Saturday, 22 November 2014

History of the London Bus: Infographic

History Of The London Bus

What do you know about the history of the London bus? 2014 is the Year of the Bus and this year has seen a host of activities across the city to mark this momentous occasion. The question most people want to know is why is the Year of the Bus in 2014? What makes this year so special? I have a couple of posts coming up on this very topic but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this handy infographic that should answer most of your questions about London’s iconic red buses.

Do be sure to return on Tuesday when I’ll take you on a tour of the vintage buses at the recent Dartford Bus Garage open day. If you’re a vintage bus geek like me, you’ll love it!

 London bus History Infographic

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Architectural Wonders of Ephesus, Turkey

As you walk along the streets of the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey, you get a unique glimpse of the civilisations that once lived here. The site is rich in archaeological finds such as the collection of Roman milestones and the three ancient Greek columns standing side by side representing the Ionic, Corinthian and Doric orders of classical architecture.  Yet as you crest the hill and walk down towards the Celsus Library, you realise that the allure of Ephesus lies not just in the artefacts but in the largely intact archaeological wonders to be found here.

The Library of Celsus

Celsus Library

It is difficult to explain how impressive the library of Celsus is and it is not until you stand on its steps and look up that you can appreciate its scale. It was commissioned by Gaius Julius Aquila to honour his father, Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who had been governor of Asia. Construction began in 117 CE and continued to 135 CE.

Celsus Library Ephesus

 

Temple of Hadrian

Pediment Temple of Hadrian

The Temple of Hadrian is largely intact and is a beautiful structure dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian who visited the site in 128 CE. It is possible to step over the porch and into the main chamber of the temple but what really caught my eye was the level of detail in the lintels and pediments.

Temple of Hadrian

Ephesus Theatre

Ephesus Theatre

Standing at the height of the Ephesus Theatre, peering down at the crowds below, I felt unable to comprehend the enormity of this structure. How did they build it without the benefit of cranes and machinery and how did they design a venue with such perfect acoustics that it is used as a concert venue almost 2,000 years later? People have flown in to Turkey from all over the world to watch artists like Elton John and Pavarotti perform here at Ephesus.  

Stands of Ephesus Theatre

The theatre was first built in the third century BCE but expanded to a capacity of 25,000 seats in Roman times.

Trajan Fountain

Trajan Fountain

It was the clean lines and geometric structure of the Trajan Fountain that appealed to me the most. Built between 102 CE and 104 CE, the temple once stood at over twelve meters high but its elegant Corinthian columns succumbed to the demands of time. The fountain was dedicated to the Emperor Trajan.

Temple of Domitian

Temple of Domitian

Before travelling to Turkey, we knew little about ancient Roman culture and propriety. On our trip, we learned about neocorates and the cults and temples dedicated to the Imperial families of Rome. Essentially, communities were granted permission to worship their conquerors and Ephesus was the first city to receive this honour when the Emperor Domitian granted it temple wardenship in around 89 CE. Very little remains of this temple which once extended for 100 metres along the terrace but the foundations show that it was a massive structure.

Ephesus

We visited Ephesus on a hot early summer’s day and the experience has always remained with me. It always amazes me how much we can deduce about ancient culture through archaeology and history yet how much is lost to us forever.

Have you visited any of the ancient wonders of the world? Where should I visit next?

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Sunday, 2 November 2014

Must See: Sunny Afternoon at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Ned Derrington, John Dagleish, Adam Sopp and George Maguire in Sunny Afternoon. Photograph by Kevin Cummins

I've loved The Kinks for as long as I can remember, possibly all my life. They remind me of road trips with my Dad, singing along to “Sunny Afternoon” at the top of our lungs and serenading each other with “Days”. For the record, my Dad has a much better singing voice than I do but those are indeed days I’ll remember all my life.

The Kinks were there when I finished school, late nights at Bella Napoli in Johannesburg when revellers would flood the floor to dance to “Lola” and “You Really Got Me”.

