June 2015 Archives

This is the post where I made a confession that I am a nerd/geek. I have always been a massive fan of 'Star Wars', from watching it while I was growing up in the 1980s and from the time when it was considered 'uncool'. I wanted to join the Rebel Alliance and become a Jedi, had a crush on Luke Skywalker, and continuously drew X-wings/snowspeeders and Rebel Alliance symbols on my school folders. I dressed up as a Jedi in High School for Halloween in an outfit that I made myself. I was probably slightly obsessed with the films.


It's hard to believe now, but 'Star Wars' was not popular for a time around the late 1980s to the mid 1990s; nothing much was happening in the 'Star Wars' universe, and the only merchandise available to buy were the original items made in the late 1970s, until merchandising rights were relaxed. However, I was (and still am) a big fan of 'Star Wars'. Fast forward to 1999 with the release of 'The Phantom Menace' (which was a big disappointment) to the other two films in the trilogy and spin-off series and film, not to mention the gaming industry.

'Star Wars' has been considered popular again in the past fifteen years, and it's captured the minds of a younger audience, whom I am envious of for having so much more available in the fandom methods for building on their fandom through social media. The rights of 'Star Wars' have been recently sold to Disney, and the new film (a sequel to the original trilogy) is due to hit cinemas this December. I know that although some of the fans who grew up on the original trilogy still love 'Star Wars', we may be a little skeptical, particularly after the disappointment of the 1999 abomination and aspects of the follow-up films and some of the pointless edited scenes of the original trilogy. However, I am looking forward to seeing the new film, but I am not trying to become too excited to the point where I am disappointed. I have mixed feelings about Disney, and I can only hope that Disney have fans of the original trilogy on board to make it a success.

This brings me to Secret Cinema's (http://www.secretcinema.org) most recent installment of immersive cinema. For those who do not know, immersive cinema allows the film to be shown around a 'world' that the viewer can be immersed in and play a part in. Visitors are encouraged to dress up in order to become a part of the experience. 

Last summer, Secret Cinema hosted 'Back to the Future', complete with the construction of a set of the 1950s fictional American town of Hill Valley, which I covered here. This summer, the big film is 'The Empire Strikes Back', which is considered the most popular and most-loved film of the original trilogy. (My personal favourite is 'A New Hope', the first film.) I am going to the event in a few days, but I first wanted to check out the Secret Cinema Cantina pop-up club in London.

Similar to the Secret Cinema showing of 'The Empire Strikes Back' film, the Cantina is open until the end of September. It's only open on some week nights and Saturday night for music and drinks. It is also open on Sundays during the day and caters more for children. We went along to the Saturday evening opening of the Cantina this past weekend. For those who are not familiar with 'Star Wars', the Cantina is based on scenes from the original film's cantina in Mos Eisley at Tatooine (the desert planet). This is the scene where Luke and Obi Wan Kenobi have a drink at the bar (and see just what damage a lightsabre can do) and meet characters Han Solo and Chewbaca.

With any Secret Cinema event, it's best enjoyed dressed up in cosplay, and we did. A little more than half of the visitors to the Cantina did come in the recommended cosplay. We enjoyed meeting a Jawa (the creature with glowing eyes pictured above) and listening to music by London bands/DJs and the Cantina band (with alien band from 'Star Wars'). We also met some other 'made-up' characters, saw some Twi'lek dancers, and had to complete a couple of missions. We also enjoyed a couple of drinks, named "Jawa Juice" (a Vodka mix with lemon) and "Storm Cooler" (a gin mix with apple). This was a fun experience, and I cannot give that much away, but a group of us are going to the main event and are looking forward to it.

June is my birthday month, and I was happy to receive my Birchbox the day after my birthday. For those who do not know, Birchbox is a monthly subscription box, and subscribers receive approximately five sample or full-size skincare or beauty items. Although my subscription had ended last month, I decided to subscribe to one more box as I nearly had earned enough points to spend in the shop. I knew that this month was a collaboration with French Sole, a shoe brand. Each box came with one of three designed shoe bags, which could be selected by the subscriber. I choose the blue and white striped one with a red heart. 


So, what was in my box this month? 

HIP Ultra Shine Shampoo: This peppermint-scented perfume promises to make your hair healthy and happy. I am never fond of receiving shampoo as the brands that I use seem perfectly okay. This product seemed okay, but I was underwhelmed.

REN Instand Firming Body Shot: This product promises to plump and tone the skin to rid wrinkles. I actually bought a sample size a little over a month ago, but I have not yet given it a try. It does have some good reviews, so I am keen to try it out.

Balance Me Super Moisturising Body Wash: This is an award-winning product that doubles as a body wash and moisturiser. I have a small hoard of body wash, and this is a pleasant addition to the hoard.

Penhaligon's Iris Prima perfume: This perfume is a musky scent, and the company is a British perfumer. The scent if Berganot, sandalwood, and vanilla. This is a very grown-up perfume. I don't have anything quite like it as I tend to opt for the floral scents.

Mirenesse Secret Weapon 24Hr Mascara: This mascara promises to separate and coat lashes without clumping. The product is not thick, but it has a subtle effect. I am keeping this sample one aside as I recently received two of these in another box and had another sent for free (after I paid shipping costs). I will probably end up giving this one away.


STYLondon temporary metallic tattoos: Similar to this month's Glossybox, every subscriber received these temporary tattoos. These are the 'in' item at the moment and look best at festivals. I have tried these, and the first attempt was ruined. My second attempt was much better, and I received some nice comments about it.

Birchbox and French Sole Shoe Bag: Subscribers could pick out the design of the show bag that they wanted to receive, and I picked out the striped one. Each matches a pair of French Sole's ballet pumps. I do like the design of this.


What is my verdict? Again, I was underwhelmed with Birchbox. Many of the items I have already tried or currently own. The REN, mascara, and tattoos are products that I currently own. The shampoo and perfume are a bit 'meh', and I have a hoard of body wash. These are all products that just add to my ever-growing hoard. I would have liked to have tried some of the other items that others received this month in their boxes, but Birchbox rarely seems to get it right for me even after changing my beauty profile. Birchbox just wasn't hitting the mark for me. So, it's time to say goodbye to Birchbox and to attempt to use my stash of beauty and make-up goods. 

Formula E in Battersea Park, London

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Saturday was probably the warmest and sunniest day that we have had all summer. A few months ago, the bloke booked a standing area to watch the Formula E racing. The races are similar to Formula 1 cars, but these are electric race cars.  We watched part of the qualifying and the race and wandered around the eVillage.


Our standing area was #26, which was in the middle of a straight stretch between two turns in the track, so the bloke knew that there would be opportunities for over-taking, which there were. When we first arrived during the morning practice, the stands were fairly empty and we got a decent view. However, the safety barriers in place and double barriers do mean that it was impossible to get decent photographs.


We headed toward eVillage where all the merchandising and food stands are located. On the way, there was only one section near entry to pit lanes where there was a gap in the barriers where I could snap a couple of very restricted-view photographs.


There were several bridges that crossed the tracks on our way, which we had to walk on in order to get to eVillage. We also saw the pit area.



