March 2015 Archives

London Travel: Shad Thames

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Shad Thames is an area of London just east of Tower Bridge and on the southern bank of the river Thames. The area is filled with warehouses, which have since been converted into expensive housing and restaurants. The buildings retain the warehouse atmosphere on the exterior, with steel footbridges on the upper levels. The warehouses were closed down in the early 1970s, and the buildings started to become regenerated in the 1990s. There's good views of the river and Tower Bridge from the river-facing properties, and it's not far to walk to the City, so each flat costs millions.


Shad Thames

This is a nice area to visit and have a meal on the river front as there are a few restaurants in the area here and to get photographs of the warehouses and their steel walkways.

Street Art: ALO, Part 4

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I remember the first time I saw artwork by ALO, and I really loved the style of the work. It's been a while since ALO painted anything new in London, but he made an impression. I already added three albums with his work that I came across in London over two years. View the galleries here: Alo Part 1, Alo Part 2, and Alo Part 3. I never got the chance to add the pieces below to my blog as the past year has been so busy. The pieces below were all created last spring and summer.














I hope that you've enjoyed these pieces that I've finally published. There will be a few more posts like this over the coming weeks as I endeavour to publish photos that I've taken over the last year.

Meet the Fourth Plinth's Gift Horse

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Recently, the large blue rooster that stood atop of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square over the past eighteen months has been taken down. It was replaced earlier this month with Gift Horse, a statue that looks like the skeleton of a horse. A stock market ticker tape is placed around the horse's leg, tied like a bow. The piece was created by Hans Haacke, a German-American artist.


To me, the piece seems to symbolise the greed of the country (through banks and the government). It's appropriate in today's world as I'm continuously reading about the election, profits, and how the average person is still feeling the 'pinch' as prices (especially for housing) spiral out of control into the unobtainable. 


The piece is not as colourful as the large blue cock, and I feel that it's more of a statement piece. A little over a year ago, it was decided by public vote amongst five other entries (which I covered in another post), to next grace the Fourth Plinth for the next eighteen months. 


Have you been to see "Gift Horse" yet, and what are your impressions of it?

A Morning at Clonmacnoise (Ireland)

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We started off early from Galway (which I posted about previously) to visit Clonmacnoise at opening time; staying in a hotel meant that we could check out when we wanted in order to do this. The idea was to stop somewhere along the way to get breakfast, but we did struggle to locate anywhere and had to opt for a roadside services in one of the villages we traveled through and get a pastry. From here, we traveled to the monastery ruins and were the first to arrive; we had to wait for the doors to open. The site at Clonmacnoise contains the ruins of a cathedral, several churches, two round towers, a few high crosses, and a museum with other engravings and inscriptions from graves.


Clonmacnoise is an important early Christianity site. It was founded in 544 by Saint Ciarán and became an extremely important site for religion and everything that went along with it, including education and the arts. Before its Christian roots, it was considered an important place by the Irish and the kings of Tara (Irish kings) are meant to be buried in the area. Today, Clonmacnoise remains as an important pilgrimage site and contains the historical monastery ruins. 


When we arrived, we saw some ruins outside of the monastery site on the approach to the car parking and opposite the parking spaces. This ruin (pictured above) is all that remains of Clonmacnoise Castle. After our walk around outside, we came back to the museum for another look and watched the video in English in order to understand the site. We wanted to get out and see everything before the large tour group prevented us from doing so.


When we entered, we had a quick walk through the museum and then returned to look once again at the items. The high crosses and some original engravings are stored here, and some replicas have been made to be re-sited on the original locations. 


The moss-covered crosses looked pretty, and we had perfect sunny weather for our visit.


We walked around the various ruins of the cathedral and churches. This was once a bustling place.


One of the high crosses sits on the banks of the River Shannon. Those views were perfect.




The doorway to the cathedral is known as "Whispering Arch". We tried to whisper in the doorway to see if the sound would carry inside, but this did not work. Perhaps it was only the "Whispering Arch" when there's a roof on it. The legend mentions that it was used as a confessional.


The round tower in the photogaph below is O'Rourke's Tower, and it was struck by lightning in the middle ages and lost the top of the tower. The high cross replica (Cross of the Scriptures) seen in the museum is in the foreground. It is one of the famous high crosses of Ireland and contains an inscription. (Although they are worn from centuries of weathering, the original crosses have held up much better than the replicas.)



Saint Ciarán died of the plague in 544, and he was buried in the original wooden church that was at the location before the stone structures were built. A small oratory, Temple Ciarán, was built over the spot where the wooden church stood. Many others with affiliation to the monastery also died at this time, but the religious centre grew in later centuries and it became the target of Irish, Viking, and Norman raids. The 12th century saw a decline in the use of the monastery here in favour of one built at Athlone.


The round tower in the photograph above is Temple Finghín & McCarthy's Tower, and the River Shannon looks beautiful in the distance. It dates from the 12th centuries. Another photograph of the oratory where the saint was buried is below. This is a popular pilgrimage place. I'll let the photographs do the 'talking'...








Pope John Paul II visited Clonmacnoise in 1979. A new building was constructed on the site, and the area was filled with people who wanted to see him. There's a plaque at this building to commemorate this event, and there's an offerings area.




The three saints are above the doorway, known as the "whispering arch". The saints are Dominic, Patrick, and Francis.


I also discovered a carving of a face. I think this was on one of the crosses that I found in the cemetary area.


Crosses marked the graves, and I took so many photographs of these crosses with moss on them.


This is a beautiful place to visit, and it's so old and has so much history. The museum is also worth a visit to see the crosses (a must), and a replica of the wooden church. The video is also worth a watch, but the video is rotated in different languages. I would not mind other languages, as long as they all had English subtitles! Unfortunately, everywhere that we went in Ireland, they did not have English subtitles, so we would have to wait for the next English video or just miss out.

New Mural by Phlegm on Old Street

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When I was last in London, I was happy to see a new mural on the large wall at Old Street. I covered Phlegm's work in London in my post here, and his work was among the first I recognised in London as his style and characters really stand out. The artist also painted murals on the South Bank in early 2013 and last autumn painted one of the walls on Hanbury Street. The wall on Hanbury Street still contains the artist's work, so do check it out as I have a feeling that it won't be there much longer.


