Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Newbie's Guide To The Ministry Of Sound

Many of my friends are at the Tomorrowland festival this weekend which had a few of us feeling left out and sad! So Dash Berlin at the Ministry of Sound was the substitute for those left behind. 

For anyone who has'nt been to MOS before, here are a few tips:

1) The club opens at 10.30pm so go early if you want to avoid long queues. Things get busy quickly. You will definitely queue and it will suck. Don't be fooled by what you see on the street. That's just the first queue where your ID is checked. The second is a security check and the third, you actually go inside to buy tickets or exchange online tickets. (Online tickets get you in a faster street queue.)

2) There is a cloak room but for a quick exit, carry the bare essentials in a small cross body bag and don't bring a cardi/jacket if you can in summer. In winter, you have no choice. Use the cloak room and I mean it. I can't tell you how many idiots I've seen who are too cheap and they look (and probably feel) ridiculous dancing with a jacket on.

3) The clientele are mixed however most are in their twenties. You will see a few in their 40s. Ladies be aware The Loft and The 103 dancefoors are pick-up pits after 1 am. You can't dance for 2 minutes without some guy trying to be your "private dancer".

4) I can't stress this enough-bring quality earplugs. Like in all nightclubs, they are loud and no matter how much of a good time you're having, it's not worth hearing damage. The Box gets so loud, your heart rattles from the vibration. You will still hear more than enough with ear plugs but if you forget, ask the bar staff as they will give them to you for free (but they won't be as good as Mack's earplugs).

5) For non-drinkers the bar staff are happy to give you tap water if you ask for it. If the 103 bar is really busy, go to The Loft to get drinks.

6) For the ladies who want to dance, don't wear high heels. You will be in pain and the floor gets sticky/nasty in The Box. Wear dress sneakers or Cons.

So back to my night. The dance floor was packed by the time Dash Berlin came on. There was a constant procession of people trying to get closer to the stage. Or even more annoyingly, people would stop and stand with their backs in your face. It was like a sauna, powered by the body heat and sweat from hundreds of people. 

There was no room to move so I danced behind the huge speakers. A guy helped me get on top of them so I could take pics (and risk tinnitus). It's a painful drop if you lose your footing, although you get an unobscured view and breathing space!

I got off to say goodbye to my friends before leaving. It was sweet the same guy helped me back onto the floor. 

It was my first cab from MOS and it was a pleasant trip home. I recognised my driver was Lithuanian (a skill learnt from flat sharing) and we chatted as we drove through  central London. We went over Westminster bridge, past Big Ben and there were no pedestrians around. It was unusually tranquil for a big city. 

We drove past Buckingham Palace where I hadn't been back to since I was a tourist five years ago. To see it as a Londoner without anyone in sight felt like a stroll in the neighbourhood.

As we pulled into my street, I saw the sun was coming up just like three weeks ago when I was in Croatia for UMF.

I got to bed and it felt like I had woken from a good dream. That's how quickly the night went. Going to MOS is a sensory experience. A night of dancing, chaos and going out of the ordinary.

Casino Night And Burlesque Show

My friend Kim bought a whopping good voucher at the Hippodrome Casino. The casino is in a grand historical building which opened recently. Its a welcomed change from the dodgy gaming parlours of Leicester Square.

Our deal was a cocktail on arrival, burlesque show in the Matcham Room, a three course meal and a £5 gaming chip for only £17 each. I was expecting the food to be average at best however for what we paid, it was an absolute steal. 

Kim booked us the front row table right next to the stage. I had a strawberry cocktail, mackerel ceviche, a chicken breast dish which was cooked to perfection and a chocolate tart. The quality of the food was amazing.

I would have finished my main but by intermission, feathers, confetti and 
the filling of an egg mayo sandwich was sprayed from the stage. (The latter was from a performer's mouth.)

The show however was entertaining and funny with loads of audience interaction. It was much better than the previous burlesque show I'd seen at Proud Camden.  

There were lots of cool tricks and even fire was involved (not only from the hands, think of other body parts!)

After the show we hit the gaming floor. They gave us promotional chips which meant you had to play an even bet and can't redeem them for money. Kim played our chips on roulette and managed to win us £5! Whoo hoo.