Pit entrance

The eVillage could be used by general admission, but we paid more for our standing area to have full access. We watched some of the qualifying from the screens here (as we were late to return to our standing area due to queueing for the race simulators that the bloke wanted to do, and the queue was over an hour). We also managed to get lunch in this area, which was quick but costly. The sponsor stands and merchandising areas were located in eVillage too. 



We made our way back around to where our standing area (#26) was located, but just as we were a couple of hundred yards away, the area we came to earlier was now fenced off with security standing guard. This meant that we had to back-track. Battersea Park is huge, so we had to walk all the way back to eVillage and back around. We thought there would be a shortcut through the lake, but we never found one, so we had to circle all the way around it and then back-track all the way through to our costly standing area. My feet were shattered, and the viewing area are all standing only.



We missed some of the cars and bikes going through, but I managed to capture this guy doing stunts on a bike when we arrived, and this was followed by some electric cars. The standing area was already busy with all the first level standing areas taken on the three tiers, and the only spots available were behind people or on the stairs. 


For the cost of the tickets paid, it was impossible to really see a lot with all of the heads in the view and the safety fencing in place. I feel they crammed too many people into the standing areas, and having to walk all the way back around (because they closed a gate that was previously opened) meant we lost chance of securing a better area to watch the race. The standing area got busier and busier just before the race. Too many people were crammed into this small space, and I had trouble seeing the cars over the heads in front and below, even though I am quite tall myself.


We had a good day, but there are a few points that the organisers failed on that need to be worked on in case Formula E returns to London, such as:

  • visitor flow around the track and access to/from standing areas. The park is huge, and walkways that were open earlier in the day became closed off later on in the day, and access to these areas meant a very long walk in the hot temperatures.
  • the maintenance of the narrow track and bumps/slopes. This meant that the race had to have a safety car start. Parts were very unsafe for the cars, and this required some work before the big race.
  • the location of additional concession stands. Drinks and food are not permitted, and as it was a hot day with a lot of walking, more concession stands with food and drink need to be placed in more areas instead of mainly the eVillage. I started to get dehydrated after all of the walking on a hot day; lucky for me, the standing area I was in had a concession stand behind it in order for me to buy a drink, but these concession areas were rare outside of eVillage.
  • Tickets to the standing areas is costly; restrict the amount of people allowed in to the space as the view was obscured.

The area that the track covers in Battersea Park is a huge area. I know this is the first race that London has had since the early 1970s, so maybe London's forgotten how to host an event like this. In my view, London has a way to go to rectify these issues and get ahead of the game. Fortunately, the main race was a good one, and the weather on both days was good, but I can foresee the track becoming very dangerous if the rain had managed to linger on for a longer time on the day of the main race.

I used to work around the corner from Rosa's, a Thai Restaurant on Hanbury Street in London, near Spitalfields. This small area has a few of the best restaurants in London. Poppies, the best fish and chips in London, is a couple of doors down, and Hawksmoor steakhouse is about a three-minute walk up Commercial Road. Rosa's became a favourite of mine after a colleague and I visited near the start of our employment at the company. That was two and a half years ago, and I'm only just now getting to publish a write-up about it.


The photographs from this visit were taken one rainy evening toward the end of last summer. I had extremely long commutes, so every few months, I'd stay in a hotel near the area to give myself a break from the commutes. This time, I stayed on Brick Lane and my partner and I arrived on the Sunday evening. The rain was pouring down and we decided to get a bite to eat, so I mentioned Rosa's, and we headed out, avoiding all of the calls from the staff at the curry restaurants down Brick Lane. When we arrived, I'd ordered a bottle of Prosecco.


Next up were the starters, and I had the vegetable spring rolls while my partner had crab cakes. The photograph of these didn't turn out very well. I ordered the green thai curry, and this came with its usual sticky rice. My partner had the beef red curry. 


I love both the green and red curries here, and everything that I have tried has tasted delicious and is full of flavour with the correct levels of spice. That's what makes Rosa's one of the best Thai restaurants in London.


Afterwards, we decided to have ice cream for dessert. I had coconut flavour and green tea flavour. These were good, but they were not the best ice cream that I've ever had. They did hit the spot after the meal.

Rosa's is located on Hanbury Street near Spitalfields Market. They are open for lunch and dinner each evening, but they do get quite busy as the restaurant is small inside.

A couple of weeks ago, the bloke got a free ticket to see Miss Saigon through his workplace. As I was told awhile ago that Miss Saigon was an excellent show, I put it on my "to see" list. When I knew the bloke was going, I booked my own ticket so that we could watch the play at the same time. Before the show, we decided to meet up at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. The restaurant, a chain from the USA, came to London last autumn. I've been wanting to visit since.


The theatre is only a short walk away, so I got a booth and waited for the bloke at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.


The restaurant is decked out like a restaurant that you'd expect to find near the seaside in the states with harbour-style lighting and wooden ceilings. American-style memorabilia can be seen on the walls. These include licenses, cookie jars, tin plates, children's toys, and signage from my childhood and the childhoods of previous generations.


Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is inspired by the film Forrest Gump, of course. I remember that it came into existence a few years after the 1994 film. The film was extremely popular in the states in the mid-1990s, and it was always showing on television. The restaurant takes its name from the main character, Forrest Gump, and a man (nicknamed Bubba) that he meets while in Vietnam (which is appropriate with the play we were about to see, I guess). Bubba's dream is to buy a boat and fish for shrimp, and he and Forrest become close friends. The restaurant has many items from the film in addition to the other memorabilia.


I had never been to any of the restaurants in the chain before, but the service uses signage as a form of communication. The sign "Run, Forrest, Run" is a line in the film. Once visitors are ready to order or need service, they can flip this sign to the read sign underneath, which reads "Stop, Forrest, Stop". Once the service has been taken, the sign should be flipped back. Because of this, we never had to wait too long for service and drink refills.


For the starter, I ordered the onion strings, which came with two dips. These were delicious, and in keeping in line with the film, the 'newspaper' that they were wrapped in was titled "Greenbow" from the town in Alabama where Forrest Gump grew up.


Next, our drinks arrived. I ordered the "Fizzy Fun" cherry lemonade. This came with a light-up cup that I could keep. I still have it, and the light can be turned off and on. I'm sure I will get a little bit more use out of it. The bloke ordered an alcoholic drink that came in another free glass. This is a cocktail shaker glass, but it did not light up.


In addition to the flashing blue and red lights from my cup, the bottom leaves an image of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company logo when picked up.


Our main meals came pretty quickly, and the bloke ordered fish and chips. Most of the menu items were seafood.


I had Mama's Southern Fried Chicken. This was battered chicken, chips, and corn on the cob. The meal came with gravy. I could have had mashed potatoes instead of chips; perhaps I should have as it would have been more traditional. The chicken was ok, but I could not finish it. I was not keen on the chips.


After I finished eating, I went to the toilets and checked out some of the items along the way. These were from the movie and featured some of the characters and events from the film.


