A Mariner’s Dream at the Classic Boat Festival

Black Rose
Black Rose

With all the hustle and bustle of a modern city, it is sometimes easy to forget London’s proud naval and maritime history.  The invading Romans strategically established Londinium on the banks of the River Thames and by the 19th century the Port of London was the biggest port in the world. In its heyday, the Port of London was the seat of the world’s industry, trade and commerce.

Of course, with boats and shipping came not only a love for the high seas that seems to run in our veins but piracy, adventure, treasure and the discovery of the New World.

The Classic Boat Festival saw 34 of the finest vessels basking in the sunshine at St Katharine Docks as part of festivities of the Mayor's Thames Festival.


The Havengore is an ex survey vessel that was commissioned by the Port of London Authority in 1954.  She was the first vessel on the Thames to carry a computer, a General Automation SPC-16, installed in 1972. 

Creag Dubh
Creag Dubh

Creag Dubh (meaning ‘Black Rock’ in Gaelic) was named after a mountain in the Scottish Highlands.  Her home port is in Gillingham, Kent which is really close to where I live but she has sailed as far as The Isles of Scilly.

SB May
S/B May

May is a Thames sailing barge and is the Olympian of the group.  She has transported to Canda for the 1976 Olympics and has participated in the east coast Sailing Barge races, winning the Thames Chamion pennant five times between 1995 and 2007.


The Roskilde was one of my favourite of these grand old vessels, simply because she has been used for such great good.  Roskilde was used as a teaching vessel on the Thames to teaching sailing to children in care.  Apparently the original owner, Rozelle Raynes wrote a book about this called Tuesday Boys but sadly, I couldn’t find an Amazon link for the book.


Tasia appealed to me because she had great crimson sails in her photograph on the information board.  If anything captures the imagination more, it was this fancy Bermudian Sloop who began as a gentleman’s cruising yacht in 1937.  I have to admit, the idea of embarking on a voyage on the wide open seas with a handful of books and some sun cream is especially attractive right now.  I wonder if I could convince Stephen of this?

Doris Leigh

Doris was my favourite of all of the boats we saw at St Katharine Docks.  Not only was she the prettiest, but she had such a lovely history.  She was built in 1909 and named after one of the owner’s daughters.  Later in 1999, the original owner’s grandson stepped aboard the Thames Bawley for the first time, thus completing the circle.  I love that type of thing.

St Katharine Dock Classic Boat Festival
Sunshine at the St Katharine Dock Classic Boat Festival 2012

Naturally, not a single summer post can go by without me remarking how wonderful the weather was.  I’m hoping to store all of these wonderful images to use in the depth of winter when I’m no longer feeling as optimistic.  Having said that, I absolutely intend to avoid the winter blues this year in keeping with the tradition that I began a coupe of years ago.


The final boat is the appropriately named Sunbeam.  Originally built in 1881, Sunbeam was one of the few boats fishing out of Brightlingsea, Essex during World War I.  Can you imagine the things that these majestic old vessels have seen?  Sunbeam fell into rot (I love the naval version of ‘disrepair’) after the war but was thankfully fully restored in the 70s and sailing again by 1983.

St Katharine Dock
St Katharine Dock

It seems that I am forever falling in love with a different area of London but St Katharine Docks has to be my discovery of 2012.  I am really keen on going one evening to photograph the area at night.  Until then, I will dream of the wind in my sails and the soft rush of water as I breathe in the salt air.

Featured Photo: Reflection


When we visited the Mayor's Thames Festival two weekends ago, I spotted this reflection as we rounded the corner to Gabriel’s Wharf.  I knew immediately that it would make a fabulous featured photo and so I stopped dead and hauled out my camera to capture it. 

It might be worth noting, for beginner photographers, that stopping dead in extremely crowded situations will not only make the crowds around you pretty irate, but it will also cause your husband to wander off and pretend he doesn't know you.

Still, I think it is worth it.  Somehow, I captured a mood, the last gasp of optimism and joy as we celebrated a fantastic British summer and welcomed in the autumn. 

Can you believe that I used to dislike autumn?  I don’t anymore.  I’m looking forward to wearing scarves and elegant tights, cardigans and bright autumn colours.  What I missed most this summer was darkness and lights and I’m looking forward to the endless night too. 

I’m also determined to get back indoors after a summer outside, which sounds crazy, I know, but I resolve to frequent more museums, art galleries and events this autumn. 

I’m especially looking forward to seeing people.  I’m looking forward to hearty meals and hot drinks with friends, long walks and cosying up in coffee shops afterwards.

