Food: Dominque Ansel, Victoria

I mentioned a while ago that one of my resolutions for 2017 was to try each month’s Cronut flavour. I know, I’m pretty pleased with that resolution too! Most of the time I tend to just pick up a Cronut or two (because I can’t imagine I’d have a very happy fiance if I didn’t share the experience) to takeaway, but when Mummy B visited a while back I decided it was high time for a cake marathon.

 photo Dominique Ansel_zpsljbrynx0.jpgThere were a few items on the menu at Dom A’s patisserie that I knew didn’t travel well and that I’d wanted to try since first visiting a while back, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Camera in tow and an empty stomach, we rolled up ready for sugar overload.

First up, it’s not the cheapest of places. Two drinks and 3 sweet treats was quite a hard hit to my card (considering nothing lasted long!). Secondly, expect to queue. Every visit I’ve queued, from a rather nice 5 minutes to over half an hour. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why as there are plenty of staff around – I have a sneaky suspicion it’s to stop the seating area being overloaded with an influx of people and a lack of tables. Either way, once you’ve eventually chosen your treats (another advantage of the long queue!) there isn’t usually a wait for a table too.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 8_zpssjqlic8s.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 11_zpsskvozyso.jpgDrinks wise, we went for a hot chocolate (me) and English breakfast tea (for Mummy B). I missed a trick with the hot chocolate and just ordered the ‘ordinary’ one, so didn’t get the excitement of the ‘Blossoming Marshmallows’ – as always I’m using this as an excuse to go back. That said, my hot chocolate was delicious – smooth, rich, and chocolatey without being thick and cloying. It was nicely unsweetened too, giving a caffeine-like hit.

And now it’s time for the important bit, the food.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 5_zpshlfbosre.jpgObviously there was the Cronut. Because I’m a bad blogger, we actually visited wayyyy back in January when the flavour of the month was Lemon Verbana. It was just the right balance of zingy and sweet, with a good enough lemon kick to make you suck in your cheeks. As with all of Dom A’s Cronuts, the pastry was both moist and flaky, buttery but not overly rich. Both me and W have tried other patisseries’ versions, and I have to say nowhere else has managed to get the balance of indulgence and lightness just right.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 3_zpsklvrmm6m.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 6_zpsudiwtpis.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 7_zpsqftu1wld.jpgNext up was the Frozen Smore, something I’d been looking forward to since Jordan posted about it agessss ago. This is quite possibly the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to eat (and impossibly to do in a lady-like manner, especially when sharing!), but it is worth the effort. Perfectly toasted marshmallow, golden and with no char in sight. Creamy ice-cream. A touch of chocolate from the wafer crisp. This was the perfect marriage of temperatures and textures and it tasted amazing. Surprisingly not over-sweet either…

 photo Dominique Ansel London 4_zpsuipimc6f.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 10_zpsvu5bfvuu.jpg photo Dominique Ansel London 12_zpswopxzrms.jpgAnd finally. Last but not least. Our favourite of the bunch, and a recipe exclusive to London (I believe). The Liquid Caramel & Peanut Butter Mousse Cake could possibly be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. First off, it’s so pretttyyyy. Just look at it! The finish was so shiny I could almost see my reflection in it. It’s even attractive on the inside, with a perfectly symmetrical finish that wholly appealed to my mathematical and slightly OCD nature. It’s sweet but not sickly. The mouse isn’t at all rich, but airy and light. The peanut butter flavour comes through, as does the caramel, and again there’s the slightest hint of chocolate. I could have eaten several of these – and I probably would have done had we not snagged the last one.

 photo Dominique Ansel London 20_zpspfzihfsf.jpgUnfortunately for my bank balance, we’ve been back several times since. My goal to try each month’s Cronut is the main driver, although sadly February’s offering was a tad disappointing. Raspberry & Orange Blossom sounded like a great combo, but unfortunately I found it all a little over-sweet and one dimensional. March’s Rhubarb on the other hand…a dream! I’m excited for the rest of the year’s flavours… #bestresolutionever

Have you been to Dominique Ansel’s bakery? Have you tried a Cronut yet?

Review: Brunch at The Dynamo, Putney

One of the other main foodie loves in my life (beside burgers) is eggs. Fried, scrambled, baked, poached and of course the dippy egg. Served with toast, bubble and squeak, chips, or in a bacon sandwich, I just love eggs. As long as it has a runny yolk (I warn you now, never, ever serve me up a non-runny yolk. I will and have sent eggs back for such a crime) you can pretty much guarantee I’ll love it.

 photo Dynamo_zpsqc4v05mt.jpgI almost ruined eggs for me though. My pre-exam meal throughout my final-year exams was two slices of toast, two slices of ham and two poached eggs. Mushrooms if I had them to hand. Now I struggle to stomach the thought of poached eggs, and I haven’t eaten that particular combo since my last exam. In fact, I’ve had poached eggs a grand total of two times since – both whilst out for brunch.

