mia's misadventures

a travel blog by mia robey

Month: June, 2013

An Insider’s Guide to London: My favourite places in London

I thought I’d share with you just a few of my favourite places to go in London that I think you would like too:

Southbank
Southbank, (just between Waterloo and London Bridge stations), is a great place to go in the summer. It’s vibrant, lively, fun, has great views of the London across the river and almost always has some form of entertainment going on, whether it’s street performers, music or comedy. There’s plenty to keep you busy, from theatres, museums, cinemas, galleries, boat rides down the river, the aquarium and an array of great places to eat. My favourite thing to do is to grab a couple of cold drinks and a friend or two and sit on the green next to the London Eye for an afternoon of people watching.

Southbank street performers

Southbank street performers

The Natural History Museum.
Great for kids and grown ups alike, the Natural History Museum has got to be my absolute favourite museum in the world! It’s worth a visit even just to gaze at the beautiful building, but inside there is plenty to keep you entertained for an entire afternoon, (or an entire day if you’re anything like me)! Entry is completely free apart from a few special exhibitions they occasionally put on. When you’ve had enough with the Natural History Museum, head next door for the Science Museum and the V&A.

The main hall at the Natural History Museum

The main hall at the Natural History Museum

Camden Lock.
Camden is best known for shopping, but if it’s a nice summer day and you need a break from the markets, grab yourself a tasty treat from one of the many food stalls, a cold drink and head down to the lock and enjoy your lunch by the canal.

Enjoying the sun shine at Camden Lock

Enjoying the sun shine at Camden Lock

Kensington Gardens.
There are many fantastic parks, gardens and commons all over London but my favourite has to be Kensington Gardens. It’s beautiful all year round but in the summer is it particulatly lovely. Make yourself a picnic and take a stroll around the various beautiful gardens, (make sure you visit the Elfin Oak and Peter Pan statue), before settling down under the shade of a tree for an extended lunch break.

View of Kensington Palace

View of Kensington Palace

Prince Charles Cinema.
This old cinema in Leicester Square has got to be my favourite cinema in London. It plays old films that are no longer showing elsewhere, including old classics such as Casablanca,and quirky indie films like the Wes Anderson collection. It also hosts event films such as Sing-a-long-a-Rocky Horror Show and Star Wars marathons. Tickets cost between £4-£10.

Perfect setting for an old classic movie

Perfect setting for an old classic movie

These are just a few of my favourite places to go in London. I’d love for you to share your favourites too!

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An Insider’s Guide to London: Eating out

I love eating out but London can be a pretty expensive place to go if you don’t know your way around, so I’ve put together some reviews of a few of my favourite places to eat out in London without breaking the bank. A lot of these aren’t in the central, touristy areas of London but are definitely worth going out of your way to find if you have time to explore outside of the city centre. So whether you’re on holiday in London looking to escape the busy tourist restaurants and find something a bit more quirky, or you live here but are interested in finding exciting new places to dine out, check out these reviews.

Tiger.
133 Streatham High Road, London, SW16 1HJ
This restaurant is on Streatham High Road, an area that, as much as I love it because I live here, doesn’t have much going on for outsiders. However, if you find yourself in South West London, it’s definitely worth the trip to Streatham just to find this restaurant. Tiger has to be my favourite place to eat out in London. I visit it about two or three times a month and everyone I’ve taken there has absolutely loved it too.
This small restaurant isn’t much to look at but don’t let that put you off as the food is excellent. It serves both Chinese and Vietnamese food but while the Chinese food is good, it doesn’t stand out as anything amazing. The Vietnamese food, on the other hand, is truly delicious! Begin with a starter of Summer Rolls, (£3), order a huge bowl of Pho, (Vietnamese noodle soup), or Bun Thit Nuong, (noodle salad with BBQ pork slices), for main, (about £5:50 – £6 each, and enough to fill up even the hungriest of bellies), and wash it all down with a pot of green tea of a couple of Hanoi or Saigon beers. Heavenly! This is simply my favourite meal to order but I’ve worked my way through their entire Vietnamese menu and I can recommend absolutely everything on it! A meal for two will normally cost about £20 for two for starters, mains and a pot of green tea. Bargain!

Wholemeal.
1 Shrubbery Road, Streatham, SW16 2AS
Another great place to eat out in Streatham if you find yourself in the area is Wholemeal. This has got to be the best Vegetarian / Vegan restaurant I’ve ever been to. It’s been open for about twenty years, which is saying something for a London business, and seems to be growing more and more popular all the time. With big hearty portions of home cooked food, this is one of the only Vegetarian restaurants that I’ve been able to take my meat eating friends to without them complaining that they feel like they are eating rabbit food. It’s even won over my “no meat no meal” boyfriend! The website doesn’t do their menu justice as most of what they serve changes daily and so it is up on a specials board. My absolute favourite thing to order is the Homity pie, a mashed potato, pea and onion pie topped with cheese, accompanied by the most delicious side salad I’ve ever come across! They do a range of delicious desserts including fruit crumble with soy custard, and, my favourite, banoffi pie. A main and dessert for two will set you back between £20 and £25.

