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Exploring Down Street Abandoned Tube Station

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A couple of weeks ago, I went to explore the disused Down Street tube station in Mayfair. Down Street is on a side road between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner, and the Piccadilly Line served this station. The station was not open for very long. It was opened in 1907 and shut its doors in 1932 due to lack of use. Its placement here was controversial because many people that lived in the area did not use public transport. Although it was closed in 1932, it had a new lease of life in 1939 as a secret headquarters for the railway board executivies during World War II. It is often referred to as "Churchill's Secret Bunker". The staff at TFL (Transport for London) are continuously researching and discovering how the station was used during the war times, but most of the government secrets are off limits currently and won't be accessibly by the public until 2040.


The tube station is easy to notice because of its glossy tiles that identify it; in Down Street's case, the tiles are dark red. The large arched windows and wide doorways also identify it as a tube station, although one of the doorways has been bricked over while the other is home to a small shop.


Upon arriving on the train/platform level, we were told about the station's use during World War II. The first bit of tunnel was sectioned off and became the area for typists. The walls were painted a mustard yellow colour, and we could see where the floor was levelled and the partition wall was added on one side. The side with the partition wall formed a room with an aisle down one side. The aisle was just large enough for a tea trolley (or a person to walk single-file). On this wall, there are directions to the Enquries and Committee Room, and there's "Way Out" signs in the same style on other walls. Before the room was a gas seal-off door, and there were several of these throughout the station. The rooms were all purpose-made, and the public was not aware of the secret bunker here.



We were also shown the glow-in-the-dark strips along the lower part of the tunnel walls, which enable visitors to find their way in case the electricity is off.


The next tunnel was also divided into rooms: offices and the committee room. One of the rooms here was where Churchill stayed during bombing raids. Throughout our tour, we were shown photographs on the wall of people inside these rooms, and we could identify where walls, lights, and clocks had been attached. In the photograph above, the placement of the table in the photograph is outlined on the floor. The aisleway would have been to the left, and the flooring also demonstrates how the rooms were broken up.


Off of the meeting room, we were shown the toilets and bath facilities, which were located through a door that went up a staircase. These separate rooms were divided up with the facilities. Apparently the women had to kick up a fuss to have separate facilities. The furnishings were also top of the range. The next few photographs shows some of these rooms and what remains.






Further down the hallway, we came to the section where we could see the tube train passing between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Line. There were sections throughout the remainder of the tour where we could see the trains, separated by just a thin wall. We continued until we branched off into a separate tunnel where the exchange and switch board are located. These were located in two separate rooms. 


The switch board has fine wooden panel, which we could see by shining a light to it.


Opposite the switchboard is old-style tiling forming a very Art-Deco "Way Out" sign.


We arrived at further rooms that were used by the executives. Some of these included the original lighting. Many of these rooms were painted grey over the mustard yellow. Someone suggested they may have been painted for preparations on tube evacuation teams or filming a submarine movie.


A map of the layout of the rooms is also present.


We were shown the executive rooms and the bedrooms, and we could see which rooms were fancier because they had wallpaper. After this, we were shown the kitchen and dining area.


The new development and research suggests that the last part of the tour is exciting because it's the area at the back (by the air flow) that Churchill had asked to be purposed into his area. Rooms were created here with a toilet near the top of the step and a room on the left. The room had a phone line that went direct to the USA. They're not exactly sure who used these rooms, but it is clear that they are used by VIPs. A picture of the room is below, but there's actually another similar bricked-up wall a few steps down the tunnel. It's completely bricked up, but it probably has some significance. 


On the other side of this area, we saw more yellow paint, and this is covering the original signage. "To The Trains" can be seen beneath the layer of paint.


Also, the original signage showing the platform directions can also be seen here. Finsbury Park points to the left, and Hammersmith points to the right. Unfortunately, someone ruined the wall and lettering when they installed some ladders and pipework over the top of it.


Next, we saw the lift shaft. My photographs did not come out because there was not enough room to see, and the lighting was not bright enough. On the other side of the lift shaft was the tile manufacturer name Simpson & Sons, who created the tiles. This is a rare find.


Out of the lifts, the commuters would have been directed to the trains via this "To the Trains" sign.


On street level, we received a booklet with more information about Down Street station.


I would love to know more about this station and the history of it as it seems that there's still so much more to know that cannot become the public domain until 100 years are up. Unfortunately, by that time, the people who did work in the tunnels would no longer be able to talk about them.

For readers who have enjoyed this post, I have also visited additional disused and abandoned underground stations in London. I also have a couple of more trips to visit other ones coming up, so be sure to keep following me. Below are previous posts:

Paddock World War 2 Bunker
Aldwych Station
Euston Station Tunnels

Old Newspaper Archive

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I love looking at old newspapers, magazines, and advertisements. They display aspects of life of days gone by, from illustrated images to old-style fonts, the stories published and how these stories were written, and letters/poetry/short stories from readers. In today's world, the newspaper is not as popular and more and more people seem to be accessing news from the Internet on their computer or on their mobile phone. (I commute by train and underground to work, and although we have the option to obtain free publications in the morning and the evening, I still notice many who simply use their mobile phone or browse a news website during their lunch break.)


