Afternoon Tea on the Thames

Afternoon tea is quintessentially British, and it seems to be a big craze at the moment in London. I’m not particularly keen on it (how in-British of me, I know) as I don’t particularly drink hot drinks and I prefer a big tasty lunch to sandwiches and cake, but when I was came across afternoon tea on the River Thames with a guide that would inform me of Muslim history in London, I thought it would be quite fun. As a cruise linked to Eid I decided to buy myself and my mum a ticket hoping she’d enjoy it too. My sisters, my sister in law and her mum also joined us.

The meeting point was at Tower of London and after we were all checked in we were able to get on the boat. Once we were in our seats we had tea to start with and then the some delicious looking food.

As we enjoyed our food and the view, the guide started telling us about some of the connections of Muslims to the city of London, which was quite interesting. When we reached Westminster Bridge the boat turned around to go back towards the port. By this point I’d had enough to eat so I grabbed my camera and went above deck. The sun was out and with the cool breeze it felt so refreshing. We passed some iconic landmarks that sit on the banks of the River Thames.

After spending some time above deck taking in the sights and some photos we headed back downstairs. The organisers held a competition that my sisters and I (and it seems no one else) entered so we won a big box of chocolates, as the odds were definitely in our favour!
As we docked back into the port we gathered our things and headed for the exit. It was a lovely afternoon that we all really enjoyed, and I thought it was a real treat to actually go on a boat down the River Thames instead of just watching the waves from the shore.

Cambridge

Cambridge University is one of the most prestigious and oldest in the world and fortunately for me, it isn’t too far from London so I recently decided to visit for the day. As I’d never been to Cambridge and seeing as it is steeped in so much history I decided to join a tour. Cambridge University, unlike other institutions is made up of lots of individual colleges, and the tour was made up of visiting the main ones.

Most of the college buildings were made of distinctive yellow limestone, and the detail of the embellishment was amazing. I could tell that this was a wealthy university due to just how much detail and grandeur the buildings held.

Along the tour it was really interesting hearing the story of the discovery of DNA and about some of the now famous people that studied at the university. We walked past the River Cam and people punting (boating to you and me) which Cambridge is also known for. As I watched, a friendly duck came up to me to make my acquaintance.

Most of the colleges were off limits to the public as it was exam period for the students but I did manage to poke my head through some doors to admire the courtyards. Among the most famous colleges on the tour was Trinity College which was founded by King Henry VIII which is why it has his statue on the entrance.

One of the things I was fascinated to see was the tree (supposedly) that Isaac Newton saw an apple fall from and that inspired his theory of gravity (although I think it’s actually a descendent of that tree). I was inspired to be in a place where so many influential, intelligent people studied.

Once the tour was over I was free to do what I wanted so I took more time to look around a couple of the open courtyards and gardens and just re-visited some of the colleges to look at some of the intricate details more closely. On the way back to the station I also popped into Fitzwilliam Museum for a quick look around.

My favourite view of the day was the back of Kings College, with it tall spires reaching high and the enormous grounds that it was sitting on.

I would like to come back one day, to try the punting, take more time to see the museum and botanical gardens and maybe if I was lucky enough to have a look inside the colleges to try and get a sense of what it must be like to study at such a reputable and famous university.

Hatfield House

A few weeks ago I went to Hatfield House, situated just outside London, which is a Jacobean styled country house that was Elizabeth I’s childhood home. The site was huge with beautiful gardens, grounds and a farm along with the main building. The house itself was grand looking and had an unusual looking, moving fountain in front of it.

The rooms inside were stunning, and as I walked from room to room and through the corridors I could see the level of detail that went into the embellishment and upkeep of the place. The ceilings were one of my favourite features with each room having a particular style, each beautiful in their own way. The hallways were covered with intricately woven tapestries and the elegant furnishings were stunning, like this green velvet chair.

My absolute favourite room was the Armoury. The pretty cut out panels contrasting with the masculine figures wearing amour made the room both modern and historical at the same time. The other rooms that really stood out to me were the Long Gallery with its distinctive golden ceiling and the Library which would be my dream room with all the amazing books.

