Summertime: London vs New York

When I was asked to compare summers as I remembered them from New York and summers as I now experience them in London, nostalgia and anticipation kicked in in equal measure.

This year, summer also means our wedding.

In both places, summer means planning holidays, which is always exciting. To find London hotels for our wedding, a few friends have used Hotel Direct, who have sponsored this post. We’ll be looking for honeymoon options soon, so I’ll be doing searches for Hawaii, Costa Rica and Kenya to weigh our options. In the meantime, bring on that summer sun!

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New York summers for me were not city summers as you might think when New York comes to mind, but upstate New York summers, which are much different.

Temperatures soar to reach 30C / 85F or higher in New York,. There is a real crisp distinction between seasons. It can be humid and exhausting after a while, but after a harsh, snowy winter, it is much appreciated. In London, summer could sit at spring-like temperatures of 20C / 68F with a random spike up to 28C / 82F on a handful of lucky days. When that happens, layers are stripped, parks are packed and the whole city digs out their sunglasses.

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Summer in New York smells of freshly snipped mint decorating a refreshing glass of iced tea. There’s the earthy scent of just watered cherry tomatoes growing in the garden, freshly cut grass and nighttime campfires. London summers smell of sugary roasting nuts on Westminster Bridge, the sweet scent of rose gardens in Regents Park, the mix of curries and crepes in the markets of Brick Lane.

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In New York, summer tastes like juicy cheeseburgers cooked on the garden grill, of Piece of Cake ice cream eaten on the rocky banks of the sparkling Niagara River and of sticky s’mores roasted over a bonfire on a warm night. In London, it’s jugs of fruity Pimms all around, cups of gelato enjoyed during a walk along the Serpentine in Hyde Park and lovely picnic spreads with strawberries, cheese and freshly baked baguettes from Gails.

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The buzz of local outdoor concerts mark the summer sounds of New York. Also, loud music pumping from souped-up cars and the outburst of afternoon thunderstorms we watch from the front porch as fork lightning streaks across the sky. In London, summer brings the sound of revving engines tearing down the King’s Road, buskers’ Calypso music played on steel pan drums and the merged conversations of crowds milling on the pavement outside of local pubs.

Summers in New York bring textures of hot driveway blacktop scalding bare feet, the rough bark of logs tossed into the fire, the hot seats of a car parked too long in the sun. In London, summers bring grass between toes in Hampstead Heath, the lightness of fabrics between fingers and the many pampering textures of a pedicure.

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In New York, summers mean camping in the wilderness, kayaking on the lake, outdoor music and Fourth of July fireworks. There are shorts and flip flops and baseball caps. In London, summer means the colours of Holi celebrations, visits to the lively Columbia Road flower market and lazy afternoons enjoying long lunches and people watching at outdoor cafes. There are flowing summer dresses and strappy sandals and designer sunglasses.

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This is summer for me. Let me know what summer means for you, if you’re going anywhere exciting this year and what memories it brings back from your childhood days!

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Guest Post: Alba Villacampa Visits Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Hi! It’s Alba here. I’m taking over the blog for a day.

The week before last was full of surprises. My husband made me pack on Sunday ready to go the next morning from Tenerife (Canary Islands) where we live, to “somewhere”… He had some fun making me queue up at the check-in desks for a few destinations until we finally got our boarding pass to London!

I’m not sure about how many times I’ve been to London but it’s always worth the visit and you can be sure to find loads of new interesting things going on.

We went out for dinner with Jorge the same evening we arrived. There we were, two friends and Spanish garden designers catching up at Nando´s in Gloucester Road. But, the unknown destination was not the only surprise that awaited for me that Monday. Jorge took a press pass for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show out of his pocket and my name was on it to write about and photograph the show for LLO!

I want to thank Stephanie and Jorge for the opportunity of visiting the Flower Show and as I promised, here’s my view of what was going on this year at the show.

A Cool Garden (22)Photo: A cool garden designed by Ruth Marshall

A Cool Garden (11)Photo: A cool garden designed by Ruth Marshall

A Cool GardenPhoto: A cool garden designed by Ruth Marshall

The planting scheme gives this garden by Ruth Marshall a rural aspect which is emphasised by the use of natural materials. The creative water feature and the glass panel bridge are worth highlighting.