Once was at Cambridge Street Kitchen with some blogging gals – nothing special, toast too crunchy and eggs only just the right side of ‘done’. Another 5 seconds and I’d have sent them back (though considering it took an hour for them to materialise, maybe not…).

Then there were these. The. Best. Eggs. Ever.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 9_zpsxfnekvaa.jpgI’m not even exaggerating. I mean, just look at that yolk.

Dynamo is a strange pizza-brunch-cylist workshop-cafe type place just around the corner from us. It’s dangerously close given it’s menu, though somehow we’ve only eaten there twice since moving in back in August (plus a cheeky Deliveroo order, because it was raining and I needed pizza). I’m not exactly sure what kind of concept and vibe they were aiming for, but it works. It’s the kind of industrial interior that looks good on your Instagram feed. The kind of menu that makes you go ‘oooh’ and have to ponder for a while. Smiley staff. And a bike workshop in the mornings if that takes your fancy… You can even take your dog, which I’m SO doing next time he comes to stay!

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 11_zpsgt6olcja.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 12_zps985di4b8.jpgThe pizzas (I know, this is a brunch review) are some of the best I’ve had. Pillowy, soft sourdough base which some really interesting toppings. There’s a good selection (three!) of white pizzas, including a totally irresistible Pancetta, Fennel & Pomegranate combo. Try it and thank me later.

And now to brunch.

Also a ‘different’ menu. No traditional Full English here. The ‘Full Dynamo’ features sweetcorn fritters, there’s blueberry pancakes with bacon, chorizo hash and all kinds of other egg-based delights.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 5_zps8vly6r1e.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 4_zpshr3uofj7.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 2_zpsd5sfii8i.jpgW had the Chilli Scrambled Eggs – “Scrambled Eggs, Nduja Toast, Feta and Zhoug.” Yep, we had to google Zhoug too (it’s a green chilli sauce). The scrambled eggs were some of the best we’d tried, which considering we have very different ideas about what scrambled eggs should be (I’m creamy and barely cooked, he’s firmly set but fluffy) is a pretty tall order to satisfy. The nduja and zhoug added just the right amount of spice, and the feta added a gorgeous fresh tang. Scrambled eggs, but not the nursery supper from your childhood. He certainly had a happy face after eating!

Then there was my order. Eggs Eddy, a spin on my favourite Eggs Benedict – “Poached Eggs, Black Pudding, Citrus Hollandaise and Seven Seeded Sourdough.” Guys, black pudding instead of ham is a revelation. I know not everyone is a fan of it, but I LOVE it and this worked so, so well. It was perfectly cooked (crispy outer, soft and melting inner), topped with perfectly cooked eggs. Gooey yolks, just set whites and no firm yolk in sight. And the colour. And flavour. So good. The citrus hollandaise was delicious, with the zing cutting through the rich meat so I didn’t feel (too much) like waddling out afterwards.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 6_zps7tztzscx.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 8_zpssa9hiopd.jpgThe only complaint (from both of us) was that we’d have loved an additional bit of toast, or a thicker slice. A little thing, and we could have easily ordered some had we not been off to devour birthday cake!

So yep, this is my local brunch spot. Safe to say I’m not planning on finding a new flat any time soon! I’d highly recommend a trip out to deepest SW15 if you’re looking for a new brunch spot…Now all I need to do is find out who supplies their eggs!

Where’s your favourite brunch spot?

University: Saving Money in London

London is expensive. You hear this a lot, but I don’t think you truly appreciate just how true it is until you actually live there – I know I didn’t! “Sure” I thought. “Everywhere’s expensive for a graduate” I scoffed. Despite being on a (very) good graduate salary living in London can sometimes be tough.

 photo Student Budget_zpss6by45ja.pngRent is ridiculously pricey (I’m desperately hoping my landlord doesn’t up the rent in the summer!). I have a list far longer than my arm of places I want to eat. There’s shops on every corner. Delicious coffees to be drank and cronuts to be eaten. Travel within London isn’t too bad, but to get out anywhere? It can be ridiculously pricey! We’ve been lucky so far in that we’ve managed to travel out of the Capital for decent amounts, but that’s through being savvy – and used to hunting down cheap fares from our LDR days!


Ticketclever
have produced a (pretty good!) infographic helping students in London. I definitely have to go and give @SkintLondon a follow, sounds like a great place to get ideas. Oh, and even if you only travel a couple of times a year, I’d highly recommend a 16-25 railcard. It pays for itself in just two visits home to me – and the saving on travel to places like Edinburgh means it pays for itself almost immediately!

*Sponsored post, as always all opinions are my own.

What recommendations do you have to save a bit of money?

