Featured Photo: A Cruise to Ambleside

Cruise to Ambleside

The other day my friend Jen commiserated with me regarding the lack of sunshine during my trip to Windermere.  I don’t mind the lack of sunshine.  It was an opportunity for me to embrace and fall in love with clouds, as opposed to my previous practice of overexposing my photos or avoiding clouds altogether.

This photo was taken on a cruise from Bowness-on-Windermere to Ambleside.  The glacier head is situated just behind the dip to the right of the photo above, in the valley.  This is where the glacier began its long journey through the valley before carving out Windermere.

Introducing the Night Market at Camden Lock

Colours and textures at the Night Market atCamden Lock

I have a burning memory of Camden Lock in the late 1970s. Long summer days spent relaxing in the sun, with my uncle jamming with his band and me inevitably tearing up and down the pathways. It was a languid, festive atmosphere in contrast to the busy, crowded scenes we meet on weekends at Camden in the present day.

The Night Market at Camden Lock from above

Of course, the magic is still there if you get a chance to visit during weekdays, but local residents and visitors alike don't often get that chance. In addition, many of the people I speak to say they haven't been to Camden in ages, put off by the crowds and the one-way tube system at Camden Town Underground Station on Sundays.

The Bridge Over Camden Lock

Believe it or not, Camden Lock is turning 40 this year and they are on a drive to reclaim that laid-back vibe with the launch of the Night Market at Camden Lock which will open every Thursday from 6pm to 10pm.  On Thursday, Mela and I went along for an evening of good food, live music and sundowners among some of Camden's most famous arts and craft stalls.

Barge at Camden Lock

So what did we do?  We met at 6pm and headed straight to Chin-Chin Labs to sample their famous ice cream. Well, okay, we didn't head straight there because we got a bit lost but just so you know, it is opposite Shaka Zulu.

Chin-Chin Labs

If you like ice cream, you have to go to Chin-Chin Labs. The service is fantastic and we were supremely  fortunate to arrive during a brief lull in the queue (they are known for having a very long queue and it certainly began to build again as we were placing our order).   Chin-Chin Labs is a fabulous concept boutique where ice cream is made right before your eyes from fresh ingredients and then frozen on the spot with liquid nitrogen. They haven't been there for very long but it is easy to see why they are so popular.

Making Ice Cream at Chin-Chin Labs

And the taste?  Oh. My. Hat. My Valrhona Chocolate Ice Cream tasted like a cold, creamy, delicious bar of dark chocolate and the recommendation to add the raspberry sauce was an excellent one. The taste was subtle and not too sweet and I greatly enjoyed it. In fact, I finished it really quickly and sat for the next ten minutes enviously eyeing Mela’s ice cream.

Chin-Chin Labs usually close at 7pm but they are planning to remain open until 9pm on Night Market evenings so be sure to keep up to date with them on their Twitter feed: @ChinChinLabs for details.

After eating our ice cream, we wandered back into the market in search of something to eat.  (Yes, we are grown ups, we can eat dessert first).  We decided to get some delicious Polish sausage at the Polish food stall complete with potatoes, mustard, garlic butter and fresh homemade bread.  It was delicious and I was enjoying it far too much to photograph it!

Jessica Sweetman at Camden Lock Market

While we were eating, we sat down to watch Jessica Sweetman, an excellent young performer.  She played one or two covers, including one by The Cure but it was her own song, Tom's Gone (The Bastard Song) that really caught my attention.  It was brilliant!

When Jessica had finished playing, we met up with a lovely bunch of PR people and fellow bloggers in Cafe Chula and chatted away as the sun finally began to settle on the horizon. 

I really hope that the Night Market at Camden Lock takes off and can just imagine it being the place to be in all seasons.  It is such a lovely idea and I’ll definitely be returning soon.

Featured Photo: Boats on Windermere

Boats on Windermere

I’m at that awkward point in life where I am exactly as far away from my last holiday as I am from my next.  Five weeks ago, I was in the beautiful Lake District in Cumbria, spending lazy afternoons on cruises or catching ferries between the small towns and villages.

In five weeks time, I leave for Santa Susana in the Costa Brava in Spain and I cannot wait for some sunshine!

I was waiting outside by the edge of the water one afternoon during our visit to Windermere and I looked down and saw these boats.  Somehow it captured that moment in my holiday perfectly.  A lazy, relaxed time floating at the water’s edge without a care in the world.  What a fantastic week.