When I returned, the dessert was waiting. I wanted to try the trio of dessert favourites (Dessert Sampler), which I anticipated to be small tasters. They were actually what I would consider full-sized desserts. They included Mama's Bread Pudding, which I was tempted to order separately. This was delicious. Second is the Mama's Best Strawberry Shortcake. It tasted a little like strawberry shortcake, but I am sorry to say that my mother makes much better strawberry shortcake, and I left missing her strawberry shortcake! This is a dish that we do not have in the UK. Last, but not least, was a sample of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae. This was delicious. I love cookies; they are my weakness. I think this may have been slightly better than the bread pudding.


We left with full tummies, and I actually had some of the desserts boxed to eat the following day. We walked to Old Compton Street to Prince Edward Theatre for the show. I've previously seen 'Jersey Boys' at this theatre a few years ago.


I was not familiar with the story, but I did anticipate that it would be about the Vietnam war in the 1970s and perhaps a love story between a US soldier and Vietnamese girl. I will not spoil the rest of the play, but I will say that it is a sad play and is based on true stories. The production was brilliant, and I was told that the theatre owner was present and watching the play as he does sometimes to ensure that standards are kept up. As I was alone, I talked to the lady next to me, who was friends with the person who is in charge of the lighting and who teaches theatre to young children. 


Here's a view from the front of the theatre in London's Soho area.



Overall, it was a good production, and I recommend it. I will not spoil it, but there are some excellent uses of props and spaces, and there's some good music. The bloke and I talked after the play as we walked back to the tube station, and we both thought that the engineer character was probably the best and most diverse of the characters. I cannot say any more without giving it away, but there's so much I do want to say. If you do see it, enjoy it.

A few months ago, I purchased the Cocktail Party bath melts from Wild Olive. The bath melts are made in England and contain no sodium sulphate, no parabens, and no animal fats. The collection includes one of each 'flavour' of bath melt: gin & lime, strawberry daquiri, mango mojito, and pina colada. Receiving these was a pleasure, and they do smell wonderful.


The bath melts arrived in a small box, inside what resembles an egg carton. Each bath melt came in its own casing with its own embellishments, and each smelled and looked delicious. The bath melts soothed and moisturised my skin, and they smell very strongly, which made for a pleasant bath experience. They did not dissolve immediately, like some bath products, so I had time to savour the moisture and scent of the products when I used them in my baths.



This was a good product for relaxing bath times for me. I really enjoyed using these bath melts and thought that they were really cute.

Street Art: Dzia

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A few weeks ago, the high-profile wall at the corner of Hanbury Street and Brick Lane was repainted with a piece featuring a golden fox puppy by Belgian street artist Dzia Krank (DZIA). The artist's style and theme is geometric animals, and foxes do feature quite often. I do like this cute and friendly-looking fox puppy. Who can resist a cute fox puppy mural?


I loved this new artwork, but the annoying black car (parked on the double yellow line) was in the way, so I wasn't able to get a good photograph of it.




In addition to the fox, the artist also painted a wall of scaffolding on Dray's Walk, a couple hundred yards away. This features a moth or dragon fly that appears caught in a spider's web. This is a difficult wall to photograph as there's always something in front of it. 


More information can be read about the artist by visiting the Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dzia-Krank/52285210664 

Additionally, the artist's website is here: http://www.dzia.be

The Greenhouse Effect 2015

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A few weeks ago, I captured some photographs of the murals that were painted for The Greenhouse Effect painting event before a lot of the work was painted over. Last year, there was a similar event in this same area on Fleet Street Hill off of Brick Lane. Artists from the 1 Love Community network and LSD Magazine joined forces to create some nice works of art. The following street artists took part: Jim Vision, Cranio, Zadock, Himbad, SeaPuppy, Charlie McFarley, Tizer, and more. 


The top part of the large mural was painted last year, and this year's painting took place at ground level and also around the fenced-in land between the railroad tracks.



Charlie McFarley


I believe that this vacant plot of land will be used for locals to grow their own vegetables for free, but I have also heard that new housing will be built here.

A few weeks ago, I was walking down Sclater Street and discovered a brightly-coloured blue and green wall by Stika (Josh Stika), whose work I recognised around east London. At first glance, the mural looked unfinished, but I immediately noticed the car parked next to it and that the car was painted like the mural. The car was a part of the mural, and I thought that this was cool. As I was stepping back to take a photograph of it, the owners of the car appeared and got inside. One of them went over to near where I was in order to get a photograph. I had to compliment the artwork, which he said was done by his friend. (Apologies for the photograph not being straight on; I wasn't able to take one straight on.)


This street art is actually a PR stunt for Vauxhall car manufacturer to raise awareness of their car 'Adam'. This is meant to represent the customisation options of their Opel Adam car. Even though it is a PR stunt, it does still look good to me. I like the concept of using street art to advertise in unique ways, such as this, though I think that this is probably a little frowned on in the street art world.

Earlier this year, a new art installation came to Soho Square. The pigeons came to the square as part of an art exhibition (Sim Smith Gallery) by House of Barnabos charity for a festival to be held between July 31 and August 3 this year. They symbolise homelessness. The neon-coloured pigeons are located throughout the square and can be seen on the light posts and signs. Unfortunately, a few of the pigeons have now been stolen when I visited them a few weeks ago.


The name of the installation is "Unexpected Guests". Pigeons were banned from Trafalgar Square over a decade ago now, and I think that many find them troublesome. Below are a few photographs that I took on my visit.



I also caught a real-life pigeon. Quite a few of them were hanging around Soho Square when I visited. 



The pigeons probably will not be around for much longer; I think that they were initially going to be in place for three months. Many of them have already been stolen, which is a pity because they are meant to be auctioned for the charity to help the homeless.

Basingstoke Festival Parade (2015)

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Today was a beautiful day for the Basingstoke Festival Parade, which marks the start of the Basingstoke Festival for music and the arts. A few weeks ago, I caught glimpses of a giant mechanical bird and several children in costume on a rainy day in Basingstoke. This marked the start of the Basingstoke Festival Programme, and this afternoon was the Basingstoke Festival Parade, which is the official kick-off of the festival. Basingstoke Festival has taken place for the last four years and features nearly a month of live music in Basingstoke's park and squares, live theatre, dance, walks, concerts, museum exhibitions, events for children, craft-making, comedy at some of Basingstoke's venues, street markets, and so much more.

I was able to catch the excitement in town this afternoon. I don't often get to blog about the town that I have been living for the past eight years in. 


First of all, I went to Eastrop Park to catch the start of the parade. This is where the paraders were lining up. I don't live far from there, and it is always a nice place to walk with trees, flowers, a stream, and boating lakes with paddling boats for hire.



The parade started in Eastrop Park and the route went around Festival Place (where it met a giant turtle) and on to the "top of town" (as it's known) to Market Square. In Market Square, those participating in the parade danced in the square. Music was also performed, and later on was a DJ and silent disco. 


Stopped for a dance in the underpass

The musical turtle joins the parade

Dancing on Wote Street

At the Market Square, all of the groups and the schools had a dance and a chance to be in the spotlight. A group played the drums and there was also a band.

The Tea Bar had a pop-up cocktail stand to sell drinks in the square too. I'd previously visited Tea Bar, a business at the top of town.

After the DJs, the silent disco was set to take place in the square. They had a nice evening for it and a nice and warm afternoon for the parade.