Best night with a gal pal who I now affectionally call her "Casino Kim".

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Walk In The Twilight

When I was a kid, Mum would make us go for walks and I would always complain as we'd rather watch TV. (Mind you, I grew up in the roughest part of town.)

It was a balmy evening and since I finished dinner, the logical thing to do next, it seemed , was to enjoy the remains of daylight outside. 

My walk started with me running my hand along the lavender flowers outside my building.  They are growing like crazy into a hedgerow of purple. Every plume stretches towards the footpath imparting a lingering lavender scent as you pass. 

It was the time of day when the neighbourhood really comes alive. Kitchens and living rooms are lit with an inviting glow. I can't help but look inside to see people watching TV. Or be envious of the designer homes with no sign of residents except that lights were on and the windows are open.

In Belsize Village, the street benches were occupied with romantics and gal pals. The restaurants had moved their tables onto the footpaths for alfresco dining. 

I strolled past opulent and peaceful streets and imagined that if I was taking this walk with Mum now, I'd hold her hand in this reverie.

The full moon was luminous with a peach hue. I popped into to the grocery store and there was a forlorn dog sitting in the middle of the entrance waiting for his owner.

My favourite icy poles were on sale so I indulged. I have to admit, that topped off my night!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Days In London

It's warm this week and I'm loving it. For the first time this year I had alfresco drinks after work in my neighbourhood. We passed summer solstice last month so the race is on to enjoy those long summer nights. 

The weekend starts with Latino Fusion class after work. I love dancing and I can honestly say it's changed my life since I started classes. This sounds cheesy but it's true, dancing is not a workout-it's an expression of my soul!

Although I was tempted to join a few festivals in London, I stayed in my area. The weather was warm and sunny. I did a bit of shopping and went to Dirty Burger in Kentish Town. Their burgers are the kind you can easily stuff your face with because they are fist sized. The buns are soft and glossy from being steamed under a cloche. 

On Sunday I impulsively decided it was time for cider at The Hollybush. It was the right weather for it! My girlfriend and I sat outside in the quaintest neighbourhood of Hampstead enjoying our drinks.

Is it me or even these ciders look happy? 

In the late afternoon, I took a nap in my garden under the trees. It was bliss!

Sunning It Up In Split

I love Croatia. It's wonderfully ancient in parts, the people are kindly and the weather is hot. As we flew into Split, I saw deep azure sea and crystal blue shorelines. I was so glad to be back!

Split is a city by the Adriatic and sun soaked mountains. Diocletian's Palace of the Romans is here and it's the gateway to the islands of Hvar. Around the palace are white stone buildings and pavements. I felt like we had stepped back in time when we arrived. The place is so old but so beautiful. 

Our flat is tucked away from the historical square and bell tower. We stayed above two lively bars which were open day and night.

The little barber shop outside our flat. I like how there are stools outside for catching a breeze and people watching. 

The footpaths are buffed from centuries of foot traffic. So shiny and smooth, I would walk barefoot on them.

The world's most complete remains of a Roman palace. Would the Romans have guessed their palace would be a tourist hotspot?

Bacvice beach is 15 mins walk from our flat. The water is shallow and warm for us to spontaneously swim in our clothes at night. At least after a few drinks! My friends went back to the beach in the day but there was a bit of portside pollution. (I had spent most that day sleeping with the air con.)

The next day I went to another beach 15 minutes bus ride away from the center. (Take the number 15 bus and get off when you see a beach side car park.) I tried googling for the name of this beach but there's no name on the map.

Music was pumping from the beach bars like in Ibiza and there are free sun loungers and umbrellas. Drinks are cheap and nothing beats sipping an ice cold O┼żujsko while sunbathing. The water is so clear, I watched little fishies swimming around me.

The pebbles on the beach are uncomfortable. So grateful for the sun lounger! It was wildly painful walking out of the water.

Basking in hot skies and a cool breeze. Paradise!