Review: Honest Burgers, Covent Garden

I subtly alluded a few weekends ago that I quite like a burger.

 photo Honest Burger_zpsgd83mpms.jpgScratch that, I pretty much shouted from the rooftops about my love for burgers. This year I’ve made it my mission to find my ultimate burger. I’ve got a meat grinder attachment for the KitchenAid to try and make my own. I have an ever-growing list of places to try (and please, please feel free to add your favourite burger to it!). I even, much as I am ashamed to admit it, day-dream about burgers. Please tell me I’m not the only one?!

When we moved to London Honest Burgers was top on my list of places to visit, but despite my office being literally on top of one, it took me until November to visit. Then I went again in December. And again since. It’s taken me until now to pen up a review, and I’m not entirely sure why. Because, quite simply, I could have summed it up with a simple Instagram post and a “Yum” #thumbsup.

 photo Honest Burger Review 1_zpsgeseavtn.jpg(Fun Fact: my flatlay of Honest burgers was my first Instagram photo to smash through 100 likes).

We visited after a few drinks, and before more drinks, with a small-ish group of friends one Saturday night. Despite going to the small Covent Garden branch, we maybe waited 20 minutes for a table (heading off for more drinks whilst we waiting for the all important phone call!) – definitely not the wait we were expecting!

Between us we probably ordered most of the menu. A couple of cheeseburgers, a couple of “plain Jane’s”, a couple of Tributes, a chicken, the special at the time (some with black sesame seeds and kimchi) and my “Honest” burger. Everything comes with chips (a nice surprise!), and we also grabbed a couple of buckets of onion rings to share.

 photo Honest Burger Review 5_zpsn4fklxkd.jpg photo Honest Burger Review 10_zps7nbor936.jpgI always think that if a restaurant names a burger after themselves, it’s got to be a bloody good burger. Byron made that mistake (it was a bit disapointing), but Honest really nailed it. For one, it didn’t contain tomatoes. At all. It’s rare I can enjoy a relish, or even not have to trust them to not put a sneaky tomato slice in, but this was pure tomato-free goodness. A thick meaty patty cooked just right (plenty of oozy pink, but nothing too slime-ily raw about it), seasoned well and actually tasting of beef. Lots of oozy cheese. A good spoonful of onion relish, but not too much it took over. Crisp but not tooth-shatteringly so bacon. A token bit of salad. Some gorgeous lightly picked cucumber – slightly sharp, still crunchy and adding a gorgeous refreshing element. All held together in one of the best brioche burger buns I’ve tried. Despite the juiciness of the patty it held together pretty damn well. I didn’t get it all down my front at least…

 photo Honest Burger Review 3_zps3wha0un7.jpgOther burgers got similar reviews. W had the kimchi special, which I didn’t try (I’m not a fan of kimchi or sauerkraut flavours at all) but it did look and smell good – and disappeared in super-quick time. The chicken burger also looked damn good, even if I never order them. And whilst the cheeseburger did look good, when you can add bacon and relish I’m just not too sure whether I’ll ever order one…

The chips were also a revelation. I’ve become used to disappointing chips, and nothing is worse than a limp fry – but these were stunning. Chunky, almost chip-shop style, but with lots of crispy bits. Drenched in a rosemary salt, they were incredibly moreish and I hoovered up the massive portion size. On my second visit I went after work in my tightest pencil skirt. Bad decision. I forced the chips down and then couldn’t sit down on the tube to get home.

 photo Honest Burger Review 7_zpscwpzqxr3.jpgIn fact, the only dud were the onion rings. And I was super disappointed. One, because I bloody love onion rings (number one place so far has been Burgers & Cocktails, followed rather closely by Ed’s Diner). Two, because I’m heard so many people raving about Honest’s onion rings. Sure, they were reasonably crispy, but the onions inside were watery, and the batter thick and almost doughy. A raw spice taste to them too – despite only two portions between 7 of us, they were the only thing we failed to polish off…

 photo Honest Burger Review 9_zpshsqynyy2.jpgOnion rings aside, Honest Burgers jumped straight to the top of my ‘favourite burger’ list. Excellent meat, good buns, supremely moreish chips. They’ve recently had a ‘Sunday Roast’ burger special with bacon gravy (!) and roast potatoes that I’m desperate to try, and I’m only gutted I didn’t manage to grab one of their Christmas specials. This year, this year.

Have you ever been to Honest Burgers? What did you think? Where’s your top burger in London?

 

Lifestyle: Different Things to do in London

It’s official, I have fallen completely and utterly in love with London. I was enjoying living down in the Big Smoke, but it took my trip up to the Midlands at Christmas to make me realise just how much I love our capital. And other than waxing lyrical about my love for the city, I’ve decided it’s the perfect timing to pen up some of the underrated areas I’ve found over the last few months.

