Monday, 30 June 2014

The Next Stop... Brighton, England!

It's the little things we do, I spent twenty-four hours in Brighton. I ditched city life for the seaside! Experiencing the old and new piers showed me that Brighton has many tales to tell. Everybody has got a point of view but it's nobody's business where I decide to travel to. Get heated up, Brighton's promenade sizzles! Brighton, you know that I can't stop thinking about you! Yes!

I had one day in Brighton so I didn't waste one single moment, leaving my Jury's Inn hotel I looked to The Lanes. I'm a material girl from time to time but I didn't want to shop, I could have been persuaded to have done different for the wide array of bohemian shop fronts caught my eye for sure! My new favourite thing to do is find a Bubble Tea cafe, I found Pearls in The Lanes. I choose my usual cold milk tea blend with tapioca pearls. If shopping is on your mind then run wild with your funds, many non-high street purchases can be found within Brighton's individual looking shops. Go against the grain in Brighton because that's just how things are down in the beautiful south. The salty air had me from the moment I stepped off my London train, I spent ten days in the city, I wanted some fresh air! The Lanes include many small pubs and niche cafes that specialise in different blends, Brighton has its own rules! Yes!

Closing in further towards the promenade I had finally made it to the seaside town of Brighton. I had won a writing competition for Jury's Inn hotels, choosing my complimentary night in Brighton seemed like the perfect antidote to my hectic London trip I wanted to chill things out before returning to the West Midlands. During my day in Brighton I boycotted all major brands to get an honest sense of Brighton because I had heard a lot of things about its alternative vibe. The Lanes showed me that I could shop for fashion fancies without contributing to the high street fashion nasty's. I'm not a mainstream hater but I just embraced Brighton's bohemian scene. Take the train from London Victoria or London Bridge to Brighton's own railway station or choose the National Express coaches from London Victoria, there's no excuse whatsoever to dodge a day in the beautiful south! Forever wasn't over but I knew my 24 hours wouldn't last so I moved on forwards. Book up for Brighton now! 

I felt brand new in Brighton there was an air of freedom that I hadn't ever experienced before. Call me dramatic but that's just how it felt. The Royal Pavilion was next on my sights to experience, I just couldn't say no! First constructed in 1787, Brighton's Royal Pavilion looks more Indian than anything but it was the retreat for the Prince Regent during the early 1800's. Empire was in full force during that time so the influence speaks for itself. Lots of people were taking advantage of the glorious sunshine by lazing in the surrounding gardens of this palatial Brighton residence. I did take some time to capture some photos of the Pavilion and to appreciate its Indo-Saracenic revival architecture but I wanted to keep on moving. It's no secret that some folks have expressed some strange views about the style of the Pavillion in Brighton for its not typically British looking, empire still ruled India that was the way. Sorry?

Knowing which way to go in Brighton, I found the streets really easy to navigate because my sense of direction sometimes fails me. Call it pure luck I made it to Brighton, I embraced The Lanes and loved the grandeur of the Royal Pavilion so I could finally appreciate something that had a slower pace compared to the constant beat of the city. The promenade grew ever closer but I didn't want my day to be stressful, I suggest you do the same when you visit this town? Being on a budget is what I do best so I took amusement in discovering the kitsch neigbhourhood of Kemptown. I wasn't in town for a party so I didn't look for the liveliest of venues, I had ran around London for ten days so getting inebriated wasn't my plan. I loved the architecture around the bars and cafes in Kemptown, something made the sea view have a deeper shade of blue. I learnt that having a good time doesn't have to involve getting crazy, I liked being leisurely! Why had I not visited Brighton sooner? I'll be back Bri! 

It was inevitable I would bump into Brighton's iconic promenade, I couldn't walk any further south! Swimming wasn't not on my agenda, neither was a short paddle but I made the best of the promenade and even took a stroll along the beachfront. I dodged the seagulls that dived through the skies along the beachfront, I'm not a fan of those birds but it's there home turf! The sun was shining, everything was sweet! I didn't appreciate the main Brighton pier, it was just too much, the area around it on the beach was jammed pack with too much nonsense. You might like but I wasn't a fan of it! I didn't want that judgement to mar my opinion of Brighton's main point so I looked for the original pier that can been viewed in the photo to the left. I loved that side of the beach, even though the original pier has seen better days it blended well with that section of the beach in Brighton. No, of course I don't sugarcoat things!

I chose to eat something close to the original West Pier, I didn't dream of going back to the newer Brighton pier for I wanted to stay with the bohemian and alternative hype that Brighton does best! It's your life so you have the freedom to decide!? I found a no-frills beachfront ice cream cafe that served hot food, I didn't have breakfast in London that morning so my hunger was growing. I enjoyed my hot dog very much, let's just say I would have spent twice as much for the same thing at the other side of the beach so I had made the right decision in my eyes. I don't get to many beaches because being from the West Midlands its the canal or bust in that landlocked part of England! Brighton had served up something extra compared to previous seaside towns I had been to before that day. I was on team sober! When I go back to Brighton I will make it my duty to buy a sweet chocolate treat from Choccywoccydoodah, I suffer from tunnel vision when I'm on a day trip, I do miss things!

Kemptown, I'll Be Back!

Joseph Harrison

Sunday, 29 June 2014

City Of Westminster, London!

With one final day of sightseeing on the cards for that London visit, I wanted to check out Westminster! Wanting to 'defy gravity' I chose to snatch a cheap ticket to see Wicked! Where are the most important government decisions made? Here's to one last day of London city goodness! Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament for the win! Queen Elizabeth II! Serving royalty B! 

