Holiday at Home: Photo Diary

I got home from my trip home over a week ago, but at the moment it seems like if I manage to check something off my to-do list within a month then it’s good going.

I always take lots of photos and never post half of them, so I decided to record my trip with a photo diary:

Outside Copper Blossom

Thursday: After a dinner out on Wednesday evening, and coffee and a cake with a friend on Thursday morning, I met another friend at Copper Blossom just off George Street in Edinburgh. It was so lovely it is going to have its own post soon.

Edinburgh Castle and blossom

Edinburgh Castle and blossom

I had some time before my night out, so I had a wander around Princes Street, the Gardens and up to the Castle.

St Giles cloud and sun

St Giles’ Cathedral in the sun and cloud.

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From the Castle Esplanade, looking down the Royal Mile. Camera Obscura is the building on the left and the Hub is the tall building on the right.

Friday: On Friday I got my hair done – finally! I tried a new hairdresser for the first time in about 20 years in January, and it was definitely a mistake. Luckily my old hairdresser put it right! I then went for cream tea with my mum:

Scones with cream and jam

Scones! Mannerstons, Linlithgow

Saturday: I met another two friends for lunch at The Printing Press in Edinburgh. I hadn’t been in before because the food menu is quite pricey, but the bar was brilliant.

Printing Press cocktails

They have a great drinks option called Bespoke Bubbles, where you get a bottle of Prosecco along with various fruit purées to create Bellinis, as well as Crème de Cassis and Aperol to mix. I would definitely recommend this – it means you can create a couple of different drinks in one order.

Printing Press Bespoke Bubbles 2

Sunday: My dad drove us up to Loch Earn for a wee change from London! It was a good drive past Gleneagles and with a stop in Comrie for coffee. This is either the best or worst street sign ever:

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Is that Comic Sans?!

Loch Earn was lovely! I could post several photos, but I’ve narrowed it down:

Loch Earn

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From where I stand

On Sunday evening we had an amazing dinner at an Italian restaurant (where else?) with my parents, sister and her boyfriend, then on the Monday we spent some time with my boyfriend’s family, as he has an auntie and uncle in Scotland. (She made a brilliant lasagne.) Then it was all over already! Just enough time for a quick breakfast in Glasgow before getting the train back.

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His horse was not to be left out this time.

I think I managed to see almost everyone I know on one trip home, so it was busy, but a brilliant week. Now to plan another trip back for the Edinburgh Festival…

Photo Challenge: Atop

This week’s Photo Challenge is ‘Atop’.

I had trouble deciding which photo to post, as my favourites are generally all from the highest building or hill of wherever I’ve been – you can’t beat a nice view! I discovered this in Paris, when I realised how many stairs I was making my visitors climb. I remembered it climbing the many hills in Rome. Weirdly, after two-and-a-half years in London I still haven’t been to the Shard yet (well, the bar, but not the very top!), but can check off the Walkie-Talkie building, Tower Bridge, Monument, Primrose Hill and the view from the top of Greenwich Park.

For this post, here is a panorama from the Griffith Observatory in LA. (I still have the songs from La La Land going round in my head.) This was the day before I met my Trek group. Around 5000 miles from home, I had never travelled so far on my own before. (Although I still managed to meet a Scottish couple on the bus!) After months of feeling like I hadn’t been getting anywhere, literally going this far made it a surreal day.

If you click on the photo, you should be able to see a bigger version. I like all the contrasts in it: sand and greenery versus the city; hills and valleys; a grey cloud and blue skies.

LA panorama

Wonder

I really love this week’s Photo Challenge:

For this week’s challenge, show us something that surprised you on “the road taken.” It could be a heritage building in your city or town as seen from a new-to-you angle, a yummy meal on a road trip detour, or the penny you found on a casual stroll. […] This challenge is wide open — show us the excitement, surprise, wonder, or amazement of your “road taken.”

Trying to think of the situations where life has surprised me brings back a lot of good memories. It was difficult to decide whether to go with small, funny things – a somewhat amateur engraving of a face in ancient rock in Marseille, for example – or whether to go with a beautiful view. (I might have to turn more of my ideas into a longer post later.)

In the end, I decided to go with an awe-inspiring moment, and it’s hard to top one of the natural wonders of the world – the Grand Canyon. I was never really sure that seeing it was on the cards for me, as incredible as I thought it would be. My trip across the States was almost a rash decision, and I couldn’t believe I was going to experience so many of these places I’d only seen in films or read about in books.

