London is at the heart of culture. Looking for the latest theatre performance? You can find it in London. After a thought provoking art gallery? Not a problem, London will have just what you're looking for. Keen to see your favourite musician perform at a local festival? It's bound to happen within London!
So as soon as I heard about the upcoming pop-up exhibition that incorporated two of my most favourite things in the world, buying tickets was a no-brainer. What on earth could be better than wandering around a display showcasing all of my favourite superheroes? Well...wandering around a display showcasing all of my favourite superheroes, made solely from Lego bricks. I kid you not! With the largest display comprising of a whopping 489,010 Lego blocks (and over 2 million blocks in the whole exhibition), every single piece of art in this gallery literally blew my mind away.
All created by one lawyer turned artist, Nathan Sawaya, the art installation incorporates complex design with well-known characters, some pretty inspirational quotes, and a good recount of number of burritos consumed per display.
Below I will take you on a journey through good and evil, through my favourite displays as well as the ones that frightened me the most. The exhibition is very reasonably priced (£16.50 per adult, £11.50 per child, or £45 for a family), so I would highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.
To buy tickets:
About the artist:
Flash Forward: 3,775 bricks Streak: 21, 753 bricks
The Flash - Dark Red: 15,366 bricks The Flash Bust: 9,954 bricks
Superman - Blue: 28, 397 bricks Superman Streak: 16,007 bricks
Pushing: 8,478 bricks Soaring: 29,083 bricks
Angel: 25,168 bricks Superman Cubed: 14,500 bricks
Batman: 3,818 bricks Batman - Dark Grey: 22,024 bricks
Batman Cover: 6,732 bricks Batman Bust: 10,880 bricks
Building Batman: 8,005 bricks Detective Comics No. 27: 18,990 bricks
Bat Symbol: 1,112 bricks
Cowl Collection: 440 bricks each Batmobile: 489,010 bricks
Wonder Woman: 2,890 bricks Wonder Woman - Dark Blue: 16,586 bricks
Diana Prince™ - In Disguise: 13,890 bricks Wonder Woman Bust: 11,949 bricks
Splish Splash: 25,563 bricks Aquapus: 10,774 bricks
The Killing Joke Cover: 8,150 bricks
The Joker Facemark: 11.756 bricks The Joker Skull: 4,032 bricks
Necessary Evil: 4,870 bricks Pick A Card: 4,571 bricks
Perched: 11,193 bricks Brainiac Skull: 3,892 bricks
Riddler - Lime Green: 18,149 bricks Through the Looking Glass: 13,248 bricks
THE HERO WITHIN...
Hero Within: 6,670 bricks
One of my favourite displays - reminding us all to remember our inner child. Nathan Sawaya encourages us to reflect and act upon all of those dreams your child self had. What was your greatest ambition, before the realities of work, bills, and maybe even your own children set in?
Remember those inner childhood dreams, and never let them go.
Put it in front of me, and risk losing the whole block to my stomach in a matter of minutes. Tempt me with it, and you will regret it. It's that number one food that I just can't say no to, no matter how much my stomach begs me to. Ask me what food I could never live without, and it's cheese. Soft cheese, hard cheese, melted cheese, grated cheese...
...I'm pretty sure that it's time to admit it. I am a cheese addict. You have been warned.
Which explains why I could barely contain my excitement when learning about the latest pop up in London's South West. The Lodge, conveniently located right next to Clapham North tube, is the ultimate haven for my fellow foodies, particularly those who have a soft spot for cheese, too.
Upon walking up the stairs to the funky restaurant/bar, I was instantly transported to a Swiss après-ski chalet. From the gorgeous pictures of the Swiss Alps, to the skis and ice-skates hanging decoratively from the walls, to the toasty warm room filled with wooden benches and tables, I completely forgot about the hustle and bustle that was in fact, London, and right beneath me.
With a range of suitably themed drinks, cocktails and meals, the difficult part was choosing what to order. Go for a hot cider to start, which is guaranteed to warm you up. Then, try the Reblochon and Smoked Bacon Croquettas to get your tastebuds warmed up for the cheesey heaven that awaits.
And of course, the star of the show...you simply cannot come here unless you share one of the delicious cheese fondues. Whilst my first impression claimed greedily that there was not nearly enough fondue in the bowl for two - I was soon reminded by my full and heavy stomach that fondue is always a great idea...in small portions.
A 5 out of 5 star experience from the decorative venue, to the service, to the delicoius food. An absolute must visit this winter in London!
Today I finally completed a 'London Bucket List' item - the 5km Color Run in beachside Brighton. This has been high on my radar for many years, ever since I attended my first HOLI Festival of Colours back in the summer of 2013. In this post, I'll compare both the run and the festival, giving you the lowdown on the pros, cons, and some tips for each.
Holi Festival of Colour vs. The Color Run
HOLI Festival of Colours
A literal splash of colour! Mix loud music, with flowing alcohol and add in a little...actually no, a LOT, of colour powder. The result? A whole lot of dirty, drunk maniacs who truly believe they can dance. At least they're colourful!
