Europe, Spain, Travel

Laziness in Gibraltar

Gibraltar really is an odd place. It’s a collision of two lifestyles, two European countries, that are so inherently different, it just doesn’t seem to blend that well. I felt like I was constantly on an all-inclusive holiday for Brits abroad, but over a whole country. It was bizarre seeing numerous pubs serving up British grub and signs in English stating that Lord what’s his name lives here and there, it felt wrong. It felt like I was cheating, where was all the rain? Where was all the doom and gloom of British weather that England is most commonly known for?

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the country, I was just perplexed. Perplexed about the British culture that encapsulates this tiny area of the world which rubs shoulders with Spain, both in language and weather, even flirtatiously eyes up Morocco’s mountainous ranges, but is also still so, British. Being a fan of sunshine, Spain and people that smile, needless to say I did enjoy my time here- despite my confusion and feelings of misplacement.

The first thing you’ll spot when you land off your flight and when the warm wind blows on your face is the massive rock that stands encompassing such sheer size and volume, it is as if it looms in the distance, reminding those that surround it of the impassive power of nature. Admittedly before I arrived in Gibraltar, I shared my wishes of climbing the rock with my parents “depending on my knee” (an injury I sustained training for the Midnight Sun Marathon), however, when I finally did arrive and my eyes glanced up to the rock, I realised it wasn’t a measly hill with a rock on top, but a colossal mountain, a wall of solid rock- something not to be sniffed at. Vowing to climb it another day once my knee is fully recovered, I left the monkeys behind.

Mainly coming here for a holiday to catch up with my parents and eating and drinking ourselves merry, (as well as taking some time out to soothe the soul) meant that unfortunately I didn’t see as many tourist attractions as you might have expected. I didn’t swim with the dolphins as many tour companies advertises; or go down into the depths of St. Michael’s cave or through the Great Siege Tunnels, or ponder over history at Moorish Castle, or sip coffee and watch the world go by at Casemates Square.

Instead of spending days browsing in the Art Galleries or the Museums in Gibraltar, or exploring the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, I did in fact spend most mornings doing lengths in the swimming pool and afternoons lounging around in the sun soaking some much needed vitamin D.  I did however, pop over to Europa Point, which stands at the most southern point of Gibraltar and is seeped with memories of battles and dramatic events.

Although my trip lacked in cultural and touristic attractions and excursions, I can recommend places to eat and drink within the Ocean Village area, which is adjacent to the Gibraltar border and nestles right next to the airport. Grill 53 is a good restaurant if you are looking for a hearty meal that nails traditional dishes of steak and burgers, whilst El Pulpero has wonderful fresh seafood. A popular destination to be seen at is La Sala on the Sunborn Yacht, but just come here for an overpriced drink if you like- the food is inedible. The Bridge is heaving on its live music nights and is a place to go if you want to soak up the Gibraltar sunset amongst the bright lights of the Ocean village below.

Gibraltar is a place I could live in because to me there are aspects of a routine which you could easily adapt from countries like neighbouring Spain; swimming in the morning, a siesta after work in the evening, but I wouldn’t choose to visit Gibraltar out of sheer interest; there are many more places in the world for that.

England, Europe, Travel, UK

Day Tripping to Cambridge

Cambridge is one of the most well visited cities in England due to its historical ties and values attached to the city, through its educational system, Cambridge University.

Cambridge was the first university established in the UK and wandering through the city, you can  understand why Cambridge holds a superior edge over Oxford. Oxford is filled with a range of nightlife and bustling student scene, whilst Cambridge oozes an intellectual air which one immediately intakes and immerses themselves in, as if gaining brain cells merely by just standing in the city itself. The exquisite architecture hums with stories of ancient tales of revelry and echoes with words of wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Meander down cobbled streets, under paved archways and through hidden alleyways, which lead on to grand elegant buildings with expansive manicured gardens. Watch first time punters struggle and slip with the action of punting whilst bleary eyed students routinely gather excited tourists onto boats to whisk them along the river, floating under hanging willows and narrowly avoiding stranded punters, laughing in hilarity at their situation.

Copyright: Heather C
Copyright: Heather C

I came to visit Cambridge on a day trip to visit one of my closest friends who moved there for work. Driving from Surrey, we conveniently parked in the park and ride, and took the bust transfer in, avoiding the traffic and expensive car parks.