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A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Wander Around Victoria

During my placement year I spent hours in Victoria Station (as I’m sure many of those who rely on Southern rail have!). I only wish I’d ventured outside and down the road before now, I didn’t realise quite how Instagrammable the streets of Victoria and Pimlico are! Plus it doesn’t hurt that both Peggy Porschen and Dominique Ansel are so close!

 photo Olympic Slide 29_zpsiyunb1it.jpg photo Olympic Slide 26_zpsj4avz8ao.jpg photo Olympic Slide 24_zpssju86ad0.jpg photo Olympic Slide 17_zpswqlydjmk.jpg photo Olympic Slide 18_zpsdelfmybv.jpg photo Olympic Slide 16_zps18yf69zy.jpg photo Olympic Slide 13_zpsuq3d21g5.jpg photo Olympic Slide 12_zps3eodgulb.jpg photo Olympic Slide 10_zpsvvjwjfki.jpg photo Olympic Slide 8_zpsodgwfwot.jpg photo Olympic Slide 5_zpstnoqgqn0.jpg photo Olympic Slide 3_zpsrghvekk7.jpg photo Olympic Slide 31_zps8gyxvpau.jpg photo Olympic Slide 30_zps8addigce.jpg

Ride the “Olympic Slide*”

Way back in December I was invited to Stratford to ride the Arcelor Mittal Orbit. At nearly 180m it’s the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide – and when they say it’s tall, it’s bloody tall! It takes around 40 seconds to descend the slide, circling around the ArcelorMittal Orbit 12 times through loops and curves, including a tight corkscrew section that definitely got a few screams out of me!

It’s pretty pricey (full disclosure here – I was invited to slide free of charge, but we picked up a ticket for W using his student discount) at £15 per adult, but the views are pretty good, and the slide both exciting and scary in pretty equal measure. Plus it was an excuse to have a quick wander around the Olympic Park, having only visited way back in 2011 on a Geography field trip when it was still a muddy building site! I only wish it hadn’t been quite so foggy on the day we went up, though I quite like the atmospheric pictures I managed to take.

Oh, and there’s now also the change to abseiling down the structure. I’m hugely tempted!

Indulge in Creme Egg Delights on the Southbank

I got super-excited when I first ventured out of the house on the 27th December – because sat by the tills in Waitrose were the Creme Eggs! I haven’t succumbed to the temptation quite yet, but I guarantee I’ll be getting my fix soon. There’s nothing like feeling sick on the sugar overload that is a Creme Egg!

And even more excitingly – the Cadbury Creme Egg Café is back (with a twist!) and this time it’s touring the UK. The Cadbury Creme Egg Hunting Lodge will include a takeaway with an offering of gooey Creme Egg S’mores to-go, with some extra treats if you’ve got enough time to stop awhile. The Lodge will be visiting London, Bristol, Leeds and Edinburgh – unfortunately tickets have sold out but there’s limited space for walk-ins. I know I’ll be queuing!

 photo South Kensington 15_zpsxmy4jdvm.jpg photo South Kensington 16_zpspzfa5vmh.jpg photo South Kensington 8_zps16wbwjck.jpg

Walk Between Kensington & Knightsbridge

One of my favourite walks goes from Imperial College, through cobbled streets (lined with the prettiest multi-coloured cottages), coming out just down the road from Harrods. I can indulge several passions in one short trip. Taking Instagram shots of houses, window shopping (shoes are my latest obsession – I’m desperately hunting down the perfect wedding shoes) and browsing some of my favourite homeware boutiques.

I’d also highly recommend a trip to the (free!) Design Museum if you’re in the area. Be warned though, it’s quite tight for space around the exhibits and I’ve heard it’s packed at weekends!

Planning on visiting one of my favourite London places of 2016 today – Spitalfields Market. Perfect for a rainy Sunday!

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Get Spendy in Spitalfields

Another one of my favourite places to spend a Sunday afternoon – particularly if it’s raining as other than the short walk from Liverpool Street you’re pretty much undercover the entire time. It’s full of quirky buys (I’m class it as the ‘grown-up’ Camden – though I love Camden just as much), vintage stalls, leather wares, upcoming fashion designers, beauty boutiques, more homeware stores and glorious smelling food popups.

I took a trip with one of my best friends during January and we had the best time browsing, lusting over bits and bobs for our future houses and hunting down a new coat for me. It does’t help that Kontidor and Cook have their store nearby, they make the best brownies…

These are just a handful of some of my favourite bits and bobs to do in London – there’s so much more I have to see (Portobello Market and Kew Gardens are high on my list!).

What are your favourite things to do in London?

Restaurant Review: Mac & Wild, London

Scotland is somewhere super-close to our heart. And I love burgers. So when we found out about a Scottish restaurant who made London’s best burger of 2015, there was no question about where we were spending our anniversary. We donned some fancy-ish clothes (me bringing out a dress I love, but is too dressy for every-weekend wear, too low-cut for work), I whacked on the date-night makeup (because wearing Mac Diva is great for eating a burger…) and we headed out for a much anticipated evening.

mac-wild photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 1_zpsykqkcpjl.jpgAnd it didn’t disappoint.