Negril.
132 Brixton Hill, London, SW2 1RS
Just up the road from Streatham, Brixton should be on the tourist trail for any one coming to London. It may not be squeaky clean or full of big tourist attractions like the centre of London, but it has colour, culture, vibrancy and a big heart. With a large West Indian and Caribbean community, Brixton is often sought by foodies looking for an authentic Jerk Chicken and there is nowhere better than Negril. If there’s good weather take a seat outside in the evening sun. They have an extensive menu that includes all the Caribbean classics; salt fish fritters, curried goat, fried plantain and, of course, jerk chicken. For the vegetarians and vegans among you, there is plenty to get your taste buds going as they have a special Ital section to their menu which is strictly vegan. Everything on their menu looks amazing but I can highly recommend the Negril Platter for two. At only £24.95 for two, this feast will get you half a jerk chicken, fried plantain, rice and peas, chips, coleslaw, mixed salad, salt fish fritters and gravy, (all of it is amazing but the gravy is the highlight)! They also do breakfasts which I have never tried but everything on the menu gets my mouth watering! They don’t have an alcohol licence but you can bring your own booze for a small corkage fee per person.

Tagine.
3 Fernlea Road, London, SW12 9RT
Just around the corner from Balham underground station is Tagine, an authentic Moroccan restaurant. This beautifully decorated restaurant gets busy at the weekends so it is wise to book in advance. I like to go for the low down Moroccan tables by the window, but for those who find it uncomfortable sitting down so low they have regular tables and chairs too, (it’s worth specifying in advance which you would prefer). It’s one of the more expensive restaurants that I’m reviewing but still very reasonably priced for what you get, and a lot cheaper than the restaurants you will find up in town. Starters range from £4.99 up to £14 and include tasty treats such as Slaia Barda, (sliced beetroot with honey, cinnamon, olive oil and balsamic vinegar), Zalook, (aubergine compote cooked with tomato sauce, parsley and coriander), and Merguez Meshwi, (char grilled spicy lamb sausages). For mains choose from their wide selection of delicious tagines. I can highly recommend the Chicken Djaj Tagine, the Fish Tagine and the Lamb Barbouk Tagine. If the weather is good, relax outside after your meal with a shisha. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is the mint tea, which is very tempting to complete the whole Moroccan experience with but is wildly over priced at £6 for a small pot, which for mint leaves, green tea and sugar I think is unreasonable. They don’t have an alcohol license so you can bring your own booze in for a small corkage fee per person.

Jin Go Gae.
272 Burlington Road, New Malden, KT3 4NL
Once again this is a restaurant that isn’t set in the most beautiful or interesting of areas but it is quite close to Wimbledon which many tourists come to for the tennis and so if you happen to be nearby, it is worth going a little out of your way to find this amazing Korean restaurant. From the outside you would never guess that Jin Go Gae is a place of culinary delight as it is rather run down looking, but don’t let that fool you. Inside you will usually find the place full of Korean diners, (it’s always a good sign when a restaurant is full of people from that country). It’s only a very tiny restaurant and get’s full pretty quickly and so it’s a good idea to book ahead if you can. They have regular tables and chairs but also have two separate rooms, each with two low down tables with bbq grills in the centre, which you sit at on cushions on the floor, which is where I like to eat. These rooms can also be hired as private rooms. We were last there over a year ago and so I’m not sure if things have changed but we were given several small dishes as a complimentary starter which were all sensational. We ordered starters before we realised we were getting the complimentary dishes and so ended up with too much food as they would have been enough on their own. However, the extra starters we ordered were amazing. In particular we enjoyed a dish of thin slices of chilled raw beef topped with pear, honey and a raw egg. It sounds weird, I know, but it was actually rather delicious, if not a rather large portion for two people. It would be great for four people to share though. For mains try pork and/or king prawn bbq which you cook yourself on the bbq grill set in the middle of the table. Overall the food is astonishingly good and, although at the top end of the restaurants I am reviewing, very reasonably priced for the quality of food they deliver, at about £30-£40 for two, including drinks.

Kowloon.
21-22 Gerrard Street, London, W1D 6JH
For a tasty snack on the go whilst up in central London head to China Town in Soho and seek out Kowloon, an amazing Chinese bakery that serves an array of delicious sweet and savoury goods. It’s the bakery my nan always used to take us to during trips to China Town and so it gets the Chinese grandmother seal of approval, (which is only achieved by the best Chinese restaurants)! My favourite treats are the Chau Siu Bao and the egg custard tarts. Kowloon is split in two halves. On one side is the bakery and on the other is a sit down restaurant which I have never been to but have heard good things about.

