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Sanderson Hotel’s Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea

I was lucky enough to be invited to my cousin’s hen party yesterday and we headed for afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel! I was extra excited because I’d never been to a hen party before and because I’ve wanted to go for afternoon tea for ages! Another thing to tick off my list of Things To Do Before I’m 30! I’m seriously whizzing through them this month!!

Sanderson Hotel do a Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea which is pretty cool and one that I’ve always wanted to try. There was seating outside which looked quite nice, but we were all very thankful to be sat inside with the air-con as it was a very humid and sticky day! Our napkins had riddles written on the piece of paper holding them together, and all the plates and saucers were different with joining up designs.

We were given the menu and a selection of four teas to smell (apple pie, strawberries and cream, rhubarb and custard, and chocolate and mint) and were also offered normal teas to chose from. I don’t normally like tea that much but the tea leaves smelt amazing and I could have sat there sniffing the pot all day long, so I tried the strawberries and cream tea. All of us felt that they were a bit watery, but a sugar cube definitely improved it :)

A while later, we were presented with our massive tier of food! It all looked incredible and definitely too good to eat! The waiter was trying to explain what everything was, but it literally went in one ear and out the other! So I’ve grabbed the menu off their website ;)

Savoury:
– Smoked Cumbrian ham with wholegrain mustard on sundried tomato bread
– Cucumber and chive cream cheese on spinach bread
– Cold smoked salmon and lemon butter on dark rye bread
– Egg mayo with watercress and smoked sea salt on lemon bread
– Daily quiche (ours was courgette)

Sweet:
– Carrot meringue served on a bed of pea shoots
– Strawberries and cream homemade marshmallow mushrooms
– Tick tock traditional Victoria sponge
– Melting mango cheesecake
– Matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse served in a chocolate tea cup
– ‘Drink me’ potion

Scones:
– Cheese scones
– Raisin scones
– Herb butter and fruit preserves with clotted cream

So delicious!

So delicious!

I started with the sandwiches and chose the cold smoked salmon and lemon butter on dark rye bread which looked suspiciously like a chocolate mini roll! I think out of the four sandwiches, my favourite was the smoked Cumbrian ham with wholegrain mustard on sundried tomato bread. I didn’t think I’d like the mustard part but I couldn’t taste it and the bread was definitely the highlight! The other sandwiches were all very nice too and were a nice combination :)

Sandwiches and quiche

Sandwiches and quiche

The scones were pretty mini, but it’s probably a good thing that they were since I was already quite full from just the savoury stuff!! Unfortunately they came cold, but they were still very tasty and not that crumbly when I cut into them :D I’m a sucker for clotted cream and jam so slathered mine in it hah!

Scones

Scones

I have a severe sweet tooth, so I definitely saved the best until last! I went for the ‘Drink me’ potion which everyone loved and seemed to taste a bit passionfruity. Shame it was so small as I could have probably drunk a whole litre! The Victoria Sponge was very soft and moist and definitely one of my favourites! I was a bit unsure about the matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse at first, but I could hardly taste the green tea and the mousse was so lovely and fluffy. The others said that the cheesecake was really tasty, but quite sickly, so I left that until last. It tasted amazing! I love cheesecake anyway, so when you combine it with mango (another one of my favourite things), then you’re definitely on to a winner! The cheesecake was encased in a white chocolate decoration and when you cut into the middle of the cheesecake, the mango part exploded and oozed temptingly all over the plate. I agreed that it was a bit sicky, but I loved it nonetheless!

Sweet treats!

Sweet treats!

The carrot meringue and strawberries and cream marshmallows were a nice touch and looked rather interesting at the top of the tier of food!

Carrot meringue and strawberries and cream marshmallows

Carrot meringue and strawberries and cream marshmallows

There was also a table with two jellies that we could help ourselves to. I think that they were apple and cherry flavoured and were quite grainy, and tasted almost like fruit puree or baby food! This was probably all our least favourite thing in the afternoon tea!

We were offered refills of the sandwiches and scones and were more than happy to accept even though we were all pretty stuffed! The scones came pretty swiftly, but the sandwiches took a while, so we had to remind them and then they ended up bringing out two sets! There were so many sandwiches! We weren’t able to eat them all, so we took a lot of food away with us.

