Thursday, 12 March 2015

Camden Town

I've always wanted to go to Camden but for some unknown reason I've never managed to make it there on my many trips to London. So when I went for a day trip a couple of weeks ago I put it at the top of my agenda (albeit after Topshop)!

I'd heard about the great atmosphere in Camden along with the wealth of vintage clothing stores in the Stables Market and Street food in the Locks Market and I was sold. After a hearty breakfast at the Riding House Cafe and mini splurge at Topshop my sister and I jumped on the tube to Chalk Farm and hit the Stables Market first.


I was blown away by this market. There were great vintage stores and the most amazing hat shop where I purchased a much wanted black visor ready for my holiday in May. The buildings the stores are housed in are beautiful also with many ornate Moroccan style doors on show.

I was sporting a rather fetching Disney pom pom Minney Mouse headband, very similar to what a twelve year old may wear, and it got quite a lot of attention. One eccentric gent even commented that I looked like an erotic model in my Disney meets Will.I.Am mash-up! Though the highlight of the day was when I went into Cyberdog and my pom pom's lit up like a Christmas tree much to my shock. I wish I had a picture to share this moment but alas I don't.

Anyway back to Camden. After perusing the Stables we headed over to the Locks to sample some of the promised street food. We both opted for Cronut's which we'd never tried before. A Cronut if your uaware of the New York born phenomenon is a cross between a Donught and Croissant and I'm sad to report that it was utterly disgusting. My advice would be to stick to one or the other as the texture is odd and the taste bland.

The Locks have a great vibe and a fantastic selection of food from all over the world. The smells, people and energy are just amazing. I loved the markets and will definitely be returning again.

We were going to hit nearby Hache for one of their renowned Burgers but the Cronut had finished us both of so we headed to The Worlds End for a pint and to rest our weary feet. The Worlds End is a bit of a Camden institution or so my Dad tells me. It also inspired the Simon Pegg & Edgar write film of the same title and was where the pair used to drink when filming the sitcom 'Spaced'.

If your in Camden and you like your pubs stuffed with character and playing a heavy rock soundtrack you should check it out. I loved this place although being London it was on the pricey side.


After a day full of shopping and food we jumped on the tube to The Tate, possibly my favourite place in the world, second only to The Pompidou in Paris. I loved Camden, the atmosphere and people were amazing and I've pledged to go back and stay the night hopefully seeing some live music in The Roundhouse or Underworld.

Does anyone have any tips of where to go in Camden that I might not have experienced yet? I can't wait to go back.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Hot Topic Wednesday - Is Social Media becoming dangerous?

I know how ironic it is that I'm writing about this topic on what may be considered a Social Media platform and that I will later promote what I have written via sites such as Facebook & Twitter. Don't get me wrong I think Social Media is a fantastic tool that has a lot of pro's but I also recognise the potential downfalls involved.
I've been reading a lot of worrying articles recently about Social Media and the expansion of 'Big Brother' technology that is impacting upon people's lives in very negative ways. I've also been writing a Code of Conduct Policy for work that covers, you guessed it the topic of Social Media, so it's been on my mind a lot.
Social Media sites have been growing over the years from MySpace through to Facebook and Twitter and there is no questioning that they have become a big part of 21st Century culture. Documenting our lives on these platforms has become an everyday chore on par with brushing our teeth or eating our breakfast. I'm guilty of spending far too much time scrolling through Facebook aimlessly or uploading image after image to Instagram when I could be out actually living my life instead of staring at a computer screen.
That said I do put a limit on how much time I spend on Social Media sites and how much of my life I reveal online. What happens though when someone steals your online identity and turn's you into a fictional person with a life that is completely separate from your own.
This is what happened to Ruth Palmer. A stranger (still unknown to her) stole her online identity turning her into Leah Palmer (maybe a Twin Peaks reference there): an attractive, single 20-something Brit working abroad and enjoying life in Dubai.
They regularly lifted images off her Facebook and uploaded them to create the false profiles on everything from Instagram to dating website Tinder. Even more worryingly this person didn't stop at just Ruth, they began creating profiles of her supposed 'friends and family' and communicating between accounts.
Despite Ruth being happily committed to her boyfriend Benjamin, 'Leah' was having online relationships with a host of men that she had met on dating app Tinder, while her current boyfriend was branded a psychotic, jealous ex!
This story is worrying on so many levels and according to Police very common in todays society. This is a prime example of when Social Media becomes dangerous. Not only has this had a negative effect on Ruth but also her friends, family, boyfriend and male suitor's that she'd never even met.
I'm a massive fan of Catfish which really delves into online relationships and how seemingly genuine people are actually fictional characters created from various Social Media sources. It really highlights how much of a problem this has become within todays society and how easy it is to access peoples photo's and create these fake profiles.
This is just one example of how Social Media can impact upon peoples lives, so why interact on these sites. I personally do it because I like to share my life with my friends and family, not in a 'showy, look what I'm doing kind of way' but just so I can share what's going on with those I care most about and I can look back at this record of my life when I'm older. I think this is part of the reason I blog aswell.
I also love having an insight into other peoples lives and learning from others experiences and opinions, be that a top restaurant tip or someone's deeply personal experiences in life. Although sometimes tiresome (receiving another Candy Crush request) I find sites like Twitter inspiring and a great tool for interacting with a wider audience.
I do however see how Social Media & Technology could potentially get out of control in the future. If your interested in this concept check out the Black Mirror series, created by Charlie Brooker. It highlights the potential for technology gone mad in a much more elegant, compelling manner then I can.
What do you think? Social Media: friend or foe?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Riding House Cafe, London


