Running my first London Marathon for Charity – 2016

It has been a goal of mine to run the London Marathon for 3 years now, since I first arrived in London from Australia and photographed the event.  I photographed the marathon again last year, for the 3rd consecutive time and this time, I had the privilege to secure a space amongst the crowds positioned in front of Buckingham Palace. This prime position is only 200 metres from the finish line,  therefore I felt like I was feeling every emotion of every person that whizzed, ran, walked, dragged, and cried their way past me. The emotions, the adrenalin was surreal and I just wanted to be part it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So I put the wheels in motion and applied for a place,  unfortunately my application was not successful initially. So I applied for a place to run for the charity “Sense – For Deafblind People”,  which was successful and so here I am raising funds to reach my target and training extremely hard.  To help me raise these much needed funds,  I even braved the kitchen during Christmas and baked  Christmas Cakes to sell.  I received 11 orders in total which generated £154, increasing my fundraising pool generously.

The fundraising is not over yet, I need to raise a total of £1500,  I still have a long way to go, just like with my running. I have never ran a marathon before, not even half a marathon, therefore I started training early, as soon as last years marathon was over, I started hitting the pavement.  I’m still only running 12 miles and I need to build that up to 26 miles, so a long way to go in only 80 days. But I’m determined to do this, just like I’m determined to raise the funds I need, therefore if you haven’t already  donated yet, please support his great cause. My fundraising page is:  www.virginmoneygiving.com/JocelynMifsud

All this would probably not have been possible if it wasn’t for so many people involved. Firstly working as a Live in Carer with ENA Care (ena.co.uk) which allows me the flexibility to get involved in such events.  Mum and dad, who helped me make many of the cakes despite they were in London on holiday from Australia to visit me for Christmas. My supportive patient who has become a dear friend and my family away from home over the pasts 4 years,  who generously allowed me to make a mass in his kitchen and take over it whilst baking cakes.  His supportive family, who always support everything I embark on. The day staff, who support me whilst I go for my runs and training during my two hour breaks every morning.  And of course all the friends family and co workers who  have generously sponsored me or supported me by purchasing one of my christmas cakes – thank you all for your support.

About Sense 

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 16.54.08

Sense is a national  charity that supports and campaigns for children and adults who are deaf and blind.  Living with little or no sight and hearing is challenging,  “Sense”  offers these people the opportunity to  develop  their talents and reach their full potential.  ” Sense also  work to support their families, offering a range of housing, education, leisure opportunities and improving their quality of life.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas in London – 2015

Walking around the streets of London,  particularly in the evening,  seeing it illuminated in its full glory, I still have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. I’m really here living this dream. It’s been over 4 years now living in  London, originally having come from  Australia for a so-called 12-month career break.   And I’m still in awe of this magnificent beautiful city. London is admirable all year round,  with each season having something unique to offer. However,  during Christmas,  London is that extra special and will not disappoint if you are tolerant of crowds and the cold.  Everywhere you go, you will know it is Christmas. Here is a list of my favourite must see’s,  if you are lucky enough to spend Christmas in London.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS 

Regent Street Christmas Lights 

SONY DSC

Regent Street Christmas Lights from 2014

Date: 15th November to 24th December 2015

Tube: Oxford Circus

Price: Free

Famous as a  shopping destination, now rivals the Champs- Elysees and Fifth Avenue, as a world-class place to shop, during the festive season, Regent street lights up London with some of the most beautiful lights in the capital.   The lights are officially turned on to mark the start of the festive season on the 15th November.   The switch on takes place at approximately 4.45pm. with a spectacular Christmas show and fireworks display marking the moment they’re switched on. For the occasion,  traffic is banned from the street leaving it with a tremendous festive atmosphere. The lights and decorations will be on display until 5th January. Be sure to make your way there.

Oxford Street Christmas Lights:  

SONY DSC

Christmas Lights on Oxford Street

Date: 1st November to 9th  December 2016

Tube:  Oxford Street, Bond Street

Price: Free

Oxford Street will sparkle for a fifty-sixth year this Christmas as its full length will be lighting up London’s most famous shopping street. The lights are officially switched on  November 1st with pop princess Kylie Minogue flicking the lights on this year. A  full event with live performances from Foxes, Fleur East, Gabrielle Aplin, Ben Haenow and the cast of Matilda the Musical starting at  5pm. An awesome site to see, I was blown away when I first looked up and gazed at the shimmering night sky illuminated by sparkling lights 4 years ago for the first time.