Once I’d looked around the grand house I made my way to the gardens. There were several garden each with a different style and character. The one that I liked the best was West Garden with the fountain centrepiece and pretty flowers. The others were just as lovely, one had a large sundial while the others had long walkways and primped hedges.

Heading further out were the Woodland Gardens, and I was happy that I was in time to see the carpet of bluebells that had bloomed. Beyond, were the grounds, which were magnificent. I was able to look in all directions at the wonderful green landscape without seeing the borders. One interesting landmark that I came across was a tree with a plaque, stating that this was the spot that Queen Elizabeth I was standing in when she was told she would be queen.

After walking through part of the enormous grounds I headed back towards the entrance, stopping to visit the gift and toy shop.

Spending the day at Hatfield House was relaxing, informative and beautiful. The House had stunning rooms that were without doubt fit for a Queen, and the gardens were amazing with pretty flowers, fountains and greenery as far as the eye could see. It’s no wonder that such a place has been used so frequently in films and holds such appeal with the public.

Brighton – part 2

The Royal Pavilion is one of the most famous sights at Brighton, but you can’t come all the way to the coast without making it to the sea, and that was the next stop on my trip earlier this year.

It was a beautiful, sunny, day and although not the warmest, the deep blue sea sparkled against the largely cloudless sky. First off my friend and I headed to the pier where there were traditional rides and a stripy helter skelter.

We then walked along the very pebbly beach, which was quite a work out and just soaked in the view and the sun as well as just enjoying the stiff breeze against our faces. Afterwards we rewarded ourselves with delicious ice creams and colourful slushies.

One of the things we looked out for on the coast was the bandstand and when we came across it we could see why it was considered so iconic. It was right on the seafront and the Victorian style was stunning against the sea and sky.

Something else I unexpectedly saw nearby was the shell of a pier. Looking into the details, the West Pier had burnt down in 2003 and the remains were left and have since become one of the most photographed landmarks in Brighton, and it’s not hard to see why. Juxtaposed against the old was Brighton’s newest attraction; a moving viewing platform. I didn’t have time to go on myself, but I can imagine the views were amazing.

After spending some more time just walking along the seafront, we slowly started making our way back through the town centre and towards the station, to head home. We were really lucky to have such great weather for the day out in Brighton; there was plenty to keep my friend and I interested and there were some really beautiful views and buildings to photograph. I would very much recommend a visit to anyone who is interested.

Brighton – part 1

I enjoy taking day trips to places I’ve never been to before and one such place that a friend and I went to not so long ago was Brighton. It was an early start and took a few hours by train to get to but we managed to arrive just as the sun was becoming brighter and warmer. First we wandered throughout the lanes discovering lots of cool street art (which I will post separately) and just in time for the market and shops to start opening. Something I noticed quite quickly was just how quirky some of the shops and props were and that there was so much colour everywhere, which I loved.

We walked along the market stalls that had interesting products for sale and along nearby roads, some of which had some really colourful houses. One shop that I was particularly keen on visiting was a well known cake shop called Choccywoccydoodah which has some amazing cake designs and eggs just in time for Easter. We didn’t stop to buy any though as we were keen to keep moving and see everything on our list. Another shop that I was pleased to unexpectedly come across was one that sold rubber ducks and only rubber ducks.

Next we went to see the famous Royal Pavilion which upon arrival, we could see why it was so popular and considered so beautiful. The Indo-Islamic style of the building was striking especially against the bright blue sky and quite unusual for an English town. I spent quite some time just looking up at the intricate detail of the embellishments and the curves and spires that reached up high.

After the Royal Pavilion and it’s gardens we headed towards the coast, photos of which I will post soon.

London walk about

I know some parts of London quite well but with it being a large city there’s still plenty for me to discover. On my recent walk with a friend I was able to see some well known landmarks up close as well as unexpectedly come across buildings that I thought were very interesting.

We started at Leadenhall Market which looked very grand with its high arched roof and traditional style shops. We then walked along and discovered a really tall, steel building which looked quite futuristic to me. I was surprised to learn that it was actually a bank. One building that we were drawing closer to and that I was particularly excited to see was one of my favourite buildings in London, The Gherkin. I see it every day on the train into work but had never up close, so I was really pleased to see it from the ground up, even in the rain.

