April 2016 Archives

Last weekend, the bloke and I met with a group of friends. I'd arranged to go to Lilly's Tea Rooms in Wickham, Hampshire. I've previously been here before, and they now take bookings for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon teas. There's also a more traditional tea room in the village which I used to frequent before Lilly's existed. The building now occupied by Lilly's used to be a pub before it was taken over several years ago now.

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Wickham is an attractive market town with a large square, but the village has gotten so much busier now than it used to be. There's quite a few small shops and the tea rooms to visit. It's difficult to find a place to park, as we discovered this time. (In the past, it was busy but never as busy.) There's a few independent shops and an award-winning butcher's, pub, and Indian restaurant. 

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Two of us decided to have the afternoon tea, which came on the three-tier stand. It included finger sandwiches with removed crusts, and we had a selection of these. However, we are both vegetarian (or eat only selected meat), so we asked for simple cheddar sandwiches. We also had a choice between a fruit or a plain scone, and I choose plain. This came with strawberry jam and clotted cream. We were also given the choice of cakes, and I asked for the chocolate while my friend had the Victoria Sponge.

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Others in the group opted to have burgers or another meal for lunch. That's the good thing about Lilly's - you can order afternoon tea or for a more substantial lunch so that everyone can choose what they wish to eat.

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Lilly's takes bookings now, which is great because it's the perfect place to go to meet up with friends. The rooms are bright and spacious and I love the vintage feel. It also overlooks the main square in Wickham.

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I enjoyed my afternoon tea, but I preferred the chocolate cake that the traditional tea room across the street sells. I've also had better scones. These ones were very light and not too heavy or filling, but they tasted a little more like a bun instead of a scone. 

Overall, it is a good place to go for afternoon tea and is one that I recommend. However, if you're after a more traditional place, try the tea room in the arcade in the square in Wickham. This has been around for awhile and is the first place that I'd had afternoon tea in the UK. (This was before afternoon tea was served in hotels in London, and it was just before my first visit to Betty's tea rooms in York.) Enjoy!

UK 2016 Birchbox Reviews: March

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I'm late writing my review of Birchbox this month because (again), Birchbox failed to deliver my monthly beauty subscription box, then it took ages for them to actually sort it out for me. In the end, I received the box at the beginning of this month instead of last month. I only signed up for this month because I wanted to try a couple of products that I saw as advertised as being in the March box. Sadly, I only got one of the three products that I wanted to try, and I got two repeat products.

The design for March's Birchbox has wordsearches on it, and it came in a box designed as a wordsearch. I located a few words on the box, and most of the words were related to hair. Read below for the product reviews.

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Indeed Labs Hydraluron moisture boosting mask: This is a sheet mask to help repair dry skin, and it promises to help complexion. I was excited to use this, but unwrapping and unfolding it was a hassle, and then it was not the right size or fit for my face. I did not feel any difference in hydration when I removed the mask.

amika mask: This hair mask helps to hydrate hair and seal split ends. I enjoyed using the product, and it smelled good and made my hair feel ultra-soft, and the smell still lingered after rinsing it out. 

Arrow - BOOST Color Enhancing Balm: This item was received in all boxes in March. This lip product promises to be paraben and cruelty-free, and it's also a vegan product. It protects lips as well as adjusts to your individual pH to add colour. I was excited to try this product, and it does add a slightly darker shade to lips. This suited my skin tone perfectly.

Polaar - Polar Night Cream: This night cream is to be applied before bed to promote cell regeneration for a radiant complexion. I've never really held much faith on creams as they would need to be used over time to see if they really do make a difference.

ModelCo - More Brows: Every subscriber received this product in their March box. I have used this product as well as the brand's mascara, which I found too clumpy. I received the medium to dark brown colour. I don't tend to use brow products, so I don't think this will get a lot of use.

deep sleep pillow spray: This is another product that I have received in a previous Birchbox. Lavender scent is sprayed onto the bed linen at bedtime to aid sleep. I did not find it to work as the scent does not last long.

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I will be receiving a box this month (April) because I did not cancel my subscription in time due to not having received the March box. Hopefully it will not take ages to arrive, and I hope it has better products for me. What did you think of the March Birchbox?

Brunch @ Duck & Waffle, Take 2

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Earlier this month, the bloke and I visited Duck & Waffle for brunch. Duck & Waffle is located on the 40th floor in the City of London at 110 Bishopsgate, and it is the highest restaurant and open at all hours. You may remember my post last June when we made our first visit to Duck & Waffle. The weather was not great, but I enjoyed my 'Full Elvis' waffles and have been wanting to return since. 

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We visited on a Sunday and were blessed with beautiful sunny weather this time, and this was one of the warmest days that we have had so far this year. You can see the amazing weather from the photograph above, but the downside to the sun and lovely weather is the heat coming through the windows. We both got very hot.

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Again, we rode up in the lift with the glass sides open as we zipped up the skyscraper. I'm not a fan of heights unless it's on secure grounding. I don't feel too bad once inside the building with the proper floor below me.

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The restaurant's bar has beautiful views to the south of the Thames and tiled floors.

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Canary Wharf

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We ordered orange juice, which tasted like it was freshly-squeezed. The bloke had the full breakfast, which is what he had last time. However, he dislikes eggs and just picks the items that he wishes to have from the list.

