Seven Reasons to visit York

York had been on my bucket list for some time, and when my brother told me he was visiting the UK to watch a horse, he had an ownership interest in compete in Yorkshire within two weeks of my arriving in the UK, I knew it was time to action this particular wish.

I thoroughly enjoyed the three days I spent in York, and could easily have stretched my visit for an additional day or so.

So why should you visit York? Let me count the ways…

1. The Shambles

This street was why I really wanted to visit York, I had seen photos and knew it was not only one of the most photogenic streets in the world, it was also the best preserved medieval street. I experienced the Shambles several times during my visit, and on the Sunday morning of my first visit, if I’m honest I was a little underwhelmed. There is always a danger of building something up and expecting things to be picture postcard perfect, and I think this is what happened to me. However over my time in York, I developed a special affection for this quaint little street that has survived the centuries intact. I can recommend getting up early and experiencing (and running if you are that way inclined) this street before the crowds arrive.

 

2. The City Wall

York is a medieval city, and medieval cities have city walls. York’s wall is pretty well preserved, and at just over 2 miles in circumference and slightly elevated it is perfect for walking on. There are a couple of places where it just ends and you are back on the streets, but is easy enough to navigate your way to the beginning of the next part. There are ramparts, and gatehouses, some of which contain museums, and in one (Walmgate) there is a great cafe with outdoor tables where you can while away a couple of hours in the sun (should there be any). The wall also gives you great views of the city – not only of the sights but into the living habits of its citizens.

3. York Minster

The Minster’s towers dominate the skyline of York and help you to get your bearings, should you wander off your intended course. There has been a church on the sight of this magnificent gothic style cathedral since 627, but the Minster in its current form dates from 1220, with the north transept being completed in 1253. The interior of the church is overlooked by some wonderful stain glass windows and is worth spending some time in, but the highlight for me was climbing the 275 steps of the narrow circular staircase (one way traffic only, which means you have to book, and pay for, a visiting time).

4. It’s steeped in history

A sense of history pervades this city. The Vikings, Richard III, Henry VIII are all part of it, and are represented in its many museums. The two Kings appear in museums on the wall, and  there is a museum dedicated to the Vikings, on the spot where archeologists dug up evidence of how and when they lived here. If you are a fan of Wolf Hall the costumes from the TV production are displayed in Barley Hall.

The Viking Centre has a multi-million pound reimagining of life in the time of the Vikings. It involves climbing into pods that move you around the displays. At first I thought this was a bit gimmicky – I could have easily walked around the displays, but I did enjoy the chance to just sit and enjoy the little vignettes of Viking life when York was Jorvik.

 

4. The local pubs

The local pubs, are truly local inhabited by regulars who are friendly and willing to engage in conversation, and are impressed by the fact that you are from New Zealand (in London this is a bit of a ho hum fact). They also line up for mid-day opening on a Sunday (after seeing the Sunday roasts served up I could see why!) and then make sure you know how the place functions and they are so helpful you don’t need to ask the staff where the bathrooms are – the punters tell you. As a woman on my own I felt completely comfortable sitting in the pub on my own and engaging with the punters about cricket, rugby, (the one-day cricket was on, and the British Lions tour too was of interest), BREXIT and Donald Trump.

 

5. Its a great city for just wandering

Every time you turn a corner there’s a new and to die for view, plus there’s great shopping – the High St stores are all there, but also many interesting local shops too.

 

6. There are great cafes and restaurants

Often when trying to find a  place to eat around the tourist hotspots I find that you run the risk of getting  mediocre, expensive fare. Not so in York, no matter where I ate I found the food to be delicious and reasonably priced. I found Fillmore & Union just near the Minster (and they have a branch at the Railway Station too) know how to make good coffee, smoothies and serve up tasty healthy food. Gatehouse Coffee, on the wall at Walmgate Bar was a really cool place to spend some time, and finally I treated myself to a date night (yes, that’s right a date with myself!) at the Olive Tree that overlooks Clifford’s Tower, and had a delicious Mediterranean inspired meal.

