Hilton London Bankside

My second hotel visit of the month – the non-refundable stay.

A few months ago, my Mum and I discovered the Hilton London Bankside – it was perfectly located for our impromptu shopping trip, exceptionally well appointed, and not stupidly expensive.  So when Husband and I decided to stay overnight after the Flight of the Conchords gig at the O2, I figured the Hilton would be perfect as it’s just a couple of stops down the Jubilee Line.  Sure, it was non-refundable but of course there wouldn’t be any problems

And then the Flight of the Conchords gig got cancelled.  Sigh.

Rather than waste the room, we went up to London anyway and had a touristy afternoon.  A grey, very rainy, touristy afternoon – classic London.

We managed to check in early which was a relief as we got soaked in the short 15 minute walk from Waterloo.  Once again, the service we received was fantastic – I’ve never come across anything like it in the UK before.  Hilton allows you to select a room online the day before, but I wasn’t quick enough to get a good one so we did end up with a view of a wall.  I still loved the room though – the decor is so minimalist and understated, the bathroom has beautiful tiles and concrete floor, and the Peter Thomas Roth toiletries are great.

Husband had never been to the Switch House at the Tate Modern (which is apparently now called the Blavatnik Building) so we spent most of the afternoon in there.  Although a tip for tourists – never visit on a bank holiday because it was hellish.  It was especially bad in the Turbine Hall with the Superflex exhibition which is basically just free childcare.  We did manage to get to the viewing platform without losing our minds, and because of the weather, it was very peaceful up there.  We also saw part of the Joan Jonas exhibition which was most enjoyable.

After the Tate Modern, we wandered down the South Bank, visited Mr Jones Watches (I suspect another watch post is needed), and a few more of the shops alongside the river.  It was still very wet, but this meant there were less people around.  After the scrum at the Tate, a bit of peace and quiet was needed.

After a quick drying-off back at the hotel, we went for a very sophisticated dinner at Sea Containers House in the Mondrian hotel.  We decided to go in through the hotel entrance rather than the entrance on the Thames – it is a very beautiful hotel and I have this noted for any future stays.  Dinner itself was really lovely, although we ate three courses so by the time I got to my caramelised banana dessert, I was so full.  We were lucky enough to sit by the window, so we people watched as we ate.  It was a great meal.

After a little bit of a restless night – the bed wasn’t particularly comfortable this time round – we met up with Tim for brunch at the Refinery where we all had excellent eggs, before we headed back home and Tim visited a significantly quieter Tate Modern.

As we fiddled about with our bags and coats after checking out, I took the opportunity to take in the Hilton’s lovely Easter display.  They really make such an effort here, and we’ll definitely be back.  It’s such a great hotel.

It was fun to be a London tourist for the day, and did mitigate somewhat against the disappointment of not seeing Flight of the Conchords.  Fingers crossed the re-scheduled gigs go ahead as planned.

March 2018 Things

My mind throughout this month was dominated by one thing:

Work
It has been one of those months.  You know the ones – you think you’ve planned for every eventuality but then something comes out of left field and completely derails you.  Always fun.  As well as doing my best impression of someone who is coping fine-thank-you-very-much, I visited Liverpool to catch up on new Government policy, and presented two (very dry) sessions at our staff conference.    This time last year, I wouldn’t have dreamt of presenting, so at least I’m developing professionally!

More snow!
This featured in my February Things post as well, but we had a couple more centimetres of snow in March.  I LOVE IT!

Bayside the Musical
Ridiculous, ridiculous fun.  I love this musical so much!

Touristy weekend in London
Over the bank holiday weekend, we found ourselves stuck with a London hotel after a cancellation, so decided to go all out tourist.  More about that soon.

Editors
I’ve been a huge fan of Editors since their first album The Back Room, which soundtracked my postgraduate degree, and have loved every album since then.  Their latest release Violence is so different to that first CD, but still as spectacular.  I can’t stop listening to it.

Pullman Liverpool Hotel

I’m in the middle of a quite hotel-heavy month – for one reason or another, I’ve spent more days away from home than normal, and whilst I don’t mind it, I’m very grateful that they’ve all been good hotels so far.

