The sun is finally out after proving elusive for the longest of time. Nope, it's still not the time to whip off your shirt and lie down on the grass to that much needed tan yet but sun is a relief despite interrupted by foreboding clouds swept across it by gusts of winds.
The sun might even persuade some of us to get step out and head to the parks. The small patch at Islington Green in the heart of Angel was so crowded over the weekend that finding a spot to settle down was just impossible.
For the rest of us in East London, hanging out at Victoria Park sounds like a good proposition. You might even rent a row boat at the West Boating Lake in the 86 hectares park running alongside Regent's Canal. And that was exactly what I was up to over the weekend.
The lake lies just west of Grove Road, which is the only road that cuts through the park, you can't really miss that. You get a choice of having a pedal boat or a row boat - both at £10.50 each for 30min.
Being thoroughly confident of my prowess at rowing, I opted a row boat. Wife was relieved too as there was someone else to blame if we ended up spinning around in the middle of the lake, not to mention that someone would have to hang on to LO should she decides to take a dive.
Why Victoria Park is better than Hyde Park when it comes to rowing
It really depends on what you are looking for. If you prefer a huge expanse of clear water, Hyde Park's Serpentine's Lake is for you; only one small island stands in your way. Victoria Park's West Boating Lake though smaller, boosts two small islands and two bridges. If you, like me, prefers the challenge of manoeuvring through tight water passages while vying for space with ducks and geese, look no further.
Not to mention that it's cheaper too. The last time I was rowing a boat at Hyde Park, we were charged on a per person basis.
As I struggled with the oars trying desperately not to drop them into the water, it all came back to me. What to do and what to avoid when rowing a boat, all the experience that I have acquired from my, wait for it, grand total of three times in a row boat, rushed back in an instant.
Well, just a few things to keep in mind when you are steering a row boat.
Tips on rowing a boat
1) Keep a low profile at all times
Maintaining a low centre of gravity is key. If you have to move around on the boat, keep your knees bent and stay low. Ditto when you are yelling for help. Or you'll find yourself in the water.
2) Face the correct way
If you are rowing alone with two oars, face the back of the boat. If there's no one guiding you, make sure you check where you are heading.
If you have a rowing buddy, each handling an oar, face the front instead, preferably with your master hand closer to the water. In other words, if you are right-handed, sit on the right of the boat.
3) Position your oar
When rowing, make sure your the flat part of your oar is perpendicular to the water surface. Also make sure you stick the entire flat area into the water. If you are not doing both, you are merely wasting your energy.
4) Turning the boat
Assuming you are the lone rower (see above), pedal your left oar and leave your right oar off the water to turn boat to its left. The opposite is true too.
To to a tight left turn, pedal your left oar but stick your right oar in a stationery position into the water. It's a bit tricky so you might want to practice this in open water.
5) Stopping the boat
If you lift both oars up, the boat will eventually come to a stop. I'd much prefer to be a bit more proactive. Still both oars into the water instead.
For emergency stops, pedal in the opposite direction but take care not to overdo it as the boat would just go the opposite way.
Where to get a bite
Just beside the lake is a family friendly cafe - Victoria Park Pavilion, complete with an interior naturally lit by a skylight and waterside benches. Using fresh locally sourced produce, it serves all day breakfasts and lunch from noon. They do a mean egg Florentine.
How to get to Victoria Park
Buses 277 and 425 serves Grove Road, which cuts through the park. The nearest Overground station is Hackney Wick (Zone 2), nearest Underground station is Bethnal Green on the Central Line (Zone 2), nearest train station is Cambridge Heath.
Or if you have some time, take a stroll along Regent's Canal - it's a 15min stroll from Broadway Market.
View Larger Map
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Londoners are easily contented. Just give them a bit of sunshine after a long spell of gloomy weather and they would be out in open with silly grins on their faces.
That was exactly what happened last Sunday when there was brilliant sunshine over London. We took a walk along Regents Canal towards Angel and the stretch between Wharf Road and Danbury Street felt positively festive with folks sporting sunglasses and flipflops (I kid you not) sitting by the canal, legs dangling over the water, watching the riverboats work their way up the canal lock.
In fact, all we needed was a nice cup of tea and I was telling Wife if only the makeshift cafe in one of the riverboats was there. Then we sported The Pump House Cafe.
Pump House Cafe has just opened up right next to the only canal lock between Danbury Street and Wharf Road. The week old cafe still smells of paint when we stepped in. Three small tables set up outside were quickly snapped up. Two windows within let in some sunshine that flushed the interior with natural light. The perfect setting for spring time's sunny weather with intermittent blustery winds.
The dinosaur cookie - kids will love this for sure
There was a steady stream of people coming in for a cuppa while we were there. For kids, they even do a dinosaur cookie. Now, that's something I've never seen before and LO was quite taken with it. Well, if she's happy, I'm too.
View Larger Map
Monday, April 15, 2013
London is home to many top art exhibition - photo by otocalpre
This piece is by Lloyd Greenall.
London is one of the most visited cities in the world, and from its amazing culture to the vast historical monuments and architecture, it’s no wonder why millions of tourists travel here each year. Whether you’re coming to London for a business trip, or you’re planning to stay a little longer with your family, there are plenty of things to keep you entertained, and even more ways to get around the capital.
During the summer months, London can get pretty busy with tourists, not only because it’s one of the most popular places to experience in Europe, but also because of its vast entertainment districts and historical museums. From London Bridge and the Houses of Parliament to the Eye and the Millennium Dome, visitors will be able to benefit from spectacular sights in all corners of the city, each as easy to find as your nearest tube station or taxi cab.
One of the biggest reasons why tourists flock to London, however, is because of the fantastic art collections housed in the city. 2012 was a great year for London, most notably because of the Olympic Games. But art aficionados also took centre stage in the city, making London a hub for famous paintings and upcoming artists from all over the world. Let’s take a look at some of the best exhibitions in 2013.
Manet at the Royal Academy – Portraying Life
As one of the original founders of the impressionist movement, Manet was one of the leading artists of his era. Although many people confuse the painter Manet with the world famous artist Monet, there can be no confusion when it comes to his work, whether you’re a causal gallery visitor or a professional art dealer. Featuring over 60 of Manet’s finest works, visitors will be able to see how this great artist’s paintings influenced exhibition life in Paris during his heyday, and how they portrayed the people’s daily lives.
The Light Show at the Hayward Gallery
Hayward Gallery’s Light Show was previously been used to create some of the most innovative and dynamic artworks in London. This year however, expectations have been raised even higher, with mirrors and a variety of glassworks being introduced to the new show. From the 30th January to the 28th April, make sure you get down to the London Hayward Gallery to experience the latest light show to rock the capital.
The British Museum’s Ice Age Art
Art has been around for as long as man has, and it has also evolved from the lowest forms of humanity to the master collections we see today. Based on the famous Lascaux cave paintings, this exhibition from the British Museum shines light on prehistoric artwork, with portraits, sculptures and drawings from over 40,000 years ago.
George Bellows at the Royal Academy
Best known for his love of boxing, and the artwork that was influenced by the sport, George Bellow was an American realist, and a world famous artist. Sadly, Bellows died at the age of 42, however he left behind hundreds of pieces of art, with 90 of them making up this exquisite exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Lloyd is a freelance writer, who is currently documenting his travel experiences and thoughts on the cultures he encounters along the way. He writes for various blogs as well as his own personal website.
Friday, April 12, 2013
The odd shaped bubble - only at Science Museum
It seems London's entire toddler population has descended in that basement. The screamers with half of the capital's very pregnant mothers are chasing their young ones together with their very exasperated looking fathers.
There is a small area on the corner demarcated as a cafe. That is for families who are fortunate enough to get a table and they are mostly likely to camp there the entire day while the kids run amok. For the rest, they can take a break on the steps just beside the cafe. But of course, they will have to contend with the hoards of school children tucking into their lunchboxes.
If you have not guessed already, I'm talking about London Science Museum. It's a museum, not a mere "centre" mind you for the entire place is stocked with historical artefacts that were hailed as wonders of science during their time. LO was transfixed at the huge steam engine chunking along in its main hall for quite awhile the last time we were there.
But what she really loves is "The Garden", a play area in the basement towards the back of the Science Museum. It baffles me till no end why they call it the Garden for there is not a shred of grass or greenery. The walls might have been painted green but that is the last thing in your mind when you let loose your kid into the area.
The water contraption within is a kid's dream come true. Water flows down from a huge tank through a series of channels and water gates spinning water wheels in the process. Throw in some multi-coloured plastic boats and you have a winner.
In the unlikely event that your kid is bored, there is a miniature playground just beside. Small sandbags can be pulled up from a pulley system (just the thing you'd expect in a Science museum) only to be chucked down through a tube at the other end.
If you can't tear your little ones from the Garden, fear not. There is a twenty minute bubble show at half hour intervals just down the corridor. The chance to poke at some very fancy bubbles would persuade even the most persistent kid.
You can easily spend the entire afternoon in that seemingly small area within the Science Museum. We haven't even touched on the flight simulator, IMAX theatre and the main exhibition area. Guess what? If the kids need more entertainment, the Natural History Museum's dinosaurs next door beckons.
Where do you bring your kids in London on a wet and gloomy day?
View Larger Map
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Golden Gate Dessert House - possibly the only place selling peanut and sesame paste
It didn't take me long to realise that the Chinese restaurants in London don't do desserts very well if at all. In fact, horrors of horrors, some feature only ice-cream on their dessert menu. Warm desserts, almost unheard of, even in the chilly London weather.
That was how I ended up at Golden Gate Dessert House back then. It's the only place that I know of in central London, which serves pipping hot peanut and sesame paste - my absolute favourites after Dad brought me to his childhood haunt at Old Airport Road back home. Golden Gate Dessert House has since become the default dessert place that I'll end up in whenever I'm in the vicinity.
Cream cakes and buns
To me, food is all about nostalgia and Golden Gate Dessert's fare is no different. Its rows of cake displays reminded me of the tacky cream cakes that I used to enjoy at birthday parties as a kid. I have a penchant for red coloured cream trimmings, never mind that the creams all tasted the same and it's just colour additives. There was always the thing about who gets to have the plasticky flower perched on the birthday cake.
Chocolate cake (aka Mr Strawberry)
LO loves the chocolate cake at Golden Gate Dessert House. She calls it "Mr Strawberry" for obvious reasons. Me? I'm content with a charsiew bun. They now serve "gong zai mian" (instant noodles). It's going for £3 with an egg (sunny side up). The thin noodles is inferior to the more springy ones at Jen Cafe just round the bend but if you're just looking for a warm snack, why not?
Golden Gate Dessert House is up for sale
There is a sign outside Golden Gate Dessert House saying that it's up for sale. I'm just clinging to the hope that the shop will retain its character after the sale. Where else can I get my peanut paste? If you've haven't been there, go now! Who knows? This quaint Chinese dessert shop might not be there for long.
View Larger Map