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.

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.

Winter Lights 2017

Canary Wharf in London hosted a Winter Lights festival which I went along to last week. Last year was London’s first light festival which was huge and was based in the centre of the Capital. This year’s festival, however, was over a 2 weeks period, with less installations and in a less busy part of London, although still very attractive.

On arrival to Canary Wharf we were welcomed by a giant egg shaped structure that was lit up with changing colours that you could walk through, which I thought was vey pretty. Walking on we saw some lovely, illuminated angel wings with halos, but one of the best pieces on show, for me, were the bright neon strips tied around tree trunks. Light was shone one to them to bring out the reflective nature of the strips which looked very bright and almost psychedelic. It was a simple idea but one that was so striking.

Next we came across some balls that changed colour in sync to music being played, which was relaxing and entertaining, and some mist on water that had shapes and colours projected onto it, which if you moved around in front of made the shapes dance and change. Another of my favourites pieces on show was the super innovative water fall where the water was dropped in letters to form words that shone for a second before disappearing.

The last part of the festival was set up indoors which gave everyone a chance to warm up, and get out of the freezing cold evening. The most interesting light installation here was one that was operated with an EEG headset which a person put on, converting the person’s brainwaves into light movement and sound. It felt quite futuristic and I can imagine it being an idea that grows.

After 3 hours of walking around, I think I managed to see most of the light and art installations on show. The festival didn’t cost anything and it let me see some really innovative art, as well as enabling me to spend some in a part of London that I never usually visit.

London Zoo

London Zoo is the oldest scientific zoo in the world, and it’s one that I never got round to visiting, until now. On the day that I went it was cold but bright, meaning that I would get some good photos and that it wouldn’t be too busy; I think I was right on both counts.

On arriving I first headed towards the small mammals area. They looked curious and peeped out from their hiding places to see who had come to visit. After a quick look I headed towards the lions that are newly housed there and were one of the reasons that I wanted to visit. As they were one of the main attractions the area was decorated and staged as if it could be an authentic Indian village, with colourful paintings and props. The lions themselves were huge and very impressive and with only a pane of glass between them and us, I was able to have a look up close and see the might of such creatures.

Next I went on to see the petting animals where they had some tiny, super cute kids that you could feed and play with and that the young children seemed to enjoy. The llamas and camels were nearby too that I could see. A short distance away, the tigers were housed. The adult tiger was very active and difficult to photograph but my patience paid off when I managed to get a clear photo. I was also rewarded with seeing the beautiful baby cubs, playing and running around.

As it was coming up to Christmas there were reindeer out on walks with zookeepers, meaning that I was able to get close. Onwards I went to see one of my favourite animals, the giraffes, making me happy upon reaching their enclosure. I always find giraffes surreal looking with their long necks and gangly legs. I loved that they were so close it seemed that if they really stretched, they could easily lick my camera.

The path then led me onto the Reptile house which had some quite scary looking but beautiful reptiles from around the world.

There were some magnificent birds at the zoo too, some that could fly and some that couldn’t, each with their own colourful and unique features. Some were in cages but the larger ones were left in an open space, making me wonder why they hadn’t flown away.

I had a quick walk around the Bug house but as I’m not a fan I didn’t hang around too long. What I did find surprising was that there were live ants on display that didn’t have any glass around them. They were Leaf-cutter ants and looking carefully closer I could see each of the ants marching back and forth across a rope carrying tiny pieces of a leaf to take back to its home. I didn’t take too many photos of this area as bugs aren’t too appealing to me but it was amazing to see some of the numbers enclosed such as the hundreds of locusts and various stick insects. I sharply made a turn into the aquarium next, to warm up and see the pretty fish. Amongst all the diverse fish in tanks I was pleased to come across some miniature blue starfish too.

Lastly I came across the Butterfly house, where I was debating whether to go in or not, seeing as I don’t particularly like flying things (apart from birds). I did decide to enter thinking I could make a sharp exit if it wasn’t for me, and I was really glad I did. Once my camera stopped fogging up in the warmer temperature of the area, I could see some beautiful, exotic butterflies flitting around, including the Glasswing Butterfly which I’ve already posted about. There was an array of brightly coloured butterflies, most of which were too fast to capture, but after ducking and flinching about a hundred times I think I managed to get some nice photos. There were also moths in the house but they were largely inactive being night time creatures. The Atlas moths were amazing, I wasn’t sure they were real at first due to their stillness and size; each wing being the size of my hand, but as always, nature astounds.

There were so many other animals around too, such as the gorillas and monkeys, penguins, Komodo Dragons and tortoises, to mention a few. Some weren’t easy to photograph or even see but the vast variety of the animals in London Zoo is amazing. I know zoos can be seen as bad places that imprison animals; I did feel particularly sad for the big cats and caged birds, but as the world we live in is increasingly destroying habitats, I feel a place like London Zoo can help preserve and protect some endangered animals. I spent most of the day looking around and there was still areas I missed as the place is huge. I really enjoyed seeing all the different animals and their colourful and varying feathers, scales, fur and skin, and I feel like I learnt lots too.