Using Trinity College as a meeting point, my friends and I were enraptured by the glorious splendour of the building which looked as if a church, rather than an educational establishment. The entrance was heaving with international tourists heavily clad with selfie sticks and donning “I love Cambridge” T-shirts with wide beaming smiles, whilst posing in front of the Tudor influenced structure, which has been noted in many novel and historical artefact.

Copyright: Heather C
Copyright: Heather C

Trinity College is a symbol of what the city of Cambridge has to offer; education, wisdom, intellect and knowledge, in a picturesque setting filled with quaint historic buildings nestled next to high street shops. However, the building which is more famously known is, the King’s College Chapel. The King’s College Chapel steals Trinity College’s thunder, it is an extra ordinary example of one of the finest Gothic buildings in England and for many, is a must see on any tourist’s agenda.  Flooding British TV screens every winter, the sight of Trinity College is on every screen with the Cambridge choir capturing the very essence of the festive spirit. Harmonic sounds float up the steep spiral and the wondrous notes work their way through the building, along the narrow wooden aisles and chiming the ornate stained glass windows that beam a kaleidoscope of colours onto the inner walls. Walking through the aisles you are awestruck into silence by its majestic beauty and still nature. When leaving the chapel and stepping into the sunshine, it felt as if re-entering the modern world, with its everyday chaos.

Copyright: Heather C
Copyright: Heather C

It is quite easy to spend an afternoon lounging on or along the banks of the lazy river, watching the clouds drift through the sky, or stroll through the historical city, finding hidden gems of architecture, or spending an afternoon dining in a 16th century pub in the sunshine, such as The Eagle– the oldest pub in Cambridge, where we had a hearty lunch in the courtyard. Step inside and the ceiling is covered with war memorabilia and coasters from various ales and lagers from over the years. The pub has an atmospheric buzz to the place and thanks to its large portions and cheap prices, the pub attracts all types of people; tourists, students and locals, creating a hybrid mix of people enjoying the historical character of the pub.

Although, if you find it easier to leave the comfort of a traditional pub more than I do, then head over to the Fitzwilliam Museum– a haven for classic art and historical artefacts from all over the world. The museum is a jumble of goods that will make you wander what an earth they are doing in a museum tucked away in the heart of Cambridge, and nicknamed as “the Fitz”, but being one of the first public art museums in the UK, you can understand the logic behind these actions.

As I said before, my experiences with Cambridge are short lived, merely just a day trip, however, I can see why visitors would want to spend a few days here or even relocate here. With its charming cyclists that zip past you, was well as the buzz of young energy from students that infiltrate  the elegant architecture and historical buildings, Cambridge is quite a catch.

England, Europe, Travel, UK

A Look Into Islington

Islington is filled with authentic Victorian houses that possess traditional features such as grand staircases and sweeping stone porches, and have laid host to fabulous writers and revolutionaries such as Mary Wollstonecraft, George Orwell, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Not only is the neighbourhood aesthetically pleasing, but it is a haven for creativity, specifically in the field of arts and crafts. Swopping traditional food commerce at the Islington Farmers Market for boutique shops that are a treasure trove for art supplies, there are a number of shops dedicated to DIY enthusiasts and those wanting to learn various skills through the classes and workshops that are on offer.

Aside from shops offering workshops and classes, there is much more support and praise for the field of arts and crafts in Islington. Head to the Council Arts Centre where one can meet talented working professionals that use various mediums, such as; metal, glass, pottery and textiles, to create contemporary bespoke art. Or to experience a rare art form in the area of theatre, whether it is through watching, being part of the imaginative education programmes or participatory activities for the community, head over to the Little Angel Theatre. The theatre is one of the only three puppet theatres in the UK, and it celebrates the rare art form by developing the puppetry and producing their own shows nationally and internationally, building a reputation for this diverse and interesting style of theatre.

Whilst you are in the neighbourhood of Islington, embrace the football culture that runs deep into London’s veins, by visiting one of the most successful clubs in the world-both financially and through support, Arsenal.  Exploring the Arsenal Museum in the Emirates Stadium ,you join the masses of Londoner’s and internationals that support this acclaimed team, by learning about the history and growth of the heralded football club, as well as a look into the size and volume of the stadium.