Another day in London! Let's get this together by going underground to seek somewhere new in the city of dreams. Move over Queen Elizabeth II because your not the only Queen in this land! I made my way through Hyde Park with the summer sun out again, the weather had been faultless apart from a few spots of rain but my Royal day in London served sunshine. I need to get a grip of my sense of direction but like always I had my electronic map in tow so things were just fine. Hyde Park was super busy with tourists, locals and yuppie types having their lunch or just lazing around for the afternoon, its true we go crazy in this country when the sun shines. I finally made it to Buckingham Palace to find a sea of tourists making their best attempts to capture the best photo of Britain's most famous Royal household. I'm British but I'm not that patriotic, sorry not sorry. Now, be forever fierce Queen Elizabeth! 

I had managed to book a ticket to see Wicked! The Musical at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. I thought it would be best to spend sometime in Westminster to maximise my sightseeing time. I have to say that I wasn't shocked that the front of Buckingham Palace was so busy that morning, I thought that Lizzie was at home because the United Kingdom flag was fluttering in the sky? I have expressed numerous times my negativity towards tourists because they are like sheep, aimlessly bumbling from one place to another with no consideration of time. I didn't waste anytime, I took my photos and spent a few moments surveying the surroundings to see that this part of London really has a regal vibe but I won't ever get over the hysteria that foreigners have for the Royal family. I suppose Buckingham Palace draws huge amounts of tourists who spend money, making a quick buck for the UK economy so I'm cool with that. Truth is that we won't have a queen forever, I'll stand in for Liz! I will serve E! 

The city of Westminster has something else to show for itself, the powerhouse of UK politics is argued over within the Houses of Parliament. Behind the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower, also known as Big Ben sit beside the River Thames but I was standing on the other side. It was more like Piccadilly Circus, London's Times Square due to the many yuppie and politics crowds, with a smattering of tourists thrown in for good measure it was just like a maze crossing the road. I'm not sure about the politics of accessing the Houses of Parliament and Commons. London I don't know how you do it to me, you're like a rollercoaster that has taken me to some mad places over the last week or so! The Elizabeth Tower is a focal point for the crazy tourists that descend upon this city in their thousands each day. I liked this London point of interest, unlike the palace real decisions are made! Interesting! 

Time pressed onwards for the curtain call would be happening very soon so I went underground once again to reach the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Before the show I want to look back on my Westminster day because I saw London from a different side. The Houses of Parliament, the building that runs England doesn't always make the correct decisions well the politicians don't but its always good to see people taking part in their own protests. In the eyes of the foreigners that dote on the Royal family from outside of Buckingham Palace it begs the questions, how is London portrayed by the outside world? I have a functioning brain to know that its mad how tourists are captivated by a Clock Tower and the Queen's house, its almost how I reacted when I saw New York City when I fell in love with that U.S city! I for one don't see my country as the be all but I have faith in our historical and cultural monuments to pull in the pounds for our economy. Oh, I could take a tour? W'minster I'll visit one day! 

I wanted to defy gravity at the matinee performance of Wicked! The prequel of the Wizard of Oz told the heart-rendering struggle of a green girl who went by the name of Elphaba. Intertwined her twisted friendship with Glenda who became the good witch. Throughout her schooling she got lucky quickly, her thirst to see the Wizard in Oz became true, her new found luck revealed some home truths. Elpaba's misfortune as a girl was disappearing, her talent for reading spells sent her to new heights. Elphaba was defying gravity, no one could pull her down from her euphoric state. The theatre sat still throughout the theme song for it was truly amazing! The futures of Elphaba and Glenda were unlimited! Honestly, who needs to be popular? We all serve our own kinds of personalities and traits, we are popular in our own different ways. There's no need to be perfect because we're fine! On with the show! Go!

The Wicked witch of the West wasn't always that horrid woman in the Wizard of Oz picture she just wanted to save her sister! Snapshots of the picture featured in the show ever so slightly to tell the story so the main story of Oz fitted perfectly. A blurred Dorothy made an appearance but those evil monkeys were unleashed due to a spell gone wrong so all didn't badly. Need I not mention that the sound shorted out during the second half of the show but with the quick response of the technical the issue was sorted out, leading the show towards the finale! Things happen sometimes, apologises were made and the show went on! I love a good musical so finding a half-price ticket from the West End ticket booth was a winner, I bought my ticket to see Wicked! before I saw The Bodyguard for £18.50! There's nothing better than a show, I have loved the theatre through my childhood, yes I do! At that point I knew that my June London experience had finished. I was off to Brighton the next day! 

Defy Gravity!

Joseph Harrison

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Jewish London: Keep It Kosher!

Shalom Jewish London! Anyone heard of Golders Green or Stamford Hill in North London? Both London neighbourhoods are strictly Kosher but act in very different ways. Since visit Brooklyn's Jewish enclave during the summer of 2012, I wanted to see London's Jewishness. Leave the ordinary because Golders Green and Stamford Hill only deal with the Kosher things in life! Go!

I ventured to the 'frum' London neighbourhood of Stamford Hill first to see if Jewish life would be noticeable along the Broadway. Captured to the left is the busy intersection at the heart of Stamford Hill's busy Kosher businesses and daily life. If you look closely enough at the image to the left its easy to see the moms of Stamford Hill carry themselves in a strictly 'frum' manner, the term 'frum' means Kosher in the laws of fashion or clothing to be worn by practicing Jewish women. Contrary to belief Jewish mothers are said to the head of their households whether their husbands like it or not! I'm a stickler when it comes to taking photos for my blog publications so I tried my best to not act like the fool to capture the unique feel of Stamford Hill's lively Kosher Broadway. Jewish culture really interests me because I have a Jewish background, so I just loved it! I wanted to give my Jewish day a good Zetz! OK skiksa?! Let's go!

