Adult sleepover

A couple of months back Das and I booked something we thought sounded pretty amazing.  Dinosnores! An overnight stay at the beautiful Natural History Museum.

Leading up to the event I was so excited, just like a kid at Christmas. I worked from home Friday as we had to take pillows and sleeping bags and I couldn’t face lugging that to work during peak time. 

With gates set to open to the 300 guests at 6.30pm, we aimed to be there just gone 6 and weren’t the only ones with that idea – a queue of maybe 50 odd people had already started.

We soon started slowly moving through, a thorough bag search was carried out, our bookings were checked, wrist bands to identify which of three teams we were part of handed out and we were given our table number. We were also given two mats each to be used as a mattress and then had to chose our spot. We were lucky to find some space right next to Dippy, the Diplodocus.

Once settled we headed to the bar with a voucher for a free drink. Some prosecco was ordered and we waited for the hall to fill up.

After an introductory chat, the evening’s events were explained and we headed to the restaurant for a sit down meal. The table had 4 seats free and luckily the starters at 2 of those appeared to be veggie. We sat next to a friendly couple named Sarah and Andy who, unknown to us at the time would make the evening extra cool! Dinner was actually very nice, a rocket and sweet potato starter, polenta with delicious mushrooms for a main and finally the most delicious chocolate mousse to finish off. Washed down with some white wine and decent conversation.
Once dinner was complete we saw the purpose of the three groups, we’d all be heading off to one of three events and then rotate. Our first stop was an excellent talk by one of the biologists on animal penises. I know it sounds like a totally odd topic but she was an excellent speaker, very funny and it was actually insightful. 

Next stop, a comedy act. The Ugly Animal Preservation Society is a comedy night with a conservation twist founded in Great Britain by biologist, writer and TV presenter Simon Watt to raise the profile of animal species which lack traditional aesthetically appealing characteristics. Simon was funny and the act well rehearsed. 

Then our final stop, a chat about gin. First speaker was from Sipsmith talking about the history of gin and Sipsmiths hand in helping get craft brewing of gin back on the map. And then a chap from the museum who looks after the collection of 5 million specimen of plants. We also had a chance to taste two gins. 

What I loved about the chats was the enthusiasm and passion that all the speakers had for what they did. 

By now it was nearly midnight. And for the next 2.5 hours the exhibitions would be open and we could roam as we wanted. So we all stuck together as a group and we did the following:

  • Wildlife Photographer of the Year
  • Buy drinks before bar closed 
  • Insect sampling  (Sarah)
  • Dinosaur display
  • History of the museum
  • Jurassic Park (by now it was 3am and Sarah and Andy went off to bed)

At 5.45 am Das and I thought we’d get some shut eye. And we managed 2 hours.

Up at 7am and we were going to have breakfast but decided to hit the road and have a big fry up at home.

What an amazing event.  Would 100% recommend to anyone. We were even luckier to find that Andy was an avid dinosaur fan and had soooooo much knowledge about them. It was like having our own guide! 

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From Balham to Shaftesbury Ave

London always has so much to offer and lately we’ve been trying hard to make the most of it. 

So a couple of weekends back we firstly tried a new (well new to us) bar then restaurant in Balham to catch up with friends. The bar is on the high street and is called Hagen & Hyde and was actually very cool. Friendly staff, plenty of drink choice, not too crowded (especially being a Friday night). We then headed to Bedford Hill and tried out a very friendly, Italian run, Italian restaurant called Caminata.  The food was gorgeous, atmosphere warm and cosy and the wine flowed freely. It was a great evening and I can highly recommend both places.

Saturday was another outing. First stop in the late afternoon was Talli Joe’s, a fun cocktail bar and eatery that does Indian Street food snacks and deliciously different cocktails.  We very much enjoyed both. For dinner we’d planned on Shuang Shuang, a place where you chose your broth then add sauces and noodles and finally from a conveyor belt you add your protein and veg. Given that reservations aren’t accepted we weren’t surprised there was a 20 minute wait so we headed off to our favourite Japanese spot, Taro. The owner recognised us as lately we’ve been there quite a bit so he said ‘no menu?’ – we didn’t need it as we knew exactly what we wanted! As usual I went for the vegetarian bento box. It is just soooooo good. Also tried the Asahi Black which was surprisingly good.

And finally it was a quick dash up to the London Palladium near Oxford circus tube for our final event ‘Alan Cumming sings sappy songs’. The name really doesn’t do the show justice. Yes he does sing some sappy songs however it is more than just a musical concert. He chats and tells stories of his life in musical theatre and as an actor, sings the odd mash up, tells a funny tale then a sad one… he is so comfortable in front of an audience that although I’m sure it is extremely well rehearsed, it didn’t in anyway way come across forced or false. He has a fabulous voice and I’d certainly pay to see him the next time he’s on stage.

So thanks again London for providing us with a brilliant weekend!

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Hagen & Hyde
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Hagen & Hyde
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London has some gorgeous buildings
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Talli Joe's
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Talli Joe's
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Alan Cumming is a little hard to see

Lazy Sunday afternoons

This weekend just gone, Das’s parents arrived in the UK, staying with us for one week.  We went out to Heathrow to pick them up. I love arrivals so much more than departures. It’s a happy place, the tears people shed are of joy for seeing friends and family, not sadness because loved ones are leaving. So I really liked that as people came through a young boy was playing, very beautifully I must add, a cello.

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On Sunday we woke to a lovely sunny day so decided to make the most of it by taking a trip down to southbank.  We had a lovely time, enjoying street food at Kerb, the market place filled with various choices, mainly Indian due to an Indian festival being on.  We had a delish mung dhal dosa with some bhal puri and das also tracked down a guy who had been on TV, he sold amazing snacks.  Chan wanted to see the Globe, so we walked in that direction – encountering a South American festival, the lovely Gabriels Wharf and lots of street theatre.  A fun day.

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Fabulously fun weekend

Friday at last! It had been a long, busy week at work so Friday came as a welcome relief.  Friday eve started at Wahaca for a scrummy dinner with friends. Such an easy place to like with tasty food, friendly service and delicious cocktails.  After the meal it was time to get to the O2 for Muse.  Not a band I liked or disliked, but when friends said they had tickets Das was dead keen having seen them in concert before.  I’d been conscientiously listening to them on Spotify so knew their latest album, no point going along if I didn’t at least know a couple of songs. Turns out I knew more than I thought. They played old stuff, new stuff, stuff that wasn’t theirs… It was a very slick performance, you could tell they’ve been doing it together for a long time.  Very pleased to have gone and highly recommend seeing them live.

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Saturday was an early start as we had a big day ahead. Breakfast first, meeting friends at a pub called The Hydrant, right opposite the Monument. Food was great, shame I can’t say that for the service which one second was jovial the next you were getting sighed at or snapped at.  And I hate places where staff studiously ignore you when you try wave them down, I mean come on, someone standing up, gesticulating wildly – what else could it mean other than could I please get your attention?

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The Hydrant

Anyway that wasn’t going to ruin a perfectly good day as our next stop was Old Billingsgate for another Laithwaites wine tasting. And once again we had lots of fun! We’d paid a little extra to try the Fine Wines. And although some were lovely, I’m not too sure I really have the palate to tell the difference between a £7 bottle and a £70 one.  I must say though that the Moet Dom Perignon was DIVINE! Did you know that Moet is pronounced with the t at the end as it’s actually a German word? You learn something every day!

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Where to start?

After our wine tasting we headed towards Borough as we had a table booked for dinner. Being a little early we first stopped in at a nice pub for a couple then to Arabica Kitchen and Bar, which I’ve blogged about before and I can say once again it was gorgeous! The food was fabulous and they are always so accommodating.  We’d overstayed our welcome so tumbled out into the street with our bellies full. We carried on for another couple of hours, one drink at The Sheaf and then on to the Wheatsheaf both within a couple minutes walk of each other.  What a great day it had been!