First up – the work stay.

I travelled to Liverpool for a conference a couple of weeks ago and stayed at the very lovely Pullman Liverpool.  It was perfectly placed for the Arena and Convention Centre next door, and only a 10/15 minute walk away from town so there was plenty of opportunity for me to visit Harvey Nichols Beauty Bazaar and the rest of the Liverpool One.

I loved this hotel – everyone was super friendly, the furnishings were beautiful, and most importantly, the toiletries were Co Bigelow.  My favourite brand ever (which I have talked about a lot).   I’d definitely stay here again.

Admittedly, it was very weird being in Liverpool.  About a lifetime ago, I spent a few years in the city but it has changed so radically since then.  I really struggled to find my way around, and I was so disorientated for most of my visit.  It was genuinely like I was visiting for the first time.  I popped in to town a couple of times for emergency coffee and an even more emergency manicure and I really enjoyed it (I don’t remember enjoying it that much a decade ago…).

The area around the Pullman was very quiet but I’m sure that was mostly because it was freezing down by the Mersey.  No one was riding the Liverpool Wheel and the Albert Dock was almost empty.  That suited me fine!

I was of course there to work so spent most of the time in the conference centre (to be fair, it was nice conference centre) so I couldn’t get away with sneaking off too often.  There’s always a new government regulation to grapple with, always colleagues to catch-up with.  We were lucky enough to be treated to an epic gala dinner at the phenomenal St George’s Hall – what an amazing venue.

All this followed by a painful train journey home, which made me remember all those times I hated travelling to and from the North West (although that did make me learn to drive so there’s a positive spin!).  I’m sure I’ll be back one day though.

Lets go to the Max – Part 2

Four years ago, I sat in an very Off-Broadway theatre, crying with laughter at the most ridiculous show I have ever seen – Bayside the Musical.  Whilst the play was extended on a number of occasions, I didn’t think I’d ever get to see it again but miracle of miracles – it came to London!  Specifically, at The Other Palace which is a lovely little theatre just behind Buckingham Palace.

A couple of weeks ago, I dragged Tim to see it (I couldn’t persuade Husband to come with us – not being as familiar with Saved by the Bell as I am, he got totally confused the first time we saw it).  I spent the morning shopping with my Mum over on Regent Street and walked from there to the theatre through freezing snow – good lord, it was cold and I was relieved to get comfy down in their Studio theatre.

It was a slightly smaller theatre than the New York production, and I was a little worried when the actors first came on stage as the audience wasn’t quite warmed up – there wasn’t the levels of hysteria that the Americans had.  But the cast soon had everyone in the palm of their hands (and despite being a matinee, there were still catcalls from the Prosecco-drinking audience as the play went on).

It was difficult not to compare the Brits to the original cast but they definitely held their own and there was one thing that they did so well – a brilliantly sarcastic breaking of the fourth wall.  The first time it happened – which I think was during the song “Let’s go to the Max” – made me laugh so much.  They entirely came out of their cheesy American characters, spoke in their regular British voices and added a genius extra level to this absurd story.

The second act started in the same way as the American with a quick trip to Malibu Sands, but deviated sharply into a self-deprecating scene between The Extras played by William Hazell and Roann McCloskey.  They just ripped into the staging, the direction, the token American in the cast (Ben Campbell as Zack) – no one can put the Brits down better than ourselves.

It was stupid, stupid fun, and I absolutely loved it again.  Here’s hoping for another reprisal so I can see it a third time.

“We can’t wrap this up in just one show,
We need another episode,
Got to work things out, and resolve the plot, 

To be continued, dot, dot, dot”

February 2018 Things

February felt like a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ kind of month.  It was very admin-heavy – I managed to book my Miami flights which I’m SUPER excited for, started finalising plans for a visit to Dublin in the summer, and booked part of the secret trip for Husband’s birthday.  Lots of boxes ticked.

