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A Tour of Broadway 55

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At the weekend, I took a tour of 55 Broadway above St. James's Park tube station. 55 Broadway is a Grade I listed building, which means that the building must be taken care of and is of historical significance. It was constructed from 1927 to 1929 on the design by Charles Holden and was the headquarters of London's transport company. It was the tallest office block in London for awhile and built with a steel frame to mimic what had been developed in America. The building was meant to be vacated in 2015 and then converted into flats, but its future is not yet decided.

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The building is made from Portland Stone, and there are four reliefs, painted in situ on each side of the building; they are known as "the four winds". On each side of the building are another two sculptures, Day and Night. They caused controversy when the building was constructed and not everyone enjoyed the artwork.

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Commuters could walk through the ground floor of the building in the past, and there is a chart to check the running of the trains for each line and in each direction in the lobby area. This does not work now, but in the past, people could tell if trains were running well or not. 

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The lobby was actually added later, but many of the original "art deco" features are retained, giving it a 1920s feel.

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We went up to the 3rd, 10th, and other upper floors. To mimic the US office post system, a series of pipes were fitted throughout the building where letters could be dropped. These would end up in the mail room at the bottom.

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The 10th floor is where the luxury happens. In those days, people were segregated based on social standing and class (as well as gender). The officer's area had dark wood panels, and large offices. In the upper floors, chimneys were needed because the heating system would not have been able to generate as much heat for the upper floors. There were also different eating areas for different classes of employee. 

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The CEO's (Lord Ashford) meeting room was the largest and had 180 degree views.

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We went up to the upper floor stop-point (and then continued to the very top of the building to admire the view).

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The day was perfect with perfect visibility to admire London's skyline.

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On the way back down, we took the steps. We took note of the green tiling and the pale green (they look white from a distance) tiles, which were picked as they were very reflective. Also, we saw some old transport signs on our descent. 

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Have you been to 55 Broadway? I do recommend it as a history of London transport and to see what an old office block is like. Also, the views are well worth the visit.

Dinner @ Bread Street Kitchen

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In today's post, I will review my visit to Bread Street Kitchen. Actually, I must confess that I visited at the beginning of September last year. I was so busy that I completely forgot about my photographs and only realised that I have not written about my experience. Bread Street Kitchen is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and is located at One New Change, next to St. Paul's Cathedral. 

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I only had a limited time in order to get dinner before walking across to the south bank in order to see the Fire Garden memorialising 350 years since London's great fire. I ordered the poussin (young chicken) and vegetables.

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I tried a couple of different cocktails, and both were nice but a little strong.

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The bloke had strawberry and elderflower trifle.

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I had the chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream, but I remember preferring the trifle.

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One New Change is the new building complex across the street from St. Paul's Cathedral.

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During our visit last year, a couple of girls sat down two tables away, and they were recognised by other guests. They were Olympic gold medalists. They even had their gold medals there to get photographs with.

London's newest visitor attraction is the Mail Rail, and it will be open to the public from early September. I got the chance to take a sneak peek this weekend, which was the first available chance to the public. Many visitors may not know the history of the Rail Mail and that there are currently over 6.5 miles of tunnels used by the former Mail Rail underneath London with sorting offices at Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, and Paddington. The mail tunnels were created in the 1920s to quickly get mail across the city; before the mail rail, post would be hauled overhead and stuck in traffic. At the time when these tunnels were constructed, the vision was to haul all goods through these underground tunnels. At its peak, the tunnels were used 22 hours a day, but the public never saw them. Royal Mail ceased to use the tunnels in 2003, citing that they were too costly.

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The Postal Museum entrance and the Mail Rail are located between Chancery Lane and King's Cross station, and the buildings are almost opposite each other. Only about  1/4th of a mile of rail has been maintained and opened to the public for the exhibition. Mail Rail had a total of eight stops along it (as previously citing stops at Liverpool Street, Paddington, and Whitechapel). Another one of these stations is known as Moutn Pleasant, and it was the largest of the stations and it is the one that will be open to the public in the exhibition.

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The first part of the tour was the ride along the rails in one of the new trains. Apparently, the train journey will take twenty minutes instead of the five minutes it took us to set off and loop back around the 1/4th of a mile of rails, and there will be an audio-visual area at the Mount Pleasant station platform.

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I sat in the front of the train. Taking photographs along as the train was moving was impossible really due to the tunnels being narrow and the curved glass in the carriages. I do hope that the glass does not scratch or mark. 

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After the train ride, we went through the musuem part of the tour, which was centred along a platform. One area was cordoned off, so I think that there will be more exhibitions about the Mail Rail. I saw examples of the nets, which were used to catch/hold onto the mail parcels. They needed to grab these at each station as the train would be moving.