How did I get to Stamford Hill? From my Southwark location I took the London Underground to Liverpool Street station to then take a East Anglia train bound for Stamford Hill, it was a mash of a journey but I got to where I wanted to be eventually. I had big ideas of eating potato kugel and chicken soup for dinner but the closest that I found in Stamford Hill was a Kosher Danish pastry from a bakery called Sharon's Bakery along the Broadway but I had faith in Jewish London so I didn't give up the fight! I felt a very religious vibe whilst walking around Stamford Hill, the walk from the train station showed me the Yesodey Hatorah Secondary School and a Jewish learning centre. It was like walking down Lee Avenue in Brooklyn, NY for the 'frum' mothers went about their business with their babies and children but Stamford Hill had Polish and Brazilian food stores, something that didn't appear along Lee Avenue in Brooklyn. Stamford Hill served Kosher realness through the style of the 'frummy' mummies. 

The difference between Jewish London and Jewish NYC was that the level of religious conviction conveyed in each respected neighbourhood, Jewish New Yorkers in Brooklyn exuded an ultra Orthodox vibe, so I would strongly keep to that belief. After Stamford Hill, I took the Northern Line to Golders Green to see what London's most popular Jewish area had. Introducing Golders Green, a part of London that screams Jewish London because its just got that popular ring to it. Whereas, stateside in Brooklyn, New York City, the Hasidim of Williamsburg in Brooklyn went about their business in a fashion just like the Jewish community that I saw in Stamford Hill. Aside from my Kosher Danish Pastry I came across Berry's Kosher mini-supermarket that reminded me of Frankel's Grocery on Lee Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Could Berry and Frankel be long lost brothers in Judaism? I saw that greatness!

My lengthy quest to find a healthy serving of Jewish culture in London was successful in the end! I went to Carmelli Kosher Bakery for a lovely Bagel during my second visit to Golders Green because I didn't know about Carmelli the first time round. Carmelli's freshly baked bagels tasted amazing, I went for the cream cheese option and it was simply divine! However, I really wanted some potato kugel, but that wasn't meant to be that day! Backtracking to my first moments walking along Golders Green Road, I even saw a Kosher Indian restaurant, a sight that I wasn't expecting to see! During my Williamsburg Jewish pursuit it wasn't so much about the food compared to my time spent in Jewish London but Brooklyn's offerings showed a neighbourhood that didn't appreciate the special attention it received, whereas Jewish Londoners in Golders Greens didn't bat an eyelid because to me I wasn't causing a commotion. Traipsing from Southwark to Golders Green for Carmelli's was the one! 

Leaving Stamford Hill I was in hot pursuit of Kosher chicken soup because its also known as 'Jewish Penicillin' I didn't have a cold but I just wanted a bowl for my dinner that day. Choosing Sami's Restaurant on Golders Green Road, I ordered one bowl of chicken soup with noodles and a glass of hot Ribena. The waitress thought I was crazy when I ordered two hot items to eat and drink because the weather was lovely, I wanted chicken soup and that was that! I patiently waited for my 'Jewish Penicillin' and hot Ribena, I was happy that Jewish London had came up with the goods but no potato kugel was on the menu at Sami's. I loved my Kosher dinner that June afternoon for I had crossed London for a special treat, I was very happy indeed. Whilst doing some research on Sami's I know now that the London Beth Din monitors all produce used by the restaurant adheres to Kosher law. Yes, I took notice of the facts because I'm no schmuck, L! 

London's got to be the best city in the world? In the end Stamford Hill served its proportion of 'frum' Jewish London with the busy Jewish Haredi or Hasidim women going about their business. Sharon's Bakery served me a nice Kosher Danish pastry like I mentioned earlier but I just had to make that point once again. Berry's gave me something that reminded me of my time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at Frankel's Kosher Grocery. It was all about finding those some cool Kosher refreshments during the heat of the afternoon! Lee Avenue seemed like a world away during those pursuits but Williamsburg's Jewish offerings haven't left my memory. I travelled across London by train and tube to reach my desired Kosher destinations without any major disruptions so getting from one side of London to the other wasn't such a schelp! I don't know when I'll be keeping it Kosher again? With all this talk of Kosher chicken soup, bagels and sweet treats I'm hungry more Jewish delights! Oy Vey LDN!

London! Keep It Kosher! 

Joseph Harrison

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

London: Shoreditch, French Huguenots & Brick Lane...

I'm no hipster but I had to check out London's cool East End to see what all the fuss was about! After about five days of military sightseeing I fancied a drink or two so I set off for Spitalfields to have a pint of cider at the Ten Bells pub where Jack The Ripper committed two of his attacks. I also ate a great curry at one of the curry restaurants along Brick Lane. Yes, LDN!

I was seeking something relaxed because for the last week I had been running around London, finding new things to experience in a city I had so much see. Relaxed?! I look back to my hipster outing when I had to run for the bus after my curry. Anyway, after walking over Tower Bridge I made my way east to Spitalfields, but I'll get back to that in a moment. Shoreditch showed me that hipsters are cool and they have created their community within buildings and warehouses that looked like they were once abandoned and dilapidated. The June sunshine helped me work up quite a thirst so I found the Commerical Tavern, I wasn't ready for the crazy cool decor of the pub until I took a seat at the bar. I really loved the vintage shabby chic look of the pub so I was very impressed with my find in retro London! Shoreditch defecated all over Camden big time boy! No shade! I met an old friend at the Commercial Tavern! No, bad Rosie!

Hello Shoreditch! That old friend happened to be a pint of 'Old Rosie' I vowed to have one pint because that cider is 7.3% and that's strong for cider! I don't think! I kept to that one so all was good, I thought I had learnt my lesson from my experience drinking pear cider. I Made the most of the sunshine walking around East London looking towards the streets of Dalston. I'm a realist so spending the first part of my alternative London afternoon walking around the streets of E1 sounded like a plan. In a strange way it was quite fancy, who's that to say anything different? I wasn't in a position to spend my pennies on clothes because I always look after my pounds! I got a really cool vibe from Shoreditch it was a Saturday afternoon and everyone was just doing their thing so you already know I liked it! The previous day I went to Woolwich so my crusade through London was showing me a completely individual set of neighbourhoods that all had their own flex. No, no Eastenders, E1 does it better!   