At £38 per person plus 15% service charge, it is a bit pricey, but it is on par with a lot of other hotel afternoon teas. Since it was my first one and one that I’d always wanted to try, I didn’t mind and I had a lovely time with my cousin and meeting all her friends :D Shame the service was a bit casual and slightly slow though, but we all left very much stuffed and ready to head on and celebrate! I’m very much looking forward to my afternoon tea with my mum to celebrate my 21st birthday in just over a week!!

All of us

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A Sunny Riverside Walk

Last Monday was absolutely glorious as the sun was shining and it was very warm! We decided to do another Books About Town bench hunt and wander along the river east of London Bridge since I’ve never gone that way before (ticking off one of things on my Things To Do Before I’m 30 list :D ). We started off at Blackfriars again and wandered right towards Shakespeare’s Globe, where the first bench was. Since it was a weekday, it wasn’t as crowded as it would normally be which was great as we could walk at a leisurely pace without being jossled around!

We passed Southwark Cathedral and stopped for a few photos at the Golden Hinde before heading to Borough Market which I still can’t believe I’ve never been to! It was a shame that not all the stalls were open but it was still really cool to slowly wander through all the different butchers, bakers, etc! I don’t know what it is about markets, but I really do love them! I think it’s the buzz and variety of things on offer that really appeals and draws me in.

The next two benches were Paddington Bear and Great Expectations which were close by, and then we found the Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson bench whcih wasn’t too far.

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Luke showed me another part of London which I never knew existed. Hays Galleria was originally a warehouse and wharf and was redeveloped in the 1980s. It’s now home to many offices, restaurants, shops, and flats and is a pretty cool little place!

We were heading towards More London and since it was near midday, all the workers were flocking down for their lunch. Unfortunately a lot of people were sitting on the four benches that were dotted around this area, so we had to wait a bit before I could get a decent shot of them, but I didn’t really mind waiting around as it was such a lovely day :D

After strolling through a nice looking road, we got to Butler’s Wharf which was just really unexpected!! There were some amazing apartments right by the river (which I one day hope to own ;) ) and loads of cool looking boats. I just couldn’t believe I’d never ventured this side of the Thames! What a lot I’ve been missing out on!


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We had passed a lot of very posh looking restaurants along the riverside which had tablecloths and wine glasses set out. I don’t think they’d be that welcome to my slightly sweaty self in flip flops! Instead, we headed to ASK, which was equally as lovely, and were sat outside with stunning river views. It was great being able to just sit there all content and watch the world go by! Since I was by the sea (the Thames counts as being part of the sea right? ;) ), I went for their seafood pasta which was so good!

After fuelling up, we crossed over Tower Bridge which is another thing I don’t think I’ve ever done! After taking a million photos and getting in the way of the genuine tourists, we reached St Katharine’s Docks, which I never even knew existed until I read about it on Time Out! It’s central London’s only marina and is now home to many restaurants, shops, flats, and offices. The weekend before, there had been a Clipper Round the World sailing race, so we were able to catch a glimpse of a couple of lingering boats. It was rather peaceful and it was great being able to take a casual meander around the area.


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There were a million benches this side of the river, but we weren’t really in the mood to do a massive search again since it was rather hot! We headed towards the Tower of London and found the Katie in London bench and the Noughts and Crosses bench which was close by, before heading home after a wonderful day out :D

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Books About Town Bench Hunt

It’s been a busy couple of weeks filled with lovely wanders around London, results day, and graduation! I’ve ticked off another thing off my Things to Do Before I’m 30 since I’ve definitely explored many new places around London in the past couple of weeks!

Earlier this month, Books About Town started where 50 unique bench sculptures appeared around London which were designed by local artists and famous people to celebrate London’s literary heritage. In the past couple of years there have been loads of cool hunts around London like the Easter Egg hunts and Phone Box hunts, so I was rather excited to hear about this new one! Thankfully, they had maps of where all of them were on their website so last week I ventured out to find some.

We started off at Blackfriars and wandered along the Southbank. They always hold random festivals and this time it was the Festival of Love. There were many random installations and bits and pieces dotted around the area!

