Saturday, 20 May 2017

Taking A Cocktail Cruise Of East London

With summer fast approaching and the days getting warmer, it's time to start thinking of outdoor activities, to maximise our time out in the sun. So, how about a canal boat ride?

Hackney Wick

London canals provide perfect spots to spend your summer days by the water, with a variety of pubs and cafes ready to capitalise on the nice breeze and feeling of not being in the middle of one of the biggest European capitals. Sitting by the water and enjoying a cocktail is as close as you can get to a holiday without leaving the city.

canal London

Now, we have already checked out a lovely route to go for a walk by Regent's Canal, but, if you are feeling particularly lazy, you can hop on a canal boat and let it take you up and down the canal for an hour or two, while you can focus on the important task of sipping cocktails.

canal boat

To do just that and to reward some of our top volunteers at work, I arranged a lovely Saturday out in East London, on board the Alfred Le Roy canal boat cruise. The cruise begins at Hackney Wick, following the river Lea all the way to the Olympic Park, down to Limehouse (or Springfield Park) and back again.

canal boats

Along the way, you can either sit inside the boat, the roof may be removed if the weather is warm enough, or go to the front of the boat for some Titanic reenactment (aka Jack I'm flying and such) and pretend you are the captain of the boat. The actual captain is at the back and controls the boat from the rear.

Alfred Le Roy Cocktail Cruise

Still, the front of the boat is the best place to take photos of the canal with an unobstructed view and also get your photo taken with it (like I did below).

Kristine Tsiknaki

Now, let's talk about the cocktails, pretty much a huge part of a cocktail cruise... In a few words, well, they are awesome! The cruise offers five signature cocktails (the menu can be found here), out of which you get one as part of your ticket, which is pretty cool. I then of course proceeded to try all the others as well, my favourite being the Toffee Apple Sour (bourbon, apple, citrus and egg white), which is pretty much like a whiskey sour but with sweet apple. In the photo below it is the one with the foamy top. 

Alfred Le Roy Cocktail Cruise

One particularly strange thing I enjoyed, which you do not really get by walking along the canal, is being inside the lock when the boat goes from a high to a low part and the reverse. I for some reason find it fascinating going higher or lower on the river and greatly admire the engineering work that is required to do so. Being from an island, boats were just in the sea and no such mechanisms were needed. I think the novelty has not worn out for me yet.

Alfred Le Roy Cocktail Cruise

At the end of the cruise, the boat returns to its original place, where there is a lovely pub/brewery (CRATE Bar & Pizzeria) to sit at and have some food by the water and more drinks before you head home, so the day does not have to end when the cruise does, which is a big plus for me.

Alfred Le Roy Cocktail Cruise

If you are in fact considering going on this cruise, I particularly recommend it for bigger groups, as you can easily fill up the boat and have a pretty much private cruise if you can get 30-40 people together. Birthday parties, team days out and such would be ideal for this cruise, you will do something unusual, explore the city and take some great photos to remember it all afterwards. 

Alfred Le Roy Cocktail Cruise

The prices were about £25 per person when I booked it, although I checked again now and they seem to encourage group bookings rather than individual tickets, meaning you may have to get some people together for it anyway, even if that does not actually affect the price per individual at the end. You can book, read more about the cruise and check out the menus for food and drinks on their Design My Night page.

Alfred Le Roy Cocktail Cruise

Are there any other canal boat tours you've been on and what's your favourite canal in London? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

How To Make New Friends When You Move To A New City - My Citysocializer Story

Let's get this out of the way... I hate moving! And I have moved a lot and started over in terms of social life and discovering a new city a few times. I moved from Heraklion to Thessaloniki, then to Norwich, then back to Thessaloniki, then to London.

silent disco
Silent Disco
Moving to Thessaloniki and Norwich were fairly easy; I was going there to study so I met and made friends with other students like me. We were all there in the same classes, sports clubs, societies and a very organised social life. Moving to London was a bit different. As a student in London you have the whole city at your disposal so you no longer depend on your student union to go out and the student life is decentralised. While I met a couple of friends as soon as our masters were finished we split up, some moved away, some got jobs and were too busy to go out and even when they were free our schedules hardly coincided.

meet new people
Brixton Pub Crawl
Trying to build a career, apply for jobs and figure out what I wanted to do was already stressful enough and I spent a lot of hours seeing other people on facebook having friends, going out and having fun, when I could barely manage to get some people together once a month. It was early spring, just when people started having barbecues, when I reached the limit and typed on my phone 'app to make friends' you know, because whatever you need nowadays there is an app for that. To my surprise, there was an app for that: citysocializer.

meet new people

I immediately joined, paid for my membership and booked on an event that was a couple of hours later, on the other side of the city, in London Fields park. It was a barbecue, a photo of which you can see below. I got ready, took the tube and overground and was there in time, only to see that everyone else was running late. It being the first time I tried something like this, I sat on a bench in the park, panicking, wondering how I could just go up to a bunch of strangers and ask if anyone would want to be my friend. Honestly, I almost left to go home, but at that moment I got a message from the host of the social, Andrea, who said he was there with a few more people, posted a photo of the group and their location and I decided to at least give it a chance and go say hi. If I did not like it I could always come up with an excuse and go home.