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It was a tough call, but I really wanted to try the signature dish (duck & waffle), so I opted to give it a try instead of ordering the 'Full Elvis'.

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The waffle was delicious, but the duck is a little fatty. It went well with the maple and mustard syrup. It also came with a duck egg. The sweet and savoury taste works well with this dish, but I prefer the combination with chicken instead of duck.

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While we ate, we admired the lovely views.

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Gherkin, Tower Bridge and Tower of London

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Looking north on Bishopsgate

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Spitalfields and the construction happening opposite the market, which was the site of a Ripper murder (behind the tall building)

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Olympic Stadium and Orbit in the distance

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Next up, I tried the brownie for dessert. This came with nuts and chunks of honeycomb and did taste pretty good and rich.

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Looking over Aldgate

On the way out of the restaurant, we admired the view on the other side of the building. We caught a glimpse of St. Paul's Cathedral and Tower 42, which has a champagne bar at the top. You can read my review of that here: Champagne at Tower 42.

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Tower42 and St. Paul's Cathedral

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Leadenhall Building and Tower42

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St. Paul's Cathedral

While I enjoyed my second visit to Duck & Waffle, I didn't care for the service on this visit. The service was much friendlier and chattier on my first visit. The server even offered for my partner to pick the items he wanted for his breakfast, which was cheaper than paying for the full breakfast and only ordering the few items that he wanted to eat; they also didn't allow substitutions. I also preferred the 'Full Elvis' to the duck and waffle. I'd love to return and try the drinks at the bar.

This weekend marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 1616. To honor the famous bard, a series of special events are taking place to commemorate him. Earlier this year, I already visited the lumiere dedicated to Shakespeare on the Guildhall. This weekend (today, April 24) marks the actual date of the bard's passing, so a special walk with screens showing his plays were placed up for these two days only.

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The walk features 37 screens with 10-minute films along the south bank from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge. The films include location-shot footage as well as footage from theatres, notably the Globe Theatre, who is one of the sponsors of 'The Complete Walk'. Also included on some of the films is silent film from BFI's archives. The location-shot footage helps to draw the scenes of the part of the plays how Shakespeare would have envisioned them.

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The day started at 9:20 when I got off at Westminster tube station and walked across the bridge, enjoying the views of Big Ben. The London marathon was also set up so that the road was blocked at Westminster. I was happy to see the sun out because I expected a lot of rain, but the weather was chilly. I bought a hot chocolate nearby and went to St. Thomas' Hospital where the first two screens were located and waited for the volume to be turned up at 10:00 so that we could listen.

"The Two Gentlemen of Verona" - Filmed in Verona, this is a romantic play about a love triangle. (The sound of this one was very faint and I struggled to hear it particularly when two ladies sat next to me and decided to mutter the way through half of the film.)

'Henry VI, Part 3' - This was filmed at Townton Battlefield in England (and some interior shots of a church) and is the battle where the English had the most casulaties of their life on their own soil. 

'Taming of the Shrew' - This is a comedy that was partially shot in Italy but had a lot of scenes in the theatre. It is about a rough older sister who has no suitors; she must get married before her popular sister is allowed to marry. Comedy is the key element here.

'Henry VI, Part 1' - Filmed in France, this play features war and Joan of Arc fighting with her inner demons. 

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'Titus Andronicus' - Peter Capaldi is the star of this film shot in location in the ruins of ancient Rome. Some children said "Doctor Who" upon seeing him. Unfortunately, the placement of this screen was not ideal as the sound could not be heard over the trains passing overhead.  

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'Henry VI, Part 2' - This is a modern take on this part of the play; it is filmed in Spitalfields Market with cockney accents and received quite a few laughs. It was at this point in my walk that more people were out and the screens were getting busier; previously, there were only about three other people per screen.

'Romeo & Juliet' - One of Shakespeare's most famous plays, the crowd was the largest yet here. The scenes depicted the events toward the end of the play with Juliet falling asleep to being found by Romeo and Romeo deciding to join her.

'Richard III' - This is filmed at the Tower of London and depicts the king in a confused state with a lot of fighting.

By this time, the sun had nearly disappeared, and I was starting to feel really cold as there was a little bit of a cold breeze. When the sun was out, it did feel nice.

'Love's Labour's Lost' - Filmed in Spain with a lot of theatre shots used, this is another comedy.

'King John' - Filmed in Northamptonshire, the film depicts King John attempting to blind his nephew Arthur because he has more right to the crown after the death of Richard Lionheart. The film also depicts scenes about Shakespeare's life, including the death of his own son, and this played a part in the writing of this play.

'The Comedy of Errors' - This is a romantic comedy that features a case of mistaken identity. Two twin boys grow up into adults and the wife of one claims she is the wife of the other one. A lot of the scenes are shot in a Turkish restaurant in London, and the film blends the modern day antics with shots from the theatre.

'Richard II' - This is filmed at Westminster Hall and Houses of Parliament and features one of the most unpopular kings with internal battles and being confronted by Bolingbroke over the throne.

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By this time, I'd made it to Gabriel's Wharf. There's a man who makes sand sculptures here that I've seen in the past, but his work seems to have gotten more detailed. When I walked past, he was constructing a massive sandcastle and used flour as snow. He'd also found a couple of toys from popular childrens' toys and was using them.