Wote Street after the parade

This begins the month-long Basingstoke Festival. Tomorrow evening, I'm actually meeting up with a couple of friends to go to Wagamamma's, followed by a wine-tasting event, and then to a Spanish classical music concert by Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra in the local theatre (the Anvil). All of these events are a part of the Basingstoke Festival. For more information about Basingstoke Festival, visit the official website at: http://www.basingstokefestival.co.uk

Birthday Brunch at Duck & Waffle

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Last week was my birthday week, and I had a fairly quiet one this year. I've been wanting to visit Duck and Waffle for awhile now, and I've had to cancel reservations three times due to circumstances beyond my control beginning last June. I was actually due to visit on the Sunday before my birthday for brunch, but I woke up feeling ill, and they kindly let me reschedule it for last Sunday while I slept away most of the day. It's a pity that I had to rearrange it because that day had lovely weather, and this Sunday just passed was a wash-out. A clear day is needed in order to enjoy the amazing views on the top of the Heron Tower in the City of London, where Duck & Waffle is located.


The entrance to Duck & Waffle is on Bishopsgate, and it's a road that I walked every day and would often see people waiting to get inside in the evening. Once inside the tower, a glass lift whizzes you up to the top floor. Now, I am not the best with heights, but the lift does move quite quickly. The below photograph is the view at the top of the lift shaft.


Once at the top, we walked through a lounge with a bar. The blue and white tiled floor was beautiful, and we caught a glimpse of the Gherkin a couple of blocks away.



Once we made ourselves known, we were welcomed and shown our seat. They had reserved a table beside the window for us on the same side as the Gherkin. I had an amazing view, looking southeast with Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and the Gherkin in my view. Unfortunately, the visibility was very low as the rain was coming down lightly. I am certain that Canary Wharf and the Olympic Park and O2 Arena (former Millennium Dome) can be seen on a clear day.


Unfortunately, this was the best view that I had of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London through the rain and mist. 


Looking behind, I had a view of north-east London. The white tents of Petticoat Lane Market can be seen below and lining the street.


Directly below is Houndsditch and the road where the old London wall would have been. The greenish square area nearly in the middle and to the left of the red cranes in the photograph is where one of the old city gates stood - Aldsgate. The bloke used to work in the building just to the right of those cranes. The seating area below is for SushiSamba, another restaurant in the tower.


We were shown a menu, and we both ordered the Mimosa cocktail. This is champagne mixed with orange juice. It was nice, but it was highly expensive for what it is. I think perhaps a bottle of champagne would have been a much better value, or even a glass of champagne would have been a better value. This was the only negative comment about my experience, other than not having better weather, which is beyond everyone's control. The service was very attentive throughout.



My partner ordered the full English breakfast, but he did not want some of the items. This actually ended up working out cheaper. The full English breakfast comes with eggs, mushrooms, tomato, and black pudding in addition to what is seen below. My partner had the sourdough bread, hashbrowns, sausage, and bacon. 


I tried the hashbrowns, and I ordered a side of bacon, and both were delicious. The bacon is streaky bacon (or American-style bacon). I normally do not like hashbrowns because I find them greasy, but these were not and were mixed with spring onion.


I had the "Full Elvis", which is one of the waffle items on the menu. Waffles make up part of the signature dish (duck and waffle), so I decided to try them. The waffles are drizzled with peanut butter and jelly (pbj on the menu), cramelised banana, chantilly cream, and lashings of fruit (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry). I am not a big fan of peanut butter, but these tasted delicious, and thinking about them now makes me droll.


By the time we were about ready to leave, the sky had cleared slightly, but this still was not enough to see for miles. Oh well, we shall have to visit again!


However, just before we were ready to leave, the waiter brought this over to my table. I had told the staff that this visit was for my birthday when I had to reschedule, so they kindly made me a birthday plate with a chocolate truffle, sugared dried fruit jelly, marshmallow, and sugared almonds. This was lovely.


Before we left, I checked out the view on the other side and discovered the orange tree. This tree is visible from the street level, and I've been able to see it from ground level around Spitalfields.


We had a lovely brunch, and I cannot wait to go back and have dinner at some point. Let's hope that we have better weather for that time.

Several days ago, I posted some new artwork that has appeared in east London by Cranio, including the collaborations with Himbad, Kazz and Zadok on the Sclater Street wall. I also posted several photographs of work by Fanakapan and Horror Crew. Today, my post features Cranio and Fanakapan. This art depicts the blue native characters up to no good, riding on silver foil balloon creatures.






The chick, which appeared off Brick Lane in Star Yard, also appears on the lower right hand corner of the wall. 


I love the detail in this piece, and the whole wall looks like a lot of fun. The mural was still in place last weekend, so see it now before it's gone.

Yesterday afternoon, I walked down Sclater Street in east London and discovered a new mural. It was still fresh with wet paint. It's another stunning piece along the same wall that has hosted so many great pieces this year. The piece is a collaboration between Himbad, a local artist who has been very busy this year, and Kyle Holbrook. Kyle Holbrook is an artist from USA who has helped communities create murals across several cities in the states (Miami, Detriot, Pittsburg, Atlanta), and he's also painted in Haiti and Brazil.


This is a stunning new piece of work. Kyle's mural (on the left) depicts Sclater Street with visitors taking photographs of the large mural painted by Himbad (on the right). It's an alternate reality. The mural seems to be titled "It's You", written above Himbad's signature.


In Kyle's mural, one can even see the murals by Borondo and Malarkey in the building in the background. One man looks thoughtfully at the mural, and a lady takes a photo with her camera while another takes a photo with her mobile. This is very much a depiction of daily life on Sclater Street.


Himbad's mural's eyes are stunning again, and the paint drip effect is achieved with red and yellow paint.


It looks as though the artist got carried away with the paint this time, or some of it was spilled. The paint was still wet, and it's covered the pavement. I thought that it looked like its own work of art.


This is a stunning collaboration, so check it out quickly before it's gone as street art on these walls do not last long at all these days.

I recently came across two new murals in London, and the artist of these is James Earley. He is an artist from Ireland. He painted two new murals in east London at the end of May. I remember seeing some of his work in progress in the Temple area of Dublin over two years ago, which can be seen in my post Dublin Street Art. The first piece that I discovered is at the back of the Old Truman Brewery. It features an image of a bull.


The second artwork looks like a racing greyhound, and it's located on Great Eastern Street. Unfortunately, it's been tagged over with pink spray paint.


Perhaps we will be seeing more from this artist in London.

Street Art: Furia ACK

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Between last summer and earlier this year, Portuguese artist Furia ACK painted several murals across London. The artist creates stunning black and white portraits which convey emotion, and I've documented the work over the past year. One of my favourites is one of the artist's newer pieces, painted on a shutter on Commercial Street (directly below). 



Costah (Nuno Costah), another artist from Portugal who pastes up street art and makes tattoos, contributed with Furia ACK on a couple of murals. Recently, Costah's bird paste-ups have been added all over the streets of London.



The beautiful image below was painted off of Brick Lane, and someone (Jess?) added Santa hats to the figures. The hats appeared just before Christmas. The image is a sad one, but with the hats, it loses the effect.


Another mural that appeared toward the end of last year shows a woman opening Pandora's Box.


And we also have Medusa.



