A Blog’s Rise From The Ashes

Dramatic title. I felt it really captured the emotion and import of the situation. Living La Vida is rising, Phoenix like, from the cold and grey thing it has become.

Okay. That’s perhaps a bit much. But this blog really has died a bit of a death. For a variety of reasons I haven’t been around, but now I’ve finished uni, I am travelling and I am able to begin this beautiful revival – I’ll get some gospel singers on board and everything.

I do apologise for my absence, I have a few catch up blogs for London – and then posts will turn to my travels for the next few months until I return to the big smoke and the daily grind. Living La Vida London has now lived la Vida worldwide (well, Asia-wide) and I can’t wait to share these stories with you. Now I shall depart to catch up on all your beautiful words and finally write my (long anticipated, I’m sure) Bumpkin blog.

I would love to add a picture, but the internet is having none of it,mso I shall instead leave you with a smiley.ūüôā << look how happy that guy is! I can even do a dude with a moustache.
:{|
Okay, I'll stop it now.

Mission University: Complete

It’s official. Exams are done, marks are in, and I passed. I have a degree, I am now fully qualified to tell you all about…well, worms. Worms and monkeys. If you ever have a monkey with worms, I’m you’re girl.¬†

I’m done, the relief is intense.¬†

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That kind of says it all really. 

I leave London in about 2 months, but not for good – and the blog will be coming with me on my trip. In the mean time, I plan to squish plenty of adventures in. Tomorrow I will be heading to a lovely restaurant in Chelsea named Bumpkin through squaremeal – an independent London restaurant and bar guide, so look out for a post on that in the next few days – I know you’ll all be waiting with bated breath. In the mean time, I plan to celebrate by sleeping for a week!

A Lucky Mistake And A Venezuelan Breakfast

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Having returned to my place of work for further training, it wasn’t until I arrived that I realised I had set off far too early. I could, in fact, have had another hour in bed. Those that know me, know how precious sleep is to me, and will therefore understand how unimpressed I was at the situation. As such, I felt the need to treat myself, and made a beeline for a caf√© across the road I’ve been eyeing for some time now: Caf√© Latino, Mi Cocina Es Tuya.

It’s small, sweet, clean and decorated with (I presume) Venezuelan or at least Spanish bits and pieces. It’s clearly family run, and as soon as I entered I was shown my seat and handed a menu as well as a taster of their passion fruit smoothie. 2 minutes later the chap was back, and I ordered a ‘Latino breakfast’ (chorizo, fried eggs, cornbread and beans) and a mango juice. He was very friendly and handed me that day’s newspaper to peruse at my leisure – and who doesn’t love a good leisurely perusing.

You could see part of the kitchen, and smell the order being cooked. My drink arrived first, followed by the food – the cornbread had a smily face on it, my breakfast was almost as happy to see me as I was to see it! The chorizo was home made and delicious, the eggs weren’t overdone (a surprisingly regular occurrence when buying breakfast) and I was offered salsa verde and chilli as accompaniment. The beans reminded me of Costa Rica, where rice and beans were present at every meal (literally. Every meal.)

When I was finished, I still had 2 hours to kill before going to work, however I never felt rushed. When I asked for a glass of water I was brought it with a smile, and when they found out I could speak (some) Spanish I was offered a Spanish newspaper to read and told I should come in more often to practise.

After a while, temptation did overcome me and I ordered the churros. It was a bit of a feast and I loved every minute of it.

The prices were not dirt cheap, but they were not unreasonable and I didn’t feel ripped off. For everything I paid ¬£14.

So yes, I would recommend this place. I don’t know if the cuisine is Venezuelan itself, but it was delicious and the people who run the cafe are friendly and accommodating (and patient should you want to practise your Spanish!) Muy bien – see, I’m practically fluent already.

Square Meal

Highgate Cemetery

I know, suggesting a cemetery as a place to visit sounds like a somewhat macabre day out, but bear with me.

Highgate Cemetery is very large, and it was opened in 1839 – so it’s easy to imagine how many people are buried there. However, the company that ran it dropped it when it became no longer commercially viable in the 70s, and as such nature and vandalism meant it went into rather a spectacular decline. Now a charity runs it; the East cemetery is open for public wandering, the West cemetery is by tour only.¬†

There’s a strangely peaceful atmosphere in the cemetery, given its location in a rather busy area of London, and it is obvious that it was neglected for some time. However, the still slightly overgrown greenery, the tiny, snaking paths between grave stones and the trees just add to the impression that you’ve stepped out of ¬†London into a countryside grave yard.¬†

But what’s particularly impressive is the gravestones. Some are sadly still bearing the marks of the vandals that kicked them down, however others are absolutely stunning (once again, I realise I sound quite morbid, but its true…) There are angels, dogs, Celtic crosses and mausoleums – but dominating it all is the giant head of Karl Marx, who is also buried here. There are a few famous historical figures here – including George Eliot, a Victorian writer who assumed a male name to ensure her work was taken seriously; and Christina Rossetti, the poet. Douglas Adams is also buried here, for any fans of the Hitchhikers guide.¬†

Right beside the cemetery itself, and easy enough to walk through on the way from Archway tube station, is Waterlow Park. Green, with a pond and children’s park it’s a lovely picnic spot – and the gardens are worth a wander around in their own right.

The cemetery itself is ¬£4 for admission for adults, free for under 18s and you get a free map to navigate (trust me, you’ll need it). It doesn’t feel sad or closed in at all, it’s a lovely place to drop by and I would recommend it for those looking for some time out of the London rat race. There are few places that manage to escape it quite so completely as Highgate cemetery (though it can get muddy and some of the smaller paths are quite overgrown, this is not a place for flip flops. Nettle stings on your feet anyone?)

 

 

The Prodigal Blogger Returns…Again

Exams are over, coursework is done, and I graduate in 2 months. As a result I will be leaving London to travel in August as I mentioned in an earlier post, but this blog will certainly still be going – simply with a slightly different focus. I do certainly intend to return to London, it sucks you in after a while. I’ve fallen in love with the place (although not so much the tube. It’s hard to love the tube.)

I apologise for the disappearing act, I realise its been a while. Sadly right after I finished my dissertation my laptop was stolen, which admittedly put the kibosh on things. However, I have returned and I have a wealth of material to blog about – thank you for sticking with me and for your patience in my final year, my blogging has been somewhat higgledy piggledy (such an awesome expression) but now I’m done I can focus on this more!

Any way, I have a nasty cold right now, so I’m going to curl back up and hibernate for a while. Look out over the next few days for posts about overgrown cemeteries, fancy tea shops, an interview with a delightful London film crew and in a few weeks a review of a lovely restaurant I’ve been invited to grace with my presence…

Jimmy’s World Grill

This is not a well kept London secret. Some unexplored nook or darkened cranny. This is a UK chain of world food buffet restaurants; however, I deemed it worthy of a hallowed blog post thanks to a) the cheap prices, b) the good location, c) the good food and d) the chocolate fountain that I’ve been harping on about.

At £7.99 for an all you can eat week day lunch, the price is definitely right. I ordered a glass of pineapple juice Рdrinks come extra Рbut given it was practically fish bowl sized, it seemed worth the price.

So Jimmy’s consists of a series of ‘live stations’ – including a noodle stand where a chef made your noodles from order and¬†a naan stand where – you guessed it – a chef made your naan to order. There was a Tex Mex station that was closed, but given the other choice on offer this was not too great a loss.

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Strewn between the live chefs flinging food together with expert ease, there were vats of curry, rice, trays of fried chicken, vegetable dim sum and spring rolls, and a salad bar. There was also a pizza and pasta station – and I haven’t even started on the dessert yet.

I ate my way round the world – from Thai green curry to chicken korma to cous cous to pizza to olives to prawn crackers – I had a little bit of it all, and was surprised by how good it was. None of it was cold or looked¬†suspiciously congealed which is always a plus, and honestly I¬†almost wished I had a bigger stomach.¬†I didn’t end up trying out a live station as I was so full from the help-yourself bit, but they seemed to know what they were doing and the food I saw them turning out looked good.

However, I do have the separate dessert stomach and that was ready and waiting to try out the dessert buffet Рincluded in the £7.99 price. All the offerings were cut into little bitesize pieces to allow for people trying everything:

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Cheese cake, red velvet cake, more cheese cake, a cocounut…thing, carrot cake¬†– ALL THE CAKE

And finally¬†the chocolate fountain had marshmallows and chunks of fruit ready to be skewered. I very nearly went full Vicar of Dibley on that thing – and for those of you who’ve never watched¬†Dawn French’s¬†Vicar of Dibley series, it starts off like this:

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(Image from UKTV Gold.)

And ends up like this:

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(Image from Somersoft)

Yup.

Any way, I would recommend Jimmy’s if you’re ever in Wimbledon, looking for a cheap and filling meal and feel like avoiding the hefty gastropub and restaurant fees of the area. Whilst its not exactly culinary genius, its a buffet – that’s not really the point. Easy, accessible, filling and…well, now I’m hungry.

The Devil Wears Primark

I’ve discovered something about myself since moving to London.

Nothing spiritual. No beautiful enlightenment, no sudden epiphany, no shining star existing in the centre of my being.

I’ve merely discovered my inner bitch.

I know I’ve touched on the subject of London transport with you before, but lately I’ve been spending much more time on buses and tubes after my laptop broke and I know find myself commuting into university daily in order to use their computers. I found myself mentally quoting and wishing I had the same panache and power as the delightful Miranda Priestley (a fictional draconian magazine editor, for those who perhaps don’t recognise the name, who appears in The Devil Wears Prada) in response to those that insist on taking up the entire pavement/road/tube station/world with their slooooooooow pace.

“By all means, move at a glacial pace, you know how that thrills me.” were the exact words I believe, and my goodness, they are apt.

Except with me, I don’t wear Prada. Please. I’m a student. So, this brings me to my title. The Devil Wears Primark.