The Nix
I spent most of the month reading Nathan Hill’s The Nix – an epic story that spanned decades and almost constantly caught me by surprise.  I really hope the TV show happens as there were so many filmic elements.  As much as I love quickly whizzing through several books a month, it’s good to let one stop me in my tracks every so often.

Early mornings
I’ve had a few early mornings this month with training courses up in London, and a meeting in the very north of England.  I couldn’t do it regularly as I am really not a morning person, but it’s fun every so often especially when I get to see the sunrise on the way to the train station.  My trip to the north involved a very early flight from Heathrow, followed by a four hour meeting, and then enough time for an amazing facial before a flight home – the facial made it totally worth my while (but only slightly alleviated my carbon footprint guilt…)

Nostalgia
We’ve been clearing out our study as the hoarding levels have become almost unacceptable.  Opening boxes has mostly been uneventful, but when I got to the box containing my university work, the nostalgia left me breathless.  I loved both of my degrees, but my first shaped so much of my personality, particularly the Men’s and Women’s Cinema modules led by my favourite Academic, Stella Bruzzi.  They’re the reason I became a feminist, and I don’t know who I’d be now if I hadn’t taken those classes.

In the end, I kept the module lists and only threw away the associated material that came with it.  I just couldn’t get rid of everything as it had all had such a lasting impact on me.  It felt wrong to destroy such a huge part of my history.

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale
I was so sad when The Soup was cancelled a few years ago.  It became our Sunday lunchtime treat and the weekends have never quite felt the same without it.  When we read that Joel McHale had a new show starting on Netflix in February, we had our fingers crossed that it would contain elements of The Soup.  It certainly looked like it might, but there was always the concerns that they would want to do something radically different.

But it’s basically exactly the same and I LOVE IT!

Snow
After many months of pining over snow photos from the rest of the UK, it finally started to snow here at the end of Feb.  Whilst we didn’t have a substantial amount, it was enough to make me giddy.  We even managed a bit of a snow day (well, snow afternoon).  Sadly, it hasn’t stuck around, but at least my journey to work on Monday will feature significantly less skidding around.

A Room for London

OK, where did February go?  I had all these posts planned in my head, but none appeared to have made it to my blog.  Normal service will resume, but first I want to reminisce for a bit.

I noticed on Twitter this week that the Room for London had reached the end of it’s life on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  Regular Southbank visitors will know this as the boat on the roof, but it holds a special place in my heart as we spent a night there during it’s first year.

Although it changed to a ballot system in subsequent years, I managed to wangle our stay by manically refreshing the webpage when the nights were released online (whilst simultaneously screaming at everyone in my office to STOP DISTRACTING ME).  I was phenomenally lucky, and Husband was so excited when I revealed to him where we’d be spending our wedding anniversary.

We picked up our key, were taken through a bright yellow door to get to the secret lift, and then we were on the roof!  I loved how temporary everything felt on the outside along the ramshackle walkway, but the inside was beautiful.

We spent the afternoon taking photos and watching the world go by (with a quick visit to a James Bond exhibition at the Barbican in the afternoon), before popping down to the Wahaca below for dinner.  As the sun set, we practised our night photography on the balcony, wrote our entry in the log book, had a wonderful shower with Ren products, and snuggled up in the comfy bed.  Despite being such a small space, it had everything we needed – I could easily have locked myself in, refused to leave, and lived there forever.

There were no curtains to close, so we woke up to beautiful sunshine and went back up to the balcony for a memorable breakfast.

Husband and I have stayed at many incredible places during our relationship, but this was definitely one of my favourites.  I did try my luck again in the ballot on a couple of occasions, but we were destined to only have one night at the Roi des Belges.  I will miss seeing the happy wind turbines on the skyline, and I hope they find somewhere else for it to live.  Maybe once it’s settled, we’ll get the chance to stay again.


See my full photo set on my Flickr account.
Find out more about the A Room for London at living-architecture.co.uk.

January 2018 Things

Husband persuaded me to use some of my precious leave for the first week of January so I had a very quiet start to 2018.  Still managed a couple of things to get me out of the house though!