meet new people
Barbecue in London Fields
As soon as I met the group everyone treated me like we had known each other forever, we chatted about everything from how our weekend was to what music festivals we were thinking of going to and even made some plans to go to a few more things happening in the next few weeks. We got the barbecues ready and cooked sausages and burgers, shared cold beers in the sun and even started talking with a group of black dancers, who had brought massive speakers and proceeded to teach everyone in the park to dance to African music. When it got dark our group moved to a pub. When the pub closed we went to Piccadilly Institute. When Piccadilly Institute closed at 3 in the morning we went got get chips. I ended up going back home at 6 in the morning, just as the sun was coming up, after 18 hours! Of course I was totally in love with the app. 

meet new people
Brighton Trip
In the next couple of weeks I had attended 8 more socials and had applied for a job at the company, which I got and I have been their marketing manager for the past 2.5 years. Over this time, I have been to 114 socials and have hosted another 70 myself. I took a group to Brighton for a weekend and went up to Leeds to meet our community there. When there is something I want to do but I do not want to go alone, all I have to do is post it on the website and other members will see it and join me. Through citysocializer I ended up meeting my closest friends here in London and even my boyfriend, Chris. Social and personal life sorted. I could never imagine all of this when I was at that park bench panicking and wanting to go home.

meet new people
The Goblin King's Masquerade Ball
For me the most important lesson out of all this is that you have to take chances, say yes to new things no matter how crazy and unusual they seem and just go for it. I never thought I would use an app to completely transform my social life but that is exactly what happened. And 3 years down the line there are so many more options to meet people. 

meet new people
Star Wars Secret Cinema
Of course there is citysocializer, with a variety of social events, drinks, parties, cinema, dinners, art gallery visit, even day trips and small breaks abroad. The there is facebook and meetup with a selection of interest based groups. Last year I joined a fairy kei group and have met lots of new people who also like japanese fashion as well as some social networking groups for bloggers and youtubers. 

meet new people
Medieval Banquet
Basically, when you need to find other people like you as an adult the internet is your best friend. Join as many groups as you can, go out as much as possible and meet as many people as you can find. Out of all those, you are bound to make some great friends, who share the same interests and want to go out and do the same things as you.

Bonus gift for my readers: If you do want to try citysocializer out you can use my special discount code 'getsocial' for 50% off your first membership period. 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Bompas & Parr - Beyond The Waterfall

Ever wish you could go under the sea, find a bar full of mermen, sip squid ink cocktails and pretty much pretend you are in another world? Well, I did that last month in Bompas and Parr's Beyond The Waterfall popup and let me tell you it was amazing!

To start with, you enter into the reception room, where the hostess greets you and directs you to the curiosity cabinet, which is covered with specimens from the sea, shells, strange vials and pots, all labeled with some explanation or other.

Once the group is assembled, you are given a pouch with two silver seashells and led through a small tunnel, directing you to the waterfall area.

In this area, consisting of a small pool with an island in the middle, a few boats and a lot of smoke hovering over the water, you meet the ferry man. 

He helps you on your boat, gives you your ores and sends you off to go around the pool. You also find out that the smoke over the water is actually vaporised gin and tonic, a nod to Bompas and Parr's previous installation, Alcoholic Architecture, in which you entered a room of vaporised gin and tonic for 10-15 minutes and were instructed to breathe responsibly. I had also attended that one last year so I was happy to see it come back in some form.

Once you are through the cloud, you return to the ferry man on the other side of the island. In order to proceed, you need to give him one of your silver shells in exchange for a bottle of dark liquid, which contains mainly fortified wine with glitter.

Then you pass through the waterfall, an umbrella is provided for cover your head, and reach the end of the lake. 

In the next area you meet an old man, who shows you the aquarium with lots of small jellyfish and then directs you to the jewel well. You are instructed to look at all the stones and crystals, focus and pick one that speaks to you to take and keep. I picked up a rose quartz crystal and we ended up having a small discussion over it and the energies of crystals.

Next step: the bar! To enter you go through a pitch black tunnel and come out in a blue room, with orange sofas and mermen in tanks.

You receive a welcome cocktail and sit down to enjoy it and look at the menu of the other cocktails on offer.

To get your second cocktail you must exchange it for your other silver shell.

This is also a good time to drink your other cocktail, what you received earlier from the ferry man.

While you would not think so, squid ink margarita is actually a thing and actually tastes good. I would love to get more of those if I could.

Now moving on the the mermen. There is a selection of mermen, all with different skills and a variety of way to interact with them. 

While one of them is reading fortunes in Tarot cards, another tells you your future according to your star sign or plays the violin.

You can also pick up a sponge and wash their tails or go up the rocks and take a photo with them.