It was in this area that I really started to feel the cold and the sun had gone in for the remainder of the day.

'A Midsummer Night's Dream' - Filmed at Wilton House in Wilshire, this is a fantasy play between two couples, one set who is being forced into marriage. They come across fairies.

'The Merchant of Venice' - This is shot in Venice and features borrowing money and the trouble that results from this.

'Henry IV, Part 1' - This was filmed in the modern day at The George Inn pub in Borough Market and features the prince and his drinking problems.

'Much Ado About Nothing' - Filmed in Italy, this is a romantic comedy.

'Henry IV, Part 2' - Filmed at Westminster Abbey, the featured character is John Falstaff and his many disguises as England prepare to go into battle with Welsh rebels.

'The Merry Wives of Windsor' - I think this play is best described as comedy and features women who wish to humiliate a man who is trying his luck with them. This got a lot of laughter from the crowd.

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When I arrived near the Tate, the crowds grew even more. 

'Hamlet' - I've read this play at least twice at different points in my education. This film is best-described as a series of quotations from the play. It was filmed in Denmark with four main actors/actresses who said the lines between them while in the rooms or hallways of the castle in Denmark.

'Henry V' - Filmed in Calais on the battlefields, this was showing on a large screen in front of the Tate. A lot of the scenes were actually excerpts from the play at the Globe, and the famous speech to gather the troops to war was acted.

'As You Like It' - Shot in the Ardennes in Belgium, this features a character in disguise to find her exiled father and she meets her love interest while in this disguise. The beginning of the film stated that this area is where Shakespeare's mother was from.

'Julius Caesar' - This is another play that I've read twice. It was showing on the other large screen by the Tate. Although some of the scene was filmed in Italy with dialog between two of the characters before murdering Caesar, most of this was shown from the theatre and depicted Caesar's death. I was not too impressed with this one; this is a brilliant play and I didn't get much sense of that by looking at these ten minutes.

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After these plays, I had to walk a little while for the next one. This included walking past the Globe threate, where the gate was covered in red and white roses. I also stopped for a very quick late lunch and to warm up.

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'Othello' - Filmed in Northern Cyprus, this was showing at the entrance tunnel underneath Southwark Bridge and was a difficult place to watch and listen due to being in a small area and having to stand so close to the screen that I could not see much of what was going on. The majority of the play features Othello's jealousy as he believes his wife is committing adultry.

'Measure for Measure' - Shot in Vienna, this play features the corrupt and cruel Angelo.

'Twelfth Night' - Filmed in England, this ten-minute segment also shows silent film clips and clips from the theatre with Stephen Fry. It is a case of mistaken identity and cross-dressing characters. The play has a major part of comedy.

'Troilus & Cressida' - Filmed at the ruins of Troy in Turkey, it features the characters of Homer's 'The Iliad' and a back-story about Achilles refusing to fight.

'All's Well That Ends Well' - This is filmed in France with two female characters discussing the love of the son of one of the women. The remainder is acted out with an Indian cast.

'Timon of Athens' - Because of false friends and struggling to make ammends, Timon curses the city of Athens. This is filmed on the hills near Athens.

'Anthony & Cleopatra' - Filmed at the pyramids, Cleopatra is love-sick for Anthony and the scenes shot show her struggling and deciding to end her life.

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'King Lear' - Filmed with sweeping views of the White Cliffs of Dover, the king turns his older daughters against him, but the banished youngest of the daughters comes to his aid later on. The silent films and theatre productions also are shown.

'Macbeth' - Filmed in Scotland, this is one of Shakespeare's best-known plays, but it's one that I had never read. It features the scheming and untrustworthy Macbeth.

'Coriolanus' - Filmed in Rome, this features a modern take of the play with the main actor driving around the modern city reading the lines.

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'Henry VIII' - This play features the king learning about the birth of his daughter, who would be known as Elizabeth I. It is filmed at Hampton Court Palace, the home of Henry VIII.

'Pericles' - Filmed at the Globe, the play is about a shipwreck and those who have been separated due to it but who have miraculously discovered each other again.

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Potter's Field was the location of three of the final screens. By this time, I was very cold.

'Cymbeline' - This features the servant of a man who is bringing a lady into the woods in Wales with the intention to murder her based on orders of her husband. He encourages her to disguise herself as a boy and run away. 

'The Winter's Tale' - Filmed in a hall near one of Shakespeare's theatres, it is a story about conflict and jealousy in which one of the characters claims the other is adulterous. 

'The Tempest' - Filmed at Bermuda, it also features a shipwreck. A lot of the play was footage from the theatre, and I stayed for most of this one but was very cold and decided to skip part of it and head back.

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Did you see 'The Complete Walk' at the weekend? I have read that over half of the screens on Saturday had problems, but all of the screens were fine on Sunday when I visited. The only problem was the volume was not loud enough in a couple of places or there were external factors; the 'Henry V' screen was also missing a chunk off the screen, but this did not impact.

Manor Farm (Ruislip) & Ruislip Castle

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Not too far from where I live is Manor Farm (in Ruislip) and the remaining earthworks of a motte and bailey castle on the same site. Manor Farm has a 700-year-old barn which is considered the oldest in London. Once a month, a traveling craft and food market (known as Duck Pond Market, and they are based around west London) turns up at Manor Farm. A craft shop, tea room, and library are also located on the site. Several information points have been put up to explain the history of the site and the buildings on the site, and this information was helpful in my wanderings around the area.