We then walked along to the Tower of London where we found an artful looking pride of lions guarding the walls, and along the banks of the River Thames there were some stylish, unique igloos that you could enjoy some lunch in. I wasn’t able to sit in them but they did look cosy and inviting with a great view of the river and London’s skyline.

Next up was Borough Market where there were lots of stalls selling a range of great products. The ones with the sweet treats especially caught my eye. Around the corner and something hard to miss was one of London’s newest and tallest landmark, The Shard. I was delighted to be able to get close as I’d seen it from far away so many times. Whenever I get up close to a tall building I always have to tip my head right back and look straight up at the top.

On the last part of our walk was St Paul’s Cathedral. We were lucky enough to get there just a it’s loud bells began ringing (and we discovered why later when we stumbled across a bride and groom that had just been married inside). I don’t think my photos quite did the famous, grand cathedral justice but it’s a huge building that has a great level of detail and history to it.

The walk took us most of the afternoon and tired us out, so after listening to the church bells for a while we headed to the station and towards home. I was able to see some famous, beautiful landmarks as well as lesser known spots that held my attention and made me smile. I hope to come back to some of these one day and venture inside to see what else there is to discover.

Sky Garden

I heard about the Sky Garden in London last summer and was finally able to go with a friend. I wasn’t too sure what to expect as I’d heard mixed reviews, but I kept an open mind and stayed optimistic as it sounded like quite an usual place. On arrival there was a thorough security search before we were ushered into the lift which took us up to the 25th floor. Walking into the Sky Garden reminded me of a giant greenhouse, and despite the grey skies of the morning it felt light and airy. The room had lots of greenery as a backing to the room, and as guides to different levels.

On each level there was a café or restaurant giving you the chance to stop for a drink or snack and to enjoy the great view of the various landmarks across the city.

As the rain cleared we were allowed out onto the outdoor viewing platform, with a view to the River Thames below and the Shard in front.

London landmarks

We took our time walking around the various levels, taking photographs and just enjoying the greenery and view without feeling rushed. It’s place that I would definitely visit again (maybe on a sunnier day) as it’s free and although there were plenty of people around it didn’t feel noisy or too busy.

Light-seeing in London

My niece has been asking me to take her to London to see the Christmas lights and yesterday I thought I’d show her around. We started at Trafalgar Square to see the fountains, lions, Nelson’s Column and the huge festive tree. After a walk around we went to Leicester Square where there was a Christmas market and we treated ourselves to some sweet mini pancakes.

We then walked towards Oxford Street to see the lights there and maybe take a peek at the sales in a few shops, before stopping for a much needed lunch. Carnaby Street was next on out destination, which has some interesting artworks and displays.

As it got darker and the lights began to shine we went on to St Christopher’s Place, another little place that’s hidden away.

We finished at Marble Arch after a fun but tiring day. My niece said I sounded like a tour guide pointing out landmarks, so hopefully I did a good job.

Rochester Castle

I visited Rochester in Kent recently with family on an afternoon out. On arrival we decided to have a look around and came across the grand looking Cathedral which is the second oldest in England.

Inside there were lots of pretty stain glass windows and statues as well as other historical artifacts and features.

After looking around we turned towards Rochester Castle, which was built in the 1080s and still looked like it was standing strong despite being a ruin.

The castle stands on large grounds where lots of families were having picnics, playing games and just enjoying the good view and weather. Inside the castle you could the large building blocks that made it, giving an indication of just how old it was. I can imagine it must have been cold and dark in the evenings and difficult to get around with its steep, narrow, spiral staircases, and long hallways.

As we carefully climbed the staircases we reached the roof and could see a lovely view of River Medway on one side and walking around to the other, Rochester Cathedral which sits across from the castle.

It didn’t take us too long to see the whole castle as there weren’t any rooms, mostly corridors and landings from one staircase to another but it let us imagine what it would have looked like when it was in use. It was a nice afternoon out and we enjoyed experiencing and learning about something new.