I could just finish the review of Mac & Wild here, by telling you to go, to go book a table, eat plenty of meat, drink lots of whisky and feel very merry, very happy and very full. It would sum up exactly how I felt about the place. But obviously I’ll have to tell/show you exactly why you should make the effort to get to this Scottish gem in the heart of London.

It’s small, it’s cozy, it’s ‘trendy’ lighting didn’t make for great photos. Walls were adorned with stag’s heads and rather graphic photos. Staff were outstandingly welcoming and friendly, taking the time to talk us through the menu and ask about our days. And the food was damn good.

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 2_zpshnhr7kff.jpgWe started by splitting a ‘lighter’ choice alongside a heavier one. The Bone Broth was deceptively heavy, in a good way. Rich, unctuous, this is the kind of thing you crave when ill. I’d happily bulk buy and store in the freezer. The Scotch Egg was a heavier choice. A perfectly cooked egg (no set yolk here), encased in wonderfully flavourful venison meat, covered in crisp breadcrumbs and served with a mustard so perfect I’m tempted to contact Mac & Wild and find their supplier. I was a little wary that the meat was rare, but it was piping hot, tender and worked well all together. Definitely a filling portion!

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 3_zpsenykwgk9.jpgW went ‘date-night suitable’ for his main, choosing the Venison Steak with Bearnaise. The steak arrived pre-sliced, and cooked as it’s meant to be cooked (there was no choice given upon ordered, so be warned if you aren’t a fan of rarer meat!). It was gorgeous – extremely tender and beautifully rich in flavour rendering the silky and buttery Bearnaise unnecessary. I stoke a piece and almost, almost regretted not suggesting sharing a Chateaubriand.

The reason for not regretting? Well, London’s best burger of course…

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 5_zpsgn6iiev0.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 6_zpsz7at3wrc.jpgWhilst I’m not quite sure it deserves that title (more research needed, you see), it was a damn good burger. Both patties were cooked well – tender and moist, a slight hint of pink to the beef. They were well-season whilst remaining a good ‘meat’ flavour; you could tell which was which. The Bearnaise added moistness and richness, the cheese and mustard (more of that addictive mustard!) adding a salty kick. I usually pick the pickles out of a burger, but here they worked perfectly to add a much needed tang. I added the Candied Bacon, but honestly I’d say it’s not really necessary (shock horror!) – I found it got a little lost amongst all the flavours, and wasn’t quite crisp enough to add an extra texture. The bun held it all together, but the big issue with the burger? It was just too big. It was impossible to eat all elements at once and ultimately I felt it suffered. And date-night suitable? Definitely not. My lipstick was down my chin before I was halfway through the burger…

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 7_zpspossdcak.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 4_zps2xqiqurt.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 8_zpseuo5yvwv.jpgWe both went for sides of Haggis Mac & Cheese. I’m a huge mac’n’cheese fan (if you hadn’t already guessed), and haggis is a major foodie love of mine. The two together was something I’d never considered (though I’m now anxiously awaiting Burn’s Night) – it’s a pretty good combo! The Mac was cheesy and rich, the haggis moist and peppery, and the crispy topping by far the best topping on a restaurant one I’ve tried. My only complaint? It was a little dry, though I saw ones at different tables that looked a lot looser and creamier. I was a bit jealous if I’m honest!

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 10_zpsril5vxv3.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 9_zpscejbwlag.jpgPuddings were also a success. The Cheeseboard came with a good selection, though we were a bit perplexed at the lack of biscuits considered one of them was a softer cheese. My desert, however, was the winner. The “I Shouldn’t But I Will’ was a dark chocolate Nemesis, salted caramel sauce, orange, almonds, & taffy crumble base. I was recommended a side of salted caramel ice-cream; I declined but rather wish I hadn’t as the portion did need something to break it up a little. That said, we both enjoyed it – I just preferred the savoury options and rather wished I’d tried the Haggis Pops instead!

We paired our food courses with whiskies, generally going with their suggestions (apart from my desert; I was recommended a smoky Islay whisky of which I’m not a fan, so went with my favourite tipple). All were deliciously drinkable and did complement the dishes perfectly. We left clutching our stomaches and swaying slightly…

Mac & Wild definitely impressed us, and it’s certainly left us wanting more. I know without a doubt I’ll be back to sample more. Their Sunday Roasts sound rather intriguing, they have a delicious sounding brunch menu, and their Dirty Buttery Mash sounds too good to miss.

Have you ever tried Haggis? What’s your favourite London restaurant?

Lifestyle: Notes to my Fellow Commuters

I’ve been doing my daily commute for just under three months now. It’s not a part of the day I particularly enjoy; I pretty much despise the tube, despite having a relatively ‘easy’ journey. But one thing that has made it bearable is the opportunity to people-watch – I’m such a nosy lady! Over the last month or so I’ve been jotting down humorous notes from my commute, purely because I couldn’t bear not to share them on here!