A room with a viewPhoto: A Room with a View designed by Mike Harvey

This gold medal winner garden by Mike Harvey was built with a low budget using reclaimed materials. The array of colours of the plantings looked gorgeous.

A valley gardenPhoto: A Valley Garden designed by Sophie Walker 

The large textures of the plants used in Sophie Walker’s garden reminded me of the subtropical gardens we have in Tenerife. I particularly loved the use of the still water surface where plants and light reflected.

Ashes to AshesPhoto: Ashes to Ashes designed by Bruce Waldock

The theme of this garden by Bruce Waldock – another gold medal winner – was the threat of Ash dieback in the UK for which the designer suggests a hopeful green and happy ending.

AthanasiaPhoto: Anthasia designed by David Sarton

One of the reasons I enjoy so much the flower shows in the UK is because of the differences between gardens back in Tenerife and the ones in the UK. It’s not only the species used but the planting schemes are so distinct. This garden by David Sarton is a good example; the relaxed and natural composition makes me want to just sit on one of those wooden cubes all afternoon.

August 1963 - I Have A Dream (2)Photo: August 1963 – I Have A Dream designed by Stephen A Ryan

A much more contemporary garden, Stephen Ryan’s design is worthy of the silver gilt medal it was awarded.

Between The Lines (1)Photo: Between The Lines designed by Maurice Butcher

Bugs in Boots (2)Photo: Bugs in Boots designed by Caspian Robertson

Here is another low cost garden with a very good result by Caspian Robertson. Love the natural appearance of the planting scheme and the detail of the “hanging basket”.

Desolation to Regeneration (1)Photo: Desolation to Regeneration designed by Catherine MacDonald

Desolation to RegenerationPhoto: Desolation to Regeneration designed by Catherine MacDonald

Catherine MacDonald’s design was rewarded not only with a gold medal, but this garden also won the Best Conceptual Garden award. It was very much a show garden, with sounds and smoke effects.

Four Corners (2)Photo: Four Corners designed by Peter Reader

Four CornersPhoto: Four Corners designed by Peter Reader

Again, Peter Reader’s garden is one that just makes me want to lay back and relax.

Home Spun (1)Photo: Home Spun designed by Kasia Howard

I have to admit I didn’t like this garden by Kasia Howard too much during the show, but now I’m looking at the photographs it has so much creativity that I feel I didn’t pay enough attention to it. It’s a bronze medal garden winner.

In At The Deep End (5)Photo: In At The Deep End designed by Peter Cowell & Monty Richardson

In At The Deep EndPhoto: In At The Deep End designed by Peter Cowell & Monty Richardson

Peter Cowell and Monty Richardson’s collaboration is another low budget garden with a spectacular result. They achieved a lovely effect with the planting space between the steps.

Layers and Links (3)Photo: Layers and Links designed by Raine Clarke-Wills

Macmillan Legacy Garden (1)Photo: Macmillan Legacy Garden designed by Rebecca Govier – Green Edge Garden Design

Mid century modern (1)Photo: Mid Century Modern designed by Adele Ford & Susan Willmott

Mid century modern (2)Photo: Mid Century Modern designed by Adele Ford & Susan Willmott

I liked the bright coloured design of Adele Ford and Susan Willmott’s garden. It is full of energy. So did the judges because this was a gold medal winner and the Best Low Cost High Impact Garden.

The Ecover Garden (1)Photo: The Ecover Garden designed by Matthew Childs

The Ecover Garden (2)Photo: The Ecover Garden designed by Matthew Childs

A gold medal and Best Show Garden were awarded to designer Matthew Childs. Sponsored by Ecover, this garden was all about sustainability.

The Garden Pad (3)Photo: The Garden Pad designed by Dan Bowyer

Dan Bowyer’s design was one of Jorge’s favourite gardens. Though I didn’t go inside it, I guess It must be lovely to sit in this hollow patio with all those plantings around creating a perfect sense of privacy while you enjoy a glass of champagne.

The Hot Stuff GardenPhoto: The Hot Stuff Garden designed by Victoria Truman & Liz Rentzsch Garden Design, Marcus Foster

The McCarthy and Stone Garden (3)Photo: The McCarthy and Stone Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw

The McCarthy and Stone GardenPhoto: The McCarthy and Stone Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw

The corten steel structure centred all the attention of this gold medal show garden by Chris Beardshaw. I’ve been to Chelsea Flower Show twice and it still amazes me how they get all the big trees and hedges to look as if they have been there for ages.

