Dominique Ansel Bakery – Home of the Novelty Baked Treats

I recently visited the famous Dominique Ansel bakery in London with a friend, which is famous for the Cronut, as well as a lot of other baked delicacies.  We got a little over-excited and ordered a bunch of treats, all of which we had fun tasting – the cookie shot (a cup made of cookie filled with milk), the peanut-butter creamy cake, the Frozen S’more (a marshmallow-ice cream combination), mini Madeleines fresh and hot from the oven and a yummy hot chocolate with a marshmallow flower which opened up from the heat of the drink.

As I’m sure you can imagine, we were stuffed after all of this, and had to walk around the streets to burn it off a little, but it was worth it! If you’re around the area, I’d recommend this place to sit and try (although it can get very busy so there may be some waiting time!), and it’s not super-cheap (although not overly-expensive either) – sometime to try at least once!

Luxurious Glamour at The Wallace Collection

A friend and I recently took a visit to the very beautiful Wallace Collection, which is a museum in the middle of London, in a luxurious town-house, displaying hundreds of French 18th-century painting, furniture and porcelain, as well as armoury and older paintings.

While it might make bring to mind  the slightly more touristy National Portrait Gallery, this Collection is a lot more visually appealing – the rooms are each beautifully displayed with grandeur aplenty, and there’s plenty of things to see.

I loved how all the rooms have their own character, with a separate vivid colour theme for each room so that the furniture, artwork and small trinkets all went together well. Each painting had something to look at, and the beautifully ornate furniture looked amazing – like something from of a historical period-film!

One of the things I also enjoyed was that the museum is relatively quiet – there’s plenty of time to walk around at your own pace, you get to explore the house (although you still can’t touch!), and best of all, you’re allowed to take photos (which a lot of other places don’t allow) – and entry is free too.

At the end of the tour, when you’re done, there’s a charming little restaurant outside to have some tea and relax. I didn’t manage to get a chance to visit the restaurant this time, but I will do the next time I come here to browse (and daydream about being a princess in 17th Century France).

If you’re around central London, I’d recommend a visit, whether it’s just ten minutes or a couple of hours, it’s a visual delight for anyone : )

The Beautiful Colours of Santorini

One of the things my husband and I loved when we went to Santorini was how lovely the island is in terms of the scenery – the sea looks amazing, there’s beautiful flowers like bougainvillea everywhere, and there’s plenty of white-washed architecture everywhere. However, I’ve noticed that most people assume that Santorini is just blue and white buildings with a beautiful sea – and that’s it. To be fair, if you Google the island, that’s all you’ll find – that iconic blue-and-white spot which is actually the island’s capital city overlooking a rich blue sea.

Unfortunately, this is just a tiny side of the island – literally. A lot of tourists and honeymooners come to Santorini for the blue and white scene, as well as the famous sunset part in Oia, which is a popular (but very expensive!) part of the island. While the area does look as beautiful as it does in the the pictures, it’s easy to be fooled by the images. My husband and I signed up for the sunset tour on one of the days that we were on the island, and could not believe how busy it gets – there’s literally about a thousand people all packed against the walls to see the sunset. It’s a lovely vibe, but very crowded, so not exactly romantic! Similarly the blue and white part of the city is a very popular place for people to pose, but the pictures are worth it, if you don’t mind queuing for the spot.

I thought I’d show the other side of Santorini, which is grassy, hilly and mountainous, and surrounded by beautiful flowers and blue water. Below are pictures I took from our holiday – if you notice, there’s not a single blue-and-white picture presents!

Chilli Burgers at Habaneros

I’ve seen a huge rise of the gourmet burger restaurant in the past couple of years, and I’m sure that the fact that there are a lot of halal restaurants make them even popular. I’ve been to quite a few halal (and vegetarian!) gourmet burger places, and am starting to get the hang of what makes a decent ‘gourmet’ burger, as well as what separates them from the standard ones you get in a normal chicken-and-chips shop down the road.

Hubby and I recently went to Habaneros, a gourmet burger chain in West London, which was a little out of our way, but having heard it was one to go to, we decided to give it a shot.

One of the things which makes a restaurant memorable for me is not just the food, but the atmosphere and the care taken in in the decor – it makes the place something more attractive for me to come back to. The decor in the place was pretty funky, lots of wall art, subtle lighting spaces for sit. Although the diner isn’t huge, there’s space to sit and eat and it gets pretty busy at lunch-times and after work!

This is what I ordered, a classic Habanero burger with cheesy fries, while my husband went for a spicy Samurai burger and fries. I liked that both burgers were big enough to be filling, but not too massive. As much as I like getting my money’s worth when it comes to food, I prefer quality and not overloading – I have been to some gourmet burger joints in the past where I’ve had to cut up my burger to eat it in portions!

The Habanero burger isn’t particularly spicy but is very juicy, the meat is tender enough to taste great but has a nice grilled taste to it, and blends well with the sauces and salad. I was slightly disappointed with the cheesy fries as I thought the cheese would be melted cheese on top of the chips, and this was more of a cheesy sauce, but they tasted okay and we did eat them all!