Phlegm's new mural is on a large wall at Old Street. It's a difficult-to-photograph piece as there's a lot of buildings and signed/scaffolding in the way. I would love it if the street market stalls inside that courtyard had been open like they were a couple of summers ago.


The piece features one of the artist's characters inside what looks like a doll's house. The perspective is brilliant, and the detail involved must have taken the artist some time to complete. 



This is one of the most stunning pieces that I have seen painted in London recently, and it's a pity that it's so difficult to enjoy due to the obstructions.

Lunch at Patty&Bun

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During my last week of working in London, I decided to head over to Patty&Bun at Liverpool Street (virtually opposite one of the entrances to the station) to give their sandwiches a try. I had read good things, so I had high expectations. I was going to review their breakfast too, but it just did not happen as my time in London quickly came to an end and the last month was laden with morning train issues. I headed to the venue after my mid-day visit to see the textiles in a house in Spitalfields.


By the time I arrived, Patty&Bun was extremely busy. I missed out on getting a spot to sit. This was my first visit to Patty&Bun. I learned that I needed to place my order inside at the ordering point, and as I had to order a takeaway due to no space inside the restaurant, I was told that my order would be ready outside at a window. I ordered the chicken burger and chips.


I headed into Liverpool Street station to locate a place to sit and ended up back outside again near the steel sculpture near Broadgate, at the western entrance to the station. (Liverpool Street is a fifteen-minute walk back to the workplace, and I was worried that if I went back there that my food would be cold.) Yes, it was cold and lightly raining, buy I enjoyed my chicken burger regardless. 


Of course, I also attracted the attention of a handful of pigeons that love to hang out here and peck the ground for crumbs. They really wanted me to feed them. I resisted. Also, it doesn't really feel 'right' feeding pigeons bits of chicken meat. I really wouldn't feed them anyway because they are a little bothersome and would annoy others.


The chicken burger was delicious and seriously one of the best that I have ever had, and I'd visit Patty&Bun again. The fries were also delicious and coated with rosemary herbs to add extra flavour. This lunch hit the spot, and I also feel a bit of sadness realising that it may be some time before I am able to visit it again. In my last month working in Shoreditch, I discovered a few really wonderful places to eat lunch. However, I will be returning to London on some weekends of course, but these places are not as accessible to me as they once were.

UK 2015 Glossybox Review: March

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This month's Glossybox came through my door on Thursday, and I was excited to see what was in it. Glossybox is a monthly subscription box for beauty and skincare products. The theme this month is 'Step Into Spring'. My box came with four full-sized items and two sample-sized items. A spoiler was included in this box for next month, and the spoiler is that every subscriber will receive a Lord & Berry lipstick. My review on the items is below.


Naobay moisturising peeling: The product promises to remove dead skin and leave skin moisturised and brightened. It did make my skin feel clean and look refreshed after using it, but it was not long before my skin felt oily again. The product was okay, but with these types of products, more time is needed to monitor the results.

Essence Lash Princess Volume Mascara: This mascara contains a shaped brush to coat all of the eyelashes. I liked the results that this product gave, and it was not too clumpy.

Dove Advanced Hair Series (shampoo and conditioner): The shampoo and conditioner promise to repair damaged hair. The products both had a pleasant smell, and a little bit of the shampoo went a long way. The conditioner did leave my hair feeling soft and untangled. 

ncLA Nail Laquer (in 'Santa Monica Shore Thing'): This polish promises to be free from toxins and it is one of their best-selling shades. The colour is a pale turquoise or sea green. I liked the shade of this on my nails, and the polish dried quickly. If I did not own so much nail polish, I'd be tempted to purchase other colours from this brand.

Carmex moisture plus ultra hydrating lip balm: I received the Carmex lip balm in a Glossybox last summer, and it turned out to be one of my favourite products, so I was happy to receive this tinted lip balm, which is shaped like a lipstick. The colour I received is 'berry sheer tint', and it's a berry shade, which works really well for my skin tone.

What did you receive, and what did you think of this month's box?

Today was fun. The bloke and I walked across the centre of Basingstoke to partake in creating artwork using stained glass, which I'd always been a little interested in. The event was held at a local craft and creative area known as Proteus Creation Space. I'd actually come across the stained glass workshop through social media via Aristology Cafe, who share the building with this creative space that holds various events, parties for children, and creative workshops. As I am working from home for at least the next two months (hopefully longer as I really do not want to commute to London again anytime soon), I may have to pop in for lunch one day. 


We arrived for the 10:00 stained glass workshop, and we were taken through to the workshop area. We had a cup of tea while we were told basics about glass-cutting and how to create designs that were not too ambitious as none of us had any previous experience with this. We were then given a slide show with different professional stained glass pieces for inspiration. I already knew that I wanted to try a geometric pattern, and there were a couple nice ones in the slide show. After seeing a gorgeous stained glass design featuring beach huts in the slides, the bloke was inspired to create something similar with beach huts. There were five of us in the workshop, not including one girl who returned from a previous workshop in order to finish her piece, and we all started to sketch our designs. 


After our designs were sketched, we choose the stained glass colours and patterns that we wanted to use from the panes of stained glass and buckets of bits that were leftover cuttings from previous workshops.


Green is my favourite colour, and I decided to use this with some white and transparent panes that had different patterns when I held them up to the light. One light green piece had a flower pattern engraved, and there was a similar transparent piece. Other pieces had swirls of colour or bubbles, and others were a solid colour.


After we had selected our colours, we were shown how to cut glass, and the tool is perfect for creating small curves. We were given some practice glass so that we were familiar with how hard we needed to press and how to achieve creating the curves. We were also shown some tips about how to make the glass break free once it's cut, such as turning it over and using the end of the tool as a hammer to lightly tap along the cut.


My geometric panel featured right angles, so I used a different tool to cut my pieces out. The tool that I used (pictured below) is similar to a paper cutter, but it has a small wheel like the hand-held devices do, that cut a fine groove into the glass.


The bloke quickly cut his two main pieces after his practice, and the result was perfect.


