February 2018 Archives

Yesterday, I visited the Cadbury Creme Egg Camp at The Last Days of Shoreditch. The Cadbury Creme Egg Camp is a temporary pop-up that can be visited for a month between the 19th of January until 18th February. Tickets could be purchased for guaranteed entry or on the day. (When I visited, there was not a queue, so I am sure that walk-ins would not have to wait for long.) The timed entry per ticket is for 45 minutes, so that is enough time to have a wander around and get your Cadbury Creme Egg fireside treat.

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I did not go to the Cadbury Creme Egg Camp at South Bank last year, but I did go to the first pop-up in Soho (Cadbury Creme Egg Cafe) two years ago, and that was the first year that they had the pop-up. Part of what has been made from the pop-ups goes to charity. 

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Upon arrival, I entered the door through a small trail in a pine forest at dusk, complete with smoke/fog and chirping birds and frogs. I arrived a couple of minutes late from my time slot, so by the time I got inside, there were queues for the treats. I actually spent more of my time in the queues instead of having the time to look around, which was a bit disappointing. We were actually told to get the treats first because the cap the number of the different types of treats per session.

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Not all of the treats are sold in one place in the camp; they were in different places. I thought that I would go for the cookie, but I wish I'd had seen it first...the bloke went for the waffle. Waffles and Toasties were on offer at the campfire kitchen, but we had to wait. The cookie was a little bit naff as it was a plain cookie with half a mini Creme Egg on top, and it wasn't warmed up.

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The treats are inspired after campfire favourites. Forest-top Fongoo are breadsticks and strawberries that can be dipped into melted Creme Egg. Campfire cookies are the cookies with the mini Creme Egg half placed on top (pictured above). Woodland Waffles are waffles with Creme Egg goo and chocolate drizzle (pictured above). Fire-pit Toasties are Cadbury Creme Egg sandwiches.

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The other attractions at the pop-up include a giant slide, the campfire headquarters hunting lodge, and a couple of photo opportunities.

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One of the photo opportunities was a canoe with a bear and fish, and the other was a Cadbury Creme Egg nest with giant Cadbury Creme Eggs. Photographs were encouraged as well as sharing on social media.

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The other attraction was at the "Fondoo" area at the top of the hunting lodge. We were encouraged to tell a chocolate-inspired joke for a Creme Egg. Unfortunately Creme Eggs were not on tap and flowing like they were in the first pop-up two years ago. I actually was close to walking away with no Creme Eggs for my visit but was told about this at last minute (due to waiting in the queue) so managed to get a Creme Egg with a couple of minites to spare before the end of the slot.

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There was also a campfire with a man playing the guitar, and above this area were projected stars/constellations; the area was created inside a giant tent.

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Overall, this was fun but we both preferred the first Cadbury Creme Egg pop-up. The Cadbury Creme Egg Camp is open until 18th February. It is only open from Thursday to Sunday; Thursday-Friday (17:00-21:00) and Saturday-Sunday (14:00-18:00).

I've been to Loch Ness a handful of times now, but I had never been to the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre at Drumnadrochit, located in a village near Loch Ness. My parents were over for for three weeks in November and December, and we went to Scotland at the end of November. They have always wanted to see Loch Ness, so I took them there, and we decided to have a look around the exhibition centre.

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Actually, I was not expecting much as I don't believe in Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. I thought that this museum would be a "gimmick" but I was actually pleasantly surprised. This museum explored the lake itself as well as the famous "creature" and plausible explanations for what the sightings could be attributed to. It first discusses the history of the lake from its formation and then the sightings of the lake monster. The exhibition continues and explores the science, technology, and the hype around the famous lake resident, and this also led to some important discoveries and environmental research.

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I will not spoil it, but I did see some documentaries and unsolved mysteries with similar phenomenon of lake monsters, and it is believed that they are schools of fish or the motion of water circulating. Loch Ness itself is an extremely deep lake, so equipment and sonar has been sent down to explore the lake, which is no feat to be taken lightly. The exhibition goes on to explain this and shows off some of the equipment, which has had to be built to withstand the high levels of pressure in the lake.

The most important aspect to take away from the exhibition for me is that the lake is so deep and has been able to monitor humankind's environmental influences on the world by measuring the soil at the depths of the lake. It's actually quite astonishing when you think about it that you can see the effects of pollution and weapons on the environment.

In addition, the exhibition also had a small display on boats and planes lost in the lake over the years. The exhibition itself is a part of a large gift shop, and visitors can also get their photographs taken with the "Nessie" sculptures. There's also a tea room near here and games.

Kona at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate (located between St. James' Park and Victoria) have hosted a St. Valentine's Day afternoon tea this year. They have named this special afternoon tea "The Enchanted Rose" to pay a tribute to this special day St. Valentine's Day. Upon arrival, guests are shown to their tables where a rose behind a glass dome awaits. The afternoon tea is themed with special Valentine's Day pastries and scones.