I have come across copies of old publications on newspapers on Google's website, and an archive of these newspapers is here:

Although an extensive list, I would love to see more newspapers added to Google's archives.

The bloke and I visited The Royal Mint Experience yesterday and got to see and press our own one pound coin with the new design that will be circulated later in the year. The Royal Mint Experience only opened in May last year, so it's not even been open for tours for a year. I've previously done a tour of the US Mint in Colorado; there's also one in Philadelphia, PA. The experience is located at the site of the factory where all coins are made for UK circulation and for other countries. This post is about my experience.


We arrived for the first tour of the day and had a wander around the factory, which is located near Cardiff in Wales. The building looks new and has coin-coloured panels (gold/silver/copper) along the front. At the front is one of the Shaun the Sheep charity statues that The Royal Mint made; the Gromit that they made is inside the building.


Also inside the building is a classic MINI car covered with coins. 


We had a few minutes to wander around the shop before the tour began. We were then ushered into a room with a short introduction video before being taken to the factory building to be shown some equipment and demonstrated how coins are made using the various bits of machinery. We were not allowed to take photographs here or anywhere inside the factory; we were allowed to take photographs at the museum in the original building later. 

The coins are made of mixed metals, and we were shown how they were given their 'edge' to prevent them from sticking together. We were then shown how the coins were struck with the designs using the moulds. The machines pressing them work very quickly and press using two tonnes of weight. After the discussion, we could watch some of the workers making/inspecting the coins. We could see coins fall out of the machinery into large boxes. We had to look at this from a distance. 

After looking through a couple of these windows, we went into another room where a pressing machine was waiting for us. The workers were controlling this, and we paid to press our own new pound coin. The new pound coins are going to be circulated later in the year, and they have several sides and two-tone colour. The problem was that the old pound coin was easy to copy, and many of them are fake. Workers had the blanks (unpressed coins) and put them into the machine one-by-one while we pressed a button for the machine to press two tonnes of weight onto the coin. The new pound coins have to be pressed twice. 

The different colour of material 'locks' in together due to the rim created along the edging of the coins, so they are two separate pieces. This is how the two-pound coin is made as well.


After we struck the coin, we were ushered back into the original building where the tour resumed. This was the museum area, and it is self-guided. Photographs can be taken here. I have highlighted some of these bits below.

The first coint to be pressed at The Royal Mint (in the Tower of London) was the "Alfred the Great Silver Penny" (1). It was pressed at the time during Viking invasions. Isaac Newton was a warden at The Royal Mint for a few years, and he used science to make coins harder to be counterfeited. His name popped up in The Royal Mint Experience a few times, and we saw a medal produced with his likeness (2). The last coin to be pressed at The Royal Mint at Tower Hill before the factory moved to Wales was an image of the Tower Hill location (3), and it is on display. In 1934, Queen Mary had a tour of The Royal Mint when it was at Tower Hill, and she brought Elizabeth (now Queen) and her sister along. Their signatures are on display in the museum (4).

1) Alred the Great silver penny; 2) Isaac Newton medal; 3) the last coin to be struck at The Royal Mint at Tower Hill; 4) The Royal Mint visitor book signed by Queen Mary and daughters Elizabeth and Margaret Rose

In 1968, The Royal Mint moved to Llantrisant in Wales. The production of coins had outgrown London, so it was moved to Wales due to support by a Welsh Member of Parliament. The new factory was created because of the introduction of the currency system that is now in use (instead of the old decimal system). On its opening day, Queen Elizabeth pressed the first coin (5). A lot of marketing went into getting people familiar with the new currency system (6 and 8). This year, we have a new design for the pound coin, and the design was inspired by 12-year old student David Pearce. A model of it is on display (7). 

5) Queen Elizabeth pressed the first coin at Llantrisant; 6 and 8) Marketing to help with the new currency system; 7) The new one pound coin design

The Royal Mint also creates coins for other countries in the world, and we saw several of these on display. We also saw a coin that has been at the ocean for many years, sunk with a hoard of gold coins and recovered eventually. We also saw the moulds for the presses and learned about the oldest quality assurance in the history of the world: the gold and coin quality. This is conducted every year by the Goldsmith livery company. Samples of coins from all of the batches are kept for this process each year.

In addition to the coins, The Royal Mint Experience museum had a display dedicated to different medals, such as war and sporting medals. They made the medals for the Olympic Games in 2012.

2012 Olympic Medal

After the experience, we went across the road where there is a pub/hotel that were having a carvery. We were really impressed with the food, and the carvery was very popular with local people too.

Have you been to The Royal Mint Experience yet or seen the new one pound coin? You can still visit and press your own coin. (Note that I booked the experience myself, so this is not endorsed by The Royal Mint.)