That’s right, transport brings out the demon in us all, but particularly me. I find myself glaring balefully at all those in my way, slithering my way inhumanly through gaps that a cat would struggle with, overtaking with little consideration for any I leave in my wake and grumbling if this is made impossible.

Short post today, in a brief dissertation break as I desperately rewrite all the data I lost in the aforementioned laptop episode. I’m not even sure if it really makes sense, after hours of staring blindly at a statistical programme my ability to string together a coherent sentence seems to abandon me.

I wish I could go back to the chocolate fountain restaurant: the subject of my next post.

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Living La Vida London Takes La Vida On The Road

In a few blog posts I’ve hinted at some exciting developments, some news, if you will. And whilst I have plenty of London fun times to share with you lovely folk – from a restaurant with a chocolate fountain to early morning wholesale markets – I felt it was time to just tell you guys exactly what’s been going on.

Recently I’ve worked a huge amount of overtime, and with uni that’s meant I have neglected this blog and most other aspects of my life to some extent, hence the lack of posts;¬†but it seems like its going to pay off. You see, I bought myself a wodge of flight tickets, and come August I’m off jaunting for about 4 months.¬†I have a rough route planned:

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(Excuse the exceedingly wonky, horribly drawn map. I haven’t used Microsoft paint in years.)

There will be¬†lots of wandering – especially in Japan, where I’ll be staying on an island off the mainland for a while. So whilst I will, sadly, have to leave London temporarily, I will be jaunting about the place and still posting about my adventures on here – if you guys still happen to be interested!

Any way, that’s what’s going on with me after I graduate university and before I start applying for full time jobs and postgraduate courses and various other things. Off on a jolly holiday, and I will naturally be taking you guys with me.

Although not literally. That would be expensive, I imagine.

Cafe Joy, Roehampton

If there’s one thing I love to do in London, its visit the coffee shops. The independent roasteries, the little off-the-beaten track nooks, anywhere that isn’t Starbucks, Costa or Caffe Nero, basically. Somewhere a bit different.¬†

Now, I wouldn’t say Cafe Joy was necessarily worth heading all the way out to Roehampton for especially, but if you’re ever around Wimbledon Common, or Richmond Park, its pretty close by and easy enough to pop into on the way to Barnes station or Hammersmith. I just happen to pop in after my lecture for a sandwich and a coffee, and my, what an artistically layered coffee it was.

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Look at it! LOOK. 

I ordered a ham and cheese panini thing; the sandwich was hot and on ciabatta bread, if a little plain, but at ¬£2.99 the price already undercut any of the big chains. There’s table service, which is unusual in most cafes but its nice not to lurk around awkwardly for 5 minutes whilst the stressed barista gets increasingly stressed by you being forced to hang over them.¬†

There are big old bags of coffee on display and the man is pretty friendly. Essentially, a nice place to stop off for a snack or a light lunch, or indeed just a hot drink if you’re being sophisticado or just feeling a bit chilly. Even the drinks themselves are quite cheap, with my latte clocking in at only ¬£1.99.¬†

Now I’m off for a midnight snack, in the hope that eating will make me sleepy. Venturing into central tomorrow night; a rare occurrence for me. Some would say an adventure. Most wouldn’t.¬†

SPACED 2014 by Theatre Delicatessen

Lately, I’ve discovered an idea referred to as a ‘Theatre Souk’ – a series of bitesize pieces of immersive theatre that the audience members must barter, beg and steal from the performers. Being a bit of a drama llama I had to go and see this for myself, and luckily the wonderful Theatre Delicatessen was staging a week long theatre festival in the old BBC Radio building in Marylebone. Hard to imagine a better venue, with the basement and the bottom floor dedicated to the artists, performers and theatre groups whims and wants. And there was a bar.

Everything is better with a bar. Except perhaps Lamaze classes. 

I didn’t know what to expect, and honestly I’m not sure where else I would find a woman dressed as a black hole pouncing on people, a man disco dancing and throwing glitter at passers by, a boxing ring in which a dragon, a bear and a fairy in his underpants stropped, swore, kissed and punched in a fight dictated by the spectators bids or a scientist in a lab coat handing out computer chips as tickets to the end of the world. Phew, that was a long sentence.

The performers had gone out of their way creatively, each little performance space was so different from the others and the performances themselves were so wild and random – yet all stemming from one initial question: ‘Is it worth it?’

What was particularly wonderful, however, was the opportunity this festival afforded the artists; they were given seed money and guidance in putting together their pieces. Given the immersive theatre aspect, they were all skilled in improvisation and there were times when you weren’t sure where the character ended and the person began.

Hmm, I’m sounding a tad pretentious now.¬†

Any way, sadly, due to a safety issue the building had to be evacuated and I didn’t get to experience everything, which was a crying shame. Despite this, what I saw was inspiring, fascinating, and very, very different – as well as fun, which is a rare mix these days. The SPACED 2014 festival is done for now, but I would look out for further Theatre Delicatessen offerings in the future…for now they’re running Heist, also in Marylebone, offering the opportunity for you to take part in your own – you guessed it – Heist.¬†

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Image from http://www.theatredelicatessen.com/spaced2014/

 

London's hidden gems, on a student budget