The QEF Garden for JoyPhoto: The QEF Garden for Joy designed by Heather Appleton in association with accessiblegardens.org.uk

The QEF Garden for Joy (1)Photo: The QEF Garden for Joy designed by Heather Appleton in association with accessiblegardens.org.uk

I especially liked the cooper screen and the weaved structure around the plantings of this design by Heather Appleton, although the most important characteristic was that it was a fully accessible garden which is unfortunately not very common in my home town.

The singing tree (1)Photo: The Singing Tree designed by Clive Mollart & Clive Scott

Tip ot the IcebergPhoto: Tip of the Iceberg designed by Caroline Tait & John Esling

Willow PatternPhoto: Willow Pattern designed by Sue Thomas

Vestra Wealth's Jardin du Gourmet (1)Photo: Vestra Wealth’s Jardin du Gourmet designed by Paul Martin

Vestra Wealth's Jardin du GourmetPhoto: Vestra Wealth’s Jardin du Gourmet designed by Paul Martin

Now I’ve had the opportunity to visit three flower shows in the UK I’ve noticed I prefer show gardens where you can find inspiration for future works. This garden by Paul Martin is a good example!

To end this post, here are a few more photos from around the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show just to show you it’s not only a garden show.

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Monty Don
Oh! By the way, we spotted Monty Don at the show (above). For those of you that are not from the UK, he’s a famous television presenter and writer on horticulture.

Thanks Alba!

Find Alba on her garden design website, Facebook and Twitter.

A Year and a Half in London: A Guest Post by Carolina Baker

A guest post by Carolina Baker who can be found on Facebook and writing in her blog, Falling to Fly

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This month marks my year and a half of living in London and surprisingly, it’s starting to feel a bit more like home. Maybe this has been a catalyst for the new risks that I find myself taking on an almost daily basis. Some may seem small, but life changing change starts with small, daily, changes.

Here’s how my life has become more London based than ever before.

Daily Java Jolt – I used to be a daily Starbucks fanatic. Until, I discovered the deliciousness that is Monmouth Coffee. I was enthralled by the smell, the care, the queue, and the taste of their coffee. A few weeks later, Evan introduced me to Taylor Street Baristas  and I was also hooked. Since giving up Starbucks altogether, my effort to visit different places around London has doubled. I’ve exposed my taste buds to wonderful things like salt beef bagels, salted caramel cakes, and organic mountain eggs.

Meetup.com – A few weeks ago, I was restless, I wanted to meet new people, and I needed inspiration. I took the plunge with Meetup. I found a great writing and reading group, and I immediately signed up for their events. Before I go any further, I need to confess that even though I come across as extremely confident, meeting new people and putting myself in situations where I have to interact with strangers scare me. The days of the events, I found multiple excuses not to go, (“I have to get on the tube,” “I’m tired,” “It’s raining,” “work delayed me”) and the only reason I didn’t listen is because I bartered with my fear. I told my fear that I only had to show up. And we both agreed that the act of showing up was pretty harmless. Once I was there, speaking to people was pleasant.

Yesterday, I even got my writing critiqued and the feedback was positive. And a fellow member asked me if I was going to stay after for a drink. I declined, but made a promise to myself, that next time, I will stay and socialize. On Thursday, I’m having lunch with a fellow member who is also itching for life change. I’m proud of myself because I’m the one who reached out and I am the one who organized the date.

A great consequence of traversing London for these meetups is that I’m becoming more comfortable finding my way through the city. First time visits do require a printed google map, but I can usually rely on memory for any meetups that come afterwards. I’m also enjoying checking out new venues (shooting star pub, tidbits, and Timberyard) that I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon on my own.

I guess my first year in London was all about healing myself and my finances, and for that, I needed to keep my focus inward. I had a simple routine that included walking to work, exercising, working full-time, and travel. Since taking care of the fundamentals, this year’s focus is about exploring my home city and meeting people that inspire me to propel my life to the next level.  In doing so, I know that my ties to London will always remain strong, even after Evan and I leave the city for South America.

