Thursday, 31 July 2014

#259: Support local theatre

Not all theatre is put on in the West End. There is some interesting, if not flat out challenging, theatre being produced and shown at local theatres, spaces and warehouses across London every night of the week, of which I have until recently seen none. I'm usually too secluded in my own little bubble and generally don't have a clue about contemporary drama and visual arts. So with this on my list, I endeavoured to go to some more 'out there' things. I'm finding that generally I'm not a fan, but that's because I like what I'm familiar with. Attending out of the ordinary plays/drama/events, challenges me and my perception of what art is and while I may not like the play, I do like the challenge of it and feel better for having tried to push my boundaries so that next time it's not quite so unfamiliar.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

#137: Take a road trip

There's something about long summer days that bring back memories of school letting out and subsequent summer road trips to meet up with friends hours/days away. It's been a few years since I got in the car and went for a long drive with friends/someone special and so I finally made an effort to take advantage of the lovely English weather to do that. And no road trip would be complete without a new playlist or five to keep the journey lively.

Photo credit: alexmillos / Shutterstock
For any good road trip, you've gotta have a selection of music that spans different genres and timeframes, old and new. Music that's upbeat enough to keep awake for long stretches, with some slower songs mixed in for reflective drive-time and to ensure you don't feel like you're in a club. But most of all, it's vital to have a proper amount of the right tunes to sing to. Because it's not really a road trip if you don't have your windows down, screeching out lyrics at the top of your lungs.
Loud rendition of American Girl, anyone?

Monday, 28 July 2014

#258: Go to Hampstead Ponds

Hampstead Heath Ponds are a series of three fresh water ponds (women's, men's and mixed) in the massive park that is Hampstead Heath. In the summer the ponds are a lovely way to relax and cool down when the weather is hot. It's been almost 10 years since I last visited the ponds. It felt almost like going to the beach, in the middle of a city. Since I live around the corner, there's no excuse for me not to come more often. I hope it won't be another 10 years before I return.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

#136: Go to Sushi Samba

Photos: Sushi Samba Facebook
Sushi Samba used to be one of my favourite restaurants when I lived in NYC, so when I heard it was opening a branch in London I was very excited -- especially when I realised it was going to be on the 39th floor of the new Heron Tower, overlooking the Gherkin. With my birthday having just past, it was a good excuse to grab a drink and soak in the views on a lovely sunny summer night

#257: Do shots out of an ice sculpture

I know, I know, I know. This really is childish and must stop. Luckily, I've ticked this one off the list now so it doesn't have to be done again any time soon.

Note: This would not have been the first choice of sculpture I'd have selected for this task...but it's not every day that the chance to do an ice sculpture shot comes around so I had to work with what I was given. Beggars can't be choosers. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

#135: Go to Burger & Lobster

The concept of Burger & Lobster is brilliantly simple: There are only three items on the menu – burger, lobster and lobster roll – and at £20 each, they represent good value (for London) for a special night out. Personally, I felt that £20 for a burger was too much, as do most people, who just go for the lobster or lobster roll.
The food was uncomplicated, the drinks were excellent and dining was fun.

#256: Drive a Porsche

I've had my List going for a little while now and from the beginning this was one that had always been near the top of things I wanted to do. I have never driven a proper sports car before and for some reason I have had a real desire to see what driving a Porsche is like. I even went so far as to book one of those 'driving day experiences' last year to be able to tick this one off, but something came up and I wasn't able to attend in the end.
I was telling an acquaintance about my List and the dwindling items left on it for me to do and mentioned that driving a Porsche was still something I hadn't achieved. In a act of bravery (or stupidity), she kindly offered to let me drive her own Porsche! I did hesitate and originally turned the generous offer down as I was afraid I'd wreck the thing, but knowing this was a big one on my list that I didn't really have too many opportunities to do I had to say yes! It was just too good an opportunity to turn down. So down went the roof top, up went the music and off I went enjoying lovely summer weather in London in a very fine ride.

The verdict: It certainly was a lot of fun to drive and I'm very lucky to have even been able to sit behind the wheel let alone drive it, but driving on city roads it was hard to take full advantage of the power and speed. Frankly I came away very happy to have done it, but also happy with my 7 year old car...which I realised is perfect for me and my London lifestyle. So I came away happy and content on many levels after this one!

Monday, 21 July 2014

#133: See Starlings circle West Pier, Brighton

Photo credit: dutourdumonde / Shutterstock
Large numbers of starlings arrive from as far away as Scandinavia to join their native cousins in Brighton when they come to roost. The flocks, which can swell to as many as 40,000 birds at the peak in Autumn and Winter, can be seen in the evening over West Pier as they perform their spellbinding aerial show known as ‘murmuration’.

Starlings feed up to 20 miles from their roost, returning each evening. In late afternoon feeding flocks join together to form large pre-roost gatherings in places where the birds can get one last meal before nightfall. At dusk, birds from these gatherings fly, often in a swirling cloud-like formation, to the roost.