I had not heard of the French Huguenots of Spitalfields? The now fashion forward gentrified area of Spitalfields sure had a secret to tell me! When the French Huguenots arrived in Great Britain some of the refugees radiated towards Spitalfields, London and soon enough this East End hotspot has become another hipster cool environment. I'm no history buff but it didn't take a lot to see that the streets of Spitalfields had been restored to their former glory. Finding Fournier Street wasn't too bad! From the 1700's over 50,000 came over from France to become England's first official refugees for their branch of Christianity was frowned upon during that time in France. At the end of things fashion saved the Huguenots! Yes, E1!

I found myself at the Ten Bells pub, a historic pub that was frequented by the infamous Jack The Ripper who committed two of his many murders at that very pub. I was only stopping for two pints of Strongbow, out of nowhere I got speaking to this crazy couple from Thailand who had more money than they needed so it was free drinks for Joe! I had a great afternoon at the Ten Bells, I had my pride so I paid for a few drinks in-between because I don't believe in being a complete free loader, it's not right but it was okay! Throughout the eccentricity of the afternoon that turned into the early evening, I loved the vibe at the Ten Bells for the pavement area and pub had become really busy with the chatter of the local London folk. I knew it was time to move on! What a mad day! What the?

Brick Lane was waiting for me even though I had already checked it out earlier that day I still needed to have a curry, little did I know I  needed to hurry things up! Keeping things simple I chose the Standard Balti House, yes that's the actual same of the curry house! I ordered the Goa Chicken with a side order of boiled rice and naan bread, as if I hadn't had enough to drink I decided to drink a pint of Kingfisher Indian Lager. I now understand why a curry is the best way to finish a good drink because I needed something substantial to eat after that booze! Without any hesitation I ate the lot, paid and got myself back on a bus towards 'the water' as that's what I asked for directions because the night was wearing on once I had finished my curry, with luck I found the main road after getting to know Bethnal Green with just enough credit on my Oyster card I jumped on the bus. No, I didn't care that day, I was over it! 

Looking back it was great to meet my cider nemesis in the form of Old Rosie at the Commercial Tavern, I'll be reunited with her one day soon I just know it! Taking a chance on Shoreditch I made my way through Pudding Mill Lane to find the hipster warehouses that I could have spent a fortune on vintage clothing but I'm currently a poor graduate and ex-student! It's too late to apologise because the amount of cider and god knows what else I drank at the Ten Bells pub, I enjoyed my day and curry in East London! Spitalfields served up some vintage Huguenot hot couture but I spent all my money on booze and curry! The streets were literally my runway that night because I got myself back before closing time, the folk of Bethnal Green shouldn't be judged because I found the 49 bus to London Bridge thanks to them! London served another full packed day and night of new experiences that turned out to be suitably satisfying! Stay classy E1 because I didn't know how to then!

What A Day! 

Joseph Harrison 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Woolwich: London's Royal Arsenal...

I have a lot to thank Woolwich for! Getting back to my Newark roots I was loving the West African vibe of Woolwich, its like a little Accra that meets a little Lagos! This part of London's South East has a fighting history with the Royal Arsenal on the doorstep. Call me crazy? I got my Jollof Rice hype on by sampling some Nigerian food at Tasty. Woolwich, let's Azonto SE18!?

TINA! Arriving in Woolwich bright and early I skipped breakfast because I was set on trying some Nigerian food that afternoon. I'll explain that musical reference in due course! Why Woolwich? Why not!? It wasn't my first time in Woolwich for I had visited this South-East part of London a few times before, I wasn't prepared for the change that this part of London has been given. Take the train or the Docklands Light Railway because Woolwich has prime connectivity to central London. Captured to the left is the entrance to Woolwich's vibrant market square, things are rising for this African infused area. It's no secret that Woolwich has that extra thing, forget the term 'multiculturalism' because Woolwich has a wide demographic of residents who hail from Nigeria and Ghana and many more places but the African vibe is most prominent in this part of London. A new side of London in the SE side! It's all about Woolwich!

The June weather was a killer with the sunshine blessing the streets, summer had definitely arrived in Woolwich the day I visited. London's East experienced a strong surge of development during the Olympics for 2012 but I'll revisit that eventually. I wanted to see Woolwich and nothing less so I tried my best to not listen to the whispers because a new music movement is sweeping London. I used to live in Newark, New Jersey where the Downtown had a large African influence so the main shopping street had the vibe of a place that I miss. It doesn't take a genius to see that ladies of an African origin love their weaves and hairpieces so the competition was fierce with the younger women working their newly sewn Beyonce inspired weave to a high level. I just couldn't get enough of Woolwich because I returned a few days later on the DLR into Woolwich Arsenal to see one of the families me and my family had met on holiday, our Wetherspoon's catch-up was lovely! Get it, SE18! 

Woolwich Arsenal has the Firepower Artillery Museum, located within the newly rejuvenated Royal Arsenal project I wanted to learn about London's Royal Arsenal. Woolwich's regiment dates back as far as Queen Elizabeth I did so many battles have been fought. Aside from the wealth of knowledge I acquired from my time at the Firepower Artillery Museum about Woolwich's Historic Dockyard I took interest from the Gibraltar section because I'm just intrigued about that Overseas British Territory. From the town centre to the Royal Dockyard the change in the environment is something else, one town with two sides. Woolwich had a strong regiment that served their duty through the 17th and 18th century's, the Firepower Artillery Museum didn't leave any stone unturned about Woolwich's bulletproof artillery. I'm not really a museum person but when I see something about the British Empire I'm happy! Yes!

