Wednesday, 26 September 2018

MURDER ON THE BELMOND EXPRESS


It was both my mum's and my birthday last week and before she arrived in London I'd been brainstorming what we could possibly do to celebrate in the city. I'd seen the Belmond British Pullman pop up on instagram a number of times since earlier in the year but it wasn't until much later when I was pushed for birthday ideas did I remember that my mum has this cute affinity for train rides and journeys as she was always on them as a little girl. Combined with my love for all things vintage and retro, I thought it would be perfect to book a trip for us as a joint birthday treat. The Belmond British Pullman is designed in the way of the glamorous 1920s trains (think Orient Express) with the most aesthetically pleasing golden, woody interiors and cream and green furniture. Starting from Victoria Station, they offer many different routes, destinations and packages. Whole days or half days, to castles or beaches, there's definitely an adventure to tickle everyone's fancy. As huge Agatha Christie fans and also longing to go all out with the Orient Express experience, we opted for the "Murder Mystery Lunch" which entails a five hour round trip (so we don't actually leave the train), during which time a five-course meal is served and a murder mystery story is told with live actors. You have to figure out "whodunnit" based on the clues given to you by each character, before the train arrives back at Victoria station in the afternoon. 


I was so excited on the morning of and donned this beautiful Self Portrait dress that I'd been saving for my birthday. We were running a bit late but the service at the station was great, once we checked in at the concierge, we were directed to our respective carriage and compartment without feeling rushed at all. Once I got inside, I found that I perfectly matched the green interior, something I hadn't planned at all, believe it or not. Canapes and champagne were waiting on our table and before the train started moving, the first of the actors came in and explained the initial story of the murder: her relation to the victim and her alibi. We were given a sheet to note down our findings as the journey went on and the story progressed. The train route would pass through Surrey and Kent, around to Whitstable, Essex, then back into London, so views of the green English countryside accompanied our seemingly constant flow of food. The entree was pea and ricotta soup, followed by crispy sea bass for mains (my personal favourite), Eton Mess cheesecake for dessert, finishing off with a cheeseboard and truffles. Between each course, an actor or two would come into our compartment and tell their character's story (I think there were six characters in all) and we just had to listen and take note of any clues we might find. I had previously thought I'd be no good at solving the mystery but I found myself really getting into it and analysing the tiniest things. It was a lot of fun to ponder it with mum, who gave ideas but left most of the figuring out to me. From the get-go, it seemed that the victim's new wife and biological daughter had the most motive to kill, which meant to me that they were the least likely to be guilty as per Agatha Christie style, it's always the one you least suspect in the end who actually did the deed.  I scribbled down my final answer on which character I thought was the culprit just as we whizzed back into London and one of the staff collected each table's sheets before we gathered in the main carriage to find out the solution to the mystery. It was actually such a complicated story and I didn't get most of the details and the motive right but I was surprised when they announced that we were the only team to have named the right murderer and therefore the winners for the day! Wow, maybe I should quit my day job and look into becoming a detective. We were awarded a gorgeous Bellmond British Pullman edition of Murder on the Orient Express.
 

Winning the game was definitely the cherry on top of a fantastic day. Mum and I truly enjoyed our time aboard the Pullman, as you can surmise, we found ourselves totally immersed in the murder mystery entertainment and decided all the food was absolutely delicious. I usually get motion sickness pretty easily too so I was a little apprehensive about dining non-stop on a train but it all turned out fine and I think I would've gotten carsick before feeling anything from this train, which is saying a lot.  The five hour journey completely flew by and one of the staff actually had to call me out of my reverie, announcing that we had in fact arrived as I was still sitting in awe at where the time had gone as the train slowly pulled back into Victoria Station. It was an unforgettable experience and felt like we had truly stepped back in time. I'm eyeing up some of the longer journey options now, it would be cool to ride on the train to a destination we can stop at next time.



Share:

Thursday, 20 September 2018

THEATRE | FOXFINDER STARRING IWAN RHEON & HEIDA REED


I remember being really into dystopian novels when I was in high school, something about a strange and dangerous alternate world really fascinated me, along with the relatability of the suffering of human characters (kind of grim when I think back on it, but it's true). Unfortunately I've lost quite a bit of my reading mojo since then and it took a new play announcement lead by Game of Throne's Iwan Rheon and the promise of a dark dystopian tale to jog my memory back to school libraries and pique my interest to book tickets to see Foxfinder


