Archive of ‘Days Out’ category

A Bank Holiday Visit to Cambridge

Cambridge Colleges

I live exactly 37.3 miles from Cambridge, the world-famous university city, but until recently, had never visited. That changed on a whim on Easter Monday, when my friend Hannah suggested a day trip.

The best places to visit, according to Hannah (the driver), are the ones with park and ride systems, because she says that parking is the worst part of driving anywhere! So she researched Cambridge’s Park and Ride, and off we went.

Cambridge Graffiti

Cambridge doors

The weather more or less played ball; it started off fairly cloudy, but the sun was soon shining, and though it wasn’t the warmest day ever, we avoided any traditional British bank holiday rain. I didn’t really know what to expect from the city, aside from the fact that it is, of course, famous for its colleges. The city centre itself seems quite small, and easily navigable on foot.

I was on a Blue Plaque quest; in case you aren’t aware, one of my 35 Before 35 goals is to photograph 50 blue plaques. There will be a whole blog post about this at some point, but suffice to say that I found around fifteen, and searching them out really gave us a good excuse to explore places we might not otherwise have found.Punting in Cambridge

We didn’t go for a punt on the river; the weather was probably a little on the cool side for that, and in all honesty, I was offended by how much pressure the tour guides were comfortable exerting to get us to sign up. It’s a nice idea, and must be a great way to see the colleges, but not on this occasion. And not with those particular tour guides!

The colleges themselves were, of course, beautiful, and the city has managed to merge old and new in a really organic way; of course there are the high street shops that you can’t avoid in city centres, but they don’t detract from the beauty of the centuries-old buildings that have educated some of the most incredible minds of all time.

King's College Cambridge

Cambridge Blossom

King's College, Cambridge

I had a really lovely time in Cambridge, and I’m hoping to go back at some point this year to pay a visit to my online friend Charlotte – as a local I’m hoping she’ll show me some of the less-touristy areas!

Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge

Cambridge Colleges

Day trip to Cambridge

Bank Holiday Cambridge

Mark Kermode: Live in 3D

Last night I found myself back at the BFI Southbank; for someone who hadn’t been there once prior to last November, I seem to find myself there quite a lot these days (so much so that I’ve decided to become a member as soon as I get paid). This time I had a ticket to Mark Kermode: Live in 3D, a new monthly event where the always-wonderful Dr K basically stands on stage and talks about films.

Mark Kermode Live in 3D

As this was the first event of its kind, I didn’t know what to expect, though I was sure it was going to be exceptionally entertaining. I wasn’t disappointed; Mark broke the evening up into sections that included a Q&A, Listography, Guilty Pleasures, and Sound and Vision. There was plenty of audience interaction, with Mark inviting people to try and trump his guilty pleasure of Breathless, the Jim McBride remake of À bout de souffle starring Richard Gere. Much was made of someone’s suggestion of The Rock, which I think in the end was confirmed to be the only Michael Bay film that it’s acceptable to admit to liking, and therefore ruled as not being a guilty pleasure. We also got to see Richard Gere’s bum as he sang along to Suspicious Minds.

Mark Kermode tickets

I particularly enjoyed the listography part of the evening: Mark picked ten David Bowie performances that he particularly likes, which gave him the chance to pay tribute to the great man, and that was wonderful to hear. I wish I had taken notes though – I now can’t remember all the films he mentioned, though the clip of Into the Night that he showed had me adding that to my to-watch list immediately!

The same can be said of the clip he showed right at the end of the evening. Four young girls singing and dancing to Diamonds by Rihanna completely had me under its spell, and I now find myself desperate to watch Girlhood, the French coming-of-age film that Mark loved so much from last year.

The true joy of Mark Kermode: Live in 3D was getting to hear someone I admire very much simply standing in front of me and talking about films and the film industry. Whether he’s laughing at Udo Kier thrusting a cadaver out of the screen in Flesh for Frankenstein, or sighing over Zac Efron’s old-school movie star potential (sadly going to waste, if Mark’s sighs over Dirty Grandpa are anything to go by), he’s passionate and knowledgeable, and it’s a pleasure to witness. I already have my ticket booked for February!

