk hairstyle was attributed to the location. It is now a creative hub with design firms, magazines, clubs, and start-ups. The centre of Hoxton is Hoxton Square. It continues to be an artistic hub with many cafes and night-life venues. Galleries are also nearby. 

Hoxton Market is the name of a street located off of Hoxton Square, and this was the historical part of the town where the market did trade before the Hoxton Market already mentioned above. (It's a little confusing.) 

Circus Space

Located here on Hoxton Market is the St. Leonard Electric Light Station. This building was used to create electricity from garbage to heat the public baths and circus production. The building is now home to The Circus Space, the only place in the UK that offer degrees in circus. They do sometimes have open days where you can watch the students perform.

There are many restaurants and clubs to visit around Hoxton Square as it's still considered the trendy and fashionable area of London. Up the road and around Hoxton Street Market are many fish and chip and fast food shops and pubs. 

Clockjack is a chicken rotisserie restaurant located near Piccadilly Circus. The restaurant has a quirky atmosphere with and tongue-in-cheek chicken quotes on the walls and menus that reminded me of the popular chicken restaurant chain Nandos' branding. I visited here as I had a voucher, and I wanted to try out the restaurant.


The interior of the restaurant is quite small, but we were able to get a table and other free tables were available when we visited on one of the last weeknights before the Christmas break. In addition to the chicken quotes, the restaurant was decorated for Christmas. Bare lights without shades and ceramic chickens were dotted around the restaurant, adding to the decor. The interior reminded me of a warehouse feel, and the decor seemed similar but slightly upmarket from 'The Chicken Shop'/'Dirty Burger', which I covered here.


The exterior of the shop is bright red and contains branding with hand-drawn chicken heads, creating a playful feel. This shop would not seem out of place in east London.

We were greeted at the door, and I ordered the Apple Pie cocktail. The restaurant also sells London Craft beers, wine, cider, and a small selection of other cocktails that tend to vary depending on the season. I cannot remember what was in the Apple Pie cocktail that I had, but it had an apple and cinnamon taste, and I really enjoyed it. I would have had a second, but they were a little pricey. My partner had the Bellini.


We ordered the whole chicken. The chicken is free range and marinated before being slowly cooked. We could see the whole chickens being cooked behind the counter. Sides are sold separately, and we ordered double-cooked fries and vegetables. The vegetables were not quite what I was expecting. They were zuchinni and pepper, served cold with olive oil and Mediterranean herbs.

The chicken was fiddly to cut. We were given a knife and had to hold the wooden board while we cut the chicken. It was tender but extremely greasy too. A puddle of grease was on the table after the empty dishes (and chicken bones) were removed.


After the mains, we decided to have desserts. I tried the chocolate tart, which was tasty but not quite as good as I had hoped. My partner had lemon sorbet and strawberry ice cream, which I thought was an interesting selection. 


Now for my verdict. Although the food was alright, it was not too filling. The cold vegetables (peppers and courgette/zuchinni) were odd, and I did not really enjoy them. Overall, I felt that the food was pricey for what we received, and that was my main disappointment. I would not go out of my way to return. Note that the cocktails, desserts, sides, and drinks were not included in the voucher.

In the autumn last year, street artist Bambi painted street art on a new wall in east London, opposite the Cargo club on Rivington Street, where there's a lot of famous street art by Banksy and other high-profile artists. Bambi's subject deals with the case of Michael Brown, a man who was shot by police in the state of Missouri in the USA. The shooting led to public unease in that community. (I personally have not followed this story, but I will just state that a loss of life is sad, and it's particularly sad when the victim was so young. The artist Bambi was inspired by the story to paint about it.)


Bambi hasn't really painted much in this part of London, but her work is commonly seen around north London and Islington/Camden. I did see her white van, painted with "Bambi" in the area at about the same time that this piece appeared. The artwork uses the Nike "just do it" logo along with "DON'T SHOOT" repeated across a repeated young child raising his hand in a wave and standing on a skull. The artwork has text that accompanies it:

You abuse your powers again and again
Another innocent unarmed soul is murdered in your name
Filthy blue lies flow and flow
You shot him six times for just jaywalking home
Left in a pool of blood on the street
But you think it's just another day on the beat
Come on justice must be done or anarchy will bite you on the bum

The following lines are repeated above:

You abuse your powers again and again
Filthy blue lies flow and flow
You shot him six times for just jaywalking home


I visited the artwork again recently as my photograph of it in the autumn did not turn out well; it was blurry as it was a dreary and very rainy day and my camera on my phone did not like it. I noticed that the owner of the black building to the right had painted over the artwork on their part of the building.