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I saw some of the old trains too.

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The green train was the earliest mail train, dating from 1927. It's wheels actually damaged the track, so they replaced the trains.

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An example of an engineer's tool box was also seen; I later saw some of these along the platform.

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The lockers were left intact with their items on the last day that Rail Mail was open in 2003.

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The final part of the tour consisted of the walk through the tunnels and to see the sponsor plaques. This was actually the highlight of the tour. I think that visitors will want to do this part of the tour, so I do hope that they plan walking tours in the future, in addition to the rail openings.

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We walked to the Mount Pleasant station platforms and down the rails. We were shown where the tunnels continued, as opposed to those that just loop around. Of course, these tunnels were sealed up so no one could walk all the way to Liverpool Street station, for example.

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I also found the plaque that I sponsored, which is located at Loop 2, just on the other side of Mount Pleasant station.

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On the U-turn area back to the start of the walk, we saw a tunnel underneath the one we were walking on, and this actually has Royal Mail's rolling stock on it, which is just disused. (Royal Mail still have the ability to control the tunnels as The Postal Museum only leases the rails and is responsible for maintainance.)

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That concludes the tour. As today was the first in a series of pre-public openings, the tour was not really well-organised, and we didn't hear any history about Rail Mail nor the tunnels, and the staff had been working in the museum across the road from very early in the morning, so it was a long day for them. I would have liked to have learned more about the tunnels and given a little more information during the walking tour.

Lunch at Pizza Union, Aldgate East

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A lot has been happening in my life over the past couple of months, but the quick update is that on Monday, I started a new role based near Aldgate East. It actually is not too far from the last one, but it's in a new location, and a new location comes with a new area to explore. That brings me to my latest update. Last week, I had lunch at a pizza restaurant on Leman Street, a block away from Aldgate East station. Actually, I went twice. I went on Wednesday and then again on Friday. And, I will note that this place gets busy; it is very popular with other workers during lunch.

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The restaurant is fairly large inside with rectangular tables covered in tiles or simple wood to serve as communal seating. A pizza oven is located in the back with staff creating several orders for take away and eat-in.

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Oddono's ice cream, which I have tried before and which is sold from various venues in London, is also available in small cups. I bought some from Selfridge's a few years ago. I like the pistachio, but a good pistachio should have bits of nuts in it.

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A good test of pizza is to try the traditional margherita (cheese and tomato). I tried one with hot peppers, bell peppers, chili flakes, and pepperoni later in the week. The pizza is good, but it does not surpass my current favourite London pizza.

Naked Dough - Cookie Dough

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Naked Dough is London's answer to serving up unbaked cookie dough, which is safe to eat and does not contain egg. I have memories of licking raw cookie dough off the spoon when I was younger and my mother bake cookies. Cookie dough does contain egg, so it may not be safe, but I never got ill from it. The idea for selling raw cookie dough (made without eggs so that it is safe to eat) was created by the founder, who gave up her desk job and trained as a pastry chef before returning to the UK with various ideas for projects. Raw cookie dough was one of those, and this was inspired by the cookie dough craze in the USA.

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The cookie dough from Naked Dough comes in size flavours. Unicorn food contains sprinkles and marshmallows. Emoji poo is the traditional chocolate chip cookie dough. Mud bath is similar to Emoji poo, but the dough is chocolate. Hazel's Nuts is Nutella and Kinder Bueno bars. Ed Sheeran is salted caramel and honeycomb. Nutting Better is peanut butter.

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I visited their pop-up shop, based in Old Street station, twice. Cups of the cookie dough include two scoops, and they can be different flavours. On my first visit, I had Emoji Poo and Unicorn Food. On my second visit, I had the Mud Bath and Nutting Better. My favourite was the Unicorn Food because it contained a nice mix of marshallows and sprinkles, which were added to the top of the cup.

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Naked Dough will be based at the location in Old Street station until the end of 2017, and it is open every day of the week except on Sundays.

In the middle of this month, new ice cream pop-up shop "Soft Republic" opened its doors in Spitalfields Market. The ice cream pop up serves soft serve vanilla ice cream, which can be purchased in a cone, box, or choux bun. The "burger" and "hot dog" are two of the offerings made of choux pastry. They are filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with a syrup and two toppings of choice.

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There are several different types of syrup to choose from, including strawberry and chocolate. There are also over a dozen toppings, including raspberry slices, fresh fruit, nuts, fruit pieces, chocolate pieces, popcorn, salted caramel, and marshmallows.

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I went for the "hot dog" option, which is a hot dog bun-shaped choux bun. I had chocolate syrup, pistachio nuts, and fresh strawberries. This tasted delicious.