A new look is on the way for this part of South-East London, its true the yuppies are on their way to Woolwich. The Royal Arsenal development is set to put Woolwich on the map with a range of luxury apartments that will look over the Historic Dockyard! As far as transport was concerned I took the train from London Bridge to Woolwich the first time around but the second time I chose to take the DLR from Bank because it was easier to connect from the Northern Line. Woolwich received a direct link with the Docklands Light Railway in 2009 making Canary Wharf, London City Airport and Tower Gateway just a few stops away. Hurtling into the near future it has been decided that Crossrail will connect its line with Woolwich's Royal Arsenal complex, opening up a further London bound transport link for Woolwich. I hope that the locals don't get pushed out because of all the development, it would be great to see the improvements benefit everyone. A fresh new chapter for SE18? Maybe W?

Back to Woolwich's Nigerian vibe, I wanted to sample some Nigerian food but I had no idea where to go or what to order. My original plan was to catch a bus to the nearby area of Plumstead to have lunch at one of the many African takeaway's because having no expectation meant that I had nothing to loss but something to gain. I didn't end up in Plumstead, finding 'Tasty' on the Plumstead Road I literally threw caution to the wind by ordering Jollof Rice with Beef, a dish that I had never tried before that June afternoon. I pride myself on being good with my food but I did my best to eat as much as I possibly could. I have to admit that the rice was very spicy, also the aroma from the meal wasn't very savoury or appetising. I tried my best to just go with the environment that I was in and I tell you I didn't expect to find myself with a Guinness Malta, watching Nigerian news channel. God O, I was out of my comfort zone.

From the international to the totally bizarre I gave Woolwich my attention, being aware of your surroundings helps. I used my iPhone map helped me figure out Woolwich's town centre. I will now reveal what 'TINA' means, it's an acronym used by the British born Ghanaian rapper known as Fuse ODG. The 'Antenna' and 'Dangerous Love' rapper proclaims that 'TINA' means 'This Is The New Africa'. I used that term of phrase because the music and quote culturally reflects Woolwich, if you read into the 'TINA' reference in a way that I haven't explained then you're very wrong! Woolwich showed me many things, not to judge a place on public perceptions but to visit and make the decision for yourself. I tried some Nigerian food but it didn't agree with my palate but that's life. Gentrification is striking Woolwich rapidly but its inevitable whilst the remaining plots of land in East London are being snapped up by yuppie type developers. Woolwich served something African, it opened my eyes for sure W! 

Ba Wo Ni, Woolwich!

Joseph Harrison 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Maritime Greenwich, London... Ride On Time!

I'm human like everyone else, my time keeping skills aren't always on point! Fearing not I knew somewhere that rides on time! Greenwich is home to a myriad of historical and maritime monuments that showed me an insightful afternoon's worth of sightseeing. From the Cutty Sark to a plate of Pie and Mash with parsley sauce, no timely mistakes! Greenwich kept me going! 

Greenwich took me back to Baltimore, USA as the Cutty Sark reminded me of the U.S.S. Constellation that is docked in Baltimore, USA. Taking my time I jumped on the 188 bus towards North Greenwich to get to grips with Maritime Greenwich for the afternoon. I was a tourist in the conventional sense because during my London trip, I wanted to push the boundaries by wondering away from the tourist map. Greenwich sounded like a plan! Don't take me for a fool because I knew that something would be waiting for me in a time ordered fashion. The Cutty Sark clipper was constructed to literally sail the seven seas. Located close to the DLR station the Cutty Sark overlooked the river Thames with an air of realness, this sailing lady still makes her coins out of the water. Now a museum I didn't want to waste the glorious sun! Time is a healer, the Cutty Sark stood tall, restored and ready! Greenwich's Maritime realness! 

I left the tube alone because getting the bus to Greenwich seemed like the best thing to do. No questions because I don't have time for your gripes! If I tell a lie I visited the O2 Arena to have a mooch around to see what all the fuss was about, I had visited once before when the now entertainment complex was the Millennium Dome, the transformation was something to take in! I saw a mural of the Spice Girls, they were my favourite pop band as a boy! I wanted to see them in their comeback tour in 2007 but life sometimes isn't fair. I suppose the Olympics generated a much needed boost for the maritime factor of Greenwich's town centre, put your money where your mouth is G'wich! Back to that ship I took in the views and learnt that the Cutty Sark was built in Dunbarton, Scotland. Look out for the foot tunnel, they used to be all the rage back in the day of Victoria! Greenwich is a Royal Borough, I knew that it was fit for a queen like me, Elizabeth I wore the crown that day! Serve! 

When it came to my food I had to be a wannabe Londoner by having Pie and Mash for lunch. I wanted to be daring by ditching the gravy for parsley sauce because I asked the server which option would be more authentic. Goddard's of Greenwich had to be the one for my food so I took a chance by sampling some traditional London food, like I mentioned before I always want to push the boundaries. Hand on heart I really enjoyed the pie and mash with parsley sauce, it was a different taste for sure! From the food I want to backtrack to the shopping that Greenwich town offered from its market, I was with my parents. The market had a range of small independent stalls, some of which were selling items that reminded me of my childhood. From vintage childhood reminders to odd bits and bobs the market served a hearty variety, I wanted to keep on seeking something new and exciting. A family affair?

I knew there had to be another Greenwich on the other side of the tourist appropriate town centre that would definitely contradict the sights that I have just mentioned. I joked with one of the servers from Goddards of Greenwich that Greenwich's Maritime heart must be a perfect contradiction compared with other nearby areas of South East London? During my London trip I had explored London's growing skyline with The Shard making its mark on the changing view of the river Thames but in Greenwich I had already seen so much history and culture! London isn't just about the Eye or seeing a West End show, I got out of the city to find something that would keep me questioning the history of such a crazy, beautiful and busy city. Greenwich town sort of reminded me of Greenwich Village in New York City for the small town feeling of the streets and cutesy building made me look back with a smile. Royal Greenwich awaits, get some culture in your life! Be royal and reign on!

London was blessed with some amazing weather throughout the majority of my trip, so my view from the Royal Observatory was flawless. Maritime Greenwich had one further thing to show me, I wanted to ride on time! I made my way right to the very top of the observatory lookout point to get the best view of the city. GMT, otherwise known as Greenwich Mean Time was founded at the point that I found myself at the top of the gargantuan hill within Greenwich Park. Paying the price to see where the discovery of the GMT line since 1675, so it had to be done, the walk up was hard going so I took my time, it was tiring! My then view that spanned across Greenwich Park, served the business district of Canary Wharf and the O2 Arena, so not a bad view really? Oh my I heard so many American tourists, they should open a United States Embassy up there? Putting my fear of heights aside was well worth the view! Above London!

Looking back at my Greenwich photos of the view from the Observatory puts everything into perspective. I run most things by a tight schedule so leaving things to chance during my Greenwich day was the best thing to do. I took a chance on the food by dining at Goddard's of Greenwich to be served a tasty London favourite. I caved in by having a Mocha Frappe at McDonald's but that was before I got the bus back to Southwark so that wasn't so bad. I made my way around the Greenwich market where I was taken back to my childhood by the range of 90's toys that were for sale. I broke one of my pet hates by taking the bus in London because Birmingham buses aren't safe so I did look over my shoulder. I really need to get over myself! I have respect for Greenwich for the restoration of the Cutty Sark made the town centre pop! Getting out of the city is the done thing! Greenwich is such a hot temptation with its regal sights and that GMT hype going on! Maritime Greenwich, you're ride on time!

A Hot Temptation? Yes! 

Joseph Harrison

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Thames Path: Rollin' On The River!

Unlike a few cities around the world, London has changed itself around its legendary River Thames! I've been on the London Eye once before, gaining a new perspective from ground level, it was time to walk some of the Thames Path. From the booming years of trade the Pool of London has seen a lot, she's managed to keep her edge! London is moving with the times!

From the Tower of London to the Shard there's many a story to be told. London's Thames Path has many points of interest but I believe that Tower Bridge puts the cat amongst the pigeons. We don't have a Brooklyn Bridge in London but we don't need one because this is London! 128 years ago in 1886 saw Tower Bridge begin its construction. Tourists travel to London to marvel at the River Thames and all of the monuments that encompass the Thames Path, quite frankly I couldn't care about the gawking tourists because they are just nauseating! Tower Bridge brings North and South London together with Tower Hamlets to the North and Bermondsey to the South of the river. Tower Bridge overlooks a great traditional London pub, walk over Tower Bridge heading south to find the Anchor Tap pub on Horselydown Lane? Gentrification shouldn't be an issue for this landmark! Yes L, Tower Bridge will always be uniquely LDN!

During my trip to London I wanted to spend some time exploring the city without spending one penny, so a walk along the River Thames seemed like the best idea. It doesn't take a fool to notice that London is a city that has aged extremely well in my eyes with its wide range of Roman architecture the waterways of the Thames River has never looked better. I wouldn't say that London has been given the Hong Kong treatment with a mass of skyscrapers making a towering skyline, to keep up with the growing demand for inner-city living but its all a matter of time. The 'Walkie Talkie' building stands to be one of London's newest features along the Thames Path, it can viewed from the best angle from the South of the river with St.Paul's Cathedral in the distance. Let's keep this real because the 'Walkie Talkie' has caused quite a stir with its glass design its definitely a sizzling addition to London's city riverside. The River Thames won't change that much? This river will carry on serving looks!  

Everyone seems to be banging on about the view from the top of The Shard! I decided against going to the top, I had seen London from the London Eye and that was high enough for me because I don't take well to heights! It's no secret that The Shard has shaken up the personality of London's traditional skyline along the Thames Path with its razor sharp point touches the clouds, I'm liking this Shard business if I'm honest. There was the Gherkin building, that caused a stir at first but The Shard does it better with office space, a Shangri-La hotel and a restaurant that compliments the stunning London views. I see a slight resemblance with The Shard's glistening exterior with NYC's One World Trade Center but that's for another time and place entirely! Rollin!  

The OXO Tower Wharf was once to the OXO Tower, producing the famous stock products throughout the 1930's along London's very own South Bank. Every dog has its day and that saying rings true for The OXO Tower Wharf for the factory warehouse became derelict but with a source of key investment the modern day OXO Tower Wharf shines on today as a mixed use complex with lots to offer. I walked from Tower Bridge to the OXO Tower Wharf to see what all the fuss has been about, now offices, shops and arts space makes up the renovated OXO brand building. It might have just been the time of day or the location but there was a string of artists who were sketching along the Blackfriars Bridge, funnily enough their view took in the OXO Tower Wharf as the sun set over London. Go!

Now off with their heads! Throughout my spent time in London, I visited the riverside many times with the intention to make the most of my surroundings. Captured to the right is the Tower of London, a historic landmark that is now a working museum that attracts tourists from far and wide but I don't indulge in mainstream attractions because I can't justify the cost of the admission. I was born in London, so I feel that each time I go back I see something that reminds me of my childhood! I truly cherish each time I walked past sights such as the Tower of London. Otherwise known as Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London dates back to 1078 when the White Tower was crafted. I found the best view of the Fortress from More London Place where the swish new pathway of offices and cafes shares a link to London's riverside. Mix yesterday's London with now! Oh, I loved the Thames Path, London! Yes!