I ended up being singled out from the crowd due to my outfit - I went as a pastel mermaid with almost as much glitter as the merman had - and spent most of my time at the bar up there with this merman, chatting about relationships, events, career and family. It was my favourite part of the evening and we took some selfies as well.

I also filmed a few clips while I was there, so you can see more details in my video from the event below!

All in all, Bompas and Parr did it again, with another brilliant instalment in their popup cocktail experiences, making them my favourite team to look out for. You just know everything they do will be amazing.

Unfortunately, this event was limited time only so you will not be able to visit any more, but the team behind it constantly put on new creative things, so I recommend following their social media and joining their mailing list to find out as soon as something new comes up and buying your tickets immediately, because they sell out fast.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Regent's Canal & Regent's Park Walks In Photos

One of my favourite parts of London for a walk is Regent's Canal and Regent's Park. The canal spans all the way across the north side of Central London, from Paddington, to Camden, Mile End and Limehouse. It used to be right next to my building in Queen Mary Univesity of London and now it is very close to where I live near Little Venice.

canal boat decor

Walking by the canal a lot of times feels like walking into a different world, especially in the parts where canal boats can dock overnight and can stay for a prolonged time. All along the canal there are both spaces that you can visit 24 hours a day, and those which are gated and are only open during daytime. The second ones are the most curious places you will find in London.

wall garden

Life in a canal boat is quite different to what most people are used to, but what seems to be the most striking is the array of objects you can find around the boats, in the little self made gardens the boaters have created in their enclosed areas. 

bead art

Old shelves, boxes, oil lamps, colourful beads and trinkets transform into flowerpots and all kinds of decorations, all creating an intricate tapestry of unusual and unique art. The boaters that you will occasionally see out and about having their coffee or chatting away always seem so relaxed and as though they came out of a different world.

oil lamps

Regent's Canal

I also urge you to look at the names of the boats, as boat names are always fun to look at.

Regent's Canal

Continuing down the canal, you will pass in front of an array of gorgeous houses. I like to imagine huge balls and garden parties happening inside them, where delicious treats are paraded in front of the guests carried by an army of waiters and the champagne flows free. I know, I watch a lot of films, but just look at this house below! I wish I lived there but let's be real, for most people this would be but a dream.

Regent's Canal

Well, at least we can all have a walk in one of the most beautiful gardens in the area, Regent's Park. Trees, flowers, lakes and lots of birds, it is the perfect place to feel like you are out of the city and take some photos that look like you actually went somewhere in the country. 

regent's park lake

Some of the wildlife might be after your lunch... I usually feed the cute little robins like this one but not the pigeons, because those flying chickens look like they eat a lot. 


Plus sometimes there are musicians playing in the bandstand or special events happening, which is always fun to watch.

Regent's Park

As far as London walks and parks go I totally recommend Regent's Canal and Regent's park for a lovely relaxing day out. Discover the magic of the canal world and lose yourself among the trees in the park.

Do let me know where you like going for a walk and I will go check it out.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Christmas At Kew Gardens | A Photo Tour

If there was a Christmas attraction I would visit all the time this has to be it. As it was my first time visiting I was not sure what to expect, but this was definitely beyond anything I could have imagined.

Join me for a little photo tour...

Entering from Victoria Gate, you are greeted by talking trees...

... only to move towards to singing trees, chanting Carol of the Bells, one of my favourite Christmas songs.

Noteworthy trees of the park along the trail had been decorated with lights so that we would not miss them.

I love how beautiful Christmas lights are.

This was one of my favourite installations! 
5 golden rings...

five golden rings

...4 calling birds...

Christmas at Kew

...3 french hens...

Christmas at Kew

...2 turtle doves...

Christmas at Kew

...and a partridge in a pear tree!

Christmas at Kew

This rotating disco ball heart made this section of the park feel like a dancefloor. I would definitely be up for a party under it.

Christmas at Kew

Going through this tunnel you could end up somewhere magical... oh wait, you already are somewhere magical. Never mind.

Christmas at Kew

Yes, I was quite excited in that tunnel.

Christmas at Kew

Magical light flowers.

Christmas at Kew

A beehive made of light! I think this might be part of the regular attractions but do not quote me on this.

Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew

Candlesticks or chess pieces?

Christmas at Kew

These elves called us in to create magic and summon Santa!

Christmas at Kew

At the end of the trail a magical light show!

Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew

If you want to do some cheeky shopping while you are there you can not only get the usual Kew Gardens souvenirs but also some some Christmas decorations and gifts.

Christmas at Kew

Christmas at Kew

As I said at the beginning, I would gladly come back to this attraction. In an ideal world, I would even get a few of the singing trees for my garden (this ideal world also involves me having a garden). I 100% recommend going to this, it is the real winter wonderland, and if you only can afford to do one thing because of time or money this should be it!

Do let me know if you have been here before and what you thought and if you go after reading this, do tell me if you had a good time.

All the best