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.

Mad Hatter’s tea party

Over the Easter break there are lots of activities and events planned to keep kids and their parents entertained. One such event planned in our local park was an Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter’s tea party. I met up with my sisters, sister-in-law and their little ones for an afternoon of fun and frivolity.

In keeping with the Mad Hatter’s tea party theme there were colourful props and outdoor games to play such as croquet. I personally really liked the giant tarts and cakes.

There were lots of little details from the famous Lewis Carroll tale, from lemonade and top hats to quaint little signs posted everywhere which I think really made the theme come to life. We were even lucky to have the Queen of Hearts join us as well as the White Rabbit, who made sure everyone followed the Queen’s fun demands, something the kids found really amusing.

We all thought it was an enjoyable afternoon and it was nice that a lot of effort had been made by the organisers. You can see more pictures of the tea party here and here.

Lumiere London – Part 2

The Lumiere event that my sister and I went along to recently was spaced out over various areas across London. Part 1 covered the innovative light artworks in Mayfair and Regent Street, and this post will cover the remaining areas.

After our walk through Regents Street we headed towards Trafalgar Square. I love Trafalgar Square anyway so with this light festival I was looking forward to see what was on show. In front of the National Gallery the words ‘Central Point’ were illuminated (these are normally found on top of a building on Oxford Street) and the iconic fountains were filled with light and plastic bottles. My favourite in this area were the neon dogs, which were so colourful and fun.

After seeing the dogs we hurried on to the next area on the map, Leicester Square. On approaching we could see an array of wonderful bright colours and could see that the whole area had been transformed into a garden of light. There were enormous lit flowers and colourful trees and I think this was my sister and my favourite spot on the map. My photos don’t show just how much the colours popped but it was a a really pretty sight.

Our last stop on the map was at Kings Cross, here the installations were a bit easier to find and closer together. There were some really innovative ideas; some light sticks to draw on the ground, a fun light show projected onto a large building and rainbow tunnel made up of coloured bottles. A little extra thing we spotted were candy floss on light sticks, which we thought was such a simple but effective idea.

All in all my sister and I had a great but exhausting evening, we walked around London on a cold night for approximately 4 hours and manged to see all but a handful of what was on show. We thought it was a great event and one that certainly lived up to the promise of showing us the city in a new light. I think we both agree that we would definitely go along to this event again if it was held next Winter. For more photos you can check out my sisters post of the evening here.

V&A: Islamic Middle East

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has some really interesting exhibits, showcasing pieces from all around the world. One of the collections I always stop to admire when I visit is the Islamic Middle East which consists of some really beautiful pieces from as far back as the 7th century.

Some of my favourite and I think most impressive pieces on show are the Ardabil carpet which is one of the largest and finest in existence made in 1540, the second largest Qu’ran in the world from the 14th century and the pretty turquoise coloured tiles from 1358. I love the use of detailed geometric patterns and writings to embellish everyday objects that were placed in homes and places of worship.

My photos don’t do justice to how intricate and colourful some of these artifacts are but if you’re ever in London I would definitely recommend a visit.

Southend escape

Summer in the UK this year hasn’t been too great, we had some hotter weather in July but since then its been cooler and wetter, so in light of this I wanted to make the most of any sunny days we did have and as I’ve been wanting to go to coast for a while, I picked the nearest, most easiest one to get to and went down for the day.
Southend on Sea isn’t one of the most prettiest beaches in the South East of England but it has lots of amusements and a long stretch of sand to enjoy. The view upon arriving was lovely; clear blue skies and a warm, bright day.

Southend

Southend has the longest pier in the world and I thought this would be a good place to start. The pier is 1.3 miles long and you can either walk down or take the tram that runs back and forth. I decided to walk and see if I needed a ride back if I was too tired. The view along the pier was beautiful, and I really enjoyed the walk, although it was a bit cooler with the sea breeze becoming stronger as I got further out. There were also lots of benches along the way in case you wanted to stop for a rest or just enjoy the lovely view.

On my walk up I saw several fishermen with their rods, I didn’t see any of them catch any fish but I’m sure they must have caught some later.

The ‘reward’ for getting to the end of the pier was a restaurant if you wanted a nice lunch and a refreshing drink, a viewing platform and the Lifeguard station.

After a taking in the view and visiting the gift shop I decided to walk back, I wasn’t tired and knew I would enjoy the walk over taking a tram ride. As I walked, I passed the fishermen still patiently waiting for a catch and watched as the coastline got closer and closer.

Once back on mainland I stopped for a quick lunch before heading down to the beach. As I walked along the sand I stopped to watch the waves and dip my toes in the too cold-for-a-swim water. There were other people out too but it wasn’t busy which was nice. The sand at Southend is a mixture of sand, pebbles and seashells. There were lots strewn along the water’s edge, washed up and left behind by the endless tides. I was chuffed to spot an unopened oyster shell which seemed to still have oyster inside.

Further up I spotted some colourful boats sitting on the deck in the bright sun.

In the late afternoon, I dusted off the sand from my jeans and out of my shoes and strolled back to the train station and home. I don’t have the opportunity to go the coast very often but I always find it so calming and relaxing. Being by the sea on a warm, sunny day with a cool breeze seems to give me peace of mind and the beautiful, sparkling water is the coolness my eyes long for and just what I need after a trying time in the city.

Mad as a Hatters tea party

My younger sister decided to throw all the women in the family a tea party. She spent weeks and weeks secretly buying and making decorations and props to complete the look of her theme; the classic, Mad Hatters Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland.

We were all amazed at how much effort had gone into all the little touches; the tiny book cover cake toppers (which were my favourite), quotes from book Alice, the decorations made of book pages, a real top hat and more.

Aside from all the snacks on offer, which we had after lunch, there was lots of food to eat. We had pasties, sandwiches, pasta, chicken strips and much more that we all enjoyed. My sister also set up a photo board so we could take pictures against a pretty, floral background and everyone had lots of fun playing with the different face parts that she had made too.

We all had a fun afternoon, enjoying all the good food and especially the various cakes and desserts on offer. I’m sure that we’ll have more parties to come seeing how much everyone enjoyed this one. You can see my sister’s post and more pictures here