The Beautiful Colours of Istanbul

Hubby and I have been reminiscing over the beautiful things we saw in Istanbul (a sign that we need a new holiday), and it made me think that there’s so much of the countries and cities I have been to which have so many hidden, beautiful parts. There’s a lot of iconic landmarks like the Haga Sofia and Blue Mosque, the Basicilica Cisterns and Topkapi Palace which are of course, a must-visit. But there’s hundreds of other things you can find when you take yourself off the beaten tourist track. One of my favourite memories is walking through winding alleys, past blocks of flats with clothes-lines stretched across the street above us, and bridges and stairs until we found some beautiful rainbow stairs. It was the fact that along the way we saw a lot of beautiful places, which felt so much more real than the tourist spots – grafitti supporting Palestine, the ordinary public on their way to the markets, street-sellers selling cheap handbag replicas and lots of beautiful flowers, buildings and decor.

So here are my top 9 favourite, most colourful photos, each with an accompanying colourful memory. There’s a story behind each photo so make sure you hover over each square to read it!

 

Bright Lights at Dalloway’s Terrace

My friends and I managed to get a table at the constantly-booked Dalloway’s Terrace restaurant, which took us about a month to get, but was worth it for the visual experience and the ambience. The restaurant is known for it’s pretty decor and looks lovely at night – which was the first thing my friends and I noticed as soon as we got to the restaurant.

The decor which was up was mainly lights and lanterns, painted pine-cones and white trees and rushes, which made for a very intimate feel to the restaurant. The seating is centred around the trees and the lights and it feels pretty surreal to sit in the middle of it because it feels a little like being in a fairy-like enchanted woods (without the cold, there were heaters everywhere!)

20170113_194419

The food itself is a little limited in terms of halal, but we were re-assured that the chicken in this restaurant is halal. There is a mix of cuisine, with mainly English and a dash of Meditarranean and Asian. We all opted for some fondues and also chose a meal each as well – I picked a miso cod on a bed of quinoa, with spinach leaves in cream (and we also got chips for everyone to share, becuase why not!)

20170113_191210

My friends also picked a mix of food – one went for a mixed sea-grill, another went for bruschetta, while my other friend was in the mood for dessert and went for fruit-tarts and a hot chocolate! The food was presented quite nicely, and I personally liked the dish I picked – it was tender, juicy and had a good mix of sweet and savoury. I think our favourite thing was the fondues though – we ordered a cheese one with fruit, and another white chocolate fondue with strawberry which really completed the night (not to mention fighting over and stealing each other’s fruit from the fondue pot!)

The bright lights have been taken down from Dalloway’s Terrace now (which will be back at the end of the year at Christmas time) but it’s still worth a visit when the restaurant re-opens in May with their springy green decor. I really enjoyed myself at this restaurant and would love to try afternoon tea in the summer at this place – I’m sure it will be just as fun an experience!

Have you been to this restaurant? What dish did you like best?

Night Lights Ambience

One of my favourite things about winter (when Im not shivering from the minus-degree temperatures and binge-eating seasonal chocolates) is to look for all the beautiful lights which have been installed around the city. Because it gets dark so quickly (at the moment, the sun has been setting at 4pm) it’s easy to explore all the lights in the area and see how lovely they look.

Unfortunately, I’m sure many of you photographers will know that the bane of taking photos when going out are low-light photograph – it’s difficult to get a decent picture without it being too grainy or blurry! Here’s one my husband took of me after dinner, where we explored the O2 arena a few weeks ago and strolled around. The best thing about this was the night-time atmosphere, there were plenty of tourists and lots of shops and restaurants open, which really created a pleasant buzz.

One of the things I am intending to do this year is to learn when to relax and enjoy the moment – I’m one of those freaks who is always simultaneously Snapchatting, Instagramming, Whatsapping and using a DSLR to capture a beautiful sight. Thankfully my husband is used to it, but it’s something I’m trying to cut down on! Let’s see how it goes this year – quality photos over quantity!

aaa

 

The Cake & Bake Show London 2016

I’m a big fan of crafts and creativity, whether it’s clever decor, home DIY or yummy masterpieces of baking, chocolatiers and beautiful treats (and especially these things because it means I get to eat them).

My sister, niece and I recently went to the Cake and Bake Show last weekend, which was huge fun for us as we all love seeing different ideas and creative pieces, and of course we all love stuffing our faces with cake. We knew it would be a good show when we were greeted with this huge BFG sculpture at the entrance – who doesn’t love Roald Dahl, fantasy and cake mixed together?

dsc_4681

We saw a huge range of cakes, cupcakes, biscuits cakepops, meringues and many more, plus lots of professional baking and cooking tools, which was serious inspiration heaven, whether you’re a baker or not.

Below are some of the professional cakes we saw, as well as many of the ones on display we loved – it’s amazing how many ideas there were.

(Be warned, my sister and I took hundreds of pictures, I’ve tried to cut down how many I’ve posted below but there were just too many we loved and which I didn’t to keep out!)

Professional cakes
This was a display of professional companies advertising their services and showcasing their cake and biscuit skills. I loved that some of these were set up like wedding dessert tables, where the treats all match each other and have a theme. Serious luxury here!

dsc_4829

Exhibitor cakes
These were cakes and cupcakes on display by vendors selling tools for baking, so a lot of these were on display to show how the tools could be used to make something beautiful. Again, I had a lot of favourites with these as I never realised how many ways of decorating and creating baked goods there were, but I did love the beautiful pieces and colours. I guess my most favourite is the first picture below – the Alice in Wonderland theme cake, which really appealed to my love of all things Wonderland!

dsc_4793

Competition cakes
There was a long line to see this, but we just had to line up to see these. The theme for the cakes in the competition was ‘Myths, Legends and Fantasy’, which I just loved because it’s always been one of my favourite themes in just about everything (film, books, games…!)
It was amazing to see how this was interpreted, with a range of myths and stories from across culture (not to mention media, like the Neverending Story!).

I was going to only post a few of these, but then opted to show all of the entries because I thought each baker had something beautiful in each piece – I wouldn’t know which one to choose as the winner!

dsc_5113

Quirky Bookstores & Libraries: Sokol Boosktore in Chelsea

I have always loved looking for quirky buildings which add a little character to London – and Sokol Bookshop does just that. This is a bright red bookshop I found while wandering past in Chelsea which looks more like a giant, old-school Toy Store, adding a splash of colour to the area. Interestingly enough, this bookshop specialises in medieval texts and manuscipts, which I saw a glimpse of in the window display.

Is it me, or does this book-store seem like something found in the middle of a traditional European village?

Eid-al-Fitr 2016/1437

We had a fab Eid this last few days, which was spent with the close family – great food and good company!

I didn’t get to take too many pictures of the day as I didn’t bring my camera, but I did take a few on my mobile (so apologies for grainy quality!) but thanks to my sister Everyphototunity for sending her shots of the day!

IMG_7368

Every year we always take Eid as a great opportunity to put on mehndi on our hands the night before Eid, which looked great on my sister and on the nieces. I wanted to put some on myself but was too tired to by the end of the night – but there’s always next Eid!

IMG_7356

A little snap of our outfits – Eid always gives us a chance to channel the fashion bugs in us, and we all looked pretty colourful together on the day; I loved that there were different styles and colours while looked fab together. I think the toddlers in the family probably out-dressed us all in mini outfits from Pakistan, I wish I had taken a picture of their dresses with matching embroidery!

IMG_7399

And of course Eid wouldn’t be Eid without the scrumptious food, which was cooked by my eldest sister, and later by my aunt. We were all pretty stuffed by the end of the day (which is why I don’t have a lot of food pictures – we were all busy stuffing our faces.) It was also really nice to spend lunch and dinner with all of the family, after a month of quiet iftars between myself and my husband!

And of course, after the main course, we finished off with amazing chocolate cupcakes from my talented baker sister, as well sweet-dishes like rice-pudding and mithai for everyone.

IMG_7392

My sister knows we all have a sweet-tooth, and gifted us all a sweet-tub (adults and children!) to enjoy, which were a mix of chocolate and halal sweets, prettily decorated.

IMG_7369

There were also plenty of presents and chocolate for everyone (including a 1kg slab of Dairy Milk given to my husband by my sister, which I am now ‘looking after’ for him!). I remember when we were kids, my parents used to make visits to several friends houses within the day, and still cook a 3 course meal and have every extended relative visit the house – it was hectic and manic but fun because of all the family friends and cousins we would see. These days as we get older, our Eids tend to be a little more chilled out, and we spend our Eids with close family and the kids (and see our friends later on in the week!), which makes Eid more intimate and easier for some of us. It’s also always a treat to see how much the little children enjoy Eid – it’s one of our few religious holidays which really mean something to us, and it’s great to see this celebrated across the world by all generations and in such beautiful ways.

We spent about 3 days celebrating Eid (before the inevitable return to work, although my work colleagues and I are still having Eid samosas on Monday!), and it was a really nice way to end a blessed Ramadan month.

 

Afternoon Tea at the Sky Bar

It’s been a while since I’ve had a proper afternoon tea, so when my friends suggested a tea at lunchtime in the middle of work today, I didn’t resist for a moment. We’re lucky enough to work locally to Westfield Stratford in east London, which has a variety of restaurants and shops for us to indulge in every now and then (not everyday otherwise we’d all be bankrupt!)

So off we skiddled along to Sky Bar, which I never knew existed until I walked in, a beautiful balcony restaurant overlooking the random skyscrapers, train stations and restaurants of east London while having a lovely tea. The best part about this is that there was a 50% off deal going on as well, so it was cheap and guilt-less indulgence too!

20160527_124036

I always love beautiful decor when visiting a new restaurant, and this place fit tickled my imagination nicely – a huge ceiling with cool wooden floors and metal decoration, beautiful lanterns and quirky paintings at the entrance.

Onto the good stuff, the food – I think the picture below sums up how pretty this tea was. I wasn’t expecting a lot for what we paid, and was pleasantly surprised by how nicely put together everything was. Teapots with fresh roses, jugs of tea and milk, plates of scones, jams, sandwiches and tea, lemonade water (for people like me who aren’t tea drinkers!) and beautifully made desserts.

Snapchat-5757518677770121042

We loved how well presented each plate of food was – between three of us we couldn’t finish this three-tier of sandwiches and cakes, and we had great fun swapping different flavoured macarons and cupcakes (by swapping, ‘sampling’ each other’s cakes!). My husband always says having afternoon tea is a bit of a girly thing, and that there are never enough sandwiches for his liking – personally I think afternoon tea is for everyone but I did love how girly and vintage-themed the flowers and crockery were. I also loved that there was a good mix of food for everyone, lemon cake, brownies, rich cupcakes, macarons, scones and three different fillings of sandwiches.

20160527_132500

I also love how full the table looked by the time all of the food arrive – I never like paying a lot of money for an afternoon tea experience which makes you feel as if you didn’t really get much. Half of the tea can sometimes be the visual experience and the beautiful decor to match beautiful food, which in this case certainly worked well together. My favourite thing was a little cute case with a single macaron with an ‘eat me’ label on it! Sadly enough I wasn’t allowed to take the little case home (I did eat the macaron inside though, it was an almond-flavoured one), but it did give me ideas for future tea parties…!

20160527_131056

All in all this was a lovely afternoon (even if we did have to go back to work after a long lunch!) and a perfect way to end the working week, and begin the bank holiday weekend!

Beautiful Bergen – Part 2

While staying in Bergen we managed to see quite a lot of sites in the few days that we stayed there, and tried to make the most of the long days and various attractions. One of the things which really struck my husband and myself was how well-spoken the Norwegian citizens are, and also how healthy and fit they seem – we spoke to several inhabitants who told us about regular walks up and down the mountain, the beautiful fresh air and various fresh fish they had for meals which was caught by the wharf.