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On site at the modern-day entrance from Ruislip High Street is the horse pond. It was known as the 'Horse Pool' in Elizabethan times and was one of the busiest places on the farm because the horses would be brought here to drink and cool off. Nearby was a blacksmith's workshop. The barns in the image above are the Cow Byre, and they date back to the 19th century. The Great Barn is next to them on the other side with the inner courtyard, stables, a pig stye and granary. The original burnt in 1976 and was rebuilt a few years later. Upon rebuilding, flint was discovered as was what could have been foundations of an early building, such as the guest house for the priory that used to be on the same site.

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The farm was a working farm and the land around it was farmed until the 1930s when the land was sold by King's College, Cambridge. It was sold and developed into a large housing estate due to the location of the rail station at Ruislip Manor. 

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This brings us to the Motte and Bailey (or castle) site. From 1087-1888, the priory was here. It was built by monks on the site which may have been an earlier motte and bailey castle. A new manor house was built in 1506 on the site of the priory, and the remains of the priory were completely demolished in 1613. The northern part of the moat was filled in in 1888. All that remains today of the motte and bailey are earthworks. The mound of land can be seen with a grassy moat surrounding part of it.

This brings us to Manor Farm House.

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The Manor Farm House was completed around 1508. The lordship of the manor was passed on to King's College, Cambridge in 1451. However, they wished to have more comfortable lodgings than the old priory, so a new manor house was built. Manor Farm was also used as a court until 1925.

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Manor Farm House is now a museum and cultural site that can be visited. Entrance is free, and it's actually a fairly interesting place to spend an hour. The musuem also describes Ruislip's history, such as how it got its name and what it means - a question I have wondered. (For you're information, it is two words combined: "rush" and "leap". It was a place to leap over where rushes grow. However, it's not really pronounced like that anymore and sounds more like Rice-lip.)

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Manor Farm House is also important because of a discovery found when work was being completed on the house. It has the oldest in-situ wallpaper of any building in the UK. The wallpaper was even discovered in an old newspaper advertisement, so they could trace the manufacturer and the pattern. The wallpaper in these days was meant to mimic wooden wall panel carvings. This is probably how wallpaper started (to mimic wooden panel interior carvings) before evolving into what it is today.

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Further down the hill is a ditch and bank, which was dug. This was probably the boundary betwen the park and the Saxon village of Ruislip. The park was the woodland for hunting animals, and it was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. Prehistoric fint tools and Roman and medieval pottery were discovered near, and the earthworks date at least 1000 years but are more modern than the other discoveries.

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Have you been to Ruislip Manor Farm House, the Great Barn, or this area of London before?

A few weeks ago, I came across this beautiful vintage classic car with the back-drop of the old buildings of Spitalfields. This is Elder Street, near Folgate Street. It is a stone's throw from Spitalfields Market and a decent pub, the Waterpoet. This was a usual haunt for me and my colleagues when I worked on Brick Lane.  

Unfortunately, I understand that this area is marked to be redeveloped with some of the buildings being torn down and replaced. I know that some of this area is a little run-down as it's on the fringe of the city, and some of these warehouses and buildings (especially at the end toward Bishopsgate) look a little run-down, but these are historic and beautiful buildings. Many similar buildings have been phased out recently, and I do not want the same to happen here as this is an identity and a culture of London. 

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Historically, the buildings in this area were homes and businesses that primarily belonged to the silk weavers. Tearing some of them down and building tall buildings around it would make this place lose its essence. I do hope that the buildings can be preserved and additional buildings be built of the same or similar architectural style. It is a pity to lose more of London's history and essence, and I believe that future generations will look back on and regard as a mistake if this is allowed to happen. Perhaps what needs to be looked at is the housing and building situation, such as allowing houses/flats to be sold to millionaires who do not live there and keep the properties empty, which increases the property values. Not only that, but London has had a major influx of people over the last decade and not much has been done to anticipate or prepare for that.

Apologies for another 'Photo of the Day' blog post two days in a row. Truth be told that I've not had much time recently to dedicate to my blog due to work. Last weekend was a three-day weekend (I worked three days of hours in two weekend days) and I've had to work late nights most of this week, particularly on Tuesday night when a group of us stayed late to work. This month has been particularly busy with work, so my blog has had to suffer for it. I'm hoping that things can quiet down a little bit.

A couple of weekends ago, I found myself walking down the Strand toward Fleet Street and Covent Garden. The weather was not the best that day; it was like any other early spring day in London with droplets of rain, clouds, and a chill in the wind. The Strand to Fleet Street is a built-up area in London without a lot of green space, but I noticed the churches (first St. Clement's and then Saint Mary-le-Strand a few paces further) in the middle of the road in 'Aldwych' straight away. 

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Saint Mary-le-Strand

A tree in full pink blossom provided some inspiration for an otherwise uninspiring and grey spring day.

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Saint Mary-le-Strand

Saint Mary-le-Strand was almost torn down to widen the road in the 20th century (as several other historical buildings were), but it did not happen. However, the graves were moved to make way for the road. The church's steeple is carved from stone that was meant to be for a statue of Queen Anne that was to be placed near the church, but she passed away and the stone was used for the church instead.

