I’ve been to the top of the world!

There’s been a bit of a gap since my last post due to a trip to Dubai for some winter warmth. Not too much to do there (compared with many cities) but the buildings are amazing and here are a few photos of the Burjs – Burj Al Arab with its beautiful shape sitting out on its own island and Burj Khalifa which is the tallest building in the world and amazingly elegant. We took the world’s fastest lift to the world’s highest viewing platform and managed to get close enough to the edge to take a picture of Dubai by night but it was a challenge to the stomach and the photos may not be a sharp as I would have wanted! Back in London it was a bit grey in comparison but there was the Destinations Travel Show at Earls Court to visit and immerse myself in a sea of tempting holidays, photos and salespeople. Just before I went to Dubai I visited the Adventure Travel Show, which is smaller but also good fun, so I’m now fully stocked with brochures and have a lengthy wish list. The travel shows are always at this time of year and in just a few hours you can travel the world – virtually- and often taste the world through great food and drink samples as well as winning some prizes. I won a small beautiful black bear from Quebec thanks to Experience Holidays (photos on request!) The big safari trucks are a dominating sight so here’s a photo, along with a Canadian tepee and some amazing vegetable crafting! I love London but there are great places to be visited out there too….

One rather lovely restaurant visit to tell you all about – Gauthier Soho. I’d been there several years ago when the building housed Richard Corrigan’s restaurant but since then Alexis Gauthier has moved into this Regency townhouse with his superb cooking and we had a wonderful lunch. Sounds expensive? Go for the set lunch at £18 for 2 courses and you get all kinds of extra nibbles and great chocolates with coffee. Here’s the grand entrance which is so discrete that you have to ring the bell to be let in. Treat yourself while this amazing lunch offer is still there… Bye for now.

Edinburgh and all those shows…

I had great fun in Edinburgh on my annual trip to Scotland to enjoy the Festival Fringe- the world’s largest arts festival. It’s only four and half to five hours train ride to Edinburgh through some lovely scenery including views across Durham and the cathedral, Berwick and the coast. You have to go in August as that’s when Edinburgh goes mad with at least 4 festivals at once and well over 2000 shows to chose from. The big challenge is how many to fit into one visit without getting overload and the trick is to mix up comedy, theatre and musical shows during the day. There are shows on all day and late into the night and we managed to get to 8 in all (1 play, 2 music plays, 4 comedians and 1 singer) plus a book reading by Fatima Bhutto and a recording of a radio show – would have been 9 but one theatrical piece over ran badly which was annoying and hard to work out how it happened. The radio show was cut short due to a fire alarm but was good fun with Fred McCauley interviewing a range of comedians from new comers like Paul Sinha to pros like Ardal O’Hanlon, Adam Hills Paul Merton. The photos are of the famous purple Udderbelly tent, 2 views of the wonderful castle and skyline and one of a restaurant – they have a Restaurant in the Sky where a platform is hoisted up on a crane and meals and drinks served with a fabulous view. The view of the skyline was taken from Oloroso’s bar, set atop a building on George Street it is a great place to take a breather from the shows and enjoy great views and snacks. It’s a place we’d wanted to go to for years but the weather had not been quite good enough but this year there was sunshine almost all the time and Edinburgh looked gorgeous. Our other good eatery was the Dome, a converted bank with a magnificent domed ceiling where no expense was spared and which is now a great setting for Sunday lunch.

I didn’t spend much time in London this week but did have time for one cultural excursion to the Camille Silvry exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. He (despite the expectations set by the name) was a French photographer who set up a portrait studio in Bayswater, just near where I live, and developed techniques that we marvelled. The photo which forms part of the brochure in this photo, is a combination of 4 different shots, merged seamlessly to give the clear figures in the foreground against the murky fog behind. He had a great sense of the theatrical and he became well loved of the London theatre scene and photographed many stars of the time as well as working under the patronage of Queen Victoria which gave him access to the upper reaches of society. His 10 year burst of creativity sadly ended in an asylum but left an amazing legacy. We revived ourselves at the excellent National Cafe where a light snack a glass of wine was the perfect accompaniment.
One more restaurant moment to mention was another great lunch at the Electric Brasserie – steak frites and a glass of red makes me feel Parisien and happy with the world!
Bye for now,

Great to be back…

Despite really enjoying a wonderful couple of weeks in USA, it’s great to be back in London. I survived a long weekend in New York which was a blur of activity and excitement. We were there for World Cup weekend (doesn’t that seem a long time ago now?) and I can confirm that NYC has footy fever in a big loud way. We crammed in 4 shows, many meals, a walking tour of Harlem and a trip out on the Statten Island ferry and it was hot and sticky especially on the subway where trains have air-con but not the platforms. Then it was off to New Mexico to visit super arty Santa Fe, Native American pueblos in Taos, white sand dunes and massive caves in the south. A few photos at the end for those who like a bit of vicarious travelling.