Our first stop was Waterloo to find our first bench. Unfortunately, there was a guy who seemed completely oblivious to the fact that he was sat on a piece of art and had set down all his bags and made himself very comfortable. Undeterred, we headed off to find Around the World in Eighty Days which was a bit of a challenge as we didn’t know that it was inside a shop.

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We wandered around the Bloomsbury area and found many other benches. Sadly, one bench which looked really cool had been taken away for repairs :( It was right outside Birkbeck University, so I’m going to blame them for damaging it ;)

The benches all looked amazing, some more intricate and detailed than others, but all great to look at nonetheless! I think from that day’s hunt, my favourites are probably Peter Pan and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe benches!

Peter Pan bench

Peter Pan bench

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Graduation!

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since my last exam in June! It’s gone so fast and so much has happened including my relief on results day last Tuesday and my graduation on Friday from the London School of Economics! There’s another thing that I can tick off my list of Things To Do Before I’m 30 yay! There were seven graduation ceremonies in total running from Wednesday to Friday. Mine was at 10:45 on Friday and I arrived earlier to collect my gown, certificate, and tickets with plenty of time for photos before it got too hectic later on. My parents and Luke came along to watch my ceremony which was lovely :)

It was about 31°C so I was absolutely boiling and rather lovely and sweaty in my heavy, black gown!! My ceremony consisted of students from Economic History, Economics, and Management (my degree). The ceremony started with a procession of academics to the stage which did feel a bit cheesy, not going to lie! I had to stop myself from laughing which wouldn’t have been so good since I was in the front row of students so when the camera panned across, my face was projected on the large screen above the stage.

Our director, Craig Calhoun, then gave a bit of a speech and then it was time to start with the handshaking! I was near the end of the ceremony and throughout it, me and many other girls around me were worrying that we would trip over in our heels and make fools of ourselves! It was time for me to line up and thankfully there was lady to help sort out our gowns as I was looking a mess with my gown hanging in a rather dropped shoulder style due to being crammed in my small seat. Loads of people before me did amusing things like take selfies with our director, high five him, hug him, and kiss him :P My time on stage was all a bit of a blur as I was concentrating so much on getting up the steps, giving my name card to my Head of Department, walking across the stage, pausing to shake hands, then walking back down the stairs without falling over! It was all very quick and I didn’t trip up phew! Loyd Grossman (yes, the sauceman) is a LSE alumni and he gave a bit of a speech afterwards and told us to make the most of our parent’s niceness towards us and and then it was all over! It then suddenly hit me that I had graduated! How very surreal!

After my ceremony, there was a drinks reception. Management’s was held in the Shaw Library which I’ve never really been in before. It’s all rather small and quite grand looking with large portraits dotted across the walls. There was also a nice little terrace area which I never knew about and we chilled outside for a bit. After more photo taking, I was rather glad to be rid of my heavy robe, and we headed to Cafe Rouge for a lovely lunch (I was definitely making the most of my nice parents, just like Loyd Grossman told us to ;) ). Afterwards I gave my parents a bit of a tour around LSE and itf felt very strange that I wouldn’t be coming back in September! At least LSE is literally in the middle of central London, so if I do get a bit sentimental, I can always return at any time!

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Three years has flown by and I’ve met some amazing people who will be in my life forever. I’ve learnt so much, not just academic things, but about myself and how to handle myself in different situations, which I never would have learnt if I had never gone to university. I’ve definitely grown up and matured a lot more. I’ve also probably learnt one of the most important lessons in life which is to never give up, no matter what life throws at you, you will get through it. Yes, things will be hard and you’ll want to give up, but there is no shame in leaning on others for support. Whether things happen for a reason or not, or whether things do end up the way you want it or not, I’ve learnt that whatever life throws at you, you need to take it, learn from it, and grow from it, because things will turn out the way they are meant to in the end and it will all be worth it.

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Post Exam Drawings!

I finished my last university exam three weeks ago and it has definitely flown by! It’s lovely having such chilled days now and not feeling guilty if I do literally nothing all day. Since finishing exams, I’ve managed to do three drawings :D I take forever with each drawing, I’m definitely not like those artists that you see on holiday who manage to sketch an incredible portrait of a person within minutes! My drawings are spread out over many days and countless hours!