Celtic Manor – again
The Celtic Manor has rapidly become our hotel of choice for last minute breaks.  We managed to fit in afternoon tea and I had an incredibly relaxing Elemis facial where I managed to suppress my ongoing cough for a whole hour.  I was quite impressed with myself.  On the way home from Cardiff, we managed to fit in a visit to the McArthur Glen Outlet in Swindon (of course) but also Ikea – it was a breeze as everyone else had gone back to work.

Everyman Esher
I love an Everyman.  When Husband demands I see a Star Wars or a Bond with him, I will only go if he can promise it’s going to be an Everyman.  Esher is our fifth different branch – to be honest, it’s not really that close to us, but we felt like a change and couldn’t be bothered to go all the way into London.  We had an excellent hot dog and fries, I bought a bucket of popcorn, and we settled into the sofa in their beautiful art deco screen.  I was a little worried as there were a bunch of children scattered around the auditorium, but Husband actually enjoyed listening to their animated chatter about his favourite franchise.

As for the film – eh, it was ok.

Sara Pascoe – LadsLadsLads
I love her.

Network at the National Theatre
An astonishing piece of work which I have yet to write about (I need to get on that).

Coffee and fries in Brighton
Someone in my team went to Brighton for the weekend and I recommended she visit BeFries because it’s just the best.  I told Husband that we were talking about those beautiful Belgian fries at work, and the next thing I knew, we’d booked a weekend away at The Grand.

An entire weekend break just to eat fries.  I can’t think of a better reason.

Sara Pascoe – LadsLadsLads

On Friday, I dragged myself out of my self-imposed winter hibernation for a trip into London.  On the agenda – dinner, Sara Pascoe at the Wyndhams Theatre, and light installations.

This is the third time I’ve seen Sara, and further continuation of realising how much I identify with her which I first realised after seeing her in 2016.  Admittedly there was slightly less for me to hook into in LadsLadsLads as the show started with the break-up of her last relationship but there was still plenty of “THAT’S ME!” moments even down to her pre-gig/interval music which was basically my Spotify playlist).

There was such an intimacy to her show which I can imagine some people would feel uncomfortable with, and there was certainly some awkward laughter from some of the audience.  At one point, she said there was only two reasons to stand up in front of people – if you make them laugh, that’s comedy but if you don’t, it’s a TED talk but I really felt like Sara’s show was both – when she wasn’t offering funny insights, she was giving us thoughtful comments, all interwoven into a story with multiple call backs.  I adore a comedian that gives me a fully-fleshed story alongside the giggles.

I also want to commend her spectacular heckler management.  I despise idiots who make unsolicited noises in gigs whether positive or negative, and I cringed every time this idiot woman whooped.  It’s so selfish and I will never understand it.  Sara has perfected the art of a perfect withering look though.

An interesting angle for me (and probably loads of others as well), is that I’ll be hearing the other side of the break-up when I see her ex-boyfriend in a couple of weeks.  Based on the fact that I almost cried on a number of occasions in Sara’s set, I’m already preparing myself emotionally for that.

After the show, Tim and I searched out some light installations from Lumiere London.  I’ve missed it on previous years, and only saw a small bit of this year but it’s better than nothing!  We down the South Bank and saw OSC-L, Light on Their Feet, and possibly others too but my favourite was Vertigo by Danish Company The Wave.

I didn’t have my camera on me so all my shots are appalling, but I loved walking through the triangular tunnel.  It’s a real shame Lumiere is only on for the weekend as it would have been great to see it in daylight as well.

Project 365 – 2017

I’ve been taking a photo every day for 7 years now.  I’ve managed to train myself so that it feels weird not taking a photo – I’ll admit, sometimes I’ll get to the end of a unremarkable day so I take a panic photo, but at least the photo is representative of the day!

Instagram has definitely helped, but I have got very lazy in relying on my phone – I must make more of an effort with my camera, so I might treat myself to a new lens this year.  Picking out my favourite memories from the year was a little hard as I don’t think I’ve had a particularly memorable 2017, but let’s look back.