My first weekend back in London was fun with the English summer continuing to delight us sun lovers. Our restaurant trip was to Vanilla where the food was good (on our usual Toptable special offer) but the place was a little unsure whether to be a bar or a restaurant so fell a bit between the two. Saturday saw a walk through Hyde Park to visit the new pavillion by Jean Nouvel at the Serpentine Gallery. It’s big, red and wonderful – an installation and a cafe all in one! The exhibition of photographs in the gallery by Wolfgang Tillmans was not my thing – he may have a Turner prize but we missed the special-ness of his work.


Saturday evening was spent catching up with friends and having fun in the centre of town from the Old Shades pub off Trafalgar Square, to an outdoor cafe in Covent Garden (complete with busker who sounded amazingly like Cat Stevens as was), to the Rock and Sole Plaice who were out of plaice but the cod was good and finally to Cafe Boheme in Soho – phew! No one told me the tubes finished just after 12.30 as I thought it was later – thanks goodness for buses…


Sunday was a quieter shopping day with a good amount of time in Selfridges,which is very smart and trendy and then on to St Christopher’s Place for coffee out in the sunshine. Jet lag has finally hit or is it just tiredness….


I’m looking forward to a full week back in London and here are a few photos from the USA, including the one from Roswell which I couldn’t resist! They are: New York Statue of Liberty, Pueblo, Taos, Chimayo north New Mexico, White Sands and Roswell’s great advertising…


Bye for now,

Phew what a scorcher!

Summer has burst out in London and the weekend was amazingly hot and the sky was sparkling blue. We’ve had a long and cold winter so we are all very excited by this change and it’s all the more precious because we know it won’t last…. These photos are taken on the Thames in the centre of London. One is where a gang of sand sculptors use the low tide to create new art works every fine day. And the other is by the Royal Festival Hall where a temporary fountain tempted people to get completely soaked! So, it was like being by the sea side without being stuck in traffic for hours getting there…


London has gone mad about elephants and elephant tracking is now a major activity with people trying to snap as many of the 250 as possible (see last 2 blog posts if this doesn’t make sense!) I’ve attached a couple of my favourites from this week. If you are looking for them, try near City Hall and Covent Garden where there are small herds!




There was one day trip out of town this week to St Albans, the old Roman settlement of Verulamium with its fine cathedral and old streets. So much wonderful history that we really needed a guide book but just wandered around instead tho’ we did know that St Alban was the first British Christian martyr and is buried here so it became a site of great pilgrimage.





Restaurant report this week focuses on the Blue Print Cafe near Tower Bridge where we spent a wonderfully long Sunday lunch with a great view (see photo) and good food. The big treat was to see an old sailing boat go through Tower Bridge – they opened up the middle and in a mere 5 minutes it was up and down and the traffic and pedestrians are crossing over again. It’s such an amazing sight, everyone stops to watch.



This week’s theatre trip was to the Noel Coward theatre to see Enron which was a brilliant production, making the story of a corporate failure into a gripping visual feast. I gather it bombed in New York but it’s a sell out here and deservedly so.
Other restaurants included Marco Pierre White’s new place where he’s reviving the old Wheeler’s group – it was good but I chose badly for my main course which was a shame but it happens. Then there was the Carpenter’s Arms, a gastropub in Chiswick with a lovely beer garden which really suited the weather and the crab gratin is highly recommended!
Bye for now,

Lovely to be home despite the cold!

Well hello! I’m back home after nearly a month in southern Africa and seem to have forgotten that it’s still winter here. My friend who lives about 50 miles away couldn’t come and visit today as Oxfordshire is snowed in! I’ve got used to 30 degree heat so am staying indoors…


A couple of London things to report on since my return in the middle of last week and then a quick trot through my trip for those who might be interested.