One Hundred Words for Green

Hawkshead Parish Church

It amazes me that there aren’t a hundred words for “green” in the English language as there are for “snow” in Icelandic.  I wonder whether our ancestors actually opened their eyes as they settled across the British Isles, whether they could see what I see.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I mentioned in my last post that I had begun to consider whether Hawkshead had much more to offer when I climbed a set of stairs to the Hawkshead Parish Church.

And then I got to the top of the stairs, turned around and saw this.

The Beatrix Potter Shop Hawkshead

How many shades of green can you count there?  I can count at least twenty.  This country can be absolutely breathtaking and as much as we complain about the rain, it wouldn’t be that pretty if this were a dry season.

You may notice the Beatrix Potter store.  There were stores all over Cumbria as this was where she lived as an adult.

War Memorial Hawkshead

Not only were the views impressive, but I found the churchyard to be quite inspiring too.  The inscription on the war memorial above reads:

Let those who
come after
see to it that
their names be
not forgotten
John R. Clifton
John R. Crossley
Ernest M. Hodgson

I imagine that the inhabitants of this tiny village really felt the loss of those three men.

The Church Gate

The churchyard even inspired my father who specifically requested that I take the photo above.  Something about the gate intrigued him so.

The View Over the Rooftops

I’d noticed in the past that my photos are often overexposed as I try to adjust for the effects of clouds and bad lighting.  On this day I tried to embrace the clouds and to capture them in all of their dramatic, moody glory.  It certainly helped because I can count another dozen shades of green in the photo above..

Hawkshead Church

There has been a chapel on this site since the 12th century and following increments to its length and width in the 13th and 15th centuries, there were final adjustments to the roof and windows in 1585.  What you see today is essentially how the church has appeared since the 16th century and that is pretty impressive.

A Dizzying View of Hawkshead

Almost as impressive as this dizzying view of the hills surrounding Hawkshead.


Of course, much as I would have liked to, I could not stay in the churchyard all afternoon.  For just a moment, I put my camera aside and just stood taking in the view below. It is hardly surprising that a language that fails to provide one hundred words for green would prove inadequate in describing such beauty.  Surely I’m not the only one who feels rejuvenated after seeing such scenes?

The View from Hawkshead

Realising that I was all alone on top of the hill, I slowly made my way back down to the village.  I made sure to appreciate the path down though, doesn’t it look promising?

The Path Less Taken

Featured Photo: Windermere


I wish that I could paint a picture for you of what I expected before we went to Windermere.  I expected a sad little overcrowded man-made lake, stuffed full of boats and surrounded by greasy spoons.  In short, I had no idea that I was about to visit one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Windermere is the largest natural lake in England and it is over a mile across at its widest point.  It is a ribbon lake formed by glaciers so visitors to the region are treated to hills, mountains, valleys and secondary lakes as well as forests and meadows. 

This photo was taken at Bowness-on-Windermere which is where we walked to nearly every day of our stay.

Isn’t it great to be proven wrong?

Exploring the Cumbrian Town of Hawkshead

Hawkshead Grammar School and Parish Church

Whenever I’ve spoken to people about my trip to Windermere in Cumbria, I’ve generally noted that there are two types of people: those who haven’t been to Cumbria and want to know where it is, how we got there, where we stayed and what we did and so on, and those who have been who usually just smile, knowingly.  Cumbria has it all and it is one of the most exciting regions that I have visited in Britain. 

There is breathtaking scenery, with the exquisite meres stretching out between hills and valleys and views that literally brought tears to my eyes on the first day that we were there.  There are a variety of ways to travel across and around the meres, whether by bus, ferry, car or hiking and there is an array of little towns and villages to discover, each with its own history, culture, food and charm. 

The Honeypot in Hawkshead

Hawkshead was the first of these magical little villages that we visited during our recent trip to Cumbria.  By the way, Cumbria is situated on the north-western tip of England and is north of Lancashire and Yorkshire and just south of Scotland.   On the day that we visited, I was feeling quite uninspired as it was pretty cold and cloudy on that occasion (in June) so we began our visit with a delicious lunch of soup and homemade bread at the Naturally Hawkshead Cafe inside the Hawkshead store.  Feeling full and slightly more cheerful, we took a stroll around the old town.

Kings Arms Hote Hawkshead

The most impressive aspect of Hawkshead is how well-presented the town is despite being really old.  The Hawkshead Grammar School where poet William Wordsworth attended was built in 1585 and the Minstrels Gallery is a traditional tea-room that dates back to the 15th century.  Hawkshead is older than that though!  I discovered on the Hawkshead website that the town was originally named after a Norse settler Haukr and was first recorded as Houksete in around 1200.

