A Day in South Kensington

The other week The Bloke and I attempted to take advantage of a ticket sale from a train company. It went a little wrong, but we still decided to use the offer and have a day out in London, as we haven’t done that for a while.

We decided to spend the majority of the day around South Kensington – it’s a beautiful (and very expensive) area with several museums and it’s one of the few places in the city that we haven’t explored as much as we would like. We were on the train at ridiculous o’clock, as usual, and by the time we arrived at Euston the weather was fairly clear and sunny, so we took advantage of the early morning to get there before the madness of tube travel at the weekends began. On the way there I discovered an image on Pinterest of a ‘thin house’ on Thurloe Square, opposite the Victoria and Albert museum, so this was our starting point. We found it and then spent some time just wandering around the streets, admiring the private parks and the beautiful town houses and flats, along with the statue of Bartok, followed by breakfast in a local Pret a Manger (where I’m CERTAIN that we were sitting across from Julian Lloyd-Webber, although I didn’t have the nerve to go and say anything to him). Continue reading

Attack in Westminster, London

For most people getting home, they’ll be hearing the news of the attack in London this afternoon. With four people dead (including the attacker and a policeman) and twenty injured, my thoughts are with the people involved, their families and friends and the city of London. It’s a beautiful, diverse and incredible city and as always I have nothing but the upmost respect and admiration for our police force, fire and ambulance services, and for everyone who rushed to help the victims without any thought for their own safety…

Suzie in the City

After a truly brilliant weekend with a lovely bunch of bloggy friends, I prepared myself for the trip back to Birmingham. As Sacha lives quite a distance from me (three trains and a tube connection), I thought that I had everything organised, and as I had made it relatively unscathed (despite the unexpected detour) I was at the station with what I thought a spare twenty minutes until the first train of my journey was ready to leave. The main part of it was from London Euston, and I thought my train left at 1.00pm, only to discover that it was actually at 3.40pm – the train the day before had been that that time instead.

That meant that, by the time I arrived at Euston, I had about three hours to kill before my train left. So, as it was a glorious day, and I’m never one to miss an opportunity to be a tourist, I purchased an all-day tube travel pass and went off on a little jolly around London, setting myself a challenge to see as much as I possibly could in the time limit. Continue reading

What a Carry On!

I predicted that I would be shattered, but nothing prepared me for just how much my feet would hurt on the train heading back home.

Those of you who regularly follow the blog will know that I’ve spent the past three days in London, touring all the Carry On sites of interest outside Pinewood Studios. As an early birthday present for my mum, who is quite possibly the world’s biggest Carry On fan, I mapped out loads of the blue plaques, grave sites and filming locations in and around the London area.

image

As an extra gift, I had managed to purchase a print from the extremely talented British Comedy and portrait artist Steve Lilly (@Stevelilart), who just happened to live about ten minutes away from me, which I gave Mum when we arrived in London. She loved it!

It was exhausting, but we pretty much managed to cover everything I had planned.

On the first day we visited Maidenhead Town Hall, which was used in several of the films, and walked just around the corner to the high street, where a few of the scenes from Carry On Camping was filmed. Continue reading

A Carry On Adventure…

Carry On films

I’ve been looking forward to today for what seems like months.

My mum turns 60 this year, and to celebrate my sisters and I, along with our partners, were planning on going away for a few days. Unfortunately, we left it a little too late to book, and most of the spaces have gone.

However, I came up with a plan…

My mum is the world’s biggest fan of the Carry On films, and indeed all British comedy sitcoms from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. While I was born in 1981, I was raised on re-runs of things like Bless This House, George and Mildred, On The Buses, Terry and June and Robin’s Nest to name a few. While I’m not a particularly huge fan of most of them, my affection for the Carry On films rivals my mother’s, and it isn’t uncommon for a visit to her house to be accompanied by at least one of the films in the background, particularly around Christmas time. We have different tastes – my favourite is Carry On Don’t Lose Your Head, while hers is Carry On At Your Convenience, but we’re both quite content watching most of them (aside from Carry On Emmanuelle and Carry On Columbus – we both refuse to acknowledge their existence). Continue reading

10 Inexpensive Things to See and Do in London

image

London is known for being one of the most vibrant, interesting and, ultimately, most expensive cities in the world, and The Bloke and I are lucky enough in that we get to visit several times a year.

There are certainly no shortage of things to experience, but many of the more popular attractions can be quite costly. Last weekend, as our budget was tight, I decided to plan an adventure around the city that consisted of free or inexpensive things to see and do. It turned out to be one of the best trips we’ve ever had!