The mural below is titled 'Eve'. She eats the apple with the snake in the background.


Below was the tribute to Charlie Hebdo. The writing did not last long before being painted over.


The image below is titled 'Mercedes Sosa'.


The next portrait is titled 'Victor Jara', with the words 'Freedom of speech is worth dying for.'


Zeca Afonso is the next portrait.


One of the first murals that I discovered from Furia ACK last year was this stunning image of an older man. The portrait looks as though it was created using charcoal.


Furia ACK is based in London, so we may see some more of his work appear across the city.

Bristol Street Art & Banksy

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This is a post that I've had ready to publish awhile ago, and I thought that I should do it before I head off to Britsol again this summer. I visited Bristol a couple of summers ago to see an art and sculpture trail. I had previously seen some of the street art in Bristol as I used to live in Bath and work near Bristol, so Bristol is no stranger to me. However, I'd never properly photographed and documented the street art that I saw when I used to visit there more often that I do now. There's no better way to introduce the Bristol street art scene than to publish some work by Banksy, arguably the most famous street or grafitti artists in the world. Back in 2009, I went to his exhibition held in Bristol, and you can see photographs and a write-up from it here: Banksy Exhibit - Grafitti Art. I'd just moved back to Hampshire about 1.5 years prior to this exhibit, and the queues were quite long; I think I had waited three hours in the queue before I was able to enter.



This famous piece (above) is on a high-profile wall on a busy street, and it's not fared well lately with damage. It's a pity to see such an iconic piece of art destroyed.


Of course, Bristol is now one of the top street art destinations of the world. Each year, a street art event "Upfest" is held, and new pieces of street art appear continuously. Bristol has always had a strong art community. A collection of some of the pieces is below, but I am not sure who painted many of the murals. I captured some of these around Bedminster.



Semtitic Servants painted the mural below, and it was a collaboration with other street artists, including Cheo.


I was happy to see some work of artists that I recognised in Bristol. Sweet Toof painted outside the pub called "The Looking Glass", and Cheo painted some with his signature characters as well. I am unsure who the other artists are.


Dan Kitchener is an artist that I recognised from London, and you can see some more of his work here. I've seen the below image in some of his previous artwork in London.


Nick Walker painted "The Coat of Arms" mural on a wall below.


I spotted new pieces throughout Bristol.






This year, I will be visiting Bristol again, and I'll be posting some photographs from new work produced at the famous street art event, "Upfest", so keep checking back!

Afternoon at Kilkenny, Ireland

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After the visit to the Rock of Dunamase, we drove to the town of Kilkenny. This is where we would stay the night of my birthday (last year). Kilkenny is a town in Ireland that was influenced by the Normans. It is a walled city, and the walls were built in the mid-1200s. There were three walled areas: Hightown, Irishtown, and St. John's. Our trip to Kilkenny was spent exploring the town. We went to St. Canice's Cathedral, had a look at (but did not visit) the castle, and wandered the main streets and slips (alleys).


Our bed and breakfast was a short drive from St. Canice's, and it was in the same part of the town. Instead of leaving the car parked there and walking, we decided to park at St. Canice's where there was plenty of space to park. From here, we could also walk into the main part of the town as St. Canice's is outside the city walls.


St. Canice's Cathedral is located in Irishtown. This area used to be a separate town from Kilkenny and was surrounded by its own walls. Irishtown and the neighbouring Hightown (the main part of Kilkenny) had a rilvary for authority, and the term "fighting like Kilkenny cats" is used today; the local hurling team is known as "the cats".


St. Canice's Cathedral dates form the 13th century. An earlier monestary settlement started here in the 7th century. The round tower is the oldest surviving structure in Kilkenny and dates before the cathedral. It was probably used by the monestary.


We went inside the cathedral first. The cathedral includes several floor slabs dedicated to tradesmen and their trade emblems, such as cobblers and weavers and carpenters. 




After we had a good look around, we went to climb the round tower. This is only one of a couple of towers in Ireland that can be climbed today. Luckily, this was an easy climb with ladders on each divided level, and it was not possible to see down between any cracks. I've got a fear of heights, and I was okay climbing these series of ladders and dividers. At the top, we were awarded with nice views of Kilkenny.



From here, we could see St. Mary's Cathedral. This is a Catholic church built using Kilkenny limestone and was modelled on Gloucester Cathedral. The cathedral was built in the time of the Great Famine, which was a great accomplishment. There are photos of this cathedral from the castle in photographs below. There's also another church here called the Black Church, because of the colour of the robes that the people who worshipped here wore. These were the Dominicans, and they settled in the early 1200s. Dominicans are known as 'blackfriars'. The Black Church has one of the finest 14th century windows.


After we were finished admiring the views, we left St. Canice's. We headed toward the main town, following a section of the old wall.


The walls served for defense as well as a status symbol of the town. Records from 1280 showed recordings of goods that passed through the walls, such as wine, almonds, cumin, figs, cod, raisins, herring and salmon.


After our walk around the walls, we came to the main part of the town of Kilkenny, which has an attractive high street and 'slips' or alleys that lead off of it.



This is known as Hightown and contains the castle and the river on the north side. Across from the castle is Kilkenny Design Centre, created from buildings that were built in the 1780s and were once stables for the castle. This now contains shops selling craft and art items and souvinirs; it also contains restaurants and appears to be a trendy area.


We had a look around the castle grounds, but we did not have time to visit the castle as it was mid to late afternoon by this time.





We wandered through the streets and looked for a nice place to have dinner.




The sun was out, and I liked seeing the reflections on the river.


After we ate our dinner, we walked back. The main street had become a construction site by that time. It's a pity because this was a really attractive place to see the street to get photograhs.


When we got back to the bed and breakfast, I was surprised with a birthday cake. All four of us had a slice of the cake and enjoyed our evening in Kilkenny.


I cannot believe this was just over a year ago now. The lady at the bed and breakfast was very accommodating to us and gave us some cutlery and glasses and plates to use in the main room of the house. I do recommend Kilkenny as it's an attractive town to visit and has much to offer in terms of sight-seeing and shopping. I could have spent a little longer here.

I have just realised that I've published a series of castle and abbey posts from last year's trip to Ireland all at once, and today is another castle post. I actually visited this on my birthday last year and  can hardly believe that it was a year ago. After the visit to the Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey, we drove over to visit Dunamase Castle. Dunamase Castle is now in ruins, but it was worth the visit. The visit to the castle and parking was free, and it's a short walk from the parking up to the castle, which is built on and around a hillside. The castle has a rich history. Dunamase Castle was built in the 12th century on the site of a 9th century fort. It was passed to the Anglo-Normans after Aoife (the daughter of MacMurrough) was married to Strongbow. It was then passed through marriage to Marshals in the 13th century and then to the Mortimers in the 14th century.

After Mortimer was executed for treason by order of King Edward III, it changed hands many times. It ended up in the possession of the Irish O'Mores, who were credited with its destruction. In the Cromwell wars, it was not considered a threat because it was in ruin. At the end of the 18th century, the hall was partially restored as a residence, but it was let to fall into decay after the owner's death.