Three Days with Hello Fresh

Ever come home from work and look around the kitchen feeling uninspired to cook anything more ambitious than a Waitrose meal ready to pop in the oven? That’s pretty much every night for me. So I am fully on board with the concept of Hello Fresh, especially for their encouragement of incorporating a bit of creativity with weeknight meals.

At the beginning of 2012 when the company first launched in London, I had the pleasure of reviewing Hello Fresh. They were fabulous then and even more fabulous now. And I’m not just saying that because they gave me three nights of free food!

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What’s it all about? You choose a number of days and how many people you want to feed. Hello Fresh then puts together a box of fresh ingredients for you along with a few recipes they select. The quantity of the ingredients matches pretty much exactly to the recipes included. Each night, you cook something new!

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The recipes come on sleek black colorful cards with pictures of the ingredients on the front along with all of health information (ie – Kcal, fat, carbs, protein) and on the back an easy list of instructions that are also illustrated. It’s affordable too as well with 3 meals for 2 people costing £39 (or £36 for a vegetarian box) and free delivery in mainland UK.

My three recipes this time were:

  • Chicken Paillard with Crushed Rosemary Potatoes, Rocket and Gremolata
  • Roasted Coconut Cod with Shiitake Mushrooms, Mange Tout and Egg Noodles
  • Roasted Chicken with Chorizo, Pearl Barley and Cous Cous Jumble

Here’s a better look at the recipe cards and my finished masterpieces:

Chicken Paillard with Crushed Rosemary Potatoes, Rocket and Gremolata

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Roasted Coconut Cod with Shiitake Mushrooms, Mange Tout and Egg Noodles

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Roasted Chicken with Chorizo, Pearl Barley and Cous Cous Jumble

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How did I do? Our favourite was the coconut cod. Such a mix of flavours! But they were all delicious!

A LITTLE LONDON OBSERVATIONIST DISCOUNT

Hello Fresh have offered us a special LLO reader discount. So if you’re keen to give it a try, visit the Hello Fresh website, choose your meal plan and enter the code LITTLELONDON at checkout for £15 off your first order. Let me know if you go for it and what you think. Enjoy!

Sponsored Post: A guide to alternative Christmas events in London

Have you ever wanted to say Bah! Humbug to a traditional Christmas, but still want to see friends and family over the festive season? We have discovered some great alternative events in London that are sure to tickle your fancy.

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Photo: Bint by Steve Reed

Walking With Dinosaurs

The O2 Arena will be hosting the return of the family event, Walking With Dinosaurs. From 26th December and through to 6th January audiences can watch walking life-size dinosaurs. This is the perfect event to take the family to if your kids loved watching the BBC series and are fascinated with these monstrous vertebrates. Using state of the art animatronics you will feel as if these creatures have returned from extinction and are on the hunt for their next meal. Ticket prices start from £29.

For more information on Walking with Dinosaurs check out the O2 website.

Harry Potter Christmas Tour with Muggle Tours

Always wanted to discover the film locations that created a backdrop for one of the greatest family adventures? Muggle tour guides will take you on a trip across London, showing you the attractions that inspired J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. The event runs on the weekends leading up to Christmas with the final date being 26th December. Yes, that’s right you can even take a guided tour on Christmas Day!

Find out more information by going to the Muggle Tours website.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

Why spend Christmas cooped up indoors when you can discover a two-headed calf, a blue-faced man from China and over 700 other weird exhibits? Piccadilly Circus will be over-run by all things extraordinary and out of this world. Leading up to the main event you can see a vegetable orchestra, Phat Santa DJ, a giant snow globe, mini Santa, live reindeer and even a cow drawn open sleigh. Now if you wanted a Christmas with a twist, Ripley has got that covered.

Have a look at the Ripley London website and discover what else there is to discover.

Other Alternative Christmas Events in London

So there you have it, London is open 365 days a year, including Christmas Day. So why not ban Christmas this year like Oliver Cromwell and discover an alternative way of making the most of the day?

A Guide to Alternative Christmas Events in London is a sponsored post written by Refresh Accommodation. If you fancy taking a trip to London over the festive season to enjoy an alternative Christmas, why not have a look at the range of service apartments Refresh Accommodation have to offer?