Bond Street Christmas Lights

SONY DSC

Peacock inspired theme on Bond Street

 Date: 13 November – 6 January 2015

Tube: Bond Street,

Price: Free

Bond Street is famous for luxury shopping with its wealth of elegant stores, exclusive brands, designer fashion and luxury hotels.  Set in the heart of Mayfair, in London’s popular West End and featuring many of the world’s most luxurious hotels and restaurants, Bond Street is a landmark for all things sophisticated. This year’s display as per last year is dedicated to young men of the late 1700s, who became known as ‘Peacocks’, as they would promenade along the street in grand attire. The white feather peacock inspired decorations and lights on show are really worth a look. There are organised bus tours and walking tours that cover the major Christmas lights around London should you want to look at this option.

 TRAFALGAR SQUARE CHRISTMAS TREE AND CAROLS 

SONY DSC

The enormous tree at Trafalgar Square given to Great Britain by the people  of Oslo

Dates: 3rd December 2015 to 3rd January  2016

Tube:  Charing Cross

Price – Free event

Since 1947,  London receives an enormous  Christmas Tree as an annual gift from the people of Oslo, thanking Britain for its support and friendship during World War Two. The enormous tree is erected in Trafalgar Square every year and is a popular seasonal tourist attraction.  A fortnight before Christmas, each evening (6th-23rd Dec 4pm-8pm on weekdays and 2pm-6pm on weekends) a different choir gathers around the tree in Trafalgar Square to sing carols and raise money for charitable organisations. Passers-by are welcome to come and listen to the carols  and even join in the festive cheer.  Another great Christmas London experience.  The tree is illuminated from noon until midnight until the Twelfth Night of Christmas in early January.

 WINTER WONDERLAND AT HYDE PARK 

SONY DSC

Ice Rink at Winter Wonderland

Dates:   20th  November 2015 – 3rd  January2016 10am to 10pm daily  (closed Christmas day) 

Tube: Green Park, Victoria, Marble Arch,  Edgware Road, Bond street,

Price: General admission free, tickets for the paid-for attractions start at £7 per person

Website:  http://www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com/

This really is a magical place for families, but plenty for the adults to enjoy also. Since 2007, Hyde Park has hosted this spectacular event, which features funfair rides, Christmas markets, an ice rink, a big fairest-wheel, circus shows and dozens of bars, restaurants, cafes and of course lots of Christmas cheer.  A must see even if you don’t have Children.

 CHRISTMAS MARKETS SOUTH BANK 

SONY DSC

Christmas Markets on Southbank

Dates: 20th  November 2015 – 24th December  2015.

Opening hours are 11am – 9pm Sunday to Thursday, and 11am – 10pm Friday and Saturday.

Tube:  Waterloo or  Southwark

Price:  Free

Take a stroll along the Christmas Markets on South Bank.  Nestled by the waterfront of the River Thames, between the Waterloo Bridge and The London Eye, along with Queen’s Walk on  South Bank,  the atmosphere really is magical. With the smell of mulled wine and roasting chestnuts in the air, Christmas carols playing, and the 80 wooden chalets serving up festive food, international cuisine, unique gifts and seasonal ingredients, you can’t pass by this little gem during Christmas. For the children, there is a big brightly lit carousel which they can ride on for a small fee.  What joy to hear the laughter of children as they exit the ride. Should you tire of the markets,  take your mulled wine or in my case,  a hot chocolate with a dash of baileys for that extra warmth and take a seat on one of the riverside benches which come with a complementary heating and take in the views of Big Ben, London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral or the beautiful skyline of the gorgeous City of London. Or why not try some ice skating at the ice rink. It does not come much more festive than this.

 CONVERT GARDENS 

SONY DSC

Silver Reindeer at Convert Garden

Dates: 12th November 2015 to 2nd January 2016

Tube: Convent Garden

Price: Free

Covent Garden is one of my favorite areas of London located on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St. Martin’s Lane and Drury Lane.  The cobbled piazza and undercover market buildings become aglow with fairy lights and giant red baubles,  turning the traditional shopping arcades into a winter wonderland for the festive season. You will experience unique market and boutique shopping, a variety of cafe’s and restaurants and lots of entertainment from buskers.  A huge Christmas tree glows with red and white lights on the west side of the square, and a rather magnificent silver reindeer stands majestically 22 feet high on a slate piled with gifts on the east side. In 2015 the Christmas decorations, created by celebrated production designer Michael Howells, are themed around ‘Meet Me Under the Mistletoe’.