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"Soft Republic" is serving ice cream for another six weeks, so sometime until mid-September. A burger or hot dog offering costs £5.00, and the cheaper options are £3.00.

RAF Northolt Open Day - Nortfest

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Today was RAF Northolt's Open Day. This event was only open to the local community via ticket sales, and it sold out quickly. The last time that RAF Northolt had a community open day was two years ago, and that year marked 100 years of the airforce base, which opened in 1915. RAF Northolt has one runway, and it handles a lot of private flights. I live near RAF Northolt, and although it's not that busy, I do see military and private aircraft use the runway. The royals and politicians are said to use it too. I've seen Spitfires do displays outside the base, the planes fly overhead after the Queen's birthday fly-past, and I've seen a VIP car with blacked-out windows and a convoy of additional cars and police (perhaps the queen?) stop the traffic and drive out of the base.

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RAF Northolt was the home of the Hawker Hurricane aircraft and the location of the Polish Squadron in World War II. (A monument called The Polish War Memorial commemorates them near the base.) The base is not far from Pinewood Studios, so it has been used in several popular films, such as James Bond and Battle of Britain. 

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Although we have been having beautiful weather, we did not have luck with that weather today. We walked to the base in the rain, although it rained off and on. I thought that the best plan would be to see inside the A400M plane as it was the largest plane on display. (I wish that more planes would have been on display.) The queue was already very long. 

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In the end, we waited for over two hours to get onto the back of the A400M. Most of the time we waited, we did not have to deal with the rain too much, and the sun did come out a bit. 

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After we got into the loading area of the plane, we had to wait another hour before we were at the front of the queue (on the left) to see the cockpit. As we had waited for so long, it did not make sense to leave.

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Finally, we got to see the cockpit, which was worth it. 

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After we finished, we headed over to the Chinnock helicopter.

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We had a look inside and peeked into the cockpit.

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While hanging around the Chinnock, we saw a Spitfire fly by a couple of times. (There was also meant to be a Dakota fly over at about 4:00, but we did not stay quite that long as the rain was very heavy.)

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We had lunch, and I had a Slushie and wished that it was a sunny and hot day.

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The main hangars were also open with one plane being repaired on display. The other areas were populated with some stands selling toys, collectibles, and other items. A lot of games and attractions were available to keep children busy, and RAF Northolt did a great job of organising this. I saw face-painting, clowns, video games, rides, racing cars, and timed attractions.

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Also on display were army vehicles, and a lot of these were packing up early due to the weather.

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Overall, we had a good time. The weather spoiled it a bit because the rain made us very wet and people were leaving early due to it. I do wish that there had been an area to see more about the history of RAF Northolt and to read more about it; there was a lot to do for children but not a lot for adults. I also would have enjoyed seeing more grounded planes and fly-pasts. I understand that the 2015 event was a larger one, and they did put on an air show as well. Everyone seemed to have a good time, even though others were also waiting awhile to see the A400M plane. Well done, RAF Northolt for putting on a show and also allowing me to tick a visit to RAF Northolt off my bucket list (since I live so close to it).

The Friday before last, I wandered over to Dinerama after work. I've been to Dinerama with colleagues at lunch earlier this summer when we took advantage of the beautiful weather, and those were some of the best lunches that I've had this year with colleagues. Dinerama is located near Shoreditch High Street and a short walk from the City; it's at the City end of Great Eastern Street. Dinerama includes several pop-up restaurants selling various street food and includes a few bars selling drinks. During lunch, less venues are open. 

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There were a couple of places that I wanted to try that were not open during lunch, so I headed over after work. I couldn't get any of my colleagues to tag along, so I just went by myself. 

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I wanted to try Fundi Pizza and You Doughnut. Fundi Pizza sells a small selection of pizzas with different toppings, and they have a pizza oven on site.

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I had the cheese pizza. Although the pizza did taste nice, it does not surpass my "best pizza of London". Sorry, Fundi. The pizza itself tasted a bit bland with the underside cooked a little too much. (They had to bin the first one they made for me because it was worse.) I still prefer "Franca Manca" and "Pizza Pilgrims" with a slice of the cheese Homeslice being a third.

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I got the wine slushie from "Big Bar" on the ground floor. It was made with rose wine, and it tasted fruity. 

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For dessert, I tried You Doughnut! You Doughnut! sells fresh doughnuts, which can be made into a sundae with ice cream and other toppings. I had the vanilla doughnuts with ice cream and malt chocolate biscuits.

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Dinerama is open from Thursday to Saturday from noon until late. If visiting after 19:00, a fee is charged. I visited at about 17:00 on a Friday. While Dinerama was fairly busy, I can imagine that it is packed later on and at the weekends, so finding a seat may be difficult and waiting in queue for food may be a bit time-consuming. 