Ambassadors Theatre was one of the few play venues in London that I'd never set foot in beforehand though I'd always walk past it on the way to the Donmar. On first inspection, it's built much like your traditional West End theatres, only fractionally smaller. When the curtain first opened to reveal the stage, my breath was stolen by how beautiful I found the design, a perfect bleed of a rustic house interior into a dark forest with trees bursting from the floor and reaching towards the high ceilings. Unfortunately, I soon learnt that there wouldn't be much else for me to praise beyond the set design. Foxfinder tells the story of a farmer couple, the Coveys (Heida Reed and Paul Nicchols) who fear they will not make their annual harvest quota. A "foxfinder" named William Bloor (Iwan Rheon), trained by a seemingly authoritarian government institute from a young age, has been elected to stay with them to find out if the reason behind their failed produce are "foxes". Soon after realising they've never actually even seen any of these so-called "foxes" in their lives, they start to ponder whether it's all just a government conspiracy to keep the citizens in check and also whether it has anything to do with the death of their son. 


I don't know about you, but I found the sound of that plot absolutely riveting. If that were the synopsis of a novel or film, I'd go read/see it in a heartbeat. This production however, doesn't seem to be able to execute this story to it's full potential. I found the acting rather wooden and bland across all fronts (gosh I feel terrible admitting that in writing but it's my honest opinion). Even Iwan, who I think did such a great job in GoT and Misfits, seems a little out of place as the young, brainwashed Bloor, and the gradual lead up to the questioning of his beliefs or loss of innocence doesn't pack the punch that I'd hoped for in the end. Both Iwan and Heida noticeably stumbled over their lines at least once during the play too, though it should be noted that it was still in previews when I watched it. Then again, I watch many plays whilst they are still in previews so I personally don't think this is a valid excuse. In my humble opinion, Paul Nicholls gave the most believable performance of the lot, his anguish and rage for his lost son conflicting with his logic, but it just wasn't enough to pull this production together, which is a shame as I think the story had real potential. Several times during the seemingly dragged out two hours I found myself almost nodding off and wishing it would pick up in pace and atmosphere only to finally reach a severely anti-climatic ending. 


I'm sorry for being a negative nancy but I honestly can't recommend this play however much I want to say otherwise. Maybe if you're a die-hard fan of one of the actors you could justify seeing it and on the other hand, Iwan, Heida, and Paul were all exceptionally lovely when I met them at stage door afterwards.


Foxfinder is at Ambassadors Theatre until the 5th of January 2019 and you can find tickets here.

Share:

Sunday, 16 September 2018

YOUTUBE | MY MICROBLADING EXPERIENCE + VLOG

I got my brows microbladed and I filmed the process! Did it hurt? Do I regret it? I also answer these questions and talk about my experience and healing process.

Share:

Sunday, 9 September 2018

MY TOP 15 PLACES TO INSTAGRAM IN LONDON

There's nowhere else I'd rather be living in this world than London. Such a diverse and beautiful city full of creativity, but sometimes it can be all to easy to fall into the humdrum of every day routine, and bow your head down as you breeze walk, especially when your commute takes you past the same high-rise apartment blocks and familiar streets.  I'm definitely guilty of this, but things do take on a completely different perspective if you merely just look up, and much more recently I have gone out of my way to take different routes and discover new places. I also find a lot of inspiration from following London travel and food accounts on instagram, plus my best friend is equal parts an avid foodie and photographer so I'm grateful that she often drags me to visit new locations. I've had a couple of questions from you guys about how I find cute locations in London to photograph and what my top places to instagram would be if you were planning on visiting and I can't believe it's taken me this long to compile this list together. I've narrowed it down to 15 spots and categorised them so hopefully it will be easier for you to plan for your next visit to the city. Without further adieu, these are my top 15 places to instagram in London:

THE CUTE CAFES AND FLORAL DISPLAYS

1. Saint Aymes | 59 Connaught St, London W2 2BB
There's not much a blogger loves more than a pretty coffee and cake situation to take a flatlay of and a gorgeous flower wall to pose in front of so Saint Aymes have very kindly catered to our needs. This cafe looks like a place Wes Anderson dreamt up and will tickle your sweet tooth with their trademark Unicorn Lattes and plenty of edible art that's almost too beautiful to eat.

2. Peggy Porschen Cakes | 116 Ebury St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9QQ
Possibly the most well known of the instagrammable cafes at the moment, Peggy's is a pink dream that not only serves cute cakes but also switches up their gorgeous floral displays every season. It does tend to get busy throughout the day and on the weekends, so best to come on a weekday and if you want a completely people free shot, be an early bird arrive five minutes before it opens.