We had finished cutting our pieces when we were called to lunch. Our sandwich orders had been taken previously, and we went into the cafe to eat them. I had a tomato and mozarella panini, and the bloke had a bacon and cheese one. They were good. The cafe also catered to a couple of the others who needed Gluten-free options.


After lunch, we went back to finish off our stained glass masterpieces. I had to trim off a little off the edges on some of my pieces to align them correctly. Some of the my panels had small pieces that needed to be sanded down as they were too fine to cut. There were two machines that we could use to gently grind the glass down, which turned it into a fine powder. This is perfect for small adjustments and rounding off sharp edges. I didn't photograph the machines, but you can see below that a few pieces needed some TLC (tender loving care)! 


Tea and cake soon arrived for us. Time was flying! The bloke had lemon drizzle cake, and I had carrot cake.


I numbered my panes of glass so that I could remember the order that they were in and also the side and orientation that I wanted to use. That carrot cake was so good too.


We were shown the next step in the process, which was creating the frames to hold our work in place while we put lead in between the panels of glass. We slotted together a right-angled wooden frame and nailed it into place with our sketch, measuring two millimeters from the frame in our design. Our first two lead frame sections would sit flush against the wooden frame to hold it in place.


 After the frame and two large sections of lead were in place flush against the frame, the process was to cut the pieces of lead down to the size required and slotting the glass panes in between. Sometimes the panes of glass wanted to slide out and did not want to align flush with the lead, so I had to use pins to keep them in place.


The final frame was put together, and wax was used to mark the joins to the other pieces of lead so that the soldering iron could weld metal to hold the pieces together in place.


 We were shown how to use the soldering iron and welded our joins together. Both sides needed to be done.


 After one side was soldered, we could hold it up to the window and see the results that we had been dying to see with our nearly-finished creation.


After soldering both sides of the artwork, we used a tool to push down on the lead so that the panes of glass would be held into place without moving around too much. I wished that some of my lead pieces were a little straighter, but other than that, I was happy with my piece. Everyone was happy with what they had created. 


Below is my finished piece up close. By the time that we arrived home, it was dark outside, so I could not hold it up to the window to take a photograph and I didn't get a photograph of it held up to the window at the workshop. I like the photograph below because you can see the patterns in the glass and the colours.


We had fun, and I would recommend the stained glass workshop to anyone who is looking to take a day to be creative and work on something new.  Have you ever made anything with stained glass or been in interested in learning how to do it? For more information about the workshop that I took, visit the cafe's Facebook website at

Signs of Spring

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This morning from 8:30 there was a solar eclipse. It could be seen across northern Europe, but the cloud coverage here in southern England made it impossible to see anything. The sky (with the clouds) did seem to get darker at about 9:20, and it did seem to feel a bit colder for that duration of time that the moon covered the sun. Sadly, there's no photographs of an eclipse on my blog as we just had a cloudy white sky in Basingstoke.

However, a couple of weeks ago, ast week, I noticed that the first spring flowers were out in bloom. I got some photographs of the crocuses around Basingstoke, where there's always a lot of them. Although the spring flowers have been out, the weather does not feel particularly warm, and we have not had much sunshine here. I'm happy to see the first signs of spring.





Happy spring, and enjoy your weekend.

A friend and I decided to meet up last Saturday so that we could go to London and take photographs of new street art. I have wanted to walk along Regent's Canal for awhile now as I know that there's some street art along the canal. (Actually, there was not as much as I was expecting, but I did see a couple of canal boats.) We started the day early and were at Angel station at about 8:40 in the morning. I'll start by saying how much Angel has changed. The last time I visited it was in the summer/early autumn of 2000. It's completely changed and 'gentrified'. It's amazing what can change in a little over a decade.


Angel (an underground station on the northern line) is where the journey started, and we walked east and finished the walk at Roman Road so that we could get a bus to Brick Lane. (My Nintendo DS device clocked up over 21,000 steps by the end of the day, and a good amount of this was spent on the canalside walk.)

(Map from GoogleMaps)

Above is the journey that we walked along the canal path. Ignore the places where my crudely-drawn red line does not quite follow the canal's path. We stayed along the canal banks, but we did venture up out of the path a couple of times to check out the area and get photographs, but we returned on the path to complete the walk. Of course, there were a couple of stops off along the way.

regent canal

Further along from Angel station, we came to the first set of locks. It was quiet here, and we did see a couple of early-morning joggers.

regent canal

We came across City Road Basin and Wenlock Basin, which are two off-shoots of the canal near Angel. They are short off-shoots, and there's some nice-looking houses and flats around this area.

regent canal

Further along, we saw more locks.

regent canal

I liked the painted face on this canalboat. The number of canal boats 'parked' along the banks, sometimes three deep from the side of the canal, was amazing. I wonder what living in one is like.

regent canal

I liked the street art that I saw along this stetch of the canal, which was somewhere around the north of Hoxton. These purple and blue figures were poling their faces around at us, and we saw them in a few other places between here and the other side of Broadway Market.

regent canal

regent canal

Some of the buildings around the canal looked like warehouses. We came across a pub/cafe, but it was shut.

regent canal

We then arrived near to the Kingsland Road junction, which heads across the canal and from Hoxton (in the south) to Dalston Junction (in the north). There's a few pubs and cafes on this stretch, and we stopped off at The Proud Archivist. This is a small cafe, which I had heard things about and wanted to visit for awhile.

regent canal

The Proud Archivist has exhibitions and speakers, and it's a community-oriented cafe. It also has a small shop selling graphic design and photography and arty books. We stopped to have a drink, and I had a hot chocolate.

regent canal

After our drinks were finished, we continued on the journey along the canal. 

regent canal

The sun was shining, and I got some photographs from the bridge at Kingsland Road.

regent canal

Isn't it beautiful?

regent canal

Now, I had walked one small stretch of Regent Canal before. I'd gone to Broadway Market in the past, and the easiest station for me to go to in order to visit was Haggerston. From Haggerston Station, I simply walked along the canal until I came to the market. Haggerston Station is near Kingsland Road, so this was the area of the canal I walked along.

regent canal

We saw some geese and more of the purple/blue/green men.

