April 2015 Archives

Italian street artist Hunto (originally covered in my blog post here) is no stranger to London, and he's created dozens of murals in the city. His most recent addition to London's streets is located on Sclater Street where he painted a large mural. This is a fantastic piece, created with a white background incorporating the bright and colourful characters that he's known by. 


The full-sized piece is photographed below. Hunto is a fan of Picasso and the cubist art movement, and his style is clearly inspired by both. The subject is always the brightly-coloured characters and the relationship between them.


This is a stunning addition to the area, and along with Dan Kitchener's impressive street scene piece further down the same wall, which I'll cover in a later post, it shows that Sclater Street has some promising new potential by high profile artists. I hope that trend continues.


Of course, this is not the first work by the artist this year. Earlier this year, Hunto painted the front of a shop on the corner of Brick Lane. 


The piece below appeared on Great Eastern Street, and it's titled "Hunto says let's flirt" and it depicts amorous people.


Have you seen any recent street art by Hunto? If so, let me know.

Cranio Repaints His Wall on Brick Lane

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Brazilian artist Cranio, known as Fabio Oliveira, has returned to London. The artist is known for painting his blue 'native' characters. I have previously covered his work in London when he visited for the first time (covered here) and when he visited London in the middle of 2013 and collaborated with other artists, such as HIN, Mo, and Senna (covered here). His most recent visit before recently was last summer at the time of the World Cup, and he painted walls off of Brick Lane and Great Eastern Street (covered here), but they did not last long.


On Sunday, I discovered new artwork by the artist. The small sliver of wall on Brick Lane has had one of Cranio's characters on it for the past few years now, and it had lately looked like it needed a fresh coat of paint. Instead, the artist returned to paint a new one on the spot. It's a striking piece using black and bright red to look like a flame. This marks the fourth time that Cranio has refreshed this wall now.


Perhaps more pieces by Cranio will be popping up in the coming days. Let me know if you see anything.

Paul 'Don' Smith is a street artist that I've been following for awhile, and he tends to create several new pieces of artwork in the same timeframe. This year, new work from the artist started to appear from February, and I noticed some new pieces in March and in April. Mr. Smith is a stencil artist, and I've seen him at work a few times now. His work is well-known for the creation of the 'tap man banker' image, which I've covered in previous posts. For more information about the artist and some additional work, visit my pages here, here, here, and here. Additional entries with other artists can be found here and here. I'm the most proud of meeting the artist and getting the 'tap man' image in my sketchbook that I used to carry around with me when I worked in London.


A new wall has been taken over by the artist in the past couple of months. This wall contains portraits of Judy Garland, Spock, Loki, and Heath Ledger. First, we have a tribute to Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. It has yellow bricks and rube red and emerald in the background.


Spock also occupies the wall, and this was painted after the death of actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in Star Trek. The background is made up of the symbol.


Heath Ledger's portrait is one of the newer ones on the wall and would have appeared between the end of March and middle of April, and it has sadly been defaced. The actor died much too young a few years ago but was most famous for his roles in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight.


Paul Walker is another portrait on this wall, and this is one of the newer portraits, which has sadly been defaced with tagging. Paul Walker died in a car accident a few years ago; he was one of the actors in the Fast and Furious films. He was in the middle of filming the latest film in the franchise (Fast & Furious 7) when he died.


Another portrait on the wall is Nestorudi and Mila, and she is an artist from Sweden.


I think Mr. Smith is a fan of comic books and science fiction as it is a common theme in his artwork. Loki from The Avengers films (and Thor) makes an appearance on the wall, and the artist uses his signature to incorporate Loki's headgear.


An older piece that appears on Hanbury Street is of the Chinese girl and Blue Lady. This would have appeared at Chinese New Year. I visited London two weeks after Chinese New Year, so this did not last long at all. This is based on a painting.


One of the newest pieces that I spotted a couple of weeks ago is of Ronnie and Reggie Kray, twins from the east end of London who were involved with criminal activity. Quite a lot of east London still glamourises them.


Another new piece of street art appears on scaffolding on Rivington Street, and it features Child 44. This is a thriller novel set in the 1950s Soviet Union.


This same scaffolding also has an image of Dr. Manhattan. He is a superhero in the Watchman.


Star Lord is another comic book character.


Last but not least, Mr. Smith has freshed the colour in one of his older pieces of work. This artwork has been at the location for at least two and a half years now, and it's a piece that most people would have just walked past. Perhaps this is why the artist put some new life into the colours. The work is of Mona Lisa and a skyline of Paris, and it's located on Great Eastern Street. At the same time, he also added a new portrait above Mona Lisa. The portrait is of Bob Hoskins, a British actor who played gangsters and criminals. He was in a film called 'Mona Lisa', and he died a year ago this month, so this new piece is possibly a tribute.

At the weekend, the bloke and I visited 'W Hotel' in Leicester Square in order to enjoy 'W Fashion / Power Tea'. This special afternoon tea was only available for a limited time and celebrates Design Museum's 'Women Fashion Power Show'. The afternoon tea pastries and Hendrick's Gin cocktail (which is an optional extra) celebrate fashion icons. The afternoon tea could have been enjoyed after or before a visit to the fashion exhibition at the Design Museum. This exhibition was a celebration of women in power (politics, business, culture, and fashion) to the modern day.


W Hotel is located just off of Leicester Square on Wardour Street, one of the busiest and most-crowded areas of west London. The hotel is in a modern building with Chinatown, theatres, cinemas, museums, and nightlife on its doorstep. Outside the hotel's front door is a large blue 'W', representing the namesake of the hotel. The hotel also attracts celebrities and celebrity events.


Although the hotel is in the middle of the busy area, it is a quiet haven. With large disco-ball-esque light features as you enter the reception and book shelves stacked high with hundreds decorated plates depicting faces, fashion, hair, or torsos, the hotel can best be described as stylish. Unique lighting in the shape of TETRIS-style bricks and globes were other interior pieces, and the book-shelves that hold the plates also contain design/film/music/theatre-inspired books to fit in with its location. 


The hotel also has a resident DJ, and she was really getting into some of the songs. The music played included anything from 1970s disco to rock to Amy Winehouse to The Feeling to Michael Jackson. The main lounge area (pictured below) is bright and stylish with tables set up for afternoon tea; the DJ is standing at the back and dressed in a pretty sequin and very sparkly dress.


We were shown our table, but it was not in the main lounge area. It was in a quieter area to the side with all of the ceiling-high shelving (filled with the plates) next to us. The bloke wondered how they cleaned all of the plates. Each of the tables that were set up for afternoon tea contained a tea stand designed as ceramic heels. The ceramic heels were available in different designs. I saw a pair of sparkly silver ones and beige strappy heels in the lounge. The ones at our table were yellow with black polka-dots with a bow on the front.


We decided to upgrade to the Hendrick's cocktail "Fashion mar-tea-ni", and this came to us in a vintage-style Hendrick's pitcher. In the pitcher were two glasses of cocktail for each of us. The cocktail was sweet and tasted of grapefruit.


We enjoyed the cocktails so much that we decided to try another one on the cocktail menu. While we were waiting for our sandwiches, we flipped through the cocktail menu. I settled on the 'Cool Britannia', and the bloke had 'Gold Digger'. The 'Cool Britannia' was a refreshing-but-sour cocktail, and I love sour, so this was right up my  street. I did not take a photograph of the menu, but it contained apple liquer and Tanqueray (gin). The bloke's 'Gold Digger' contained whiskey and raspberry. I could have easily had another cocktail, but I wanted to save room for my tea.


