London Sky Garden

The Sky Garden/Sky Pod Bar in London is probably one of my favorite “sky high” bars that I’ve been to yet. It’s a little oasis in the middle of the City of London and a nice little break from the crowds and transport and business going on below.

Located in the Walkie Talkie Building (20 Fenchurch St), the Sky Garden is literally that…a public garden in the sky. It’s free to enter, so long as you book a time, and can be visited just to enjoy the gardens, or to enjoy drinks, or even to have dinner at one of the restaurants. I’ve always been only for drinks. Of course, you pay the price of having drinks in the sky, but they are delicious – and beautiful! They also have fantastic cheese and meat platters, so don’t be afraid to arrive with an appetite.

I visited for the first time with my friend Lucy back in the summer and took Sara, Hope, and Sean when Sara was in town last week. They were completely different experiences! In the summer, of course, it was still relatively light outside and you could see everything. This time, it was dark – the city was lit up and beautiful, but it made it hard for us to get pictures. I also have yet to go before the balcony closes in the evening (in my opinion it closes a bit too early, but I understand the concern!) so I feel like I haven’t gotten the full experience.

I highly recommend the Sky Garden for anyone visiting London! Now that it’s been open for a bit, it’s even possible to make a reservation the same day for some last minute plans. My goal is to go back in the daytime next time so I can actually go outside…hopefully when it is warmer as well! I promise better pictures then, but until then, here is a look at my most recent trip….

  [Aren’t the drinks just beautiful?]

    [Glaring eyes is the price you pay for trying to get the whole group in a picture]

      [A blurry (but still beautiful) through-the-window shot of Tower Bridge]

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When Friends Visit

I have a love-hate relationship with having friends come visit London. I love pretty much everything about it: reuniting my friends, showing them my favorite places in London, traveling, etc. But it really stresses me out. I think it’s all part of the wanting everyone to be having a good time always thing. Working from home, I can be around my friends, but can’t really go and do anything with them, so I kind of have to send them off on their own during the day and then meet up with them in the evening.

We also have a very, very small flat. This means that air mattress is a way to go, and I must say…it isn’t a comfy air mattress.

However, despite all of this, I am always inviting friends to come stay. We’ve developed a bit of a routine for when friends/family visit that guarantees they see more than just the touristy stuff. As I mentioned, I ship my friends off into London during the day with decent directions on how to get places and my personal recommendations. Then, when everyone is free, we go for the following:

  • Fish & Chips – We used to pick up fish and chips from Moxie’s in Clapham South and bring it home to our friends. Now that we’ve moved, our go to is Kerbisher & Malt on Abbeville Road. Craft beers + delicious fish (& scampi!) + an overload of chips = heaven on earth.IMG_0001.JPG

 

  • Our Local Pub – Sunday roast, Wednesday burger night, any day drinks – it’s the perfect opportunity to show our friends a *real* London pub.  

 

  • A Swanky Bar – There are so many that I want to try! Rooftops, sky high bars, pop ups. I usually drag my friends to something I’ve never even been to, but sometimes I go for a repeat.  

 

  • Cook at Home – Save money. Eat in pajamas. Show off our new cooking skills. Drink wine. Play Cards Against Humanity. Everyone wins on the nights when we just can’t be bothered to do anything.IMG_5193

 

  • Afternoon Tea – If we have a free weekend day, this is probably my favorite thing to do with visiting friends. It’s extremely British and so good for a girls day out!IMG_4001.JPG

 

  • Ticketed Event – There is ALWAYS something going on in London. From Cocktail Week (Marisa’s visit) to pop up experiences to musicals and plays, there are endless things to do that provide a great London experience without all of the tourist queues.IMG_0020

 

  • Weekend Away – I try to travel with every friend who visits. After all, they’re coming all the way across the ocean, so it’s worth seeing more than just London! This started when Sara visited last year after I first moved here and we went to Nice. Then, Marisa visited and we hit Marseille. We choose a cheap and relatively quick place so we can make the most of it and just go!IMG_1568

This list has changed a bit, but after Sara’s (second) visit this past week, I think this is the best of the combinations. It’s nice to have a little routine that we can tailor to each friend who visits. Next I need to figure out the perfect three day itinerary for sending my friends off to explore London on their own.

Who wants to be my next visitor?

