Street Art, Beer And Pizza In And Around Hackney

With the weekend ahead of us I feel today is a good time for a little Friday inspiration! There's so much to explore around the area of Hackney and I've only really just begun. I've long been a fan of the brilliant Hackney Empire Theatre having been both a viewer and an auditionee there many a time back in my performing days! But I'd never really had the time or chance to venture any further than that, and the area has changed so much in recent years that there's a whole lot of exciting stuff to take a look at. Today I have a few haphazard but nonetheless fun photos to share from a recent quick visit, a dog-walk, a hasty street art snapping session and a whole lot of unbelievably tasty locally brewed beer (and wine) and pizza. So why not come take a stroll with me ...

Hackney Wick Street Art

We began our walk at Hackney Central station after hopping onto the London overground on a drizzly January day with a soggy cocker spaniel and a willing to take a wander somewhere different to our usual North London stomping ground. The thing with having a dog is that you cover a lot of ground every day and the usual walking spots can get a little boring pretty quickly! Luckily our beloved hound loves a trip on the train so she's more than happy to head off on new adventures, even if it does mean some very awkward 'our dog's staring at that strangers' sandwich' moments for us! From the station, we made our way onto Mare Street, past the beautifully restored and aforementioned Hackney Empire and headed into nearby London Fields where the pup happily ran riot for a few minutes finding furry friends at each turn.

Hackney Wick Street Art

Strolling through and out of London Fields we eventually found ourselves on Broadway Market a beautiful shopping street full of independent shops and suppliers, coffee shops and restaurants and somewhere that we have to head back to on a day when we are less rained on, muddy and with said soggy dog in tow. I really loved this street and can't wait to head back and see more. Here I hastily snapped my first street art picture of the day. Not really having planned to turn this trip into a blog post some of my snaps are a little skewiff and taken at speed before the spaniel pulled me hastily away and further down the road! But any regular readers will know I have a thing for street art so I like to capture it when I can to read about it when I get home. The art photographed above can be found just off of Broadway Market and is by French Street Artist, Zabou. It's entitled 'Summertime (yay!)' and with the colourful raindrops, brolly and less than impressed faces, this seems to me to be an accurate portrayal of the infamous British summertime!

Hackney Wick Street Art

From Broadway Market, we took ourselves along the Regents Canal and then up into beautiful Victoria Park. My only previous experience of this park was a visit many years ago for the first ever Lovebox Festival that's held there every summer. But to walk around, even on a gloomy, rainy day, and see more of it was a treat. Canals, ponds, pavilions and pagodas make this huge open space in London well worth exploring, a welcome break from the city bustle - and a great place to walk your dog.

Walking along the canal side also offers more street art gazing opportunity, like this flamingo by Frankie Strand whose work I often also see on my many walks around Camden. At this point all of the walking was leading to some serious hunger pangs so we crossed out of the park and made our way towards Hackney Wick where a little place I'd heard of called Crate Brewery was beckoning with the lure of beer (well white wine for me) and freshly made pizza.

Hackney Wick Crate Brewery

Set within the ground floor of The White Building a centre for art, technology and sustainability in East London, this heavenly little place greeted all three of us inside with their welcome one and all policy which meant a nice warm spot indoors not out in the rain, a happy spaniel in tow and some time to sample some of their food and beverage offerings, and sample we did. 

Hackney Wick Crate Brewery

Cue delicious pizza made to order with unique and fresh flavours. We went for the middle eastern lamb and the courgette, feta and red onion and yep, they were so, so good!! A warm and inviting treat away from the grey day outside. Seriously tasty ingredients, a base that was soft and crispy in all the right places and flavours to totally die for! This was an unexpected treat of a find and somewhere I'd highly recommend that you visit if you're ever in that part of town.

Hackney Wick Crate Brewery Pizza
Crate Pizza

After suitably satisfying our taste buds and warming ourselves up at Crate we decided it was time to make our way home and headed off in the direction of Hackney Wick station, passing some more amazing works of art as we went. I'll leave you with a final few snaps, a small sample of all that there is to see. If you enjoy street art like me then they'll provide you with a little colourful gazing and wonderment I'm sure but I'd recommend checking them out for yourself if you can. Head to the area and take a look around someday!