Art Galleries take a lot attention, to be honest they just don't float my boat! Allow me to take that back for one second because the presence of the Tate Modern art gallery looked the part considering it used to be a power station before the portraits and art exhibitions made the gallery what it is today. Talking about power stations I'm sort of annoyed that I missed out on seeing the Battersea Power Station, it has a strong presence considering its vacant state. Looking towards South-East London, Woolwich has been put on the map due to a series of development phases to improve the area around the riverside in-line with the upcoming Crossrail project and housing complex for the yuppies. I'll be featuring Woolwich at another time but I felt it would be fitting to mention a part of London town that is being brought upwards. Leaving a lasting memory of my time discovering the Thames Path I brushed shoulders with Shakespeare as I brushed past the Globe Theatre. Will, keep it up! 

Proud London! Prouder Than Mary!

Joseph Harrison 

Monday, 16 June 2014

London's Soho, Chinatown & West End!

I love a good show, I jumped at the chance to spend a great day up West! London shows me something new each time, there's just so much to love in London! The Bodyguard: The Musical was my choice, even though Beverly Knight wouldn't be performing the main role that afternoon! Big up WV, regardless B! Soho always makes my heart feel light! Yes L, Chinatown! 

Soho has my heart for its where I spent my 19th birthday, I want to go back now! I had my first SNOG in Soho! Pardon my suggestive tone so please allow me to explain what SNOG is. Imagine a camp disco themed frozen yoghurt shop and that's exactly what SNOG served to me! I choose the fresh natural yoghurt served with two topping that had to be passion-fruit and raspberry then finished off with a squirt of caramel sauce. Being a social media buff I saw it as my duty to take a photo of my first SNOG serving with the respected Twitter hash-tag. Let's leave my yoghurt euphoria behind, I could go on about that disco themed yoghurt cafe all day! I've been to this part of town countless times as a child but upon my 19th birthday I was shown a whole new world at Madame Jojo's on Brewer Street. Let's just say that Kitsch Cabaret triggered a thought process that was lying dormant until that night. Blame it on the Brewer!

I've been missing Birmingham like something rotten so being back in Soho for the afternoon gave me something that reminded me of my Birmingham Pride weekend, all is well so I can't complain! The beauty about my previous escapade to London was that I had more than just one day to experience a lot more than I usually have the chance to accomplish. Taking some time away from the rain it was time for a lager or two in the White Horse where I spotted a poster of the songstress Beverly Knight that promoted her upcoming show on the West End theatre scene. The first part of my fabulous artsy day in London fared to begin with a delicious tone for I was still impressed with my yoghurt from SNOG. I had discovered London Live during my London visit so I was familiar with the show 'Drag Queens of London' so I made it my mission to spot the West Midlands born queen 'Baga Chipz' but I only saw the off license that she must frequent to get her gin liquor fix! Soho, I'm sure that I saw it!

I said '你好' to Chinatown because its only round the corner from the lively streets of Soho plus its a great excuse to eat! Captured to the right is the Chinese gate of good fortune that welcomes each and everyone of its guests to Chinatown, a wish must be made before we walk under the arch. Gerard Street is the epicentre of all things Chinatown London for me, there's just something about the bright coloured shop windows and the ducks hanging from the restaurant windows. I wanted Dim Sum but I'm a creature of habit for Birmingham holds my first taste. I have learnt from being introduced to Oriental culture is that Chinese tea is the best so I rooted through Oriental Delight to find my favourite Oolong Tea, at Loon Fung it was half price! 很好!

Lunch didn't cost more than £6.00 per person for a substantial 'all you can eat' buffet at Mr.Wong's. Chinese food is my favourite! What compliments any Chinese meal? Who said Bubble Tea? It's been a tradition for over a year to indulge in a large cold Bubble Tea after a filling meal, so I had to carry on with an Oolong Milk Bubble Tea. Choosing 'Chatime' for my Bubble Tea that cafe specialised in Taiwanese tea and I favour the HK side of thing so I guessed its all about give and take. Chinatown W1 will always be one of my favourite segments of London, I'm a sucker for anything Oriental. I left feeling satisfied and accomplished for my day up west was turning out to be very productive and enjoyable. 谢谢你 Chinatown, London for serving up a great occasion! Until I get to China, will it be fine? 加油!

As Wolverhampton's own singing superstar bowed out from her stint in the hit West End show, The Bodyguard had a new leading lady had took her place. Booking my tickets to see Alexandra Burke play the part of 'Rachel Marron' who was portrayed by Whitney Houston in the original film. I will always love a Whitney tune because she's a Newark girl. Waiting in my seat at the Adelphi Theatre in the heart of London's West End I couldn't wait any longer for the show to begin! I had high hopes for Alexandra Burke because she's a singer who is famed for her powerful voice and girl performed with soul! The turbulent nature of the show Alexandra and her co-star Tristan Gemmill played their parts with conviction, I admit a joke or two was made so the pace of the show wasn't completely serious. Hits like 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody', 'I Have Nothing' and 'I Will Always Love You' were sung! B, we missed you! 

I shall preach forevermore that us Brits know how to appreciate a West End show compared to our American counterparts on Broadway because we embrace a lively encore, let's just say that Alexandra Burke and her Bodyguard Musical cast had us dancing and singing in the aisles at the finale. I had my first SNOG and tweeted all about it, yes I need to visit that campy yoghurt shop again or a new location should be opened in the West Midlands?! I didn't see 'Baga Chipz' but I definitely saw her local off license along Brewer Street but she performed at Birmingham Pride 2014 so all wasn't lost. Who honestly knows when the next time I'll hit Soho for a shameless night out? Mr.Wong's served up some fulfilling Chinese food for lunch! I successfully found a great Bubble Tea shop for a delicious cup of cold Oolong Milk Bubble Tea and I also bought my favourite Chinese loose leaf Oolong Tea for a right old bargain! London's W1 region treated me well. Aside from anything else, 我爱你伦敦! I do 伦敦!