Hanging On to the Holidays

Sean and I have done a terrible job calling it quits on the holiday season. It seems that, since Christmas, we’ve just continued to celebrate…well, Christmas. It’s been absolutely exhausting, but also a great way to savor my last week in London.

On Boxing Day, I met my dad for a quick walk through Winter Wonderland (and mulled wine and churros, obviously) before he came back to my house for a home cooked meal. We settled on ham, but had no idea how to cook it. So, with the help of BBC Food and a bit of experimenting, Sean and I produced a fully cooked honey baked ham. I made some potatoes and carrots to go with it. I was so nervous because it was my dad’s first time at our house, as well as my first time really cooking a meal for him – but he loved it! Actually, we all did. I’m not sure how the ham was so successful, but we all devoured it and Sean and I have devoured the leftovers since. I cannot wait to make the second half!

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We decided on a lazy day the following day, choosing not to leave the house at all. My dad and I had originally planned a trip to Cambridge for the day, but we weren’t feeling the weather. Sean and I stayed in our pajamas, my dad chilled out at his apartment, and we met up in the evening for fish and chips at our local favorite.

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[I’m so proud of this breakfast I created – hashbrowns, leftover ham, cheese, and fried egg…I couldn’t get enough!]

Monday was my dad’s last day in town, so we met up with him to do some shopping and wandering. While we spent some time in Covent Garden, we ultimately ended up at the pub…surprise! Then, we walked over to Somerset House because Sean and I had an ice skating date. My dad said goodbye and left us there while we worked up the courage to skate. Oh – it was a blast! I used to have ice skating birthday parties every year, but I hadn’t been in so long so I was nervous. Somerset House was absolutely gorgeous all lit up and once Sean and I got the hang of it we had so much fun. We didn’t even fall the entire time! We followed it up with wine and fondue in Fortnum’s Lodge –  I’m already planning our next ice skating adventure.

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[Our ice skating was booked for 4:15, which is right around sunset, so we had the opportunity to see Somerset House in all shades of light – from it’s charm in daylight to it’s beauty under the lights they have setup at night]

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The Christmas celebrations wrapped up on Tuesday, when we went up to celebrate with Sean’s family at his sister’s house. We had a lovely lunch followed by great conversation and a couple of rounds of Uno. It was nice to get back to a real at-home family setting and has made me quite excited to get back to mine in Virginia next week!

Now we are gearing up for the New Year with plenty of rest and a major house clean. I’m down to my last four days in London before a pop over to the states, so trying to make every moment count!

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[One of my oldest friends, Caroline, is in town, so we met up with her on Carnaby Street after ice skating. I’m absolutely loving the Carnaby Street Christmas lights – and their New Years Eve feel makes it the perfect place for post-Christmas lights browsing]

Crazy Golf at Waterloo

I absolutely love miniature golf. Or, as the English put it, crazy golf. It reminds me of Myrtle Beach Thanksgivings with the family and summers with friends at the Shore. We had a blast with mini golf, trying to find the shortcuts and always fighting for the lowest score.

So, when I found out that there was a crazy golf pop up opening in London, I knew I had to go. Lucy mentioned it for a girls weekday night out and I jumped at the opportunity – to Birdies we went.

Birdies is located by Waterloo station in the vaults. It has a very underground, edgy feel. You walk into a warehouse looking room, which has been converted into a bar with the crazy golf to the side. It was all in the same room, so you could see everyone playing mini golf in the sectioned off area and it had a great atmosphere.

We had such a blast playing the tricky, “crazy” holes. I don’t mean to brag, but I won! And to top it off, there were delicious hotdogs and some ice cream at the end. I’m now on a mission to find all the other crazy golf places in the area (Sean and I have played once before where I also won, so I guess I’m a pro).

   
    
    
   

December 2015 Bucket List

I had a lot of fun with this in November, and my list of things to do in December/Christmas season is quickly growing, so I thought it would be a great idea to do it again! This is heavily Christmas focused, but that’s what December is all about!