A new store dedicated to the famous toy brick, Lego, has opened in Leicester Square at the end of November last year. The shop was in the process of being constructed for at least the last couple of years. The lines/queues to enter the store were very long as it was busy, but I had a look at the new store a couple of weeks ago when I took a day off during the week. The Leicester Square Lego store is the largest Lego store and features several large-scale Lego models. In addition to these, it includes a Mosaic Maker that turns your image into Lego and includes printed instructions and the bricks to re-create it. The full-sized Lego models include Big Ben, telephone boxes, post boxes, map of London, a tube map, and a London tube. The tube is the largest structure in the shop and took over 637,903 bricks. Inside the tube carriage, visitors can sit next to other famous London-based celebrities, such as Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, and a Royal Guard.


The Lego store opens just in time for the holidays, which is just right around the corner from Covent Garden. Covent Garden often puts a display of Lego on during the season, and it was a little late this year. Last year, a steam train was the focus. Previous years of Christmas-themed sculptures built using Lego in Covent Garden included Santa and his reindeer, a large snowglobe filled with London monuments made from Lego that visitors could walk through and a large Lego advent calendar which was opened daily to reveal a new surprise.  












The Lego store in Leicester Square is open daily from 10:00am to 10:00pm, except on Sundays when it is open from 12:00pm to 6:00pm. It is located in the same area as a lot of similar shops dedicated to tourism trade, including the M&M store and the Nickelodeon shop. 

"Hunto Says Get Kissed Here" Mural

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Hunto is a street artist from Italy who is no stranger to London. I originally covered the artist's work here, but another recent mural that he completed last year was just off Brick Lane. Toward the end of last year, Hunto created a new mural on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. The piece is titled "Hunto Says Get Kissed Here..." and the other side of the mural, which is painted on scaffolding, has two figures facing each other on it.


Another mural on the second piece of scaffolding shows another face.



Goodbye 2016! Hello 2017

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I had such high hopes for 2016. I really did. At the end of it, I feel a bitter disappointment for the year that could have been and that nearly was a great year. It was very nearly the best year in a while. Let's go back to the beginning. The year 2016 started with uncertainty from the previous year as my contract came to an end. Soon after New Year's Day, the pieces started to fall together so well. I received my next role quickly and loved it as it allowed me to use a mixture of my skills to create an awesome application; I was working with some really good people too. Unfortunately, the uncontrollable Fates started to sprinkle their farts (which I will call the nasty people, politicians, etc.) around from the middle of the year. In the end, 2016 really turned out to be a stinker. It started out with a lost purpose, but that quickly turned into an awesome party, and that ended in a bad hangover with too many difficult people (though I'd like to call them something else) leaving a big stink and spoiling the great that there was. The end of the year saw some positivity and fresher air, but it was too little too late to redeem itself.  


I will cut to the chase now and and review the year.

January: On New Year's Day, the bloke and I went on The Seven Noses of Soho on New Year's Day walk. It was a Christmas gift for me and something that I had been wanting to do for a few years. Unfortunately, not many of the pubs were open for business as in previous years, but I imagine that there will be for next year's tour to drink away the year. We saw the noses and had a good walk around; it's a good tour. We also had a bit of bad news at the beginning of the year in that singer David Bowie died; I went to Brixton for the first time and saw the street art mural by JimmyC a few days after it happened.

Seven Noses of Soho

This month also brought two light shows to London: Lumiere London 2016 and Winter Lights @ Canary Wharf. I was lucky to go to both during the time that I had off before starting my new role. Both light shows were amazing and contained interactive and creative pieces. Lumiere London 2016 was held over four evenings, drew huge crowds, and contained some fantastic pieces; that cold January evening will remain in my mind for a long while.

Lumiere London

Last, but not least, I started my new role in the middle of the month and was able to use a mixture of skills to create an awesome application. I was the first developer on it, so I built the groundwork and first application, which was refined and built upon over the months. On the skills side, it was exactly what I wanted to be doing, and I liked my initial colleagues. The location was perfect for me as well as it was not too far from where I live.

February: February was a busy month. I still did not get to see the parade for Chinese New Year in London, but I did get to go to one of London's best restaurants, Yauatcha, to eat dinner and to celebrate the 'Year of the Monkey'. This was one of the best meals I've had this year, and I loved the cute 'Year of the Monkey'-themed macaroons.

Yauatcha macaroons

During Chinese New Year, I also caught up with two good friends, one of which is Chinese, to continue the celebrations by visiting the Magical Lantern Festival @ Chiswick House. The Chinese lanterns were in the shapes of animals, cultural scenes/myths and symbols, dragons, pagodas, and the Zodiac. We had such a good evening seeing the illuminations; the only downside is that part of the trail had been blocked off due to "safety" reasons because of a storm a few days prior to our visit. Half the way through, we drank delicious hot chocolates to keep warm and loved wandering around the trail taking photographs and enjoying each others' company. 