 ICE SKATING 

SONY DSC

Ice Skating at Somerset House

Date: November 2015 – March 2016

Tube:  Various

Prices:  Various

With fairy lights and Christmas trees set to the backdrop of some of London’s stunning landmarks, a trip to an ice rink is a must-do even just for the views and atmosphere alone. With venues such as Somerset House, The Natural History Museum, Hyde Park, Hampton Court Palace,  Canary Wharf and The Tower of London all hosting rinks this year, you are sure to find one that pleases. My personal favourite is Somerset House and the Natural History  Museum. For more venues,  pricing and information please view the below link.

http://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/ice-skating-in-london

 CHRISTMAS CAROLS AND CONCERTS

Carols by candlelight and Christmas carols can be found all over the capital. I highly recommend getting to one event at least.

West Minster Abbey is one of London’s most famous landmarks, with impressive royal history,  and the royal family’s local place of worship. Most recently famous as the venue for royal weddings – including the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. It’s  Gothic architecture and  internal surroundings provide a striking backdrop for an evening of lessons and carols. The abbey also offers a midnight service on Christmas Eve, however, this event is most popular and require tickets (free) to be booked in advance.  For full details please visit the below link.   http://www.westminster-abbey.org/events/christmas

Nearest tube: Westminster

Royal Albert Hall located on the northern edge of South Kensington, is one of my favourite venues.  It is such an impressive building I am in awe of it every time I visit. This world Famous concert hall is entertaining its own Christmas Festival, with performances almost every night from the 13- 24 December, you are sure to find something suitable. Tickets to performances are not cheap,  however even if you just experience it once, it’s worth every penny.  Every performance I have attended, from ballet to opera, to jazz or classical concerts have been a surreal experience.  Get ready for a gala top class performances. Full dates and details can be found by visiting:   

http://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/series/christmas-festival

Nearest Tube: South Kensington

St Paul’s Cathedral London’s most famous Cathedral St Paul’s  is another iconic building that’s a must see. For Christmas events please see the belong link.

http://www.stpauls.co.uk/worhsip-music/worship/christmas/services-events 

 NEW YEAR’S EVE FIREWORKS

NYE fireworks

London NYE Fireworks ( Image not taken by me)

Although we have passed the Christmas Season by this stage, the Festive season has not come to a close just yet, and this list cannot be completed without a mention of the  New Year’s Eve fireworks display in London. What a sight to see live, what an experience and what an atmosphere. As you can clearly see  I was highly impressed. The crowds are huge, it’s busy and it will most likely rain. However these factors have not deterred visitors,  in fact, the increasing numbers that have turned up to see the spectacle live have caused a concern for overcrowding and safety. As a result, the event was ticketed for the first time last year and will be ticketed again this year at  £10. per person. You can book up to four tickets  london.gov.uk/nye  (they sell out quick you need to book ASAP)

 

NEW YEARS DAY PARADE – 30 Magical Years

ad6195adc77f65e540d4ee1d542575c9.jpg

Date:  1st January 2016

Time: 12 midday on Piccadilly at the junction with Berkeley Street and finishes at 3.30 pm in Parliament Square.

Prices:  General addition – Free or Grand Stand prices:£30 per person and may be purchased via this link:   http://www.lnydp.com

London’s New Year’s Day Parade crowns the capital’s festive season. 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the New Year’s Day Parade in London which first took place on 1st January 1987. To celebrate this milestone, this year’s entries will reflect the parade’s theme of 30 Magical Years.  Acrobats, cheerleaders, musicians, and performers assemble in the heart of the city, for a colourful celebration that combines exuberant contemporary performances with a traditional ceremony. Featuring more than 8,000 performers representing the London boroughs and countries from across the globe, this is the biggest event of its kind in the world. The free parade is expected to once again attract more than 500,000 spectators with live television broadcasts in the UK and abroad.

London is one of the most wonderful and magnificent cities in the world. Thousands of travelers and visitors come to London each year to admire its architecture, history, and museums.  However, during the festive season, London’s beauty is truly mesmerising. For me, the festive season has to be the best time of the year to Visit London, hope for a bit of snow,  and magic truly resides here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Home Made Christmas Cakes for Sale

My name is Jocelyn and I am running the Virgin Money London Marathon 2016,  to raise funds for “Sense” – Supporting Deaf/Blind people. To help me raise these much-needed funds, I am selling  Christmas Fruit Cakes (baked by me!).