3. Les Senteurs | 1 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9PJ
Not a cafe but whilst you're at it, Peggy Porchen sits right in the corner of Ebury St and Elizabeth St, the latter being an instagrammer's dream street lined with adjacent cafes and shops, each with their own different floral decorations. Les Senteurs perfumery is one of my particular favourites with a magnificent tree (changes every season as well) that spans across their pretty blue shopfront.

4. Dominique Ansel Bakery | 17-21 Elizabeth St,  Belgravia, London SW1W 9RP
Down the street is my favourite place for desserts (though they also serve savoury food). Their menu changes seasonally but every single time I've been there, I've been blown away by the presentation and taste of their dishes. Definitely try their Blooming Hot Chocolate (permanent menu) which is fun to watch as the flower shaped marshmallow on top opens up quite like those flowering tea balls, and if you visit on a warmer day, I'm totally obsessed with their watermelon soft serve (served in a real watermelon wedge with dark chocolate seeds, need I say more?) Of course there's a vast floral display over the entrance and also a flower wall inside.

5. Moyses Stevens Flowers | 53 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9PP
Right next to Les Senteurs is my favourite florist. You'll probably see me running around with a bouquet of flowers in hand most of the time and when I get them from Moyses, it would just be rude not to take a snap inside with the floral ceiling as well.

THE RAINBOW HOUSES OF NOTTING HILL

6. Hillgate Place, London W8
Basically every other street in the Notting Hill area is full of houses in a rainbow spectrum of different colours so pick your fancy but one of my particular favourite is Hillgate Place. In the springtime, most of the ones with foliage on their front will transform into clouds of purple wisteria.

7.  Sézane | 233 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill W11 2SE
French clothing brand Sézane (I'm wearing their blouse here) have recently opened their first London store and it's located in Notting Hill. There's just such a lovely contrast between their crisp white storefront and flower lined square windows so whether you're out shopping or just window shopping, be sure to grab a quick snap outside their store.

8. Wild at Heart | 222 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill W11 2SE
Right opposite Sézane is another beautiful florist. Admittedly I've never bought a bouquet from them before but only because they're a bit further away from where I live and I always fear they will wilt on my tube commute. Their arrangements are so aesthetically pleasing though and I love their turquoise bricks.


THE TYPICAL TOURIST SPOTS FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

9. One New Change | 1 New Change, London EC4M 9AF
The elevator to the top floor of One New Change shopping centre takes you to a lovely viewing platform for St Paul's cathedral if you've previously struggled to get that dome roof into your frame.

10. St Pancras Renaissance Hotel | Euston Road, London NW1 2AR
Right next to St Pancras International is this hotel that bears a striking resemblance to Hogwarts. You might also be able to sneak in and grab a photo on their grand carpeted staircase inside.

11. Red telephone boxes | Broad Court, Covent Garden WC2B
Of course there are plenty of these iconic London telephone boxes scattered all over the city but there are five of them sitting neatly in a row in a rather secluded alley in Covent Garden and you know what that means, less people in the shot!

THE COOL GRAFFITI WALLS

12. Shoreditch | London E1 
Shoreditch is home to many awesome graffiti walls, some spanning several stories high. They get painted over regularly so do take a walk around and keep your eye out for any particular ones you may like. I'm gonna cheat a little and give you two addresses of permanent ones here, the first one being the rainbow facade of the Doughnut Time just outside Old St tube station (233a Old St, EC1V 9HE), and the second one are the infamous angel wings outside Redemption Bar (I really rate the raw vegan food this bar does too) on 320 Old St, EC1V 9DR.

JUNGLE WITHIN A CONCRETE JUNGLE

13. St Dunstan-in-the-East | St Dunstan's Hill, London EC3R 5DD
There's no aesthetic I love more than abandoned places overgrown with greenery so St Dunstan-in-the-East is possibly my ultimate favourite out of all these locations. It was once a church that got destroyed in WWII so now the ruins encase a public garden. I feel like not many people know this spot because it's in the centre of a business area and entirely hidden from the main road but it's the most beautiful surprise when you stumble upon it.

14. Kew Gardens | Richmond TW9 3AE
This is the largest botanical garden in London and currently houses over 30 000 living plants. It's a little further from the city centre but if you catch the tube, only a train line away so there's really no excuse not to visit. You'll definitely need an entire day to see everything as the gardens are so vast with many different areas inside. My favourites are the Palm House, the water lilies and the rose garden.

15. Greenwich park | London SE10 8XJ
Greenwich is quite a popular tourist location what with the GMT and the filming location for a number of famous movies but the park comes alive in the springtime and is the best place to photograph cherry blossoms in London.

Share:
Blogger Template Created by pipdig