Across the street is another new piece by Bambi. It features two girls.

I'd walked past the cafe Maison Trois Garcons on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch so many times over the past couple of years. Finally, I decided to pop in with a colleague awhile ago to see if it was good. Awhile ago is actually the summer of 2013! The cafe markets itself as a "lifestyle cafe" as it offers various gift items, accessories, home furnishings, and antiques for sale. I loved the vintage style and the "Wizard of Oz" neon sign at the back, and the cafe has adequate room; an additional seating area at the back of the restaurant provides more tables. 


The desserts always appealed to me as there's quite a selection on offer. They also serve afternoon tea, so I really want to visit the cafe to try this. The only catch is that afternoon tea is not served until after 2:00pm, so I'd have to take a late lunch in order to do this.


On my first visit with my colleague, I had the thai chicken curry with sticky rice. This was divine. This was followed by a scone with butter and jam. The chicken was so tender and delicious and packed full of flavour.


On my second visit, I was joined by the same colleague and a different colleague. The second colleague is very particular about his food, but he was even impressed, even when the meal he ordered was not a traditional one. I had the chicken curry for the second time and topped that off with a vanilla cupcake. The curry did not taste as nice or tender as my first visit, but it was still good. The restaurant was also very busy during this visit, and we were seated in the larger room at a table with the skylight directly above us, so we got quite warm.


On my most recent visit, which was last summer, I visited on my own. I took a late lunch that day, but it wasn't quite late enough to be served the afternoon tea. I waqs also in the mood for cooked savoury food and not sweets. I ordered the usual Thai chicken curry with rice, and it was spot on, despite being a little watery. I had a lemon and pistachio pudding for dessert, and this had a light citrus flavour. I was hoping the flavour would be stronger than what it was, but it was still good.


Maison Trois Garcons is located at 45 Redchurch Street (E2 7DJ), a couple of blocks away from Shoreditch High Street overground station. 

At the time of publishing this entry, I have noticed that Maison Trois Garcons cafe has closed. The last couple of times that I walked down Redchurch Street, the cafe was boarded up and being painted. Right after Christmas, I noticed that an antiques shop occupied the building, but I assumed they were redecorating. It looks like a new bakery or cafe is going to occupy the building. I am going to miss the chicken curry, and I never did get around to having that afternoon tea. Oh well. It's the ever-changing London, particularly east London, at work.

Early last autumn, I discovered that London Transport Museum were going to be giving tours of the abandoned Aldwych underground station in January and February, so I rushed to book my tickets. The tours are always sought-after and fill up quickly, and I had been unlucky when I previously tried to book the tour. Something about visiting an abandoned tube station must appeal to quite a lot of people.


I've walked by the red-tiled facade of the closed station at the Aldwych end of the Strand many times. The station opened in 1907 and closed in 1994. Originally, the tube station was called "Strand", but it was renamed to "Aldwych". (Aldwych of course is taken from the two words 'ald" and 'wych', which means 'old village', so this would have been an 'old village' about two miles outside of the original City of London.)


The facade of the old station contains the name "Piccadilly Railway", which gives a clue as to the tube line that served the station, as they were part of individual rail lines then. Aldwych Station was a spur station, and it was served by the Piccadilly Line from Holborn, which is located directly north of Aldwych. The tunnels from the station do join up with the Piccadilly Line at Holborn.

Below is an old map of the tube network when Aldwych Station was in use; Aldwych is located on the dark blue line as a spur. A minute's walk away is Temple station, and Covent Garden and Holborn are also a short walk away.


We were told that the station was built to serve the theatre district of London, but a theatre was torn down in order to open the station. We were led into the station and saw the original green-tiled ticket office.