Note: The key to saving money is to plan specifically in advance what you would like to do and see – buying tickets for things or aimlessly wandering around until you find something will usually result in spending money that you hadn’t budgeted for. It may also be a good idea to pack a lunch in advance to save money on food during your trip. Continue reading

London Adventures

image

The Bloke and I have very different opinions on what constitutes as ‘a holiday.’ Give me a beach, a pool, a bar and glorious sunshine and I’m happy. He needs things to see and do. I like to adopt my inner vegetable and lay like broccoli, while he’s a ‘get up and go’ type.

We both, however, have a common love of London, and we try and visit as many times a year as we possibly can. Booked in advance, train tickets are very cheap and the journey is only an hour and a half, so getting there relatively easy. There’s something about it that we both connect with – the architecture, history and the atmosphere is wonderful, and over the years we have joined the millions of tourists with our cameras to experience everything the city has to offer.

Last Saturday I was attending the Annual Bloggers Bash, so we decided to make a little mini break out of it. We booked a room at the Premier Inn near Euston Station for Friday night and got a ridiculously early train so we would have the entire day to wander around. After leaving our bags at the hotel, we arrived at the Tower of London in time for opening, and it was already packed – it seemed like half of the U.S. had the same idea as us that day.

image

A panorama of the view from the central building

We spent the morning exploring the buildings in the glorious weather, looking at The Crown Jewels and the views of the city and being amused at the tourists making victory signs as they had their photographs taken in the red phone boxes. Their fascination with them always makes me smile – the British use them for urinating in and for advertising pornographic services. As is always the case, there was building work going on to maintain the architecture, so some of my photographs are blighted by scaffolding and cabins.

image

The central building

image

The Bloke testing his new camera

image

Can’t take him anywhere…

image

Looking a little more normal…

Afterwards, we went to the food section at Harrods to treat ourselves to a few things for a lunchtime picnic and then ate it in Leicester Square while we watched the street performers. We enquired about discounted tickets for a show, and after discovering that they were a little out of our price range we decided to book tickets at the Odeon to watch the new Mission Impossible film that evening. Granted, we could have seen it when we went home, but this particular cinema is where they host the premier screenings of new films and hundreds to celebrities have been there, so it was something else I could tick off my tourist list.

We went back to the hotel, checked in and promptly fell asleep for a few hours, both being shattered from being awake since 5.00am.

That evening, we went to the cinema and were promptly surprised by just how big the screen was, and the fact that it looked just like a theatre. The film was great – one of the best of the five, and aside from a silly woman sitting next to me who laughed all the way through it even in the parts that weren’t supposed to be funny, I had a great time.

As we were leaving, I picked up my rubbish from the floor and I noticed something underneath The Bloke’s chair. It was an A4 piece of paper, with a still of Tom Cruise in Top Gun. It read:

Congratulations! You have won a prize – please take this to one of our staff to claim it.

image

Our prize from the cinema – bonus!

We weren’t sure whether it was a prank, but we took it to the manager in the foyer. I half expected him to laugh at me and tell me someone had put it there for a joke, but I was pleasantly surprised when he smiled and asked us to follow him to a little cupboard near the entrance. Our prize was a Guardians of the Galaxy poster and a copy of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. It was completely random, and looked a little awkward carrying it back on the Tube afterwards, but I was delighted – I had wanted to purchase the book anyway, and let’s face it, it’s always nice to get free stuff!

I don’t remember my head hitting the pillow that night. Despite having an afternoon nap, I was completely exhausted…

I love the fact that we have little adventures together. I can’t wait to see what Barcelona has to offer in September!

What about you guys? Have you visited anywhere recently?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks

 

Annual Bloggers Bash: Anxiety Girl Strikes Again!

image

As this post appears, I will be in London, hopefully meeting a whole bunch of lovely UK bloggers for the Annual Bloggers Bash. I’ve scheduled it to publish during our meeting time so none of them can read it until afterwards. I will have undoubtedly spent a long time getting ready, I will be tired from exploring the city and being a tourist with The Bloke yesterday, and I will be feeling slightly bloated as I will have eaten my way through the Premier Inn buffet breakfast in an effort to calm my nerves…  Continue reading

10 Things I Love About My Country #3: Architecture

I’ve teamed up with Steve and Jenny (I’m English, Steve is a Scotsman and Jenny is an American) to compile a series of lists of the things we love about our countries. This week is architecture.

image

As an English woman I am blessed that my country has a long history, with buildings and monuments that demonstrate the many periods of our interesting and exciting past. While I am only allowed to choose ten (although I’ve cheated and chosen twelve), there are thousands of examples of outstanding architecture throughout the country that draw in millions of tourists every year from all over the world. I have tried to choose examples of architecture from all over the country rather than just focusing on London…

1. St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

IMG_0518

Despite visiting London many times over the last few years, I only actually went to this a few months ago. Designed by Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1720, it was part of the rebuilding programme in the city after the Great Fire of London in 1666, It is one of the most famous examples of English architecture and is still used for important services today. Whenever I see it, I think of Mary Poppins.

2. Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury

image

Salisbury Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral that was built from 1220 to 1258 and has the tallest spire in the UK. It’s one of only three English cathedrals that doesn’t have a ringing of bells. In its construction, 70,000 tonnes of stone, 3,000 tonnes of timber and 450 tonnes of lead were used.

3. The Selfridges Building, Birmingham

image

I live about ten minutes away from this building and I’ve always loved it, even though it reminds me of a Narwhal. It was designed by Jan Kaplicky and Amanda Levette and was completed in 2003 at a cost of £60,000,000. It is the home to Selfridges and is part of the Bullring shopping centre.

4. Stonehenge, Wiltshire

image

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument, believed to be created between 2400BC and 2200BC. It is the remains of a ring of standing stones and is a nationally legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. While research in 2008 indicated that it served as a burial ground, how it was constructed and by whom remains a mystery.

5. Roman Baths, Bath

image

The Roman Baths are a set of buildings that are designed around the hot springs that bubble up from the ground in Bath. The first shrine at the site was built by the Celts and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis. The temple was constructed in 60-70AD by the Romans after the invasion and the complex was gradually built but over the next 300 years. They have been modified on many occasions and now serves as a major tourist attraction, receiving more than 1,000,000 visitors a year. The water that flows through the baths was considered extremely unsafe for bathing, but newly constructed boreholes now allow modern day bathers to experience the waters without fear of becoming ill.

6. The Gherkin, London

image

30 St Mary Axe is more commonly known as The Gherkin (because of it’s resemblance to an enormous gherkin) and is a commercial skyscraper in London’s Financial District. It was completed in 2003 at the cost of £138,000,000 and was designed by Fosters and Partners. It is a prominent feature in the London skyline – I think it’s a great example of modern architecture…

7. The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead Quays

image

The Sage Gateshead in Gateshead Quays is a concert centre and centre for musical education. It opened in 2004 and was completed at a cost of £70,000,000. It contains three performance spaces – a 1700 seater, 450 seater and a performance hall. It is made of three separate buildings that are insulated from each other to prevent noise travelling between them. It’s often referred to as ‘The Armadillo,’ because it looks like… Well… An armadillo!

8. Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire

image

Rievaulx Abbey is one of many stunning examples of abbeys that were dissolved by Henry VIII around the country. It is owned and maintained by English Heritage and is a major tourist attraction. It was founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Abbey as a mission for the colonisation of the north of England and Scotland. In 1538, Henry VIII, being the charming man that he was, ordered the buildings to be regarded uninhabitable and stripped of its valuables. The site was granted to the Earl of Rutland, one of his advisors, until it passed to the Duncombe family.

9. Battersea Power Station, London

image

Battersea is a decommissioned coal power station located on the south bank of the Thames. It was originally built in the 1930’s and a second identical station was added in the 1950’s, and decommissioned in 1975. It is a Grade II listed building. Doctor Who fans will be familiar with this building as it has been used many times during the series…

10. Albert Docks, Liverpool

image

The Albert Docks is a complex of dock buildings and warehouses in Liverpool, designed by Jesse Hartley and Philip Hardwick and opened in 1846. At the time of its construction the docks were considered revolutionary because ships loaded and unloaded directly to and from the warehouses. Two years after it opened it was modified to feature the world’s first hydraulic cranes. Today, the docks are a major tourist attraction, comprising of the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings anywhere in the UK. And for those of you who know what I’m talking about, Fred’s weather map is still there to the best of my knowledge.

11. Urbis, Manchester

image

Urbis is an exhibition and museum venue in Manchester, it was designed by Ian Simpson and completed in 2002 at a cost of £30,000,000. It is made of concrete and glass and between 2002 and 2010 it hosted exhibits on pop culture themes. In 2012 it became the National Football Museum (he, my friends, that’s football, not soccer). I must admit, I’m not a fan, but I included it because of it’s unusual shape and design.

12. Windsor Castle, Berkshire

image

No English architecture list should be without Windsor Castle. It’s a truly magnificent building with so much historical interest that an entire blog could be devoted to it. The original castle was built in the 11th Century after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. It was originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London and was built as a motte and bailey and has been extended and redeveloped countless times since then. It has survived a siege during the First Barons War at the start of the 13th Century, the English civil war, the Blitz and a fire in 1992. It is a popular tourist attraction, a venue for hosting state visits and is Queen Elizabeth II’s preferred weekend home. Nice. It’s one of the places that I have never been…

Of course, there are hundreds of buildings that could and should be included in the list – Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament,  Dover Castle, The Shard, One Canada Square, the BT Tower, Hampton Court Palace, the Liver Birds Building… I could go on forever!

What about you guys? What English buildings would you put on the list? Feel free to join in our little project!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog