A few days in London

Last month, I spent a few days in London to celebrate a friend’s birthday so I jumped on the opportunity to cross off a few places on my forever growing ‘To-Visit-in-London’ list. I ended up loving all of these so I think they deserve a full post in their own right but I wanted to share a quick summary of what I’ve been up to these few days in my favourite city with you first.
Dennis Severs' House
folgate street sign
Dennis Severs House

First on my list was actually a recommendation from my friend I was staying with. I wasn’t sure I had grasped what exactly was this place so I was mighty intrigued when I queued up on the pavement to get into the house. A man opened the door and told us that ‘we won’t meet the family today but we will hear them’. We were also asked to remain silent during the visit. Sounds pretty mysterious, eh?
Dennis Severs was an artist who decided to recreate the living conditions of a fictitious 18th century Huguenot family in the silk weaving business, the Jervis, in his own house. Stepping into his abode is like diving into an old painting, as if you just disturbed the occupants. Signs that they were just there a second ago are left around the house: half drunk cups of tea, warm cakes, a knocked off chair, even a full chamber pot. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of it, I felt a bit like an elephant in a porcelain shop but by the time my eyes got used to the candle light, I started enjoying my surroundings and soak in the dusty atmosphere, high on the sweet smell of winter spice and pinewood. The whole house had been decorated for the festive period: Christmas pudding in the kitchen, presents on a bed, a beautiful tree and bowls holding cinnamon sticks and orange peels scattered here and there. It made the place even more eerie and magical (the decorations will be up until January 5th).

18 Folgate Street

Victoria & Albert Museum

I’m pretty sure I was under a curse that was stopping me from visiting the V&A. Something would always get in the way every time I had planned to go there. I’m glad that the spell finally lifted as I enjoyed roaming the numerous halls of the museum filled with treasures, from photography to fashion design. I only managed to cover a small fraction of the space so another visit is definitely in order, now I’m curse-free. Also, I wouldn’t mind going back to their shop to stock up on more pretty postcards!

Cromwell Road

geffrye museum
Geffrye Museum

Maybe you’ll have noticed from my posts but I love a good reconstitution of a period room. The Geffrye Museum is just that, you witness the changes of 4 centuries in English homes, through the furniture and habits of their occupants. The Christmas Past exhibition (ends on January 4th) gave a festive glimpse into the evolution of English traditions through time.

136 Kingsland Road

viktor wynd's museum of curiosities
The Last Tuesday Society, Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities

This creepy little place can be found in the basement of a pub in Hackney. Walking down a spiral staircase, you’ll be met with glass windows holding the weirdest combination of objects. I thought the picture above was quite representative of that combination. Of course there are the expected stuffed animals and skelettons but they live among a collection of naughty paraphernalia, mixed with the odd toy. I was immediately enraptured with the place when my eyes met those of Dora the Explorer standing next to a stuffed two-headed lamb.

11 Mare Street

Kew Gardens | London

Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
I thought that since I showed you the third most beautiful garden in the world last week (according to National Geographic), I would post today about Kew gardens, which rank at number two on the list (Versailles is number one FYI, but I haven’t visited it… yet).

I visited the Royal Botanic Gardens 2 years ago and I had to kick myself for not checking them out earlier, despite living in London for a little while. It almost instantly became one of my favourite places on Earth. The fact that it is a little ‘off the beaten track’ might have explained why it took me so long to finally cross if off my ‘London list’. But still, it is not an excuse as the English capital’s transport system is so efficient, it is in no way a pain to get there. I’d definitely recommend that you’d schedule a whole morning or an afternoon if not a whole day to visit Kew Gardens, if you like me enjoy a good glasshouse or two. I spent a morning and the early hours of the afternoon there and only managed to cover half of the park. It is pretty big! The map they give you at the entrance is definitely essential to your visit.

Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens is just under a fly path, planes fly so low I felt like I could almost touch them; not going to lie it got me a little nervous at times

I didn’t have a plan when I got there so I just walked where my feet led me. I walked toward the huge Pagoda and hung out for a while in the Japanese Garden, then crossed a beautiful field of daffodils. I then tried to battle my fear of heights on the Treetop walk, a sort of transparent-ish suspended bridge at the top of very high trees. It didn’t last long until my legs started to shake and I had to go down the stairs, holding to the banister for dear life #chicken.

Kew Gardens
Kew GardensKew Gardens
Kew Gardens

What I was looking forward the most were the glasshouses and especially the Palm House. I had seen pictures of the beautiful white wrought iron structure and couldn’t wait to take some pictures inside. It was actually my first proper ‘big camera’ outing and looking at the pictures today makes me realise how much I learnt.

Kew Gardens
Kew GardensKew GardensKew GardensKew Gardens
Kew Gardens

I finished my visit to the Kew Gardens with a yummy lunch break in the café’s terrace, soaking up the sun rays of baby Spring 2012 and then had a browse in the cute little shop full of beautifully designed objects, not too dissimilar from Avoca actually.