A row of old-fashioned wooden telephone booths were located along one wall in the ticket hall area. At the back is a newer ticket office, which has been added later but kept in the same style with dark wood and green tiles. The station is used for filming nearly every day. We were told that they are filming "Mr. Selfridge" at the moment. They have filmed "James Bond", "Atonement", "V For Vendetta", "Battle of Britain", and the new "Sherlock Holmes" here.


Ticket barriers were added later on, and they were removed, but the spot where they stood is still visible on the floor. The woman's bathroom also looked like a blast from the past with an old-style washbasin.

The Aldwych underground station project seemed doomed from the beginning; the three lift (elevator) shafts were dug by hand and held two lifts, but only one of them was ever used. The cost to fix the lift was in the low millions, so the station was closed. We were told that only about 450 people per day used the station toward the end of its life, so keeping it open was not worth the cost.


We headed down the winding stairs to check out the platforms. The platforms are only accessible via the stairs as the lifts are no longer in service.


The first stop was to see the lift shafts. We were shown all of the lift shafts, even though most of them were never in operation. 


Next, we headed into one of the tunnels toward the platforms. The lights were switched off to show us how dark the tunnel would get, but we were all surprised when we clearly saw the tunnel light up after the lights were off. Special glow-in-the-dark paint is painted at the bottom of the tunnel, which you can see as a slight yellow colour in the photograph below. This is a safety mechanism to allow people to get out of the tunnel in case of emergencies. Apparently the paint strips can glow for twenty minutes.


There are two platforms, and not all of the station was used. We went to visit one of the platforms, which is currently used for filming "Mr. Selfridge". 


The platform also has an old tube train on it, and they use this for safety exercises. The train is dusty, and there aren't any seats inside it. This platform contains false vintage tube poster, tube signs, and tiles. The tiling was never completed to the end of the platform, so fake sticky 'tiles' were pasted up over the wall to give the illusion during filming.



In the front of the train, I took a peek at the tunnel. This faces south, toward the Thames.


I took close-up photographs of the vintage posters. These are replications used for filming.


The Aldwych underground station sign is a flimsy prop as well.


After viewing the first platform, we headed to the second, and this was the platform that was in use. The "station closed" posters are dotted around the platform as well as posters from the 1970s. Part of the letters forming the station name "STRAND" can be seen in places.


The track has some original insulators dating from when the station first came into use, and the guide said that these insulators are Grade I listed and are the oldest known in the world. They are still in their positions on the rails below where I am stood taking the below photograph.


This platform was used as for tile and glue testing, and you can see paint and colour schemes for the underground tiles for other stations here. 


I got some photographs of the 1970s posters.


We were then shown a tunnel that was in progress of being dug and constructed before the project was pulled. The workers just left their tools and a wheelbarrow inside the tunnel, which we could see.


We also saw one of the exits for this platform, which was never finished.


The last visit on our tour was back up the stairs to visit and walk inside the lifts. We were told that people could pay for their tickets on the lifts in order that the underground did not have to pay for two members of staff: one to control the lift and one to sell tickets. The lift had a desk inside where the staff member would sell the tickets, and the outline of this can be seen in front of the bench in the photograph below. The lifts also had a secret emergency escape, and the ones at Covent Garden station are similar. The wall of the lift can open so that people can transfer from one lift to the other (as there are two lifts in one shaft).


This concluded our tour of Aldwych Station, which was interesting to see. During the tour, we were also told that performances happened on the platform during the war and that this station was used as a shelter with thousands of people occupying the platform.


Recent Comments

  • jenn: Thank you. read more
  • Murge: Amazing post. read more
  • Herbert: good post. site read more
  • Frank Quake: Hey, This is great when you said that I had read more
  • Chappy: You mention peptides here? I have had first hand experience read more
  • jenn: Thanks! I love the work. I have got more recent read more
  • Fanakapan: Thanks for the write up. This was some of my read more
  • jenn: Yes.... but that's only for the islands. Mostar and Montenegro read more
  • jenn: Hello, the code is not mine to hand out. I'll read more
  • pantich: More info about the best day trips from Dubrovnik can read more
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID