‘Twas the weekend before Christmas and everything felt strangely calm. For the first time ever I had done all my present shopping and even wrapped most of them too, leaving a whole Sunday to find more of that festive feeling. I’d organised a last-minute catch up with Vanessa after realising we were both free to snap our way around London, which when added to the evening tickets I had for Carols by Candlelight at the Royal Albert Hall, made for a festive-filled day.

Columbia Road Flower Market was our destination of choice. I could go at any time of of year but I was particularly excited to see plenty of seasonal blooms.

The first thing we smelt was a forest of fresh Christmas trees waiting to be picked and given a warm home.

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We don’t have a real Christmas tree in our house as we’re not at home long enough to really justify getting one, so I made sure I took a few deep breaths of that sweet grassy scent.

We wandered into the busy flow of people looking¬†for perfect centre pieces or, like me, imaging what I’d buy if I was hosting a lovely big meal. Of course the Flower Market has all of your festive flower needs covered.

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There’s something about the beauty of wreaths that I’m totally hooked on. I guess they make houses look so much more warm and welcoming at this time of year.

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And mistle toe is just so delicate, with that added bit of romance ūüėČ

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As it approached midday the market got busier and busier so we wandered the quieter streets nearby.

This part of town is full of colourful doors, but the wreaths at Christmas add that extra bit of charm.

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We passed a curious looking piano on wheels and then realised it was a sort of mobile carolling group.

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Sadly they weren’t ready to sing at the time.

But luckily, there was plenty of other music drawing in the crowds (and I knew I had some carolling to enjoy later on…)

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We grabbed some hot drinks and enjoyed watching everyone getting into the spirit.

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Since we’d got up so early we realised we still had some daylight to spare so we made our way west to Belgravia.

It’s always interesting to experience the contrast of east versus west in London. All of a sudden it feels just a little bit less relaxed and a little bit more luxe.

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Wild at Heart is one of those stores I will happily window shop.

Peggy Porschen meets all my perfect pink needs and sweet tooth desires.

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I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the Christmas lights on Elizabeth Street but I loved how chic and minimal there were.

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We found just enough time to find a few more lovely wreaths.

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And I went home feeling festive enough to enjoy the evening ahead.

Christmas carols at the Royal Albert Hall has been on my to do list for a couple of years, maybe even since Anita mentioned it in about 2013. But I always forget about tickets until it’s too late. This year I just about managed to get them before they sold out. As I made my way there I realised I was so excited to add another festive activity to my annual to do list but also to finally see inside such an iconic building.

Not so excited to miss seeing the Natural History Museum at night though.

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After a short walk I turned a corner and there it was.

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The hall was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and was dedicated to Prince Albert, who had died 10 years earlier.

I’d just finished Victoria and loved the tv series earlier this year so it felt easy to picture it as it was back in the day.

Not surprisingly it’s just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, especially when decorated for Christmas.

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The lights dimmed and the carols begun.

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Carols by Candlelight is a mixture of performances with and without audience participation. It took me right back to school days, especially singing 12 days of Christmas and everyone hollering “FIVE GOLD RINGS”.

We drank mulled wine, ate mince pies and enjoyed a festive-filled evening.

It was such a lovely weekend (James and I had managed Winter Wonderland the day before!) I can’t wait to enjoy the final festivities with our families.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! xxx

Hasn’t it been lovely to finally enjoy some summer temperatures recently? Us Brits love nothing better than a heatwave to fire up our conversations, awkward silence is filled for¬†a few¬†minutes longer¬†and those tricky Instagram captions are sorted for at least a few days (if not a few weeks thanks to #TBT and #Latergram). But when we’re not talking about the weather, we’re very happily enjoying it and rooftop antics have become almost obligatory during a¬†London summer. With the streets shaded by buildings and the parks in high demand it feels like the only way to go is up.¬†Luckily,¬†the city gets pretty creative with its rooftop options and it turns out that those¬†unassuming (and let’s face it pretty ugly) car parks have been hogging some great views, making them the place to explore this summer.

The guys behind The Rooftop Film Club caught on to the discovery pretty early on, picking some great locations a few summers ago for a series of sellout pop up¬†film dates. They were testing out the capital’s appetite for¬†crazy golf with their subterranean course through Waterloo’s underground railway tunnels¬†during the winter, deciding to bring out¬†Birdies¬†for the summer, eight floors up to the top of Stratford Car Park.

I had two of my closest friends around at the weekend so out came a floaty summer dress, money got exchanged for a cup of Pimms and then we clambered up to find some putting fun.