All cakes are homemade and come gift boxed with all proceeds going to Charity “Sense”.

IMG_5133-1IMG_5159.JPG

 

IMG_5171.jpg

Price: £14, Size: 7.5″w, all cakes contain Nuts, dried fruit, sugar, flour, eggs, and Alcohol

Please support me by making a purchase by placing an order or by making a donation on the following link. Your support is greatly appreciated. 

My page:http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JocelynMifsud

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 16.54.08

http://www.sense.org.uk

Thank you and Merry Christmas.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

30 Days in Cuba

SONY DSC

My love for Cuba, began many years ago in a little dance studio in Melbourne Australia learning to dance Salsa with Cuban teacher.  A dance that has changed my life forever.  It introduced me to the Cuban culture, the Spanish language and gave me a new found confidence.

And so the journey began, with a 2 week dance and culture tour organised by my Cuban dance teacher from long ago for his  Melbourne students. I had left Melbourne at this stage and was living in London. So I took a solo trip from London to Havana to join the tour from there. These couple of weeks opened my eyes to so much. I left feeling more intrigued about this Island and passionate for its  culture and people.   And of course the dancing, which was what drew me towards it in the first place. I vowed to return, two weeks was just a teaser and there was so much more I wanted to see and discover about this island. 12 months later, I breathed that Cuban air again,  this time I had 30 days to amerce myself in it all.

SONY DSC

Through my eyes

Most tourists on arranged tours will not see what I saw. The two weeks dance and cultural tour was a completely different experience to the one 30 days I spend living with and being surrounded by the everyday people of Cuba. I loved both experiences and feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to see both sides of the coin. Below is my interpretation of this unique, beautiful island in pictures,  because words alone cannot convey what this island has to offer.

SONY DSC

Classic cars from the 50’s are still the main means of transport.

The People

Here in Cuba, everyone knows their neighbors, in fact, they know the whole street,  and they do not avoid talking to each other like most do in Australia and England. Everyone knows each other and reach out to one another,  a real human connection, a real sense of community.  You walk across the road, you can get your skirt hammed up, a few doors down, a man will fix your broken appliances, another neighbour will cut your hair,  and another will welcome you into their home so you can  buy their homemade ” Duro Frio” – a flavoured hard frozen ice block refreshment.  – Don’t forget to bring your own cup -.

The children are out on the streets playing  football even if the ball is flat,  they play with instruments they made themselves put together with bottle tops and scraps they  find on the streets,  you find them sliding down the streets on their homemade wooden carts,  they are not in front of the TV or their tablets or mobile phones lost in front of  computer games. Children live in Cuba,  they really live and happiness radiates from them. How can this be? How can they have so little yet have so much?

SONY DSC

Children playing football outdoors

Culture/ Music / Dance

Dancing and music are what attracted me to Cuba in the first place, and although you will often hear music played on the streets and restaurants, a real cultural experience was visiting ‘The Hamel Alley’.  The venue is a great place to experience the Afro Cuban culture for Santeria rituals. The best time to visit  is on Sundays between 11 am – 3.00pm. This is when the  Santeria priests and participants dance to the rumba rhythms and stirred up by the atmosphere and the drums invoke the spirits of the Orishas, the Santeria Gods.

Its success has made the event a little  “commercial”,  however, my experience was surrounded by many locals who come to be part of the ritual adding to the experience. On the downside,  many locals also come as they are attracted by the tourists,  so watch out for hustlers and pickpockets, and expect to make a donation at the end or purchase a CD.

 It’s not for everyone as it’s loud,  hot, and crowded,  but the atmosphere is great, and a Cuban experience everyone should experience.

SONY DSC 

Trinidad

 When I think of Trinidad I think of colours, homes painted in vibrant bright colours, the cobbled streets, and dancing salsa under the moonlight.  It’s very different to Havana, if you think Havana is stuck in a time warp, Trinidad will take you back even further.  The historical center of Trinidad is the best to see by foot, cars are not permitted in the center and so you will see donkeys being used as a means of transport.