If you would like to escape the hustle and bustle of London’s cityscape, embrace the 2.8 hectare nature reserve nestled away in the Gillespie Park Ecology Centre. With its award winning education centre, care and attention is taken towards the various habitats that encompass the surrounding environment and are home to a wealth of wildlife; including 244 species of plants, 94 species of birds and 24 types of butterflies. Allow yourself the time to wander through the woodland and meadow areas, soaking in the atmosphere, and giving time for reflection, peace and quiet from your daily routine.

Islington offers a wide scope in variety of restaurants and Ottolenghi is no exception. Expect brunches that are plentiful and flavoursome, filled with deliciously home baked muffins that resemble the style of our American cousins baking, and alternative breakfasts that are healthy and nutritious. Salads are of abundance and fusion dishes served in the evening, are elegantly composed and taste divine, prior booking is always recommended.  Another firm favourite is the Almeida, where the French cuisine is delightfully intertwined with British inspired dishes and offers organic sophisticated cuisine in a prestige setting, a restaurant reserved for special occasions.

I love the fun colonial explorer themed bar, Hoxley and Porter, which blends vintage attire, printed wallpaper and uniformed staff, to create the ambiance of a traveller from a period long ago, bringing nostalgia to all that visit here. Their incredible inspired West Indian cocktails are filled with made in house liquors and are a notch above the rest. For an acoustic night that will enchant and spell bind you, head to the Union Chapel. The traditional gothic architecture is stunning, as the space uplifts the acoustics of the performers that play here, making the event a more memorable one because of the surroundings you are in, as well as the quality of sound.

 

 

 

England, Europe, Travel, UK

A Look Into Camden

For the many that visit Camden, it is purely a place to peruse for odd items, a jumble of strange paraphernalia, eccentric and funky Cyberdog style esque clothing. With ten million visitors a year, popularity for Camden market is ever growing, where a hive of alternative culture is embedded into its very roots, creating a collision of styles in its atmosphere and way of life. But there is much more to Camden than meets the eye.

With the area having its early origins as a suburban town housing a large estate and a service centre for railways and canals, one can see Camden has been regenerated into a lively community atmosphere filled with a varied style of cuisine and live music that accentuates what London is all about.

Visit the Roundhouse, a performing arts venue which originally was built as a railway shed in 1847. Now the site hosts big name artists, dance, circus, stand-up comedy, poetry slam, improvisation sessions and young art sessions to help aid future creatives.  The Roundhouse is widely recognized for its ITunes Festival and Camden beach during the summer months.

A pleasant walk can be had along Regents Canal which leads directly to St Pancras Train Station. It is a setting for the traditional lifeline of trade and industry which ran through London by way of the interlinking canals. Walk in any direction which takes your fancy, heading to Regents Park or the Islington Tunnel in East London, both offer spectacular views and insight into various areas of London. If you do decide to follow the path to St. Pancras, you will not be disappointed by its stunning gothic splendour and authentic history that has enriched the building. The station is filled with public art and decadent restaurants, it is a fantastic place to grab a coffee and people watch, taking in the buzz and ambience of those that are on a journey around you.

Other sights in Camden we recommend are; The British Library, which is the largest library in the world and is also a major research library. It is filled with an extensive range of books, texts and catalogues that will feed the hungry mind of any literature enthusiast or history buff, as well as various exhibits held on that highlight certain literary heroes. In celebration of another literary hero, the Shaw Theatre is in close distance to the library, where one can immerse oneself in performances that are of an unconventional nature.

Our restaurants of choice in the area are Belgo, a charming Belgian restaurant where the lobster and moules specials are divine, a perfect treat for dinner, accompanied with their fine wide array of European beers that are on offer and all vary in strength and taste. If wanting a restaurant to satisfy a delicious craving, head to Honest Burgers, where mouth-wateringly good burgers are packed into delightful packages of meat and where it’s not unusual to roll ones sleeves back before starting the meal.

For an authentic British pub experience, head to Worlds End, a pub filled with rich history and where famous writers such as Charles Dickens even enjoyed a tipple here once before. If you would like to experience the fantastic live music that Camden so proudly boasts, head to Jazz Café, where an eclectic mix of artists from the likes of Lana Del Ray to Amy Winehouse have graced the stage. Genres vary from jazz, to hip hop, R n B to soul and funk, providing a vibrant atmosphere and enjoyable experience, for the last 25 years and still continues to do so.