When we arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park, our Trek America leader, Gin (she was simply the best), made us all put on blindfolds. She then made us hold hands so she could lead us (down steps and everything) towards a good viewing point. I can only imagine how ridiculous the eleven of us looked – in fact, I have some idea, as there were little bursts of laughter from people we couldn’t yet see.

When Gin was happy we were in the right place, she told us we could take off the blindfolds. She made sure we had the best possible first impression of one of the most incredible, unusual sights in the world. (She got a little round of applause for that from the others around us.)

This photo was the left-hand side of my initial view, and it’s one of my favourite photos I’ve taken. I think it’s because the lone person looks so tiny in the vastness, away out on this ledge. (They really shouldn’t have been out there, but I love this shot.)

Grand Canyon man

What I didn’t fully realise until going through my album just now was how much I had zoomed in. This was my actual perspective:

Grand Canyon

Now that is being tiny in the grand scheme of things.

Photo Challenge: A Good Match

I thought I would take part in this week’s Photo Challenge with a picture from my day trip to Canterbury the weekend before last. The theme is ‘A Good Match’, looking for pleasing pairings.

Instagram is full of interesting doors (my friend Charly has a lovely account called Travelling Doors) but I have so many photos of archways or gates. Perhaps I’m just nosy. My good match is the foreground of the image and the glimpse of what’s beyond the gate – I liked the similar shapes of the gate and the windows, and the tree in the middle.

This was taken at St Augustine’s Abbey. (I hope to write more about the trip soon!)

canterbury-gate

 

Sail Loft, Greenwich

sail-loft-christmas-showcase

I had been to the Sail Loft once before, because Greenwich is far and away the nicest part of London and, right on the river, this was a lovely place to go for a drink on a summer evening. Consequently, I was so excited to be invited along to Fuller’s Secret Supper, a showcase of the new autumn/winter menu.

It’s a gorgeous venue across two storeys, decorated with boats and ropes, and wooden floors like a ship.

honey-dew-beer

The Sail Loft is one of the newest venues owned by Fuller’s, the brewery behind London Pride. However, what I didn’t realise is that they are also hugely focused on their food menu. Present at the event was Paul Dickinson, Head of Food, and Gavin Sinden, who won their Chef of the Year competition this year and is Head Chef at the Stonemason Arms in Hammersmith. Chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants have left to work for Fuller’s, hearing their vision for their food. Menus vary from restaurant to restaurant as chefs have freedom over what they make.

This menu certainly wasn’t straightforward pub grub (much as I love it). They did have some pub classics on there: fish and chips, and burgers. However, this was interspersed with dishes like ricotta, black fig and truffle honey quiche.

A couple of plates of each starter were brought to the tables so that we could try a bit of everything. There was venison Carpaccio, oysters and octopus amongst others. My choice would be the cured meat platter.

We got to choose our own main, and despite the choice, I still opted for the burger. It was a great burger though! My boyfriend said the duck was excellent. Other choices were steak, sea bream and wild mushroom ravioli.

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We had the chance to meet more of the Fuller’s team – Georgina, Jo, Jane and I’m so embarrassed to have forgotten a name but everyone was lovely! It was such a fun meal.

The desserts were brilliant – again, they brought a selection so we could sample each. The baked Alaska was particularly good, and I’m never usually a fan of meringue-type desserts. There was also chocolate cake and salted caramel ice cream and one that I’m looking at the picture of and still can’t remember what it was! (Good though.)

I was so impressed by how much attention they pay to their food as I think there is a preconception that pubs just microwave their food and there’s not really much cooking going on! However Fuller’s really is making it as much of a priority as they drinks they serve, and I thought this menu was a good balance between dishes we all expect from a  pub and something different.

sail-loft-window

As much as I enjoyed the meal, I would have gone back even if they just served bread and butter, because the Sail Loft is a stunning venue – easily one of the best-looking and best located in London. I almost don’t want to sing its praises too much so I can keep it for myself and those of us living in the southeast!

Thank you so much to the team at PR&EI for the invite, and to the brilliant team from Fuller’s who ensured we had a great night.

Photo diary: a weekend in London

This weekend, my sister came to visit. And it seems that we spent most of the time eating and drinking…

TGI Friday: I thanked God it was my Friday on Thursday evening, with cocktails, Cajun chicken pasta and cookie dough cheesecake.

cookie dough cheesecake

Friday, Breakfast Club: we both opted for the All American breakfast at the Breakfast Club.