So, ladies and gents, mind the closing doors and welcome to the life of my commute…
 photo Daily Commute 4_zpsmidz0ks4.jpg photo Daily Commute 3_zpsl5ubpa9m.jpg

To the Lady with the Earphones

Please be so kind as to NOT run for the train again. For one, you clearly weren’t going to make that train. And two, if your earphone hadn’t gotten caught inside the train, with you on the platform, you wouldn’t have to continue running along the platform attached to the train. If that does happen, please be so kind as to detach your earphones from your phone. You know, the easier option. Rather than wait for someone to hit the emergency stop buttom.

You found your misfortune hilarious that morning. What you don’t seem to understand is that for all those people on that packed train, and the people waiting for the City-bound train behind it, you delayed us all for half an hour. So please, don’t run for the train again.

To the Man Reading an Erotic Novel

Just no. And if it makes 50 Shades look like a fairytale, no, no, no, no, no!

I admit I should probably stop glancing over people’s shoulder to see what they are doing (discreetly, I must add, and only on this particular occasion because I’d left my Kindle on the sofa at home). But what I don’t need to see are a few, ahem, naughty words. What I really don’t need hear after seeing this is your heavy breathing. Please leave it until you’re home.

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To The Tube Network (TFL I guess!)

I honestly don’t mind if there are severe delays, as long as I know about them. Being on the platform for 30 minutes with no tube and no explanation isn’t fun. Being stuck halfway to work, unable to go towards work, unable to go backwards to an alternative route, is even worse. If I know that the District Line isn’t going to get me to work on time, I have plenty of options – including one that gives me this view. Far nicer than a sweat armpit (joys of being short!), I’m sure you’d agree…

To The Tourists at The Barriers/Escalators/Doors

Please refrain from getting your map out and checking it whilst blocking the way for people who do know where they are going. Please don’t stand and have a conversation just outside the ticket barrier. I apologise if I bump into you, but if you stand directly in the way there often isn’t enough room to get around you at rush hour.

To The Teenagers on Halloween Weekend

It was 11.30am. It was cold. You were already drunk, very scantily clad (what’s wrong with a ghost costume?!). I appreciate I sound like a moaning minnie here, and actually I don’t mean to be. I’m just very impressed at their dedication to Halloween.

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To All Those Who Saw Me Struggle & Looked Away

One thing that has really surprised me has been the amount of guys, usually in their twenties/thirties, who will offer a seat to any females before sitting down themselves. Yes, feminists may be outraged, but I kind of like this old-fashioned chivalry.

Now, let me get one thing clear before I start this rant; I don’t expect to be given a seat. I don’t have a disability, I’m certainly not pregnant, there are many people who normally need a seat before I do. I will always offer my seat up if I feel someone needs it more.

But the other day I clearly could have done with a seat, or a hand, or just some extra space. My study materials had been delivered and I was carrying a very heavy (with weight printed on the side of the box), very awkwardly sized box. It was very difficult to hold, being bigger in circumference than my arms could reach. I managed to get a seat straight off and was unbelievably grateful. Then a heavily pregnant women got on. No-one offered her their seat, so I did. She saw the box on my lap and tried to say no. Still no-one offered her a seat. In the end, she took my seat. I have no problem about that, I don’t really have a problem that the other passengers saw me struggle to stand with said box and continued to ignore it. What I took objected to was the man, who saw me give up that seat, dart in and claim it when the pregnant lady left. Thanks mate.

To Cross-Word Man

There’s a guy I see almost every morning who sits and does the crossword in whatever newspaper he picks up each day. By the time he gets off the tube he invariably has finished it – utmost respect to this man from someone who has never finished a crossword yet.

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To The Bum-Squeezers

I’d read a couple of Rachel’s posts about sexual assault on the Tube before, but still had quite a naive attitude towards it. Since September, I’ve had my bum squeezed on no-less than three occasions. I’ve not managed to catch anyone at it yet (they’ll get an earful), but apparently this is acceptable behaviour.

This is one of the reasons why I prefer to get a seat. At least then no-one can grab my ass.

 photo Daily Commute 5_zpsfl9hmy4h.jpgAnd that is just the result of a few short months commuting from Putney to City. I’m sure they will be a lot more over the coming years, as a shorter commute is unlikely to ever be viable (because I like living on the outskirts – I get a seat!). I have to admit it’s nicer that my previous commute from last summer. And hey, at least these amusing moments lighten up the identical journey, day after day…

PS – all of the pictures within this post were shot on my weekday commute – with the exception of the Putney Bridge one. Because trust me, the platform is NEVER that empty on a weekday! And in the week between scheduling this and getting it live – there’s been a guy with a portable DVD player (I’d forgotten they existed!) alongside a stack of 10 DVDs, and the hilarious platform guy usually found in Victoria was working at Monument. He definitely brightened up my journey home!

Do you have a long commute? Any funny stories to tell?