Barbican (foreground), main gatehouse (mid ground), and the Great Hall (at hill top)

The castle entrance is through the outer barbican. This leads to an inner triangular barbican with the main gatehouse at the other end. The inner barbican is surrounded by a wall, and through the main gatehouse is the Great Hall, surrounded by a wall. There is an earlier gate tower in the inner barbican. The main gatehouse provides high level defense and a porticullis with a murder hole. Remains of a drawbridge can be seen along the passage. At the top of the hill is the two storey Great Hall, which was built in the 12th century but contains work  dating from the 13th century.

The main and second gatehouse, pictured from the lower ward

My photographs from the visit to Castle Dunamase are below.

The main gatehouse between the inner barbican and lower ward, looking up to the Great Hall

Looking down the hill to the inner barbican


Ruins - probably the other gatehouse

The Great Hall at the top of the hill

The Great Hall

Views from the top of Dunamase Castle

Wall area at the Great Hall

Dunamase Castle ruins and views

Great Hall section of wall

Irish farms from Dunamase Castle

Remains of the main gatehouse


Dunamase Castle was quiet when we visited; we were the only visitors. It was extremely windy, and the rain had mostly ceased when we visited it. This was a nice visit because most of the other places to see in Ireland charge a fee. This was the last visit on the road trip today, and we headed off to Kilkenny where we would stay the night.

UK 2015 Glossybox Review: June

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Tomorrow is my birthday, so when I received my last Glossybox (of my annual subscription) on Monday afternoon, I was excited. This felt like an early birthday gift, and I do like the theme of this box and the useful products. I nearly booked tickets to the V Festival this year, but my circumstances for this year have changed, so I may have to keep some of these products for next summer. I've never been to a music festival and want to go.


For those who are not familiar, Glossybox is a monthly subscription box that sends approximately five full or sample sized items to subscribers. This month, I received an extra item for being a subscriber for one year. The item sent was a Glossybox-branded notebook.


MONU Spa rosewood reviving mist: This mist can be sprayed onto the face for a quick pick-me-up or sprayed on the body to give a light fragrance. The product has a herby smell.

Glossybox Flash tattoos: Temporary tattoos are all the rage at the moment with some celebrities sporting them, and these ones have been developed for Glossybox. There's several designs to wear around the wrist or just above the ankles to supplement accessories. I am looking forward to trying these and am going to an event early next month, so I may be able to try them there.

Halo fragrance free facial wipes: These facial wipes would be perfect to take to a festival, and since the do not contain fragrance, they are probably suitable for all skin types. 

Kueshi anticellulite booster: This cream promises to circulate blood circulation in order to get rid of cellulite. I think that the results would need to be measured over a time.

Essence gel nail polish in 'electriiiiiic': This polish promises to be long-lasting and makes nails shiny. It's easy to apply, and I received the bright blue colour (which I have always dubbed 'default blue'). I was not sure that I would like the colour, but I do, and I don't have a colour like this in my nail polish collection.

What's my verdict? Overall, I am impressed with the box and the products included. I do like the theme and I like being able to try out the new items. Will I re-subscribe? Unfortunately, I have a lot of products to get through and don't have any space at the moment, so I'm going to hold off for now. I would probably re-subscribe to Glossybox in the future. I do have points to use to receive a couple of free boxes.

Sakura Cherry Blossom at Sake No Hana

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A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch at Sake no Hana in Mayfair. Sake no Hana is a restaurant that offers modern Japanese cuisine. Sushi, bento, sake, and other Japanese dishes can be enjoyed, and they have a sushi bar and a bar where cocktails can be ordered. When I visited Sake no Hana, the restaurant was celebrating cherry blossom festival (sakura), which is celebrated in Japan each spring. This festival celebrates the arrival of spring and the custom of hanami, which is essentially a picnic and get-together with friends and family underneath the beautiful blossoms. Seeing the cherry blossoms in Japan is something that I really want to do at some point.


When I arrived, the restaurant entrance was covered in cherry blossoms. These proved to be popular with tourists keen to get their photograph taken as they passed by.


The interior of the restaurant is lined with bamboo to give it a feeling of being in a forest. The green and rippling glass sculpture above the bar aids to this theme and is a beautiful feature. There are large windows facing onto the busy St. James Street, constrasting the calming interior. The restaurant was bright with much natural light shining through.


Floris Cherry Blossom scent was also in the air when I entered the restaurant bar. The scent can be purchased from the Floris, which is a British perfumer. This allows visitors to become immersed into the hanami experience.


To celebrate Sakura, several new and limited edition items were on the menu. I was keen to try some of these. 


First up is the Violet Risshun cocktail. The cocktail comes in two parts, and the waitress explained that the first part of the cocktail represented early spring. The second part of the cocktail represents later spring. The first part is a pale yellow-tan colour, and it has a slightly more sour taste. After having two glasses of this, the pinkish-red cocktail is meant to be poured into the larger pale-yellow one to combine into the second cocktail. The early spring was two glasses, and I got two and a half glasses out of the later spring. The later spring had a more floral and sweet taste, taking the edge off the sour.


The cocktails were absolutely delicious. I loved the slight sour taste of the first and the floral 'cherry blossom' taste of the second. The waitress explained to me that the cocktail was only a little sour because a sweetner is used to take the edge off of it. The sweetener is made from a type of leaf from Japan that is crushed. I believe the leaf is called the shiso leaf. The waitress brought one over to me so that i could see it.


Next up came the miso soup. This tasted good and has a lot of flavour. This is the best miso that I have eaten.


My main mean came out in two bento boxes. I had the chicken with ginger, and this came with broccoli and what looked like sesame seeds. The second box contained a selection of vegetarian sushi. Included was avocado and mango and wasabi. The wasabi was so spicy; I'd never known it to be as spicy. I struggled to eat it all; this meal could be shared between two in my opinion.


The chicken had a nice flavour.


For dessert, I had the Sakura Macaron. This is another limited edition item on the menu, and the macaron is cherry and chocolate flavour. 


Visitors are being encouraged to take photographs of the cherry blossoms and to post them onto Instagram in order for a chance to win Sakura prizes.


Sakura at Sake no Hana is available until the 20th of June. The restaurant is located in Mayfair on St. James Street. I was able to sit in the bar on a Saturday at noon, and there were plenty of spaces available. 

After visiting Cahir Castle, we made our way down the road to the Rock of Cashel. The Rock of Cashel is one of the most popular sites in Ireland and has a long history. It was once the seat of the kings of Ireland, and it is the location where Saint Patrick preached. The legend says that he banished the devil from the caves near the rock. The Rock of Cashel is an early Christain site and contains medieval buildings. It includes the cathedral (and Romanesque doorway), round tower and Cormac's Chapel. Nearby and at the bottom of the rock (hill) is Hore Abbey.

The Rock of Cashel was the seat of Irish kings from the 4th century until 1101, when power was given to the church. St. Patrick preached at the Rock of Cashel in the 5th century. Although Cashel has ancient history, it was only documented since the 4th century. The cathedral actually replaces an earlier structure, and the buildings here date from the 15th century.

We had a look inside some of the buildings before wandering outside.

Some of the interiors contained original artwork, such as sculpture. Even more rare is evidence of painting that depicts religious scenery.

The cemetery is walled and does contain some high crosses.