The tea was brought out, and I tried the Organic Breakfast Tea. (I had Earl Grey later.) The bloke decided to try the Jasmine Pearl Dragon tea, which is a variety that I had not heard of. This is actually a green tea, but it's not bitter at all. I love green tea, but I do know that it can be bitter and it puts a lot of people off. This was not bitter at all. It was a fragrant tea and scented. Actually, the fragrance reminded me of of the honeysuckle bushes that grew in the yard of the house I grew up in and in the countryside; in the June evenings as the land cooled, the scent would be carried in the air. Honeysuckle is my favourite fragrance to this day.


Our sandwiches arrived, and we had the following flavours: salmon with cream cheese, chicken with lemon butter, egg mayonnaise, and cucumber and Greek yoghurt. I despise mayonnaise and yoghurt, so the cucumber and egg came plain. The sandwiches were tasty, and we could have had a couple more. The scones (with strawberry jam and clotted cream) arrived on the same plate. We had one each, and they were fruit scones. These tasted delicious. The scones served were one of the better ones that I've had in my London afternoon tea experiences.


After we'd finished sandwiches and scones, the plate of pastries was presented to us along with the description of each. First up, we have 'The Lady Gaga'. This is inspired by singer Lady Gaga, who seems to have taken a step back from the spotlight in recent years, but she was wowing us for awhile with her unique and shocking fashion sense and using it as publicity. The marbled red velvet cake is topped with marzipan with a thin layer of strawberry jam, and it tasted like a Victoria Sponge cake. The cake is inspired by the meat dress that Gaga wore to the 2010 MTV awards. Its marbled design looks like meat, and it's been 'stamped' GAGA. 


Second is 'The Vivienne Westwood'. It includes two pieces of candy floss, which is inspired by the designer's hair and milk chocolate mousse. The mousse was described as being wrapped in Vivienne Westwood-inspired tartan pattern on the chocolate, but it was not. Perhaps there was an issue in using this pattern on the chocolates. Instead of the tartan patterned-chocolate, the mousse was wrapped in a brown dark chocolate shell. Actually, I would not really call this a mousse. I would describe it as layers of mousse with chocolate sponge cake. This was quite rich, and the bloke could not finish his slice. I felt that perhaps the slice was a little too large, and I actually would have preferred four smaller items to three larger ones. 


Last but not least is 'The Coco Chanel'. This is a chocolate truffle with white chocolate pearls and a small perfume-bottle containing champagne. The champagne can be 'sprayed' onto the truffle like perfume, and the lid can also be unscrewed so that the remainder can be drunk. The pearls on both truffles were white, except two were covered in gold glitter. This was my favourite of the three desserts.  


I enjoyed the afternoon tea and the cocktails. The only change that I would make would be to make the chocolate sponge dessert a bit smaller in size and to create a fourth item. The Gaga cake and Chanel and candy floss were spot on, but I felt that the chocolate sponge was missing a little 'something' and under-designed. Other than that, this was a great afternoon out.

In case you are thinking about going to W Hotel to try this themed afternoon tea, this weekend was the last weekend to enjoy the W Fashion / Power Tea. However, the hotel do specialise in themed afternoon teas, and they have celebrated with this theme in the past and will probably do so again in the future. It is certainly worth making a reservation to enjoy afternoon tea and cocktails at W Hotel in Leicester Square.

(Note that I reserved the hotel myself and am not being paid to write this review or any of my previous reviews in this blog, though I would not mind being contacted to write a review of any afternoon tea or meal.)

Lunch at MEATmission

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A couple of months ago, I paid a visit to MEATmission near Hoxton Square. I have wanted to visit MEATmission for awhile as I had heard good things about its related restaurant (MEATliquor), so I made a point of visiting before my last day of working in London. Hoxton Square was not too far to walk to from where I worked, so I made sure that I paid a visit. I did not have my camera with me, so I used my mobile phone to get some photographs. The menu contains a large selection of cocktails. I asked for the fruitiest cocktail, and the "Summer of Love" was recommended to me. It is made of Voda, lemon juice, grape, and passion fruit juice. 


Before I was seated and ordered the cocktail, though, I located MEATmission off of a quiet square behind the main Hoxton Square. I think that if you did not realise it was there, you would easily mistake it for something else. It really does not look like a restaurant from the outside. Actually, the building is a converted church. 


Upon walking in, the bar is straight ahead. The restaurant was quiet, and the room was dark but with a quirky style and bright colours and a lot of red. Next to the bar is a photo booth. This photo booth would be great to go in with friends and get a lot of silly photographs. I was by myself, however, so I didn't use the booth! The photo booth reminded me of a confessional, I guess, in going with the 'church' theme.


I was shown my seat and admired the stained glass and silly MEATmission quotations hung around the restaurant.


The menu at MEATmission is probably best described as a burger joint with American food and drinks on offer. It contains items, such as the 'Dead Hippie (TM)' burger, Monkey Fingers (chicken strips), macaroni and cheese, and vegetarian burgers. Drinks include a selection of shakes and floats (ice cream mixed with Cola or root beer). Going with the church theme, the menu reads that it is "food for the soul and unholy spirits". 


I decided to try a 'Hoxton Fizz' cocktail, based on the area's namesake. The cocktail is made from Vodka, pear and lemon juice topped with a strawberry.


I ordered the "Dirty Chicken" burger and fries to eat, and the chicken burger was one of the best that I have ever had. The meat was very juicy, and everything tasted wonderful.


I cannot wait to visit MEATmission again and also check out the other restaurants in the chain. 

UK 2015 Glossybox Review: April

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On Thursday last week, I received my Glossybox. Last week was full of surprises as I'd also received my Birchbox and LoveMeBeauty Box, earlier the same week. Glossybox is a monthly beauty subscription box, and subscribers can expect approximately 5 beauty or skin-care items. Some of these are sample sizes, and some of these are full-sized products.


This month's theme was Hollywood beauties. All boxes had an image of Marilyn Monroe on the front and were in a selection of four pastel shades (blue, pink, turquoise, and yellow). I received the yellow box. Inside the lid was a quote from Audrey Hepburn "I believe that happy girls and the prettiest girls." I like Audrey Hepburn's style, so I was excited to see what was inside the box. Last month, all subscribers had a spoiler to tell us to expect to receive a Lord & Berry product. I was looking forward to the box, so let's see what I received.


Lord & Berry Lipstick Pencil in 'Kiss': This is a red shade, and it can be layered to create a deeper colour. This is described as the perfect Marilyn Monroe 'red'. It has a matte finished, and although I'm not a fan of bright red on my lips, I really liked the product.

Pop Beauty Kajal Eyeliner Pen: This eyeliner pencil has the eyeliner product on one end and a smudger on the other end so that the 'cat eye' look can be created by creating a flicked 'wing' on the outer corner of the eye. The smudger can also be used to create a smokey eye effect. I liked the product as I don't currently have anything like it, and I've been achieving the same looks by using cotton swabs.

Darphin Beauty Revealing Cream: This cream promises to enhance firmness and glow of the skin and soften any wrinkles. I liked the smell and texture of the product, and it also does seem to smooth out my skin. Unfortunately, it's only a small pot of the cream, and with application twice a day, I think it would only last about four days.

Color Club Nail Polish in 'Barely There': This is a nude nail that is a popular colour for spring. The product took two or three coats to apply, and I enjoyed the results. I don't have a colour like this in my collection, so this was welcome, although I'm not sure how much use I will get out of it as I don't tend to use this colour.

Nougat London bath pearls: These bath pearls claimed to have a light fragrance and add a subtle shimmer to the skin. I put just over the recommended amount in the bathwater, but I still could not smell fragrance, and I could not see a shimmer. This was a disappointing product.


What's my verdict on this box? Overall, I felt that this was a decent box with products that I will use, even if one of them was a disappointment. The lip pencil and the eye pencil really do make a vintage makeover possible.