This weekend saw the culmination of the celebrations for the Chinese New Year as we moved into the year of the Tiger. Central London was awash with red lanterns and huge crowds enjoying the sights, sounds and food on offer and all things Chinese. It was great to see so many people enjoying the day and plenty of Chinese people as well as locals and tourists. A few photos to give a feel of the day:

Food and drink have been a priority since my return and Friday evening was a lovely meal at Brasserie Max in the Covent Garden Hotel. Buzzy and at times a bit noisy which drowned out some of my endless holiday stories, perhaps that was the plan! Sunday evening was an engagement party at the Oxo Tower top floor bar with it’s amazing views along the Thames. Generous amounts of champagne were served and I recommend it for a bash.


So on to the Africa trip – in brief. It was a brilliant overland adventure from Cape Town to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side) taking in Namibia and Botswana on the way, in a safari truck called Otiz. Everything from Cape Town’s Robben Island and all that awful but ultimately uplifting history, to elephants in our path, lions at a kill, quad bikes on the dunes and white water rafting equally in the water in the boat! We travelled 5,000 kms by road, light plane, bikes, boats, canoes, helicopters and by foot. We boiled and sweated, got sun and wind burnt, got bounced and bruised and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The camera broke on day one but I indulged in the new Lumix so was happy if rather poorer. A few pictures of course but where to start and how to stop?

Next week it’ll be back to normal blog-wise as the sun tan fades and as I return to bringing you the best that London has to offer.


Bye for now,

Summer came back and we loved it

What a glorious week and weekend for us sun lovers. Late September often brings a burst of sunshine and this year was a really good one. So, there was sitting out with Sunday papers, country walks and even some gardening.

The big events this week included Tent, an design exhibition which was part of the busy London Design Festival. Why ‘Tent’ you may wonder – Tent is an event consultancy and apparently the guys who run it, started off in a tent in the Kings Road. It was held at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane in the East End (no longer a brewery tho’) and we had lunch sitting out at Patisserie Valerie on the way. Lots of groovy designs and new designers to chat with but not sure how much of the work would really suit my flat.

London has been jam packed with style this week as we’ve had London Fashion Week and the Design Festival, both with multiple venues and lots of press attention so there’s no excuse for frumpiness or ordinariness but it’s a bit hard to keep up with it all…. I’m told that the main fashion statements were ‘ big curly hair and expensive looking cardigans’ so let’s see what happens this autumn.

It was BookSlam at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill on Thursday evening with William Boyd reading a fun short story and from his new book, Don Patterson reading rather gloomy poetry(my view but some folk liked it) and Netsayi who is a great singer from Zimbabwe. The Tabernacle site is wonderful and their outside courtyard was humming before it started and here’s a photo of it. It’s the home of the Notting Hill carnival and is now hosting a wide range of cultural activities and is almost on my door step.

I spent the weekend in Bristol visiting friends, seeing a great up and coming jazz performer called James Morton at the Bebop club in Bristol and visiting the Georgian splendours of Bath. Bath is a lovely city and has wonderful surroundings including Prior Park Gardens where we walked through the dramatic landscaped grounds and sat in the hot sun. Bath is an easy trip out from London and rewards with its beautiful buildings made out of the fabulous golden stone, the Roman Baths which you can tour and then go the spa. There is also the Pump Room where Jane Austen used to take tea and where you can taste the spa waters – not very tasty unfortunately but I’m sure therefore that it does you good, but I just have a cup of tea instead, like Jane!

Bye for now.


Fringe madness

Spent a busy busy weekend outside London at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, an annual treat for me and I was joined by two American friends having their first Fringe experience. They were amazed by it and want to make it their annual treat too! We were lucky with the weather which was mostly dry and even sunny at times so we got to see the city at its best.

We managed 8 shows, a mix of comedy x3, theatre x2 and dance and I squeezed a visit to the Book Festival before they arrived with a friend who lives in Edinburgh. They have about 4 or 5 different festivals all on at the same time so everywhere you turn there is a venue with something interesting showing. The famous Royal Mile running from the castle to Holyrood Palace is full of players persuading you to see their show with flyers and mini performances. It really is a case of so much to see, so little time…….

Back in London we had a visit to Greenwich for the day to see the sights there. The day kicked off with a boat trip from Embankment in the centre out to Greenwich on the super fast Thames Clipper. We wandered around Greenwich,past the Market square through the Royal College and its wonderful baroque Painted Hall to the National Maritime Museum. Lots to see here including Nelson’s jacket – the one he was wearing when he took the fatal shot. And yes, there is the bullet hole. On a more modern note, you can drive the simulator and park your ocean liner in Sydney Harbour but take your turn with all the kids!