In the distance and at the foot of the hill is Hore Abbey.

After exploring outside, we went to Cormac's Chapel. Cormac's Chapel is one of the most important religious chapels in Ireland. It was built in the mid-1100s. The plaster inside the chapel is being eroded away by environmental factors, so it is often closed off so that UV lights can be added in order to kill the harmful microbiological growths. Traces of the paint and plaster can be seen in the chapel, which is astonishing considering the age.

A replica of St. Patrick's cross, one of the high crosses of Ireland, stands in the entrance to the cathedral. The original is located inside, along with other artefacts. As mentioned, the cemerery contains other high crosses. There was one (pictured below) that was struck by lightning in 1976. The cross was one of the most impressive and dated from the mid-1800s.

There is a video of the history of the Rock of Cashel, but we did not get to see it. Unfortunately, the video is not shown in English until every two or three hours as they show it in other languages. I wish the other languages had shown English subtitles, at least. That way, we could have watched and understood it. So, we did leave without really understanding the importance of this site.


Our next stop was Hore Abbey, and the photograph of the Rock of Cashel above was taken from Hore Abbey. The other side of the Rock of Cashel was covered in scaffolding, sadly. This is a pity because the ruins are beautiful; I've seen photographs of them without the scaffolding.


Hore Abbey is located at the bottom of the hill from the Rock of Cashel. It is a Benedictine monestary, and it was founded in the early 1200s. The monestary changed religious factions; it was given to the Cistercians in the mid 1200s because the archbishop dreamed that the Benedictines were plotting to murder him. The structure dates from the 13th century.


We had to make our way through the muddy field, following the narrow stone pathway to the abbey ruins. Bits of this pathway were extremely dirty and muddy thanks to our bovine friends in the image above. A word of warning: there are cow patties, so do wear boots or shoes that you do not mind getting muddy. There was no way to avoid stepping through this, and walking around on the grass is much worse because of the wet patch further down the path. However, we'd had rain on the day we visited and a few days of rain prior to that.


The builders of the abbey would have also been responsible for building the cathedral at the Rock fo Cashel, and the same rock was used.



Glimpses of the Rock of Cashel could be seen at different angles from Hore Abbey.




I hope you have enjoyed these photographs of Hore Abbey and the Rock of Cashel. Come back again to see what else we got up to in the Ireland road trip. 

A Visit to Cahir Castle, Ireland

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Cahir Castle was our first stop after leaving Killarney National Park. The castle is located in the town of Cahir, on a rocky island in the River Suir. The castle dates to the mid-1100s when it was constructed by Conor O'Brien. It was expanded in the 13th century, and it is Norman in design. The castle was remodelled twice, once in the 15th century and again in the 17th century as the main line of the owners (Butler family) died out.


The origins of the castle can be traced back to an earthen form located on this island in the River Suir. Later, the castle would have been constructed out of rock. We walked around to the entrance, the rocky island becoming clearer as we could see the brickwork from the castle raising up from it.


We saw a full-scale model of the early phase of the castle and the beginnings of the town of Cahir.

As we approached the entrance, we took note of the imposing structure of the castle.

The eagle made of stone sits above the door.

This castle was used in the 1980s film Excalibur. It was also used in Braveheart, but it was not the main filming location for that film. I will be posting about another Irish castle soon, and that is the one that is associtated with Braveheart the most.


We found ourselves into the inner ward, near the keep.


Inside is the banqueting hall. It was originally larger than it is today, and part of it dates from the 13th century. Large pageants were held here with hundreds of people in attendance. It must have been quite a sight to see.

The keep was altered to convert it into private living quarters for the Butler family in the 15th century. Its roof was restored in the 1960s.

The views from the castle over Cahir and the river were impressive.

In addition to wandering around the castle, one of the buildings had really good information panels about women throughout history in the Ireland and the roles expected of them. 

The original entrance to the castle is in the northwest tower in the inner ward. It could be defended independently, and it was guarded. A murder hole exists overhead.

Of importance is the original porticulis, which was restored. It dates from the 13th century.

After we had finished, we went to explore the village of Cahir. We just walked down the street a short way and popped into a souvinir shop.

As we were getting ready to leave, I took some photographs of the castle from across the river. The sun came out at this time, so we had hopes for nice weather for the remainder of the day. We then continued our road trip, and the next stop on the journey was the Rock of Cashel.

Guided London Walk: Macarons & Mews

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Last Saturday, I enjoyed a guided walk around Belgravia and Knightsbridge on the "Macarons and Mews" tour. The guided tour is conducted by Yannick Pucci, who is knowledgeable about London history and architecture. Yannick's story was similar to my own in that he was born in another country and came to the UK to study and liked it so much that he stayed. The tour that I was on was quite small, and there were four of us in total. I met another girl from the USA (Chicago) and a couple who were originally from amazing Basingstoke (where I live). We were all around the same age and had the same interests, so it was a great tour to be on. I think I can vouch for everyone when I say that we had a lot of fun and laughter, and we learned a lot too.


For regular readers of my blog, you know that I like to get up to new and interesting events in London and around the world. I love history, art, travel, and I do have a bit of a sweet tooth (I love afternoon tea). A few months ago, I came across the walk and wanted to sign up. I do love macarons, and I have tried many in London as I endeavour to find the best London macarons. I also know a little bit about the mews as I came across some on a walk through London by mistake several years ago.  


Mews. For those who do not know what mews are, they were a series of terraced buildings and stables where the horses were kept, and the rooms above were reserved for the workers. The mews are amongst the most desireable central London residences now. They are located throughout London, but this walk covered some located in Belgravia and Knightsbridge. They are often considered hidden gems of London that one would overlook.


We met up at Hyde Park Corner in front of the Lanesborough Hotel to wait for the tour to begin. I've walked by here so many times, but I actually never knew that the building was a hotel or gave it any thought. Admittedly, I typically walk on the opposite side of the road. The hotel is currently being refurbished. Near to it is an old entrance to the tube station. The roads here are always busy, and I always see (or hear first) expensive cars on the roads here.


We walked off the main road, and as we walked further amongst the buildings, London's noise became much quieter. We were in Belgravia near the square, and this is where a lot of embassies are. We were told some more facts about the area, but I not going to give everything away; you'll have to book the tour to see the mews for yourselves and try the macarons.


We checked out the first mews, which was a beautiful and quiet area. Some of the buildings were painted in pastel colours, and many had potted plants and window boxes in front. 





Amongst some of the mews we visited is a pub known as 'The Grenadier'. The pub served the Royal Foot Regiment of Foot Guards and senior officials whose barracks were located nearby. The regiment was awarded for its bravery in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The pub is rumoured to be haunted as a young man was caught cheating on cards and thrown out of the window where he died. Visitors attempt to pay off the ghost's debts by attaching money to the ceiling of the pub. The entrance to the pub is actually not on the street; it is via the yard where the barracks were.


We came across some more exclusive mews that were gated, so we could not enter them. We also passed an estate agent's shop window, and we saw the prices of the mews (for both the sale and rental markets). Most of them were selling for about the 3,500,000 mark.