The church also suffered bomb damage in World War II. It has visible damage toward the back. 

The Greedy Cow is a restaurant located on Grove Road near Mile End Park and Mile End tube station. As the name suggests, this is a meat-oriented restaurant with steaks, hamburgers, and other options on the menu. There are also vegetarian options as well as exotic meats. The menu is actually quite extensive.

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The Greedy Cow has been in business sicne 2005, so it must be successful. I visited in the mid-afternoon, and it was busy with those finishing their lunch, so I did not need to wait too long. I had the classic chicken burger and mashed potato with cheese. The chicken was a little bit dry, but it was not too bad. The mashed potato was delicious.

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I had a cocktail to start as the restaurant does have a large bar inside. I cannot remember the name of the cocktail, and their cocktail menu is not online. I enjoyed it.  

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I would re-visit The Greedy Cow because they have many options on the menu and I enjoyed my visit.

The Pizza Room promises customers that geniune Italian fire-baked pizzas are served up to diners in Mile End and Bow, London. The restaurant is located on Grove Road  around the corner from Mile End tube station. I was in the area recently and decided to give the restaurant a try. Pizzas are also offered with multi-grain bases and gluten-free bases. The menu offers a different pizza for every season, but the standard cheese (margherita) pizza was also on the menu. An excellent margherita pizza can't be beat, and it's my favourite. I opted for this and was impressed with the quality of the ingredients and taste of the pizza. I also like the fact that it offers healthier and gluten free bases to customers who need the option. An example of the image below shows how tasty and fresh the pizza looks.

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The Pizza Room is actually a new addition to the area as it only opened at the beginning of February. I loved the decoration inside with the brick walls and heart decorations.

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After pizza, I opted for dessert. I had the chocolate brownie, which came with a raspberry sauce and a tin bowl of mashed-up strawberries topped with chocolate flakes. The dessert was a little odd, and it did not have much flavour. The strawberry was okay, but having mashed-up lumpy strawberries on their own with a small chunk of brownie was an unusual combination to me.

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The only disappointment, besides the dessert, were the drinks. I ordered a Cola, and it came in a small glass and tasted flat and was a generic brand. I also asked for ice with the free water, but they failed to provide that, so I had to make do with room-temperature water.

A couple of buildings down from The Pizza Room is The Coffee Room. It's another Italian business offering coffees, sweets, wines, and savouries to customers. It also seemed to be popular as there were a few people inside. I had one of the dog-shaped biscuits to take away. It was gingerbread with a lemon icing, and this was also an odd combination. I am not a coffee-drinker, but I would have tried the coffee here if I was. As it's an Italian cafe, I would expect the coffee to be good.

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Both restaurants/cafes are located on Grove Road in Mile End and are not far from Mile End tube station if you are in the area and wish to try them out.

A Walk Around Mile End Park

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Mile End is a part of London that I had not been before last weekend, and I am not including the times that I've been on a bus or in a taxi that went through the area. Mile End is in east London and is located near the Olympic Park. The area was regenerated was for the millennium year. Before then, much of the area had been destroyed by bombs in World War II. The park was created out of this derelict state.

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Near Mile End tube station is the Green Bridge, which is a park of Mile End Park and which allows pedestrians and cyclists to cross over the busy Mile End Road. The bridge was constructed in 1999 when the park was re-generated and developed.

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In fact, one can hardly tell it is a bridge when standing and walking along it. It resembles a small hill with cycle and pedestrian lanes. Looking south, the tall skyscrapers of Canary Wharf can be seen.

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This is the view looking north from the top of the Green Bridge.

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Mile End is starting to get its fair share of street art these days. Earlier this year, Dubai-based artist MyneAndYours pasted up clouds. One of them is on the busy junction opposite Mile End tube station.

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When I visited the park, the daffodils were out in bloom.

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I saw this sign for 'The House of Toby' along one of the roads in Mile End, and Charrington's was a brewery based in Bethnal Green. The plaques on the building (there are more than one) probably date from the early 1900s, but the building itself is no longer a pub. It was converted into flats in 1999 when the area was redeveloped.

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The northern area of the park hosts the Ecology Pavilion where rare plants and animal life are located, and the Arts Pavillion is also located here.

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The southern park of the park contains a skate park and go-karting near and walks along the canal. 

March 2016 MeltyBox

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I've ordered from Imperial Candles in the past. Imperial Candles are made in the UK and have a surprise of jewellery hidden inside each candle, which is eventually revealed once the candle burns for a little while. The jewellery can be worth ten pounds and up with some of the items being worth a lot more. The company have recently launched a candle melt monthly subscription box, which is called 'MeltyBox', and one of the melts contains a surprise jewellery item. I just missed the first installment in February so had to wait just over a month before I received my first box. My MeltyBox arrived at the end of March.

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The box came with a surprise gift of bright pink nail polish by Rimmel. It's not my favourite colour; I'm not a fan of pink, but I am not bothered about it as I only expected to receive the melts.

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The MeltyBox came with nine limited edition scented melts with different scents and different colours. Only one of them contains a jewell, and this one is marked (luckily). I had to wait a couple of weeks before burning them as I had to buy a burner for them. It came with a beautiful flower-shaped red ring. The label on the ring claims that the ring is silver and gemstone and worth £85.00, but I have not had it appraised.

