International Day of Happiness

Hello everybody and happy Friday!

Today bought a spectacular anticlimax of an eclipse (a slightly duller morning than our already-dull morning),¬†but¬†it’s also International Day of Happiness. Here’s a list of ten things that have been making me happy recently.

  • The Info board at Canary Wharf station. It’s recently been showing a fab selection of cartoons and cute quotes that make me smile every time. Cheesy, but sometimes that’s what you need on the way home after a loo-ooonnggg old day.¬†Thank you, whichever new TfL hire is drawing these beauties!
  • Dance Academy. It’s about students at a ballet school in Sydney and it is seriously the most underrated show on Netflix. It is seriously addictive and makes me wish I’d kept up my childhood ballet classes…and that I lived in Sydney, of course.
  • Sunshine. We’ve had our fair share of rain and cloud too of course, but it’s been so nice to feel some actual warmth in the air.
  • Meetings in Mayfair & Chelsea. My office is not in the nicest area so sunny afternoon meetings on Ebury St and in Knightsbridge have been brightening my days.
  • The delicious salads Matthew and I have been creating, mostly with various combinations of chicken, bacon and avocado.
  • New clothes! I’ve been on a couple of naughty sprees this month, mostly with my trip to Copenhagen in mind and it’s been so nice restocking my wardrobe for Spring. Bring on ripped jeans & trainer season!
  • Yoga with Adriene. I’m going to talk a little bit more about this in my upcoming C25K post, but M and I have embarked on a serious yoga phase and I’m really enjoying it.
  • Having regular dates with my BFFs Sophie & Kate, and slowly but surely working my way through my London restaurant bucket list in the process.
  • Spotify! I switched to Vodafone when I got my new phone and with my new contract came 6 months of Spotify premium. I’m hooked and I already know I’ll be paying for it when my trial runs out in June!
  • The Deaths, which I mentioned in my reading round up post. I’ve finished it now and I can honestly say no book has gotten into my head like that since Gone Girl – I was genuinely sad that it ended and it kept me gripped to the end.

I’ve spent this afternoon wandering around Borough Market, down the river and around St Katharine Docks, and this evening Matthew and I are heading for dinner at Kate and Will’s, which is actually pretty much my idea of a perfect day – fitting, really!¬†What’s been making you guys smile¬†recently?

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The Skypod Bar, 20 Fenchurch Street

The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street (the Walkie Talkie to you and I) has caused quite a stir recently. As London’s highest garden, it’s absolutely free for the public to enter, which is all good until you find that¬†it’s near impossible to get a booking there.

Bookings for the three restaurants up there, though, are a bit easier to come by. A few weeks ago Matthew and I snagged ourselves a breakfast reservation at the more casual (read: cheapest) of the 3 – the Sky Pod Bar.

I’d seen stunning conceptual pictures of the space but read some mixed reviews (Lisa’s is great if you’re interested), so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when we arrived in the deserted City this Saturday.

There is airport style security (complete with a sort of check in desk) before you’re allowed in. It was pretty quiet when we arrived but¬†there was a long queue¬†by the time we were leaving – so if you’ve got a reservation after about 10.30am, be prepared to wait. But it wasn’t long before we were whizzing up in the dedicated lift (my ears popped – it is¬†high)¬†and stepping out into the three-story Sky Garden.

Regardless of any preconceptions, the space is absolutely breathtaking. For those that don’t know, it takes up the top three storeys of the building and the whole thing is made of glass so there are views across every side of London. Inside, it’s just as light and airy as you would imagine, with big swathes of greenery and piped music. There also seems to be a bit of a winter-y theme going on; the hostesses all wear fur-lined capes and there are furs on the floors and seats, which was a touch that I liked – I wonder if they will change it during spring and summer.

There is a row of tables right up against the windows to the south, which would offer the most incredible views of the Shard and beyond, but unfortunately we were shown to one in the “back row”, quite set apart both from everybody else. Don’t get me wrong, the views were still great, but we found ourselves rushing our breakfast so that we could get close to the glass. In hindsight, we should have had a little wander and¬†then¬†settled down to breakfast – but maybe next time!