Even the Railway Station has good food and drink options, I arrived a little early for my train back to London, and happily settled myself in a lounge at The Principal Hotel, which is in a listed building, adjacent to the station, and enjoyed a flat white in very gracious surroundings. By the way York is a just under two hour train trip from London, and the cost is reasonable too.

7. It has the craziest street names

As well as the Shambles, which in itself is pretty crazy, there are many snickelways, which are passageways between the medieval streets. You discover names such as Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Gate, Goodramgate, Monk Bar to name but a few.

If you haven’t gathered by now I think York is a must see, and it would be well worthwhile visiting when you are in the UK.

Exploring Yorkshire – Brimham Rocks

We heard about Brimham Rocks, from one of the competitors at the Bramham International Horse Trials and were impressed enough by her photos to go and visit.

As the crow flies, Brimham wasn’t far from Harewood House, but as the SatNav navigates it seemed quite a distance, as we drove through narrow hedged and stone wall lined country lanes. Beautiful, but it did seem to take ages.

 

When we arrived, we realised there was a  five pound charge to park, but I discovered that this was a National Trust property, and if you were a member there was no charge. I had been meaning to join the National Trust because I knew there would be a number of National Trust properties I would want to visit, so I stumped up with the sixty-five pounds for an annual membership, which meant we did not have to pay, and I am now a proud carrying member of the National Trust!

These rocks are pretty amazing – they date back 320 million years and afford magnificent views over the Yorkshire countryside to both Leeds and York. We were able to clamber over them at will, and the path takes you gently uphill to where at the top there is a National Trust Gift Shop, a food outlet (couldn’t really be classed as a cafe but it sold the basics, and after all there is plenty of outdoor space/picnic tables to eat/drink what has been purchased.

If you are in Yorkshire these rocks are well worth visiting – and are accessible from York and Leeds or Harrogate, which from all accounts is a very pretty town that is worth a visit in its own right.

Places to explore in Yorkshire – Harewood House

Harewood House was a strong recommended visit, from one of the stallholders at the Bramham International Horse Trials, as it was in the surrounding area. A quick google and two reasons for visiting were immediately obvious to me – the garden was designed by one of the most well known landscape architects ever – Capability Brown, and second some of the scenes from the TV programme ‘Victoria’ were filmed there, and costumes from the production were in situ.

Harewood has a pretty impressive entry, and once you leave the entry gates you enjoy a lovely drive through pristine, and beautifully tended farm and parkland. We even saw deer grazing calmly, not at all disturbed by the traffic.

Harewood House (the house bit is actually a misnomer, because it is the size of a castle) stands proudly in its magnificent surroundings with neither overpowering the other. There was quite a bit of activity when we were there, the car park was nearly full, and there were several buses of school children as well, but because of the size and grandeur of the place you never felt that you were amongst crowds.

The House, which was built between 1759 and 1771, is on three levels and as the Lascelles family still occupy the upper level, this part of the house is not open to the public. The Lascelles family have royal connections as in 1922, Mary, the Princess Royal and daughter of King George V married into the family, and so this means that the House has even more historical significance, than it might otherwise have had.

The rooms are beautifully furnished, with many historical features (such as the bathrooms) being kept in their original state. There are also volunteers who are steeped in, and knowledgeable about the history of both the building and the family that lived in it. They happily answer questions, about the exhibits.

We started off looking at the middle level, which is the grandest part of the house, with magnificent art works and furniture and views out to the wonderful gardens.

                  The bathrooms, with the original camode on the right. 

 

                 Some of the magnificent furniture on display 

The costumes for the Victoria production were displayed on this level and you could just imagine them being worn in the reception and dining rooms.

The reception rooms were presented as if guests were expected for a banquet, with the most gorgeous Venetian glass dinner service.