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Each box also comes with a mystery scent each month. The scents for the March 2016 MeltyBox are listed below. 

Chocolate BunniesThis box contained the appropriately-named 'Chocolate Bunnies' to celebrate Easter, which fell at the end of March at the time when the boxes were shipped. This was also the melty that contained the ring. It's not my favourite scent, but it's one for those who like the smell of chocolate. It reminds me a little bit like the scent when one enters the M&M's World shop in Leicester Square.

Grapefruit Mango: I love the smell of this bright orange melt. I smell more mango than grapefruit, but it does have a slight citrus undertone.

Caribbean Island: This is a candy-scented and bright pink melty, and I'm not at all keen on the smell of this one. I can smell coconut, which I generally do love, but I do not like the combination of scents used to create this 'candy' scent.

Asian Pear & Plum: This melty has a fruity scent, but it also comes across as refreshing floral aroma. I can smell the pears and plums, which I dislike eating/drinking but which do smell delicious.

Rose & Violet: This purple melty has a refreshing floral scent. I cannot really smell rose, but I do smell violet. 

Sweet Almond & Macaroon: This almond-scented melt does smell delicious and does remind me of macaroons or marzipan. It has a very sweet smell.

Green Tea & Lemon: This melty smells strongly of citrusy lemon, and I do like the smell of this. It is very refreshing and clean.

Fresh Cotton: I love this fresh laundry and cotton scent. 

Mystery: I can smell lime or pineapple. Perhaps this is a cocktail-inspired scent (such as G&T, Cosmopolitan, or a cocktail that has pineapple juice as a main ingredient). It reminds me of a tropical island. (Update: The mystery scent was just published, and it is 'Lemongrass and Kiwi'.)

Shakespeare Statue in Leicester Square

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This year marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, one of England's most famous writers and who was partially responsible for story-telling and theatre today. Many events are taking place this year to celebrate the famous bard. The end of this month marks the date of his death, and several walks and a special walk on South Bank with actors and clips of his plays will be shown over that weekend.

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In Leicester Square, a statue of William Shakespeare stands in the centre amongst the modern-day theatres (the cinemas) and the traditional West End theatres. The statue was created by Giovanni Fontana, and it has been in the square since 1874.

In the statue, Shakespeare is leaning on a pillar with a scroll. The scroll has a quotation from the play 'Twelfth Night' and reads "There is no darkness but ignorance", which is an excellent quote and holds true today.

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I actually never noticed the statue until after the square and statue underwent restoration works a few years ago. The square was closed for awhile while these works took place around 2012. In 2014, new water features were added around the statues with dancing water fountains. 

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There are benches along the square, and if you are lucky enough to find a place to sit and relax and wish to people-watch, you will not be disappointed. Leicester Square is always busy, and it is one of the places where tourists flock to when they come to London. 

Street Art: Nemo (carrots)

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Much of street artist Nemo's work looks like it has been in London for many years. He is known for creating personified carrots in east London, and his work sometimes appears with SweetToof and MightyMo. I've photographed a few of his murals around east London. His work/tag usually consists of a carrot with an accompanying title 'NEMO' sometimes.

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I've not been able to find out too much about the artist, but I would assume that he/she is London-based.

On Saturday, I caught the first day of the Endangered13 paint jam at Ackroyd Drive near Mile End tube station and posted the progress of that day in my post HumanNature Endangered13 Street Art Paint Jam, which you should read first because I have not repeated the works that were finished yesterday. I went back in the late afternoon on Sunday to see the progress.

If you have not read yesterday's post to know what this street art event is about, it is sponsored by Human Nature and Louis Masai, a street artist whose work supports endangered species. In fact, quite a few of the artists involved do create work based on environmental aspects. The artists painting and installing work on Ackroyd Drive include Louis Masai, ATM, Andy Council, Jonesy, Vibes, Jim Vision, Xeno, Carrie Reichardt, Faunagraphic, and Fiyas.

The photographs of the progress of the murals from late afternoon on Sunday are included below. I overheard a couple of artists say that they would also be painting on Monday in order to finish up their work.

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Faunagraphic

Today was much busier with tape put up so that people could not get up close to where the painting was taking place. More people were visiting, and stands were set up for community aspects, teas were being sold, and seeds were given out to plant for the bees. 

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Andy Council

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Xeno

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ATM

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Masai, Vibes

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Louis Masai

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Vibes, Xeno

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Fiyas

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Jim Vision

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Fiyas, Louis Masai, Jim Vision

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Carrie Reichardt

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Masai, Carrie Reichardt, Faunagraphic

Ackroyd Drive is about a ten minute walk south of Mile End tube station.

This afternoon (well, yesterday evening now as I could not finish my post due to the website hosting company having technical issues), I headed over to Ackroyd Drive at Mile End, London in order to see the street art paint mural project ENDANGERED 13. This event is sponsored by Human Nature and Louis Masai, a street artist whose work supports endangered species and who painted a beautiful coral wall off of Redchurch Street last summer (covered here). ENDANGERED 13 brings together several street artists (Louis Masai, Andy Council, Jonesy, Vibes, Dr Zadok, Jim Vision, Xylo, and others) to paint an 120 metre stretch of railway arches about a ten minute walk from Mile End tube station.