These mews contained their own community shops. In the past, they would have contained a larger variety of shops for the people who lived and worked here. Today, those that exist are speciality shops and get their trade through word-of-mouth. In fact, I did read recently that the restaurants and businesses in this area and other areas of London and really struggling because most of the buildings are empty. The people that bought the places that could afford it do not live there most of the time and do not really contribute back to the community. Some of the areas are like a 'ghost town'. That's London prices pricing everyone out of London except for the mega-rich.


We also came across another pub opposite some mews, with an alleyway leading to more mews. We were shown an older photograph of these buildings here, which used to be shops for the people who lived in the area.




We came across several sports cars, like the one below. We also learned about one of London's lost rivers (the Tyburn) and saw where it is located (underground). 


The walk includes a visit to five macaron sellers for a tasting, which is included in the price. The walking helped to walk those calories off, and we headed to grab our first macarons. I will not say which brand or shop we visited, but we were first told of some interesting stories about the impressive building nearby. You may, of course, recognise the macarons. They are my favourite macarons (in taste and consistency). I will tell you that I had the peppermint one, which is a new flavour and a flavour that I have not tried before. It did not disappoint.


Next, we visited Harvy Nichols department store. I had never been inside it before. In the top is a nice cafe and food shop, and our second tasting was here. I have previously had their macarons before as well. I had the peach champagne macaron, and it did taste lovely. 


I had a chocolate macaron from the next shop. The shop is famous for its chocolate, so I thought I could not go wrong. I did find this macaron to be too sweet, so it was my least favourite. These macarons are slightly larger in size, and some of the flavours are inspired by the oriental/east.


Next up, I had a coconut and lime macaron. This did taste nice.


Our final macaron shop was located in Harrods, and it is the famous Laduree. I have actually never had their macarons before, even though they are probably the most popular. I ended up buying a box. I had the cherry blossom macaron, and it did taste delicious. The marshmallow one was nice, and vanilla is always a nice flavour. I enjoyed these, and they are just about as good as my favourite macaron brand (Pierre Hermé).


We found more mews and walked a bit further down and certainly walked off at least some of the calories we indulged in.




Overall, we had a perfect day, and the weather was perfect for eating macarons and discovering hidden areas of London.

For more information or to book the walk, visit: http://macaronsmewswalk.eventbrite.co.uk 

After visiting Blarney Castle, we made our way back to Killarney. Before heading back to the hotel for the evening, we had a stop off at "Meeting of the Waters" in Killarney National Park. I had read that it was a picturesque place to visit, and we pulled up into the car park to take a look. The car park was pretty empty, so we had a look at the map at the entrance to the trail to see how far the walk was. The sign said fifteen minutes to get to where the waters of the two lakes meet, so we started off. (Don't trust this sign as the walk there too at least half an hour, and we were walking at a quick pace.) 


The views on the way to the start of the trail were pretty.


The walkway was paved, and it was an easy walk without steep hills. We were led through the trail between the beautiful rhododendron bushes. We were at the foot of the Purple Mountain, with thousands of rhododendrons on the hill above us. They were beautiful.





We crossed over a small pond near the lake, on our right as we walked. We kept hoping that the "Meeting of the Waters" was around the next bend. It could not be far, because the sign said 15 minutes. So, we kept thinking that it was behind the next bend and could not be further.


We saw a couple of red deer. One was a doe (hind), and one was a buck (stag). The red deer graze the mountains in Killarney National Park. The hinds can be hunted at certain times of the year, but the stags cannot be hunted in the county. It is thought that the red deer have been grazing here since the last ice age. We watched the deer until they headed away from us and went further into the forest.


We caught glimpses of the mountain covered in the beautiful purple carpet of rhododendrons.


Finally, we came to the "Meeting of the Waters". This is where the lakes (Upper Lake, Muckross Lake, and Lower Lake) combine. The Dinis Cottage (a hunting lodge) is an attraction here, and the old weir bridge can be seen in the distance, over the water. This can be seen on one side of the lake.


The views on the other side of the lake were amazing. There were beautiful views all around. I'll let the photographs do the talking.



I zoomed in using my camera in order to see the old weir bridge in the distance.






After a quick wander around, we then headed on our long walk back.


The was our last stop for the day, and we headed back to the hotel to get some much-needed sleep and to find out that my brother's wife had a baby a bit later on that evening. This was on June 9, so a day before my own birthday. Keep checking back for the remaining posts of my road trip around Ireland.

Fanakapan and Horror Crew are London-based street artists, and their work is always popping up in east London. Their work always brings a smile as they create detailed pieces using everyday objects. A few years ago, it was characters made from Liquorice All-Sorts or balloon animals and birds. I've previously covered their work here and here.


Fanakapan's latest work features silver foil balloons in letters to spell out different words. The lighting and the 'shine' of these balloons is perfect to give them a three-dimensional effect. The artwork pops off the wall. The first that I discovered was in Star Yard, off Brick Lane. The word created from the foil balloons was 'STAR', no doubt after its location.


A few weeks later, I went back to the area to discover Fanakapan creating a new piece on Pedley Street. The work was more than half of the way finished, and I watched Fanapakan create the piece. He did mention to others who were watching that he was getting tired of creating the piece and was getting a little bored of it. I thought that was unfortunate because the work is stunning, and I really love the foil balloon effect.


I went back to Brick Lane a couple of weeks later in order to get a photograph of the finished piece. I am glad that it was not tagged over. The work is highly-detailed, and there's a blue and gold cast of reflection; all of this is achieved through spray paint.


The work reads "Rise & Shine" and is signed "FAN" by the artist (short for Fanakapan).


Fanakapan is based in London, and he's been painting from an early age; he started to paint with spray cans from about ten years of age. He enjoys creating non-offensive pieces that viewers could recognise, and he lets his work bring smiles to faces (1).


On the same wall next to the large mural by Fanakapan is a portrait of a bird, and this is work by Horror Crew. An older piece by Horror Crew is below, and it appeared off Brick Lane (Star Yard) at some point last year.


Just before Easter, a little chick appeared. This is a stunning piece, and I love the detail of the features and the light and shadow.


My next photographs feature older pieces that I had not got around to posting. In the summer and autumn of last year, Fanakapan and Horror Crew were busy with creating new pieces, and I've posted these below. The first was a set of skulls with a balloon-like crown and bubbles, and it appeared on Brick Lane.


Fanakapan and Horror Crew collaborated on the balloon animals and the portrait of a deer.


Fanakapan was painting a lot of balloon animals last year, and in the same spot where the large foil balloon "Rise & Shine", was a selection of balloon animals. This mural had two different iterations.


In the first iteration, The Real Dill painted next to it.


Fanakapan also created toy hip-hop and soldiers off Hackney Road last summer.


On Pedley Street, a mural dedicated to pink elephants was created, and this did last a little while before being replaced. The wording in the background of the balloon animals is the lyrics to the "Pink Elephants on Parade" song from Disney's Dumbo.


This skeleton with a balloon dog looks like a quick piece. I discovered it near Bethnal Green.


Christmas brought us two penguins with a crown. Penguins were the icon of last year's Christmas season and they featured in commercials and shop fronts.


I'm hoping to see some new pieces by Fanakapan and Horror Crew appear in London over the coming months. There's also another pice that I have captured in collaboration with another street artist, so keep checking back.


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