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Aqua Shard: The most expensive drink I’ve ever had.

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Although the view wasn’t bad:

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House of MinaLima: We had a wander around the pop-up shop of the team behind the Harry Potter graphic work.

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Weekend Coffee Share: June’s Happy Days

Weekend Coffee Share is a feature hosted by Part-Time Monster. Read other posts in the link-up here.

Hello, Weekend Coffee Share! I haven’t taken part in a while – actually, I have struggled to blog for a while – but let’s change that today.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that there has been a lot going on in June, both good and bad. I would like to focus on the good, but first I have to at least mention this week’s big news for me: the result of the UK’s EU referendum.

I cannot yet articulate how sad, angry, disappointed and confused I am by the result (so I have opted for a few basic adjectives). Perhaps in the future I will be better able to convey exactly what I think we’ve lost, but for now I am just grateful for the opportunities afforded me by being a member of the EU, and for being born at the right time to take advantage of these. Whatever happens after our years of disentanglement and renegotiation, I really hope that today’s children and any children I may have are able to have similar chances.

However, this post is for my happy days this month. It is going to be quite photo-heavy, making up for my poor attempt at my photography goal so far.

It was my birthday this month, so I have been completely spoiled. I was treated to a camera, a handbag, a musical, a concert and lots of cake, so it was incredible and lovely.

My boyfriend organised the day itself, so everything was a surprise. It began with a walk up Primrose Hill to take advantage of the sunshine – with a stop at Primrose Bakery, for a birthday cupcake.

Primrose Hill

Cupcakes, Primrose Bakery

It was the only day of good weather that week (there have been so many storms, it’s weird!) so it was great to be outside, even if I got a tiny bit sunburnt!

Primrose Hill 2

After that, we went to see Motown the Musical. It is full of brilliant songs from the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross among many, many more. It was really fun, and was another new show to add to my list this year.

We went for dinner to a restaurant called Rabot 1745 in Borough Market. Every dish on the menu uses cocoa beans in some way – as do many of the drinks. I had a chocolate orange cocktail, which I think was called the breakfast cocktail, and it was a very good choice.

Rabot drinks

We shared a starter of Yorkshire pudding with beef and white chocolate mash. I know how weird white chocolate mash sounds, but it was actually amazing. For mains we had mac and cheese (in cacao nib pastry) and the pork stack (where the crusts and glazes used cacao) and I had a chocolate tart for dessert. It was a really brilliant choice of restaurant for me, and I would recommend it to any Londoners who are looking for somewhere a bit different to try.

I couldn’t believe how much thought he had put in to the day, so thank you to him for making it so special.

A few days later, I went for afternoon tea at Brumus restaurant, part of the Haymarket Hotel. The best thing about the décor was obviously that the chairs had dogs on the back of them:

Brumus chairs

The afternoon tea itself was lovely (although I don’t think any have topped BB Bakery yet), and we all left stuffed with sandwiches and cakes.

The next day I went to the Riding House Café for brunch (why does socialising so often revolve around food?!) with friends from uni I hadn’t seen for ages. I got the pancakes, and did not appreciate just how large a portion it would be when I asked for a side of bacon… they were great though!

Brunch, Riding House Cafe

We also had a wander around the British Museum, where I used my new camera and took this excellent photo (if I say so myself) of a violin:

Violin, British Museum

The next weekend I went to West End Live, where the casts of most of the musicals perform a few numbers in Trafalgar Square. I completely underestimated demand and the queue to get in was insane, so we missed a lot (or heard a lot without seeing anything), but we got in on time for Les Mis, which is the main thing.

Les Mis, West End Live 2016

Mamma Mia and Matilda also contributed a couple of great sets, before Jersey Boys topped everything off, getting the whole crowd singing ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. We had to leave after that, but there was a whole weekend of free entertainment from West End shows – a big treat for musical lovers!

Finally, last Sunday I got to see Nashville in Concert at the Apollo. I was so disappointed to miss out on tickets a couple of months ago, and then my friend presented me with one for my birthday! It was a fantastic night, easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, and I just love them all even more now.

Nashville, Eventim ApolloNashville in Concert, LondonCharles Esten, London

(Look at this photo! It’s like Charles Esten is looking right at me! I know he wasn’t, because we were halfway up the balcony, but look how far my new camera zooms!)

It has been an eventful month! Hope you’re all doing well and enjoy the rest of your weekend.