I’m such a fan that when I was invited to see the new West End production of Sunny Afternoon, I said yes straight away without even checking to see if I was free that night. Nothing was going to keep me away.

Sunny Afternoon is as authentic as it gets and Ray Davies, lead singer of The Kinks, wrote the story in collaboration with playwright Joe Penhall. We learn how those first chords to “You Really Got Me” became one of the biggest chart anthems of all time and the influences behind Ray Davies' inspired lyrics. Through the music we learn how they were exploited by British music industry executives, how unions in America almost brought them down and how they made a legendary comeback in the summer of 1966.

The show is jam-packed with hits from The Kinks and features all of those mentioned so far as well as “Waterloo Sunset”, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, “I'm Not Like Everybody Else” and many more. Sunny Afternoon is obviously a must-see for fans of The Kinks but seeing the entire audience on their feet dancing by the end of the show made me realise this is a show for everyone.

John Dagleish in Sunny Afternoon. Photograph by Kevin Cummins.

John Dagleish is superb as the brooding and intense Ray Davies, lyrical genius and lead singer of the band. Dagleish managed to capture the boyish pitch of Ray's voice in his vocals and his performance was mesmerising, especially in his portrayal of Ray’s descent into depression.

George Maguire provided hilarious comic relief as Ray’s manic and irreverent younger brother Dave “The Rave” Davies. Just seventeen when “You Really Got me” was recorded, Dave went on to be voted one of Rolling Stone magazines 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time. Adam Sopp played drummer Mick Avory and Ned Derrington played the insecure bassist Pete Quaife who quite wrongly thought the band could survive without him.

I have long believed that I was born in the wrong era and have always loved 60s fashion so I especially appreciated the set design and costumes in Sunny Afternoon.  If you’re a fan of 60s music and fashion, especially of the British Invasion, then you’re going to love this show.

George Maguire, Ned Derrington, Dominic Tighe, Tam Williams and Adam Sopp in Sunny Afternoon. Photograph by Kevin Cummins

Sunny Afternoon. Photograph by Kevin Cummins

Would I recommend Sunny Afternoon? Of course I would. It is really that good and I’d quite like to go see it again. Luckily they’ve extended bookings to May 2015 so I might just get a chance to do so. 


Sunny Afternoon
Harold Pinter Theatre,
Panton Street,
London SW1Y 4DN

Book online

I received a pair of complimentary tickets to this performance which just about made me the happiest blogger of all time. As is always the case, I promise to share sincere and honest opinions with my readers.

All photography © Kevin Cummins

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

An Afternoon at the Geffrye Museum

Geffrye Museum

Sometimes life in London is so busy and your calendar so full that the only chance of spending time with your friends lies in both of you taking a day off work. This is what Kat and I decided to do recently when we both took a Friday afternoon off work so that I could spend some time with her and her cute-as-a-button toddler. Kat asked if I had ever been to the Geffrye Museum and I hadn’t so I was thrilled that we decided to spend our afternoon there.

The Geffrye Museum is a most unique museum indeed. Founded in 1914, the museum focuses on the homes of the English urban middle classes through a series of eleven period living rooms and specially maintained period gardens.

Geffrye Museum - entrance

We began our visit with a walk through the gardens. It was a sunny mid September afternoon and people were relaxing on the lawns or sitting on benches eating their lunch. I work right next to one of the most beautiful public spaces in London but even I felt a pang of jealousy when I looked at these people and I wished for a minute that I worked nearby so that I could spend lunch hours in this environment.

Geffrye Museum - pear treeGeffrye Museum - covered walkway

The award-winning gardens really are well maintained and well labelled for educational purposes. You can see a strictly designed Victorian garden followed by the rambling English country garden that evolved as a reaction to the Victorian era.

Geffrye Museum - gardens

Our visit then continued inside the museum. I won’t show you each of the eleven rooms as I wouldn't want to spoil it for you and I really do think the Geffrye is worth a visit. Instead, I’ll show you some of my favourites that we saw on the day.