Ramsgate, Kent

I’ve really wanted to go to the coast this Summer; I find that being by the sea relaxes and refreshes me and as we had a few hot days ahead I thought I’d take my chance. I decided on going to Ramsgate in Kent as it had a sandy beach instead of pebbly and I was curious as to what else was in the area as I’d never been before. On the day it turned out to be the hottest day of the year which made for an amazing, bright view.

On arrival I came across yachts and other boats in the harbour, sitting in the sparkling blue sea.

Nearby was the Maritime Museum, which housed lots of artifacts from the area as well as objects from World War Two. I wanted to go down into the well known Ramsgate war tunnels but unfortunately they were closed for the day.

I had some lunch (chips, and an ice slushi obviously) then headed to the beach. The view really was beautiful and calming, and blues like the sea, endless.

After paddling in the cold water and watching the waves for a while I brushed off the sand and headed back to the train station. On route I came across some colourful artwork.

I also passed a computer games museum which was closed, but walked around the courtyard of a church and a park which had these creative wood statues.

It was a really hot, sunny and relaxing day out and although there wasn’t loads to do, it was enough for a day trip. And the coast as always was soothing for my heart and soul as well as my eyes. It gave me time to think and to just switch off, and on the train home I visualised the beautiful sky and sea, hoping it isn’t too long before I see such a view again.

Sea view

The BFG dream jars

One of my favourite authors as a child, like many others’, was Roald Dahl. He was a great story teller with a wild imagination and told of gory and funny tales which really won him over with young people. One of his best known stories The BFG was released as a film in cinemas recently, and to coincide with this and his 100th birthday, London celebrated by placing 50 dream jars containing various celebrity dreams on trails to be discovered and enjoyed. The jars will then be auctioned off and the money raised given to charity. In the past London has scattered bears, elephants, eggs, buses and more in a similar fashion.

As this was something that was close to heart and home my sister and I decided to go looking for some. We started at Marble Arch and ended up at Embankment, we walked for about 6 hours and discovered so many other parts of London that we just don’t get round to seeing.

My favourite was the one by Steven Spielberg, because who doesn’t love a tall tower of endless ice cream, cakes and sweets! Other ones that I really liked was Sophie Dahl’s dream by the sea and Dame Helen Mirren’s giant oak tree.

Steven Spielberg

Here are the rest that we found (click on image to see full picture).

I would have loved to have been able to find more (such as Quentin Blake’s or Steven Hawking’s) but we ran out of time and energy. We really enjoyed the day out and the creative dream jars, taking us along paths that we would never usually follow. I hope they raise lots of money for charity and I can’t wait to see what the next objects scattered across London will be.

London Olympic Anniversary Games 2016

The London Olympics in 2012 was fantastic, I didn’t get any tickets for events but I was lucky enough to go to the Opening Ceremony rehearsal which was held 2 days prior to the official opening ceremony of the Games and was a chance for organisers and performers to do a complete rehearsal in costumes and do full light shows and music. It was absolutely brilliant and definitely one the best events I have ever been to. As the Olympics have come around again this year, London held an Anniversary Games where top athletes were able to compete and a give you a taste for what they would have to offer before they head off to Rio, Brazil. I was able to get tickets for this and was really looking forward to it.

I was lucky to get great seats near the start and finish points of races as well as near the high jumpers, javelin throwers and long jumpers. We were also lucky enough to see sporting superstars Jessica Ennis and Usain Bolt among others, and they were fantastic.

Seeing exciting races combined with good weather created an electric atmosphere and I had a great evening which I thoroughly enjoyed with good friends.

London Muslim Lifestyle Show 2016

This weekend my sister and I went to the London Muslim Lifestyle show in West London, which was an event bringing together different products and services that are available for Muslims. I wasn’t too sure what to expect but I was looking forward to finding out.

There was a wide variety of things on offer; from different kind of foods, to jewellery and books.

My favourite things were the beautiful pieces of Arabic art, the stunning bottles of attar/perfume and tasty food on offer. I learnt lots of new things and was genuinely impressed by all innovative ideas that were presented from new phone apps to products that filled gaps in the market.

It was tempting to buy everything I liked, which was too much, but I managed to hold back and stick mainly to window shopping and tasters, treating myself to a few lovely things.

As you can tell I got a bit carried away with my photos, but there was just so much to see. As well as stalls there were fashion shows, singers and workshops that you could attend. My sister and I also had a lot of fun having our photos taken in photo booths wearing silly props. I thought it was an interesting event and meeting a diverse range of smiley people people, both Muslim and non created a great atmosphere.