After a tiresome week, I booked the bloke and I into free-flowing (bottomless) champagne afternoon tea at The Melody Restaurant in Hammersmith. This is the first time that I have had afternoon tea in awhile as I missed making a reservation for the place that I wanted to go for my birthday last month. The Melody Restaurant is part of St. Paul's Hotel, and this location was used in the cult film "Melody", which I understand is a story about youth and first love. (I have never seen the film, but I now feel that I should watch it.) The hotel became St. Paul's School, which was used in the film. It was directed by Warris Hussein, who was the director of "Dr. Who", and it was produced by David Puttman, who directed "Chariots of Fire" and "Midnight Express". (I've also not seen either of those films.)

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The hotel and restaurant is located in a beautiful red brick building and is not far from Hammersmith tube station and Kensington Olympia. We entered the side gate through the archway, which opened into a green courtyard.

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The hotel was fairly quiet with a couple of people hanging around, and we were taken into the small parlour, which was decorated for afternoon tea. We had the room to ourselves, and jazz/swing music was playing for us. The views of this room were over the courtyard and a footpath that dog walkers and runners were using.

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We were poured our glass of champagne, and the attentive staff kept topping them up for us.

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Our three-tier afternoon tea was promptly brought out with finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. We also ordered our own teas. The bloke opted for a strawberry-flavoured tea, and I had Darjeeling.

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We had a selection of sandwiches, including cucumber, roast pepper, cheese, and salmon. (We did ask for them to be plain as we are not a fan of mayonnaise, mustard, or sour cream.) The sandwiches were all delicious.

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After the sandwiches, we tucked into the scones. Fruit and plain scones were provided with plenty of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

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We then finished with the dessert, which came in the form of small pastries. They included a chocolate mousse, Victoria sponge cake, carrot cake with macaroom, and strawberries and cream. All were delicious. The Victoria sponge was very light. The carrot cake had a very nice flavour, and the icing was perfect, but I did find the cake itself to be a little too dry. The macaroons were a nice touch; we had a mango one and a chocolate one. The mousse was light and rich, and the strawberry cream was also tasty. I thought that the strawberry cream would have been much better as an Eton Mess with lashings of meringue and strawberry/raspberry coulis mixed into it.

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I really enjoyed my visit at The Melody Restaurant, and I really do not understand why it was so quiet unless everyone decides to go into central London for afternoon tea. (Like the other times in the past, I paid for my afternoon tea myself, and I was not paid to write this review.)

A Day Out Sailing to the Isle of Wight

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Earlier this month, I got to go on a sailing trip from Hamble in Hampshire (England) to the Isle of Wight. The bloke's brother placed second in raising the most money for charity at his workplace, so he and the winner got the chance to go on a one-day sailing trip and invite along a few friends/family. We met in Hamble in Hampshire at the harbour in the morning yo get the sailboat, and we had perfect weather throughout the day. We were shown how to operate the sail boat, including lowering the sails, tying the boat to the dock, and how to navigate. This area is perfect for sailing because of well-marked waters and other boats using the area, including the ferries to the Isle of Wight and cargo ships.

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The ship we sailed on is "Solent Hero", which is a boat that is used to help teach people how to sail.

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There is a wheel on both sides of the end of the boat to control the boat's direction. A compass, depth of the water, and navigation system is provided. The water is not too deep around the land with an average depth of about 5-6 meters. The middle of the solent gets deeper with 20 or 30 meters in depth.

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Actually, the most comfortable seat (before we put up the sails) was the front of the ship.

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We could sit below deck, but none of us did. There is a kitchen, seating, and three rooms with double bunks.

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After the sails went down, we sped up.

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I caught glimpses of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.

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Finally, we arrived at the northern shores of the Isle of Wight. We caught glimpses of Osborn House, which is where Queen Victoria often visited.

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A little way further, we came to Old Castle Point.

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Then, we came to the opening of the river into the harbour of Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

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We saw the car ferry, which I've used in the past when I've visited the Isle of Wight by car (or used the pedestrian service).

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Then we sailed down the River Medina. We attempted to get close to the Isle of Wight Festival, but we actually could not go all the way down as the water was getting more shallow, but we did make our way down quite a bit.

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We then stopped and had food (sandwiches, fruit, snacks, and biscuits) and wine/beer on the deck, which was the perfect weather with full sunshine. After we finished, we headed back. The weather clouded up in a couple of places on the way back, but it was still lovely.

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We then "parked" the sailboat back in Hamble docks.

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We had a lovely trip, and it was a lovely day to sail around Port Solent and the Isle of Wight.

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