Geffrye Museum - a hall in 1630

This first room represents a hall in 1630. The wood panelling reminded me of rooms I had seen inside Hall Place and Ightham Mote. We also saw parlours from 1695 and 1745.

Geffrye Museum - wallpaper detail in the library

We spent some time in the garden reading room and I was most impressed by the mural on the wall, especially in the detail of this butterfly. You might need to click on the photo above to enlarge it to see the detail properly.

Geffrye Museum - the chapel

The original almshouse chapel lies in the middle of the museum and I loved the way the light shone through the high windows.

Geffrye Museum - the art gallery

In the Reading Room you will find a selection of paintings depicting home life from the 17th to 19th century. This made me ponder on the forgotten art of painting and how there were relatively less art works in the 20th century depicting home life and every day life once photography became the preferred medium.

Geffrye Museum - A Parlour in 1790

The room above depicts a parlour in 1790. The wallpaper in this room was quite exquisite and I actually set off an alarm while trying to take a closer look at it. Thankfully the guide was really understanding and explained that the wallpaper was in fact hand painted and that I was right to find it so interesting.

Geffrye Museum - A drawing room in 1830

This was my favourite room. It is a drawing room in 1830 and I just loved the way the curtains cascaded onto the floor. That is my favourite shade of blue (and blue is my favourite colour).

Geffrye Museum - A Drawing room in 1870

This is a drawing room in 1870. I loved the fine China tea set and the lace curtains.

Geffrye Museum - At home in 1890

From the late 19th century, homes began to become more homely. This scene depicts a living room in 1890.

Geffrye Museum - Mid-Century Period Room

Another of my favourite rooms was this one which depicts a mid-century period room dating from approximately 1955 to 1965. This reminds me so much of my childhood and we still had lots of wooden cabinets and furniture with tapered legs in my own home and those of our friends and family. What fascinates me is how attractive and retro this is to me now but i distinctively remember finding such styles entirely distasteful by the late 1970s.

Geffrye Museum - cafe

We completed our visit with a long rest and chat in the museum cafe. They served up some delicious cake and we chatted away while the rain pounded down outside. It had been a muggy, humid London day and we were both relieved for the rain and happy that we were safely inside when it did come.

The Geffrye Museum is free to visit and just around the corner from the Hoxton Overground station. We really enjoyed our visit and I will certainly be back in the future.

Geffrye Museum
136 Kingsland Road
London
E2 8EA

Tel: 020 7739 9893
Open: Tuesday - Sunday 10am – 5pm
Bank Holiday Mondays 10am - 5pm

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A Coastal Walk in Guernsey

One dark and stormy Friday night a couple of weeks ago, I dashed across London to make my way to Gatwick Airport and on to the Channel island of Guernsey. I was very lucky indeed that my plane took off that evening for I later discovered that mine was the last flight permitted to depart before flights were suspended for severe weather conditions.

The weather was slightly calmer on landing in Guernsey although still decidedly damp. My lovely friends Jen, Melissa and Lindsay picked me up and we drove through the darkness to Jen’s house. After chatting late into the night and early morning, I collapsed into bed and fell asleep immediately. It had been a very long day indeed.

I woke up to this.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (2)

I had a fair idea of why Jen moved to Guernsey. She enjoys coastal runs, foraging and a life away from the chaos of the inner city. Now I understood why she loves it so much; can you imagine waking up to these views everyday?

A coastal walk in Guernsey (3)

These photos were taking from the back yard of Jen’s adopted home. She has views to the sea and the rolling hills of the nearby seaside farms. My heart soared as my lungs filled with crisp, fresh air. I wanted to stay there forever.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (4)

After the rain and storms of the previous evening, we could scarcely believe our luck at how beautiful the weather had turned out. We decided to take a walk down to the cliffs and follow the coastal path.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (5)

We walked along a narrow country road, ducking every now and then to the side as cars came trundling along. The doorway above belongs to the property that was once home to Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables. He came to live in Guernsey after he was exiled from France and Jersey.  The remains of his house – his summer home – were destroyed by the Nazis in the Second World War. (Thank you very much to Jen and Lindsay for telling me this story – I have to admit I wasn’t immediately familiar with who Hugo was. I resolve to immediately watch Les Miserables to make up for my crime against literature!)