Magic Lantern Festival at Chiswick House

Valentine's Day was a pretty big one this year as I was lucky enough to have booked tickets for Valentine's Day in the 'Harry Potter' Great Hall @ Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Dinner was held in Hogwarts' Great Hall, and then we were given a couple of hours to explore the studio to see some of the newer exhibits that were not there when we visited a few years ago. We enjoyed drinks and Butterbeer while wandering around. Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday this year, so we had our 'Harry Potter' dining experience booked the day before because we did not want to be out late on Sunday as we had work the next day.

Dining in the Great Hall - 'Harry Potter'

On Valentine's Day itself, I surprised the bloke with tickets for a trip on London's Cable Car, also known as (Emirates Air Line). I pre-booked the Valentine's Day experience, and this included a glass of Prosecco and a small box of chocolates that we shared during our round-trip. My camera battery died just as we were about to board the cable car (I did have a spare but no time to change it), so getting decent photographs ended up proving to be troublesome while holding onto a glass of fizz and using my mobile phone. The trip itself was very quick; I wish they had slowed it down more, but the crowds were long for those who had not booked.

London's Cable Car Valentine's Day

March: One of the most memorable and important days for me this year happened to me in early March. After living in the UK for over twelve years, I finally received my British citizenship. I started the citizenship process last September as I had some interest in working in Europe. Early March was the date of the ceremony, which I had to attend in Basingstoke, Hampshire. I had to attend there because the process had started when I was living in Basingstoke, even though we had informed them that I was moving.

British citizenship in Hampshire

On the weekend, a couple of days after the citizenship ceremony, I met up with a small group of friends. We met up for a Sunday roast at the Waterwitch Pub in Odiham (near Basingstoke in Hampshire), and after that, some of us went on a walk along the canal to Odiham Castle. This was the first proper spring day, and we had a lovely walk along the canal chatting with friends and seeing the ruins of this castle.

Odiham Castle

April: April marked 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, and quite a few events were put on to celebrate the life of the bard. In March, I went to Shakespeare Son et Lumiere projections onto the Guildhall. Later in the month, I went to Antic Disposition's "Henry V" play, which was held at Middle Temple. However, the main event held over the anniversary weekend in April was Shakespeare's 'The Complete Walk' in London. This event consisted of a trail of more nearly 40 videos set up with 10-15 minute segments of different plays recorded by a range of actors and celebrities. The screens were arranged in a trail along the South Bank, starting from St. Thomas' Hospital and ending at City Hall by Tower Bridge. I completed the trail in a day, but the weather was freezing with intermittent rain.

Shakespeare's The Complete Walk

The month was also a big one in terms of street art with the paint jam Endangered13 at Mile End to raise awareness for endangered species. I visited on both days over the weekend to catch up on the progress: Endangered13 Day 1 and Endangered13 Day 2

Vintage car at Spitalfields, London

May: In May, we got to explore a local attraction for the first time since moving. We went to Ruislip Lido and Ruislip Lido Railway for its annual open day. This was the first sweltering day of the year, and this brought the crowds out to the lido. We took the train and wandered around the lake before having Sunday lunch and going home to do some work on the house. We just had the windows replaced, and we needed to do some work while the scaffolding was up.

Ruislip Lido

In May, I also crossed something off my London bucket list: the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I have been wanting to visit for a few years, but never really got around to doing it until this year. We visited it on its last day and had an early start in order to avoid the crowds. I loved the displays, but I wish we could have looked at the seller exhibits for longer to get ideas for our garden. The next day, we had the Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea @ The Dorchester, which was sadly booked up at the event itself. A couple of memorable displays were the 'LG Smart Garden' (pictured below) and the red poppies in front of the Royal Chelsea Hospital.

Chelsea Flower Show

June: This was the month that things felt like they had started to go downhill. The weather was not great this month, and I was feeling tired after the past couple of months as I had been working very hard. I loved what I was doing at work as I was able to use a mixture of my skills, but things changed when some difficult/challenging people joined, and I had to put in more work because they were inexperienced/junior and some did not have a great work ethic. It is amazing how adding the wrong people to a project and not managing it (I did highlight to management the issues because it was making me and others unhappy) can really screw up morale. I loved the team before, and I even considered going permanent there only just weeks before. The situation would continue to get worse because management did not take action.

At the beginning of the month of June, I found myself spending a weekend in Birmingham. The bloke had an event to go to that weekend, so I decided to explore the city while he was at his event. Less than a week before, I had some work done on one of my teeth, but the dentist could not finish it properly as they did not have the correct equipment and gave me a temporary filling. The temporary filling came out within a week, and this exposed the nerve. I was in agony for the majority of the day in Birmingham. The bloke finished his event earlier than he expected and did not have to go back to the event on Sunday, so instead of spending our second day in Birmingham, we returned home. I was in a lot of pain and just could not find the energy to sight-see. On the first day, I also ended up fixing issues, answering questions, and helping colleagues at work on my laptop at the hotel instead of enjoying my time and having a weekend 'free' from work for once.

Birmingham canal

June is also my birthday month, so I had "Hello Kitty" Afternoon Tea at Cutter & Squidge. However, the experience was a nightmare, and that is putting it politely. The service was poor as they got the order wrong three times and forgot about us. The food was not as great as I had expected it should be; a couple of the items were good, but the rest were uninspiring. This is a shame as I've previously enjoyed my visit to this cafe. On top of that, the problems and lack of service meant that we only just received our food and had to rush it into our stomachs. Afternoon tea sittings are in two hour slots, and we only received our order half an hour before our slot was up. We had to rush because I'd booked my next reservation to factor in this slot and travel time, so we had no time to spare. 

'Hello Kitty' Afternoon Tea at Cutter & Squidge

The next reservation was to play the courses at the Brick Lane pop-up mini-golf, Junkyard Golf. There are three courses made out of bits salvaged from junkyards, and we played all three. The place was virtually empty, so we had it to ourselves. While it was fun, I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Half the way home, I realised that we left the leftovers from the afternoon tea at the golf course, and I had to go back to collect it. What a trying day!

Junkyard Golf

Because my birthday day did not go well, I suggested that we go out the day after. We visited Ludgershall CastleOld Sarum (Wiltshire, England), and Christchurch Castle & Norman House. This was a better day.

Ludgershall Castle

On the same weekend, London was celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday. This is her state birthday as her official birthday is actually in April. I went to central London on the Sunday to see what was going on for the Queen's birthday. The weather was still not great, but I still had a long wander around London to see how people were celebrating and to get photographs to document the event. I also had the special Queen's 90th-themed afternoon tea at St. Ermin's. This special afternoon tea should have been held in the garden, but the weather was wet. 

Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday

At the end of the month, the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in a move known as "Brexit". I covered this in my post here: That Was An Interesting Month.... June was not a nice month, and this event brought out the worst in people. People at work were cruel, and I saw/heard about others being disrespectful and intolerant. The cruelty happened on both sides. My opinion about some people changed because of how they were responding and their lack of professionalism, particularly as they made a point of not bringing up certain subjects in the past, which I found hypocritical. I dislike conflict and just wish that everyone would get along. Educated discussions are absolutely fine, and I love a good debate, but what I was witnessing was disrespect, intolerance, and unprofessionalism.

July: Leaving June behind now, the month of July (and the next two months) brought a lot of overtime and hard work; I spent a lot of my own time at work or working more than the hours that I was contracted to do. The amount of overtime after July actually got even more silly, and as a key developer, I was working 9-day weeks on average in order to complete the project in the tight deadline. (And yes, we would make the deadline due to our hard work.)

Work aside, the later part of July brought a few events that are worthy of a mention. The first was 'Star Wars' Celebration 2016, which was held in London this year. Readers may remember that I am a big 'Star Wars' fan. This event was very popular and crowded. I did not get to see everything that I wanted to; however, the most memorable and most unexpected was seeing Mark Hamill. It was the closing time for the event, and he had finished his day signing autographs and started to talk to a small crowd, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Mark Hamill at 'Star Wars' Celebration 2016

After a very wet summer, July finally brought the summer weather. We went to have lunch with friends at The Fisherman's Rest and had a walk around Titchfield Abbey, which was shut during a previous visit due to storm damage. We walked around the abbey to get photographs, and one of our friends ended up parking his classic car in front of it so that we could get some good photographs. Afterwards, we headed to the garden centre next door, and I ended up buying a couple of large plants that required a bit of effort in order to fit into my MINI.

Titchfield Abbey

Toward the end of the month, it was time to see the play "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child". I was fortunate enough to book my tickets in October last year, and these were for the final practice shows before 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' officially opened to the public. The bloke and I saw both parts of the play on the same day, and this took up the whole day. We were both really impressed with the story and production of the play and recommend it.

'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'

On the last weekend of the month, the bloke and I spent the day in Lincoln. Some of the poppies that were on display at the Tower of London in 2014 to commemorate the soldiers who died in the Great War were now on display at Lincoln Castle (Poppies at Lincoln Castle). We did not spend long here, but I thought that Lincoln was an attractive historical city. The only problem was that I wasn't able to fully enjoy it because I kept thinking of all the work that I had to do, which also meant that we could not stay long.


August: At the beginning of the month of August, I decided to take one weekend day off from all of the overtime that I was doing in order to walk the Zany Zebras Charity Trail in Southampton. I met up with a friend, and we walked the trail together. We had nice weather for it. This was a great way to catch up, and the day ended up being another one of my favourite days out this year.

Zany Zebras in Southampton

On the following weekend, the bloke and I went with a group of friends and family to clueQuest to escape Plan52 Escape Room in London. I got the bloke's brother a Christmas gift to go to this escape room in March, and we returned with an additional two friends to complete one of the other rooms. We had a fun day with ice cream at Ruby Violet, the escape room, a walk along the canal near King's Cross, and dinner before heading back home.

clueQuest ecape room

Another fond memory was visiting the newly-opened Camden KERB street food market shortly after it opened. I had been putting in so much overtime, but I decided to leave work on time on one day in order to visit the market as Camden and its food market gets too busy during the weekends. I was impressed at the quality and variety of food on offer and really enjoyed my visit, even though I went on my own. The weather was perfect, and the food was so good. I am craving the halloumi fries.

KERB Camden

September: September marked 350 years since the Great Fire of London (1666). To remember, the city of London arranged special art installations, events and walks. A wooden replica of London's 1666 skyline was created by an artist, and this was burned on a barge on the Thames. The dome of St. Paul's Cathedral had flames projected onto it, and another art installation featured toppling dominoes that followed the route of the fire. Free Great Fire of London walks also took place in the days leading up to the anniversary of the fire, and the Museum of London are currently exhibiting Fire!Fire!. However, my favourite of the events for the Great Fire of London was the Fire Garden in front of Tate South Bank, which was an art installation of metal frames, movement and fire. I went to this at the beginning of the month.

'Fire Garden' with St. Paul's

The bloke and I also had afternoon tea at the Chesterfield Mayfair, which I'd arranged months ago. The afternoon tea was themed for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and we managed to get tickets to see the play of the same name in the afternoon.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Chesterfield, Mayfair

At the end of the month, the bloke and I had a long weekend away planned, which was a Christmas gift. We stayed in Oakham in Rutland, which is England's smallest county. We went to a couple of castles first, including Newark and Bolingbroke, before staying in Oakham (where there is another castle). One of the main attractions is Rutland Water, which we went to the following day. Luckily, we had lovely weather on that day, but the previous day (where we saw the castles) was dreary. Of course, our weekend away would have to be the one where we had rain; the weather had been gorgeous previously.

Rutland Water

October: After months of hard work, the overtime was meant to cease at the beginning of the month, but I still needed to do some in order to complete the final hurdle. One of my favourite colleagues who started at the same time as I did left the team, and I just continued to work hard. By the second week, things were calmer, but I was keeping busy by ploughing through the remaining work. The weekend of the 8th of October was the first one where I finally felt that I could relax. All of us had just been told that we would be extended, so I was feeling happy to have some down time and feeling positive that issues would be resolved. This weekend was also the first one that felt properly like autumn. I went into London to Hyde Park to see the event that was taking place to mark the anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. A camp of actors and participators were set up giving demonstrations about various topics relevant to this period of history. I remember this day well because I was feeling happy and not stressed; I was able to not think so much about work. 

1066 Battle of Hastings - pottery making demonstration

After seeing what I could see at Hyde Park with the Battle of Hastings event, I headed over to Shepherd Market to see Neon Legacy, a series of neon signs that were installed for a few days. These were created by the person responsible for "God's Own Junkyard" who created many signs for Soho and films, such as Blade Runner. Although only a few signs were on display, I really liked a few of these, including the one below.

Neon Legacy

A couple of days after that weekend, I was told that they would not be renewing all contractors, so my free time was then spent on starting to search for a new role before the market slowed down for the holidays instead of having some time to relax a little bit and reclaim my life from all of the overtime I had been doing. That weekend, I had previously planned a trip to Newcastle in order to sight-see and see the Great North Snowdogs. My heart was not really into the trip because my mind was focused on other things.

Tyne, Newcastle

November: I mentioned seeing the Great North Snowdogs in October. In November, the bloke and I drove down to Brighton in order to see Snowdogs by the Sea. We had beautiful weather, which was great due to the walking that we had to do. We did not get to see all of the snowdogs in Brighton because we ran out of time, but we saw most of them. I had never really been to Brighton before to browse much, but I loved what I saw and wished that we had more time to browse.

Snowdogs by the Sea

Early in the month, I left my old role and started my new one. I'm now back at a previous client in east London, so I am now able to keep on track the changes in street art. I am working with nice people, and that makes a big difference. I've also loved seeing the people that I'd worked with previously too.

Thanksgiving Day at The Jones Family Project

At the end of the month, we did not take Thanksgiving Day off this year as I had just started a new role. Instead, we had Thanksgiving Day dinner at The Jones Family Project, which is located in Shoreditch. The food was very good. We also had our Festive Dinner on a Sunday at lunch time at The Coy Carp in Harefield. We enjoyed this as well, and the restaurant gave us a Christmas card as we were their first visitors for the Festive Menu.

Festive Meal at The Coy Carp

December: The month of December brought some much-needed relaxation, friends, family, and additional changes. Building work on the house started, which has been a long time in coming. We moved at the beginning of October last year, and we had not even unpacked because we were waiting on the work to be done. I will be making updates in the new year about the progress. Early in the month, I visited London in order to see London's Christmas lights, and I look forward to seeing them every year.

London's Christmas lights on Regent Street

Also, the bloke and I went to the USA for the holidays. We got to catch up with friends and family and visit local attractions. The first attraction that we went to was the Ohio Amish Country Cookie Tour of Inns, which involved visiting twelve different hotels for a tour and a cookie. 

Ohio Amish Country Tour of Inns

We also went to Cambridge, Ohio to see the Dickens Victorian Village figures and the Courthouse Light Show. There's also many shops, a bakery, and a restaurant here; we spent the day wandering around the glass shops and antique shops. 

Dickens Victorian Village

Later in the month, we had two day trips. First, we went to Clifton Mill, near Dayton, Ohio. We ate at the mill's restaurant and visited a dairy down the road for ice cream before we returned to the mill at dusk to see the beautiful lights covering the mill and grounds. It was really beautiful to see. We also visited Oglebay Park near Wheeling, West Virginia to see their Festival of Lights. 

Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill

I spent Christmas with my family, and the world had more shock celebrity deaths. I'm just looking forward to the new year now, and I do hope that it is a much better one. I hope that all of my readers have a great 2017, and Happy New Year!

A lot has been happening over the past week with cheese and wine and tours to Cambridge to see Dickens Victorian Village and the Courthouse Light Show. We also visited Newark, Ohio. A few days ago, the bloke and I caught the first showing of "Rogue One", the new "Star Wars" film. I wasn't too disappointing and I enjoyed it overall. I won't be spoiling it for anyone who has not seen it.


One of the places we visited in Newark was Buckeye Winery, which is located on the courthouse square. Newark's courthouse is always decorated beautifully for the holidays, but they have had a break this year while they restore the building and its clock tower. I covered Newark's courthouse Christmas lights in a previous post from 2013. Buckeye Winery has a large selection of wines and gifts, including the slushie flavoured wines that have a sweet taste. Pizzas can be purchased from the pizza place (Christy's) a few buildings away, or they can be ordered in. Their pizza is good! This time, we ordered the cheese selection. There are several types of cheese to choose from, but I got the sharp cheddar and the smoked cheddar to keep everyone happy. The cheese came with crackers.


We ordered peach, Santa's Punch (described as a red wine), and strawberry wine slushies to have with the cheese. The very cold weather did not prevent us from ordering these!


Afterwards, we walked back to the car and had a look at the restoration work on the courthouse. We also saw the new murals, and some of these were painted from historical photographs. The murals were historical scenes with some of them mimicking old shop fronts.





Another attraction of Newark are the Indian (native American) mounds. These stretch for miles, and a lot of them have been destroyed a long time ago. The local mall takes its name from these burial mounds. Some of the preserved ones stretch through this park, and as far as we know, they are not arranged into any shapes like the Serpent Mound in southern Ohio.



Last, but not least, we learned that astronaut/politician John Glenn died. He was from New Concord, Ohio. This isn't far from Cambridge, Ohio, so there were tributes to him and a lot of flags were flying half-mast around our area. My grandmother went to school with him and knew him; he was a year older. Apparently, he wasn't that great at school but did so well afterwards.


Lego "Let's Build Xmas" in Covent Garden

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Every year for the past several years, Lego have unveiled a new sculpture for the holiday season at Covent Garden. This year, the sculpture was a little late as the new large Lego store opened up at Leicester Square. This year's sculpture is Santa's workshop and is a little building made out of Lego bricks and includes several other items (elves, Santa, gifts) and official kits that you can purchase on display.


The Santa's workshop comes with a fireplace and several Lego models, as well as wallpaper and pictures hanging on the wall, all made from Lego bricks.






The Lego exhibit will be on display until the beginning of January. Visitors can also get their photographs taken with it as done in previous years with the Lego sculpture. Last year's Lego sculpture was a Lego steam train. In previous years, Santa and his reindeer, a large snowglobe filled with London monuments made from Lego, and a large Lego advent calendar which was opened daily. Visitors could sit inside the sleigh and have their photographs taken and were encouraged to use social media to upload them.

On Saturday, I went to the Christmas Cookie Tour of Inns in Ohio's Amish Country. This is an annual tour that involves visiting twelve inns/hotels that make part of the trail. Different hotels sign up every year, but hotels on past tours also sign up to generate interest. At each stop, visitors look at various rooms that the hotels have to offer, and the hotels and rooms are decorated for the holidays. Snacks and drinks are also available at each stop, and visitors pick up their free wrapped cookie at each. 


The guide book that came with the ticket and contains information about the hotels on the route also contains a recipe for each cookie and information about the hotel. The theme for this year is "Songs in the Air, Christmas in My Heart" and is based on Christmas songs. I went on the tour a few years ago, and you can read about the 2013 Christmas Cookie Tour here. Continue reading to learn about this year's stops.