regent canal

At last, we came to Broadway Market, and I took a few photographs there and bought a couple of items. We did not really look around the market much, though. I really wanted to try some food at the Schoolhouse Yard part of the market, but what I wanted to try was not there, and it was still a little too early. We arrived at about 10:30.

regent canal

Bread and miniature cupcakes caught my attention. I do like Violet's cupcakes at Broadway Market and have had them before. I also tried a slice of banana bread.

regent canal

Meringue Girls creates small flavoured meringues, which look so cute. I had to get a photograph, even though I've previously photographed them. I just could not resist.

regent canal

We were both hungry now and wanted to sit down for awhile. By now, a lot of the cafes were packed full. However, we wandered back and found the Market Cafe, located next to the canal. We had brunch here. The scrambled eggs were so nice, and I had a watermelon martini. It was not yet noon, but I could not resist. 

regent canal

regent canal

After our brunch, we continued along the canal. By this time, the sun had disappeared. The remainder of our walk was in the cloud.

regent canal

I saw this bulldog on one of the canal boats, and he was guarding the boat. I just had to get a photograph of him.

regent canal

The area became less populated here, and the buildings and area did not look as well-kept from Broadway Market as we continued east. We saw more grafitti and had a couple of detours to get some photographs of it around Cambridge Heath Road.

regent canal

We continued on our way, and the left side of the canal (which we followed), soon became clear so that we could see the large park (Victoria Park). The park was busy with visitors by then, and it was after mid-day. 

regent canal

I photographed this old 'tugboat' in that area.

regent canal

We soon came to Old Ford Road (the bridge below is the road) and another branch of the canal (Hertford Union Canal), which leads to Hackney Wick. 

regent canal

Not much further along from here is the Roman Road junction, and that was the point that we decided to end the walk along the canal. Luckily, a number eight bus just pulled up as we had walked up from the canal, so we rode on this to get us back to the top part of Brick Lane.

An Afternoon in Galway, Ireland

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After the visit to Marble Arch Caves (covered in my post about Ireland's Marble Arch Caves and Belleek Pottery), we had a long drive down to the city of Galway, which was our next stop and the location of our hotel for the night. The drive between the two took about three and a half hours. We were planning at stopping off at a couple of places (Sligo and Castlebar) on the drive down, but we had run out of time and wanted to make the most of the time in Galway. We ended up driving through Sligo but did not stop. At some point, I would like to explore the lakes area to the west and north of Galway.


We arrived in Galway the late afternoon, and after dropping our luggage off at the hotel, we went to explore the town. Galway is a much larger town than Donegal, which I wasn't really aware of when I was planning my road trip. Galway is also a more touristy town, and nearly everything in this town caters to tourism. 


The pubs and shop fronts look picturesque and colourful along the main street, and as the weather was fairly nice (although a little cold and windy) during our visit. A few people were sitting on the tables outside, and we heard Irish music coming form some of the pubs.


We also explored some of the back streets and side streets.


One street had a flower shop on it, and the flowers were beautiful.


Galway is not the most picturesque town to photograph as it's commercialised and busy, but I probably could have taken some better photographs if I'd had longer time. The town was nice enough but had the air of a place to "pass through" and spend money.


When walking up the main street, eventually we came to Eyre Square. There are cannons and artwork in the square. The cannons came from the Crimean War, and there's a statue of John F. Kennedy. The flags along the square represent the names of the fourteen tribes (merchants) of Galway.


Another feature in the square is Browne's doorway, which I photographed detail from (below). The door is dated 1627, and it contains the family's coat of arms and is influenced from Renaissance design. It was moved from Abbeygate Street to its present location.  


On our walk down the street, I stopped off at a bakery just before it shut its doors for the evening. I recognised it from a television programme that I saw earlier in the spring. I bought a strawberry pastry, which was lovely, and we had ice cream from another shop. We had to stop off at a department store to buy new luggage for my parents as their zip/zipper on theirs broke.


After having a quick walk back down the main street, we stopped off for dinner at one of the pubs. 


Galway has a long history. The location along the river was settled as a fishing village, and it was controlled by fourteen tribes (merchant families). It became a walled city in the 1270s. The town became particularly important with trade between Portugal and Spain, but this declined due to Cromwell and the opening of other ports in Ireland. Only small sections of the old walled city's old walls can be seen, and the most attractive piece is the "Spanish Arch" near the harbour.


Other items that I saw in Galway included the Claddagh Ring, a love token. These were being sold to tourists in most places in Galway, and they were more popular here than anywhere else. The symbol is love, loyalty and friendship. It was created in Roman times and was a symbol of engagement. The rings are handed down from mother to daughter. Carvings and signs of this symbol were everywhere. 


One of the sculptures we saw along the main street was of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde, two writers. We also saw an attractive-looking church and some street art and another old building, which has since been converted into a bank. We only had this late afternoon and evening in Galway and felt that we had seen most of the town. We needed to wake early in order to leave for our next destination, Clonmacnoise.

Over the summer, a group of colleagues and I visited BoxPark in Shoreditch to grab some lunch. There's quite a bit of choice at BoxPark, but my colleague mentioned that she had heard that 'Bunny Chow' was good, so I decided to give it a try. For those who are not familiar, Bunny chow (often simply called 'bunny') is a South African street food dish. It's a dish made of bread with a curry 'stew' placed inside.


I was not sure what to expect really. I ordered the chicken 'bunny chow', and I was expecting it to be spicy, but I actually found it to be a bit bland. I was also not a fan of the soggy bread, which I did not care for at all and did not think tasted nice. (Perhaps you're not even meant to eat the bread?) I was not over-whelmed with "Bunny Chow", but at least I gave it a try! I'm not sure how this compares to "official" South African bunny chow, but the company seems to be doing well and has a fan base, which probably does include South African expats.

I did not do so well on my lunch, though; I could not even finish it. Have you eaten at "Bunny Chow"? If so, what did you think, and did you enjoy it? I feel like I am missing out on something.

Pixel Pancho is an artist from Spain, and he was in London last year and left quite a few murals on the walls of the city. I covered his work in my post Street Art Round Up in Early Spring 2014, and you can see some of his work there. Robotic figures / steampunk are a common theme for the artist, and the new murals that have arrived within the past three weeks feature robotic chickens and humans.