I was also pleased as punch to pick up a keyring in the BFI shop on my way out; when I was younger my family and I made many trips to the Museum of the Moving Image, a museum that is sadly no longer open. It’s to my great lament that this is the case – I genuinely loved that place! So when I spotted this keyring in the shop, one that my mum had on her keys for years, I had to have it!

Museum of the Moving Image

The Amba, Audrey and Afternoon Tea

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited along by Joe Blogs to an afternoon event in London. If you’re a blogger, and you’re not already signed up to Joe Blogs, I’d get on that right now; they are a fab bunch, with a very entertaining newsletter, and they put on really fun events!

This one took place at the Amba Hotel Charing Cross. Tucked in right next to Charing Cross Railway Station, it’s a beautiful hotel; fairly unassuming from the outside, but very grand and opulent inside. It’s located in the ideal place for taking in a bit of London culture, and that was the order of the day, as after a quick champagne reception, we had a wander down to the National Portrait Gallery to take in the Audrey Hepburn exhibition that was running from July until this past weekend.

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The National Portrait Gallery is somewhere I always head if I’m trying to kill some time in London. That sounds like damning it with faint praise, but it’s such a big gallery, with so much to see, that I like to do it in chunks! The Audrey exhibition didn’t disappoint, it was filled with more than seventy images that chronicled her life as a child and young woman, through her career as a movie star, always capturing that unique star quality that shines out through the lens. Also on display were a pair of her ballet shoes, which were of course tiny, and fun to see.

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Back to the hotel, after being encouraged to have a look around and see some of the beautiful rooms and views, we were treated to Afternoon Tea! I thought that I hadn’t ever actually had Afternoon Tea before, but then I remembered that I have (and I’ve blogged about it); though I can’t call myself a connoisseur. Considering how much I enjoy tea, and eating, I can’t believe that it’s something I don’t do more of, and I’m resolving to remedy that. Maybe it can go on my 34 Before 34 list?

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Talking of that list, getting into a conversation with some of the other lovely bloggers that were there, I shamefacedly admitted that I’ve never been to IKEA! They were all shocked that I had denied myself this pleasure, so I promised to put it on the list and make sure I do it in the next twelve months!

The food and drink at the Amba Charing Cross was all delightful; I managed to stop myself at two cups of tea, but I could have gone on all afternoon!

Thanks very much to Joe Blogs for the invitation, and for Amba Charing Cross for having us all. It was a lovely afternoon!

Five Things I Want to do in London

I love London, and I’m lucky enough to live close enough that I’m able to pop in and out fairly easily (if not cheaply). But I feel as though I always end up doing the same old things, every time I go. So every time I see something a bit different, I make a note of it, and I’m planning a trip in the spring that will take in at least a couple of these things!

Go to the opera

I’ve never been to the opera, but everyone I know who has just raves about it. Most importantly, it’s the people who think they won’t enjoy it that seem to be most blown away by it! I know nothing about the opera, but I love stories, so I’m pretty sure that I would love to see a performance. I’ve got my eye on Queen of Spades by the ENO, taking place throughout June at the London Coliseum.

Visit the Camera Cafe

I want to visit the Camera Cafe in Museum Street and take a look at their camera collection. I know vintage cameras are a bit hipster, but they are so very pretty! And I love any opportunity to sit down and drink tea and eat cake while I’m wondering around London!

Visit Erno Goldfinger’s house

This is the house of a noted 1930s architect (rather than the James Bond villain), and is described as a ‘unique and influential Modernist home’. Sounds absolutely delightful, and it only costs £6 for a guided tour!

Visit Ruby Jean’s diner

I think that diners are my number one place to eat, so I am always on the lookout for new ones to try. Ruby Jeans food looks AMAZING, and the decor is beautiful. They have various London restaurants, so I’m going to try hard to eat a burger here.

See a film at The Luna Cinema

It’s on my 33 Before 33 list to see a film outdoors, and having had a little look around, I think I want to do it with The Luna Cinema. The locations look stunning, so as soon as they release their screening dates for 2015, I’m booking!