Hackney Wick Street Art
Hackney Wick Street Art
Hackney Wick Street Art

I need to go back to Hackney and look around more, in fact, I'm heading that way for a terrarium building class next week, more on that to come! Despite the gloomy day, this was a walk well worth having with so much to see and enjoy. I always feel that if you're in need of a break, need new inspiration or just need to get yourself moving more, then heading out for a walk (dog or no dog) and exploring somewhere new is one of the cheapest and simplest things that you can do - and can ultimately end up being really, very rewarding. 

Have a great weekend everyone.

Louise

 


A Festive Weekend in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Recently we spent a long weekend in the beautiful capital city of Slovenia - Ljubljana. Pronounced lyoo-blah-nah, this relaxing and friendly city, with a stunning alpine backdrop, is well worth a visit any time of the year but seemed especially suitable for a pre-Christmas break with a hearty side of excitement and exploration. So here's what we got up to, alongside some of my personal favourite picks - things I'd highly recommend you check out should you be planning your own visit to this very destination.

Metelkova

MY FESTIVE LJUBLJANA TOP FIVE!

1. STROLL AROUND THE CITY AND JUST RELAX

Ljubljana is a fairly small capital city with a population of around 280,000. This makes it a very pleasant and pretty calm place to be, as well as being incredibly easy to cover a lot of ground very quickly. Nothing is particularly far away, everything is within reasonable walking distance. So one of the very best things to do is to get yourself out and strolling around this city of rivers, dragons and many bridges and enjoy it at your own pace.

Ljubljana
Ljubljana

There are some seriously beautiful buildings to step back and admire, especially within the old town - as well as pretty squares, museums and galleries to take your time to explore. Dotted alongside the river you will find plenty of bars at which to pull up a chair and partake in a little tipple! Even in the colder temperatures of early December, when we visited, you could sit outside, wrap up in a blanket and warm your legs by the heaters under the table as you sipped happily away at a glass of mulled wine - or two, or three. Mulled wine is very big here at this time of the year, with a stall on almost every corner just ready and waiting to serve!

Ljubljana

Now the one set of landmarks that you can not fail to miss on any tour of this city are the many and varied bridges. From Dragon's Bridge to the Triple Bridge, they pave their way across certain points on the river Ljubljanica, running right through the heart of Ljubljana. Pictured below is Butchers Bridge - Ljubljana's version (kind of) of a love bridge similar to those found in places such as Rome and Paris. Given its name, and the slightly dark and somewhat grotesque sculptures on and around it, this seems something of an ironic idea for this particular bridge. Yet take a stroll across and you will notice the many love etched padlocks that couples have attached to it. To find out more about the other bridges that are worth wandering over, this post offers a quick and useful guide to help you out: The Bridges of Ljubljana, Slovenia from One Day in a City.

Ljubljana
Ljubljana
Ljubljana

2. SOAK UP THE LOCAL FOOD AND DRINK

The food in Slovenia is so good! With hearty soups and stews, an abundance of fresh produce, traditional pastries, fresh bread, Carniolan sausage and much, much more, all guaranteed to make a mark on any foodies tastebuds. One of the very first things that we did when we arrived was to take a local food walk with Iva from Ljubljananjam. This really helped us get our bearings in the city, learn a little about the local food and drink culture and enabled us to experience some of the perhaps slightly lesser known, yet definitely best-kept secrets of the edible scene in the capital. Restaurants, bars and markets, there's plenty to seek out and enjoy.

Ljubljanajam Tour

This was such a brilliant tour to take to get a grasp on the local way of life. I believe that so much of a places past, present and future can be seen through the basic needs and joys of what we choose to put on the kitchen table - and Iva certainly knew exactly where to take us to show us what the foodie world in Ljubljana is all about. I won't give too much away as the details are best treasured by taking part yourself, but if you are in the capital anytime soon be sure to visit the Ljubljananjam website where you can find details of upcoming foodie events, or book yourself onto your very own food walk, craft brewery tour or a local cookery course. Well worth the time and highly recommended.

