Of all of the London landmarks, the London Eye seems to be one of the most visitor-friendly. Unlike Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and all of the others, the London Eye is interactive, provides views of the rest of London, feels like an amusement park ride and looks damn impressive. Perhaps that’s why they charge you so much to go on the thing. Due to the price, my busy schedule and the fact that I was still hoping my parents would come visit and it would be a fun family activity, I had never actually ridden the Eye in the year and a half I’ve been in London. Yet despite the fact that I was holding out for a family outing, I was certainly not going to turn down the opportunity to take a champagne night flight on the London Eye if the opportunity presented itself.
Which, conveniently, the opportunity did last week. The evening before my epic Karma Kab ride, I, along with my good friend and coworker Alice, made our way to the South Bank to join a small group of bloggers on the flight. Alice had been on the Eye before when she was younger but during the day. I was the only one of the group who had never ridden it before.
We were first treated to a short 3D video teaser of the ride itself in the movie theatre. While there were no other riders around (a welcome change from the carnage of queues that usually extends along the South Bank for the Eye) this video seemed to be more of a pit stop for the families waiting for their turn rather than its own feature event. Still, it was an impressive showcase and include shots of the fireworks over the Eye on New Year’s.
Then it was up to the Eye itself for the 40 minute ride. We were accompanied by an attendant whose job was to serve us champagne, a nice perk (and available on all regular flights – for an added price). We were also given an aerial map of London to help us find the key landmarks from above. Although it was dark, it was still an amazing way to see the city, and we even picked out some interesting seasonal landmarks, such as the Ferris Wheel in Hyde Park (part of the Winter Wonderland event) and the Oxford Street Lights.
Overall it was an incredible experience and I’d love to go again during the day – I’m sure it’d be a totally different type of view. Although the ride is relatively short, it’s also an incredible way to get a sense of London and see a lot of the city in one go. Fortunately for my parents, sounds like I’m still happy to let them take me on the Eye when they come visit; just so long as we go for the champagne flight.
As an American, travelling abroad this time of year can be an interesting experience. It sounds silly but sometimes I honestly forget that Thanksgiving is unique to my native homeland. I mean, Christmas with its rampant commercialism seems to better typify American-ness, much moreso than a day about giving thanks for the amazing things in our lives. So, whether it’s homesickness, forgetfulness or just the desire to share one of the best holidays of the year, I’ve found that both myself and other Americans tend to force Thanksgiving, figuratively and literally, down the throats of their fellow abroadees.
This year, my Thanksgiving took place the Saturday after the traditional Thursday and a friend of mine from Colby who also happens to be in London had invited me over to celebrate. Although he wasn’t American himself (in fact originally from Kenya) four years at an American university had instilled in him the need for turkey, potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie once a year. I wasn’t particularly surprised when he called the night before to ask if I’d be willing to come by and help him cook the meal for the rest of the guests and, with no other plans and excited to take on the challenge of cooking a 20lb bird, I agreed.
Little did I know that this meant that I would be, in fact, cooking the entire meal myself – and I arrived to find my friend looking expectantly to me to make the meal appear. The flat, a Depford bachelor pad with a view of Greenwich and Canary Wharf was gorgeous however I was a bit overwhelmed by the cooking before me when I realised the building was stocked with a bag of potatoes, a giant turkey, and about four dozen bottles of various alcohols and mixers. I hastily scribbled up a list and sent my friend to the store, leaving me alone in the flat to attack the bird and prepare the pie (the ingredients for which I had brought myself, correctly assuming that ground cloves might be mistaken for some sort of illegal supplement rather than the necessary spice).
Six hours and a surprisingly straightforward cooking routine later, I proudly produced a (sadly dry) turkey, gravy, stuffing, green beans, broccoli, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie for the seven of us who gathered for dinner. In the true spirit of the holiday, we consumed almost all of it – including a fair number of the bottles of wine.
I have so much to give thanks for this year; the fact that I am happy, healthy and safe in an amazing part of the world, working in a job I love, communicating my family regularly, surrounded by a growing international contingent of friends and with a bright future ahead. All of that and, of course, the fact that I successfully managed to produce a full Thanksgiving dinner that everyone enjoyed.
I think I’m doing pretty well on the karma front. I managed some charitable giving this year, I attended the International Buddhist Film Festival, I’ve baked a few cakes and pies for the office… But what really set me over the top on my quest for enlightenment was my one-of-a-kind commute yesterday. Cobra Beer – the only beer one would conceivably drink along with their traditional British curries – is celebrating National Curry Week by hiring a small army of Karma Kabs to shuffle shmucks with an hour+ commute (like me!) around London.
How to describe a Karma Kab? The most effective analogy I’ve come up with is the following: think back to that horrendous early 2009 film with Mike Meyers, Love Guru. Now, imagine a cab that looks exactly like that film. This was the thoroughly pimped ride that appeared on my doorstep Thursday to take me (and the karma-inducing pumpkin pies I had made for the office) into work.
Along with simply giving some free rides for National Curry Week, the Cobra team had also done some surveys to discover, among other things, one in five Brits name curry as their favourite food. It’s almost like pizza in the States as the default takeout food.
During my incense-heavy ride, I was also presented with a bag full of goodies to make my own, handmade curries, some recipes and, of course, a range of Cobra beer.