A bit of background. The HOLI Festival is one of the most famous Hindi celebrations in India. This festival last for two days and begins on the Purnima (Full Moon Day) falling somewhere between the end of February and the middle of March. It's the festival of colour and love - celebrating the beginning of spring and the victory of good vs evil.
HOLI Festival was brought to Europe by Jasper Hellmann after experiencing a HOLI Festival in India. The first European HOLI event was held in Berlin and has since spread to many countries worldwide including England, South Africa, and Austria.
Having been twice to the London HOLI Festival, below you will find some of the pros, cons, and general tips for this event.
London HOLI Festival - Before and After
Once white white tinged green by blue powder An important investment for Holi Festival
The Color Run
A fun, family-friendly 5km run, that took place this year in both London and Brighton. This time, we mix some positive attitudes, with some popular dance tunes, and a decent amount of sweat. The result? Some sweaty, slightly dirty, stinky people. Ah, exercise!
Your entry into the Color Run (around £15) goes towards supporting the NSPCC - who help children in need get their lives back on track.
Exercising for a good cause has never felt better! Below, you will find some of the pros, cons and general tips for this event.
The Color Run - Before and After
The Colour Run - The Happiest 5k on the Planet
Get ready London – temperatures this weekend are set to soar! With highs of up to 26 degrees on Sunday, London is going to be hotter than Madrid and LA! So dust off those summer clothes, smother on the fake tan, and get excited! Here’s my top 5 ways to make the most of the weather this weekend.
1. Get up early
Number one rule – don’t sleep in! I know it’s difficult because weekends are made for a good lie in. But trust me, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, worse than waking up mid-afternoon with a raging hangover...then pulling the blinds open, and realizing that you’ve missed half a day of sunshine. The sun does not shine nearly enough in London, so you must, just must, make the most of every minute!
2. Picnic in a park
Nothing brings friends together better than sunshine. So grab a blanket, load up the basket, stock up the cold drinks, and head to one of London’s finest spots to spend the entire day lazing in the sun. Top tip: invest in an “esky”, or cool boxes as our English friends call them. Load it up with ice and throw your drinks in – this ensures that you’ll enjoy refreshingly cold drinks all day long.
Anna’s Top Picks for this weekend:
The perfect spot to relax, throw a Frisbee, or even try your luck on a pedal boat!
The most beautiful spot to sit all day and take in the breath-taking view of central London
One of my favourite spots to settle for a day in the sun! You’ll find hundreds of locals making the most of the sunshine, kicking footballs, playing cricket, or even doing Zumba! I love this area because when the sun starts to go down, you have all the wonderful bars and pubs of Clapham Common to pick from. This place is heaven.
One further north, a stunning park that you could easily spend a whole day exploring. Not to be missed.
3. Exercise in Richmond Park
Throw on your walking shoes and get moving! Listen to me – do not go to the gym this weekend. Do you hear me? Do not! Maximise your Vitamin D intake by exercising outdoors. Richmond Park is the most perfect place to begin your weekend - strolling, cycling, or even running from one side of the park to the other. The best part – go early, and then you have the whole day ahead of you to enjoy!
4. Enjoy some drinks outside
One of the things I love most about London is seeing people spilled out of the pubs and onto the streets during the warmer months. If you haven’t yet experienced this in London, now is the time. Top tip: to make the most of the sunshine, you might need to bar hop down the street as the sun lowers. This is totally acceptable – make the most of every last ray!
Anna’s Top Picks for this weekend:
Pitcher and Piano: Richmond
Set upon the Thames, this beautiful pub gets the full heat of the sun for the entire day. The outdoor space is decent sized, but you’ll need to get in early to secure a table.
Vista at the Trafalgar: Trafalgar Square
This rooftop bar, above The Trafalgar Hotel, is right opposite Trafalgar Square. Not only does it serve
excellent cocktails, but it also offers stunning 360 degree views of London. The perfect spot to spend the afternoon!
The place to be on a sunny day! Here you can find hundreds of bars and pubs on every street. Grab a drink, head out to the street, and enjoy watching the world pass by!
Camden Lock: Camden
Any outdoor market is glorious on a sunny day, but Camden has something special about it. If you’re
game, take the canal boat from Little Venice to Camden, where you can take your pick of delicious food and beverages to enjoy right on the canal. Worth a visit!
5. Columbia Flower Market
Open Sundays only between 8am until 3ish, this is the place to go for all your fresh flower requirements. Beautify your living room with a few fresh bunches, but don’t be fooled – you will be tempted to purchase it all!
Picture this. Excitement building for a trip to the motherland, just 3 weeks away. Not just any trip – but a surprise trip for your brother’s 18th birthday. 18 months without seeing, hugging, or hanging out with your family. Excitement building, growing, hard to control. Suddenly, excitement crushed upon the realisation that your passport is nowhere to be found. Not in the knickers drawer, where is usually resides, not thrown on a bench out of laziness, not dropped under the bed. Panic grows, panic heightens, meltdown begins.