Street Art: Lapiztola

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Mexican street artist collective Lapiztola visited London early this year, and they transformed one of the walls in a car park off of Brick Lane into a work of art. The collective was formed in 2006 in Oxaca, Mexico. It was formed to give voice to a time of political unrest in the city. Lapiztola actually translates into 'pencil' and 'pistol', and the collective are graphic designers. They use stencils to create their work.


The subject of the mural off of Brick Lane is a little girl with her mother or grandmother, and the little girl is reaching out to a small pig. Lapiztola typically create political murals, so it's possible that this piece is a message. Perhaps the message is that the younger generation chase the wealth (pig) while the older generation sit back and watch the wealth walk away in the other direction. This is my interpretation of the artwork as cost of living and achieving the same level of success as our parents or grandparents is nearly unachievable and could possibly be described a little bit like chasing a pig. I don't know if any of you have ever tried to chase a pig, but they are strong and quite quick despite being an animal that is stereotyped for being lazy.


The artwork has been in place for a little while, so do check it out if you're in the area as it is an attractive piece.

After having a wander through the Bunratty Folk Park, we walked to the castle. The castle is on the edge of the folk park and just beyond a small grove of trees that separated it. Bunratty Castle is a good example of an Irish castle, known as a tower house. In the past, Ireland's lands were owned by many different wealthy families. Sometimes, fights would break out against neighbouring families, so these towers were built for protection and to show the status of the occupants.

bun ratty castle

Bunratty Castle was built in the 15th century along the river Shannon. This position on the river meant that it was a prime location, and the English had a fortress here to protect the area against attacks by the Irish. I saw a good view of the river from the top of the castle.

bun ratty castle

The castle was extremely busy with large tour groups when we arrived, and with such a small space, we did have difficulty maneouvering. The spiral staircases were also particularly difficult as they are narrow and can only allow movement in one direction. We had to wait awhile for the large groups to leave an area before we could explore it ourselves. Also, the castle may look imposing on the outside, but in reality, the rooms of the castle are small. 

bun ratty castle

Our first room was the Main Guard, and this was the dining area of the soldiers. Above this is the Great Hall, which was the dining room of the Earl of the castle and is a much larger room with a wooden vaulted ceiling. This is the largest room, and it attracted the large tour groups, so I did not get a good photograph of it.

bun ratty castle

The Earl's bedroom was the next room, and it had a large poster bed in it, and this looked like it filled the room.

bun ratty castle

We saw other private apartments as well.

bun ratty castle

The next room was the kitchen, and it also held a lot of items used for cooking - pots, pans, meat, and herbs.

bun ratty castle

bun ratty castle

We also saw the sleeping quarters for the servants, which included a modest bed in a corner on the floor of one of the rooms.

bun ratty castle

The last room we visited was the chapel.

bun ratty castle

The interior of the castle was actually like a maze with different and unexpected rooms and stairways. We were lucky not to run into the large tour groups in these parts of the castle.

Overall, this was one of the better castles that we visited on our trip, so I recommend visiting it and the folk park.

Bunratty Folk Park (Ireland)

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Early the next morning and after our visit to the Cliffs of Moher, we ate our breakfast and then drove southwest from Doolin toward Limerick. Our destination was Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, located between Shannon and Limerick. This post will feature Bunratty Folk Park, but the next post will be Bunratty Castle. Both attractions can be visited in approximately half a day, but one could also easily make a day of it if they wanted to get lunch here and spend longer looking at the exhibits. 

bun ratty folk park
Fisherman houses from Loop Head in County Clare

Bunratty Folk Park is set on 26 acres and is a "living museum", meaning that homes and buildings are set up the way that they would have been in the past (the 19th century), and the staff in traditional dress. The buildings have come from many different places in Ireland.

bun ratty folk park

We had a walk around the folk park, starting on the country trail where we discovered a horizontal mill, farmhouses, farm buildings, and a large area inside a group of barns that was filled with farm equipment and the largest selection of antique ploughs that I have ever seen in my life.

bun ratty folk park

As we were walking around the farm buildings, we saw the haystacks perched off the ground on stone and wooden blocks.

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

Dotted around were various antique farm equipment, such as the 'self feeder'. I did not get a good look at it, but it looks like dried ears of corn would be put into the top of it, and they'd turn the handle so that the kernels would come off. This would produce feed for animals.

bun ratty folk park

Many of the buildings were open, so we could take a look inside.

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

There were animals in the folk park (like the donkey and pony above) as well, and another attraction are the walled gardens. These formed as part of the gardens for the castle.

bun ratty folk park

The largest building on site is a Georgian house known as Hazelbrook House, and it was built in 1898. It was owned by the family who created a famous Irish ice cream brand, HB (Hughes Brothers) Ice Cream, and the family also had a dairy. The family were more well-off than most, and this is reflected in the furnishings.

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

Outside of this house is a park filled with red deer.

bun ratty folk park

After a visit to the house, which is on the far perimeter of the folk park, we walked to the 'town' area. It contains a pub, post office, general store, printer's, and other shops that a small town would have.

bun ratty folk park

bun ratty folk park

One of the most unique buildings on site because of its colour is the building below. It is nearer to the castle. It's a fisherman's house, and it was near Kerry and used for salmon fishing.

bun ratty folk park
Cashen Fisherman's House

My next post will feature Bunratty Castle, which I visited immediately after looking around the folk park. Have you ever been to Bunratty Folk Park?

Cutter & Squidge

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Cutter & Squidge is a bakery that creates biscuits (cookies) sanwiched between buttercream; they call these biskies. They also make marshmallows, cakes, and other baked goods. The company started in northwest London, and the founders love to cook and bake. Although the company specialise in sweets, the founders use natural ingredients and try to keep them as healthy as possible. 


Cutter & Squide is located on Brewer Street and is a pop-up shop/cafe for a limited time only. I went to have a look of their pop-up and went to try the biskies.


The biskies are displayed in the window, and they look delicious. There were approximately twelve different flavours on offer from green tea to s'mores to peanut butter. 


I decided to give one of them a try, and I opted to try the "OMG It's Green". This is green tea, white chocolate and raspberry. The biscuit base (or cookie) is a crisp consistency instead of soft, and buttercream is inside. 


I also opted for a drink, and they had a selection of fruit drinks on offer. I had one called "Refresh", which was very fruity with raspberry and lemon and tasted delicious. I could have had a lot more of this.


The biskie and the drink hit the spot.


I decided to purchase a box of them. They sell boxes of four, so I choose my flavours. I really wanted to try the lemon one, but they had sold out. Instead, I opted for pistachio and cherry, millionaire's shortbread with 24k gold leaf, s'mores, and the fallback one was a strawberry s'mores.


All of these were good, but my favourites were the pistachio and the green tea flavours. 

Cutter & Squidge's pop-up will be opened until June 5. They are located at 4 Brewer Street, London, W1F 0SB. They are open from 10:30 to 10:00 from Monday to Saturday and from 11:00 on Sunday. For more information or to order from their online shop, visit their website at: http://www.cutterandsquidge.com

UK 2015 Birchbox Reviews: April

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On Monday, my April Birchbox arrived. Birchbox is a beauty subscription box; each month, subscribers receive a box with approximately five sample or full-size beauty or skincare products. This month's box's theme is "Royally Good" in order to celebrate the birth of Kate and William's baby which will happen at some point this month. There are two styles of box, a pink one to celebrate if it's a girl and a blue one to celebrate if it's a boy. I received the pink box, but I think the baby could be a boy, so we will see.


This month, we had the option to select a Laura Mercier product. I've previously received the foundation primer, so I decided to try the eye pencil. My review of the products is below.