There’s quite a few things which stood out for me in Bergen, so I’ll list some of my favourite below – let me know what you think of these!

Bergenhus Fortress, Rosenkrantz Tower & Haakon’s Hall
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing in Bergen was the historical sites, which were medieval buildings which go back as far as the 13th century. Begenhus Fortress is mainly the hall (Haakon’s Hall) and the Rosenkrant Tower (which is an old keep which used to have dungeons), which ares apparently a throwback to the Viking days, although the Hall was properly used for weddings and feasts from the 13th century. We didn’t get to see inside the Hall because we arrived too late, but we did get to wander around the grounds which we loved (and you can see the inside of the Hall here), where there were plenty of old structures, statues and large walkways to explore.

haakon hall (2)

Statues
There are several statues around the city of Bergen, which can be found in various spots, some of which are a commentary on society, with a certain message from the artist. The most memorable one was this hidden away, nameless statue of a homeless person below, which is apparently the most photographed statue in the city – it is meant to make the viewer think about why it is there and what it means. There are also several statue tributes to Norwegian historical figures – generals, presidents and well-loved figures whose images are around the city with plaques and scripts. There was one which always made me jump every time I saw it, because I kept thinking it was a real person – it was a statue of a young girl (below) at the corner of a doorway to a McDonalds restaurant – it catches your attention from the corner of your eye and makes you think there is someone standing there waiting for a friend!

statue (1)

The Bookcafe
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love quirky libraries and bookshops – I make it a point to look out for beautiful bookstores while abroad and haven’t been disappointed yet! It took me a while to find a pretty bookstore like this one, as I saw a few scattered in different areas but some were shut, and the others were not very memorable. I found this one the day before we left Bergen, with beautiful decoration, hanging books, scripts on walls and seating inside which showed it was a cafe for people to read and relax.

library (1)

 

Town square
I’ve already written about the town square, which is surrounded by colourful hotels and restaurants, and further along the high street you come to the more modern part of the street, which is a street lined with designer shops, and has a giant water-feature with a sort of stone obelisk in the middle, with carvings and statues on it. I loved the carvings along the stone faces of this landmark, it seems to show the story of settlers and Viking boats travelling to new places, as well as various religious pictures which seem to be a big feature with Norwegian history. Similarly, the statues were all dressed in different eras to reflect the different centuries, which looked great.

Anne Madam
One of the biggest problems my husband and I found was the expense of the food – a lot of the normal restaurants ended up costing around £30-40 per person for a normal meal, and even the usual burger-chains like Burger King and McDonalds were pricier than we expected – more than they cost in the UK! Luckily, we managed to find a new restaurant which had opened a few days after our arrival, and which was offering traditional Norwegian food at a discounted price. The traditional food in Bergen is mainly various types of fish, since it is a fishing town, so naturally we wanted to try some, and managed to get some at Anne Madame, which is in the heart of the city opposite the wharf. This plate is a traditional hake and potato pieces which were given with a light tartar sauce and coleslaw, and which was delicious – we loved it enough to come back here again before we left!

ann madam (3)

Things to look out for
We went to Bergen in the first week of May, which is  one of the warmest months to visit, and the start of the tourist season – so there is plenty of things happening for tourists to see. We were lucky enough to see a drummer’s parade going through the town (I love the sound of loud drums, it always makes me want to dance!), and found plenty of quirky shops like a moose shop (below), a troll shop (the trolls are not the cute 90s kind but uglier ones!) and shops with beautiful hand-crafted goods and clothes. We also saw a lot of beautiful buildings, mixed against a backdrop of green mountains and beautiful lakes, which made it a really peaceful place to spend the day.

things to see (7)

All in all, my husband and I loved the beauty of Bergen – it is one of those places where you feel like there is every natural beautiful landscape to be found. A friend of mine visited Oslo recently, and complained that it was less beautiful than Bergen – there are most commercial buildings, more lights and less colour, and I certainly agree – there is a lot of beautiful colour and nature to be found in this city.

town square (1)