SONY DSC

Colourful Houses in Trinidad

For me, interacting with the locals is a must when visiting any town and this young man in the below picture was kind enough to share his passion and talent for his artwork with us. He not only agreed, but was honored to be photographed naturally at his work.  A donation for his participation was not expected,  but I believe in supporting such cultures, talent, and these beautiful people who through no fault of their own don’t earn enough to make a decent living.

14043749856_6d82576a86_n-1

Local painter in Trinidad

Food

With recent more relaxed trading terms, more private restaurants are showing up and you can find decent food if you look for it.  I personally struggled a little with quick on the go street food, it was very limited and if you are nutritiously conscious, white sweet bread packed with cheese and ham is not usually part of my diet. But you adjust.  Eating out in restaurants was a different experience, I normally ordered fish or chicken with rice to keep it healthy. And at least you know that the chicken is fresh and was probably killed just before cooking, no battery hens here!  And those eggs you ate for breakfast, you know they are fresh too.

SONY DSC

Trying to keep it healthy – Lobster with Rice and uninvited fried bananas.

SONY DSC

At Restaurant “La Osnaldo” opposite Le Capatolo in the heart of Havana. Two-course meal for 2 and a jug of Sangria, all for USD$35. – Beat that!  (Apologies to Vegetarians)

Poverty

 The conditions I saw some of the housing in was appalling, the family I met on a previous visit was an extended family of 8 people living in a house that only had two bedrooms. The house was infested with termites and I wondered how much longer it will stand for before it comes crumbling down. This was not uncommon, in my 30 days in Cuba I saw this happen twice, houses just crumble to the ground. The toilet of the family I was visiting had no running water,  I had to go fetch a bucket of rainwater from outside before utilising it. I was given newspaper for toilet paper, I saw condoms being blown up in place of balloons for a birthday celebration because they are cheaper.  But I did not complain, it was all part of the “real” Cuban experience and a real eye-opener. On the contrast, I also visited a home of a Cuban family where there was an obvious difference in the quality of living standards. This family had relatives living in America,  therefore sending money for support. I found that food in Cuba is scares, I was shocked to see their mini supermarkets, the shelves are bare and whilst I take advantage of browsing  down Coles or  Sainsbury’s supermarket aisle  who have dedicated half an entire aisle to different breakfast cereals, their shelves display one or two if you are lucky of each item. There are no choices here. Another vision that sticks in my mind is a lady in a wheelchair being pushed around by who I assume was a  relative. The wheelchair had no tyres and was functioning on its bear rims. A sad sad vision to witness.  

SONY DSC

Houses falling apart.

SONY DSC

Houses in Central Havana looking in poor condition.

Economic Changes

In recent years, the Cuban government has slowly and incrementally implemented limited economic reforms, including allowing Cubans to buy electronic appliances and cell phones, stay in hotels, and buy and sell used cars. Just this year the Cubans have also been given limited access to the internet.   The Cuban government also opened up some retail services to “self-employment,” leading to the rise of so-called “cuentapropistas” or entrepreneurs. Recent moves include permitting the private ownership and sale of real estate and new vehicles, previously Cuban’s where only permitted to exchange property and vehicles.  Private farmers are now permitted to sell agricultural goods directly to hotels and expanding categories of self-employment. Despite these reforms, the average Cuban’s standard of living remains at a lower level than before the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s which was catastrophic to Cuba and it’s economy.

Brief History 

I had so many unanswered questions about Cuba’s economic state.  Fidel Castro’s name  Graffitied all over Cuba found everywhere you go.  Why was there so much expression of love for this Communist leader who has lead this once beautiful vibrant island to the crumbling state it is now, stuck in time warp without the basic necessities?  Why are doctors only earning the equivalent of USD$30 a month, and needing to have a second job to make ends meet?  Why are professional teachers quitting their profession to set up a hairdressing salon in the front room of their crumbling home? Why is the national newspaper only contains 4 pages and bears news only about Cuba? Why are the Cuban people not free to leave Cuba and travel freely? I had to do a little research to get these answers and speaking to the locals about these affairs is forbidden, they simply won’t talk about it as they do not have freedom of speech. Yet most Cubans who have left Cuba, speak of their previous home with such pride and love.