The Skypod Bar is counter service at breakfast time, and serves quite a decent array of pastries and muffins, along with fruit salad, breakfast rolls and a few other bits and bobs. I opted for a blueberry muffin (it was a special occasion – cake for breakfast is totally allowed) and a fruit salad on the side, while Matthew had a sausage & egg roll and a raspberry & white choc muffin. The team behind the bar seemed a little flustered even though it wasn’t¬†that¬†busy, but they were friendly enough and we took our feast back to our little table.

Considering we definitely were not there for the food, I was actually very pleasantly surprised by my muffin in particular, which was gorgeously soft and super fresh tasting. The fruit salad was nice and big, and considering the potential to mark it up, nothing was that expensive – along with coffee for him and orange juice for us both, we spent about ¬£20 which isn’t bad at all.

As I said, after I was done with the muffin I was pretty keen to leave our table behind and go explore the rest of the garden. As I said, it takes up three storeys and long, sprawling staircases line each side so we took our time taking in every view. There’s also a terrace to the South Side which wasn’t open when we went – of course it was our luck that it opened the very next day! – so we couldn’t really maximise the views of the Shard and so on but the others more than made up for it.

Safe to say, both of our cameras were running overtime. It’s actually really difficult to get a good shot of the (spectacular) views…

But the space itself makes for some pretty amazing photos, especially as you climb higher and higher up to levels 36 and 37. There are little mini gardens up each side, so it’s just like being in a huge greenhouse (only a bit more civilised).

At the back, to the North side of the building, is a huge terrace that was almost empty when we were there – blissful! Of course we couldn’t resist a selfie or two with the little old Gherkin peeking over.

I actually found that we got the best pictures of the views as we came back down the Eastern side, towards the main terrace.

But probably the most amazing pictures come from the highest point, the terrace outside the Fenchurch Seafood Bar. I’m generally good with heights, but this terrace hangs over the rest of the garden and it definitely made me feel a bit wobbly! All worth it for the pics though, obvs.

I do not envy these window cleaners their jobs!

Having spent an hour or so examining every inch of the view and with the garden filling up, we took one last look around and stepped back into the lift to zip back down to reality (or a rather expensive afternoon in Stratford Westfield, anyway).

Overall, I’m so glad we did the Sky Garden and I’m especially glad we did it early, not least because it was grey and drizzly by the time we left. You can book tickets just to go up from 11am onwards I believe, so I would definitely recommend making a breakfast reservation at either the Sky Pod Bar (you could literally buy a coffee and be done with it if you really wanted to), or the more upmarket Darwin Brasserie if you’re celebrating a special occasion, purely because you can get up there ahead of the crowds.

It would obviously be a¬†great¬†place for an event (I can dream of being invited to one) and I think Matthew and I are going to endeavour to go up there in the evening for either dinner or cocktails – but we’ve also got dinners lined up at Duck & Waffle and the Oxo Tower before then, so we shall see how they compare!

Have you visited the Sky Garden? What were your thoughts? I’d love to hear!

Snapshots in Greenwich

Some photos from a (slightly) hungover stroll on the first day of spring.

I honestly have no clue how I’d managed not only not to visit Greenwich before moving here, but also not to really have even heard of it. I think it’s easily one of the most underrated spots in London and the absolute greatest place to spend a Sunday.

Places visited: The Queen’s House / Tulip Staircase / The Water Gate / National Maritime Museum / Greenwich Park / Royal Naval College

Mudchute City Farm

I don’t need to tell you that Canary Wharf is one of London’s most recognisable landmarks. You’d never know that there is a huge great farm quite literally at its feet – but, as we found out last week, there is.

I’d come across Mudchute City Farm somewhere online and read that it is one of the biggest city farms in Europe, but still I could hardly believe it actually existed just a stone’s throw away from both the Wharf and, most importantly, my house. On that gorgeously sunny Sunday last week, Matthew and I decided to go check it out.¬†Sure enough, after a 5 minute DLR journey and a short stroll through Asda’s carpark (I bet nobody thinks there is an enormous ASDA lurking in the shadows of the Wharf, either, do they?), we found ourselves in what seemed to be the most rural of countryside.

I won’t lie, I was beyond excited. I’ve been to a couple of city farms before (hey, Kentish Town) and they have mostly consisted of a couple of sad looking horses, but this was the real deal. To my delight, the first animals we saw were these gorgeous long-eyelashed alpacas (possibly llamas…I’m not sure).

