Urban oasis, bar, restaurant | 20 Fenchurch Street, near Monument | ££ | Have a look!
20 Fenchurch Street may not be to everyone’s architectural taste but the oasis that is hosting at its top is. ‘Sky Garden’ is actually a public garden and a very special place offering observation decks, a brasserie, a restaurant, cafe and bars.
I tried the Darwin Brasserie and the food and presentation is excellent and so are the prices. But choices are many either for a drink or coffee stop this is a great opportunity to enjoy – literally -the best views in London.
December found me at the last gig of The Cure’s global tour which wrapped up with a three night residency at Wembley Arena.
An epic 3 hrs set which was perfectly designed to elevate the crowd song after song. Robert Smith’s vocals were as incredible as his iconic presence. It was a stellar show, demonstrating much dedication to the fans who also gave much love back. Having been to a number of rock concerts this year I found the relationship between artist/crowd the strongest one at this show with an incredible audience engaging with the band every, single minute.
The Cure has been part of so many people’s life soundtrack. It was very comforting to know that Smith’s beautiful, special voice, talent and kookiness still remain intact.
Birth of Joy and Seven Cities at The Borderline, Soho
I love this live music venue (is it really the last one in gentrified Central London to enjoy live rock?). Two great bands on the night. Dutch Birth of Joy and British Seven Cities delivered dynamic performances. Two to watch!
Sunset at Villa Thalia, Campbell’s new play at the National Theatre explores themes of modern times imperialism, capitalism, greed and democracy in Greece (and beyond). Set in late 60s Greece on the eve of military coup that would set the country in 7 years of military junta regime. The play struck a cord; I am Greek and know first hand of the hardship, exploitation and challenging political times that the country seems to be going through since its genesis. But it also struck a chord because it couldn’t be more relevant to our recent times. This may be a play set in Greece but it is truly Universal.
London celebrates this year its 40th anniversary of the punk subcultural phenomenon with Punk London; a series of events, talks, exhibitions looking into the music, fashion, art and ideologies. As part of the celebrations, The British Library is hosting Punk 1976-78 including photographic exhibition, talks and film screenings. I recently attended Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!: The Day the Ramones Ignited Punk. The event honoured Danny Fields, a pivotal figure in the music industry (brought into mainstream the likes of Stooges, MC5 and Ramones, also worked with The Doors, Lou Reed) who took us through his career journey with key focus on Ramones’ success and the band’s introduction into London’s punk scene.
The evening concluded with a special screening of documentary ‘Danny Says’ which will be screening at Curzon cinemas later this year. It was an excellent evening and provided great insights into punk music and mostly the differences between the US and UK scene.
Cartagena has rightly won its place as one of the most preserved colonial destinations. An abundance of cobbled alleys, churches, plazas and beautiful architecture all snuggled within 13km of ancient stone walls. Yes, it is Colombia’s most popular destination which makes it very touristy but its beauty is so unique you quickly overcome the fact that Cartagena is not exactly the place to ‘lose yourself’ in true Colombian culture. Personally, I absolutely loved the place, I couldn’t get enough of its colourfuness, fairy tale atmosphere, music and food.
I caved in and decided to finally try Ella Woodward’s (Deliciously Ella) Mae Deli, situated in beautiful and quiet Seymour Place. I have read many raving reviews about the place as well as other ones stating that it is overpriced and overhyped. I love an occasional sweet treat but would rather avoid the sugary/fat option; so I am trying to discover as many as healthier alternatives as possible. I have to admit, as I don’t follow a vegan diet, I am generally skeptical on the vegan sweet options offered these days mostly as I have been overly disappointed too many times by what I have tried so far. To summarise: I really liked this cute little deli.
London is one of the most interesting and exchiting cities in the world. It has been my home since 2005 but not a day is gone by without discovering something new. I feel on a ‘permanent holiday’. The pages below will guide you through my special/favourite places in the city. And tips on what to avoid!
Saturday evening saw London’s Olympic stadium first ever gig. But it was not just another gig. AC/DC, one of rock’s loudest and most significant bands took the stage with Guns N’ Roses’ frontman Axl Rose (in the absence of Brian Johnson). What I had the opportunity to witness was an absolutely spectacular show of rock chemistry, impressive vocals, pyrotechnics and even canons!
Rolling Stones ‘Exhibitionism‘ is an amazing interactive, audio visual journey through Stones’ history. It is extraordinary that these living Rock legends are still together, same line up 40+ years (50+ years for the original 3) and counting. They were relevant at my parents’ youth and they are still relevant today. They influenced music, fashion, artwork and from what I learnt at the exhibition; they influenced stage set up.