In 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American war, a defeated Spain signed the rights to its territories — including Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam — over to the U.S. This subsequently granted Cuba its independence from Spain, but with the stipulation that the U.S. could intervene in the country’s affairs if necessary (later relinquished). For the next half-century, the two countries cooperated, with the U.S.  heavily investing in Cuba’s economy. Then came the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959, after multiple years and a few attempts, Fidel Castro and his band of guerrillas successfully overthrew the corrupt government of President General Fulgencio Batista.  When Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, relations between the U.S and Cuba quickly became hostile. By 1960, Castro’s government had seized private land, nationalised hundreds of private companies — including several local subsidiaries of U.S. corporations — and taxed American products so heavily that U.S. exports were halved in just two years. The U.S than under Eisenhower Administration responded by imposing trade restrictions on everything except food and medical supplies. Subsequently,  Castro expanded trade with the Soviet Union instead. The U.S. responded by cutting all diplomatic ties and President Kennedy issued the permanent embargo on Feb. 7, 1962. Within a few years Cuba, whose economy relied on the use of American-made products, became a shell of its former self. Food consumption decreased, electronic goods were harder to come by. With no way to import American cars, Cubans watched their pre-embargo sedans rust into jalopies. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 affected Cuba drastically.  For decades, the Soviet Union had been Cuba’s principal source of arms, trade, and economic assistance.  After the demise of the Soviet Union, Cuba entered an era of economic hardship known as the “Special Period in time of Peace”. A 2001 agreement to sell food to Cuba in the aftermath of Hurricane Michelle has so far remained in place; the United States is now Cuba’s main supplier of food, with sales reaching $710 million in 2008.  Changes and reforms are still being made between Cuba and America, whether for better or worse, only time will tell.

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

8 Best Ways to Spend Christmas in London – 2014

Walking  around the streets of London,  particular in the evening,  seeing it illuminated in it’s full glory, I still have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. I’m really here living this dream. It’s been over 3 years now living in  London, originally having come from  Australia for a so called 12 month career break.   And I’m still in awe of this magnificent beautiful city. London is admirable all year round,  with each season having something unique to offer. However,  during Christmas,  London is that extra special and will not disappoint if you are tolerant of  crowds and the cold.  Everywhere you go, you will know it is Christmas. Here is a list of my favourite top 8 must see’s,  if you are lucky enough to spend Christmas in London.

1.  CHRISTMAS LIGHTS 

Regent Street Christmas Lights 

SONY DSC

Regent Street Christmas Lights – 2014

Date: 16 November 2014 – 5 January 2015

Tube: Oxford Circus

Price: Free

Famous as a  shopping destination, now rivals the Champs- Elysees and Fifth Avenue, as a world class place to shop, during the festive season, Regent street lights up London with some of the most beautiful lights in the capital.   The lights are officially turned  on to mark the start of the festive season on the 16th November.   The switch on takes place  at approximately 4.45pm. with a spectacular Christmas show and fireworks display marking the moment they’re switched on. For the occasion,  traffic is banned from the street leaving it with  a tremendous  festive atmosphere. The lights and decorations will be on display until 5th January. Be sure to make your way there.

 

Oxford Street Christmas Lights:  

SONY DSC

Christmas Lights on Oxford Street

 Date: 6 November  2014 – 4 January 2015

Tube:  Oxford Street, Bond Street

Price: Free

Oxford Street will sparkle for a fifty-fifth year this Christmas as its full length will be lighting up London’s most famous shopping street with 1,778 bulbs and 750,000 LED energy-efficient bulbs.  The lights are officially  switched on  November 6  with a full event starting at  5pm with live performances. An awesome site to see, I was blown away when I first looked up and gazed at the shimmering night sky illuminated by sparkling lights 3 years ago for the first time.

 

Bond Street Christmas Lights

SONY DSC

Peacock inspired theme on Bond Street – London 2014

 Date: 13 November – 6 January 2015

Tube: Bond Street,

Price: Free

Bond Street is famous for luxury shopping with its wealth of elegant stores, exclusive brands, designer fashion and luxury hotels .  Set in the heart of Mayfair, in London’s popular West End and featuring  many of the world’s most luxury hotels and restaurants, Bond Street is a landmark for all things sophisticated. All the reasons why I would not normally venture there. However,  I must say that the  white feather peacock  inspired decorations and lights drew my attention. It really is worth a look. There are organised bus tours and walking tours that cover the major Christmas lights around London  should you want to look this option.

