It’s a Wonderland time

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There is probably no need for this post especially if you have lived in London even for a little bit during Christmas time, however I really can’t avoid to talk about my favorite free-entry event of the year: Winter Wonderland.

Winter Wonderland is a massive funfair with Christmas theme and German Christmas markets inspiration that takes place every year since 2007 in Hide Park starting from mid November for 6 weeks. It is the essence of the Christmas spirit, a bit commercial to be honest  but still full of joy. Everyone can be child again rolling down a roller coaster  or, if you are scared of this kind of things like me, you can still have fun in  in the Victorian-style section where more traditional attractions  are placed or just eat something  good in one of the German style food stalls.

It is very hard to  describe the varieties of entertainments you can find there  but the map of the park can gives you an idea of the extension of the place but you can be sure that there is something to do  for everyone from 1 to 99 years of age. You can enter the park for free but he price of one ride on the attractions is between 4 to 7 tokens (1 token = 1 pound) for adult and a bit less for children however  if you can’t  or simply  don’t want to spend any money, a walk through the stalls is worthy anyway. The atmosphere is  magic, it is a bit like being at the Wien’s Prater or in a German Christmas market, there are Christmas trees and beautiful lights everywhere, Christmas songs are played all around the air smells of fire and grilled food.

My suggestion is to  go there at the beginning of the “season” and, if you can, on a week day to avoid the crowd and fully enjoy the place but don’t forget to wrap yourself in warm clothes as almost everything is on the open air so it could be very cold but don’t worry the Christmas spirit in there will keep your heart warm.

Image by Tianna Spicer from Flickr

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The Treasure Island

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One of the first thing you learn when you move to London is that house rent is absolutely mental and that renting a whole flat just for yourself is a luxury that few can afford, so most of the time you have to find a flat sharing and store all your life in a room. That means that space optimization is the most popular hobby for many people that become advanced players of the everyday life Tetris game. You learn to storage all your clothes in a small IKEA wardrobe where they are hanged in layers to save space and under bed boxes are your best friends. In this hunt to extra storage there is very few space left for yours non essential items like books.

I am a hungry reader, I love books as objects and I am quite proud of my collection that used to fill a 5mt  long bookcase, but I struggled  to fit even those few volumes that I brought with me when I moved  here. Then after a bit I arrived in London I experienced jumping from  flat to flat as the properties were sold like bread in a bakery shop so I decided that I  would’t  have move any extra weight anymore as I am too old and it is just too much hassle. That means I would have to stop to buy books but how I would feed my reading appetite? Reading only  free newspapers and magazines?  No really… that’s just not enough. Eventually I found the answer in a traditional institution: the public library.

I used to use public libraries for academic purpose only, as I always had a quite large books’ supply at both my parents and my own home so I really never need to go there to find some reading entertainment and also because, let’s be honest, they are boring and dusty places. The first time I thought about approaching a public library  was after I watched a Great  British Bake Off episode and I searched for a cooking book on the Internet. Google shown me many titles and prices but I  wasn’t  sure, I want to spend money in something I might not like or use, but then I  saw  the link to my local library that had couple of titles available  for loan. That was just the perfect solution: I could borrow the books and try the recipes. The following weekend I went to the library and I was amused, it had complete different vibes in comparison to  the ones where I am from. It was full of life, children were reading and playing in their area and many adults were browsing the  rooms looking for something new, the building in itself was just stunning, it was amazing. I followed the flow and I  started to look around and at the end I left with three new books in my bag. If you are more technologic and you don’t like paper anymore you can borrow Ebooks as well and download them on your preferred device.

Since then, going to the Library is part of my routine, I go there at list every two/three weeks to take some new story and in general I stop by quite often as it is always a source of news about local activities.  I am sure sooner or later I will be able to buy and storage new books but at the moment I am enjoying to share them with thousand of other people and have access to almost any title I want. Libraries are like treasure islands where you can loose yourself in  the search of a new adventure and London is full of them, some are monumental and ancient some others are tiny and new but you can always find a paper jewel there, waiting for you.

 

 

Picture by Lorenzo Scheda from Flickr 

By train two is better than one.

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It has been a while since I  wrote my last post. A lot of thinks changed in my life: I have a new job, a new flat and flatmate but I am still in London and still broke, so at the end nothing really changed.