Losing a passport is a traveller’s nightmare. I’m one of those people who is overly conscious of the whereabouts of my passport – checking mid flight about 20 times just to make sure that it hasn’t grown legs and wandered off on its own accord. Which was why this was so surprising. I, of all people, had lost my passport. And not only my passport, but 9 years of travel history in the form of stamps. I remember talking it up – claiming to all my friends that I would fill my passport fully in the next year before it expired.
Worst yet, in my (now lost) passport was my UK visa, allowing me re-entry in the country. Idiot!
Let me put it this way – losing a passport is a pain. Embassies are not accommodating and understanding, like my dad had always promised they would be. “Call the Australian Embassy if anything ever goes wrong,” he’d tell me. Well Dad – did you know that you can actually only contact them between the hours of 9am – 12pm, and you are actually speaking to someone in Australia, not London. Not overly helpful…and god help you if you need to also replace a visa, as the UK Home Office is even more difficult to get a hold of. Be prepared to spend full days googling numbers to ring, being re-directed, spending hours on hold, and eventually hanging up the phone with no concrete answers.
...so, what do you do if your passport has been lost, ruined, water damaged, stolen...or all of the above
1. Cancel any immediate travel
If luck is not on your side, as it wasn’t on mine, you’ll have a trip to glorious, sunny Marbella booked – flying 3 days after the shattering discovery of the missing passport. Call the flight carrier, and pay the fee to postpone the flights. I would always suggest using booking.com to book hotels, as they almost always guarantee a ‘no cancellation fee’ within 72 hours of your first night. Cancel the hotel, postpone your flights, and let that one go…
2. Call your Embassy
The number one thing to do is to call the embassy and book in the appointment for the replacement passport. I think the Australian Embassy must be one of the worst – I couldn’t get an appointment until 2 weeks later (keep in mind, this would now leave me just 1 week to receive the passport, and less time to organise the replacement visa). Stress levels were certainly high at this point. No matter how much pleading, or how many tears were shed, the Australian Embassy did not see my case as an emergency. Keep in mind though, I’ve heard that the American Embassy does a walk in service – be prepared to wait all day - but you’ll have a replacement passport in your hot little hands by the end of a long day. Much better than what my country was offering…
If I can offer any advice about how to tackle an embassy, it is to just keep on harassing them. I would say that over the next 3 days, I called (between the hours of 9am and 12pm), at least 5 times, each speaking to someone new and pleading my case for needing a fast track appointment. Eventually, my efforts paid off, and a lovely woman fast tracked my appointment in London to the following afternoon. Part 1 success, at last!
3. Pay the fee for fast track
The one good thing about getting a replacement passport is that for just £61 extra, your brand new passport is guaranteed to be delivered within 2 working days. So, with just 2 weeks to go until take off to Australia, I had a sexy new Australian passport in my hot little hands.
Total Cost: £251 (or, a summer worth of flights around Europe...)
...so, how do I replace my UK visa?
This part is a lot trickier, and a lot more stressful. You can’t actually go for the visa appointment until you have your new passport, so it’s important to get that part sorted first. Everyone will tell you that you need to go through a lawyer – you don’t! Save yourself the £600+ in fees, and just follow my steps below.
1. a) If you’re in a rush, book the appointment online ASAP
The good news is, you can secure your appointment without having your new passport number yet. In the section that asks for your passport number, just put ‘to be confirmed’ (it worked for me, I swear!). By this stage, I had only 2 weeks to get myself a replacement visa, so I made the decision that I’d pay the extra fee to ‘fast track’ the process (such is life…). To do this, you attend a Premium Service Centre where they check all your documents on the spot and give you a decision that day. Mind you, it still takes 7-10 days for the visa to get posted, but it’s much faster (although much costlier) to do is this way. Get in quick, because the only centre in London is in Croydon, and books about a month in advance…as such, I had to go to Sheffield (north of London and close to Manchester) for my appointment. Add 7 hour return trip at £70 to the cost of the visa, and off I went…!
The alternative option is to fill out the form below and post it in. It will take up to 8 weeks to return your documents (including passport) and visa if you pick this option.
2. Download the TOC form
If you already had a valid UK visa, you need to log onto the website below and fill out the TOC (transfer of conditions) form. Be sure to use BLOCK LETTERS and a black pen!
3. Attend the appointment and be prepared to WAIT!
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the service centre. Make sure you have ALL your documentation with you:
They will take all your documents really quickly, but be prepared to wait over 2 hours for your decision. In this time, they will take your biometrics (fingerprints and face scan).
4. Wait for visa to be send to you
Total Cost: £583 (or, an off season flight to Melbourne…)
Expensive lesson learnt...
A few months ago, my housemate and I started a challenge - a challenge to find the best and most unique spots to eat around London. To make it more fun, we decided to roll through the alphabet from A - Z, taking it in turns to pick a country that begins with each letter. The goal - to find culturally interesting places to dine in London, with great food, service, and entertainment.
Here's what we've come up with so far...
A peek into the life of me