 

2. TRAFALGAR SQUARE CHRISTMAS TREE AND CAROLS 

SONY DSC

The enormous tree at Trafalgar Square given to Great Britain by the people  of Oslo

Dates: 4th to 23rd December 2014

Tube:  Charing Cross

Price – Free event

Since 1947 ,  London  receives an enormous  Christmas Tree as an annual gift from the people of Oslo, thanking Britain for its support and friendship during World War Two. The enormous tree is erected in Trafalgar Square every year and is  a popular seasonal tourist attraction.  A  fortnight before Christmas, each evening (8th-23rd Dec) a different choir gathers around the tree in Trafalgar Square  to sing carols and raise money for charitable organisations. Passers-by are welcome to come and listen to the carols,  and even join in the festive cheer.  Another great Christmas London experience.  The tree is illuminated from noon until midnight until the Twelfth Night of Christmas in early January.

3. WINTER WONDERLAND AT HYDE PARK 

SONY DSC

Ice Rink at Winter Wonderland

Dates:   21st November 2014 – 4th January  (closed Christmas day) 

Tube: Green Park, Victoria, Marble Arch,  Edgware Road, Bond street,

Website:  http://www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com/

This really is a magical place for families, but plenty for the adults to enjoy also. Since 2007, Hyde Park has hosted  this spectacular event , which features funfair rides, Christmas markets, an ice rink, a big fairest-wheel, circus shows and dozens of bars, restaurants, cafes and of course lots of  Christmas cheer.  A must see even if you don’t have Children.

4.  CHRISTMAS MARKETS SOUTH BANK 

SONY DSC

Christmas Markets on Southbank

Dates: 11 November 2014 – 5 January 2015.

Opening hours are 11am – 9pm Monday – Thursday and Sunday, and 10am – 10pm Friday and Saturday.

Tube:  Waterloo or  Southwark

Price:  Free

Take a stroll along the  the Christmas Markets on South Bank.  Nestled by the waterfront of the River Thames,  between the Waterloo Bridge and The London Eye, along Queen’s Walk on  South Bank,  the atmosphere really is magical. With the smell of mulled wine and  roasting chestnuts in the air, Christmas carols playing,  and the 80 wooden chalets serving up festive food, international cuisine,  unique gifts and seasonal ingredients, you can’t pass by this little gem during Christmas.  For the children there is a big brightly lit carousel which they can ride on  for a small fee.  What joy to hear the laughter of children as they exit the ride.  Should you tire of the markets,  take your mulled wine or in my case,  a hot chocolate with a dash of baileys for that extra warmth and take a seat on one of the river side benches which come with a complementary heating and take in the views of Big Ben, London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedra or the beautiful skyline of the gorgeous City of London. Or why not try  some ice skating at the ice rink. It does not come much more festive then this.

 

5. CONVERT GARDENS 

SONY DSC

Silver Reindeer at Convert Garden – 2014

Dates: 4th November 2014 to 2nd January 2015

Tube: Convent Garden

Price: Free

Covent Garden is one of my favourite areas of London located on  the eastern fringes of the West End, between St. Martin’s Lane and Drury Lane.  The cobbled piazza and undercover market buildings becomes aglow with fairy lights and giant red baubles,  turning  the traditional shopping arcades  into a winter wonderland for the festive season. You will experience unique market and boutique shopping, a variety of cafe’s and restaurants and lots of entertainment from buskers.  A huge Christmas tree glows with red and white lights on the west side of the square, and a rather magnificent silver reindeer stands majestically 22 feet high on a slate piled with gifts on the east side.  Joining him every Saturday afternoon from noon until 4pm,  are some live reindeer which visitors can help to feed and take photos with.

The Children  can also enjoy some Christmas magic at  Santa’s Grotto, where the jolly man in red will be entertaining families over the festive period. The Santa’s Grotto at Covent Garden is open from Tuesday 1st December – Thursday 24th December 2014. Opening hours are 10am – 7pm Monday – Friday and Sunday, and 9pm – 7pm Saturday
The grotto is located at 27b, The Market Building, on the Covent Garden Piazza. Tickets cost £7.50.