I’m feeling truly blessed as I have two visitors from South Africa visiting this weekend and then a week later.  I love having visitors from home (and especially love it when they bring me Peppermint Crisps).  We also have a lovely group of expat and bloggers that get together from time to time.  Winter has become so much less daunting since we all became friends.  It would be impossible to underestimate the impact of friendships on the expat experience, that is for sure!

And then in 90 days I arrive in South Africa.  Is it too soon to start counting down?

What are your plans for the autumn?

Postcards from Santa Susanna, Catalunya

I have a confession to make and I’m a little embarrassed to do so.  I went on a classic beach holiday recently and I absolutely loved it.  We had the opportunity to go to nearby Barcelona and Girona but instead, we spent our week in Santa Susanna, Catalunya doing… very little.

We went to the beach, we suntanned by the pool, we took a little tour around the Old Town and we ate lots of incredible Catalunyan food.  We learned that Catalunyan bartenders don’t measure spirits and we learned why they wish you good luck when they give you cocktails.

It was the best holiday I have ever had

So I apologise dear readers because quite unlike my usual 500 photographs, I came back with 35, seven of which weren’t of the beach.

Don’t worry though, it doesn’t mean that I’ve given up travelling or that my Kindle has finally taken the place of my blog, but I do think I’ll be taking at least one beach holiday every year or two in future!

The Santa Susanna El Cuc

This is El Cuc, the tourist train that takes you up into the mountains of Santa Susanna, around the residential areas and through the Old Town.  It was ridiculously cheap at €4 per person for an hour and it was a great way to orient yourself to the town.

Views of Santa Susanna

Santa Susanna is a beach resort in Catalunya, Spain (although the locals will go to some lengths to explain to you that Catalunya is not Spain).  It lies on the Costa de Barcelona-Maresme between Barcelona and Girona.  It really is perfectly placed if you want to visit both of these old cities and it was why I chose it in the first place. 

Views of the Mediterranean from Santa Susanna

How beautiful is that?  The little cream building with the brown roof just right of centre in the photo above was our awesome hotel, the Aqua Hotel Montagut.  I have never received such incredible service before and everything from the room to the food was perfect.

Houses of Santa Susanna, Catalunya

There were some lovely villas in the hills.  I’ve always been fond of Spanish-style villas and they are extremely popular in Johannesburg.  I could just imagine us living here!

Nature in Santa Susanna

We were a little surprised to see that autumn seemed to have come early in the hills of Santa Susanna.  It was a different world by the coastline, not nearly as arid.

Avinguda del Mar Santa Susanna

I admit, we weren’t completely lazy.  We took lots of walks up and down the Avinguda del Mar.  On the second night we were here, there was a fabulous street market taking place the whole way down this avenue with the most colourful and beautiful stalls.  I had no idea that it only ran on Tuesday nights or else I would have been taking lots of photos!

Santa Susanna train station

This is the Santa Susanna train station and it is opposite the tourist information kiosk.  It is really easy to catch a train to Barcelona, the botanical gardens in Blanes or the old town of Girona.  We thought the prices sounded really inexpensive compared to what we pay in London and the journey to both Girona or Barcelona was about an hour.  Note that we found all of this out but didn’t go on any trips!

I can just hear you asking what it was, exactly, that I did all week.  Well, there was a little bit of this:

Platja de Levante, Santa Susanna

And a lot of this:

The Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean from Santa Susanna

I listened to Alex Clare, Moby and The Heavy as well as Nick Cave & Warren Ellis.  I read a couple of novellas and then discovered Cassandra Clare’s excellent City Of Bones.  We swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time and fell in love with Catalunya, as we knew we would.  And most of all? We just spent time together.

It was fabulous but we did promise that we will return to Girona or Barcelona within a year to make up for being Bad Travellers.

When was the last time you truly relaxed on a beach? Or do you prefer to explore and travel and discover instead?

A Fantastic Day Out at the Mayor’s Thames Festival

The Mayor's Thames Festival - City Hall

On Saturday afternoon, we made the most of the last great day of summer and headed to the Mayor’s Thames Festival.  The festival is held every year in September to mark the end of the summer and what a celebration it was! This year hundreds of thousands of people attended and London was packed!

We began our own tour at London Bridge and headed down past City Hall to Tower Bridge.  We wandered through the street market, marvelling at the gorgeous handbags, trinkets and fresh food stalls but kept going as we were just at the beginning of a long day.

The Arigatos on London Bridge

It was a lovely warm day and it occurred to me as I walked over Tower bridge that I can’t remember when last I did so.  It is such a grand old bridge and the atmosphere was festive and jolly.