Always find it hard to deal with routine reality after my trips to Latin America. Happens every single time. The colours, the music, the atmosphere feels so much like a dream and busy London comes to land me back to planet earth with a bang! Only thing to do is try to hang on to the Latin vibe a little longer… And these are my favourite London haunts. This is as good as it could possibly get after the real thing.
On my second trip to Trinidad I found myself in town on Mother’s Day. Like everywhere else, it is also a very special day for Cubans and it celebrated in a big family way. The day before Mothering Sunday, streets and shops are busy with fathers and children making the shopping for the big family feast that is to follow and bakeries are producing in frenzy oversized, sugary cakes to be offered to celebrated mothers.
I wouldn’t do The Life Goddess any justice if I just called it a ‘coffee shop’. This is a coffee shop and a restaurant and a deli – but all three are providing a little taste of delicious Greece. This is the story of three fellow Greeks from my homeland of Macedonia and the city I spent a good chunk of my life, Thessaloniki.
I am in love with this coffee shop. I could sit and write, read here for hours and people-watch Soho’s trendy crowd passing by. Although, the Yumchaa coffee shops are expanding (already now four in London, practically a small chain) this still pretty much feels like an independent, neighbourhood café. I love the combination of industrial brick, softened with romantic silver flowery paper wall and a mix and match country chic furniture.
How much London changed on this front since I first moved here. While still independent coffee shops are not exactly bursting out of the streets like other European capitals, we definitely have considerably more choices these days. I am getting so excited (I know it doesn’t take much to make me happy does it?) each time I discover a new coffee drinking hole that has individuality and doesn’t come under the name of Costa or Starbucks.
Miami was one of those places I wanted to go for so long, mostly because of the hype, I worried that it would actually flop in expectations. I loved Miami. It felt I was in this little weird planet, it definitely didn’t feel I was in the US. I loved the vibe, I loved the weather, I loved the people. I loved it mostly for its unpretentious style – yes I know this may comes as a surprise to some. But it is always down to the ‘experience’ and in the land of beauty I found a place with the right attitude, friendliness and spotless service. If you are a major culture buff – in the traditional sense – then probably this is not the place for you. Miami offers a distinct culture, dominated by the latin vibe which is evident everywhere from small live music holes to Little Havana and the annual festivals and food…[read more]
That’s the thing about London. When you think you are trending into dodgy territory there is always a more upscale little street that can offer an escape exit. Trapped between not so glam Tottenham Court Road and touristy Oxford Street, Charlotte Street takes you to an evening in Continental Europe. Or sort of. It is a short street, but sweet! Small cafes, independent restaurants and a couple of cosy bars. A great choice if you find yourself trapped in Central London but wanting to avoid the Soho buzz.
Cuba’s people and history have left me incredibly inspired and with a positive life outlook. I have never met people so generous, grateful, well mannered and kind despite their limited means. Cubanos love life and appreciate every minute of it and they will surely make you join in! People went beyond their ‘way’, literally, to help me out throughout my time in the country, they have given me thoughtful gifts and many stories to cherish.
So many stories to write and tell. Martha, who has the same second hand book stand at Plaza de Armas in Havana since she was a teenager, talked to me about Che – how he used to stroll in the evenings at the Plaza, he was ‘elegante’ she said and always kind and caring with the kids playing around and the people he would meet. I heard about Fidel from Amadeo, an Italian who felt in love with Cuba in his youth and after 15 years back and forth decided to take citizenship, about his 8 hours speeches on the 1st of May.
I learnt how proud they are for their past, their revolutionary fathers and the deep respect they have for them. I learnt about their struggles, their dreams, how ready they are to move forward. If I ever was to give one advice on travelling would be ‘talk to people’. They are the history, the vibe and culture of the country.
And another thing… I found Cuba a very safe place for a female traveller. I combined both solo travelling and adventure group travelling. For the latter I joined Cuban Adventures. It was a special experience, this is a company specialising in Cuban tours and offers a truly authentic experience. Additionally this is an ideal introduction to Western Cuba (Havana, Viñales, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara), allowing you to return to those you loved most (as I later did with a repeat visit to Trinidad). If you are travelling solo and want to experience Cuba off the beaten track, meet like minded travellers and hear first hand on Cuba’s history and culture from a local this is undoubtedly a great choice.
It’s a comfort that there are some places in London that offer the same ambience, quality of food and service throughout the years without messing with ‘forced style’ deco or menu changes. Sometimes you just don’t like change. If something really works, why spoil it?