The first piece is located on Hanbury Street on a prominent wall, and it was a collaboration with artist Evoca1, a Dominican artist based in Miami. The mural features two roosters who have been in a fight. The feathers are torn from one of them, revealing the mechanics underneath. The other lies on the ground, the features removed from its head. This was a difficult wall to photograph as the council are currently digging up the road and have put green barriers in front of the murals.


The second mural is on a large building in Dalston and features two robotic figures. 



The artist's work is currently on display at Stolen Space Gallery in London ( until the middle of April. 

For more information about the artist, visit his Instagram page at or Behance at

I finally got to go back to London today to see what has changed on the walls in the past three weeks. As you may know from three weeks ago, I blogged in my Changes and Goodbyes post that my contract at the agency that I was at in London had come to an end. As a result, I am now not currently working in London, though I had been starting to look for a place to live there until that happened. Initially, accommodation in London was out of my reach (and still is, but I've managed to save a little) and I was actually working near to where I currently live at the time. In fact, I signed the papers for my flat on the same day that my position at that local company was made redundant, which was unforeseen. I've since been primarily working in London and commuting, which I dislike. Unexpected happenings (the Fates, as they are known in mythology, I guess) sometimes throw spanners in life. 


Moving on, I saw this progress in work on the Village Underground Wall in east London during my last week and a half in London. When I visited it on the day before my last day, my heart sank as I realised that it would not be finished before I left London. I was worried that I would never seen it finished and would only see it vandalised when I did see it. Often, work does get vandalised in London. And yes, this piece did, and the message was not a nice one to the artist, and I've used Photoshop to patch it up. Luckily, those who vandalised the work did not paint over the important aspects of the mural, and it was only in the 'white space' where the damage was done.


The mural is by Iranian artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo. Most of his work can be seen in his home city of Tehran, where he is very popular and also paid to paint the empty walls of the city. He is a master in the use of perspectie, so it appears that the subjects jump out from the wall. The image on the Village Underground shows children skipping rope. The one jumping is almost jumping high enough to reach the opening to freedome but also to where two giant crows wait to snatch him.


His work does bring colour to the streets, and I've had a look at some of his work in Tehran, and it really does brighten up the boring and blank walls of the buildings.


A few buildings down, the artist has painted a smaller piece on the side of a restaurant. It features several 'clones' being sucked into two black holes. Across the street is another piece by the artist featuring a figure walking on a tightrope toward a black hole. I wonder if both holes lead into an infinite loop.


The artist's work is currently on display at Howard Griffin Gallery in London until the 2nd of April. For more artwork, view the artist's official gallery here: 

After our visit to Donegal and the castle earlier in the morning, we decided to visit Marble Arch Caves. Marble Arch Caves are show caves located southeast from Donegal. We drove in this direction and also made a stop at Belleek Pottery on the way.


We stopped off at Belleek Pottery to visit the visitor's centre. There's also a museum on site, and if we had had more time, we would have done a tour. We went to the large shop and admired some of the pieces that could be seen in the main area. The porcelain looks so fragile and also so beautiful, and the pieces that are coloured are hand-painted. I absolutely loved the cornflower piece, which I got a detail of below.


The pottery looks beautiful, and the below building is their museum and visitor's centre with the shop.


We got a little lost trying to locate the visitor centre, and the phone reception was not great. We eventually arrived,  but we just missed the tour by a couple of minutes and had to wait for the next one to begin. Marble Arch Caves had one signpost but we struggled to find another one along the way and probably ended up in a detour somewhere.

Marble Arch Caves are located in Culicagh Mountain and were formed from limestone that was created 330 million years ago when the land of Ireland was near the equator and the land covered in tropical seas. The dying organisms fell to the bottom of the sea and formed the limestone.


We had a quick bite to eat at the visitor's centre. When it was time for our tour to begin, we were led out the back and followed a little trail down to the caves. The first part of the journey was by boat in the caves, across an underground river.


The journey by boat took ten minutes. We were loaded into several motorised boats and glided through the caves. Note that the boats do not run if the water levels are too high, but the caves can still be accessed.


After we reached the other side, we continued our tour with the guide. Overall, the tour in the caves takes about seventy-five minutes, and it's a pretty gentle walking tour. We were told the history of the caves. The cave system is one of the largest and its caves were found and explored in the early 1900s.


We were shown different rock formations (stalagtites and stalagmites) and told about them. However, some of these had to be repaired as vandals broke into the cave system before it was due to open and destroyed many of the formations.


We were shown the different colours of the rock formations by the types of chemicals in the stones, and we were shown a waterfall at the end of the journey with water cascading down the cave walls.


After our cave visit, we headed south to Galway. Not far away from the caves and on the main road, we were surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery that we stopped and got photographs of.


Have you been to Marble Arch Caves in Ireland?

We stayed the night at a bed and breakfast with a beautiful river view in Donegal. We arrived in the evening after our visit to Glenveagh Castle, and decided to walk to the town to get dinner. I was looking forward to seeing the town as some of my ancestors came from this area of Ireland. We explored some of the town in the early evening. The following morning, we decided that we would visit the castle and we would have a look at the ruins of Donegal Friary in the town. I was amazed by the beauty of the still lake; apparently dolphins can be seen here at times, but we did not see any.


Our host told us how to access the town. As the tide was out, we could walk down to the river and walk around the edge to the town's harbour. This was the quickest way, but when the tide is in, the walk around from the town centre is longer.


We saw a crab on the stones by the river.


At the back of the bed and breakfast are the ruins of Donegal Friary. It was founded by Franciscan Friars in 1474 and attacked by the English in 1588, only to be taken back four years later. The buildings were repaired, but it was seiged again in 1601 and destroyed. Afterwards, it became a Protestant place of worship, but the friars were still active here.


Some of the walls survive, and some look as though they could collapse at any moment. However, many tombstones are filled in between the ruins of the old friary.


A map is located in the middle of the ruins to give visitors an idea of what each building was used for.


The next day, we admired the views of the river before heading to the town to visit the castle. The tide was still out, so we could walk around the lake again, but we would have to walk the long way on the way back to the bed and breakfast.