 

In one of the rooms a volunteer told us how they are using digital printing to protect  the original carpets, and how we were not actually standing on carpet or wooden floor boards as we thought but rather a digitally printed floor covering designed to match the original.

        Here you can see the new covering over the top/replacing the original

The downstairs part of the house, could be easily missed, but it is well worth visiting, especially having seen the grandeur of the reception and dining rooms upstairs. Downstairs was the heart of the operation and it gave a real sense of how much work was required to support the entertaining on a grand scale that was going on upstairs!

The below stairs kitchen, and what they had to cook with -note the huge aga

While the original plantings and garden design were the work of Capability Brown, in Victorian times a more formal garden was designed and built on the Terrace at the rear of the house. This was rather magnificent but I would have loved to see the garden exactly as it was originally designed.

 

The cost of visiting Harewood House was thirteen pounds for an adult, and I felt this was good value given you get to view the house, the gardens, and you can walk in the surrounding parkland. There is a reasonable cafe, and you can either eat inside or on the magnificent terrace overlooking the garden and the lake.

If you hold a National Trust membership card you do need to be aware that this is not a National Trust property.

Hanging with the Horsey Set – Bramham International Horse Trials

 

I grew up as part of the horsey set. My mother and father both showjumped at the top level, and our family life revolved around horses. However while I haven’t really ridden since my teens, my brother has competed internationally – including competing at Badminton, and being part of the winning NZ team at Stockholm back in the nineties.

When the opportunity came to attend the Bramham International Horse Trials with my brother and his wife I jumped at the chance, and I’m so glad I did. They have kept shares in an eventer they initially trained, before placing him with NZ internationals, Janelle and Tim Price. He is still a very young horse in eventing terms and this was to be his first major event.

We caught the train from London to York, which took just under two hours (this proved to be a good option as it took 4 hours for one of our party to drive there the next day), where we picked up a rental car, before heading to Leeds, and Weetwood Hall, the hotel we were to stay for the next few days.

The object of this visit was to follow and see the horse as much as possible, so we headed out to Bramham, so we could see the horse, walk the X Country course (my brother as well as being an equestrian coach is also a X Country course designer) and watch Tim (Janelle normally rides Kindred Spirit/Joey but she is pregnant and so Tim has taken the riding role) exercise Joey and familiarise him with the dressage arena.

 

The event was nothing like those I remember from New Zealand – things were on a much grander scale here. There was impressive temporary stabling that had been erected especially for the event, the X -county event was completely roped off, and there were coffee and food carts dotted over the course. You caught golf carts from the stables to the arena, and there were just so many shops it was like going to a shopping mall!

The X Country was pretty big, and from what I could see quite technical. I really enjoyed walking the course, as the surrounding park land was just so beautiful. For some reason I had thought the Yorkshire country side would be a lot more wild than it was.

There was also a cocktail party to attend…and as luck would have it I was the designated sober driver. It was my first experience of driving in the UK, the first of using a sat-Nav to navigate and the first of driving the manual Audi that was the hire car. It was quite the experience! It was after 9 pm and we needed to find something to eat, but most eating places didn’t seem to be open at that time of night. We had a thorough tour of Leeds in the dark – I had no idea of where we were at for the most of the journey – all I knew was that I had to find somewhere for my backseat drivers to eat and fast! Eventually we found an Asian Restaurant which I felt would fit the bill, I was thinking it was Chinese, but instead it was an all you can eat curry buffet, which given it was after 10 at this stage was not the most ideal! From here it was a long twisty dark drive back to the hotel, at one stage I thought we were never going to find our way, but thankfully we eventually did!

The next day was dressage and shopping. We watched Joey do his dressage – the verdict was it was pretty good but that he had a few moments where he lost concentration which affected his score.

… and so to the shopping. There were so many stalls/shops and while many of these were focussed on equestrian items, there were enough stalls/shops that did not to keep me interested.