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We booked our Tee time in advance, choosing a pre-dinner slot, and grabbed beers and ciders from the main bar to enjoy in the sunshine, before descending into our competitive sides.

Birdies has nine holes and you can play in teams of up to four people. As we were a group of five we split into teams of boys and girls and got started.

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Let’s just say that I’m a bit of a fluke golfer, achieving success by hitting the ball in¬†the direction I think might do the trick. Unfortunately, this technique didn’t go so well with a team of better players, but it was fun to take part and¬†watch everyone have a go.

We reached the ninth hole in about 25 minutes.

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I was a complete failure, not even being able to get the ball to go around the loop. Lucinda¬†(above) and Danielle were much¬†better and the boys had some good luck, but the hole-in-one seemed pretty impossible (as it did around the whole course in my opinion ūüėČ )

As we were finishing up, a queue had formed and the bar was starting to fill up for the golden hour.

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I grabbed this great view before we hopped into the lift for dinner and a few more drinks.

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_ _ _ _

Birdies crazy golf is a fun addition to an evening and would be a great date or group activity. As it only took half an hour I’d plan to enjoy a few drinks, grab some¬†food¬†or maybe watch a film to make a night of it. It’s open from 5pm in the week (except Mondays) and 12pm at the weekend. I’m sure I saw a sign saying it’d be open earlier during the school summer holidays so keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.

If you don’t fancy heading out East, Putt in the Park is a great south of the river alternative.

Have you visited any rooftops yet this summer?

Lumiere London has captured the capital’s attention and it’s the event everyone seems to be talking about right now. As I’m on social media quite a lot, it’s hard to tell just how widespread the excitement is so I’ll hand over to Visit London to explain what the festival is all about:

“Produced by Artichoke and supported by the Mayor of London, for four evenings in January [14th – 16th] a host of international artists will illuminate the city from 6:30pm to 10:30pm each night.

See iconic architecture transformed with 3D projections, interactive installations and other extraordinary light works.”

There were two things I knew I’d love about this – pretty lights and the chance to test my night photography skills. I was hit with FOMO as soon as I read about it and I had to plot a date in the diary.

I had one night to see as much as I could and last night was the night.

I started at Kings Cross, here’s what I found there >>>

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IFO (Identified Flying Object), Jacques Rival.

I arrived at just after 6.30pm and there were 1000s of people there already!

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Litre of Light, Mick Stephenson, Central Saint Martins Students & MyShelter Foundation.

Sadly there was a slow queue to get through this tunnel so I moved on to other things.

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Dresses, Tae gon KIM

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Light Graffiti, Floating Pictures

There were lots of children enjoying the lights and colours, it’s definitely family friendly.

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binaryWaves, LAb[au]

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Circus of Light, Ocubo

It’s hard to show in photographs but most of the installations are moving,

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Diver, Ron Haselden.

As I was heading south to go home I decided to hop off at Oxford Circus and walk the route to Green Park too.

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1.8 London, Janet Echelman / Studio Echelman

Possibly my favourite, there was something eery and mesmerising about it.

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Elephantastic, Top’là Design / Catherine Garret

This had sound too!

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Les Luminéoles, Porté par le vent

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195 Piccadilly, NOVAK

This was beautiful and so apt with all the galleries around View Post

It’s 1888 and terror sweeps through an impoverished East London as five women’s lives are taken by a brutal unidentified killer. Fast forward to a chilly evening of the Halloween weekend in 2014,¬†East London is a hub of creative and financial activity, but the infamous killer known as Jack the Ripper remains unidentified. James and I join a tour to find out more behind the area’s murky past….

At Aldgate, we meet our tour guide and hosts of the evening Three Mobile (who provided us with a new iPhone 6 to take spooky snaps). Ken, dressed fittingly in a long green coat giving the look of a detective, takes us to Saint Botolph to give an introduction to the poverty felt in the area towards the end of the 19th century and set the chilling tone of the evening.

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In contrast to what you’ll see today where the Gherkin stands proud, Aldgate and the surrounding area was home to the incredibly poor. Shelter for those without a permanent residence cost 4 pence a night and involved sleeping upright on benches (like the image above). Prostitution funded many women’s lives back then but the temptation of cheap gin also left them vulnerable on the streets. So it’s no surprise that Jack the Ripper’s victims were all of this background.