A coastal walk in Guernsey (6)

I couldn’t help but snap a photo of this lamp post. Guernsey is just magical and every so often I’d get the feeling that I was actually walking through the pages of a children’s fantasy novel.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (7)

This is one of my favourite photos. I love the barbed wire in the foreground and the sloping grass down to the bright blue sea. The sea was really that colour!

A coastal walk in Guernsey (8)

I really like the reflection in the photo above and I love the idea of living in a house on a cliff, looking straight onto the sea. Those views must be pretty special.

Shortly after we passed this house, the girls decided that I should close my eyes for the next part. Believe me when I tell you that there is no greater display of trust than letting your friends guide you along the edge of sea cliffs while your eyes are closed.

It was absolutely worth it though for when I opened my eyes, I saw this.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (10)

I had to agree that the view was pretty spectacular. I even let out a bit of a gasp when I opened my eyes which really scared the man standing beside us who thought someone had fallen down the cliffs.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (13)

I looked to my right and saw a path leading up an incline, beckoning me to scamper up it like a billy goat. I know, I sound like an excited child but Guernsey inspired in me a desire to be free and explore.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (11)

I wasn’t going to argue in any event and I ran up the incline to see the undulating hills and countryside beyond.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (9)

I was touched by the dedication on this bench, “In loving memory of Annette Mason who loved these cliffs so much”. I could relate to that and imagined that one day Stephen and I might move to a place like this and be so happy that one of us would eave a dedication like this for the other. Of course, we’re very happy now but our dedication would read more like, “was a patient and loving parent to the most demanding cats on earth”. 

A coastal walk in Guernsey (12)

The view into the water from this point was quite dizzying. The sea gets its distinctive colour from the limestone in the cliffs but Jen tells me that it is completely transparent when you’re standing in it.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (14)

I quite liked this place marker, reminding us of Guernsey’s French heritage. At this point we’d returned from the direction the marker is pointing in and began to walk in the opposite direction.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (15)

The views here were equally impressive and I believe I took over 15 photos of this cove and more on my iPhone.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (16)

As we walked along the coastal path, we walked alongside properties which bordered the path. Can you imagine opening your back gate and seeing the views above? I can see my neighbour’s back yard.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (17)

It really was a really beautiful, warm day and hard to believe that it was the middle of October. We felt very fortunate indeed.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (18)

I was glad to get a reasonable photo of this gate. It had caught my eye on the way down but I’d worked hard to capture its charm in my previous photos.

A coastal walk in Guernsey

With one final look past Hugo’s old door, we soon came to the end of our lovely walk.

That evening about 15 women gathered to celebrate Canadian thanksgiving at Jen’s house. We had an incredible time and were only too happy to lounge around in our socks and pyjamas the next day when the weather took a dramatic and soggy turn.

Have you ever been to Guernsey? Which if the other nearby isles have you visited?

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Island Hopping: 6 Islands Within an Hour of London

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Last weekend I spent the weekend in Guernsey and I had a fantastic short break. I flew out straight after work on Friday and returned on Monday morning which meant I got to spend the weekend on an island without wasting any annual leave. I'll definitely return to Guernsey and am already planning our next trip but the success of our short mini-break has got me thinking about where else I can visit for just a weekend. Read on to discover six islands that you can visit that are located within an hour from the UK mainland.

Jersey

Located off the coast of Normandy, Jersey is an intriguing fusion of British and French culture. It’s the biggest of the Channel Islands set and boasts a stunning 47 mile coastline. Whether you’re into sandy beaches or rugged cliffs, Jersey has it all! There’s plenty of hotels to choose from and an abundance of charming cafes and restaurants to whittle away the days. If you want to getaway to Jersey for a relaxing break, budget airlines such as Flybe schedule flights departing from all the UK’s major cities from Exeter to Edinburgh.

