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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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?

Sponsored Post: Alternative ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve in London

It is one of the biggest parties of the year. We pull out all the stops to find the greatest events London has to offer, put on our finest glad rags and ensure we see the New Year in with a bang. The capital hosts an extraordinary array of New Year’s Eve parties, from the weird and wonderful to the extravagant. Whether you’re a club hopper or enjoy good food in luxurious restaurants, you’re sure to find something that suits you down to the ground.

London is also the place to be if you’re looking for something different and a night that you’ll never forget. We have scouted the most unusual nights London has to offer; from a Medieval Banquet to a Viennese Ball you won’t be disappointed with our New Year’s Eve party short list.

Happy New Year 2011

Blitz Party New Year’s Eve Special

It’s time to route around your grandma’s wardrobe to find that spectacular dress she wore in the ‘40s. The Blitz Party celebrates the New Year in true vintage style. Dress up as a war hero or a ‘40s siren and dance the night away as live bands perform their renditions of the decade’s greatest hits. Let’s get the bunker swinging this New Year’s Eve and celebrate in true retro fashion.

Where: The Arches, 481 and 482 Reliance Square, Shoreditch, EC2A 3EY

Ticket Price: £40

Happy New Year 2011

A Vintage New Year’s Eve Party

If it’s a vibrant retro scene that you’re after, the Royal Festival Hall might just be the place for you. From authentic cocktails, live bands and DJ sets that take you back to the ‘20s and through to the ‘90s, to films and glamorous pop-up venues, there is something here for everyone. At the Torch Club you can meet the UK’s best George Formby impersonator, at the Soul Casino you boogie the night away, at Let It Rock you can show off your karaoke skills and at the Pick Up Joint you’re sure to have a giggle at the crazy costume changes. There is so much to do at the Royal Festival Hall; they even have a beauty parlour there.

Where: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX

Ticket Price: From £65 or £139.50 per person including a three course meal.

Happy New Year 2011

Viennese New Year’s Eve Gala

Want to know how Cinderella felt at midnight, waltzing with her Prince charming? At the Barbican this dream can become a reality. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing some Strauss classics, Johann Strauss Dancers will be performing in the ballroom and you can be left to find the Prince of your dreams. The Viennese New Year’s Eve Gala has been a tradition of the Barbican for over 25 years. If you have been spending your New Year’s Eves in London bars and clubs and you’re ready for a change, the Gala could be the perfect event for you.

Where: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS

Ticket Price: From £19.50

Happy New Year 2011

Medieval Banquet New Year’s Eve

King Henry VIII and his court will be hosting a tremendous feast for you and your friends. Not only will you be provided with a five course meal, the entertainment will also be majestic. No expense has been spared by the King, from magicians and jugglers to minstrels, medieval tumblers, knights, contortionists and troubadours, your feast is sure to be nothing less than theatrical.

Where: Ivory House, St Katherine Docks, London, E1W 1BP

Ticket Price: £110 per adult, £80 per child (4-17 years)

Happy New Year 2011

“Alternative Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in London” is a sponsored post written by AFD, one of the UK’s best fancy dress retailers. If you will be dressing up as a ‘40s starlet, war hero or medieval king this New Year’s Eve you’re sure to find the perfect costume at AFD.

Sponsored Post: The House swapping Craze in London

This is a sponsored  post by Londoner Tracey Chandler, aimed at those of you who would like to visit London more so than those of us who already live here. Although, if I had a house of my own (perhaps one of those “grand house with spacious rooms, a conservatory and a large garden” in Hampstead that Tracey mentions would be nice), I’d certainly be willing to think about it if it meant travelling on the cheap and staying somewhere equally fabulous in a different country. Anyway, here’s Tracey, writing for lovehomeswap.com…

At Home
Photo: At Home by Dave McGowan
(from the LLO Flickr Pool)

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Words by Tracey Chandler

With the current economic climate, house swapping is fast becoming a new craze. Given that accommodation is the most expensive part of any trip, house swapping is a great low-cost holiday option, allowing you to save money whilst still staying in luxury accommodation.

London has become an incredibly popular place for house swaps. It’s now the most requested global holiday swap destination on many home-swap sites, including Love Home Swap. London has a variety of options when it comes to what type of accommodation you’re looking for, and what area you’d like to stay in.

Here are some of the choices London has to offer:

Hackney. You could swap your home to live in a purpose-built flat from the 1960s in Hackney, East London. During your stay, enjoy the trendy bars along Broadway Market and the food market that takes place here on Saturdays.

Highbury and Islington. Perhaps you’d rather stay in a spacious flat built in the 18th Century in Highbury and Islington, North London? A short distance away is Highbury Fields, perfect for a morning stroll and a stop off at a café. Upper Street is definitely worth a visit, with its many independent retailers as well as great restaurants and bars.

Hampstead. Swap your home to live in Hampstead – enjoy Edwardian architecture in a grand house with spacious rooms, a conservatory and a large garden. You could visit Keats House during your stay and revel in British Literature. If you’re looking to do some sightseeing, you could climb up to Primrose Hill, which is a short walk away. From here you can get a clear and breathtaking view of central London.

Richmond. Enjoy Victorian architecture in Richmond, South West London. Here you can walk or cycle along by the river and visit Kew Gardens, which is a World Heritage site. Richmond Park, the second largest park in London, is also very close. You could make a day of it and take a picnic, or stop off at a bar along the riverside. Richmond is just a short drive from Heathrow, so it’s easily accessible.

Chelsea. Have a real adventure and stay in an elegant, but cosy, houseboat on the Thames in Chelsea. Here you’ll be near Hyde Park and the Notting Hill area, home to the famous Portobello Road Market. For a good place to have a drink, why not just go up on to the terrace and soak in the scenery?

London is certainly a place of great variety. When it comes to home-swapping, you’re bound to find something for you. If any of these places in London have taken your fancy and you want to find out more, just check out this page and a low-budget, luxury holiday could be just a click away.

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Bio

Tracey Chandler is a freelance travel writer, originally from London, making her way around Latin America at present, with plenty of romantic stories to share.