As it turned out, you could buy bags of carrots from the farm’s courtyard to feed the animals, which hordes of children were doing. This meant that the alpacas weren’t remotely interested in me, but I took a picture with them anyway. (Next time, I’m buying carrots too).

The farm put all the animals to bed about 4pm – no party animals here – and as we got there they were putting the donkeys in their coats and leading them away. But I couldn’t resist a shot of them with Canary Wharf behind!

The sheep were particularly popular with the carrot-wielding children. My favourite was this guy, and his crazy impressive horns.

And there are also plenty of goats. They’re cute, with super silky floppy ears that I love, but not nearly as cute as their pygmy counterparts. The pygmies were even too small to get a good picture of, but trust me – I want one.

Continuing on our wander, we found more munching sheep (it must be said that Mudchute’s boast of 150 animals seems to come mainly from sheep).

And one last treat: one delightful pig, who, again, was not at all interested in posing for my camera. I think I got a little smile out of him in the end, though…

I don’t know how well known Mudchute farm is but as far as I’m concerned, everybody should go there. The Docklands area is a funny old place, but this is definitely one hidden gem. You can get all up close and personal with the animals, they all seem happy, the staff are all friendly, it’s completely free; what more could you ask for?!

There’s a little cafe and a courtyard for picnicking, too, and there’s also a lot of parkland around the farm which we’re definitely planning on utilising when it gets a bit warmer. I’m also hoping that the farm will have some baby animals in the near future; a baby pygmy goat would definitely¬†be something I could get behind.

To visit Mudchute City Farm yourself, just hop on the DLR to Crossharbour and follow Google Maps through the ASDA car park. When you spot a llama, you’ve made it!

Notes on an Anniversary

This weekend marked one year since M and I made our relationship official, and so of course we had made big plans to celebrate. I wasn’t planning on really documenting the occasion on this blog because I didn’t want my camera to be the third wheel & I’m not one for public gushiness, but we had such a good time I couldn’t resist a quick post.

After a LOT of deliberation and no less than three reservations made, we ended up changing our minds last minute and booking a table at Wright Brothers in Soho. Turned out this was a great decision; the atmosphere was exactly what we were hoping for, the whole place smelt like seafood (in a good way) and, at our table hidden away above Kingly Court, I could easily have kidded myself we were in France.

We couldn’t¬†not¬†order oysters in a restaurant that calls itself an Oyster house, so to start, we went for 3 with chilli jam, and chilli prawns to match. The prawns in particular were¬†great, and M (a bit of a seafood connoisseur himself) declared them amongst the best he’s ever eaten.¬†It was my first time trying oysters and I think the chilli jam probably made for a perfect “beginner’s oyster.”

For the main event, we shared a steak & lobster sharing plate. My only criticism would be that it wasn’t really¬†big enough to comfortably share. However, the steak was absolutely faultless and we both enjoyed the lobster: it was our first time trying it, as a warm up for our hypothetical future trip to Burger and Lobster.

Other than the food, the service was swift and friendly (enough so that I let myself be talked into trying calvados…never again) and the wine was good. Embarrassingly, we polished off a sharing dessert AND ¬†a sticky toffee pudding on the side – for the record, the sharing crumble there IS big enough to share, and the bread & cinnamon ice cream it comes with is dreamy – and headed out into the streets of Soho to find somewhere for a drink.

This is where the night’s big triumph comes into play. Quite by chance, we stumbled across¬†Cocktail Trading Co, which I had read about earlier in the week as one of January’s “ones to watch.” Located in the basement of Central and Co, this bar might just be my new favourite place in London. We were greeted by a ludicrously friendly team, nabbed two seats at the bar and spent a good few minutes in awe watching the bartenders expertly managing the crazy rush of orders before flicking through the tiny, brown paper menu.

Cocktail Trading Co has received a fair amount of press already for its inventive cocktail vessels and for good reason: the four drinks we sampled came in a bell, a porcelain owl, a welly, and a legit takeout container. Those noodles? Real, bacon-flavoured (but vegetarian friendly), dried noodles. My favourite garnish though was the shortbread, which I was encouraged to dip into the cocktail itself. Surprisingly, it works.