Hubby’s Samurai burger was surprisingly more chilli than mine – I think this was mainly due ot the sauce in the burger, but it was a lovely sweet-and-chilli taste which I liked.

I liked that this is a very reasonably priced place to go – burgers cost about £5.95 each and they are made pretty quickly – perfect for any rush-hours too. I’ve already been back to this place to get another burger, although I will admit, as an east-Londoner it is a little far!

Evaluation:
Halal : yes
Vegetarian options available: Yes
Price : £5.95 upwards, depending on whether it’s just a burger or a meal
Rating out of 10: 6.5
Location: 3A Walm Lane Willesden Green London NW2 5SJ

We Are London

I have written before on my thoughts on the senselessness of violence against innocent citizens, and it’s pretty upsetting that nothing seems to have changed since then – the horrible attacks on people in London has led to an emotional couple of days – anger, worry, heartbreak and fear. I really hate that as soon as something like this happens, so many of my friends, family and I all brace for the inevitable backlash against Muslims, the same fear that we will be grouped with this tragic violence and that we tarred with same the same brush that puts us with something that we don’t believe in.

So this is me, saying this is not my faith. We have said this before and we’ll say it again. Islam doesn’t work like this and we don’t believe or condone any form of terror attacks like this. We are with London, and will remain strong, united and unafraid. London is our home. This is the city where I have had the honour to meet the most diverse and vibrant people from all walks of life and communities, and have found that unity is always better despite coming from different backgrounds.

So I say it is  now, more than every that it’s the time to stand up and speak out against the hate, ignorance and violence perpetuated by some groups, and that to isolate ourselves is not the answer. It is only this which will get us through bad times and remain strong – standing together as friends, a people and as a beautiful nation.

My prayers are with all those who have lost their loved ones: may Allah (SWT) give them the strength to bear what he has tested them with, shower them with his mercy and let their hearts find peace. May Allah (SWT) bring peace and safety to us all.

“…if any one killed a soul, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind…” – The Holy Quran (Chapter Five, Verse 32).

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King

20151030_191517

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!

 

Plaistow Street Art by Mr Cenzone

I love living in east London, because of all the colourful corners and walls I always come across. I’m a huge fan of street art (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) and can never go past any without stopping to have a good stare.

This is some artwork by Mr Cenz, a London-based street-artist, whose work I found in Plaistow, east London. They were both slightly hidden away and I managed to see both going past by accident (I saw one while was on a bus and came back later after remembering where it was!)

Apparently this one is called ‘The Wish’, and it’s a beautiful dreamy piece which covers the bottom length of a whole building block (took me a while to get the whole piece in one phoyo!). I love the whirls and contouring in this, as well as the black, grey and white tones on top of the colourful, magical background.

20161020_133154

Not far from the above piece is this more sultry looking portrait, a beautiful mix of blues, greens and purples on the side of a shop wall. Again, there’s a beautiful mix of shapes on top of colours, with a very dreamy look to the whole piece that I love.

img_20170209_123529326

 

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more pieces around east London, especially some from this artist!

You can also check the artist out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Etsy pages.

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

 

Hackney Wick Street Art Galore

I recently had to visit Hackney Wick and was delighted to find myself surrounded by walls and walls of street art in the area. I love that there are so many artist’s works in the area, and that there are so many humorous, satirical and beautiful pieces all over the place. So of course I got a little snap-happy and got to know the area. I spent quite a while wandering around and still don’t think I saw all of the pieces, but I did enjoy exploring!

I’ll let the images speak for themselves below – I love that this is such a colourful area, with plenty of art studios and projects nearby, which is perfect inspiration for any artist : )

20161121_114217

20161121_120552

20161121_120632

Happy New Year!…2017

Here’s wishing you all a year full of love, light and unicorn sparkles!

Is it me or did 2016 rush past too quickly? It was a year full of sad news and unsettling truths for all of us, but I like to think that there were also many triumphs, personal and otherwise for a lot of us (like this list of good things) – Leo finally won that much-awaited Oscar, wild pandas and tigers have had a good year, and of course health-wise, people are getting better news. Not to mention all those amazing movies, books and technology we have discovered this year (or are still on my to-read/to-watch waiting list!)

I think 2016 gave us all a lot of things to think about and reflect, and we all are looking forward to 2017 being a new year that we all want to make the most of as well as use to take the opportunity to make improvements and build better relationships. One of the things which really bugged  me personally about 2016 was not making the most of my time – it always felt like I was busy doing something boring like housework or grocery shopping. It’s not the fact that I had to do these thing which bothered me as much as the feeling that I wasn’t making more use of this time (although part of this comes from my self-pressure to always be doing something productive!)

So this year I’ll learn to take it easy and enjoy the moment, but also think more about what I am doing – putting my whole self into the things which need to be done without worrying about wanting to be elsewhere (or that FOMO feeling!)

So here’s something I put together this morning before I had my breakfast – a golden, glitter 2017 welcome to the new year – I had a lot of fun doing this, and loved the result. It’s also made me realise just how much stuff I have in my house, on my shelves and in my wardrobes, so I think there won’t be much sale shopping this year!

dsc_3856