I started this drawing back in April, but never got round to finishing it due to exams and other bits and pieces. I chose it as I love the summer and the beach in particular!

Shell pencil drawing

I’ve drawn a tiger before (see some of my other drawings here), but I fancied doing another as it was a challenge last time to do all the fur so wanted to see if I could do it again. I really like how this has turned out, and how striking it looks from afar :)

Tiger pencil drawing

I’m not really sure why I chose an elephant and didn’t think it would be too difficult when I came across a picture on Google that I wanted to use. Little did I know, each individual wrinkle and fold of the elephant’s skin was a task in itself as there was different shading in each section with rather a lot of intricate detail. It took me about three days, which is less time than I thought it would take (probably because I literally did just spend all my time drawing it!), but I’m really happy with how it has turned out :D Definitely my favourite drawing so far and I became so attached to the elephant that I even named it Grace ;)

Elephant pencil drawing

Hmmm what to draw next?! :P

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Rome – Day 4

Our last day in Rome! We had basically seen all the main things in Rome on the previous days (all thanks to my amazingly efficient map reading skills of course ;) all that practice doing Duke of Edinburgh and navigating around unrecognisable paths and jumping into bogs must really have helped!) so we had a few hours after breakfast before we needed to head to the airport. It was a glorious day so I took us around the Villa Borghese park again as it was just so pretty! We tried to find the Villa Medici and due to the lack of road names and paths, ended up walking alongside some random path next to the road filled with litter. My parents say that I took them through a rubbish tip, but I like to say that it was all planned and I was letting them experience all aspects of Rome, just like any good tour guide would do ;) We passed some old looking buildings which we assumed would be the villa but I was expecting something a bit more grand!

We carried on for a bit longer and reached the Pincio which overlooked the Piazza del Popolo. There were really nice views across Rome and we could see the Vatican and Monumento a Vitto Emanuel.

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It was about midday, so we slowly headed back to our hotel to collect our luggage. On our way back, we saw a baby bus! It was so small compared to the normal sized bus that was next to it. We were all rather amused and fascinated by it for some reason haha :P The people on the buses probably thought I was some weirdo taking a photo of them on the bus…

I’d planned our time perfectly so that there was plenty of time for a final gelato!

We had planned to catch a bus back to the airport at 14:50, but when we got to the train station (where the buses run from) and tried to buy our tickets, they told us that the bus was full :( The next bus wasn’t until 15:30 which would be a bit tight in terms of timings for our flight. We were in a bit of a tizz and then remembered that we could just get the train. It did cost €8 more per person, but at least it was a bit quicker and we got to experience Rome’s trains! We finally managed to find a ticket machine to buy our tickets and didn’t lose each other either, which is an achievement in itself as the station was hectic! It made Clapham Junction at rush hour look like a relaxing walk in the park! We got to our platform with about 10 minutes to spare, phew!

Exhausted after all that running around!

Exhausted after all that running around!

Once we were at the airport, getting to our gate was another challenge! At first there seemed to only be gates A-G, but once we’d gone past security, there was a screen with information about flights and gates and there were many numbers after the letters which indicated many more gates instead of the initial seven. However, there was no information on our flight! We panicked a little and wondered whether we had gone to the right airport!! After a while of frantic running around, we found out that we were in the right place (phew!) and that our plane was in area G. We walked for what felt like miles! Each gate seemed to be a whole new airport in itself as there were so many shops around them! We finally got to our gate and lined up, and guess what?! We were delayed again yay! Thankfully it wasn’t too long and we were on our way back home! Goodbye Rome, I had a lovely time!

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Rome – Day 3

The weather forecast for our third day in Rome was the worst yet :( The whole day was meant to be filled with thunderstorms yay! After exceeding my lifetime recommended sugar intake at breakfast, we ventured out on to the streets of Rome in the direction of the Vatican. As soon as we stepped out, we felt drops of water :( As soon as we reached the river, it started to pour down and my poor, battered, $10 umbrella from Hong Kong was not faring well. I’d forgotten that it was half broken so it was a bit of a struggle keeping myself dry! We got to the Saint Angelo bridge and decided to shelter under a tree for a while (in hindsight, probably not the best of ideas in a thunderstorm!). The rain didn’t seem to be letting up, so we decided to cross the bridge otherwise our trip to the Vatican would be replaced by a day long view of cars parked along the road. It was a bit of a shame as this pedestrianised bridge was meant to be one of the nicest in Rome :( Never mind!