It's a sight to see.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

#255: Wear an outrageous costume

Hell must have frozen over: I wore an 'Abba' metallic magenta onesie in public! Now, I'm normally a quiet, reserved person who does everything I can to avoid the limelight or being the centre of attention and in the aftermath of my breakup, or frankly even during the 9 years I was dating my Ex, I would NEVER have felt confident enough to do/wear something like this in private, let alone out in public. And even if I had, my Ex would have shamed me so much with 'not cool' looks and comments to wipe out any bit of fun I might have found dressing up so outlandishly. I've been working up to doing something like this for a little while, building my confidence bit by bit but there was really nothing I could do to truly prepare for being out in public other than just completely throw myself into the spirit and not care that I make an ass out of my myself. So doing this was a real departure for me and something that shows how seriously far I've come in my new life. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

#254: Be part of a Flash mob

A friend had a birthday coming up and she has done a fair bit of flash mobbing what better way to tick this one off the list than by being in a surprise flashmob for her party? The rule was for everyone to party at the bar as usual until Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 came on. When it reached the chorus, everyone -- except the birthday girl -- would do a choreographed dance routine to surprise her. I'm not sure we were the slickest flashmob ever done, but it was a real laugh...and certainly surprised the birthday girl.

Photo credit: Elena Dijour /

#132: Visit Brighton Pier

According to VisitEngland, Brighton is one of England's most attractive cities, some eight million annual visitors come for the liberal, funky and welcoming vibe, sea air, and sweet sticks of rock. The English seaside town has long been associated with quirky, funny and sometimes saucy weekend visits and none come more risqué, entertaining or as juicy as East Sussex’s veritable melting pot of fun.
Photo credit: crazychris84 / Shutterstock
History and Heritage
Prince Regent George (later King George IV) put the sleepy, fishing village of Brighton on the map when he commissioned the Indian-inspired Royal Pavilion as the ultimate weekend pad in the late 1700s. But it was the Victorian period when the town really boomed, helped in 1851 by the train link to London. Queen Victoria herself shunned the town (preferring the quieter Isle of Wight), but her subjects couldn't get enough of the fresh air and quirky goings on, and the Palace Pier , Regency squares & Georgian terraces (and some B&Bs) have changed little since.
Photo credit: Darrenbaker / Shutterstock
Must See Attractions
Fish and chips and a few goes on the amusement stalls of the Palace Pier are usually top of the list for day-trippers, followed closely by a meander around The Lanes or the North Laine area. Thousands of starlings (and as many photographers) flock to the iconic, but sadly decrepit West Pier, for some of the best sunset views in Britain. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

#253: Eat a Twinkie

As a kid, I used to love Hostess Twinkies (and loved a Hostess Cupcake even more!). It's been years/decades since I last had one and I thought back on my childhood and things that I enjoyed and I wondered whether or not a Twinkie would still have the same effect on me. Living in London, it's impossible to find Twinkies (probably because they wouldn't qualify as real food product under UK regulations) so I was really lucky a friend gave me a package not just of Twinkies, but of other American snacks as well. I have to say, while there's nothing seemingly real about a Twinkie, eating one still brought me back to that childhood place and made me happy... 

...But then again that might have been the impact of the preservatives and sugar high from eating it. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

#252: Go to St Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral is one of London's most famous and historical landmarks. It was built by Sir Christopher Wren in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London and has dominated the London skyline for more than 300 years since. Climb the 259 steps up the dome and you will find the Whispering Gallery, which runs around the inside of the Dome. It gets its name from a charming quirk in its construction which makes a whisper against its walls audible on the opposite side.

While I work just down the road, the last time I was actually in the church was when I visited London with my family when I was 16, so this has been a long overdue item. I found a Women in Leadership event, which just happened to be held in St. Paul's, as you do. So when I found that out, I immediately signed up. As an American, certain things about London will always amaze me, and St Paul's is one of them.
As they say, when you're bored of London, you're bored of life.

Top Photo: QQ7 / Shutterstock

Sunday, 13 July 2014

#130: Go to Buckingham Palace

As an American, there's something about British Royalty that still inspires awe for me. While I recognise that the Monarchy is an unaccountable and expensive institution, I think it also stands for something great and that Queen Elizabeth is as upstanding a State figurehead as they get.
The Rose Garden, complete with very civilised.
I remember visiting Buckingham Palace when I was a kid to see the changing of the Guard as wondering what it would be like behind those high walls. I've often driven down the Mall and then past the Palace grounds on Constitution Hill towards Hyde Park and thought about scaling the wall (only in a theoretical sense, of course) and wondered what it would be like to wander the Private Gardens inside.
What a lovely day...Cheers indeed!
So I looked into what I'd need to do to see for myself. Given I'm not likely to ever receive an official Royal invitation or even an invitation to one of the Queen's famous Garden parties, I thought my only option would likely be to sign up for a tour of Buckingham Palace, which is open to members of the public in the summer. However, I'm not particularly a massive fan of those kinds of things, so when the chance to go to the Palace Gardens to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Queen's Coronation came up, I put my name in for tickets.
The Queen's State car. Notice no number plate.
It couldn't have been a nicer day. The weather was hot and sunny, like a proper weekend in July should be. The gardens were lovely with a vast array of flowers and wildlife that made you forget that a bustling city was just on the other side of those ivy covered walls.
Mary Poppins eat your heart out. There's even a chimney sweep on a bike.
It was just as I had imagined it would be all those years ago. I'm glad I finally got around to doing this one.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