These are just a few of my favourite places to eat in London. I’d be interested in hearing your recommendations so please get in touch and share your favourite restaurants with me!

Travelling from my sofa.

I realised a few years ago now that travelling is what I live for. I’ve based my career plans on being able to travel, go away as much as time and money will allow me to, and spend all the time inbetween trips planning for the next one. However, the time inbetween trips always seems to drag on forever and so I have to try and find ways to keep the travel bug at bay! One of the ways I like to do this is to set up my own travel evenings at home.
I have always wanted to go to Japan but know that it will be a long time before I have the money to be able to afford such a trip, and so the other evening me and a friend decided to go there from the comfort of my sofa. We spent the day making sushi, noodles and miso soup and enjoyed our homemade Japanese feast with a couple of DVDs – Lost in Translation and Japanese anime, My Neighbour Totoro.
I know it’s hardly a real travel adventure but these sofa travelling evenings transport me back to places I love, or forwards to the places I’ve always dreamed of going and help the time inbetween trips go past a little more pleasantly.

Japan from my sofa

Japan from my sofa

Home made sushi feast!

Home made sushi feast!

I do these evenings quite regularly. My favourites are an Indian night with homemade curry while watching The Darjeeling Limited, and a Moroccan night with tagine, mint tea and fruit hookah. Do you enjoy cultural evenings at home, and if so what are your favourite combinations?

Planning Morocco!

Normally I don’t like to plan back-packing trips too much, preferfing the freedom and adventure of being able to go wherever the wind takes me. However, for Morocco I’m doing things very differently. As I’ll be travelling around Morocco as a woman on my own, and given the amount of hassle and unwanted attention that women are reported to get out there, I’ve decided to try and be safe by planning and booking as much as possible of the trip in advance so I don’t end up turning up to places in the middle of the night with nowhere to stay, (which works perfectly in South East Asia but I’m not as confident about trying my luck in Morocco).
The main problem is that I can’t book transport in advance, and in some cases can’t even find out when buses arrive and depart, and so I’m having to book hostels and tours with the blind hope and optimism that I’ll somehow manage to get to them in time. If all goes to plan I have a fantastic holiday ahead of me, but if the transport doesn’t run as I’m expecting it to the whole plan could come unstuck! The good thing about planning everything is that I know exactly what I’m going to be doing and so can spend the next few months getting really excited about it!
My planned route is to start in Marrakesh, spending a day and a half exploring the city, then I’ll be travelling all the way down south to M’Hammid. From here I’ll be doing a 3 day camel tour of the Sahara. I’m incredibly excited about this but also a little uncertain as at the moment I’m going to be the only person on the tour and so I hope I don’t feel too lonely, (although if I’m going to feel lonely anywhere in the world, I guess the desert is actually quite a fitting place)! After this I’ll be travelling back up to Zagora where I’ll be spending a day and a half exploring the Draa Valley. From there I’m heading to Skoura, a desert oasis, to spend three nights relaxing and walking in the palm groves. I’m then going to be travelling across to Taroudant where I will stay for 3 days, hopefully doing a couple of day tours trekking around nearby Paradise Valley and the Anti Atlas mountains. Then I’m back to Marrakesh in time for my flight back home. It’s taken a lot of planning and research to decide on my route and how long I’ll be sending in each place, but I’m happy with the itinerary now and only have a couple more hostels to book.
If any of you have any tips, advice or recommendations for me please do get in contact, I’m always happy to hear about other people’s travel experiences. Equally, if any one is going to be in Morocco from the 2nd-4th September and fancies joining my camel tour of Erg Chigaga let me know, as at the moment I’m having to pay a surcharge for being the only person on the tour. Also it would be great to have some company to stop me going crazy in the desert!

Trips happening later this year

After all my holidays last year I thought I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere other than France to visit my mum this year. As it turns out, I’m going to Hungary again to Sziget festival followed by the house in Balatonfured, as well as taking a two week solo trip to Morocco and a week long holiday with Nick to Transylvania. I’m in the process of planning both trips at the moment so if any one has any good advice for me get in touch. I won’t bother doing a piece about hungary again as it will be the same stuff as last year, but I’ll definately be giving you a detailed account of Morocco and Romania so look out for those at the end of the summer!

New entries soon!

Apologese for the lack of updates recently but I am finally going to attept to write up a full post for my trip to Hungary last year.  It should be up in a few hours so keep a look out.  It will include Budapest, Balatonfured and the amazing Sziget festival!

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