I caught a photograph of a bird in the garden by the river.



We popped into some shops and admired Dongeal's diamond (the town centre) before visiting the castle.


Donegal Castle was built by O'Donnell in the late 15th century. The family were known for exporting fish, and their coat of arms in the castle depict fish. In 1592, O'Donnell burned the castle to prevent it falling to the English in a usable state. It was taken by the English, of course, and renovated in the early 1500s. The tower house was renovated in the Tudor style.


The castle was the residence of the O'Donnell family from 1200 to 1601 and built for defense, using the river as protection. Before this and in the 9th and 10th centuries, it was thought to have been used as a Viking fort. Some of the stonework for the castle is thought to have come from the priory.


The cobblestones in the lowest level of the tower house are restored from the 15th century and the barrel-vaulted ceiling in one chamber survived. The cobblestones and vaulted ceiling can be seen in the above photograph.


Inside the tower house, the Tudor style renovation from the 1500s can be seen. The sculpted fireplace is one of the best in Ireland.


We spent approximately 40 minutes looking around the castle, and we decided to head back to our bed and breakfast and be on our way. The next stop would be Belleek Pottery and Marble Arch Caves.

UK 2015 Birchbox Reviews: March

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My March Birchbox arrived on Saturday, and I was excited to see it this month as I was disappointed with last month's. The UK March Birchbox is a collaboration with the home store, Habitat. The box contains a guide that focuses on makeovers for the home. The box is designed with bright colours, and the insert inside the box contains a paint-chip style design with the different shades in pink, orange, yellow, and lime green. It also contains a voucher for a discount to use at Habitat.


Benefit "They're Real!" Mascara: This month, subscribers could choose from one of three Benefit mascaras. The new mascara from the cosmetics company is "Roller Lash". I received the "They're Real!" mascara. This is a good mascara, and it's not clumpy and the wand allows the individual lashes to be separated while the product is applied.

Catherine Malandrino 'Style de Paris' perfume: This perfume contains citrus top notes with a fruity twist. I liked the scent, but I currently own similar scents, so this one does not stand out to me personally. The perfume is a Birchbox exclusive product.

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer: Okay, I'm not happy with this one as I've had this same product in a previous Birchbox, and I thought that it left my hair looking greasy. Birchbox should prevent repeat items, but I received two repeat items in my last box. Anyway, this product is widely appraised, but it just didn't work for me, and I've actually got a another tube of it to give to a friend. The product is a pre-shampoo treatment to add volume to damaged hair.

Serenity Skincare dead sea bath salt: These Dead Sea sea salts claim to restore the balance and moisture of the skin, help with aches and pains, and de-stress. The product is natural too. I used some of the salts in a bath tonight. and it did make my body feel a little relaxed. I've never tried bath salts before, but I was glad to see this product because I wanted to try it and enjoy bath products.

TanOrganic self-tanning oil: I expected this to be a thicker cream, so when I used it for the first time, I lost some of the product down the sink. It *is* an oil, and it's to be massaged evenly into the skin. The product does not have a foul smell, but I have also not noticed any results.


This box also came with two lifestyle items, a Birchbox & Habitat red notebook to jot  things down on and an excerpt of a chapter from the book "A Perfect Heritage" by Penny Vincenzi. The notebook will come in useful as I always carry a small one in my handbag. A few months ago, I received another book excerpt in my Birchbox, but I wasn't a fan. I love reading and do get through a lot of books, but I am not really a fan of reading sample excerpts as I feel that it takes more than a chapter to get 'into' a book.


What did you think of this month's box? For me, it was another disappointment, and I'm also disappointed to receive a repeat product. The favourite product was the mascara (if that does count as I've previously used it) and the sea salts.

Street Art: Pure Evil

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Pure Evil is a street artist that has been on the scene for awhile and who has been busy painting new street art from the beginning of this year. The artist has a gallery in the heart of Shoreditch. Pure Evil hails from London but lived in California for ahwile before returning back to London. His spray-painted "bunny" images can be seen in a lot of places in east London now as can his work of portraits of iconic figures. A lot of the recent street art that has been popping up since the start of last year has references to cancer. (This post is way overdue and a lot of these pieces no longer exist.)


The artist is very much involved in the world of street art and gives lectures and workshops on the subject.


This post contains several pieces of street art that the artist produced on the streets since the beginning of the year.



With all of the death and cancer messages that the artist has been adding to the streets in 2014, I assume that he had lost someone dear. On the scaffolding around the old Leonard Street car park (opposite the gallery) are several of the artist's drawings. This has evolved to contain messages throughout the months, including a "happy birthday" to his father and "Je Suis Charlie".


(For more information about Pure Evil and the gallery, visit

After visiting Inishowen Peninsula, we drove to Glenveagh National Park, located in northwest Ireland in the county of Donegal. We got stuck in bad traffic outside of Letterkenny and then again while driving through Letterkenny, so we were delayed. Our destination was Glenveagh Castle, and getting here required driving through some of Glenveagh National Park. 

Glenveagh Castle

We were rewarded with wonderful views of Glenveagh National Park while we drove along. We had perfect and sunny weather. The area reminded me a little bit of Dartmoor in England with mountains and boulders.


I got several photographs out of the car window. We were all a little tired, though, as we got up very early in order to explore Inishowen.



We finally arrived at the Glenveagh National Park visitor's centre late in the afternoon. The visitor's centre was just about ready to close, and the visitor centre is where the tickets to the castle should be purchased. The walk to the castle from the visitor's centre is 4km (one way), and there is no closer parking. It closes fairly early, and the last bus back is 5:45. I would not have minded walking it, at least one-way, as the views are excellent and we had beautiful weather. Perhaps if we had had more time, we could have walked this. The bus tickets and castle tickets need to be purchased separately, and we boarded the last bus to the castle just in time.


We admired the lovely views over the lake from the bus windows, and after approximately ten minutes, the castle came into view. We got off the bus to start our tour of the castle, which was the last one of the day. A couple of other small groups also joined the tour, so we were not the only ones in the group.