Waking at 7am Sunday morning I felt horrible. Mixing wine, beer and cocktails is never a good thing. However another 2 hours sleep and a shower and I was feeling fine. I’d bought some new walking shoes ready for our forthcoming trip to Jordan do wanted to test them out with a longer walk than just to work, so we headed off in bright sunshine (but cold wind!) to Balham. Everyone was out and about so our jaunt through Tooting Bec Common was dodging kids on bikes and scooters, joggers, parents who have no idea about the world around them and just suddenly stop in the middle of the path because their kid wants something. However, given I don’t own the common, I can’t really complain and I still enjoyed the atmosphere of everyone enjoying a sunny weekend.  Balham was packed, tables spilled out on the pavements, the cheerful clink of cutlery could be heard everywhere and smiles were on everyone’s faces.  We found a great little craft beer shop called We Brought Beer and we sat in the sun enjoying a FourPure white ale, which was very tasty.  What a fab weekend it was!

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The view from We Brought Beer

Boooooo….

That was the sound the audience made every time Captain Hook came on stage during Saturday nights show of Peter Pan at the New Wimbledon theatre. He was of course the baddie!

We had a fabulous afternoon in Wimbledon starting mid afternoon at The Old Frizzle, a nice pub near the theatre.  With the show commencing at 7pm and not ending until 9.30pm, we opted for an early dinner and once again went to Mai Thai, everything was delicious and with the exception of them running out of prosecco (!) it was a lovely meal.  With my chair facing towards the restaurant, I said to Das that I think I recognise someone who was at the pub and is now enjoying dinner with what appeared to be his kids and his parents.  I said I think I’ve seen him on TV, maybe he’s a comedian…When Das finally looked he rolled his eyes at me ‘that’s Marcus Brigstocke, and you will be seeing him onstage in about 45 minutes!’ The rather fancy moustache should have given the Captain Hook character away 😉

Das and I were both so pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoyed the evening that we will be going back next year. Jarred Christmas, a kiwi comedian, was just fantastic, as was Marcus Brigstocke, who as mentioned earlier played Hook. There were faux pas on stage but they were so good at thinking on their feet that it made it even funnier. The dance troupe ‘Flawless’ were just that, their dance routines were awesome. I’m so pleased we went, thanks Das for the idea and Jarred for being in it, if he hadn’t I don’t think our eyes would have been opened to the fun that is the Christmas panto!

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Mockingjays and Assassins

Last Saturday was a movie extravaganza! Went and saw two movies, not in a row, not sure I could handle sitting in a comfortable-at-first-but-soon-get-a-numb-bum seat for that length of time…

The day started on the bus until someone with the brain as big as a pecan forgot the voucher codes, I get so annoyed at myself sometimes.  It was lucky we went back to get them as I’d bought the tickets through work for a really big discount and found I had to have the codes to transfer them into a proper ticket! Anyway, instead of taking the bus it meant we went by tube which meant we walked past Mud (cool cafe) which meant a nice soy flat white!  Have to look for the silver lining.

Our first stop was the Wimbledon Odeon to get the tickets and then on to a restaurant called Chipotle. However it was filled with families which meant children and babies, to me it felt like they were everywhere, hiding under tables, swinging from the lights, serving the food…. Aghhh, you get the picture (don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with kids, just didn’t feel like eating lunch in a playground).  So on to Wagamamas, a pretty stable stalwart.  No kids BUT a big table filled with pregnant mums, can handle that… Lunch was actually nicer than just nice – which is usually how I describe Wagas – ‘nice’. We had a lovely salad, soup and starters to share.

We were running late so legged it to the cinema, stopping to buy popcorn on the way and enjoying a rather empty theatre to see the final installment of the Hunger Games.  Das and I were the oldest ones there! The 2 hours 17 mins went past relatively quickly, after bugging Das for a few reminders of what happened in the previous movie – what did I tell you about the pecan sized brain?!  Was a bit disappointed with the movie, bit slow going and not as much excitement as in the others we’d seen.  But still, it’s fun to go to the movies isn’t it!