Lifestyle: Playing Tourist in London

Playing tourist in what is now our home town felt a little strange at first; dashing around London sight-seeing. The day was born out of us not having a clue what to do – one of the weirdest things about finishing our LDR and moving in together is not making weekend plans in advance.

 photo Playing Tourist in London 11_zpsjpyqk6dw.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 2_zpsqbehmdkg.jpgI decided that I’ve never seen Big Ben close-up (and also thought I’d get a good Instagram shot, #lifeofablogger). Will wanted to go further down the Thames to take some snaps of the architecture for uni. Taking a riverboat tour was the perfect answer – and despite it being the first chilly day of Autumn, it was a good shout. I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t feel my hands by the time we got off the boat, and a steaming cup of tea was pretty much all I could think about. Moaning aside, I loved the tour we went on. It was the cheapest option we found from Westminster Pier (I’m still a student at heart!) and didn’t include a specific tour guide. What it did include, however, was boat staff who knew the interesting little titbits such as where scenes in Oliver Twist were filmed, and that the Spinx around Cleopatra’s Needle are actually the wrong way round from what was intended.

 photo Playing Tourist in London 13_zpsqyucwb7k.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 14_zpsnd8fesra.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 12_zpsmwlpkbt6.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 10_zpsuktddrbn.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 8_zpszcqsyg6v.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 7_zpsv9v0lrlz.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 6_zpsbieszkcc.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 5_zps2mqj8psk.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 4_zpsggzeoffk.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 9_zpspy3agve2.jpgOne thing I loved about taking a boat along the Thames was the different perspective I got of the city. It was so obvious how London is a mix of old and new, yet that’s something that’s totally overlooked when I’m wandering around on a daily basis. I couldn’t believe how traditional the buildings in the City were at the waterfront, compared to the modern Walkie Talkie and Cheesegrater. I could also see my own office – I wasn’t aware how tall the building was until I saw it from this perspective!

 photo Playing Tourist in London 18_zpsrxgsyu0k.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 20_zpsda3es6pt.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 19_zpsen3srmyc.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 17_zpsmw1ijlhb.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 16_zpshpr70r8w.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 15_zpszukwryii.jpgWe got the boat all the way to Greenwich, where we stopped for a quick picnic underneath our umbrella. I feel in love with the bit of Greenwich I saw, and have popped it high on the list for returning to on my next spare weekend (the food market looked insane!). I can imagine it’s pretty magical in the run-up to Christmas too…

 photo Playing Tourist in London 23_zpsfw6g13ce.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 28_zpskn4nzbd6.jpgOur tourist-ing continued the following weekend, with us heading to Camden for a spot of shopping and street-food eating. We decided to make the most of the unexpectedly warm and sunny day (seriously, it was NOT forecast, but greatly appreciated!) and walk along the canal from Kings Cross. This is undoubtedly one of my favourite walks in London, especially as it involves walking through the spot where W popped the question.

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Ice-cream Cookie Sandwich anyone…? Cheers @blutopicecream for my new addiction!

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

 photo Playing Tourist in London 27_zpstyzazpj1.jpgWe lunched on Korean Burritos (him) and Fried Chicken & Chips (me) – a decision I did come to regret an hour of so later as my stomach apparently doesn’t love SFC as much as I do. I’m gutted as it meant I couldn’t quite appreciate my Ice-Cream Sandwich as much as I wanted. Guess there’s an excuse to head back…!

I’ve loved playing tourist in London, sure the hoards of actual tourists are annoying (I got jammed against a wall at one point whilst a group were trying to get by, not a highlight of the weekend!), sure there are other European cities that are far prettier. But if definitely made me a bit more appreciative of London, and I’ve now got plenty of other spots on my bucket list to tick off. Kew Gardens is next (thanks Katy for that bit of London based wander-lust!)…

What’s your favourite spot in London?

Lifestyle: London Bucket List

We’ve lived in London for nearly three months (I know, I couldn’t quite believe it either!), and my “to-do” list is getting longer and longer. Disappointingly we’ve hardly ticked off anything, yet it grows at a seemingly exponential rate. There’s no rush to complete it (I have no plans to move out of London anytime soon, if anything I’m here to stay!) but I do have some bits I really want to try and do over the next few months.

 photo London Bucket List_zps0yvwb18w.jpgSome are perhaps a bit weirder than others. Rather more than a couple involve food. Some are big and fancy, others are small. Some may take longer to tick off.

    1. Go up the Shard. Even if just for cocktails.
    2. Visit a flower market. Think of the Instagram shots!
    3. Visit all the tube stations. This was inspired by my first trip to Mornington Crescent a few weeks back – it’s quite honestly is the strangest tube station I’ve visited! In an ideal geek world I’d take a selfie at each and put a film together with Jay Foreman backing it….
    4. Explore Greenwich. Looks like a lovely place – and the observatory is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.
    5. Wander around Portobello Market. Because who wouldn’t want to?!
    6. Eat brunch at Duck & Waffle. I’ve been dying to go for ageeesssssss.
    7. Buy and devour a Cronut. Though I’m waiting until the hype (and queues) die down a little.