St Paul’s Church in Convert Garden will also hold a Christmas Concert on the evening of the 11 December,  for more information visit:  http://www.coventgardenlondonuk.com/event/associated-studios-christmas-concert

 

6.   ICE SKATING 

SONY DSC

Ice Skating at Somerset House

Date: November 2014 – March 2015

Tube:  Various

Prices:  Various

With fairy lights and Christmas trees set to the backdrop of  some of London’s stunning landmarks, a trip to an ice rink is a must-do even just for the views and atmosphere alone. With venues such as Somerset House, The Natural History Museum, Hyde Park, Hampton Court Palace,  Canary Wharf and The Tower of London all hosting rinks this year, you are sure to find one that pleases. My personal favourite is Somerset House and the Natural History  Museum. For more venues,  pricing  and information please view the below link.

http://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/ice-skating-in-london

7.  CHRISTMAS CAROLS AND CONCERTS

Carols by candlelight and and Christmas carols can be found all over the capital. I highly recommend to get to one  event at least.

West Minster Abbey is one of London’s most famous landmarks, with impressive royal history,  and the royal family’s local place of worship. Most recently famous as the venue for royal weddings – including the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. It’s  Gothic architecture  and  internal surroundings provide a striking backdrop for an evening of lessons and carols. The abbey also offers a midnight service on Christmas Eve, however this event is most popular and  require tickets (free) to be booked in advance.  For full details please visit the below link.                                                   http://www.westminster-abbey.org/events/christmas

Nearest tube: Westminster

Royal Albert Hall  located on the northern edge of South Kensington, is one of my favourite venues.  It is such an impressive building I am in awe of it every time I visit. This world Famous  concert hall is entertaining  it’s own Christmas Festival, with performances almost every night from the 13- 24 December, you are sure to find something suitable. Tickets to performances are not cheap,  however even if you just experience it once, it’s worth every penny.  Every performance I have attended, from ballet, to opera, to jazz or classical  concerts have been a surreal experience.  Get ready for a gala top class performances. Full dates and details can be found by visiting:    http://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/christmas/default.aspx#/page/1/ 

Nearest Tube : South Kensington

St Paul’s Cathedral London’s most famous Cathedral St Paul’s  is another iconic building that’s a must see. For Christmas events please see the belong link.

http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/whatson/christmas-carols-at-st-pauls-cathedral-feature-event-4254.html\\

 

8. NEW YEAR’S EVE FIREWORKS

NYE fireworks

London NYE Fire works ( Image not taken by me)

Although we have passed the Christmas Season by this stage, the Festive season has not come to a close just yet, and this list cannot be completed without a mention of the  New Year’s Eve fireworks display in London. What a sight to see live, what an experience and what an atmosphere. As you can clearly see if I was highly  impressed. The crowds are huge, it’s busy and it will mostly likely rain. However these factors have not deterred visitors,  in fact the increasing numbers  that have turned up  to see the spectacle live have  caused a concern for overcrowding and safety. As a result this year for the first time,  the show is to be ticketed at  £10. per person. You can book up to four tickets from noon on Friday September 26 at london.gov.uk/nye.

London is  one of the most wonderful and magnificent cities in the world. Thousands of travellers and visitors come to London each year to admire its architecture, history and museums.  However during the festive season, London’s beauty is truly mesmerising. For me, the festive season has  to be the best time of the year to Visit London, hope for a bit of snow,  and magic truly resides here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Poppies at Tower of London

A display of art titled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” by Paul Cummins.

SONY DSC

Volunteers planting poppies at the Tower of London – August 2014

Ceramic poppies have been ‘planted’ at the Tower of London  to commemorate the British servicemen and women who died during the First World War. 888,248 poppies have been planted each representing a falling soldier. The final poppy was installed  November 11, 2014, Armistice Day.

SONY DSC

Volunteers planting poppies at Tower of London – August 2014

This truly is an amazing site and has transformed the look of Tower of London. I have had the pleasure of visiting the poppies at Tower of London 3 times. The first was back in August 2014 when the poppies where still getting “planted”. I recently visited just a few days before the last poppy was planted.  However with more than 5 million people estimated to have visited the art installation, crowns made it almost impossible to capture a good photo, I have therefore submitted photos manly  from August. I feel so privileged to have witnesses such an amazing display of art and be part of what it all represents.

SONY DSC

Poppies at Tower of London – August 2014

The poppies have been sold to the general public,   therefore the display will be sadly removed.  Volunteers have already began the process of removing and packing the poppies in order for them to  be delivered to the buyers who paid £25 for each poppy.

SONY DSC

A few days before Armistice Day – November 2014

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shard – London.

This gallery contains 2 photos.

What a great way to spend a working  day in London. Beats shuffling paperwork around in the office.  Since I left my “real job” in the corporate world some 3 years ago now,  this is what a typical working day … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , | Leave a comment