So, feeling enlightened (or was that ‘light-headed’ from the incense in my Karma Kab), and bearing pies, beer and curry, I arrived at Spoonfed after a significantly less painful commute than normal. Be good and good things will come, and if good karma equals curry, beer and Karma Kabs, I’m going to camp out under a Bodhi tree. Have a great National Curry Week!
I am currently sitting on the London underground writing this – a marvel of technology made possible by my fabulous new Blackberry (Crackberry in every sense of the tongue-in-cheek nickname). After an embarrassingly lengthy delay since my last update, it seemed like a good idea to give this a go.
The list of things I’ve wanted to write about but just haven’t had time is growing ridiculously quickly so I must face the sad but realistic truth that I probably won’t get to them. So, without further ado, here are some of the things, in no particular order, I’ve been up to in London this month.
1. BBC Good Food Show – I attended this show last year and wrote about a number of vendors I liked. This year it has been re branded MasterChef Live and had, it seemed, fewer vendors, fewer people, and fewer freebies. While I came across a couple of my favourite stalls from last year, for the most part it seemed more like an exhibition of how the recession hit the food industry, rather than a celebration of local food and chefs.
2. Visitors – A good friend of my sister, who is studying in Paris, came to stay with me in London for a few days, giving me a chance to further perfect my whirlwind tour of the city. An addition she requested, although certainly not my choice as a Fulham FC local, was a stop at the famous Chelsea Football Club stadium.
3. Ping Pong – Ping Pong is a dim sum restaurant that has recently popped up on my radar for a number of reasons but I got a chance to visit with the Silicon Stilettos event and while there won a £50 voucher for a free dinner so got to return for the full service. Good on them, I’ll definitely be back – delicious!
4. Oxford Street Lights – I know I already wrote about this one but apparently using pictures from last year’s event wasn’t appreciated ;-). I took some pics of this year’s display so expect some photos here soon.
5. Enternships and Global Entrepreneur Week – Enternships is a great little company here in London that matches small startups with entrepreneurial and driven interns. For their launch party, and also to celebrate Global Entrepreneur Week (that’s this week!) they had a massive party at the famous London restaurant Floridita. The tech scene was out in force and it was great to see some of the people I’ve been missing lately by not having time to attend the tech functions around the city.
6. Lucky Voice Launch – In the past I wrote about the Kensington Roof Gardens, a posh club on the roof of a Kensington building. Last week I headed skyward again to celebrate the launch of Lucky Voice Karaoke’s new pop up parties, a karaoke party that comes to you. It’s a great idea but I’m rather hoping, for the sake of everyone else, they stay away from me! 😉
7. Tequila Tex-Mex – in my quest for decent London Mexican food, some friends and I decided to try Tequila Tex-Mex in Notting Hill. Mixed bag, but definitely a vast improvement on the disastorous Navajo Joe’s.
8. Meetings, meetings, meetings! – Recently my meetings for Spoonfed have been taking me all over the city and I’ve been learning about some great London clubs, theatres, agencies and areas. By far my favourite has been with the Lee Valley Park team in Walthamstow in East London where I got to learn about their Park by taking a walk through their nature reserve, visit their 50 horse riding barn and go ice skating in their rink. !est meeting ever!
9. Carnaby Street – one of the most famous shopping areas in London, Carnaby Street was having an open house and my friend and I decided to go check it out. Despite rubbish weather, it was fun to see the lights, Christmas displays, sales and music there to help celebrate the event. To wrap it all up, we had a delicious Indian food dinner, taking advantage of the special deals they were offering for diners that night. Yum :-).
10. Spoonfed – unsurprisingly Spoonfed is of course my main focus and it has been such an exciting last few weeks! Our team is growing, our office is happy and our growth is unbelievable. I’ll have a lot of exciting Spoonfed news to share over the next few weeks, and can’t believe how quickly this year has flown!
And so, with that quite high level recap of some of the things I can remember, I feel like I’m doing a slightly better job of documenting my London November. And what perfect timing… Here my tube stop :-).
This weekend I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather on Saturday, firstly because it was possibly one of few remaining nice days we’ll get this year and secondly because it had been a while since I had done a long London walk. From the Top Floor Flat, it’s easy to get just about anywhere in London, it just takes a bit of time if you do it on foot. Up for a lengthy stroll, I started towards the centre of the city, walking through the gloriously autumnal Hyde Park and onto Oxford Street.
Oxford Street is the best known place for high street shopping, and though it’s not the home of the famous Carnaby Street (around the corner), Harrods (south west in Knightsbridge) or Fortnum and Masons (close enough but technically in Piccadilly), just about every major department store can be found somewhere along the streets; and it’s also home to the incredible Selfridges – which is so much more than a department store with its high street fashion, designer accessories, toys, electronics… even musical instruments.
Although I was lured into the out-of-my-price-range Selfridges by the ornate window displays, I had really made my way to Oxford Street with the intention of seeing the famous Oxford Street Christmas Lights. Every year, the entire street is decked out in incredibly ornate lighting displays which twinkle overhead while thousands of visitors gape upwards from street level (thus blocking annoyed shoppers behind them). The turning on of the lights is a annual affair, during which some minor celebrity talks about Christmas, the corporate sponsor, and flips the lights on.
This year’s lights were absolutely fantastic; and though it still feels too early by a good few weeks to start thinking about Christmas, it did go some way into getting me into the holiday spirit. Now if only there weren’t so much temptation in the form of handbags only metres away from the lights it would be an absolutely perfect outing!