Glenveagh Castle is built on the edge of the lake, and it was constructed in the early 1870s in the Scotish castle style. It was built by John George Adair who had made a fortune in the USA, and he wanted the castle to be grander than Balmoral Castle in Scotland. He used the grounds for hunting deer and was responsible for the beautiful gardens (developed out of the moorland by a specialist gardener from Kew Gardens in England), but Adair was not well-liked and there were many disputes over hunting and land. 


The castle and gardens were left to the Irish nation in the early 1980s by the Henry McIlhenny, who purchased the castle in 1937. A lot of the decoration of the interior of the castle was decided by him. A common theme throughout the castle is a "hunting" theme, and there's many deer antler furnishings. Unfortunately, we were unable to get photographs of the interior of the castle because they were not permitted.


The castle was used as a guesthouse by many Hollywood stars, such as Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Marilyn Monroe. We were shown the nice room at the top of the tower where they were likely to have stayed during their visit.

After the castle tour, we had a few minutes to look around the castle's gardens. What was saw was beautiful, and we all wished that we had just spent the time enjoying the gardens instead of entering the castle to do the guided tour.


The gardens were so beautiful. I loved the rhododendrons, which seemed to be everywhere. By the time our tour had finished, the clouds had come overhead and the sun was hidden.


I still managed to get some good photographs of the castle and its lakeside views (over Lough Veagh). In the image below, the swimming pool of the castle is seen. This swimming pool is actually a heated swimming pool, and if I remember correctly about what the tour guide said, I think it is the first of its kind.

Swimming pool at Glenveagh Castle

I walked around the castle walls, taking photographs at different angles and looking for hidden areas in the garden.


One area out the back of the castle contained rows of statues.


Near the front of the castle contained a small trail which opened up into castle grounds, filled with bright and beautiful flowers and exotic trees.


Another garden toward the back of the castle was the vegetable and plant garden for the castle's use. Unfortunately, we did not get too long to look. I would recommend that the gardens be enjoyed above a tour of the interior of the castle. Sure, the interior of the castle was nice to do if time permits. We all wish that we had just stayed and enjoyed the gardens in the beautiful weather.


We made sure that we did not miss the last bus back, as otherwise it would have been a long walk back for us. (To walk 4km, it would take an hour on average.) We enjoyed the lake views on the bus's return journey.


I hope that you have enjoyed these photographs. I must state that this is a castle that will stick with me for some time due to its gardens and lakeside location. The setting is so picturesque; it's a little oasis in moorland.

In the middle of February, I had a trip to the Sky Garden in the Walkie Talkie building (also known as 20 Fenchurch Street) booked. The Sky Garden at the top of the tower was open for a few weeks to the public shortly after it opened. I remember seeing the Walkie Talkie building being built, from a hole in the ground to concrete frame to the addition of steel in the sky. 

walkie talkie sky garden

The building does dominate the London skyline and looks a little bit imposing. Of course, the building was in the news in the summer of 2013 because the curved glass was reflecting onto the ground below, and the heat from this was melting cars. 

walkie talkie sky garden

When I arrived at 20 Fenchurch Street, I stood at the foot of the tower and looked up into the sky. I entered the building to go through to security, and my bag was put through a security scanner. I was then ushered to the lifts. The lifts are quick enugh, but they actually seem to be a little problematic as they stopped half of the way down on my way out and jutted. I was actually really worried for a moment, but they corrected themselves and I made it safely down. I spoke to the security person, and he did mention that they had had problems with them.

walkie talkie sky garden

Upon arriving at the top via the lift, the first view was of the open space with the Shard directly in front. There is an outside area to admire the view more, but this was shut when I visited, so the view of the Shard and Tower Bridge and Thames was obstructed. However, turning to the right, we saw beautiful views over the west of the City, Thames, and London. 

walkie talkie sky garden

I could see the BT Tower in west London and also Big Ben and the London Eye, amongst other landmarks. I could see the building where I used to work off of Cannon Street, above Cannon Street station. The two brown turrets mark the spot!

walkie talkie sky garden

 St. Paul's Cathedral is fairly close, and I got some decent photographs of it, but it is currently obstructed by the construction work of the new Bloomberg Place building. This is being built over the location of the Temple of Mithras and over the top of one of London's lost rivers, the Walbrook, and this has preserved the Roman artefacts that have been discovered there, including timber building frames, clothing, jewellery, pottery, and other artefacts. Apparently, the artefacts will be available to view in the new building once it is constructed.

walkie talkie sky garden

The architect of the Walkie Talkie, Rafael Viñoly, had the vision for the Sky Garden as a public garden area. This feature helped to win the bid to create a tower here as it's just outside the main cluster of towers.

walkie talkie sky garden

The main area facing south where I entered via the lift contains the bar area, known as Sky Pod Bar. There are two restaurants at the top as well as the bar, which also does snacks and sandwiches. Darwin Brasserie is one of those restaurants, and it serves British cuisine. The other is seafood restaurant Fenchurch Seafood Bar and Grill.

walkie talkie sky garden

I climbed the steps, with views of the garden on my right and views of London on my left. The Sky Garden winds its way from one side of the top of the tower to the other. It includes plants, flowers, and tropical trees.

walkie talkie sky garden

I took some flower photographs.

walkie talkie sky garden

walkie talkie sky garden

At the top of this and on the other side (north) are the views of the other towers, such as Gerkin and Leadenhall and Tower 42. These views are obstructed, though. There's seating along the length of this area. 

walkie talkie sky garden

I walked to the other side of the Walkie Talkie and got photographs of east London. I could see Canary Wharf, the Olympic Stadium, Tower of London, and Tower Bridge.

walkie talkie sky garden

The views over the Tower of London and Tower Bridge were the most beautiful.

walkie talkie sky garden

I continued to walk down the steps on this other side, snapping away.

walkie talkie sky garden

I noticed that throughout the visit, some workers were on top of the building and outside. They must not be afraid of the heights at all.

walkie talkie sky garden

The top of the Sky Garden had mister machines that would go off every now and again to keep the plants misty and cool.

walkie talkie sky garden

At the very top, there's a balcony in front of one of the restaurants where you can stand higher to get more views directly below and south of the Thames. London Bridge can be seen directly in front, and the gold spire in the foreground is Monument. Old Billingsgate fish market (no longer operating as a fish market) could also be seen.

walkie talkie sky garden

walkie talkie sky garden

The views over the garden with London in the background were beautiful.

walkie talkie sky garden

After the look around, I headed over to Sky Pod Bar.

walkie talkie sky garden

I admired the view of the Shard in front of me.

walkie talkie sky garden

I ordered butternut squash soup and a cocktail known as "Chelsea Garden". The cocktails are particularly expensive at 11.00 or 12.00 pounds a pop! The butternut squash soup was tasty. I admired the views of the Shard as I had my soup and cocktail.

walkie talkie sky garden

After finishing my meal, it was time to leave, and I took a final photograph of the Walkie Talkie building.

walkie talkie sky garden

Have you visited the Sky Garden on the Walkie Talkie tower yet? What did you think of it?