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The goal of the event is to bring about awareness about endangered species and to show that this issue affects all of us globally. Hopefully, the exposure of highlighting these issues will allow these endangered species and their habitats to be saved before it is far too late. While I was at Ackroyd Drive this afternoon, I spoke to a few of the street artists taking part. One of the artists, Vibes, told me that each artist was randomly given an endangered species to draw. 

The first work I came across was a rhino by Louis Masai. The rhino was in the quilt patchwork pattern that I have seen him use in the past.

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This is a finished piece, and it looks beautiful. The three-dimensional effect really makes it come off the wall.

Next to this piece was a collaboration in progress by Xylo (originally covered here) and Carrie Reichardt. Carrie Reichardt created all of the tiles with political and environmental messages on them. Her focus was on bees. I think this will look amazing once it's finished.

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Next up, I discovered a colourful bird by Sheffield-based street artist Faunagraphic. The artist was not around when I got this photograph. 

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Next, I came across South African street artist Fiyas who was painting this gorilla. The sketches of the gorilla can be seen as the work is in progress. His work is grafitti-style but appears to be experimenting with graphical elements, grafitti, and other topics (such as animals). I did speak to him briefly and also came across Jonesy, who I will mention later on. 

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Louis Masai had a second finished piece on the next wall. The finished piece represents to colourful endangered coral reefs with a colourful array of tropical fishes and plant life. It's a beautiful mural that reminds me of the large-scale mural on Redchurch Street near Brick Lane.

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The next work was a polar bear by Jim Vision, showing a scene where the world's cities are creating so much heat and pollution that the polar bear is stranded and holding on to a small sliver of iceberg. This highlights global warming's role in extinction.

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Next up are two pieces from Jonesy on Ackroyd Drive. I love seeing Jonesy's works as they are unexpected, and you need to look up high to see them. A lot of his work is perched on the top of signs. The first one is an abstract being with broken chains and has a message underneath "break free from fossil fuel". Jonesy's work is usually comprised of environmental messages, so that makes him an excellent artist for this cause. I overheard him tell a person who chanced to walk by and wondered what was going on that this piece was open to interpretation.

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There are more photographs of the same piece below as it was very difficult to photograph it. The second piece was the first photograph in this post, and it featured a sitting gorilla with words that we (humans) are also in danger because rainforests clean the co2 in the air.

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Next up are two birds by London-based street artist ATM. ATM is a wildlife photographer and artist, and his primary subject to paint is birds.

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Next to this piece, Louis Masai was working on his third piece at Ackroyd Drive, a whale. The artist is working on the patchwork quilt pattern for the whale, and I am sure that this will look amazing when it's completed.

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Vibes was hard at work next to Masai on a tiger-human hybrid. I've previously covered his work, and I love the style where his subjects are 'pulled out' with various features enlarged into 'squares'. In this piece, he is meshing up a human and a tiger. He told me that the random endangered species that he received was the tiger, and it was a challenge for him as he normally paints people. I can't wait to see the finished piece.

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I believe the next artist, who was hard at work with a burning rainforest scene, is Dr Zadok or Xenz. Not much of the wall was complete, but it will look like an eye-catching piece when it's finished.

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Andy Council, a popular Bristol-based street artist, was painting the last wall. I've covered his work previously, and the artist was also in London about a month ago and painted a wall near Cambridge Heath station. I have not posted that yet, but some of his work can be seen in last year's Bristol Upfest post. Andy Council often creates futuristic and abstract cityscapes. He's sketched out the image below before filling in the colour and detail, and the image appears to depict an elephant with some of London's recognisable buildings at the bottom.

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The words above the railway arches in the photograph below say "all of nature rests in the hands of man's wisedom. Let us not be fools'. The words are by Tanya Dee and the artist is Von Leadfoot.

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Here's the different sections of railway arches and the works in progress from the late afternoon on Saturday.

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The street art will be continued until 7:00pm on Sunday. Visitors can turn up to see the artists paint from mid-day.

http://www.humannatureshow.com/endangered13/

Nearly twelve years ago, I visited Caernarfon Castle with my parents and cousin. To this day, I still claim that it is one of the best castles that I have ever visited, and the scale of the site is enormous. Although it is a ruin, it is well-preserved, and the walls and most towers and rooms are accessible. The castle also has fantastic views over the sea and over the old village. I have fond memories of walking around the walls, which were on different levels, and shouting below to my family if I saw them below (we explored most of the castle on our own). There were many steps to climb, so you really need to be in top shape.

The castle was constructed from the late 1100s and it saw a lot of action and fighting here. It fell into ruin in the 1400s when castles were seen as less important.

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I can't believe that it's been so long ago, and I wonder if the castle still looks the same. When we visited, we had beautiful warm weather, and there were not too many people.

Street Art: Ant Carver

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At the end of last year, street artist Ant Carver painted and pasted up artwork in east London. Carver is an artist based in London and combines spray paint with oils. A lot of his work features bold portraits, which are mainly completed in black and white, and these are then finished with strokes of bright colours. The work is a combination of art and design. Much of the work photographed in this post was captured a few months ago, but I also noticed some newer pieces at the beginning of this year.

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I happened to get a photograph of one of the works in progress.

