Cookies and Scream, Vegan Dream

For those of you who think that being a vegan is no fun, think again. Believe it or not, these delicious treats are all milk, egg and wheat free (yes I’m talking to you too gluten free folks), and best of all they taste just as amazing as they look.

You can find these (and plenty more) hidden away at Cookies and Scream in Camden Lock Market, London.

From peanut butter and jelly cookies to marshmallow brownie goodies (ask the staff to warm these up), you won’t be a able to tell the difference between these babies and any other baked goods, well except that these taste sooo much better!

Oh and did I mention that they also do vegan milkshakes?… Yep.

Go check them out at Camden Lock Market, last orders are at 17:30 so get there quick and nab yourself some vegan friendly treats! For further details click here. Enjoy!

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Got British Gothic

Though I haven’t been posting as regularly as I have in the past I’ve spent a lot more of my time looking at art and architecture and specially British Gothic churches over the past couple of months, more than I ever have before.

My recent studies have really opened up my eyes to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages and how universal it was. Previously I had thought of Gothic architecture as something dark occurring at some point after the Glory of Rome and before the the rebirth of classical ideals during the Renaissance.

Little did I know of the architectural complexities and technological achievement of the so called ‘Dark Ages’ which appear to have not been so dark at all…

My favourite British Gothic:

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Temple Church, one of the earliest examples of Gothic in England, it’s origins are still a mystery to me, much more of a mystery than the Knights Templar for whom the church was commissioned. Henry III originally chose to be buried here.

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Salisbury Cathedral, I finally understand what is meant by architectural ‘plasticity’. One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, the sun reflecting on the brilliance of the white stone is stunning.

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Westminster Abbey (not to be confused with the cathedral) is the final resting place of Edward the Confessor, Henry III and a long list of British monarchs including Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Though we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside I will never have my experience erased from my memory. The Gothic construction was commissioned by good old Henry III (I really like this guy) as a giant reliquary for Edward the Confessor, the saintly king of England. Some say it was a rip off of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, others say it is quintessentially British, I am yet to decide for myself…

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Why I always choose AirBnB over hotel rooms

Airbnb

Most of us aren’t quite fortunate enough to stay in five star luxury hotels. The cheaper alternative surely then is booking with Airbnb…

Airbnb is a virtual space in which hosts can advertise their spare rooms/studios/entire apartments or houses to travellers across the globe. The company started off small but now have an international following of hosts and guests, a community of like minded people who would pick staying among the locals over a centrally located hotel any day.

So how does it all work? The host posts a space on the Airbnb website, with pictures. Guests select their preferences using the search engine by price, size, location and appearance, contact the host, arrange suitable dates and time, book and pay. Simple as 1,2,3.

I have been using Airbnb for the past couple of years and since I started I haven’t looked at another cheap hotel room. Here’s why:

 

1. I can select the exact location that I want to stay in

Whether I want to wake up at the foot of Montmartre, opposite the Colosseum or a brisk walk away from the Empire State Building I have that choice. Most hotels are based around the centre of town or near busy train stations which makes it noisy and expensive (which I will get to in my next point). I’d much rather be settled in a communal area where I can have my morning coffee in a local cafe or have a glass of wine in a bar locals head to after work.

 

2. Price

It is much cheaper to rent through Airbnb. This summer I rented an entire studio apartment a stone’s throw from the Sacre Coeur with a friend. The cost… something along the lines of £15 ($25) per night for an apartment in which we had our own space and privacy with a kitchen where we could cook our own dinner (which really helped to save on eating out).

 

3. Host

How nice it is to have flexible check in and out times, not having to wait or rush and to have a host who’s prepared an itinerary for you. In Copenhagen I was very kindly given guide books, a map and some really good advice on what to do and what to not bother wasting my time with. My host understood my passion for architecture and instead of suggesting Contemporary Art galleries or designer shops he pointed me towards vintage markets and churches, neat.

 

4. Honesty

No more false advertising only to find that my hotel room has cockroaches, no windows or a broken shower. Hotels can put you in any room they want to, not necessarily the one you looked at on their website. With Airbnb you get what you pick. Reviews by previous guests also helped in the selection process. If you don’t like the reviews, you don’t book.

 

5. Little treats

Hosts always provide little treats, it is sooooo nice to turn up to chocolates, cheese, nutella, champagne, good coffee etc. Of course I either bring small gifts from London or restock the fridge as a thank you in return. This is a little extra touch you don’t get at a cheap hotel.

 

6. Friendship

It’s nice to make friends with the locals – your host is the locals. I’ve made friends with the hosts of the places I’ve stayed in. When I visit Paris I make sure I pop round to Matthieu’s flat to say hello. He introduces me to new bars (though recently I’ve been introducing him to a few) and this just starts a chain reaction of meeting new people.

 

Of course, as with all things in life, you have to be wise when using Airbnb. The website offer plenty of advice on how to travel safely and how to pick the right place to stay as unfortunately there is always be one not so nice person who spoils all the fun. So some words of advice to those considering using Airbnb for their next trips:

 

1. Select wisely

Take your time to carefully look through your options. Look at the images carefully, make sure they are all of the same place. Do some background research on the neighborhood (Airbnb even help with this), don’t pick a cheap room in the middle of nowhere just to save on a couple of Euros.

 

2. Reviews

Read the reviews. If the person has a lot of negative reviews (broken toilet seats, not hospitable, no towels etc…) think twice. If the person do not have many reviews and you are traveling on your own then use your head. When traveling alone I make sure I stay at a place owned either by a woman or a couple, or somewhere that has plenty of reviews by women.

 

3. Contact

Do not just book in a rush. Contact your host first. I always throw a few messages back and forth asking my host questions about their life, job, hobbies etc. This builds up a bit of a relationship, especially if you are renting a room within a house and not the entire apartment on your own.

 

4. If you don’t feel right, don’t do it.

Use your instincts people.

 

And there you have it. I hope you consider using Airbnb after reading my review.

 

For more information on Airbnb visit here.

 

The Square Mile

London’s ‘Square Mile’, the city within the city, is the oldest part of London. It consists of the original Roman settlement up to London of the Middle Ages, the original Medieval layout of the old city remaining almost unchanged to this day. It was in this part of the city that famous architects such as Christopher Wren envisioned remodeling the City after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Today the City is the world’s leading global financial center, but to me it shall always be the art historical center of London.

If you care to take a walk down London’s historic center, I would suggest starting at the Aldwych end of Fleet Street. Here you can visit the Knights Templar Temple Church and the Prince Henry Rooms, one of the few buildings to have survived the Great Fire of London.

Cross the road and on your left is St. Dunstan in the West, one of the City’s oldest churches having been built in the 10th century. The church that stands here today is a remodeled 19th century version of the original medieval church.  Surviving Historical features include the 17th century clock with figures representing Gog and Magog, the ancient guardians of London. Surviving also is a 16th century sculpture of Queen Elizabeth I, the only standing outdoor sculpture of the queen. This little gem is definitely worth a visit.

St. Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street

St. Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street

The only surviving outdoor sculpture of Queen Elizabeth I - St. Dunstan in the West

The only surviving outdoor sculpture of Queen Elizabeth I – St. Dunstan in the West

As you walk up Fleet Street, stick to the left of the road and you’ll pass Sweeny Todd’s barber shop, where he cut the throats of helpless victims in order to give the bodies to his lover who then made meat pies out of the meat. Nice.

Look up and you shall come face to face with Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral.

St. Paul's and its Catholic dome

St. Paul’s and its Catholic dome

Christopher Wren was raised in medieval London, he would have been used to the chaos of the ancient layout of the City. A lover or mathematics, harmony and architecture, Wren studied astronomy at Cambridge University. After the Great Fire, he was commissioned to produce a new plan for London, one that would have put London at the center of European culture. Wren’s works were never realized, though the original ground plans can still be seen today. However, many of his churches, including St. Paul’s were commissioned. There were people who despised Wren for his rather Catholic looking masterpiece, though this was the people’s church and in a time of religious reform Wren won the hearts of the public with this harmoniously Classical work of art.

Close to St. Paul’s Cathedral is the famous Monument, which marks the spot of the beginning of the Fire of London. It is believed that the fire began at a bakery on Pudding Lane. Much of medieval London was destroyed, which gave way to the development of a more modern and forward thinking City. From then on, buildings were no longer allowed to be built in wood.

The Monument

The Monument

Today visitors can climb all the way to the top of The Monument for a fantastic view of London.

My favorite part of the Square Mile, which most people don’t know about (shhh it’s a secret), is the historically rich church of All Hallow’s by the Tower. Situated meters away from the Tower of London, this little beauty of a church houses centuries of London history dating back to the Roman settlement.

Founded in the 7th century this is London’s oldest church. All Hallow’s features an original Saxon arch which was constructed using recycled Roman building material. An early Roman settlement (with surviving Roman mosaics) can be seen in the crypt, which also houses the church’s museum. It is said that Richard I’s heart is buried somewhere within the church walls, the church also later  gained royal connections due to it’s proximity to the Tower of London. It was rebuilt, enlarged and modified over centuries and survived the Fire of London. Samuel Pepys is famously said to have climbed the tower in order to watch the destruction of London during the Great Fire. It was bombed during the war though its original outer walls thankfully survived.

With such a rich history (of which I have merely brushed over the surface) how could you possibly miss such a spectacle of London history? If you are visiting the Tower of London, be sure to stop off at All Hallow’s on your way in or out. The church staff are knowledgeable and friendly and are happy to guide you around the church on a free tour.

All Hallow's by the Tower

All Hallow’s by the Tower

Layers of history as you walk up the nave

Layers of history as you walk up the nave

So, start at Temple (nearest tube station: Temple) and make your way down the City, peeling through layers of London history on your way. Enjoy!