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A little bit of rain won't stop us!

A little bit of rain won’t stop us!

Once we had crossed over, the rain changed from being many drops falling from the sky to a continuous waterfall. My umbrella was suffering and I was taking a very premature shower, so we decided to take shelter under an arch for the entrance to the Saint Angelo Castle. As the rain continued, many others joined us under the small arch and we all huddled together trying to keep dry.

Many brave people decided to give up waiting and just went for it. After around 30 minutes of waiting, we decided to just go otherwise we’d be there all day. As we turned the corner, the Vatican was in sight! The rain started getting heavier again, so we took cover in a nearby cafe who were very kind in letting so many people take shelter…more trade for them I guess! It then seemed to lighten up and we decided to go on. Suddenly we saw a bit of blue sky yay :D

A bit of blue sky!

A bit of blue sky!

Not long later, the clouds lifted!! I’d stopped to take photos of St Peter’s Square and then a bird kindly released its bladder on me! I guess it was good luck though since the day then got very sunny!!

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After taking hundreds of photos (literally!) we joined the queue to enter the Basilica. It was very long and snaked all the way along one side of the square. Thankfully, it took hardly any time at all, and after going through a metal detector and bag xray, we were through!

Long queue!

Long queue!

We sort of followed the crowd and ended up in another queue. We had no idea what we were queuing for but decided to just go along with it! We soon found out that it was a queue to go up to the top of Basilica which was pretty cool! There was a sign warning us that after the lifts there would be 320 steps, but what they didn’t warn us was how narrow it would become near the end! We decided to opt for a €5 walking ticket (instead of one for €7 which would allow you to get the lift halfway) as we thought we could handle all the steps (although I was a bit worried for my mum coz she is a retired old lady now ;) just kidding mum, you’re totally still 30 and as sprightly as ever!!).

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At the beginning of the million steps!

At the beginning of the million steps!

I just had to put up this photo of my mum halfway the steps :P (sorry mum!).

Halfway there!

Halfway there!

When we got halfway, we got to a viewing area which overlooked the Basilica. It looked so detailed and pretty! There were amazing mosaics too – I do love colourful ones! I’m rubbish at describing things, so I’ll let the photos do the talking and I won’t bore you with details, just Google it if you want more info!

We then ascended more steps and here it got a bit crowded. There was a bit of a traffic jam as so many people were going up at the same time. Our path then suddenly got very narrow and in some parts, I could literally just about squeeze through. They should definitely have a warning at the beginning for claustrophobics! They even had emergency lever things! In fact, one family had to turn back and go back down as the mother was in hysterics! We did end up stopping at some parts with windows so we could admire the view whilst waiting to go up. We then reached a ridiculously narrow spiral staircase with steps barely 10cm wide. There was a rope going up it to help you climb up which was definitely handy!

After the claustrophobic climb, we finally reached the top!! It was rather a small space at the top of the Basilica but we spent quite a while up there taking millions of photos to make the climb worth it! The views across Rome were wonderful and you could see for miles!

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After capturing every inch of Rome with my camera, we decided to head back down.

We then entered the main part of the Basilica. It is the world’s largest church and was very impressive inside! There were stunning paintings, statues, and designs everywhere. Even the floor looked beautiful!

After staring in awe of the whole place for a long time, we decided to go. It had turned into a beautiful day outside! Unfortunately we didn’t catch a glimpse of the Pope :( I remember reading something online that joked about the only way to stay in the Vatican is to be close acquaintances with the Pope – me and him are best mates don’t you know so where was my invite to stay?! We also caught a glimpse of the Swiss guards in their famous colourful uniforms!

We then decided to head back towards the hotel as we were all rather knackered! We passed over the Saint Angelo bridge again, this time in sunshine! What a difference a few hours can do to the weather!

It was then time for another gelato! This time both my parents had one too, so I didn’t feel like such a fatty nomming on my three scoops and cream!

We had a bit of a rest at the hotel before going out to dinner at Ristorante Gusto Pinto again since they had a much wider range of dishes compared to other local restaurants!