Ljubljanajam Tour
Ljubljanajam Tour

There are also many taste-tingling restaurants to visit whether you're looking for local cuisine with a twist or some truly fine dining. Noteworthy on our part would have to be the incredibly reasonably priced, but oh so delicious four (or five or six depending on how hungry you are!) course taster menu with local wines (Slovenian wine is oh so good!) at Atelje part of the Grand Hotel Union. If you're after something special, but still want to feel comfortable and relaxed, then this is definitely a spot worth checking out.

Atelje

Another beautiful place with very friendly staff, a cosy atmosphere, and of course great food, sits right near the aforementioned Butchers Bridge. Most Restaurant is connected by the bridge to the market on the other side, allowing for the freshest of produce to be brought straight to their door on a daily basis. Expect a slightly more modern take on some Slovenian classics, as well as Meditteranean inspired themes and flavours. 

Most Restaurant

Finally if getting a good vista of the city is your thing (and anyone who has read my travel related posts before will probably know that it's one of my favourite things to do) then a quick drink with a view can be happily achieved atop the balcony of Neboticnik. This is Ljubljana's prominent landmark, a skyscraper that may be small by comparison to other city heights, but that hovers proudly over an otherwise fairly low rise city. At thirteen storeys it stands out at just over 70 metres and provides a great spot from which to watch over the rest of the lower laying landscape below. A great place to grab a pre-dinner drink and observe as light turns to dark and the twinkling lights of the bustle below begin to shine.

Neboticnik

3. TAKE TO THE SKIES OVER BEAUTIFUL LAKE BLED

Lake Bled is about thirty minutes by car from Ljubljana or between forty-five minutes to an hour and a half by local bus, depending on the route and therefore a good few more stops! Either way it's more than worth the trip out of town to take in some truly breathtaking scenery, wander around the lake and sample a lovely little delight known as Blejska Kremna Rezina - Bled cream cake, err yes please!! 

Hot Air Balloon Over Lake Bled

We decided to do something a little different during our trip there and booked ourselves onto a hot air balloon ride to take to the skies, watch the day break over the lake and witness its picturesque scenery. What an experience! Both terrifying and thrilling at the same time - terrifying because in my excitement to book it I'd kind of completely forgotten that I have a fear of flying! However, this adventure was actually extremely peaceful, serene and beautiful and something that I know we won't ever forget. 

Hot Air Balloon Over Lake Bled

We booked our flight with Balonarski Center Barje after reading some fantastic reviews about them on Tripadvisor and I'm so glad that we did. Filip and Zdenka who took care of us that day, were absolutely fantastic and made the whole experience simple and fun from start to finish. They picked us up at 6.30am from our apartment in Ljubljana and drove us to the lake. Here we helped in setting up the balloon - quite an experience in itself! Then we took to the skies for over an hour, before landing, packing up and taking part in a fun, short ceremony to celebrate our first time taking to the skies in a balloon, all washed down with a welcome glass of bubbly and followed by a very delicious and generous slice of Bled cream cake! If an experience such as this happens to be on your bucket list then I can't recommend them enough, especially here over the very alluring Lake Bled. I hope some of the photos I took from the comfort of our small but perfectly formed balloon basket will give you more of a feel for what to expect. Just make sure you wrap up nice and warm if you happen to be going at this time of the year - chilly stuff!

Hot Air Balloon Over Lake Bled
Hot Air Balloon Over Lake Bled
Hot Air Balloon Over Lake Bled
Hot Air Balloon Over Lake Bled

Once you've finished the balloon experience (or if the air balloon ride isn't your thing and you just want to explore the lake instead) then the lake itself provides a beautiful opportunity to stretch your legs and take in some of the breathtaking beauty of Slovenia. You can take a boat ride over to the church situated on the island in the middle of the lake, or take a climb up the mountainside and visit the picturesque Blejski Grad - Bled Castle.

Lake Bled Castle

4. GET CREATIVE AND DANCE UNTIL DAWN AT METELKOVA

If you read my Copenhagen post back at the end of this summer then you may remember me talking about Freetown Christiania, an autonomous neighbourhood in the capital that lives and works by its own set of rules and offers its inhabitants a very different way of life. Now I wasn't all too sure what to think of Christiania and it's certainly somewhere that's having some problems of late, but Ljubljana has a very similar sort of neighbourhood with fewer issues, a very relaxed and friendly vibe and an inviting creative outlook, a place known as Metelkova Mesto.

Metelkova

Metelkova is also an autonomous, independent area of the city, situated on the former site of some old and abandoned military barracks. It provides an alternative view of urban city life and culture, plays host to a number of musical, artistic and creative events, and is somewhere that locals and visitors alike flock at night to soak up the underground music and art scene, in a relaxed and laidback environment. 

Metelkova

We visited both at night and during the day. In the evenings it's best to wait until around 11pm-midnight to arrive as that's really when the night gets started. Expect a lively and colourful music scene where you'll feel quite happy dancing and revelling until the early hours. During the day head back to shed some light on the beautiful street art and creativity that adorns every wall. Anyone who follows me on Instagram may have already picked up on my slight street art obsession, so as you can imagine, I was pretty happy to wander around here in the daylight and take it all in. Explore some of the images below to get a taste for what I'm talking about!

Metelkova
Metelkova
Metelkova

5. WATCH THE SUNSET OVER THE CITY

Finally on my list, and back into the heart of Ljubljana itself, I highly recommend taking a sunset walk up the banks of Ljubljana Castle and to the top of its tower to take in the landscape as the sun goes down. Or if your feet are too tired for more walking then you can hitch a ride on the funicular that will run you up to the top for a reasonable price and save those sore pins after a busy day of exploring!

Ljubljana Castle

Entry into the castle grounds is free but you do have to pay a small amount to enter the museums inside and go up the tower. It's not necessarily the most exciting of castles that I've ever been to, but it is worth the trip up to capture an extensive overview of the city - and if you time it right, then sunset is the perfect time to be there.

Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle

OTHER STUFF!

Getting There: We flew with Easyjet from Stansted Airport. Flights run once a day and take approximately 1 hour 45 minutes. The airport in Ljubljana is just a short 20-30 minutes by shuttle bus or taxi to the city centre. Our shuttle cost 9 euros per person. I believe that a taxi ride can cost around 45 euros.

Accommodation: We chose to stay in an apartment that we found on Airbnb and were very lucky to have a spacious, modern and affordable place to stay that was but a few minutes walk from the centre. Our hosts were also fantastic and I think this was a great way to experience the city. I'd highly recommend doing something similar.

Ljubljana Festive Break
Ljubljana Christmas Lights

So if you're looking for somewhere new to explore and are after an easy to get to and easy to navigate city, that's very friendly and also pretty easy on the purse strings, then you definitely can't go far wrong with Ljubljana and with Slovenia in general. Winter was a beautiful time to visit, especially with the amazing array of Christmas lights, however, I'm reliably informed it's equally as stunning all year round, especially during spring and summer when the beauty of the rich green landscape is in full force. So happy future travels everyone, I hope this post has been useful and whatever you do, with 2017 about to dawn, never stop exploring - at home or overseas, there's always something new just around the corner!

Louise

 


Spending A Saturday Exploring Dalston

Dalston in East London had been on my 'to visit' list for a very long time but was somewhere I just hadn't found the time to get to and take a look around. Since moving back into London earlier this year and being based this time in the north instead of the south, a whole new selection of now far easier to reach destinations has opened up. Exploring this unchartered (for me at least) territory has been one of the best things about being back in dear old London town. I love exploring new places whether that be through travelling or just finding out what's nearby my own doorstep. So here's a few photos from a Saturday afternoon in Dalston and some points worth checking out if you ever find yourself in this part of town and looking for something to do.

Hackney Peace Carnival Street Mural

If you're visiting Dalston then one of the first things you're likely to come across is the beautiful Hackney Peace Carnival Mural (pictured above) that sits proudly on the side of an empty building opposite Dalston Junction station. This quite breathtaking mural is staggering in its size and you can't fail to take a moment to admire it. It was designed by muralist Ray Walker in 1982 as part of the Greater London Council's year of peace initiative. Ray Walker sadly died of a heart attack aged 39 and before painting of the mural had really begun. His wife and colleague stepped in to complete it and it was unveiled in 1985. The mural depicts the Hackney Peace Carnival procession as locals gather together at the height of the cold war, united for peace and against nuclear war. It really is a vibrant and colourful picture to stand and gaze at in awe even despite the somewhat hefty subject matter.

Dalston East Curve Garden

Hunting out the mural will mean that you conveniently find yourself at the entrance to the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and this is definitely a spot to grab a glass of something chilled, pull up a slightly battered but very comfortable garden sofa and relax with friends for a good while. A peaceful and incredibly relaxed spot that you can happily spend hours in just sitting back and chatting away as the evening draws in. 

The garden is maintained by volunteers, is full of beautiful wildlife friendly trees and shrubs and provides a place for local residents to grow their own food. You can buy food and drink at the bar or take in your own as long as that doesn't include alcohol which must be purchased on site. Old chairs and sofas grace this long and winding leafy space, with a play area at the end for the little ones. Decked out with fairy lights, bunting and cosy wood burners, the laid back vibe pretty much ensures that you'll never want to leave. This is well worth a stop if you find yourself in the area, and give yourself time to sit back and enjoy a little bit of peace and serenity amongst the urban sprawl just outside. Heavenly!

Dalston East Curve Garden
Dalston East Curve Garden
Dalston East Curve Garden
Dalston East Curve Garden

Next up on the to do list and still along the garden theme but in a slightly different sense is nearby Dalston Roof Park. Located on Ashwin Street not far from the famed Arcola Theatre and providing a unique space to eat, drink and dance overlooking the landscape below. I loved this space. It's relaxed, uninhibited, unpretentious and so much fun. Another place that I could have happily spent the entire evening just sipping my mojito and watching the sun go down, then dancing my socks off on the spongy astroturf without much of a care in the world! Normal entry is £3 but make sure you check the calendar for special events that you may need to purchase additional tickets for, or for private events that may inhibit your entry on that occasion.

If you can't get into the roof garden then also well worth a stop is Cafe OTO situated below where you can catch new and original live music everyday of the week as well as chow down on one of their delicious home baked cakes alongside your glass of wine - well why not!!

Dalston Roof Park
Dalston Roof Park
Dalston Roof Park
Dalston Roof Park

Finally I'm going to mention Dalston Yard and Street Feast London even though the evening that we went was actually the very last evening at this particular location. Despite that I still wanted to include a few photos of what was a great hour or two of rum cocktails and mouthwatering street food. Plus even though Dalston Yard is sadly no longer with us, Street Feast London do still have three other locations that you can visit so these pics might just tickle your tastebuds and give you a little inkling of what to expect. AMAZING food, great cocktails and a chatty, friendly vibe that isn't to be missed. I certainly still need to eat my way around the rest of the saliva inducing food stalls on offer so will be making my way to another of their locations quick smart to get my fill. Let the next few photos fill you in on the sort of thing to expect and also provide a fond farewell to the fabulous Dalston Yard.

Dalston Yard Street Feast
Dalston Yard Street Feast
Dalston Yard Street Feast
Dalston Yard Street Feast
Dalston Yard Street Feast
Dalston Yard Street Feast

So therein lies a short and swift but ultimately very satisfying trip to discover a few of the delights of Dalston. There is no doubt far much more to uncover and see and I don't think it'll be long before I'm back doing just that. If you're planning a visit to the area yourself I hope this post offers a starting point. If you're from or are a huge fan of the area and have some further tips and top spots to visit then please leave those in the comments below. All ideas, as always, are very, very welcome.

Have a great weekend everyone and hope to see you here again very soon.

Louise

 


Move, Explore And Enjoy Your Working Week

EMBRACE THE POTENTIAL FOR A HAPPIER, HEALTHIER WORKING WEEK 

Yesterday evening I had an idea for a new regular feature here on the blog and although in future I think it might be best placed on a Friday or at the weekend to give you inspiration and planning time ahead of the new week, I thought I'd start today because there are some really great ideas and events happening over the next few days that I wanted to draw your attention to.