Perhaps most importantly, the drinks actually taste good, with my favourite being the “#festivalchic” – the welly one – and as I mentioned, the service was second to none. I will most¬†definitely¬†be back – I just hope all of London doesn’t discover this secret too quickly!

The Weekend Agenda: God’s Own Junkyard

London is full of fab things that are forever popping up and then popping back down again, and to be honest, my life lately feels a little bit like a constant stream of adding things to my mental bucket list and never really getting the time to do them. This year, though, I’ve decided that’s going to change. #newyearnewme?

God’s Own Junkyard’s Lights of Soho has been on my radar forever, but it was only when I realised that it is shutting on January 18th that I realised I had to make it a priority.¬†I¬†dream¬†of having a house filled with exposed brickwork and neon art (doesn’t everyone) so the thought of a whole exhibition filled me with glee.

Situated in Soho’s seediest heart, Lights of Soho somehow manages to stand out in a midst of peep shows and sex shop neon. The exhibition has been erected as something of a memorial to Chris Bracey, the “Neon Man,” who died in November ’14. Bracey renewed, re-used and recycled in order to bring parts of old LA and vintage London to life and stepping inside Lights of Soho is a bit like stepping into heaven¬†– a brightly lit, neon-kitsch heaven.¬†Safe to say, I was in my element.

The ground floor is a collection of works hung here, there and everywhere, a total chaos of neon and a treasure trove to wander around.

The low-ceilinged¬†cellar downstairs has the more “artsy” pieces, set out individually with information about each piece. I found this Mickey Mouse for Marc Jacobs particularly interesting, in an eery sort of way:

The “infinity coffin” is straight out of Harry Potter and SO clever.

And there are plenty of little side nooks and crannies to peer into:

But my very favourite is this “error” piece, which had rightly attracted the biggest crowd as everyone craned to read the endless lists of everyday mistakes behind the lights. One of the most relatable things I’ve ever seen (which was a relief after we spent the previous Saturday puzzling through the Tate Modern) – it reminded me of¬†Girls in neon art form.

As I mentioned, Lights of Soho closes on the 18th Jan (Sunday) so if you have a chance this weekend, seriously, get down there. It doesn’t take long to get around but it’s such a little pocket of retro greatness that it’s well worth seeing, and it’s¬†easily¬†one of the most Instagrammable spots in London!

Exploring Greenwich: Greenwich Park

I’ve been living in Greenwich for almost three months now, and we’ve spent enough lazy weekend days wandering around its streets for me to have developed some of my favourite spots. Greenwich is pretty much the dream because it’s cutesy and old-timey and dotted with pubs, boutiques and bakeries, but it’s also ten minutes from the hustle and bustle of central London – and on the river to boot – but without a doubt one of its highlights is the gorgeous Greenwich Park.

My current favourite time to visit is at about 4, when winter sunsets are just beginning. On our last visit, Matthew and I took the more roundabout route, going all the way around the park rather than straight up the hill. The observatory is even more impressive from afar, if you ask me!

There is also a fair amount of wildlife to be spotted. I amused myself trying to get pictures of the multitude of fat little squirrels running around. They are so tame it’s unbelievable.

There is also a deer enclosure in the park which might be one of my favourite parts. It’s difficult to get a picture through the fence, but you can just about make them out I think…

We took a stroll down “Lovers Walk” which was looking suitably autumnal and lovely.

You might remember that Greenwich was home to the Equestrian events at the 2012 Olympics, and it is super easy to see why they picked this location. I especially love the contrast between the old-time splendour of the Queen’s House & Royal Naval College buildings, and Canary Wharf poking out behind.

But of course, the piece de resistance of Greenwich Park is the view from the top of the hill itself. Time it right with a sunset and it makes for one of my very favourite London sights.

Having this on my doorstep is one of many things that makes me stop at the top of the hill and remember that I am so lucky to be able to call it home (cringe alert). I already can’t wait for summer weekends full of picnics in the park, and in the meantime I’m having fun wrapping up warm and living vicariously through all the dog-walkers and their adorable puppies!

Have you ever been to Greenwich? What are your favourite parts? Like I mentioned, I want to make this a bit of a series of my favourite areas, eateries and so on, so let me know if you have any recommendations!