Another thing that isn’t change is my love for London and my will to see as much as I can of the city and its neighbor. Fortunately  many London museums are free to all and that helps a lot if you live on a budget so I am truly grateful for that so I can see a Canaletto paint any time I want, although there are still lots of amazing cultural sites that you need to pay to visit. Starting by saying that 20£ for visiting Windsor Castle for example are absolutely worthy, I have also to admit that the ticket’s price might be a bit harsh but don’t worry you still can capitalize your investment. The ticket in fact can be easily converted  in an Annual Pass as the site is listened in the Royal Collection Trust, so next time one of you friends are coming to visit you, you will be ready to suggest a fancy tour of one of the most iconic palace of the UK, you are going to win the prize as best tour guide.

If you friend doesn’t want to see that I have a smart alternative for you: 2 for 1 pass that allows you to have 2 tickets at the price of one if you travel to London by train. The first time I saw the offer adv was at the airport but, as I am living in London and the one  way train ticked is qualified to use the offer in the same day of it, it was essentially impossible  for me to use it and that was quite frustrating as I often have friends or family coming to visit me. Recently I decided to see Hampton Court Palace with my partner and as I checked the journey I realized that the best way to go there from London is via train and then a bell rang in my head:”I finally might use the 2 for 1 pass”. So I checked the Days Out Guide to see if Hampton Court was part of the offer and I actually discovered that it was and that the offer is available for any place listened in their guide as soon as you are reaching the place by train. Fabulous! and it is not London based only! I immediately registered to the site, choose the day of my visit, downloaded my voucher and printed it, easy peasy. On the day of our visit at the Hampton Court Palace we brought our voucher and we presented it at the ticket office and it worked, we payed just one entrance! How lovely!

The visit ad the Palace was great but one day is definitely not enough to see every room of it and the beautiful garden so we have to go back soon, maybe upgrading our ticket in a membership, but this is a different story. Anyway, with the 2 for 1 ticket you can dare some fancy day out with a friend having the pleasure of an exiting visit and, way not, also an afternoon tea as you have  now almost 10£ to spare. Enjoy.

Sushi Rock

Schermata 2015-04-21 a 00.20.22Food is one of my passion, I think there is nothing more rewarding than a good meal with friends and beloveds and I often prefer spend money for good food rather then nice clothes. Within the immense range of tastes and flavors of international cuisines Japanese food is one of my favorite and sushi in particular way. I love the taste, the presentation and the atmosphere of Nipponese restaurants and I use to eat in there at least one per week.

Hazuki is the place where I go here in London when I want proper sushi and Japanese food.  It is a nice and tiny place near to Covent Garden that offers lunch, dinner and set menus including sushi (of course), tempura, noodles and many other traditional courses. The food is delicious, the fish in particular is beautifully seasoned and cut. In my country is a good sign seeing the restaurateur’s family eating the same food they serve in the restaurant, so I was really pleased when I saw his two daughters eating a huge side of the same sushi I have ordered. The time I was there we paid around £24 each for a two course dinner and drinks that is a really reasonable price for a meal with fresh fish.

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Although that price is absolutely good considering the high quality of the food, at this moment Hazuki is a restaurant for special occasions, but I still love and desire sushi. I have found a way to satisfy my need avoiding running out my little budget: Itsu’s last half hour sale. Itsu is a healthy fast food restaurant chain with several restaurants all around London. The company’s claim is “eat beautiful” because the aim is to provide well balanced meal with the right amount of proteins but low fats and sushi is one of the course prepared in Itsu’s restaurants. Although Itsu is not a Japanese restaurant sushi and maki are quite tasty and I always buy them when I am in a restaurant during the sale. The full prize for a portion of 6 maki is between £3.29 and £4.49 and the mixed menu is up to £9.99, so during the last half an hour of any restaurant opening you can have lots of sushi for less than £5, but it offers even more if you are not a sushi fan like me. This is good, isn’t it?

So thank you Itsu to keep me fit and feed me with lots of taste, few calories and a little bill.

The value of £1: really affordable design.

Many of us are suffering from the massification syndrome the affect our life even at home. The fact that is quite often Londoners live in shared houses that come almost completely furnished with cheap Argos’ or, if you are really lucky, Ikea’s furnitures. For this reason people are hunger for finding creative way to personalize and to decorate their rooms, but even on this the globalization is just behind the corner, especially if you look only at the high street stores. Second-hand and vintage stores can be good alternatives to them, lovely for sure but it is really hard to find good quality stuff there and to match them with the contemporary style. Otherwise you could look for very sophisticated and unique items in the finest design stores of London with the only negative side of being quite expensive, but about that I could have a brilliant solution: The Poundshop.