 

The next morning I woke to the sound of heavy rain, and I thought that maybe I should have bought those pink gumboots after all! However I donned my trusty running shoes, and although I did get very wet feet, this was a good decision. One, because where on earth would I get to wear pink gumboots again, and how could I fit them in my limited luggage? But, second, because I wore my running shoes I could keep up with my big striding brother as we sought to see as much of the course before Joey was due to go.

 

We watched Joey’s round from the competitors/owners tent where they had a TV. He went really well, but had a bit of an issue with knocking a flag over, this was deemed to be OK, but he went on to have a run off at a very narrow fence immediately after the water jump, and then Tim took a wrong option which meant he was officially recorded as eliminated. However the general view was he had coped admirably with a difficult course, and would have gained valuable experience.

 

Because of the elimination my equestrian experience was over, as there wasn’t much point in returning to watch the show-jumping the next day.

I loved travelling with my brother, and seeing him in his element in his world, and so while there was disappointment in terms of the horse’s performance, for me this was a once in a lifetime experience.

Meeting New People, Discovering New Places

I was introduced to Sophie, through a mutual friend, as someone who ran and blogged about it and so we got to know each other via social media and I started following her blog http://runningonfullblog.com/

So when I got to London I was pretty keen to meet her in person, and waslucky enough to spend an afternoon exploring her home suburb of Dulwich with her.

We wandered the High Street and headed to the park. I’m still in total awe of London and its many green spaces, and with my runner’s eye I knew this Park was another runners paradise. Sophie told me that they have a 5km Park Run here every Saturday morning, so I may well come back.

We grabbed lunch in the pretty cool kiosk in the middle of the park, and I got the lowdown and some valuable advice on running in London, job hunting and finding somewhere to live (all of which are top of mind for me at the moment) as well as social media and blogging.

We then wandered down towards Dulwich village, and came across a pretty cool art instillation and cafe (which unfortunately wasn’t open because it was Monday), which we enjoyed wandering around.

Dulwich struck me as a very leafy and green suburb, with plenty of large houses and gardens, but also with enough hustle and bustle that for me would make it an interesting pace to stay or live.

Luckily enough there was time for one more coffee, and Sophie took me to her favourite coffee stop in the Village – Romeo Jones. It was good coffee, and a gorgeous wee place to boot, one I would recommend to my friend who will be staying in Dulwich in September.

I loved my afternoon with Sophie, and I have lots of leads to follow up on as I build myself a new London life. I hope to be able to run with her before too long!

Loitering in London Squares

I love discovering places that are slightly off the beaten track and won’t necessarily be found by your Joe Average tourist. In my second week in London I discovered two London Squares meriting visits.

St John’s Square

I dicovered this gem when I went looking for a cafe with decent coffee, somewhere not too far away from Aldwych where I was due to meet my son for lunch. I had done my research and had found the Modern Pantry, http://www.themodernpantry.co.uk/clerkenwell/menus, right on St John’s Square, and because it is owned by New Zealanders I thought the likelihood of good coffee was high. As it turned out I was right!

I caught the train from Croydon to Farringdon, and set out using google maps to find the Modern Pantry. Once I had gotten past all the Marie Curie collectors outside the station and found my bearings, I discovered an area of London I didn’t know well. St John’s Square is the birthplace/headquarters of the St John’s ambulance, and if you approach it from the direction I did, you will enter the Square via St John’s Gate.

 

I was taken by this gate, but I was in dire need of a coffee, and once I had entered the gates my focus was on finding the Modern Pantry, so I crossed the road that intersects the Square and there it was. I grabbed a table outside and enjoyed my excellent flat white in the sunshine. You can also eat here, and the menu looked reasonably priced and quite delicious. I would have loved to stay and try it out, but I already had a lunch date elsewhere, so after my coffee I inspected the deli part of this operation and headed off.

As I left I discovered there was much more to this Square than I had originally thought, including a walled garden, and an underground church (which unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit, so if you go allow time for this because I’m told its very inteteresting).