London’s history has been well-maintained in many parts of¬†the area, particularly the spot of the first killing, a quiet alley where you can still see the same kind of giant rats that roamed then (yes, we did spot one the size of a cat! *shudders*). It quickly takes you back in time.

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Even on Brick Lane, where curry houses dominate, you can find hints of its darker past. You can’t see it in this picture but Shaad was once a pub called ‘Frying Pan’, and was the place where the first¬†victim was last seen.

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But further down more obvious references to¬†the¬†lane’s¬†past can be found.

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Away from the bright lights, you’ll return to¬†lamp-lit streets, which on the Halloween weekend adds an extra shiver down the spine on¬†a tour about a serial killer.

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You can’t deny that at night these dimly lit streets still hold a hint of a once very poor¬†area. And as each of the five murders is described by the tour guide at the place each body was found, they feel like a fitting scene for a horror movie.

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The place close to the fourth murder definitely had an eeriness about it.

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Whilst the facts of each murder are described, you’re taken back in time to a place so very different from where you’re standing.¬†A rivalry exists between the City of London¬†Police and the Metropolitan Police. Cameras, known as ‘white magic’, are newly in use¬†and many believed that the last vision of the dead could¬†be captured by this new invention.

It’s also quite unbelievable to think that a building like this, now a residential building, was once the scene where Jack the Ripper left a message.

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At the end of the tour, Ken gave us his verdict on the royal connection he thought may have been behind the murders. It definitely got James and I thinking about whether such a conspiracy could be true or what other possibilities are out there.

Hopefully this gives you a flavour of the tour, I’ve avoided going into too much detail as I think part of the fun is getting the story of Jack the Ripper and all the facts about London’s¬†history from a time so long ago but is still talked about today. I’d recommend going at this time of year when the temperatures add to the atmosphere, but I’d definitely make sure you wear layers as it involves being outdoors for about two hours. You can buy tickets and find more information here.

A special thanks goes to Three Mobile for inviting James and I on the tour. I had fun testing out the photographic abilities of a shiny new iPhone 6.

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All of the photos taken in this post (excluding the above photo) were taken on the iPhone 6, without flash, or Photoshop¬†editing. Dark photos are always tricky with a mobile but as you can see I definitely think the quality is better and less grainy. It’s so light weight making it easy to carry round compared to my DSLR and the larger screen also¬†helps frame better pictures.¬†The zoom is a step up from the iPhone 4s I currently use, although there’s still some improvement to go.¬†¬†If I’d had more time to play I’d definitely have experimented with the time-lapse and slo-mo video options added to this model which seemed better than the apps out there.

If you’re like me and love new features and functions for mobile photography, more information about the latest iPhone can be found here.

Have you been on a Jack the Ripper Tour? Or have you been on any other tours which take you back in time? 

As mentioned this tour was hosted by Three Mobile and I was kindly asked to share my views on the iPhone 6. As someone who loves to do different things in London and enjoys testing new technologies I was more than happy to accept the invite. All opinions are my own.

One thing I am often guilty of is being reluctant to travel across London as it feels too far away. Mad really when I’ve survived a 24 hour coach journey across the Australian outback, 27 hours of flying from¬†Christchurch to¬†London, and¬†the city’s public transport being pretty good compared the the rest of the UK! So I when AXS asked if¬†I fancied¬†a tour around The O2 Arena¬†followed by seats at Micky Flanagan, I shook off my lazy attitude and excitedly accepted the invite.

I’ve seen it from photographs, read about it in the news¬†(lets not go into the Millenium Dome…)¬†but I’ve never actually¬†been to The O2. It sits on a pennisular in North Greenwich and from Google maps it looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere. So how do you get there? Well although stars like Rihanna¬†like to travel with the massses on the underground, the finest route is by the Clipper.

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Hop on at Embankment and you’ll get a tour of Big Ben, the London Eye, St Paul’s, Greenwich, and Canary Wharf (both sides), before you reach The O2 about 40 minutes later.¬†(I’d recommend doing this even if you’re not planning to go to the O2, I forgot how lovely a¬†journey the Clipper was!)

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It was no surprise really that The O2 is HUGE.

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We were whisked to the backstage VIP area to talk about ticketing woes with AXS and to have a snoop around of course!

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This is one of the private dining rooms used by performers and their crew. As a world-renowned venue you can imagine how many famous faces have sat around this table!

From backstage to performing, we headed over to the British Music Experience for a dose of pop.

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Remember the 90s era of Blur and the Spice Girls?

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You’ll find a whole host of memorabilia, facts and music to interact with here to jog your memory.