Minstrels Gallery Tea room Hawkshead

Jubilee fever had swept through the whole of Cumbria and we could see the Union Flag everywhere we looked.  This is such a welcome change to the situation just three years ago when I came back from New York and questioned why we never saw the flag here as often as it is displayed in countries like the USA and South Africa.

I was very amused by the scene below, with the multitude of flags on Flag Street.

Flag Street Hawkshead

The Honeypot is one of the most famous shops in Hawkshead and it was easy to see why.  They have a section of the most delicious foods and delicacies with fast, friendly and efficient service.  I mention this because the Honeypot is very popular and they are nearly always busy!

Olives in the Honeypot Hawkshead

One word of warning: don’t go to The Honeypot with anything but an empty stomach.  To this day I regret not buying more food from them but we did buy a delicious round of cured meat with some olives and local cheese. 

Inside the Honeypot Hawkshead

Don’t you just love the giant blue teacup in the photo above?  I could really use one of those on Monday mornings!

The Fitzwilliam Hawkshead

We pottered around a little bit more but I have to admit, I was starting to wonder how much more Hawkshead had to offer.  Quite a lot it turns out.

Jubilee Bouquets Hawkshead

We turned a corner and found that we were behind the Parish church that you could see in the first photo above.  Just at the top of those stairs, we discovered the most incredible views of the village and surrounding areas.  We also got a chance to visit the old Grammar School and to see the desk where William Wordsworth etched his name.

Market Hall Cottage Hawkshead

But that is the topic of a whole other post, naturally.

Featured Photo: Hall Place in Bloom

Hall Place

We visited Hall Place in Bexley in December and while we were really impressed by the house and grounds, I just knew that we had to come back in the summertime.  Of course, knowing that I felt that way makes it even more irritating that I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to leave my camera at home on Friday.  The photo above was taken with my iPhone 4S.

I guess that means that I have to go back there again because the gardens were absolutely exquisite and a far cry from the dormant and seemingly barren gardens that we saw during the winter.

Have you ever truly regretted leaving your camera at home?

BT Artbox Spotting in London, WC2N

There seems to be no end to the rampant consumerism on display in London at this time.  Certainly, nobody is missing out on the chance to take advantage of the excitement of the Queen’s Jubilee and the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games to peddle their wares.  So it is little surprise that the installation of BT Artboxes across London met with more than a little bit of scepticism.  The Londonist branded the jazzed up K6 telephone boxes as Tartboxes, a reference to both their tarted up looks and their excessive branding. 

Well, it turns out there may be very noble reason for the appearance of these boxes in our fair city.  Childline is turning 25 this year and the BT Artbox initiative is raising money for that cause.  Big brands are invited to sponsor a box and are put in touch with top artists and designers to create their piece of art.  The BT Artboxes will be auctioned off at the end of the summer and all proceeds will go to celebrating Childline’s 25th anniversary.

On a personal level, I quite like these replicas of the old Gilbert Scott phone box.  I like them a little bit more than the Easter eggs (maybe because I spotted so few!) but not as much as the beautiful Elephants from the Elephant Parade.  That is one of the best things about living in London, there is always something quirky and unique going on.

BT Artbox 15 - Fred Butler - Mobile Phone BT Artbox 19 - David Mach - T for Telephone BT Artbox 22 - Ted Baker - Teds Ding a Bling Box

BT Artbox 27 - Cosmo Sarson - Peekaboo BT Artbox - Harvey Nichols BT Artbox 80 - Heart 106-2 - Heart Box London

BT Artbox 28 - Rob & Nick Carter - Untitled BT Artbox 21 - Harvey Nichols - Harvey Nichols London BT Artbox - Accessorize - Ring Ring for Britain

What do you think? Do you think these boxes exude personality and quirkiness, or are they just advertisements that are just too obviously branded to be lovable?

Featured Photo: Pluto at the Nymphenburg Palace

Statue of Pluto at the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich

During our short trip to Munich in April, we visited the Nymphenburg Palace and Gardens.  We really enjoyed wandering around the beautiful sculptured gardens and surrounding woodlands but it was this statue that really caught my eye.

This is one of several mythological figures sculpted for the palace by Dominik Auliczek between 1777 and 1778.  At first, I thought it might be Poseidon or Neptune, having mistaken his sceptre for a trident, but at his feet lay his trusted three-headed hellhound Cerberus.

Also known as Hades, Pluto was the ruler of the Underworld.



In other news, my PC has been fixed! It needed a new power supply and graphics card but it is all up and running again and I have access to my photos, music and Photoshop again! Can I just say that Le Husband was pretty awesome in getting in fixed for me!

And in final news, Blogger is still marking all of my comments as spam so if you've had comments from me that appear to have disappeared, please check your spam box.