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Street artist JimmyC painted up a wall on the southern end of Caledonian Road (near King's Cross) last month. He replaced an older mural that he had painted on the same wall, which was of a similar theme with a wide and sweeping landscape. I happened to be walking down this street when I discovered the piece, and it was also freshly-painted having just been finished a day or two previously. The work is created using the artist's signature pointillist style where he creates different splashes or orbs of colour in varying sizes in order to add detail, light, and shade.

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One side of the wall is a portrait, and JimmyC is known for his work with portraits. (In fact, his David Bowie piece in Brixton, which I covered here in January, is now protected.)

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The portrait features a young 'futuristic' woman. In the other view, a sweeping landscape emerges with the back of a girl. This appears to be the same girl in the photograph, who is in a futuristic landscape with a white dove, 'star tracks', and mountains. The hanging basket makes one of the trees appear to have green foilage when viewed from the distance.

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A photograph showing both walls together is below.

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I love seeing this artist's work and hope that we can see more soon.

Street Art: Villanaart

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Victoria Villasana (also known as Villanaart) is a Mexican yarn bomb artist, and she is currently based in London. Her work combines two-dimensional fine art with yarn or string. (Yarn-bombing is the term used for street art created with yarn.) The artwork is usually rendered without colour, and it is the yarn or string that adds the colour and detail. The yarn may be added as clothing, tears, a pattern on the skin, or another part of the image that the user wishes to draw attention to. Villasana also runs "Style Marmalade" website in which she collaborates with many other creatives in the fields of fashion, design, and photography. I was able to take a few photographs of her artwork that I came across in east London over the past few months, but I have noticed that she's pasted her pieces across various areas of London.

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Mother and child from 'Calias Jungle'

The next piece was a collaboration with StinkfishStink, another Mexican artist that I have previously covered on this website. The portrait of the young girl is an example of his abstract portraits with geometrical shapes, and Villiasana added the yarn.

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Next, a tribute to da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa' piece was given orange tears.

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Mona Lisa

The artist created a few tributes to David Bowie, the singer who passed away in January. 

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A tribute to David Bowie

The below image was a collaboration with Helen Martin in a selection titled "Little Angels"

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Collaboration with Helen Martin

For more information and to see more of the artist's work, view her Instagram feed at: https://www.instagram.com/villanaart/

Over the past few years, I have been posting the plaster pigs that have popped up around London by German artist lovepiepenbrinck. I always enjoy seeing these when I am wandering around London, and the photographs here were taken in various locations around east London. I've covered the "Love Pigs" in my previous posts Street Art: Love Piepenbrinck and More Art Pigs by Love Piepenbrinck.

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(Previously posted but I got a better photograph this time)

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Let me know if you know where some of these are located as I'd love to get more photographs.

For more information about Love Piepenbrinck, visit the official website: http://www.lovepiepenbrinck.com/. Or, see photographs: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovepiepenbrinck/. View the Facebook page with photographs of various pigs: https://www.facebook.com/love.piepenbrinck 

Take a back seat, cronuts. A new pastry has hit the streets. Similar to the other new pastry obsessions, the rainbow bagel started its life in New York. The rainbow bagel was created in Brooklyn at the end of last year, and cream cheese with funfetti or cotton candy (candy floss to my British readers) are the fillings of choice. The craze was started by Scot Rossillo who created red, white, and blue bagels for France after attacks at the end of last year.

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These beautiful bagels take longer to make than their standard counter-parts, so they are more expensive. I bought one at Rinkoff Bakeries, which is located in Whitechapel and is one of London's oldest bakeries. I wrote about my visit to their bakery previously. 

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I decided to cut my bagel in half and lightly toast it in the toaster. After toasting it, I took one half and smeared it with chocolate peanut butter. On the other half, I put marshmallow fluff. It was nearly like a S'mores but without the graham cracker/biscuit base. The bagel itself tasted lighter than a standard bagel, which I'd describe as tasting a little more savoury.

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In addition to the bagels, I took a few photographs in their bakery/cafe. They have so many delicious-looking products.

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Have you tried a rainbow bagels yet? If you do want to try, visit their cafe/bakery on Jubilee Street near Whitechapel Road or their smaller cafe on Vallance Road, not far from Brick Lane. It's one of London's oldest bakeries and started in 1911; to check their hours, visit their website at http://www.rinkoffbakery.co.uk.

One of my favourite street artists since he's been on the scene in early 2013 is Italian street artist ALO. I love seeing work by this artist and was over-joyed to see some new pieces go up near Brick Lane recently. The new artwork has a slightly different style than the artist's original pieces; it is simplified. It still keeps with the theme of abstract portraits, however. I previously covered the artist's 2015 work here. ALO first painted in London in early 2013 (my first post can be read here). I've covered his work in the following additional posts 'ALO Part 2''ALO part 3', and 'ALO Part 4'.

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In addition to the above new pieces, I also discovered an older work by the artist when I was visiting Columbia Road. This piece was probably painted last summer when the artist was in London and added a few additional pieces, but I've only just discovered it. It was also in the same location as an older piece by the artist, and this location marks the spot where work by this artist has stood the test of time since 2013.

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This mural off Columbis Road appears to be inspired by the Sunday flower market as the female in the portrait is wearing a flower in her hair.

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