 

December Bucket List


 

  1. Purchase all Christmas gifts before Christmas
  2. Eat fondue (again)
  3. Visit at least three of London’s Christmas markets
  4. Plan a trip to visit friends in New York or Boston while in America in January
  5. Attend a spin or barre class
  6. Make homemade mulled wine
  7. Decorate the house to feel (and smell) like Christmas
  8. Celebrate Christmas with friends
  9. Read (or watch, if feeling lazy) a Christmas classic
  10. Two words: Christmas cookies

OK – 70% Christmas related – not too bad! December is my favorite month of the year (birthday, Christmas, snow) so I’m really looking forward to this one in London!

Thanksgiving Leftovers

After an amazing feast on Sunday, Sean and I have been trying to make the leftovers last as long as possible. We started running out of or throwing away side dishes, but managed to fill our dinners with turkey and stuffing for pretty much the entire week. I actually think my favorite part of Thanksgiving might be the abundance of leftovers!

On Monday, we essentially had Thanksgiving, Round 2 in our lunch boxes. We were still very eager at this point, so also had Thanksgiving for dinner and started making turkey noodle soup with the leftover bones and carcass. The carcass didn’t fit in our crock pot, so we pretty much just threw in anything we could find (including leftover vegetables and spices) to create something that resembled a soup. To be honest, this one looked good, but never actually got eaten (we gave up somewhere along the way).



  

Then, on actual Thanksgiving, we picked up some microwaveable side dishes, invited Hope over, and knocked out a couple bottles of wine in typical American fashion. We also watched the dog show…only to find out it was actually the wrong dog show (still super cute though).

  

I’m so thankful to have these two in my life each and every day – and to finally have a US friend just a quick tube ride away! I’m also so eager to celebrate more holidays in London -starting with the Christmas festive season!

At Home Wine Tasting with Pieroth

If you know Sean and I, you know that we might as well be a sixty year old couple. We set an early bedtime, spend our weekends planning our online grocery order, and attend events such as the Ideal Home Show. Back in April, we went to the Ideal Home Show and spent hours walking around aimlessly. As we were about to call it a day, we came across the tasting area for Pieroth Wines. When asked if we wanted to taste some wines, Sean politely declined and I quickly backtracked and said “Yes – yes we do want to taste some wines.”

We sat down for about half an hour and tasted a couple different reds before purchasing a full case. The case was delivered to my work and I struggled to lug it home on the tube (realistically, Sean met me at the tube and carried it home from there). Since then, we have happily been working our way through the twelve bottles (plus all of the bottles bought while traveling). Because we bought a case, we were informed that we could have an at home wine tasting at no cost. With the moving and everything, we decided to hold off until we were settled in the house. Coincidentally, in October they release their Christmas wine collection, so it worked out perfectly!

We hosted our at-home wine tasting on Monday evening after work. Four of our friends joined us and I made some special nibbles for the occasion (this pumpkin dip, a cheese platter, oven egg rolls, and my favorite courgette, prosciutto, and brie crostinis). We. Had. A. Blast.

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[The food spread – we made slightly too much pumpkin dip. Only slightly]

Steve, the Pieroth representative, showed up with fourteen different wines for us to try. FOURTEEN! Honestly, I was expecting eight at the most, but believe me – I wasn’t complaining! We tried four whites, three German whites, one rose, one chilled red, and five reds. He told us some incredibly interesting facts about the wine and there wasn’t a single one that I disliked, so I was in heaven. The German whites had a really cool story attached to them, especially the Nacht Diamant. The whites and rose were good, but it’s not my season for them. I naturally wanted all of the reds.

The best part is that Steve told me I could have three at home wine tastings a year at no cost (he also mentioned a free bottle of my favorite one of their wines so there’s that)! One for their spring collection, one for the summer, and one for the fall/winter. It’s safe to say I will be hosting all three next year! Sean and I ended up buying another case (six bottles of the chilled red and six bottles of an Australian red) that we will be sure to utilise during Thanksgiving. Although Pieroth does not have any stores, I really like having a general wine contact readily available for events and bulk wine purchases (they deliver quickly as well!).

I was not sure what to expect with a home wine tasting, but was pleasantly surprised. I look forward to hosting more in the future, and would love to continue with Pieroth. I highly recommend all of my wine lovers check it out as well (they’re worldwide).

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[The wine tasting gang – selfie cred to Thomas]

p.s. We are attending the Ideal Home Show at Christmas and while we probably won’t need to buy a new case of wine yet, I’ll be posting about the show and the items we do end up buying (Vitamix, anyone!?)