#129: Get backstage passes to a concert

Concerts are all about the Rock, but nothing can match the Rock and Roll lifestyle of being backstage at a show. Having seen the movie Almost Famous years ago, it made the life of a groupie seem so easy and and being backstage so glamourous.
I'm fortunate to know someone who was able to hook me up with Access All Area passes to Blondie when they played in London this week.

And while yes I did get to meet some other famous people (see number 116) I can report that being backstage was decidedly unglamorous. There are hundreds of people who work on an event and the roadies have a job to do amongst the waiting guests, 99.9% of whom are average people like me who have to go to work the next day. The logistics of it all is mind blowing: Putting up and tearing down a stage, moving wardrobes and musical instruments, not to mention band members and staff, into tour buses after the show to make the overnight trip by bus in order to make it to the next venue on time the next day ... where they get on stage and repeat it all again. It's groundhog day, over and over again.
The best part of having a backstage pass was not the hobnobbing post show, but getting to see a band perform up close and personal from the side of the stage with no one standing in front of you (other than the sound guys), no beer being spilled down your back and not having to worry about being shoved out of the way by someone desperate to get a better view. A Roadie even gave me the set list paper to keep, which I accepted. How very NOT rock and roll!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

#128: Go to a concert (at the Roundhouse)

Growing up where I did in New York / New Jersey meant that I was spoilt for choice when it came to seeing live music. If a band or singer was on tour, they passed through the Tri-state area and as a teenager weekends in the summer generally meant going to see whomever was in town, whether or not I was a big fan of their music or not. I loved music, but for me the most exciting part was everything that went on around a show: The smug feeling of having tickets to a sold out gig, the anticipation of how much fun my friends and I would have, the fun in the car park 'tailgating', meeting, drinking and hanging out with total strangers for a night and everything else that went with being unsupervised and young.
Time travel forward a number of years and I find myself living in the music hub of London, yet I rarely actually venture out to one of the myriad of bars/clubs to see a show. Even more pathetically, one of London's best concert venues is literally on my doorstep and I have only crossed it's threshold once in the all the time I've lived nearby.
Photo: Lucia Hrda
So when I put my list together I knew a 'must-do' was to see a concert, ideally one at The Roundhouse. From modest Victorian beginnings – beginning life in 1846 as a steam-engine repair shed – to legendary cultural venue, the Roundhouse has an enviable heritage. The Grade II* listed building is an amazingly intimate venue to see a concert.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

#251: Do Jell-O shots

Jello Shots. Why are they on The List? This was one item on the list that firmly fell into the "Things I used to do when out having fun, but haven't done in a while' bucket. I'm sure it was the company more than the Jelly shots, but I certainly had a fun evening!

Friday, 4 July 2014

#127: Get a promotion at work

Photo credit: Patpitchaya / Shutterstock

My department is restructuring and I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to announce that I've been offered, and accepted, a promotion. It's nice that my hard work over the last year(s) has paid off and been appreciated. It seems as if I'm a wanted woman in more ways than one...which I'm incredibly grateful for.

I'd love to think that this also means that I'd be able to tick 'Stay employed' off my list at this point but things being what they are I could still lose my job tomorrow so that item has to wait until December.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

#125: Have Belgian beer and Belgian waffles in Brussels

Belgium and Beer. They are synonymous. For such a small country, Belgium has an incredible number of breweries and different beer styles. On top of this, many bars often offer a choice of hundreds of beers on their menu, with The Delerium Cafe in Brussels lists over 2,000. There's a reason that the country is known as "Beer Paradise".

While I didn't make it to Delerium, I did go to that other Brussels institution, Le Roy d'Espagne, situated on the corner of the Grand Place and tried a range of beers they had on offer. I was surprised by the raspberry beer which made for a refreshing drink in the afternoon sun.

The other thing Belgium is known for is its waffles.
I've long heard about the wonder that is a proper Belgian Waffle, but I doubted that there would be much difference between a 'Belgian' waffle and a waffle from, say, Camden Market. But I put it on my list so that I could find out. And boy I'm glad I did. Unlike traditional american waffles which are eaten at breakfast, Brussels waffles are for desert and are hard and crispy on the outside and lighter and fluffier than a traditional waffle. I tried one that was so good I had to have another one (the next day) at a different place to make ensure it wasn't a fluke. I can confirm they were very tasty indeed.

On top of all that beer, I foresee a diet in my future.