I discovered the Croatian food of burek. It's a filo pastry filled with cheese or meat with caramelised onions. So tasty and flakey. I had one almost everyday from St Burek, a shop that sells the two kinds of burek and some small pastries. A serve of burek is 12 HRK, which is less than 1.40 GBP. Combined with a 15 HRK salad from a pizzeria it was a cheap but good meal! 

Of course Croatia is not without its amazing fresh seafood.

The promenade of Split. Tourists sit under the palm trees and watch the ferries. From here I took a long walk out to the nature reserve at the western peninsula of Split. 

It's hilly but the views of the city are worth it. I walked back to town, through a labyrinth of stone houses. I got to see how the Croatians live away from the tourists. I peeked over their walls to see gardens, restaurants and a bakery hidden amongst the houses. 

I did'nt have the chance to go to any of the islands as I ran out of time. Sadly I returned to London but vowed that it will not be too long before I'm back in Croatia.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Ultra Music Festival - Split Croatia

The small city of Split is worthy of a tourist destination but with yatch week and the Ultra Music Festival, young travellers come rolling in droves. Like the migration of Glastonbury but instead of a field, tens of thousands arrive into Split, come plane, train or boat.

In the old town, you would be hard pressed to see a local person. Just about everyone has a backpack or a suitcase and a lost look on their faces.

There are all types of tourists. I even saw two scruffy guys holding a sign saying: "Couch surf please. For a big high five."

The Ultra Music festival is the first in Europe of atleast 60,000 attendees. I met people who had come from Miami and Mexico for the festival. Amongst the crowd were flags of many nations, lots from Australia.

We got in at 9pm and danced until 5am. The atmosphere was euphoric. Fireworks went off in Avicii's set and the sun rose by the closing of Nicky Romero.

The next night was even better. It helped that we didn't go in until closer to midnight. I was pretty tired from the previous nights of partying and planned to leave after Armin Van Burdin's 2 hour set. But when the following and closing set of Hardwell started, I couldn't. He was amazing! And again we danced until the sun rose.

What an amazing festival. Needless to say I got plenty of solid sleep after!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Going To The Polo

My only previous experience with polo was from the movie Pretty Woman. So you can imagine what I had to draw upon when planning for a day at the polo. I had visions divoting among the posh people.. 

The HAM Polo Club is close to Richmond and is the last surviving club in London. Matches are open to the public (for a £5 entry fee) so you don't have to be a member to enjoy a day at the polo.

We packed a picnic and watched these beautiful, immaculately presented horses race up and down the field. The mighty whacks of mallets, the thunderous rumble of horses' feet and the yelling from the players makes polo a great spectator sport. A few players fell off but no horses were injured, thank goodness. 

The club is beautiful and we had cracking good weather.

We brought so much delicious food. It felt like we were in the countryside even though we were only 8 miles out of the center of London.

At half time, spectators were invited onto the field to divot. That's the tradition of pushing the uplifted turf back into the holes in the ground. It's a socialising activity and we had fun doing it, meeting a few of the players and taking photos, of course. 

A great day for sport in London as the Henley Royal Regatta and Wimbledon was also on. What a fabulous Sunday!

Mayfair Lavender Farm Festival

I've whimsically dreamed of frolicking through fields of lavender. Having missed that chance, only getting as far as Avignon last year (near Aix En Provence), I went to a lavendar farm closer to home.

It was an opening festival to the season and the flowers are blooming after a late start. Mayfair Lavender farm is a bit of a trek if you don't have your own transport. We took a train to East Croydon and then a 40 min bus ride. 

It was my first real summery day of the year. The sky was clear and the temperature soared to 27 degrees. I wore a dress without bringing a cardigan with me. I even dusted off my sandals from the shoe rack (not joking here). The anticipation of hot weather had paid off! 

Going to a lavender farm was a perfect excuse to get out of the London grind. Our bus drove through tiny towns. We realised we had arrived when all we could see was purple. 

The air was scented from the moment we arrived.

Summer in the UK. It happened! 

The effects of lavender had us jumping for joy. (Photo care of my galpals, the Phua sisters!)

Lavender lemonade to cool down from photo taking in the field. I also ate lavender icecream and scones but the flavour was too subtle. 

Lots of lavender products and freshly picked bunches on sale.

Not Aix En Provence but just as pretty!