January started slowly with a new Eve mattress and my very first Grensons, plus a work trip to Birmingham.  I did have a lot of work trips this year, but nothing as epic as the one in February – over to Florida for an amazing conference which is possibly my favourite thing from the whole year.  I followed this up with a couple of days in New York where I did nothing but blissful shopping.  I finished my management course in March with a lot of typing and spent a two weeks on my own as it was Husband’s turn to be away for work.  April saw two mini-breaks to Brighton and I faced my professional fear of presenting in front of an entire lecture theatre full of sector peers.  Boy, was I nervous.

Back over the Atlantic in May for a family trip to Miami where I introduced my Mum to Surfside – of course, she loved it.  June was fairly uneventful (I’m ignoring the general election) but I managed to continue the Miami vibe by seeing Footloose in beachy themed room in Liberty.  We aroused suspicion again by going to the USA for a third time as we visited New York for the 4th July – they love their fireworks.  And August was the month we bought a new car (although he didn’t arrive for another few months).

The start of semester in September is always crazy busy, but I managed to fit in a Richard Ayoade talk and a couple of back stage tours on the South Bank.  October introduced us to our new garden fox, Little Lord Stinky Butt but was also the start of my epic cold which is still lingering now.  I fell in love with Dungeness in November, and we collected our new baby (our Audi Q3, Murdock).  And the less said about December the better, what with all the sneezing and coughing (oh my god, the endless coughing).

And onto 2018 – hopefully with significantly less coughing.

December Things

December 2017 will be remembered as the month I sat around feeling sorry for myself.  The last post I made was about how I thought I had bronchitis – apparently, it’s “just” a cough, albeit a cough which made me actually vomit during a meeting at work (oh god, the shame).  Just when I thought it was getting better, I then picked up another cold which has made my cough worse again, so spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s on the sofa.

It’s so ridiculous and pathetic – I’m normally such a well person, so I can’t really understand why I’m so run down.  At least I have another week off work for more lying around feeling sorry for myself.

There were some highlights in December though.

Crafty Fox at the Mercato Metropolitano
The perfect timing for some Christmas gifts, I met up with an old friend to visit the Crafty Fox market which was held at the Mercato Metropolitano which is just gorgeous.  I wish I had another reason to visit Elephant and Castle – they currently have a Backyard Cinema there but I think they’re mostly booked up.

As for the market, I managed to get a lot of gifts there, and some fun things for myself.  I do love a Craft Fox event.

Liberty Beauty Advent Calendar
I normally blog about this weekly, but I just did not have the energy.  It was packed with all the usual goodies, with some new items like the iconic Brazilian Bum Bum Cream and QMS Medicosmetics.  It does feel like a lot more items have gone to my Mum than in previous years, so maybe this one hasn’t been as good?  Still enjoyable though.

Christmas
I mentioned last year that Christmas has become incredibly difficult for me to cope with but circumstances this year meant I was able to have a very quiet Christmas day with both my in-laws and my Mum (and Husband of course).  We didn’t go insane with gifts or anything like that – the commercialism of the holiday is getting truly ridiculous and makes me feel quite uncomfortable at times.  That said, I did get the latest Mr Jones Watch for my collection which I was incredibly grateful for.  It was a very relaxed and peaceful day with wonderful food and good company.

Dark
We got addicted to Dark, the first German language series on Netflix.  It blew my mind – the level of detail, the intricacies of the many stories being told.  On several occasions, a reveal happened on screen but the implications of it wouldn’t hit me for a while.  This meant I frequently turned to Husband at random moments and screamed excitedly at him.  Cannot wait for series 2.

First trip to London
My Mum had my niece for a couple of days over the Christmas break, so we decided to take her on her first trip to London.  On the itinerary – Liberty, Carnaby Street, and of course Hamleys.  She was a little overwhelmed when we first stepped into the famous toy store, but as soon as she saw Peppa Pig cuddly toys, she figured out that this was her shop.  It was very adorable seeing her excitedly spotting different things, and I managed to convince her to get a Supergirl doll (they didn’t have Wonder Woman).  Walking round the busy streets with her yelling at people to get out of the way is a memory I’ll cherish!