Tower Bridge

Our first actual port of call was to visit the Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine’s Docks.  It was my first time at St Katharine’s Docks and it immediately became one of my favourite secret London spots.  We enjoyed the boat festival so much that I think I’ll dedicate an entire post to it.

The Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine's Dock

After walking around St Katharine’s Docks twice, we still had some time to spare and went in search of something to eat.  We were really lucky in that we ate some truly fabulous food.  First up was dessert, naturally, and I chose a banana fritter from a stall serving all kinds of vegan delights including crumbles, mud pies and fruit puddings.  Can I just say that the chaps serving were just lovely?

Food at the Mayor's Thames Festival

Next I had a Turkish feta flatbread from Kilikya's with spinach in yogurt, roasted red peppers, olives and hoummus.  It was simply astounding, perhaps the best Turkish food I have ever had.   

Thames Clipper Service - Mayor's Festival

There was a free river taxi shuttle between St Katharine’s Docks and Festival Pier.  The Captain had us in stitches with his excellent and hilarious commentary in which he subtly included some pretty adult jokes!  It was just fantastic.

Helter Skelter - Mayor's Thames Festival

On arriving at Festival Pier, we made our way down to Gabriel’s Wharf.  This is a walk I take often in the mornings before work and it usually takes about ten minutes but on this occasion it took about half an hour!  The crowds were simply crazy and it was really hot too!  I was so thirsty and found that we were barely making it from stall to stall without buying more water or fruit juice  It was a really great summer’s day.

Oshu Kanatsu-Ryu Dance Troupe at Mayor's Thames Festival

Our reasons for braving the crowds was to catch the Shishi-Odori dance by the Oshu Kanatsu-Ryu Dance Troupe.  It was a really good performance but was understandably short as the dancers needed to take a rest due to the heat and their elaborate costumes.  The crowds were ten-people-deep around the dancers and it is a pity that they weren’t in a more open area.  I would have liked to have seen them better (and there is a lovely, open park with a natural bowl next door to Gabriel’s Wharf).

Shishi-Odori dance

I did get a closer look at their costumes.  Can you imagine wearing that never mind dancing in it?

Gabriel's Wharf

Have I mentioned how much I like Gabriel’s Wharf?  I’m usually walking through it at 8am or passing through on the weekends.  I do hope to spend an afternoon there one day.

South African traditional dress at Ekhaya

Our final stop wasn’t strictly part of the Mayor’s Thames festival but it was our last stop of the day. We went to Ekhaya (South Africa’s Home Away From Home during the Olympics) at the Elizabeth Hall in Southbank.  We have 11 official languages in South Africa reflecting all of our different cultures, so in the photo above, you can see the traditional dress of four of those cultural groups: SiSwati, SePedi, TshiVenda and IsiXhosa.

What a fabulous, colourful, warm and festive day.  And best of all? It was all free, except for our food and drinks of course.  I can’t wait until next year.

Of course, it seems that the whole of London received the end-of-summer memo because come Monday morning, it was cold, grey and gloomy and certainly not t-shirt weather anymore.  What a pity, it was a short but fabulous summer.

Featured Photo: Ships in the Mediterranean

Ships in the Mediterranean

I’ve always felt slightly jealous of people’s plane window snapshots.  I’ve never really had the courage to haul my camera out of the overhead locker and brazenly take a photo out of the window but then air-stewardesses do kind of scare me.

But when we flew out over the Mediterranean Sea to prepare for our landing at Barcelona Airport two weeks ago, I just knew I had to capture a photo of these ships that I could see out of the plane window.  Thankfully, I wasn’t caught taking photos during our descent!

So I apologise for the quality – this was taken through a window after all as well as a thin layer of cloud – but I’m glad I finally joined the club of the mile-high photo snappers!

A Sad Goodbye to Wenlock and Mandeville

Wow, can you believe that the final day of the Paralympics is here already?  I can’t believe London’s Olympic dream is finally over and that we’ll soon be handing the baton to Brazil.  It occurred to me last night that this is it – there is no “next time” to look forward to.  Well, to mark the end of the Olympic journey, join me as I continue my trail in search of the Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville.  And this is indeed farewell as they will soon begin to disappear from our parks and walkways.  I wish they could stay forever!

All of these photos were taken on a wet and rainy Friday afternoon two weeks ago, many from underneath my ailing umbrella.  I walked from Tower Hill, through the City to St Paul and across the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern and on to London Bridge before landing up at City Hall.

Monument Wenlock

The first mascot I spotted on this occasion was Monument Wenlock, named after The Monument to the Great Fire of London in 1666.  Given that he looks nothing like the Monument, I’m going to guess that he is meant to look like the giant flame which sits above it.