Maybe for my next visit, I will be more organised and go straight to the giant lily pond or Kew Palace; or I’ll just succumb to Kew’s magic once again and get wonderfully lost.

Kew Gardens

Practical Information

Kew Gardens – website
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond, Surrey

Opening Hours: check out website as they are updated every year

Admission Fee: Adult £15 / Concession £14/ Children <16yo Free

Underground/Overground: Kew Gardens (on the District Line)
Train: Kew Bridge
Bus: 65, 237, 267, 391

Broadway Market | London

broadway market + red car
london fields park

After the Wiltshire fiasco, I thought I would comfort myself by reminiscing my time in London over the past couple of years. So over the next few weeks, here I will revisit a couple of places that I enjoyed in the British capital and hopefully you’ll find some good recommendations along the way.

Let’s kick it off with the Broadway Market, the go-to market in East London. It’s a total foodie paradise with its selection of fresh bread, cheese, cured meat, cakes, good coffee and the old fruit & veg’. Other goods are available too, such as flowers, crafts and vintage clothing. I don’t like throwing the hipster word too much around but one could say it has that distinctive buzzing vibe.

The bordering shops are also well worth your time, settle in a cute café or browse artsy magazines in Artwords, which has one of the greatest selection of fashion magazines I ever seen; or pick a classic or two in Broadway Bookshop.

broadway cafe
flower market
broadway bookshop
young coconuts

Broadway market is one of those places I want to come back to next time I’m in London as I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of this bubbling area. I keep learning about new places that each sound more fabulous than the last; like this shop that sells rainbow meringues or this vintage seller under the cover of a launderette.

broadway market

Practical Information

Broadway Market – website
London E8

Opening Hours: Every Saturday, from 9am to 5pm.

Weekend in Wiltshire | UK

mission hallfield gate + cemetery

Earlier this month, I spent a few days in the South West of England, in the county of Wiltshire.  My friend’s mum who lives there was celebrating her 70th birthday and had organised a whole weekend of celebrations. She lives in the most picturesque cottage (the kind I thought only existed in the TV show ‘Escape to the Country’) and it’s right in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by blankets of fields. I was excited to finally see the place I’d heard so much about and to get to discover a new part of England. I had great plans to explore the area around and I made some research on what to see in Wiltshire in case there was a chance of a car. I even got some great recomendations on Twitter!

Well, things didn’t quite go according to plan.

graveyardcurious horses
tombstones & ivy
tombstone heath
poney & flies

The first couple of days were idyllic. We helped set up the party, prepared delicious food and waves of people started coming in to join in the celebration. I felt so happy to finally live my ‘house in the country’ dream. In the midst of all the preparation, my friend took me on a tour through village. Mainly, a communal field, a church from the 13th century, a graveyard and a mission hall. The pictures above are the result of this walk. I almost absently took them, thinking that surely I’ll come back to take better ones…

Fate didn’t have that in mind at all. Instead a stomach bug infiltrated the party and most of us went down with it. I think I was one of the first and when something’s wrong with me, spiritually or physically, I go into heavy sleep mode.

window sill
fox the cat
rainy days

I can’t remember much at all except that when I started to feel slightly human again, it was time to journey back to Ireland. I had planned to make a trip to London after Wiltshire but I was too worn out to attempt any visiting activity. I’m not going to lie, it broke my heart as trips to London are always the highlight of the year.
I did feel happy and relieved though when I saw the Poolbeg chimney from the deck of the ferry as I knew my bed wasn’t too far away anymore.

on the train
on the ferry

Wiltshire Wishlist | UK

Walking through the villageCranborne ChaseUntitled
pictures: Suzie Smith / Tom Spearing / Alex Hornsby

As you read this, if everything goes to plan (that is if I don’t oversleep and miss the ferry), I’ll be on my way to the UK. I’m so incredibly excited, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve set foot on British soil, I get butterflies every time. And this time I’m visiting a county totally new to me: Wiltshire! I literally know nothing about it apart that I’ve heard that’s where celebs like to hide in the countryside when the London life has just been too much.

I know so little about it that I hadn’t realised that Wiltshire was  where Stonehenge stands. There was a time when the idea of visiting the mythical stones would have had literally me jumping in the air, today not as much but while doing my research I realised that Wiltshire was full to the brim with stately homes and that’s the kind of things nowadays that wet my whistle. Yep, definitely growing old around here…

I’d be especially interested to see Ashcombe House as royal photographer Cecil Beaton rented it for a while. Ever since I read his memoirs, I’ve been under his witty spell and anything Beaton related has my complete and devoted attention. Apart from stately homes, Wiltshire is also famous for ‘chocolate-box villages’ like Castle Combe which already tickles my lense in anticipation.

Although to be honest, I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to explore as I’m visiting friends who live in a tiny village and as I can’t drive, it looks like I’ll be stuck in the middle of nowhere. Which sounds amazing to me, I look forward, if weather allows, to lots of country side walks, chewing on wheat and napping under trees. Cheers to living the simple (offline) life!

Have you ever been to Wiltshire? What do I need to see? I would love to hear your recommendations!