After that we went to a bar called Suburban. Very friendly staff and 2-4-1 cocktails- who can complain.  Then on to a great restaurant called Mai Thai. What a feast! I had green curry with veg, we had morning glory as a side and Das had a delish noodle dish.  We were absolutely splitting at the seams when we left there, rolling back to the cinema to see Spectre. Another long movie, two and a half hours but it went pretty quickly although that may be due to the cocktails and prosecco at dinner… Anyway, it wasn’t the best Bond movie (as one of my colleagues at work put it – it felt like one long commercial), my fave if the current Bond’s films is still Casino Royale, however it was good entertainment as Bond always is.

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Fun filled weekend

Friday night started with a couple of cocktails at our lovely Little Bar. I limited myself to 2 as I knew we had a busy weekend ahead. We met a nice kiwi couple who have been in London for 18 years – good to meet NZ’s who have been here longer than us!

Saturday we were out all day. It started with brunch at Borough Market – not a massive choice for vegans until we found wokit – you choose your type of noodle or rice, your protein then sauce and they stir fry it for you. It was delicious! I had rice noodles with tofu and extra mushrooms and broccoli plus a black bean sauce, Das had pumpkin and buckwheat noodles with a tamari, chilli and maple sauce – I can highly recommend if you are after a quick, tasty and healthy lunch.
We’d already met the guys, they were in Maria’s cafe so we all met at the side entrance to Vinopolis – this is the exhibition/event space.  And this is where 3 hours of wine tasting started, run by Laithwaites.  Das and I headed straight to the bubble bar, here we tried some alternatives to champers plus some wine cocktails. Our fave was prosseco and icewine. Plus we tried a sparkling red (marmite wine, love it or hate it), plus a lovely light moscatel.  Perfect for long drinking sessions as it is only 5% alcohol. We eventually met with the guys and made our way around the world – Moldova, Hungary (for their divine tokaji sweet sweet dessert wine), France for some red (Cabalie Grand Reserve, delish!) plus would be rude not to try some Bolli and a bit of Sancerre, Argentina for it’s malbecs, we even went to NZ (disappointed!) and Aussie. Portugal featured – 4 different ports, one really stood out (that lovely sweet raisin flavour shone through), oh and we tried some nice English sparkling. hmmm was there anything else? Well I will tell you that was plenty! Lucky there were crackers everywhere, I guess to help clear the palette, plus plenty of water to swish the glasses clean but I always drank the water to adhere to the rule – same amount of water for alcohol!  And I think it worked… The show was brilliantly organised, it wasn’t too overcrowded so you could easily get around and everyone was very knowledgeable.  I would certainly go again.  Sadly Vinopolis won’t be the venue though, it is being turned into retail space.  Such a shame.

After that we headed to the Anchor for a couple of hours enjoying some beers and prosseco for the girls.  And at 5pm time to head back to Cantina, the restaurant attached to Vinopolis. We had drinks in the bar first and then rather rowdily moved into the restaurant. It has the lovely vaulted ceilings that the events area has and we had a nice meal with a lot more wine!  Das and I finished the night after we had all had one more cocktail whilst the others went on to party until 2am – crazy people!

Sunday I had a lie in whilst Das went for a run and then later in the afternoon we headed over to Greenwich. First stop The Pilot to meet up with mates (same ones as the previous night) and to have an early dinner. It was a rather subdued affair with a few people feeling a bit tired… Once dinner was over we headed to the O2 to take our seats in a corporate box – how lucky to have a friend whose company is happy to sell cheap tickets to events when the boxes aren’t in use! Anyway, we saw Van Morrison and Tom Jones both together and separately – fantastic concert. They are chalk and cheese! Van doesn’t say boo, whilst Tom happily chats to the audience about Elvis!  I’m so pleased we went, it turned out to be a fabulous weekend!

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Wokit
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Laithwaites wine tasting at Vinopolis
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Cantina meal
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Inside Cantina
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Starters at The Pilot
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Van Morrison
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The legend that is Tom Jones