Laura Mercier eye pencil in 'black violet': This eye pencil is in a dark violet colour, and I love the colour. The application is not ideal, however, as the product seems to be too hard. I had to keep layering it on my skin in order to get the colour to take. I think I would love this product if the application was better; I received one in a 'clay' colour in one of my subscription boxes, and I love it.

Lola Barcelona nail polish in 'Garcia': This is a Birchbox-exclusive brand, and the colour is hot pink. The product went on smoothly, but I found the application with the brush a little fiddly compared to other brands. I am not too keen on this colour, and I do have a few similar shades in my collection.

Percy & Reed Volumising No Oil Oil: This is a hair product which promises to tame the hair without being oily. The product does not leave an oily residue, and it did seem to give my hair the extra volume.

Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish + Muslin Cloth: This cleanser and polish is a product that I've previously tried as I have received other samples of it. The product is also recommended for sensitive skin types, and I know one person who has difficult skin conditions and allergies that uses it without any issues.

Pommade Divine Nature's Remedy Balm: This nourishing skin balm clears up problem (dry or damaged) skin. My skin is in a decent condition at the moment, but on my test application, it did make my skin feel a little more nourished. The product also smells nice. It's the type of product that needs repeat use over time in order to determine how successful it is.

Imedeen Derma One: This month, subscribers got a selection of vitamin pills to take, and the one I received was to boost skin's health. I was not excited about this product, but I would have liked to have tried the energising vitamins or the mask that I saw others receive instead of this.


Overall, I'm feeling underwhelmed with Birchbox again. In my opinion, Birchbox has been missing the mark for me. I have one more box before my annual subscription is up, and I don't think that I will be renewing as I've not really been keen on over half of the boxes that I've received.

Early last year, I had fun discovering as many colourful masks pasted up on various walls throughout London as I could. These colourful masks are made by French artist Gregos, whose work is popular in Paris. Last year's masks are covered here: Street Art Masks by Gregos. The masks feature the artist's face with different poses. Many of the masks from early last year are now gone, so I was happy to see that the artist returned this spring and left more masks for me to discover. I discovered some last week before meeting up with ex-colleagues, and I returned last weekend to locate as many as I could.


Last spring, there were approximately fifty masks, and this year, there are the same number, according to the artist's Facebook page. I did not find fifty as several have been stolen, and I could see where they should have been from other photographs on the artist's Facebook page and by looking at the location to see the glue where they would have been. Some are also located in Camden, but I did not get to go there.














To see more work by Gregos, visit his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gregos-Art/118749327867?fref=ts 

Last week, street artist JimmyC painted a new mural on the corner of Brick Lane and Fashion Street. I covered JimmyC, whose real name is James Cochran, a couple of years ago when I discovered a lot of his murals in east London from that year and his high-profile Olympian portrait of Usain Bolt. You can read about him here: Street Art: JimmyC. Toward the later part of last year, he painted a few new pieces (here), and these included a portrait of a female on a wall near Shoreditch High Street (JimmyC Street Art: New Inn Yard, Brick Lane, Hackney Road).


The new mural is actually painted on the Joe's Kid cafe wall. This wall has previously been used by street artists, and JimmyC's work is a welcome addition to the area; I do hope that it remains for awhile.

The style is JimmyC's 'dot' style, which he commonly uses in his work. According to JimmyC's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Jimmyc.artwork), the subject of this new piece is the cafe's owner, Danni. She is three years old in the painting, and she is with her grandfather, Joe. Joe owned a cafe in the east end in the 1930s, and this is who the cafe is named after.


The piece came as a surprise to me as I was in London last Thursday evening to meet up with ex-colleagues for their leaving drinks, and I wanted to check out as much street art as possible in the short time. This diversion on Thursday highlighted many more new pieces of street art, which I will be posting in the coming days, so do keep checking back as I am very excited about posting more excellent pieces. Street artists have certainly been busy in London over the past month.

When I visited London in the middle of April, I came across new work by French artist, Thierry Noir. He was one of the first grafitti artists and started by painting his characters on the Berlin Wall. Originally, I covered his first work in London here: Thierry Noir. To my knowledge, this was his first visit to London, and he collaborated with fellow street artist Stik. Last year, the artist came back to London, and I watched new artwork appear on Rivington Street (Thierry Noir's New Murals on Rivington Street). The artist is in London again.


The shop front on Shoreditch High Street opposite BoxPark has been painted by Thierry Noir. The shutter has not been painted, but the walls on either side of it have been. 


I love the use of colour added to the streets, and the work is simple yet effective.


 Perhaps additional pieces by Thierry Noir will be appearing over the course of the next few weeks.

The wall on the corner of Brick Lane and Pedley Street finally had new street art on it when I visited the area last Thursday. Of course, the bright and colourful piece by Bicicleta Sem Freio (covered here), which appeared at the beginning of September last year, was going to be a difficult piece to beat. The new piece is a collaboration between Guido Zimmermann and Hannah Adamaszek. It features two peacocks. Hannah's is the one on the left, and Guido's is the one on the right. 


Hannah was in London for the Femme Fierce grafitti festival (covered here) in Leake Street tunnel in March, and she was one of the 150 women who contributed to the walls of the tunnel. According to her website, she saw that Guido Zimmermann was going to be in London and agreed to collaborate with him, choosing peacocks as their subject matter. Guido's work primarily focuses on animals, and he enjoys personifying them.


Unfortunately, I found the piece with a bad message across it, which I've had to edit out of the above photographs. The message read that the work was boring and belongs in a gallery. However, art is subjective and everyone has their own tastes. I felt that damaging the piece soon after it was painted was disrespectful to the artists, particularly as they wish to create artwork, let people enjoy their artwork, and to gain exposure so that they can put their talents to use. Everyone has their own tastes. Bringing art to the streets is perfect; the walls act as a gallery and it brings the artwork to as many people as possible. These days, many do not often get the chance to visit a gallery, but if they see the artwork and enjoy it, this may encourage them to make an effort to visit a gallery at some point. Adding art to the streets can also make the area more attractive by replacing a boring wall with a work of art. 

For more information about Hannah Adamsazek, look at her website: http://hannahadamaszek.com

For more information about Guido Zimmermann, look at his website: http://globalstreetart.com/gz

En Masse is a group of street artists from Montreal. Their name means 'all together' in French, and the group was founded by Tim Barnard and Jason Botkin in 2009. It is now under direction from Botkin and Rupert Bottenberg, and the group are active in the world of art and not limited to producing art on the streets. According to their website (1), the group strives to produce collaborative artwork that creates a collective style and vision which enables enhanced creativity from the group, and they've worked with over 250 other artists internationally.


The group visited London and spent the last week painting the Village Underground mural. The result is a strking black and white mural with many different faces and other imagery. When I visited it on Sunday morning, an artist was completing the final touches on the far right-hand corner of the wall. Some detailed photographs of some of the faces that I found impressive are below.


The work actually reminded me a little bit of Amara Por Dios' work at the beginning of the year, which I covered here: Amara Por Dios: Village Underground. She also used black and white to convey several abstract faces. I am unsure if En Masse would have seen her work prior to creating theirs, but it's a great piece and a piece that I want to spend time to look at in order to see all of the different faces.


For more information about En Masse, view their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/enmasse

1) En Masse. http://enmasse.info/about/ [12 April 2015].

A Visit to the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

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On our first day in the Burren National Park in Country Clare on the western side of Ireland, we headed to the Cliffs of Moher and arrived just before the attraction was due to close. We had a quick look around the visitor's exhibition centre, where we saw some information on the sea life, bird life, and plant life in this unique area. We did not get to stay here for long as they were about ready to close up the centre, so we made our way up the trail to the sea cliffs, named the Cliffs of Moher.

cliffs of moher

The Cliffs of Moher are 214 meters high at their highest point, and they extend for over 8km over the Atlantic Ocean along County Clare. Below is an image of them looking southwest.

cliffs of moher

We walked up to the high point where a tower, known as O'Brien's Tower, was constructed in the mid-1800s for tourists to enjoy the views. The tower was not open when we arrived. 

