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.

Impromptu visit to Kew

One of my favourite places in London is Kew Gardens, so when my sister and her husband invited me for an impromptu trip recently I couldn’t say no. Kew is known for having plants, trees and flowers from around the world, there’s so much to see and it’s a great place to get lost in for the day.

First stop was the Hive which is a large structure made of metal and has lights that blink according to bee activity in a real beehive at Kew.

You can’t go to Kew and not visit the Palm House, which holds tropical plants from around the world. It’s usually really hot in here and as usual I had to wait for my camera to de-fog before I could take some photos. One plant we were pleased to find was the Sensitive plant. When you touch the open leaves they react immediately and close together.

From there we went to the Waterlily House hoping to find the giant lily pads that I remember from my childhood but have missed on my previous visits. Unfortunately they’d been moved, so I’ll have to try again another time. I did, however see some pretty waterlily flowers though.

Next we went to the Woodland area, and with it being late summer and the weather unsettled we got caught in a heavy downpour, thankfully though we were able to shelter under a giant Elm tree until the rain stopped. The Woodland area had a great number of trees of all types, my favourite though were the Redwood trees. These giants have a reddish, rough grain trunk and can grow to a phenomenal size.

Walking further along came across a huge wooden table, which seems like it would be perfect for all my family when they come to dinner! And hidden nearby was a log trail that you could walk across, made up of different types of trees, so educational as well as fun. There was also a badger set and tunnels you could go into.

By the time we reached the log trail we’d made it to the far end of the grounds and it was getting late so we started heading back towards the gates. I had a relaxing, fun day out and it’s always a pleasure and a privilege to see the beautiful plants, trees and flowers that can be found around the world so close to where I live.

Regent’s Park Frieze Art

Regent’s Park is one of the Royal Parks of London, and this Summer it has been host to Frieze Sculpture a free outdoor display of contemporary art. I had the chance to go a few weeks ago and unknowingly stumbled across the strange, striking and fun art pieces.

The ones that really stood out for me was the stunning white tree when seems to glow in the sun, and the robotic man statue.

My favourite was the elephant carefully balanced on it’s trunk, but I also really liked the bronze angles and the silver crouched man made of letters, symbols and numbers from around the world.

There are 21 statues in all, some are huge, fun figures and others have lots of complex details and make you wonder what they mean. There’s still time to go visit, so if you’re in the area I would definitely recommend it.

Holland Park, London

We’ve had some lovely weather this summer in London and I was able to make the most of it by going to Holland Park one sunny day. The park has so many different types of plants and flowers, and it was a delight to walk along the winding paths taking in all the vibrant colours and varying scents.

One of the main features of the park is it’s beautiful Japanese Kyoto Garden. I was surprised to see that they had Koi carp (and pennies) in the pond as well as a peacock strutting around. There was a pretty waterfall and a walkway that allowed you to cross the pond and through the garden. I found the garden very peaceful and aesthetically pleasing.

There are also some smaller gardens within the park, some that held interesting statues, and others that had stunning flower displays, as well as a giant game of chess.

Overall the park had some beautiful features and you can tell it was very well maintained, and on a sunny day it made for a lovely day out, one that I would definitely recommend.

Mayfield Lavender Farm

Last weekend my sister and I made the trip to Mayfield Lavender Farm in Surrey, something we’d been wanting to do for a long time. As soon as we reached the farm we could smell the lavender even before you caught sight of any. Walking up to the fields we could see rows and rows of lavender; I couldn’t wait to take to take a closer look and take some photos.

As we made our way up the fields we could see hundreds of bumble bees flitting from flower to flower, stem to stem, gathering pollen. In the fields there were picnic tables, a red London phone box and structures to create photographic backdrops. There was also a tractor that you could take a ride on that would take you across to the far end of the land.

The farm was much busier than I anticipated and it required a lot of patience to try and get the type of photos that I wanted. There were people doing live chats, making videos and taking lots of photos for social media which has made a place like this very popular.

After walking through the fields soaking in the beautiful scent of the lavender and the stunning purple views we decided to head to the gift shop to see what we could take home to help make the experience and sensation continue into our homes. There were lots and lots of lavender based products on sale. There were bunches of lavender, with a pretty bird enjoying the view, lavender flavoured drinks, jams and fudge. They also had a book for visitors to leave messages in and I was surprised to see that visitors had come from all around the world to see the flowers.

After looking around we opted for some lavender flowers for ourselves and our mum, some chocolate and some soap. Then feeling weary we started our journey home, with one last look as the fields.

The trip to the lavender farm was great, although the flowers weren’t as vibrant purple as I expected (maybe they would be earlier in the season, July to September), the view was still amazing and the scent was so fragrant and relaxing. I would definitely recommend a visit to a lavender farm, but some advice I would offer is to get there early.

London Olympic Anniversary Games 2017

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the London Olympic Anniversary Games again this year, it was a fun day out and it gave a us a chance to see the Olympic park and some great athletes.

I was able to see high jumpers, long jumpers, discus throwers and runners such as Mo Farah who really was the star of the day with the crowd going wild as he won his race.

The atmosphere was family friendly and relaxing and I would definitely go again.

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.

Funfair fun

The weather has been quite warm lately as we head into the middle of Spring, and on one especially hot day I headed outside with my sister to a funfair that had been set up in one of the local parks.

We enjoyed rides that made us shout and laugh, and games that let us win prizes even though we lost. After we ran out of energy we replenished with ice cold, colourful slushies and soft pink candy floss. As we headed home we strolled back through the park and soaked in the sun while taking in the pretty view of colourful blossoms in trees and rowers on the lake.