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A glass of Prosecco could be added for five pounds more for this afternoon tea and some of their other themed afternoon teas (including the Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes teas). I also had the Taj Earl Grey Blue Flower Blend tea (made with dried cornflower petals) to start but then changed this to the First Flush Darjeeling Casteton, which I felt was the surperior option. I love Earl Grey tea and Darjeeling tea, but Darjeeling is slightly my preference, and in this case, it was the better tea.

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The sandwiches included cucumber, smoked salmon, egg, and smoked duck.

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The pastries included passion fruit meringue tart (Valentine Blush), a strawberry mille feuille (Pink Passion) with hazlenut chocolate, pink champagne jelly with minted foam (Scarlet Desire), lavender macaroons, and red velvet pastry hearts (Red Blossom). All of these tasted delicious, though my least favourite was the champagne jelly. I'm not keen on red velvet cake or white chocolate typically, but the Red Blossom hit the spot, and the passionfruit and strawberry mille feuille tasted delicious. 

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My favourite part of the afternoon tea (which was a tough call to make as it all tasted delicious) were the 'Love Me Do' scones. These heart-shaped scones were dyed pink and tasted of rose and filled with flaked almonds and raisins. The scones were served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. 

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The only problem that we had was that the attentiveness of the staff was a bit lacking in the service department and the presentation of the food was not great, but the food and drink was spot on, and I could not fault any issues with it.

Pancake Day is today, and Valentine's Day is tomorrow! The time is perfect for pink heart-shaped pancakes, but this also means too many sweets this week. I had pancakes today, and pancakes are very filling. For Pancake Day this year, I am working in Chiswick. This actually gave me ample opportunity to choose from a small selection of restaurants and cafes serving up pancakes this year.

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I decided on a visit to "Outsider Tart", a small restaurant/bakery located between Turnham Green and Stamford Brooke stations on the District Line. I had previously visited "Outsider Tart" just before Thanksgiving at the end of November last year in the hope of buying something for Thanksgiving. "Outsider Tart" is a tribute to American food, and in keeping with this, they do celebrate the American holidays and have special events for Thanksgiving and July 4th.

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"Pancake Day" at "Outsider Tart" brought a large selection of American-style pancakes in a variety of flavours. Red velvet pancakes with cream cheese icing, pancakes with banana and peanut butter jelly, carrot pancakes, ham and cheese pancakes, blueberry pancakes, and oatmeal raisin were some of the flavours on offer.

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I had the "Johnny Blues" pancakes, which are pancakes made using corn (which I don't think I'd had before; I believe it was cornflour). This came served with blueberry butter and blueberry syrup. Whole blueberries were mixed into the pancake batter. I also ordered a side of bacon, and I had a traditional American lemonade which was the correct level of sweet and sour. Seriously, everything was delicious. I couldn't quite finish my pancakes, however.

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Outsider Tart is located at 83 Chiswick High Road in London, W4 2EF. They also attend street food markets at King's Cross, Chiswick Lane, and Chiswick Park at various days. They are open every day from 8:00am to 6:00pm and open until 10:00pm on Thursdays.

Lush Valentine's Day 2018

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February is here, and that means it is nearly Valentine's Day. Visiting Lush for their Valentine's Day products is always a treat as I love the heart-shaped and early spring items. This Valentine's Day brings back some old favourites as well as introducing new items. At the moment, my favourite is the Cherryish body scrub and the 'Tunnel of Love' soap-and-body-butter blend.

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Tisty Tosty bath bomb: Released again for Valentine's Day this year is the heart-shaped floral bath bomb. This heart-shaped bath bomb contains rose buds, which are released in the bath water. The scents are lemon oil, geranium, and jasmine.

Whole Lotta Love bubbleroon: This pink heart-shaped bubbleroon was one of the products on offer last year. It is a floral-scented bath bom sandwiched with shea butter to help soften and moisturise the skin.

Cherryish body scrub: This almond and cherry-scented body scrub bar with a cute cherry on top is created using crushed cherry seeds to help exfoliate the skin. Crushed cherry seeds are better for the environment as they are natural (instead of using plastic beads which pollute the water).

Heart of Enlightened Expectation bath melt: Ylang ylang, bergamot, geranium, and jasmine are used to create this highly-moistturising bath melt. They remind me of iced cookies.

Melt My Heart massage bar: This massage bar smells like herbs with cypress oil and orange flower. It is made with cocoa butter and dried rose petals to help moisturise the skin while it is being massaged into it. I really like the scent of this product.

Giant Rose Bombshell bath bomb: This floral pink bath bomb contains rose and geranium oils to create the floral scent. The bath bomb contains yellow rose petals which are released in the bath.

Love Boat bath bomb: Smelling of sweet orange and lemon, this blue and pink boat-shaped bath bomb floats on the water. It is one of the most eye-catching Valentine's Day Lush products.