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Currys Christmas Walk

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited along to a Christmas walk by Joe Blogs. The idea was to take a look around some posh shops in the West End whilst wearing a piece of Fit Tech, provided by Currys, giving us all the chance to see how good for the health (though maybe not the bank balance) Christmas shopping is! Sadly, with my phone being as old as time itself, I couldn’t get my Jawbone to work, so I couldn’t chart how many steps I had done or how many calories I had burnt. I am still trying to get it working now, and I still have plenty of shopping to do, so as soon as it’s working, I’ll be able to let you know how well I do!

The walking tour of the shops was led by Best LDN Walks; we were split into two groups, and set off from Green Park. We visited a load of shops that have royal warrants, meaning that they officially supply the royal family with their goods. Our tour guide (whose name I have completely forgotten) really knew her stuff, and told us all about the different shops that we were visiting. She kept hold of a balloon the entire time so we didn’t lose her – as you can imagine, London three weeks before Christmas can get a bit busy, so the balloon is a really good idea!

Our first stop was Charbonnel et Walker, which is found on New Bond Street, and has been there since 1875. It is apparently a favourite of the Queen, and we tried her favourite chocolates, violet cremes. Sadly my cold was still raging and I could barely taste anything, but I could tell they were expensive!

We headed onto Hatchards, which was obviously my favourite stop on the tour, because it’s a bookshop! Not only that, it’s the oldest bookshop in the UK. I just love being around books, so even though I didn’t buy anything, and even though once you’re inside, it doesn’t necessarily feel that old, it’s just lovely being around a lot of books. Bookshops and libraries will always be my favourite places. I was slightly devastated put out to discover that the group that had headed off fifteen minutes earlier had met none other than Bill Nighy in the shop, and one of the bloggers had a photo with him. That could have been me!

Now obviously cigar merchants don’t hold the same allure for me as bookshops, but James J Fox is a bit special, because it is where the likes of Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill bought their cigars. They even have a chair that was used by Winston Churchill when he visited. Needless to say I didn’t buy anything here!


Another of my favourite shops on the tour was Berry Brothers and Rudd, a wine merchant. Now, I’m not really a drinker, save for special occasions, but this is a lovely shop. It’s been around for 315, and is almost unchanged in that time. It has the same floor and walls, and has just been expanded slightly. It supplied the Titanic, and has a letter on the wall from the White Star Line explaining that the ship had ‘foundered’. Fascinating stuff! I declined the offer to partake in a sample of the booze though!

We also visited Floris, which is a perfumers, and we got to smell the fragrances that Marilyn Monroe, Ian Fleming and Winston Churchill preferred. Again, my cold prevented me from really smelling much, but I wasn’t keen on what I could smell of Marilyn’s! It smelt a bit like a disinfectant! Just down the road from Floris was Paxton and Whitfield Cheese, but I didn’t really take a good look in there. I’m not really a cheese eater, and it was very busy in a tiny shop!

While we were walking, we also found ourselves caught up in SantaCon! So many Santas, all moving along the street, and all in various states of inebriation! I snapped the above photo quickly, and even though it turned out blurry, I quite liked it!

As I said, I couldn’t get my piece of FitTech working, but based on what everyone else said about theirs, and the fact that my legs hurt quite a lot by the time I got home, I think it’s safe to say that I burned quite a few calories on this particular Christmas shopping trip! There’s an infographic on the Currys website that tells you exactly what you need to do to burn off those extra Christmas calories. 4 roast potatoes just needs you to bust some moves at the office Christmas party! And you can burn off the calories from two Yorkshire puddings by doing some washing up. Sounds like a fair deal to me!

Thanks to Joe Blogs and Currys for inviting me along, and to Best LDN Walks for a great tour. I’ve been taking a look at their website and they have some seriously amazing looking tours, so I’m planning on going on some more!

* I was invited along to the Currys Christmas Walk by Joe Blogs, and provided with a piece of FitTech for review.

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