Vietnamese Meal at Kingsland Road

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A few months ago, a group of friends and I went to see the Lego exhibition (Art of the Brick) in Brick Lane. Afterwards, we decided to walk to Kingsland Road to go to one of the Vietnamese restaurants. Kingsland Road runs from north to south with Shoreditch High Street at its southern end and Dalston at its northern end. The middle part of the road, near Hoxton Station, is famous for its Vietnamese restaurants.


We had visited Kingsland Road for a Vietnamese meal a little while ago and we really enjoyed it. This time, we decided to try a different restaurant. The restaurant that we did want to try was booked full, so we had to make do with a restaurant a couple of buildings away, named Cu Tu.

My friends shared the cold goat starter, and I had vegetable spring rolls. 


For the mains, we shared fried rice, and I had a chicken stir fry. My friends had a beef chili stir fry and a goat meat stir fry.


The food was average and the service was a bit too slow. (It took awhile to get served initially, our orders, drinks, and we waited an age for someone to see that we had finished in order to get the bill.) Overall, we all felt that the first Vietnamese restaurant that we had visited a year previously was better and that the food was better. We would like to go back to try the other restaurant, which we didn't get into because it was a Friday night and we'd arrived late due to seeing the exhibition first.

Anyway, Kingsland Road is the area of London to go to if you wish to try Vietnamese food.

Sunday Lunch at Bumpkin

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A few Sundays ago, the bloke and I visited Stratford Westfield and the Olympic Park. We went up the AcelorMittal Orbit and also saw the Year of the Bus art charity sculptures for their final time in one place, the Olympic Park. I had also made a reservation to have lunch at Bumpkin, a restaurant chain selling primarily modern British food.



Bumpkin Stratford is located in the Westfield shopping mall complex, opposite John Lewis and the main Olympic Park entrance. We were seated, and I received a free glass of sparkling wine for signing up for their newsletter. 


I had the soup to start, and the bloke had bread. 


The soup of the day was mushroom, and it was delicious.


Next, we had our mains. I had the chicken, and the bloke had beef. They came with a Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Gravy was poured on top of the Sunday roasts, but I wish it had not been as it was not the best gravy. It tasted "fake" and this somewhat spoiled the meal. 


I had a cocktail and a sundae for dessert. The cocktail was mainly full of ice, but it did taste good. The dessert was a Millionaire's Shortbread sundae, but the bits of shortbread were large frozen chunks (instead of bite-sized pieces) and difficult to eat.



I would go back to Bumpkin and try some of their other meals. If ordering the Sunday roast again, I would make sure that the gravy came on the side. We'd both assumed that the gravy would come in a little dish so we could pour on as much as we like. Overall, we felt that this was a nice restaurant, but we were let down by little things, such as the gravy issues, the slow service, and the hard frozen lumps of shortbread in the sundae. 

Leonard Street Car Park and the alleyway Blackall Street, next to Leonard Street, are currently being regenerated. The old buildings are being torn down at the moment, and there are plans to build new offices or apartments (or something) in the ever-popular Shoreditch area. I am sad to see Leonard Street Car Park and Blackall Street disappear as they have been very popular with street artists and many great works of street art have been produced here. I suppose that is the way with the ever-changing area that is east London as it gains in popularity due to its location near the City and the gentrification of its streets, attracting top prices and pricing everyone out of the area unless they are very well off.


Over the past couple of months, since the cranes came in to tear down the buildings, I have been photographing the wide range of street art that has popped up on the scaffolding around the construction site. Artista, Pure Evil, 616, Amara Por Dios, Captain Kris, Inkfetish, Untay, Tizer, Pang, Bill Dill, Sian Storey, Hunto, ALSO, Spzero, Squrl, Kaes, Lost Souls, Cardboard Skeleton, Mr. Sable, and Dan Kitchener are a few of the artists who have left their marks on the new scaffolding.











I am sad to see Blackall Street and the Leonard Street car park disappear. I wonder what the new area will bring in the way of street art or if it will just become another 'boring' place with grey buildings on the fringe of the City.

Don "Paul" Smith, also known as "the Banker", is one of the most active London-based street artists. I've covered his work here, here, and here. I've seen the artist hard at work many times around Brick Lane and have had a chat with him, and I even got a spray-painted "banker" image to take away once. He uses stencils to create his work, which is primarily portraits of people, with famous people seemingly a favourite of the artist.


The artist has been busy regularly with some work on Hanbury Street in some of his favourite places, featuring Elvis and also Mad Max in another place on the same street.


 Some additions to Mad Max over a few days were made to this image over the past week to include lizards.





Other places in east London were also canvases...


He also painted the canvases opposite the Village Underground recently, which was a collaboration with a few other artists who owned the other three panels.


Bob Marley also featured in January, adding some brightness to a dull winter Brick Lane.


The Hulk was painted on Hanbury Street at the end of last year, but he did not last too long.


Marilyn Monroe was painted on Hanbury Street last summer.


Near Christmas and into the new year, many "banker" images with "banker and the Mrs" were painted in various places. The above one had "Merry Banker" written on it, and it appeared a couple of weeks before Christmas. 


Sadly, the world lost actor and comedian Robin Williams last summer, and a tribute was created.


I'm not sure who "Huggy Bear" is, but perhaps this is a friend of the artist.

Hopefully I will be able to get any new photographs of Don "Paul" Smith's work soon, as long as it is not painted over too quickly.


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