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  • Go to Richmond Park in the frost and/or snow. Just imagine how pretty it would be!
  • Go on a stay-cation.
  • Eat a LOT of street food. I’ve finally visited KERB but there’s so many more vendors I want to try…

 

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  • Find my “London’s Best Burger.” I ate the 2015 winner at the beginning of October and now feel I need to do more research. Send over recommendations!
  • Visit Kew Gardens. I also really want to experience their Bee Hive!
  • Watch The Lion King. I’m so excited to finally tick this one off in December with my besties!
  • Fly over the city in a helicopter. A girl can dream!
  • Make use of the gorgeous streets for outfit photos.

 

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  • Eat at The Grain Store. We got engaged in Granary Square so it’s natural to try the nearest restaurant, right…?!
  • Explore more hidden areas. I love the canal walk between Kings Cross and Camden.
  • Have Afternoon Tea in a posh hotel. Because British.

 

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  • Go “metal-detecting” on the Thames Shoreline. We can see the river from the flat (it’s just 50 yards away!) and I’d love to give this a go!
  • Row along the Thames. I’ve always wanted to give rowing a go, and there’s so many rowing clubs nearby in Putney…this is my goal for summer 2017!

What’s on your bucket list? What would you love to do in London?

 

Lifestyle: Autumn Wanders in Richmond Park

I do love London, love working in the bright lights of the City. But I have discovered that I really, really miss wide open spaces, fields, woods, and long walks. One of my favourite things to do on a weekend is head out and explore, and there’s something so magical about doing so at this time of year; pulling on thick socks and boots, snuggling up in coats, donning scarves, hats, gloves. You can wander hand-in-hand without getting sweaty, you get a beautiful rosy glow to your complexion without spending 10 minutes at the mirror with blusher.

 photo Richmond Park October 2016 46_zpscco5gu7v.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 45_zpszvs9i14e.jpgLuckily our flat right now is perfectly located. 10 minutes stroll (across the Thames, I marvel every day at the beauty of my short walking commute) to the nearest Tube station which takes us both conveniently to where we need to be each morning. But best of all? It’s just a short drive to Richmond Park. In fact, it takes longer to drive across the park than it does for us to get there.

We headed over there a few weeks ago, back at the beginning of the month when the weather couldn’t quite decide between Summer or Autumn. I kept removing my jumper, putting it back on, then moaning it was too warm again. First world problems, right?!

 photo Richmond Park October 2016 40_zpshbhcw1tw.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 35_zpssiztpny3.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 34_zps26i1dom5.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 33_zpsfeqpbtz5.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 30_zpsljgmpaig.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 29_zpsgnce7j88.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 2_zpsmkytrt2v.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 12_zpsvvf5zdmb.jpgI used the opportunity to finally (finally!) play about with the manual settings on my camera. I’m still very much ‘playing’, with no real clue as to what I am doing. Whilst I wish differently, I don’t find anything too ‘creative’ comes particularly easily to me (give me some numbers any day!) but I don’t think I’ve done too badly here. Sure, there’s some over-exposure and a bit of blurriness, but on the whole not bad for a first attempt. Now to keep up the courage and not slip back into auto-mode…

 photo Richmond Park October 2016 37_zpslbjyyleh.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 36_zpsghfxejp2.jpgAs my parents had come down to visit, they kindly brought with them a huge picnic. Lots of goodies – quiche, picnic eggs (guilty pleasure!), sausage rolls, pate, baguette, cheeses…we were stuffed before we could even think about pudding! It did mean that we just had to go on a long walk, making the most of the beautiful parkland and fresh air… And the best bit about them visiting (the fact that we could keep the leftover picnic food was a close contender!) – they brought the dog! Having a dog was something I missed hugely whilst at university, but moving out properly has made it seem like a huge deal. I pretty much fall on the floor to play with every dog I meet (seriously, if anyone in SW has a dog they can lend me for a day, I’m yours!). So, so good to have doggy cuddles for a few hours.

 photo Richmond Park October 2016 32_zps5yrgdcaj.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 28_zpsf2g1fwph.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 27_zpsetm9xhvp.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 24_zpsyiz0ecfp.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 21_zpszidigzmz.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 20_zpsra2lrfws.jpgAlthough I’d visited Richmond Park at the height of summer last year, I think Autumn is where it is really at it’s most beautiful. The trees were just beginning to change when we visited, giving a teaser of what was to come. I only hope the leaves change colour just a bit earlier in two years, else our Autumn wedding is in danger of becoming a ‘late Summer’ wedding! I also couldn’t believe quite how close we got to the deer on this visit, even with an overexcited terrier (try as we might, he isn’t a fan of non-human/dog creatures, big or small!). The stags in particular were breathtaking, and definitely more than Instagram-worthy! Pretty much a perfect Autumnal afternoon…

Have you ever visited Richmond Park? Any recommendations for places to visit in London to get away from crowds?