This area is about a 20 minute walk from Fleet St, Temple and Aldwych so could easily be fitted into a more mainstream tourist visit.

St James Square

This was the week of lunch dates, and as my daughter works on St James Square I had my own personal tour guide.

St James Square is probably better known than St John’s Square and as it is just off Regent Street is very accessible. The first thing I discovered was Chatham House, yes the Chatham House of Chatham House Rules fame, as it’s right next door to the building where my daughter works. Her building has a dedication plaque to the Countess of Lovelace who was an early pioneer of computing. I was also shown the last remaining private house on the square – it had the most gorgeous topiaries as decoration.

 

After my daughter returned to work I headed into the Park in the middle of the square, joining many Londoners enjoying their lunch in the sun. There are plenty of lunch places like Pret A Manger, or Fortnum and Mason, which are nearby and where you could grab lunch to enjoy in the Park.

Londoners love these squares, that they are so lucky to have, and make the most of any available sunshine to enjoy them. They are part of the charm of this great city, and allow some time out from the crowds and the busyness, which could be overwhelming if there weren’t so many green spaces everywhere.

A Gift to Myself – The London 10 Mile

I entered this race way back in February, as a treat for myself and to make sure that I  would honour my dream of living in London for a sustained period – or as my daughter so aptly put it my (not quite a) gap year in London.

My training focus for the last 6 months had been on two other races Building Strength For What Lies Ahead – the Motatapu Off Road Marathon One Marathon – two stories and the Great Wall of China Half Marathon What an experience – The Great Wall Half Marathon

This meant plenty of hill and distance training for the first, and stair training for the second. Training for these events was hard work, and often not very pleasant at times – especially all those stair repeat sessions, but it did mean I was probably the fittest and strongest I had ever been.

Another major part of the attraction of this race was to experience running in Richmond Park, one of the world’s truly great running parks with its beautiful and historic surroundings. In may ways this was a ‘tourist’ race for me, and when Bevan and I discussed my approach to this race, this was how we decided I would run it – just enjoy the experience rather than going for a time goal. He didn’t want  me putting additional pressure on my body after my injury prone year last year and the tough training regime I had been putting it through.

I knew that to enjoy this race I would need to approach it as I do all my races, and the big thing I had learned from my Motatapu experience was to make sure I was well planned and  prepared. Perhaps the biggest challenge for me in terms of preparation would be getting there on public transport, so I made sure I did a reconnaissance trip earlier in the week to check out where to go and how long it would take.

The day dawned fine and warm, and I set out for Richmond by train, train and then a pleasant 20 minute walk.

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Setting out from Croydon

I was there early as I had to pick up my bib and I didn’t want this causing me any stress. I undertook my usual pre race ritual – toilet (no squatting loos this time thank goodness!) and stretching/warm ups. I was just about to drop my bag off when my daughter, son and his girlfriend arrived – it was so cool to have them there.

The start for this race was problematic – it’s the only race I have entered where they have started late. We were kept waiting in the starting pen for a significant period of time – everyone thought it very appropriate to have a minute’s silence for the victims of the terrorist attack the night before, but asking us to do a Mexican Wave after the advertised start time was a bit ridiculous. Finally there was the count down to the start and we were off, except we weren’t – there seemed to be a staggering system, and it was a further 4+ minutes before I actually got over the start line.

There were a lot of people and it seemed to take an age until we spread out enough to get a rhythm going. My time at this early stage of the race wasn’t good, and I remember thinking to myself I’m going to be well over the 1 hour 40 minute time that I had thought I might be capable of.

By the time I hit the three mile mark I was into my race rhythm and it was a real lift seeing my support crew which had grown with the addition of my other daughter and a sign!

The race route for me was a sheer delight. It was a good running surface which meant it didn’t require the concentration needed for my previous two races where the terrain was quite tricky. I could just run, and the scenery was amazing- beautiful wooded areas, and wide open fields. I even got to see deer on a couple of occasions.