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if you are a designaholic with a little budget the Poundshop  is just the right answer to your pain. Please do not confuse it with the £1 grocery chains like Puondland or 99P, because they are totally different in term of products although they play with the same price appeal.

The brand born in 2010 from a joke between George Wu, Sara Melin and Sarah Gottlieb, design lovers with limited financial resources, of opening a design super affordable shop that turned in a real exhibition with the aim of spreading design to a large audience thanks to the £1 to £20  price range. The brand stocks limited edition items from a wide range of designers and they are sold in popup stores located in place like Conran shop, MoMa, V&A, Selfridges and many more. The next one will be open in the Science Museum in London from the 24th of June to the 1st of July 2015 and if you are a design yourself you can submit your ideas at The Poundshop as the selection of the designs for the upcoming event is still  open.

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jump into the Wanderland

Schermata 2015-04-05 a 19.49.47My original commitment was publishing only experience that I have  already tested, however I must share with you this event before it will start. From April 9th to May 2nd, Saatchi Gallery will host for the second time in the last 2 years a Mason Hermes exposition named Wanderland.

Hermes celebrates with this itinerant exhibition the new theme inspiring its new collection: flânerie or “the distinctive Parisian art of leisurely wandering”. Bruno Gaudichon, curator of La Piscine-Musée d’Art et d’Industrie in Roubaix, has been commissioned to create the display. He describes it as “a journey into a dream world of joy and fantasy, with a Paris-inspired landscape as its backdrop”. The exhibition is articulated in eleven rooms and uses multimedia to “delight and intrigue visitors, inviting each of them to open their eyes, free their minds and be enveloped by the colour, sounds and images that surround them”.

Hermes Wanderland has its own impeccable webpage and it will be recaptured in a book that will be available in Hermès stores and Actes Sud bookstores. The drawing below is the only picture I could find about the book that should be sold at the very reasonable price of € 8,50 according to the Acted Sud webpage.

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As I said before, the display is temporary and  it will move to Milan an Paris after London, so be sure to schedule your agenda and visit it before it will leave. I will do it and actually I cannot wait!

Useless paper

Schermata 2015-03-13 a 11.59.18 I am sure that all of you have seen this note many time in your emails and honestly I think is a good suggestion that we should always follow. We are buried by tons of trash paper like free newspapers or leaflets and although paper is an amazing recyclable material it overuse contributes to the mass production of waist in any city of the world. Today recycling and reducing are hot topics and many people are looking for clever alternative ways of using our scarce resources, and I think that all of us should play a part in reducing our environmental footprint.

Because of this I think is mad that we still have to print useless paper like fly or bus tickets and to waist money for paper, ink and useless devices like a printer. I am a traveller, my family is abroad so I must leave London quite often to visit them so unfortunately I have to print many many tickets. However, I recently have discovered that it is no more necessary to have the physical thicket because all the main air companies from British Airways to Ryanair or Easyjet, offer very useful apps where download your boarding pass and much more. This is brilliant and these appa have definitely changed my way of traveling, I am just very  surprised that the fly companies do not promote this service that simplifies the travelers life. It is very easily to use, it is enough to download the company’s app on your mobile, then to insert your fly details to have your electronic boarding pass. When you are at the airport you must just scan the QR code from your screen at the entrance barriers, easy peasy! And the nice thing is that it is always available because the ticket is downloaded on your phone so you do not need the Internet connection.

If the fly companies are quite virtuous in this sense, bus operators are a little bit lazier. National Express has an app that works in a similar way but worse. The problem is that your eTicket is not always available like in fly one because you need the Internet access to open it. This is really annoying and the time I used it the Internet was not available so I could not open my ticket, fortunately the bus driver was nice and he let me get in the bus, but I was really really worry to miss it and it was not a nice experience. I hope National Express will improve its app because it is a good tool and people probably take more buses than airplanes hence it is something that both travelers and the environment need.

Technology helps us to simplify our life so we should take this advantage to reduce our impact on the environment even if in a little thing like this. So next time that you will take a fly remember to download your eBording Pass instead of printing a useless paper that will be waisted after few moments. I will do it for sure.