The Barn Inn: The Barn Inn is located near Millersburg, Ohio. It is a restored barn and serves bed and breakfast and where stories about the Amish are told at breakfast time. The hotel was decorated for the holidays with the rooms decorated. Also decorated was the breakfast room, which had the tables set with festive decorations and cookies created in the shape of vintage Christmas cards out of edible paper. This year, a goat dressed in festive dress was also present and at the entrance of the hotel. The rooms and decor here are are traditional. (Cookie: Oreo Cheesecake)



Guggisberg Swiss Inn: Guggisberg Swiss Inn, located near Charm, has 24 rooms and overlooks a valley. Horse and carriage rides are on offer, and breakfast is included. The inn resembles a Swiss chalet with high ceiling in the lobby, carved wooden cuckoo clock, and wooden bear. A few years ago, the hotel started a vineyard and creates its own wine, which can be sampled at the hotel. The rooms here are vintage-modern. (Cookie: Coffee Toffee Treasures)


Berlin Resort: The Berlin Resort, located in Berlin, has 77 rooms and a swimming pool, sauna, fitness centre, cinema, golf green, and trail. The rooms have a modern feeling, and we were able to explore a couple of the different types of room, including the bridal suite. (Cookie: Monster Marshmallow)


Comfort Suites: Comfort Suites is located in Berlin, Ohio. The hotel is a modern one with rooms that are decorated in a modern style. The lobby was decorated with a Christmas tree, and we got to see a couple of decorated rooms; blue was the colour used this year. (Cookie: Red Velvet Sugar)



Berlin Grande Hotel: The Berlin Grande Hotel, located in Berlin, is a four-storey hotel with modern urban design. The rooms were decorated for Christmas with modern-but-traditional decor. One room was dedicated to the cardinal and decorated with imagery of the bird. (Cookie: Rudolph's Chocolate Cherry Bar)


Carlisle Country Inn: The Carlisle Country Inn is located near Berlin and is a large house with seven rooms. Each room has its own unique style. The lobby has high ceilings, and a large tree and carol singers were amongst the decorations. (Cookie: Mocha Chip)


Garden Gate Get-A-Way: The Garden Gate Get-A-Way is located near Millersburg, Ohio. It is one of the newer hotels on offer in the Amish country and features two single cabins and additional rooms in the main building. We were able to see inside one of the cabins. (Cookie: Heavenly Ginger)


Oak Ridge Inn: Located in Walnut Creek, Ohio, is Oak Ridge Inn. Each room has a different wooden theme and colour. There are good views over the valley, and we were informed that the hotel is very popular. Due to limited parking, we parked at the Wallhouse Hotel and had a horse and carriage ride to the inn. The decor of the rooms vary, but they are traditional. Good views can be seen from some of the rooms. (Cookie: Chestnut Chocolate Chip)


Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek: This hotel is located at Walnut Creek and was decorated nicely for the holidays with plenty of Christmas trees and festive decor in the rooms that were open to visit. Each room has its own design. The rooms featured are more traditional in design, and they offer good views. When we were leaving, they put a horse out front with a sleigh of gifts. The horse and carriage rides are located near the hotel (Cookie: Chocolate Raspberry)


The Inn at Walnut Creek: This hotel, located near Walnut Creek, offers a selection of rooms in its main building or three larger jacuzzi rooms. The hotel is modern in style, and all rooms are on a single ground floor level. (Cookie: French Butter Madeleines)


The Inn at Amish Door: This hotel is located in Wilmont, Ohio. On location is a large and popular Amish restaurant and shops. The accommodation is modern-traditional and the rooms were decorated well for the holidays. The lobby is beautiful with high ceilings and a large tree. (Cookie: Bell Linzer)


Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek: Located in Sugarcreek and also close to another popular Amish restaurant is Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek. The rooms are modern-traditional and each have a balcony. Each room has a different style. (Cookie: Cinnamon Roll Sugar)


For more information about the tour, visit

Forest on the Roof @ Selfridges

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I recently visited "Forest on the Roof", a restaurant and bar located on Selfridge's rooftop. "Forest on the Roof" is the latest theme for the rooftop bar, which turned into a ski-lodge last winter and was named Le Chalet. Over the summer, it was known as Vintage Salt and was inspired by the typical British seaside town. This winter, the woodland winter forest inspired the decor of the restaurant with bright pink and purple neon lights and silver disco balls complementing the woodland theme. The festive Christmas and winter season fits the woodland theme very well.


The restaurant is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails.  





I visited for breakfast and had the "Candy Cane" cocktail, which contained a mix of lemon, lime, Koko Kanu, cream, egg white, orange bitters, and pumpkin puree. It came with a peppermint candy cane and photographed very well. It doesn't have much of a strong alcohol taste, which I enjoy. Blue sugar was put along the rim of the glass. 


I ordered the cinnamon French toast, and this was served with cream. It was very tasty.




I enjoyed my visit. For more information about visiting "Forest on the Roof" at Selfridges, go to


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