I have a real affinity with London. My dad is a thoroughbred Cockney being raised in the Elephant & Castle and although Welsh and very much used to a slower pace of life, I sometimes feel the excitement of the city pulling me in.
I hadn't been to London for years (holds head in shame), so I felt a trip was well beyond due. Booking some cheap tickets on a ridiculously early train my sister J and I headed off with the agenda of great food, Topshop and vintage shopping in Camden.

Getting into Euston before anything had actually opened we had our plan straight: go for a great breakfast and hit Topshop before the Saturday madness set in.
I'd heard great things about The Riding House Café which is situated in prime location just off Oxford Street on Great Titchfield Street so thought we'd give it a go.

Hungry and cold we found the Café and were welcomed and seated promptly. As soon as I sat down I knew that The RHC was going to be my kind of place. The décor was just up my street, very industrial chic I loved the metal tables, elegant bar area and quirky table and seats that ran through the centre of the restaurant.
Another good sign was that it was very busy considering it was only 9am and the staff were very efficient and friendly.

The menu is great with a good selection of all the breakfast favourites and some killer juices and smoothies. While J opted for a pot of English Breakfast tea to warm her up I couldn't resist a 'Yellow Jersey' Smoothie: a blend of Pineapple, Banana, Almond Milk, Yoghurt and Vanilla. It cam served in a quirky milk bottle and was smooth and rich, yum.
 I deliberated for a fair while before opting for Avacado on Toast with a side of streaky Bacon. The Avotoast was delicious, creamy and really well seasoned with a hint of chilli. The bacon however was a disappointment, very fatty and soggy.

J was the clear winner of that ancient 'did I order the right thing' conundrum going for the Buttermilk Pancakes, served with Clotted Cream, Mixed Berries & Maple Syrup.
I was green with envy (no pun intended) when they arrived. Luckily while light and fluffy they were deceptively filling and she let me try one of hers! Sisterly love and all that.
The RHC Pancakes are some of the best I've ever had. I need to get the recipe. If I ever have the opportunity to go again I will definitely order them next time.

Full, happy and ready for some serious shopping we headed off to hit the delight that is Topshop, Oxford Street. I couldn't help taking some pics on the way down. How beautiful and unusual is this building?! I want to live here.
Do you have any great tips for Breakfast/Brunch in London? I would put the RHC up there as one of mine.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Hot Topic Wednesday - Bansky in Gaza

First thing's first I know it's not Wednesday I forgot to hit the publish button yesterday so apologies for this being late. Anyway onto the second of my 'Hot Topic Wednesday's' and Banksy's new documentary/art installations in Gaza.

I wanted to wait a week or so before I discussed this topic and give a bit of time for feedback from the art world and general public to come through. I personally have always been a fan of Banksy. His work caught my attention and got me interested in street art which I'm now slightly obsessed with.

Always politically charged and a mixture of anti-war, anti-establishment or anti-capitalism I find Banksy's pieces striking and fascinating. I know not everyone is a fan with his rapid ascent (or some would say descent) into the mainstream leading to a lot of people brandishing him a 'sell out'.