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Richmond Park is noted for its hills, but they were nothing compared to the hills I had been running. It was hot, but nothing compared to the heat I experienced in China.

I needed a toilet stop at around the half way mark, but I was feeling good, I could tell from my watch that if I kept up the pace I was running at I would make my 1 hour 40, and at this stage I decided I could push myself, and this is what I did. As other people struggled with the hills I was able to gain on and pass them, and because the down hill bits were not steep and the surface was good I didn’t lose the ground here I had in my other races.

By the last hill at around the nine mile mark, I was beginning to struggle, not in terms of needing to walk, but because I was pushing myself it was definitely hurting. What a buzz I got to see my support crew at the top of the hill – loudly cheering me on and waving the Team Karin sign they had made. I have always run on my own, and apart from the New York  marathon in 2015 when my daughter was there, all my races have been just me. What a difference it makes having this level of support – I knew at this stage that I could keep pushing myself and that is what I did.

From this point it was all downhill to the finish, and I knew from my watch that I had nailed it. Bevan had often talked about conserving energy so that you have a strong finish, and this was the first time in a long while that I had the ‘petrol in the tank’ to do this. It was an amazing feeling, and 3 days later I’m still on a runner’s high.

Don’t Neglect the Tate Britain

I decided I needed an art day, and as I have visited the Tate Modern on many occasions I decided it was high time I visited its quieter older sister – the Tate Britain at Milbank on the opposite side of the river from its younger sassy sibling.


I was impressed and really glad I decided to visit, even though frustratingly, I missed the David Hockney exhibition by only one day! Like its counterpart, the Tate Britain is free although a 4 pound donation is expected, and it has a pretty impressive collection. First up for me was the decade exhibition rooms where the art is grouped, as you might expect, by decades.
Just off from this exhibition, were the Turner (JMW Turner to be precise) rooms, where there are an unbelievable number of Turners and you could follow his artistic development,  over several years. I especially liked the unfinished works found in his studio after his death – you could really see the layering he put into his finished work, and these works could have stood on their own as fully finished, and most people (me included) would not have realised.


I loved the sixties and seventies rooms best, because they depicted things that were happening in my lifetime.
There was also a room dedicated to Henry Moore sculptures, although it did seem a shame that they were indoors – I have always loved the Henry Moore sculpture at the Botanical Gardens in Wellington, and the way it interacts with the views of the hills and harbour. It is worth noting that  there is a Henry Moore on the riverbank just along from the Tate Modern, which is worth making a slight detour to see.

A selection of Henry Moore sculptures


Some of the pieces in the sixties/seventies rooms

I spent two to three hours here wandering from room to room. It’s all here – if you want modern avante garde art, or you want something a little more historic. The cafe is also good, and was a a quiet,cool space to regather my energy and my thoughts. There is also a restaurant where you can dine more formally gazing at the rather magnificent mural on the wall. As an added bonus the gift shop is good too.

So my advice is go see the Tate Modern, the building and collections there are both mid-blowing, but don’t neglect the Tate Britain, as it is also really worth a visit in its own right.

Forms In Space by Cerith Wyn Evans 


Merry-Go-Round by Mark Gertler.                          Flatford Mill by Frances Hodgkins

Daytripp’n – The Seven Sisters

I didn’t realise just how useful the Meet Up app would prove to be. Back in Wellington I belong to WoRM (Wellington Running Meetup Group) and knew that in moving to London with its much larger range of MeetUp Groups it would be an important tool for me to meet and get to know new people. So when I discovered a group called Coach Day Trips Out of London, I decided to give it a try.

This is how I came to recently find myself, alongside 30 or so people of various nationalities and ages at St James Tube station at 8.45 on the Saturday of a Bank Holiday weekend.  It was interesting to find about my fellow travellers as we asked each other how long we had been in London, what we were doing there, and how many of these Groups did you belong to? I, having only been in London less than a week was a definite newbie!