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

We took in the views along the tower, stopping at the point where we saw warning signs about the footpath becoming unsafe. We then backtracked to the other direction to see views of O'Brien's Tower and the other cliffs and sea stacks. 

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

There's a large colony of birds that live off the Cliffs of Moher. Puffins are also meant to live here, but we did not see any. We did spot some birds down on the ledge of sea stacks below the cliffs, and I got a few photographs of them (below), but they do not look like puffins.

cliffs of moher

The Cliffs of Moher were formed hundreds of thousands of years ago from mud and sand. Some of this made up an ancient seabed where fossils can be found.

cliffs of moher

Cliffs of Moher is a beautiful place to explore and enjoy the scenery. I am sure that if we had had more time to spend here, we may have seen some dolphins and enjoy the wildlife more.

On the 15th of March, I headed over to the Leake Street tunnel to see the grafitti. Despite using Waterloo Station daily for the past few years, this was my first visit to Leake Street. I knew that the event 'Femme Fierce' had kicked off the previous weekend, so I was keen to see some of the artwork produced. 


'Femme Fierce' is an event held by female grafitti/street artists each year. The event is inspired by International Women's Day and the charity supported is Plan UK's 'Because I am a Girl' campaign. It promises to end child marriage and slavery as well as to provide more rights for girls. More information can be found here: http://www.plan-uk.org/because-i-am-a-girl/


The walls in the tunnel were painted blue during the event, and several female artists took part. Over 150 pieces of artwork were created for the event. Artists include Zabou, Amara Por Dios, Artista, Simoni Fontana, Franie Strand, and Kaleidoscope Eyes.



By the time that I visited, several of the good pieces that I had seen in photographs had been painted over. Artwork in the Leake Street tunnel is always changing and does not last long at all. The work here changes more frequently than the walls in east London. However, I did get several photographs, which you can see below.






I'm not sure if the Lego 'Letgo' one above is actually part of the Femme Fierce, but I liked it, and it is dated this year.

More photographs can be seen on InspiringCity's blog at: http://inspiringcity.com/2015/03/14/femme-fierce-2015-packs-the-leake-street-tunnel-as-female-street-artists-paint-it-brilliant-blue/

In addition, check out the event's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FemmeFierceEvents

More Art Pigs by Love Piepenbrinck

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Over the past few months, I discovered some new and older street art little pig sculptures by artist Love Piepenbrinck around London. These are always unexpected and bring a smile to my face. One cute one is a pig-tiger lurking in a corner near Spitalfields. More photographs of the artist's work can be seen in my entry: Street Art: Love Piepenbrinck - Jenikya's Blog






I was very pleased to discover the location of the piggie advent calendar from Christmas 2013. I thought that I knew the location when I saw the photographs appearing on the artist's Facebook page, but I was incorrect and I only discovered the actual location last spring. Unfortunately, only a few of the 24 pigs remained. And there is one less now as I discovered one of them was lying on the groud and looking very sad so I took it to my desk at work to look after (after receiving permission from the artist). Perhaps I can get some glue from somewhere and paste it back up on the streets for others to enjoy.


Sometimes I just discover a new one when I am not expecting it, such as the one covered in fabric balls. Other times, it takes a new piece of artwork to paint around the pig in order for me to see it, such as the old flowery one.



I published the following in another enty, and I was lucky to capture them before they were too weathered and/or stolen. It seems that a lot of these get stolen because I see them posted by other street art enthusiasts and recognise the location, but before I am able to snap my own photograph, they have gone walkabout. My favourite has to be the patchwork one below.



Have you spotted any of these around London's streets?

Easter Sunday in North Yorkshire was beautiful and warm, and after we had our Easter lunch at the Guy Fawkes Arms, the bloke and I drove down the road to visit Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden. The attractions are a UNESCO World Heritage site and are set over a couple hundred acres of land. I am unsure if the photographs do the attraction justice as it's really a beautiful place, and it would look attractive in any season.

fountains abbey

We arrived in the early afternoon, and the parking was nearly full and the grounds were busy with families with young children. The attraction was hosting an Easter Egg trail for the children, so this was popular but not quite as popular as the previous afternoon when we visited Brimham Rocks.

fountains abbey

On our walk through the fields to Fountains Abbey, we saw a pheasant. Actually, these pheasants were everywhere on the grounds. We did watch a fight between two male pheasants later in the day.

fountains abbey

We arrived with a view of the scale of Fountains Abbey, which was actually a lot larger than I expected. The abbey is one of the largest and best-preserved Cisterian monestaries in England. It ws founded in 1132 by thirteen months who had been expelled at St. Mary's Abbey in York after a disagreement, and they were provided with the land along the river at the present site of Fountains Abbey ruins. On this site, they successfully created the wealthiest monestary of its time.

fountains abbey

The monestary became ruins after Henry VIII's Dissolution of Monestaries after his disagreements with the Pope over his seeking of a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon from Spain. Catholicism ended in England at that point, and Henry VIII got his divorce and married Anne Boleyn.

fountains abbey

I hope that the photographs of the ruins of Fountains Abbey give some indication of the scale and grandeur of this monestary.

fountains abbey
Great Cloisters

fountains abbey
Cloisters courtyard (interior)

fountains abbey
Frater house (original floor tiles)

fountains abbey

fountains abbey

fountains abbey
View of tower and Chapter House

fountains abbey

After having a quick look around Fountains Abbey, we walked out the other side to walk through the park/gardens. We wanted to visit St. Mary's Church, a church built in the late 1800s, before it shut at 4:00. A trail can be followed around the lake/river to the water gardens and deer park. The part of the trail that we followed went around the river/lake area in a clockwise fashion.

fountains abbey

We saw views over the Studley Royal Water Gardens below us at one point on the trail, and the trail followed the main stretch of the water gardens to the end. 

studely water gardens

We had to exit the grounds to get to the deer park and St. Mary's Church. St. Mary's Church is located inside the deer park. We did not see any deer, and I assume that they must be hiding or sleeping further afield than we walked. 

Deer park

The church finally came into view, and we went inside and took some photographs. The organ was being played, and they were letting children have a turn at ringing the church bell. This is a gothic-style church from the late 1800s.


I loved the stained glass windows and the way that the light shone through them, and the ceiling was decorated beautifully as well too.