Tunnel of Love soap: This Valentine's Day soap is called 'Tunnel of Love' because it has pink soap on the outside and soft body butter on the inside. The soap is created with rose water and has a floral scent. The butter in the middle adds moisturiser to the skin. It's a new product using a combination that I have not seen Lush use before. 

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Kiss Me Quick wash card: This lip-shaped wash card is meant to be lathered up to create a soap for body and hair. This is a revisit of the product, which was a card last year. It's perfect to take on travels, particularly for travel abroad.

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Cheer Up Buttercup bath bomb: This yellow bath bomb contains purple/blue cornflower petals, and it adds a sunny colour to the bath for the long winter days. The scent contains lemon and lime zest, neroli oil, and cocoa butter.

The Needles High Down Rocket Testing Site

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High Down was used for testing rocket engines from 1956 until 1971, including the Black Knight and Black Arrow rockets. The High Down Rocket Testing Site is located at the Needles on the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England. The facility has since been abandoned. The concrete for the buildings remain, but the remainder of the buildings has long gone. You can make out the buildings and footprints of them and even go inside the remaining parts. I visited in the summer of 2009, and it's a short walk from the Needles up some steep hills, but there are some nice views of the Needles and you can walk along the concrete paths and peek into the old structures.

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The Black Arrow rocket was developed to launch satellites into orbit. The Black Knight was a research missile rocket at the height of Cold War tensions. It has since been decommissioned.

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The above photograph shows where the rockets would have been stationed. The trench is the let-off for the steam and access, but they would have sat on the platform here. The building would have been several storeys high.

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A side-view of the buildings is located below, and they would have been multiple storeys high with access to the top of the rockets. This has all been removed now.

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Carisbrooke Castle is located near Newport on the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England. The castle is a motte-and-bailey one, and there was likely a fortress in the location from pre-Roman times as a Roman wall was discovered here to provide protection against Viking raids. Charles I was imprisoned in the castle after the Civil War and later executed. The castle contains a museum, wall walks, chapel, museum, gardens, and a well room with donkeys. I visited it in the summer of 2009.

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The castle has beautiful views from the top of the mound where the older castle keep used to be situated. Cannons can also be seen here along with beautiful gardens. There are also nice wall walks around the castle.

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The resident donkeys draw water from the well-house up, and donkeys have been doing this for hundreds of years. There are daily demonstrations to watch the donkeys bring the water up via the water wheel, 49 meters from the bottom of the castle well. When I visited, Jigsaw was the name of the young donkey that demonstrated this to our group.

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The chapel is known as St. Nichloas'. It was built in 1904 to commemorate 250 years since the execution of Charles I. The chapel is a memorial for the war dead of the whole of the Isle of Wight after World War I.

Beauly Priory near Inverness, Scotland

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Beauly Priory is located northwest of Inverness, Scotland in a small village named Beauly. The word 'Beauly' translates to "beautiful place", and this word and the priory has French origins. The priory is not the most-documented, but it was probably founded in 1230. The priory was founded by the monks from the Burgundy area of France under the Valliscaulian order. The order changed in 1510 to the Cistercian order, and it became abandoned after the Reformation. The lead from the roof was taken, and the stones were removed to use in other buildings. The ruins of the priory can be visited, and it is free to walk around inside.

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The priory was visited in August 1818 by writer John Keats and Charles Brown. They collaborated on a poem inspired by the priory, known as "On Some Skulls in Beauley Abbey". 

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Since 1913, the priory is in the care of the state and looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

Lunch at Five Guys - Burger and Fries

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I have heard good feedback about Five Guys, but I have never visited until December when I visited with my parents. Five Guys started in Arlington, VA (the Washington D.C area) in 1986. They pride themselves on having fresh beef and fries instead of using frozen ingredients. Although it expanded into the United Kingdom in 2003, it has only recently expanded more and become a little bit more popular. I don't actually remember seeing the restaurants until five or six years ago, and it has been on my "to try" list since that time. After all this time, I have only just tried "Five Guys". So, I had pretty high expectations.

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Unfortunately, "Five Guys" only sells beef, which I do not eat. They also make vegetarian options, limited to a vegetarian burger and grilled cheese. Milkshakes, chips, and free peanuts are on offer. All sandwiches can be customised with a number of different toppings.

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I had the grilled cheese, and my feedback is not great. It comes with two slices of bun and American cheese slices. (American cheese never tastes like real cheese to me; I think it tastes and looks like plastic.) According to my parents, the burgers were not average. However, the fries were really nice. If I can cook the product much better than what I receive (and I make a really nice grilled cheese sandwich), then I cannot rate it highly. 

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Unfortunately, I cannot claim that this place is as outstanding as the feedback I have heard suggested that it was. I thought that it was over-priced with a limited menu and average food. Overall, the cost per meal was roughly £15.00 per person. This is one fast food chain that I will not be going back to.

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