His plaque says: “What a view! I can see the whole of the City of London from the top of here”.  I haven’t been to the top of the Monument yet and I was so tempted to do so but I had important mascot-spotting duties ahead!

Londinium Wenlock

One of the favourite mascots of all and my reason for taking this second walk was Londinium Wenlock which was located in Leadenhall Market.  How cute is that? I just love his little Roman skirt. 

Leadenhall Market Wenlock

Just around the corner, I located Leadenhall Market Wenlock.  I love this market and loved how you can see the glass roof on his tummy.

Sir Wenlock

Arise Sir Wenlock! This is Stephen’s favourite Wenlock of all and he loved this little Knight which was located in Guildhall.

Guildhall Wenlock

Just around the corner was Guildhall Wenlock who didn’t seem to offended by the graffiti tag on his eye.  His plaque says: “I’m guarding the City of London for the Lord Mayor with my giant friends Gog and Magog”.  I was personally pleased that I didn’t run into Gog and Magog myself!

City Wenlock

Londinium Wenlock’s biggest competitor for the title of My Favourite Wenlock of All was the oh-so-dashing City Wenlock.  Isn’t he just gorgeous in his pin-stripe suit?

Sonnet Wenlock

Just around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral, I spotted Sonnet Wenlock, a tribute to the Great Bard.  I think he would have been better placed across the river, in front of the Globe Theatre but for some reason, that is where Mandeville was. 

By the way, I totally repositioned the City of London chair to get what I thought was a better photo.  I thought it was a nice little inclusion in the frame.

Telephone Box Wenlock

By far, the most popular Wenlock of all was Telephone Box Wenlock located in front of St Paul’s Cathedral.  I had to wait about ten minutes to grab this photo as there was a continuous stream of little children climbing all over it.  Not that I mind.  I love that each mascot had a plaque explaining its importance and thought this was a fabulous opportunity to take children on an educational treasure hunt across the city.  Anyway, that’s why the exposure on the photo is slightly out as I had to capture it in a hurry.  The roses look good though.

St Paul's Mandeville

St Paul’s Mandeville was just lovely and had the most gorgeous chequered design across his front and back.  I wish there were more Mandeville’s across the City!

Arty Wenlock

Crossing over the Millennium Bridge, Arty Wenlock was located just outside the Tate Modern.  I definitely think they should have gone with a Pop Art or Surrealist design instead!


I originally thought that Mandeville was the very last mascot I spotted, seeing that Wenlock was the first one I spotted when I on the trail of Wenlock and Mandeville.  I’m glad he wasn’t because there were some good ones further down along the river.  He was standing just to the right of the Globe Theatre and I definitely think Sonnet Wenlock should have been standing here instead.

Rainbow Wenlock

Don’t tell him I said this, but I definitely thought that Rainbow Wenlock was the most boring of all the mascots that I spotted.  He was meant to represent the whole of Great Britain but I’m sorry, there can be only one Rainbow Nation.

Pirate Wenlock

Pirate Wenlock is definitely my third favourite Wenlock and he was standing in front of the Golden Hinde in Southwark.  What a jolly young sailor!

Southwark Wenlock

Southwark Wenlock was standing just in front of Southwark Cathedral.  You might be interested (or disturbed) to know that I got down on one knee in the middle of the road, in the rain, to capture this photo.  I just wanted to include some of the cathedral in the photo!

Maritime Wenlock

Maritime Wenlock was standing just beside HMS Belfast.  I love how you can see the rivets and panels in his design and that just happens to be my favourite colour too.

Skyline Wenlock

The very last Wenlock on my trail was Skyline Wenlock..  You can spot City Hall and Tower Bridge in the background with the Paralympic Arigatos hanging down.  His plaque read: “I’ve been counting London’s famous buildings and landmarks. How many can you spot?”  Well, I had quite a journey tracking down these mascots and absolutely enjoyed this treasure hunt. 

I will be truly sad to bid farewell to all of the Wenlocks and Mandevilles.

Featured Photo: The Navigators at Hays Galleria

The Navigators - Hays Galleria

If you visit Hays Galleria on the south bank of the Thames (just below London Bridge Station), you’ll discover the magnificent steampunk sculpture The Navigators.  This is a massive, moving bronze sculpture that is part fish and part ship.  Created in 1987 by sculptor David Kemp, it is meant to commemorate the Galleria’s shipping heritage.  Hays Galleria is currently a shopping centre with boutique stores and restaurants but was once a large warehouse situated on Hays Wharf (from which it takes its name).

The Navigators is notoriously difficult to photograph because, in all honesty, it is far too big for the space it is in.  I was glad to finally get a reasonable shot of it.