Popularity seems to have become a dirty word in our culture today and while I agree in some cases I think that Banksy has made managed to reach a wide audience because of his talent, subject matter and clever anonymity, and I applaud that!

From his early days as a freehand graffiti artist to the powerful stencil artist he has now become Banksy has always had something to say and does this constructively through his art. I have loved so many of his pieces from his distribution of doctored £10 'Banksy of England ' notes to his 2008 piece 'One Nation Under CCTV'.

And in the face of claims that he is a 'Sell out' concerned only with money Banksy opened up a pop-up boutique on Fifth Avenue, near Central Park in NYC in 2013 as part of his one month show in the cities streets. Manned by an unknown elderly man  the store allowed tourists and locals to buy one off Banksy pieces at the set price of $60. This is a perfect example of why I respect Bansky so much he never shy's away from his critics or confrontation.

In 2005 Banksy took to the Palestinian territories to create nine powerful political images on the Israeli West Bank wall and this year he has taken to the Gaza strip to create more artwork relating to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian authority.

His two minute Documentary, published on his personal website is a satirical take on a travel promo for the conflict devastated Gaza Strip and was released a day ahead of the unveiling of his art pieces.

First up a piece of the Greek Goddess Niobe weeping (which he published on his official instagram page as a teaser). Below it the caption "Bomb Damage, Gaza City."

Followed by a wall adorned with a Kitten. Banksy explained the reason behind this image :

"A local man came up and said 'Please - what does this mean?' I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens." 

A giant image of children swinging from a watchtower is also visible. Bansky commented:
"Gaza is often described as 'the world's largest open air prison' because no-one is allowed to enter or leave.
"But that seems a bit unfair to prisons - they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day." 

Powerful imagery with a deep meaning I think and a perfect example of how street art can make an important social statement. I've been reading the comments on blogs and websites and the feedback is mixed: some love it and understand the reasoning behind it as Banksy intended while others question the artists understanding of the conflict on a deeper level.

What do you think: an important collection of political artwork that will be remembered in years to come or sheer vandalism and a lack of understanding of the regions complicated political issues?

I think you know my opinion.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Give it a go Monday - Boogie Bounce!

I made a vow at the beginning of the year, some could say a resolution (though I hate calling it that as I instantly want to break it) to try something new every month that would take me out of my comfort zone and hopefully improve my fitness & wellbeing at the same time.
I think as you get older you realise that taking care of yourself is not only extremely important but also very satisfying. Over the last four years I've managed to shed three and a half stone and am now at the lightest I've been since I was a teenager. I feel stronger, happier and more confident.
I still have a little way to go but I think I've overcome an obstacle because I'm actually starting to like exercise. This is something my 15 stone me would never have said!
What I don't like is pounding the treadmill, rower and cross trainer in a boring stuffy gym. And if your anything like me being shouted at Boot camp style is possibly one of the biggest de-motivators going.
I think the key to successful exercise that you enjoy is a good variation and ultimately having fun while you're achieving your goals. With this in mind I thought Boogie Bounce would be perfect as my 'something new to try' for February.
Boogie Bounce is basically a full body workout on a mini trampoline and has been sweeping the nation of late. Now as always, North Wales is always last to experience an exciting new trend and I'll admit I'd never heard of it before my friend Sharon sent me the link to the Website.
We'd been having a discussion about doing something new exercise wise to keep us both motivated so along with our friend Alison we booked on for a class. I was really excited about trying it while Alison was a bit nervous bless her.
We joined the packed class and timidly took to the trampolines at the back. Truthfully everyone was in the same boat, all a mix of excitement and fear of the unknown. As soon as the class started and the music started pumping though everyone relaxed and have a good giggle while mastering the bouncy dance routines.
I knew Boogie Bounce was going to be fun and something new and refreshing. What I wasn't expecting was how effective the routine would be. As well as a good cardio workout the instructors get you to take to the trampoline for some core strengthening exercises and boy did my stomach know about it the next day!
If your looking for something new, fun and effective to try on the exercise front give Boogie Bounce a go. I've booked on for another class despite my lack of rhythm. There is also Boogie Bounce Xtreme (the clues in the name) and Disco Boogie Bounce (where the routine is done in a darkened room with disco lights) so there's plenty of variety.
Take a couple of friends and enjoy while improving your fitness, it's a win-win situation in my eyes.