伦敦, 我爱你!

Joseph Harrison 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Serving It Up... Anchor Tap, London!

London is a city of discovery by any means, this former port city holds a gem on the banks of the Thames River. The Anchor Tap public house welcomes one and all, who just wants a pie and pint? I was looking for a history lesson more than just a few drinks from the bar. Could the Anchor Tap take me closer to Dickensian London? It's all about picking a pocket or two? It is L!

The Anchor Tap on Horsleydown Lane, London has a location that just gets better! Standing in the shadow of London's Tower Bridge this gem of a London pub sits on a quiet narrow street in the heart of the Shad Thames area of Bermondsey, London. I grew up in a busy Irish pub in Wolverhampton so I had high expectations of the Anchor Tap. Location is everything as mentioned previously this 18th century London pub is part of the Tower Bridge Conservation Area. As breweries go by this London port-side pub belongs to the Samuel Smith Brewery, where the ethos of no publicity holds the integrity of the catalogue of pubs that belong to Sam Smith. This London pub rubs shoulders with the gentrified streets of Bermondsey, SE1 that boast swish coffee shops and restored warehouses. The Tap overlooks some of London's most desirable converted apartments, above all the Anchor Tap attracts a faithful bunch of locals.

Shad Thames is a formidable area, its cobbled lanes tell many a story from our glowing and prosperous days of the British Empire. What's this got to do with the Anchor Tap? Take a right from the beer garden to be acquainted with the former heartland of the spice trade, the towering warehouses once housed the headquarters of Butlers Wharf. I enjoyed my pint of Cider then took off to see some of Shad Thames most endearing sights, I suppose the term 'endearing' probably wasn't used back in the days of London's shipping days? Tower Bridge looms around the corner of Horsleydown Lane so doing a spot of sightseeing doesn't have to interfere with that tipple at the Tap. Need I be so careless not to mention that a range of brews that are served at the Anchor Tap, ranging from a pint of Alpine Lager at £2.56 to the Old Brewery Bitter packs a punch at £2.90, if you're like me I loved a pint of Cider for £4.24. The Anchor Tap doesn't break the bank like many other London pubs.

Like any traditional London pub its imperative that the food served is fresh, flavoursome and affordable. From what I saw at the Anchor Tap its approach to serving honest pub food is one of the landlord and landlady's core principles. Serving all of the classics from Fish 'n' Chips, Steak & Old Brewery Pie, Bangers & Mash and Liver & Onions. Main meals range from Bangers & Mash at £5.95 to Fish 'n' Chips at £8.95. Captured to the right is my hearty serving of Fish 'n' Chips that was served with homemade chips and garden peas but mushy peas can be ordered instead of my choice, beggars can be choosers at the Anchor Tap. Being a frugal soul whilst travelling I was surprised that my Fish 'n' Chips and one pint of Cider came to £13.19, that's blinding good for London prices! Leave those cravings for a McDonald's or a Starbucks for another day, when in London it's a sin not to indulge in some honest British cuisine. I treated myself! 

I took a seat in the upstairs lounge because food cannot be served at the bar or anywhere downstairs at the Anchor Tap, traditional to the core it didn't take me very long to realise my dining experience would be enjoyed. Word of mouth keeps this Bermondsey pub fresh with new punters but surely in our modern age each customer should be making it their duty to shout all out this pub, or maybe tweet all about it? In a time orderly fashion food is served upstairs in the lounge daily, I don't want to sound ridiculous but it had an air of the East End with the bust of Victoria sitting above the bar I couldn't resist to say 'Get out of my pub!' Catchphrases aside the decor speaks for itself with a cosy and traditional Victorian style that is only a few metres away from Tower Bridge and the once trade rich Pool of London. Take a chance on something traditional and trust in the Anchor Tap. Don't just take my word because seeing is truly believing. London serves more! Pour me another pint, please?

Come on down to the Anchor Tap for a good old knees up! Translated into modern English 'a knees up' basically means a good time. After one of my days sightseeing I returned back to the Anchor Tap to find a lively atmosphere with many of the locals and some new customers enjoying a beverage or two. With drinks flowing and conversations endless the vibe of the Anchor Tap that evening was really warm and welcoming with an uncomplicated air about the whole thing. Take a walk over Tower Bridge to the Anchor Tap to experience a slice of London culture that could make your capital visit memorable for the right reasons. Do you believe in paranormal activity? Here's a fact that's worth investigating because 'Charlie' a previous landlord of the Anchor Tap roams the pub as a ghost. Ask about the meaning of 'Horselydown Lane' there's a story behind the Anchor's history throughout the industrial high of the British Empire. Go! 

Getting to the Anchor Tap won't take all day, this London pub is only ten minutes away from two London Underground stations. Take the Jubilee or Northern Lines to London Bridge Station and walk east down Tooley Street where you'll need to take a left onto Horselydown Lane to reach the pub. Otherwise take the Circle or District Lines to Tower Hill then walk across Tower Bridge, take steps down to Shad Thames to find the Anchor Tap. Check the buses as well for there are connections with Covent Garden via the RV1 bus that terminates in the West End and at Tower Gateway. Better still forget the public transport routes by taking a walk down the Thames Path to discover the nearby Butlers Wharf to see where Charles Dickens took inspiration from the warehouses and winding alleys for his novel Oliver Twist, not forgetting Nancy's Steps found at London Bridge, she did love Oliver! Trust in the Anchor Tap, because I did so. I'll see you soon Anchor Tap! Yes, mine will be a Cider! 

Consider Yourself At Home!

Joseph Harrison