The Coach arrived, and we set off. It took ages to actually get out of London – it was a Bank Holiday after all, and by the time we arrived at Seaforth,our destination and where we would start our walk, we were half an hour behind schedule. By the time everyone had used the bathrooms at the rustic public house we were probably an hour behind schedule.

We set off crossing the river and the river-flats before we reached the actual path to the Seven Sisters. There were a number of other interesting walking paths that we could have taken.

The going was pretty easy by New Zealand standards, but we were walking across farmland and climbed up (and down) several hills, sometimes along sheep tracks. The views of the cliffs made it all worthwhile though – they were simply stunning. Apparently these cliffs are used in period films and television dramas to stand in for the White Cliffs of Dover, because unlike the originals there are no modern buildings blotting the landscape.

There are at least two ways of doing this walk. You can do the full 22 mile walk from Brighton to Eastbourne (easily possible in one day if you’re fit enough I’m told) catching the train from and back to London. The other way is to do what I did and use the MeetUp App, but there are probably other options as well.  We started from Seaforth to Beachy Head a distance of around nine miles, which while walking at a relatively fast pace but allowing for time to take photos and to have breaks along the way made for a solid afternoon’s walk. Adding in the 2 hour coach trip each way and time for a beer at the Pub at the end meant it was a fairly solid day’s outing.

I’d advise taking some some warm clothes, as while  it was still and warm in London, there was a cooling breeze out on the coast and I was glad of the Icebreaker I had thrown in. You could take a picnic with you, but there is a pub at the beginning and the end of the trail, as well as a National Trust shop and cafe along the way,

The scenery on the walk was simply stunning, and the cliffs are so quintessentially England, that I’d recommend it as a day trip should you want to get out of London.

Sketch Cafe – an Uunexpected Oasis in the Heart of London

An instgram picture of an all pink cafe totally intrigued me and I knew I had to visit it when I was next in London. To find out where it was, I just googled ‘pink cafe London” and it came up immediately. I wasn’t sure where it would be and  I never would have guessed Conduit St, off Regent St just down from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Circus.

I had been reading about how writing your blog in new and unique places would aid the writing process so thought I would give it a try, and I decided this cafe would be the place to do it. From the moment I found the front door I was in awe. The entry was decked with the most beautiful floral arrangements, and I knew that my decision not to pay 180 pounds for a ticket to the Chelsea Flower Show was a good one – I could get my floral feast here.

 

 

From the entrance there was no sign of the famed pink room and I was shown by the elegantly dressed hostess (as in dressed to attend a posh garden party or wedding) into a room with beautifully upholstered chairs and sofas in richly brocaded materials, where I happily sat and ordered a pot of vanilla flavoured tea, which I made last nearly an hour as I wrote my blog and happily observed the luxurious surroundings.

Trouble was I hadn’t seen the pink room, and after all that was what I had come to see! The problem was solved when I asked for directions to the bathroom, and to get to this you had to go deeper into the cafe, through other spaces, including the pink room which you had to walk through, to get to the bathrooms. I was already entranced by the decor of this place, but the bathrooms completely blew me away. I wasn’t the only one blown away – there were many people in the room all taking photos, and I stumbled upon several beautiful, and beautifully dressed, young girls intent on taking selfies. It was so amazing I wasn’t exactly immune from the desire to take selfies myself!!

I think this cafe is a must visit for anyone who appreciates beauty and original over the top design. I can’t vouch for the food, but I can vouch for the service, and if you don’t have the money to spend, you can get away with a visit for the price of a cup of tea. You can brunch, lunch and dinner here, and the cocktail list is comprehensive – if a little more expensive than average pub prices (a glass of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc was 21 pounds!). However, when I went back for a second visit with my daughter they made me a reasonably priced, superbly made gin and tonic.