After lunch at the famous Trafalgar Tavern we walked up to the Observatory to stand on the Meridian at 0.00.00 longitude and take in the spectacular views over London. The film show at the Planetarium was wonderful if a little sleep inducing so we briskly walked back to the river and took the little known pedestrian tunnel under the Thames. Important not to think about the water above you……. A glass of Pimms at Plateau in Canary Wharf topped off a highly recommended day out. Greenwich is not far but feels out of town and we don’t go there often enough.

Excitement builds as it’s the Notting Hill carnival this weekend and a huge party will be going on all around me. Can’t wait!

Bye for now.

Lycra in Paris and a giant cupcake in London!

I took a few days out of London to visit Paris , my second favourite city and one which makes a fabulous side trip from London. We’ve been many times for long weekends or just for a long lunch which is really easy now that the journey time can take as little as 2 hours and 15 minutes. The lycra was in abundance thanks (if that’s the right word!) to the Tour de France racing through Paris for the finale on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday. We had a front perch on the road near Notre Dame to see the cyclists flash past in a 10 second blur of bright colour and wheels. A Brit won the day in Paris but overall scoring meant a Spaniard took the crown in 2009 as there are 2o other hard days’ work to take into account. Great meals, lots of pastis and good doses of culture added to the fun.

Life in London’s been busy and topped by a giant cupcake which was sighted in Covent Garden as a special guest at their regular Thursday real food market. How big you ask, well it was 2 metres by 1.25 metres and was big enough to offer over 2000 people a decent sized slice, brought to them by Culinary Olympic winner Michelle Wibowo. I saw it, it was huge and took forever to cut up.

More cerebral delights were tucked away in the massive Westfield shopping centre in small Getty Images collection of glorious celebrity photographs by Terry O’Neill. From Paul Newman and Lee Marvin’s publicity shots to the casual snap of the Rolling Stones in a BBC canteen, they were arresting photos.

One local monthly event for us Notting Hill-ers is Book Slam which moved venue for July so had to be checked out. Book Slam is a live event and mixes poetry, book reading and music. We dropped into the Tabernacle, the new venue and also home of Notting Hill carnival, to see a performance poet (Luke Wright) and the novelist David Nicholls. We gave the new venue the thumbs up and even bought the book as it was signed and the reading had got us hooked.

I can’t end without a mention of a restaurant or bar and for this blog it’s the Champagne Bar at St Pancras International which makes a fitting start to any Eurostar train trip to Paris. It’s the longest champagne bar in Europe and for those who have to ask the question – there is no clear answer to who holds the world award! From the bar you can enjoy St Pancras which has been renovated to become a wonderful and beautiful station.

londonliving blog will be coming to you on a weekly basis from now on as there is just too much to fit in each fortnight and I’ll be able to do every entry a bit more justice. Hope you’re enjoying it so far.

Bye for now.

Back for Carnival, what a blast.

London Living has been out of town and missing London. 2 visits to Scotland and one to Bristol have taken me out and about around the UK which has been fascinating but I was pleased to be back home in time for Carnival. It’s a fabulous event and being a Notting Hill resident is even more of a treat at this time of year. The build up starts a few days before as posh shops start boarding up their windows, giving a very odd feel to the area. On the day it starts quietly but by mid morning the noise begins to build and the smoke rises from the BBQs, then it’s all go and the place is rammed full of visitors. Some areas had rather more police than usual which was odd and somewhat unnerving. We wondered around, soaked up the atmosphere, felt the music blasting our ribcages, smelt the jerk chicken and imagined we were in the Caribbean for just a little while.

As for my time out of town, I can recommend Mull and Iona for the big skies and fabulous light, although we were not blessed with much sunshine which is a big feature of summer 2008 wherever you are in the UK. The second Scotland trip was my annual foray into the mad world of the Edinburgh Fringe where we rushed around town to see 4 comedies, 2 plays, a BBQ and a jazz brunch. What an wonderful opportunity to fill your days with a bunch of different shows and take a chance on new names.

Bristol has its charms too – SS Great Britain, a fascinating visit, its surrounding countryside, Bath, and we managed to get to 2 very constrasting music shows – a blues band in a tiny cramped buzzing pub and a classical concert in the cathedral. Always love those contrasts…

Back in London with a second trip to the Proms to see a more conventional classical programme which bizarrely featured one piece from the Bristol concert, Vaughan Williams’s Lark Ascending.

Next week sees me off to Spain for a week in Minorca in search of sun and lazy days on a lounger – can’t wait! So back in a week.