You can even pretend you’re part of¬†your favourite¬†band with a studio open to visitors. I would definitely have played a few beats on the drums, my band instrument of choice.

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But the O2 isn’t just about pop and performers, they also have a venue for DJ nights, now called Building Six.

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VIPs can hide away from the crowds in their own exclusive area. Oh the priveledge of actually being able to dance on the ceiling…

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Blown away by the sheer size of the venues held under one domed roof (I haven’t even mentioned all the restaurants, the cinema and some exciting new developments!), we got to rest our feet at Gaucho and relax with wine, nibbles and blog chat.

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It’s always great to meet other bloggers, find new places they’ve enjoyed, and add some new reading to the blog roll. I think South London Blog and I Love London Town were the closest kind of blog to mine, but Five things to do today has some good stuff to read too.

After lots of chat about tickets and blogging we finally made our way to our seats for Micky Flanagan. (In case you get thirsty I can confirm the VIP bar offers a great option for getting away from the crowds at any intervals.)

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And if you get mind-boggled about what tickets are worthwhile Block 101 gets you a great view of the stage! I hear Block 401 is right ‘up in the gods’ as they say.

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The process of buying tickets is not something I think a lot about. But as someone who loves technology and social media I was interested to hear about some great features available at AXS (a ticketing partner of The O2), including AXS Waiting Room (where you can review all the event and ticketing information before it goes on sale) and AXS Invite (where you can invite friends to an event via email or Facebook, reserve tickets and not have to pay for the whole group).

After an entertaining evening (Micky was hilarious!)¬†I left for Tooting feeling exhausted. You can imagine I was pretty glad to discover that The O2 Arena isn’t all that far away after all!

Do you get a little lazy when it comes to travelling across London? Have you been to The O2 Arena?

AXS kindly¬†hosted the whole evening and I didn’t have to organise a thing. As ever all opinions¬†are my¬†own¬†(I’ll admit I was¬†excited to be there for the first time, enjoying backstage info and VIP treatment!) Big thanks to AXS and The O2 for the evening!

The sound of a champagne cork popping is one of life’s finest sounds. It’s the signal of celebration, ¬†the marking of happiness, the sweet sound of a little indulgence.¬†But¬†do you know¬†very much about¬†the world’s favourite celebratory drink?¬†If you’re like me, someone who rarely quizzes the barman for more information on the drink I’m about to enjoy, it’s probably not a lot. According to a survey by champagne bar Searcys, 67%¬†thought their knowledge is below average, so it seems we’re not alone!

So Searcys are hoping to help improve our understanding by hosting a National Champagne Week. They want to tempt you to enjoy a few glasses, discover the delights of a sparkling upgrade and learn a little along the way. So from 7th until 13th October you can pop in to one of their bars between 4pm and 6pm and sample up to three champagnes for free!

They invited me down to a launch event last Thursday at the St Pancras Grand bar. As one of my favourite train stations (it is just so beautiful and romantic!) and a bar I had longed to find an excuse to go¬†to ¬†(it’s Europe’s longest Champagne bar),¬†I snapped up the opportunity.

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We were put to the test with our first glass and were¬†asked to¬†choose which out of the three on the menu we’d been served.¬†With puzzled faces and a few sips we successfully picked Henri Giraud Hommage.¬†We were looking for notes of yellow fruit, dried apricots,¬†a little¬†orange zest and chocolate.

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We moved on to Balfour Searcys Cuvee, an exclusive blend only at Searcys. With this one we were looking for notes of pale apricot pink with raspberry.

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We finished the evening with Laurent Perrier Brut. The most saintly champagne as Bruts contain the lowest amount of sugar. We were looking for notes of something delicate and floral, candied fruit, with a citrussy finish.

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And to sweeten the evening served trays of chocolates.

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So what did I take away? As you might expect if you’re a regular reader, sweeter champagnes slip down rather nicely for me, so a demi-sec is likely to be a good choice due to the higher sugar content. There are also approximately 49 million bubbles to enjoy in one bottle of Champagne!

As for the bar you can’t go wrong here; champagne, sophistication and stunning surroundings. You don’t need to be jetting off to Paris to enjoy a few drinks here (but if you are, do allow some time to start the journey in style!).

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I’ve got some way to go to being an expert but Searcys definitely gave me a good start!

You can find out where to get your free champagne tasters at Searcys around the city here.

Do you like to celebrate with champagne? When do you usually enjoy a glass of bubbles?