Skye

For breathtakingly rugged scenery, Scotland’s Isle of Skye is a winning destination. Catch the ferry for a novel experience or simply drive over the Skye Bridge in a matter of minutes. Whichever route you choose to take, it’s well worth the effort. For whiskey lovers, a tour of the famous Talisker distillery is a must. Those wanting to work up a sweat can hike some of Skye’s spectacular mountain paths.

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Isle of Man

Nestled in between Ireland and England, the Isle of Man offers visitors quintessential old world charm. The island is peppered with castles, churches and abbeys which will please even the most well-read of history buffs. For those with a taste for adventure, the isle’s undulating interior offers great scenic hikes while coastal trails lead to magnificent viewpoints. For cheap transport to the Isle of Man, tourists need no longer rely on the ferry, British Airways flies direct from London City Airport.

Anglesey

Despite being just a short trip on the A5 off Wales, Anglesey feels worlds away from mainland Britain. Visitors can explore ancient castles, enjoy beautiful nature walks and even engage in some summertime water sports that give Spain a run for its money!

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Tresco

Off the coast of Cornwall lies a picturesque archipelago which flaunts a wonderful Mediterranean vibe. Tresco is by far the most popular island and boasts a fascinating history dating back to the Bronze Age. Whether you frolic in the crystal clear waters or explore the ancient Tresco Abbey Gardens, Tresco and the Isles of Scilly is just a short plane or ferry ride away!

Isle of Sark

It may be the smallest of the major British Channel Islands but the Isle of Sark is definitely worthy of a mention. The short-haul flight company Aurigny can get you there fast by air. The island has a no cars policy which keeps the air incredibly clean – perfect for those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Instead, visitors cycle, walk or take a horse drawn cart around the island’s 40 mile circumference. Thanks to the lack of infrastructure, the Isle of Sark is a great place to spot wildlife and indulge in a little star gazing.

With fantastic islands such as these, why bother travelling further afield to get your dose of fresh sea air?

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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Hidden Mews of Knightsbridge and Belgravia

Macarons in Mayfair (3)

And now for something completely different. A short while ago, we discovered that the expat curse was to strike again. For those that are not familiar with this term, I coined it some years ago to describe the fact that most expats ultimately return home and leave other, heartbroken expats in their wake. When Yannick and I learned that the lovely Kat would soon be departing for home, we began to conspire to treat Kat to a very special farewell walk.

Now if you know anything about Yannick’s walks, you’ll know that they are exceptionally well conceived and researched and we were very privileged indeed to join him on his inaugural Macarons and Mews walk.

I’m not going to give away any of the fascinating stories that Yannick regaled us with nor am I going to divulge where we sourced the mouth-watering, delicious macarons that we tasted on the walk. I will tell you that we explored the hidden mews and secret passageways of Knightsbridge and Belgravia and that if you love history, macarons and exploring hidden places then this is the walk for you.

I’ll let my photos tell you the story of our afternoon’s adventures. Enjoy!

Hidden mews in Mayfair (1)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (2)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (3)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (4)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (5)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (6)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (7)

Macarons in Mayfair (2)

Macarons in Mayfair (1)

Harrods

Secret mews in Mayfair (5)

Secret mews in Mayfair (1)

Bianka, Yannick and Mandy

Secret mews in Mayfair (2)

Secret mews in Mayfair (3)

Secret mews in Mayfair (4)

I have to admit that I’d never seen anything like any of these places before. The areas we explored were so quiet but there were definite signs of life!

If you’d like to visit Yannick on his delicious and fascinating Macarons and Mews walk, his Art Deco in Bloomsbury walk or his renowned Holland Park walk, you can book at his Eventbrite page.

Have you ever explored the hidden mews and secret passageways of Belgravia and Knightsbridge? Which secret part of London should I explore next?

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