After leaving the church, we had to re-enter the grounds. Not far away from where we entered is a bridge to cross the lake that forms the water gardens. The wooden bridge is at the edge with a large lake on one side and the water gardens on the other.

studely water gardens

studely water gardens
On the bridge, looking down toward the water gardens

I walked around the Studley Royal Water Gardens. These were created in the 1700s and were styled after mainland Europe's stylish gardens. They would have used coloured gravel and hedges to enhance the garden. Currently, these grounds are undergoing some development with hedgerows being planted to mimic the heyday of the gardens as recorded in paintings.

studely water gardens

Temples and statues make up the unique shaped water features.

studely water gardens

studely water gardens

I loved this place and could have stayed longer, particularly as the weather was so nice. Also, something seemed familiar to me about this place, despite never having set foot on it previously.

studely water gardens

While I was taking photographs at different angles, I noticed a mother and two children looking into the water for fishes or some sort of animal life. I started to look into the water as well, as I walked around the area, and I saw several toads in the water. The bloke was sitting on the side of the bank and did not walk around with me, and he mentioned seeing someone looking at some toads in the grass. At that moment, we happened to see one hopping in the grass toward us. I picked the toad up to take it over to the water, and it did not want to leave my hand. He/she clung on to my hand. I think he/she liked the warmth. Eventually, it left my hand and we watched several toads swimming around and enjoying each other's company.

studely water gardens

Eventually, we left the toads to do their own thing that toads do, and we walked up the trail. This led away from the water's edge and onto the cliff. We went through a tunnel carved into the side of the hill, and this tower was built on the top.

studely water gardens

The tower had nice views over the water gardens. We walked further along, through the trails with trees on both sides. Eventually, we came to this other tower. I've always loved these styles of temple with the excellent views from them. I want one. Unfortunately, the trees are a little overgrown here, so the views were not that great.

studely water gardens

We walked further, and the next spot was the surprise view, known as "Anne Boleyn's Seat". Anne never visited this spot, but it's named after a headless statue. The statue has been replaced, but it was covered up when we visited. The views from here are amazing. Fountains Abbey is in the distance.

fountains abbey

After enjoying the view, we walked back onto the trail, which descended the hill top and went along the lake. We watched a lone swan swimming in the lake, and he was soon joined by a couple of ducks. A fight broke out, and the swan succeeded in chasing the ducks off the water. A few minutes later, another arrived, and he hissed at the swan. The fight between the swan and goose did go on for awhile, and I got some photographs of the goose being chased and attacked, but they didn't turn out well. The goose was also chased off and gave up eventually, and he wasn't happy. He let the swan know it.

fountains abbey

The view of Fountains Abbey across the lake are beautiful.

fountains abbey

We soon made it around the trail to the other side of the abbey ruins. By this time, many of the visitors had left for the day. 

fountains abbey

I went inside the abbey to take some photographs, and it felt peaceful without the crowds.

fountains abbey

fountains abbey

fountains abbey

I stopped to write a couple of postcards here. I sat on the side of the nave where there's stone seating along the wall. I enjoyed the peace and quiet for awhile. There were still a few people wandering about, but this was nothing compared to how busy it had been earlier. This was a good end to a nice day, although my feet were tired by the end of it. 

I was in Harrogate on Easter Sunday to have a mini break. The bloke had heard good things about the "Guy Fawkes Arms" pub in Scotton, near Harrogate, so I decided to make a reservation for Easter lunch. We had had a slightly disappointing Easter lunch last year near Dartmoor, so I was not really expecting much, but the meal we had at the "Guy Fawkes Arms" was the best that I have had in awhile. I recommend it, and the photographs and write-up below will hopefully do it justice.

guy fawkes arms

Scotton is a small village near Harrogate, and the pub gets its name from its famous ex-resident, Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes is immortalised for his plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder, which is celebrated on November 5 in the United Kingdom each year. This act of treason cost him his life, and he was tortured before he was killed. The pub has information about him, the confession he signed, and his signatured before and after he had been tortured. The walls also contain a portrait of him and his coat of arms, of which the pub is named.

guy fawkes arms

We arrived a few minutes early for our Easter lunch and were welcomed by a "Happy Easter" sign and colourful spring flowers decorating the tables.

guy fawkes arms

After ordering and receiving our drinks at the bar, we were shown our seats. I had a soft drink, but the beer/ale/cider drinkers will not be disappointed as I saw many different brands on tap and on offer.

guy fawkes arms

After we sat at our table, we were offered bread. We had two slices of bread each, and this came with soft butter. The bread was delicious and fresh, and it was still warm. One slice was a white rosemary bread, and the other may have been tomato-based as it was orange in colour, but I really could not distinguish the flavour. Both types of bread tasted delicious and were 'light' and not starchy at all.

guy fawkes arms

The service was quick and efficient, and our main meals arrived quickly. The bloke ordered the roast sirloin of beef with a Yorkshire pudding.

guy fawkes arms

I ordered the corn-fed chicken breast with mushrooms in a white wine sauce with grilled asparagus.

guy fawkes arms

The pots of vegetables arrived with the meal. We had a choice of new potatoes or roast potatoes. Another pot contained mixed leek, carrot, peas, and baby peas in pods.

guy fawkes arms

The food was delicious, and I actually could not fault anything at all with our meals. Asparagus is actually not my favourite vegetable, but I ate all of it. I'm also not that keen on potatoes and roast potatoes, but these tasted lovely and were not too filling at all. My chicken breast also came with skin on it, and the skin was cooked crispy with peppercorn, and I also ate the majority of that, despite normally leaving the skin off to the side. The food was also presented well.

guy fawkes arms

We made room for desserts as well, and the bloke had his usual selection of ice cream. The ice cream is Brymor, a brand from the local area. He choose mint chocolate chip and strawberries and cream. 

guy fawkes arms

I ordered the trio of chocolate, and this contained a chocolate brownie, chocolate ice cream, and white chocolate sauce. The brownie was delicious and not too rich and not too filling.

I do plan on returning to the "Guy Fawkes Arms" the next time that I return to the Harrogate area. There's actually so much to see in this area of England, as readers of my blog will see when I start to post what I got up to over the long weekend. After our Easter lunch, we actually went to Fountains Abbey and walked off our lunch (and more) around the beautiful abbey and its gardens, and I'll be posting about that soon. This was a wonderful day with lovely warm and sunny weather, and this is a day that I will remember for a long time.

Ashby de la Zouch Castle

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One month ago, I went to Ashby de la Zouch and paid a visit to the castle. Ashby de la Zouch is a small town in the midlands in England, and it was an important market town for over 200 years. The town is named after a family named Le Zouch, and they owned a manor named Ashby in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the late 14th century, the manor was transformed into a castle. The castle is ruins today, but you can climb the tower and go into the cellars and see the remains of the garden layout.

ashby de la zouch castle

Ashby de la Zouch became a popular romantic ruin in the mid-1800s when the book Ivanhoe was published by author Walter Scott. The fictional book has a scene at the castle.

ashby de la zouch castle

The castle gardens and parks were designed by George Hastings in the early 1500s. The rooms were also decorated to a high standard for entertaining guests, and the rooms could overlook the beautiful gardens.

ashby de la zouch castle

The layouts of the gardens directly beside the castle can still be seen as the earth around them has been moved to create the garden area. They would have contained ornamental fish ponds, coloured gravel, and would have been laid out in different styles popular with continential Europe at the time. 

ashby de la zouch castle

The parks beyond would have had deer and would have been available for hunting.

ashby de la zouch castle

Unfortunately, the castle was destroyed in the 1640s, along with many other castles at the time. Many of the walls that remain show damage. The tower was also blown up so that it could not be used.

ashby de la zouch castle

The tower can still be climbed. 

ashby de la zouch castle

I climbed the tower, and there's a stone bench to sit in quite near the bottom.

ashby de la zouch castle

I saw some old carvings with the coat of arms, and I admired the views from the top.

ashby de la zouch castle

There's more views over the gardens.

ashby de la zouch castle

ashby de la zouch castle

ashby de la zouch castle

On the way down, I had a better look at the grafitti carved into the stonework from past visitors. I saw several from the 1800s, and I cannot remember now, but I think the oldest grafitti that I saw was from 1875.

ashby de la zouch castle

After climbing the tower, I walked back to the Great Hall toward the kitchen. I caught a glimpse of several arched doors.

ashby de la zouch castle

The next stop was the kitchen, and the ovens and fireplaces could be seen. These would have been used to create meals for hundreds of people a day. There is a small hatch (still visible) where food would be passed from the kitchen to the Great Hall.

ashby de la zouch castle

One of the other rooms visited held a fireplace with beautiful carved stonework design. This room was used for entertainment.

ashby de la zouch castle

The floors and an arched vaulted ceiling can be seen.

ashby de la zouch castle

Carved stonework and sculptures were dotted around the castle.

ashby de la zouch castle

I was lucky with the weather as it was sunny with clouds on the day that I visited.

ashby de la zouch castle

Finally, the last bit of the tour came, and that was to see the underground tunnels. The tunnel entrance started just outside of the tower. 

ashby de la zouch castle

This tunnel went under the stonework and out the other end, which was the kitchen. It opened up into a larger cellar at the kitchen end. The week previously was quite wet and rainy, so there was a puddle of water here. The drains come off the fields into this tunnel, but it was not that muddy.

ashby de la zouch castle

I took a few last photographs of the castle on my way out.

ashby de la zouch castle

The next stop was Ashby de la Zouch town. Unfortunately, all of the shops were shut, but I decided to head to The Vine Bar and Restaurant for Sunday lunch. I did struggle a bit to find something on the menu that I would eat, so I settled for the vegetarian option. This was tasty, but it was also a little bit too salty. The bloke had roast beef with all of the Sunday roast trimmings.

ashby de la zouch castle

Dessert was lovely, however. I had banana bread pudding. The bloke had a selection of ice creams. Overall, the meal was alright but I did expect a little more. Service let the experience down even further as we ended up waiting far too long, and our entire sitting was for over two and a half hours, so I really could not recommend it. 

ashby de la zouch castle

However, if you are in the area, give Zamani's Italian restaurant a try. I was based in Ashby de la Zouch for two weeks and made a visit to Zamani's two times. Both times were lovely, and I tried different types of food on the menu.

Easter has come around quickly enough, and I enjoy looking at the new Easter selections in the shops. This post features innovative Easter products and package design from two shops: Hotel Chocolat and Lush. I'll start with Lush as I just visited their shop on Good Friday. I have a lot of bath and shower products to use up, but I did come away with some of the selection that is photographed below, despite my best efforts not to buy anything as I have a backlog to get through. I'll start with Hoppity Poppity, a bath bomb shaped like a rabbit's face. The smell reminded me of sweets.


The additional items include a bath bomb from the spring collection (Secret Garden), the Golden Egg bubble bar, re-usable carrot bubble bars that come in a set of three, and the Immaculate Eggception. This bath bomb contains additional ones inside, so one can get three baths out of it. It comes in pink (pictured below) or yellow. It has a citrus scent.


Two new Easter soaps were also available to purchase, and I actually do not remember seeing Lush's Easter soap range before. This year, we have the orange Carrot Soap, which has a 'bunny' design going through it. You can see half of a bunny in the photograph below. The other soap is a rainbow design, and it's appropriately named "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".


I'll now move on to Hotel Chocolat. Hotel Chocolat always create a seasonal range, and they typically refresh the range. This year, the 'egg sandwich' was a new idea. I love the idea of a chocolate egg sandwich, shaped like a sandwich and packaged in a sandwich package. Their 'Quail's Eggs' are chocolates filled with different flavours, and this is a repeat product. Eggs and soldiers is another repeat product, which I thought was a cute idea. In addition, they have introcuded slabs of chocolate with the egg theme.

The photographs above are credited with Hotel Chocolat

I hope that all of my readers have a good day and managed to locate their Easter baskets! 

A Saturday Lunch at Pizza Pilgrims

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Last Saturday, I spent the morning wandering around London searching for art charity sculptures of Shaun the Sheep, from the popular Aardman Animations children's television show. The sheep started to appear in London last week for their launch on Saturday, and I managed to see half of them and complete two of the four trails and see the random ones. I'll be posting another entry soon with the sheep. They will be on display in London until the end of May, and a different flock will be in Bristol in the summer. 


I'd managed to complete both of the trails in the west end of London by 11:20, and this brought me to the Oxford Circus and Carnaby Street vicinity. I was interested in trying the restaurant Pizza Pilgrims as they were a street food pop up when I went to the crazy golf (Swingers) on Valentine's Day, and I loved the pizza I had.


Pizza Pilgrims currently have two locations in London. One is located on Dean Street in Soho. The other, the one I went to, is located in Kingly Court. Kingly Court is a small covered courtyard filled with restaurants off of Carnaby Street. The restaurant opened at 11:30 on the Saturday, so we went inside a little after that time.


The upstairs is decorated with pizza boxes located on shelves around the room. Some of the pizza boxes came from Italy.


Downstairs is decorated with vintage film posters, and one of the walls has been covered with 1980s video game scenery from 'Super Mario Brothers', which I spent countless hours playing when I was younger.


I loved the neon signs above the stairs. As we arrived so early, we were told we would have to wait to place our food order, so we had an iced Sohocello. This is similar to Limoncello, but it's made in Soho. These were in slushie machines and are alcoholic and a little strong but not as strong as traditional Limoncello. 


Our pizza orders were taken straight away, so we actually did not have to wait to place our orders. The company pride themselves on creating genuine pizzas that are actually made with ingredients from Naples, the birthplace of the pizza. The dough is made similar to the traditional sourdough from Naples.


I had the margherita pizza, which is simply a cheese pizza. This is the traditional Naples-style pizza. The bloke opted for the pizza with salami, and he's not a fan of tomato so asked for less sauce.


To follow, we ordered gelato (Italian ice cream) for the dessert. I love gelato, and this brand (Gelupo Gelato) was excellent. I had pistachio and chocolate, so sorry for the blurry photograph. The bloke had honeycomb and vanilla. Gelupo Gelato have an ice cream shop at Piccadilly Circus, and the ingredients are sourced from England and Italy. I really liked the flavours.

What is my verdict? I would return to Pizza Pilgrims as it is among the best pizza that I have had. (This post was not paid for, and these opinions are my own and based on my experience.)

After our morning visit to Clonmacnoise, we headed to the area of western Ireland (County Clare) called the Burren National Park. The Burren, as it is known, is a one-of-a-kind place. I've never been to a place quite like it before. The area is charactierised by limestome slabs with fisures, formed during the glaciers 100,000 years ago. It's such a unique place that alpine and Mediterranian plants grow here, and it's host to a diversity of plantlife. 


The National Park is filled with history as well as its geological features. Megolithic tombs and settlements can be found. Impressive cliffs, picturesque villages and caves can also be discovered.


We drove in on the northern part of the road with nice views over the sea. We went through a couple of charming towns and ended up having a quick lunch in a cafe. Our first stop after lunch was a drive down some winding roads, leading up into the National Park with some impressive views. We stopped off at Aillwee Cave, on the side of a hill. The impressive limestone rocks were above us on the hillside, and I caught some bees buzzing around pretty flowers.



The views of the rolling green hills with barren limestone-topped hilltops were amazing.


We did not have to wait long for our tour to begin. Tours of Aillwee Cave seemed to be popular, and we shared our tour with a large group of people. I'm not sure cave tours are good for children, though. One family took their little girl, and she got frightened of the dark and cried during the duration of the tour.  


Aillwee Cave was discovered by a local farmer who followed his dog chasing a rabbit. He kept the cave a secret for many years. It does contain an underground river and a waterfall amongst other popular cave features. The waterfall was the most impressive feature.


The cave is also popular because remains of bears were found inside. A reconstruction of a bear den is located near the start of the tour.


After the tour, we walked back through a different tunnel, which is a man-made tunnel. The cave was used in an episode of Father Ted, and the Father Ted house is also located in the Burren, which I really wanted to see but did not get to. Of course, we had to also visit the shop.


After the visit to Aillwee Cave, we headed for a drive through the Burren toward Doolin, which was the location of our hotel.


We ended up at Doolin Cave.


We arrived just before the final tour, and we were the only four people on the tour. Another group had just finished and they said it was amazing, so we were looking forward to the surprise. While we waited, we read the information in the visitor centre about how the new entrance (pictured above) was created. It is five meters wide and 25 meters deep. The tunnels to the stalactite were dug by hand so that they would not cause damage. It took almost a year to open due to the work required to get the tunnels dug.


The first part of the tour was negotiating some low ceilings and tight spaces. We saw some rock features, which had some names. Then, we ended up in a massive chamber with the most amazing and largest stalactite that I have ever seen in my life suspended from the ceiling. Apparently it is the fourth largest in the world and the largest in Europe. It's suggested that it is 11 meters long. Mexico has the two largest, and Lebanon has the third largest in the world.


The Great Stalactite is the feature of Doolin Cave. It is unknown how long the stalactite has been growing, but it's probably tens of thousands of years old, and it's still growing. Some of it has stopped growing, and it's clear to see which part of the stalactite is 'dead' and which is still growing. The whiter the stone, the newer the part. Stalactites grow from the calcium in the rocks coming through the limestone.


The Great Stalactite was illuminated with different lights, and we could walk around it to see it at different angles. 


After visiting the cave and its impressive stalactite, we had the option to walk a 1km trail. We did walk this and saw wildflowers and goats. Along this trail, we could also see the original cave opening. 


Another place we visited in the Burren (near Gort) was Kilmacduagh. Kilmacduagh is ruins of a monastery. Some of the buildings in this complex date to the 7th century, and it was an important location in the middle ages, when more of the buildings at the location were constructed.


There was not a visitor centre open when we went, so we explored the ruins on our own. By the time we arrived, it was early evening. 


The monastery ruins do have an attractive round tower, a common theme for Irish monestaries. The ruins are also known as "the seven churches" after the buildings here, but there actually were no seven churches on the site.


We could not access some of the buildings, but we had a good look around the site. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of information about the site.


Have you ever been to the Burren?

Sunday was the annual Brooklands MINI Day, and I took my MINI and went for a drive to catch up with some friends that I have not seen in awhile. I used to be a little more active with MINI events, but I haven't been to any of the main or even smaller events for the past few years. Despite that, I've also never been to the Brooklands MINI Day, which is one of the first events of the season. It's also an event that isn't too far from where I live; Brooklands is located near Weybridge in Surrey. This year, a friend reminded me, so I put it in the diary.

Sunday was also the morning of the time change to British Summer Time, so I lost an hour of sleep, and the flat below my one decided to have a party into the early hours, and they wouldn't shut up. With little sleep due to their inconsideration, I still managed to force myself up in order to go.

The weather was not great, and we had rain throughout the day. Luckily, it was not hard rain in the morning, but it get worse after noon. Apparently, the weather's never great at Brooklands MINI Day, and they had snow a couple of years ago. The weather was beautiful during the week, but I wish it could be nice at weekends.


The first stop was the Concord plane. Brooklands is the location where parts of Concord were constructed. The front and back sections of the plane were made here, and they were put together in Filton (Bristol). The Concord tour needs to be booked separately, so that's what we did first. 


The Concord located here is one of the ones used for tests. It was decommissioned, and they had to put it back together. I was actually amazed at how small I thought the plane was as I imagined it was larger.


We received our boarding passes and were told about the plane's history and various other facts about Concord before we stepped inside. These planes only took about four hours to fly to America from the United Kingdom, and they are the first passenger plane to break the sound barrier. The plane is built with these factors in mind, such as providing expansion and cooling inside the panels. Apparently, breaking the sound barrier means that the plane will get very hot, and it also caused the planes to expand. The floor was 'floating' to allow this expansion, and the angle of the cockpit needed to be able to rise and fall for the pilots to see the runway during takeoff and landing. 


Another wheel was located at the back of the plane just in case the pilots miscalculated the angle while landing, and a mini-propeller is also underneath the plane so that the plane can still function if the engines cut out. The sheilds are also put over the engine to control the thrust. 


We were shown the passenger area of the plane, and we could also have a quick look inside the cockpit (at a distance) to see all of the controls.


I would have loved to have taken a Concord flight, but I was a little bit too young as the planes were decommissioned in the early 2000s after an issue during takeoff at Paris airport. (Note that the issue wasn't even Concord's fault; it was a previous plane that had left metal on the runway which damaged the plane, and I guess most accidents happen during landing and takeoff anyway.) Apparently, people lost a little bit of faith in them, plus the planes were highly expensive as they drank a lot of fuel.

The end of our tour was a video with a 'mock takeoff' so that we could pretend that we were taking off and flying, and this was set to Queen's "Mr. Fahrenheit" song with several shots of the planes and vibrating seats during takeoff and at various points where the plane gathers momentum to break the sound barrier. All of us received a flight certificate on the way off the plane.

After the Concord experience, we wandered around other older planes in the open yard and also went into a hangar which was filled with various historical planes from as early as 1907. We saw a World War 2 plane, the Wellington, which was rescued from its watery grave at Loch Ness, and there were other World War 2 planes. There were also displays on weapons and bombs. During the wetter moments, the museums became extremely popular as people tried to keep dry.

Brooklands is the first purpose-built race track in the world, and it was built in 1907. In the photograph below, the tilted concrete that the cars are on is part of the old race track. Not much of it exists, but I walked down it to look at the MINIs that were on display.

Most of the MINIs there were classic MINIs, and each one is unique. There's really not two alike as these cars are easy to customise to the personality of the owner.

The old race track does get extremely steep, but it's probably not too noticeable in the photographs I've taken. You really do have to climb on hands and knees to get to the 'top' portion of it, and I saw a couple of guys do this. On the other side of the track and beyond the trees is the main train line to London Waterloo, which I'd travel on each and every day. Brooklands can be seen if you're on a train and passing through.

The red classic MINI is a classic version of my MINI. This is the style of MINI that toy Corgi brand cars use. 

Surrey New MINI club had one of the largest displays, and all of these are the new MINI car. They are larger and take up more room. The cars are larger because of the restrictions in law, so they have to be larger and thicker. Each year, different rules are released for car manufacturers. The new MINIs also have to adhere to the changing rules, so differences can be seen in the different years. For example, there are restrictions for the angle of the front of the car now to protect pedestrians in case they are hit by the car. As a result, a company or MINI could never make another car that looks exactly like the classic. 

The classic cars are cuter, despite the safety aspects mentioned and the lack of comfort.

Brooklands was extremely busy with MINI enthusiasts, and the photograph below was taken in the mid-morning while the majority of the cars were still there and lined up on the old race track.

The below indicator panel was 2012's special edition MINI. MINI were one of the sponsors of the Olympic Games (see my post here), and they brought out a MINI with special Olympics graphics and interiors. Logo aside, the car does look beautiful with its red, white, and blue interior and exterior trim. The roof has a full-sized Olympic logo. I imagine that these will be sought-after in another fifty years.

As the picture below shows, the weather did get worse and I found it a challenge to keep my camera lens protected.

The next stop were the museums so that I could get out of the rain, and everyone else had the same idea. The museums had a variety of race cars from the early days to the modern Formula 1 cars. There were cars built to break speed records as well as cars that were taken on the track here at Brooklands. One of the cars was the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car, and another famous one is the Napier Railton. Another building contained the London Bus Museum.

After the museum visits, I headed back out into the rain in order to watch the MINIs in action.

Unfortunately, the weather led to the cancellation of the MINI hill climb, which is set on the Test Hill (built in 1907). This tests cars' ability to climb the hill as well as their brakes.

I normally have not posted much about my MINI days out in the past, but one of the best events that I have ever been to was MINI United Day, which attracted owners from all countries. It was held toward the end of May in 2009 in Silverstone, and I posted about it in my post MINI United!.


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