 Image Source: Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

I've talked before about ensuring that you take regular breaks during your working day, and especially making sure that you embrace your lunch break, get away from that desk and get moving for your long term balance and wellbeing both mentally and physically. In the past I, like so many of us, have been guilty of working through lunch and being stuck in my seat for the bulk of the working day. Sometimes through sheer workload and a feeling that I can't take a break. Other times through a lack of inspiration or motivation to go and do something useful with that precious hour that we all have and can all take if we want to do so. 

On idly browsing Twitter whilst sat on the train yesterday evening I noticed that Stylist Magazine have been running a campaign for a while now encouraging people to reclaim their lunch break and I strongly agree with the message that they are trying to get across. I've written before about how to take a more mindful lunch break and today I wanted to share some unique ideas for how to spend that precious time away from your desk. Some events that I've stumbled on that seem like such a great idea, not necessarily just exercise based, but cultural, social - anything that gets you out and gives you a moments break from the regular working day.

Now as I'm London based some of these have a predominant London swing, so make sure you leave your own suggestions and links to any similar events in your own area below. Whether they be social get togethers before work, during lunch, or after the 9 to 5 has ended. Let's share events, ideas and social gatherings that can help us all to have a happier and healthier working week.

 

THREE SMART WAYS TO BALANCE YOUR REAL SELF ALONGSIDE YOUR WORKING WEEK

1. Look Out For Creative Street Art As You Take A Lunchtime Breather:

As Part of their #70Things series to celebrate their 70th year the Arts Council England has been encouraging people to do different creative things each day for 70 days. One of their recent suggestions was to go out and find something artistic and pretty on your nearby street corner. Now depending on where you work or live this may or may not be possible but the streets of London are full of a plethora of really awe inspiring, colourful street art. So why not take a stroll, explore and unleash your inner iPhone photographer as you get some creative snaps of the urban beauty that lives and breathes on the walls of your city. Got some top suggestions for where best to explore? Leave them in the comments below.

Looking for more inspiration? Why not view the full list of the 70 creative suggestions in this series. Some really quirky and fun ideas from creating a sculpture using your own lunch to writing the plot of your favourite film using only emojis!

2. Get Moving And Try Something New:

There are always fun things going on in the city and they don't always have to cost a fortune. Look out for free events near you that you can get involved in before, during or after work that will get you moving and trying out something new. Staying active doesn't always have to involve hammering out the same old routine in the gym. Inspire body and mind with a new activity now and again. For example this week Merchant Square in Paddington, London is hosting a full programme of free activities to encourage people to reclaim their lunch break. From ping pong to paddle board yoga you can check out the details here. So if you're in that particular area get yourself out and get involved. Or take inspiration and search out similar activities near you. 

To find out what else is going on event apps such as Y Plan and Eventbrite can be really useful and give you quick and easy access to interesting goings-on in your area as well as an easy way to book your space so that you don't miss out. Have another great way to find out about events or an app you love to use? Share in the comments below - all inspiration always very welcome!

3. Give Your Mind A Break From All Things Work:

As you take that much needed lunchtime stroll maybe you want something to keep you company, inspire you and take your mind off of the working day for a moment or two? Or perhaps a dull and rainy day means you just need a break for the mind and want to find a quiet and dry space in which to do so. Why not download an audio book from somewhere such as Audible to free your mind as you walk. Or get started with that new language you've always wanted to learn - try Babbel or Rosetta Stone for online tuition.

Alternatively catch up on your favourite podcast. There are so many great options out there for all sorts of tastes and interests. To give you inspiration and get you started check out these 22 Podcasts That You Should Be Subscribing To In 2016 via Buzzfeed. A comprehensive collection of some of the best podcasts out there, you'll be sure to find something to entertain you during your well deserved lunch time break.

 

So I hope some of these suggestions have helped to fire up the creative or more active person within you. Work doesn't have to be all routine and no fun. Grab back those moments of 'you' time and fill them with something worthwhile.

What do you do to balance your working day with the real you? Perhaps something before work gets you fired up and ready for the day, or how do you spend your lunch break and make use of that valuable hour? Let me know and as always thanks for reading everyone and see you again soon.

Louise