Tea tasting, toe tapping and book reading in London!

I know I’m always saying that London offers the most amazing range of experiences, often just on your doorstep and this week’s blog shows that my last 7 days have been no exception. I’ve picked just 3 highlights: tea tasting, book readings and a bit of jazzy fun.

First tea tasting. In Notting Hill a man called Pei Wang has set up the ground floor of his house as a calm refuge to taste and learn about tea. He is absolutely charming and a group of 4 us tried out his Saturday morning one hour tasting event, which is free – amazing! He’s so enthusiastic that it lasted rather more than an hour and we tried 3 lovely new teas, my favourite being Dong Ding Oolong so I bought a whole packet to enjoy at home. He explains all about the teas you taste and can answer any question you may have about the ceremony itself and the teas’ properties including even the right sort of water to use. His knowledge is endless and we learned so much about what seems such a simple drink when you bung a tea bag into a mug! Here it is about taking your time and savouring the tea and choosing one for its taste but also being aware of the benefits that different teas bring to your health.

In his Chaya Teahouse you can have afternoon tea or try one of his tea appreciation classes or master classes (with great good) and I guarantee you will feel a million miles away from the hurly burly of your busy life after an hour or so in this tranquil hideaway. I could even manage a trip to the madness of Oxford Street afterwards without too much angst!

Look up Pei Wang at http://www.teanamu.com/. The photos show Pei himself, pouring my tea into delicate cups, his house and the tea tasting table set up for us.

Friday night was World Book Night in Trafalgar Square and I went down to find out what it was all about. The square was all lit up with a large stage set up so we gathered waiting to see what would happen. World Book Night is a major event to encourage more reading and on the next day the organisers were galvanising a huge number of volunteers to give away a million books to get people started! The Friday event was a great part of this celebration of reading as a whole host of top authors and famous folk were reading a small piece from a favourite book and it was captivating. Reading ranged from their own books to Dickens to a piece about a bad hangover, read by our very own Mayor Boris Johnson! I also saw: Alan Bennett, Rupert Everett, DBC Pierre, Sarah Waters, Andrea Levy, Mark Haddon……. all hosted by Graham Norton and here are photos of some of them and the square. It’s in the diary for next year already and I want more – it was such a treat to hear such great readings on a dry but chilly March night surrounded by fellow book fans.

And finally, the toe tapping! Kensington Roof Gardens was the swanky venue for a great jazz night starring Rebecca Poole. The Roof Gardens are just that, being a huge outdoor space on the top of a former department store with Spanish, English and Monet style sections (most famous for their flamingos who were not to be seen on a chilly night) and luckily a large marquee section too so we were indoors. I know Rebecca and she is great fun to go and see with her warm personality, husky jazz voice and great range of songs – her own compositions and covers. We even had a quick twirl together at the end of one song when she joined in the dancing on the floor! I’ve seen her many times and she just gets better and better so keep an eye open for her next show….


Bye for now,



Even more madness – Notting Hill carnival!

The bank holiday weekend in England always feels like the end of summer and it certainly goes out with a huge loud bang in Notting Hill when the carnival swings into town. We are lucky enough to have 2 days of the world’s second largest street party – I think Rio still beats us! The build up feels weird as they start boarding up shops and restaurants the days before and some locals rush away, especially if they are on the parade route. And the anticipation builds, especially for those in the parade who have spent all year making huge and elaborate costumes.

On the mornings of the event, all starts quietly and then the noise starts to crank up as the parade winds itself around the long route and the sound systems keep moving the volume button to the right. If you want to see the extraordinary bright colours of the parade costumes, smell the wonder of jerk chicken and feel your sternum pulsate to the rhythms, then this is the place for you! Several of my neighbours can’t get far enough away as the hundreds of thousands of visitors make it a bit of crush at times but I love it. I really enjoy showing friends around which they appreciate as we pass endless lost people turning maps every which way to find out where on earth they are. The police patiently give directions and brace themselves for the later stages of the event when they have to try and get everyone on their way home after a few beers (the carnival goers that is not the police!).

The next day it’s like nothing has happened as the amazing clear up puts us all back to normal and I spend the next day sorting through my photos to keep the few great ones and lose the rather blurry dozens and wonder if my neighbourhood is the same place that hosted the carnival madness.

Not much time in between for restaurants, bars or art etc but local eateries I’ve frequently this week were: Toms Deli for brunch in their lovely outdoor garden (a rare treat as they normally have a huge queue), and another return to Aphrodite for a pre-carnival fortifier.

One more thing to let you know about was the One Magic Summer event in Trafalgar Square, brought to us by the Mayor’s Office (Boris Johnson). Rows of deck chairs in the middle of the square had been set out for anyone to sit in for free and chill out for a few minutes or even hours with entertainment laid on. It was a lovely day when I went down and the whole idea really brought smiles to a lot of people’s faces, always a delight to see in a big busy city.

Bye for now.