St Paul’s

23 Jul

Sometimes you take a picture and you give yourself a pat on the back because you took a really good picture.  Alan told me that this would be a great place to take a snapshot of St Paul’s Cathedral.

And he was right!

St Paul's Cathedral

Upwards and onwards

19 Jul

In 1666 a great fire ravaged London for 3 days, devouring 13,200 houses, 87 parishes, St Paul’s Cathedral and most of the buildings of the city’s government.  At the time, there were about 80,000 people living in London and it is estimated that 70,000 of that total number lost their homes.  The fire, which apparently started on Pudding Lane, in the bakery of Thomas Farriner, very nearly reached Whitehall Palace where the current monarch of the day, Charles II, was in residence.  Surprisingly, only 6 deaths were verified.

On the corner of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill stands a monument to the Great Fire commissioned by Charles II.  Identified simply as “The Monument,” it is described as a fluted Doric column and stands 202 feet from where the Great Fire started.  Until very recently, I didn’t know that you could go up the Monument.

The Monument

On a bright, breezy and sunny Saturday morning, Alan and I went up the Monument.  I approached this challenge with trepidation.  I am not the fittest of people and have been known to huff and puff on some days when brisk walking from my flat into town to get groceries.  I’d much rather read than walk these days.  So this activity worried me a lot.  I was afraid I’d embarrass Alan by wanting to stop in the middle of the trek up to the top of the Monument.

Up we go!

So we paid our £4 for the privilege (it’s £4 for each adult to go up but we had a 2 for 1 voucher, so it was only £4 for the 2 of us) and up we went.  There are 311 steps.  Yes.  Three.  HUNDRED.  Eleven.  Steps.  At first, I wondered why there were hooky bits along the banister.  Then I figured, about a third of the way up that you could use those hooky bits to pull yourself up the steps!  There were these lovely little alcoves as you went up and boy, was I ever grateful they were there!  You could sit down, catch your breath while not get in the way of the other people, more fit than you who trudged up that blessed spiral staircase!

Look down!

But somehow, despite the huffing and puffing, screaming leg and thigh muscles, thinking in my head that I was going to die soon, I made it up the top!  I had to catch my breath first.  But after that, after I recovered from the jelly legs and shortness of breath and pounding heart, I looked around and marveled at the view.  It was glorious!

Look down!

The mesh cage at the top was added mid-19th century to prevent any other persons from leaping off the the platform.  I think it was a good decision!

IMG_2611

You get to see the Tower Bridge.

The Tower Bridge and the Thames

An unobstructed view of the Shard.

The Shard

The BT Tower.

The BT Tower

The The Cheese Grater (the Leaden Hall building), the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) and the Walkie-Talkie (20 Fenchurch Street) and the Lloyds Building.

London skyline

So, if you want a challenge, a work out with a reward of a brilliant view of London, go up the Monument.  Despite the palpitations, the hyperventilation, the jelly legs, the view is spectacular and very definitely worth it!

Monument to the Great Fire

Beseder the Bell and Brisket!

15 Jul

When I was little, my father talked about salt beef and chicken soup all the time.  He always waxed poetic about how life was in kibbutz that he stayed in.  He studied in Israel and loved his time there, eventually converting to Judaism.  Most of the memories that I remember him sharing with us while we were growing up was about the food that he ate.

I am more partial to chicken, but will eat beef, occasionally.  But I do love salt beef.  Especially when it’s done right.  We met the lovely Bel Shapiro of The Bell and Brisket, oh maybe, three years ago, at the Brewer Street Market (I think it was in the Brewer Street parking building).  Her salt beef is beautiful and delicious and yummy and succulent and flavourful…I could go on.  I am such a fan.  But this fan hasn’t been able to have a salt beef fix in a very long time.  That salt beef desert ended last Friday though.

I got a “naked” Old Timer from The Bell and Brisket (sans any carbs) so I could enjoy the lovely salt beef in all its deliciousness, only adorned with horseradish and mustard and complimented by pickled gherkins and beets and it was beseder!  Well, not just good.  It was AMAZING!

Old Timer

 

Visiting secret gardens in Harwich

12 Jul

I am brown.  Very brown.  Brown as a coconut!

Alan and I traipsed around Old Harwich yesterday in the sunshine, peeking into people’s gardens.  Now, before you sound the alarm and think any improper thoughts, we were paid for the privilege!  Harwich gardeners come together every year and open their lovely gardens to the public so they can raise money for chosen charities and this year, because we’re learning to use our cameras (properly), Alan suggested going on the tour to see the gardens and take photos.

I took over 200 photos and deleted over half of them, choosing my favourites and best shots.

Passion flower

I’ve never seen so many passion fruit vines!  Most of the gardens that we visited on the tour had passion fruit vines that seemed to be well-established and seemed to thrive!  It made me smile seeing the vines because once, a long time ago, when our house in Manila was a small two-bedroom bungalow, our garage wall was covered by a huge passion fruit vine.  Who knew passion fruit would take to Harwich that well?

Sunken Garden

I think this was one of my favourites.  Mostly because it was such an interesting garden.  You had to go down several steps.  They called it the Sunken Garden.  The name of the garden made me smile because it reminded me of my days at uni when I was at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines.  There was an oval area behind the main library in the campus called the Sunken Garden (I learned during my first week at uni that the “garden” actually sank a few millimeters a year!).

Knitted poppies

This garden made me giggle.  This was the garden hiding behind the Swan Gallery.  The lady who owns the gallery runs arts and crafts classes and apparently, her knitting group were busy knitting the various flowers and creatures found around the garden.  There were poppies, bees, flowers, and bunting.  There was even a knitted owl hiding in one of the perches!

Cherries

One of the gardens had this lovely cherry tree in a huge pot and the branches were heavily laden with red jewel-like fruit!  Who knew you could do that?  Well, I did, at least in theory.  But this cherry tree was thriving.  It must have looked amazing when the blossoms were in bloom!

I think we’re doing the tour again next year (with me armed with SPF2000 sunblock).  There are so many things to discover in Old Harwich.  If you’re in this neck of the woods, next year, watch out for the Harwich Secret Gardens tour.  Everyone is lovely and flowers and the plants are interesting!

My quiet place

8 Jul

This is, by far, my favourite place in Harwich, the Ha’penny Pier.

It’s the perfect place to sit, watch ships go by, enjoy the sea breeze and smell the sea.  It’s a calming place where I can just sit and be.

Ha'penny Pier, Harwich

Chinese hotdog buns

2 Jul

This is a recipe in development and I’m quite excited about it.  Alan and I may have found the best milk bread recipe.  It’s easy to make and relatively easy to handle.

We’ve been able to bake hotdog buns with it.  Now, when I say hotdog buns, I mean Chinese hotdog buns which are also known as caterpillar buns.  They’re hotdog slices encased in bread topped with cheese, mayo, ketchup and spring onions.  This is a Chinese bakery staple and all the different bakeries in Chinatown have their own version of it.  This is our version of our favourite.

unbaked hotdog bun

Chinese caterpillar bun

I need to find a good recipe for char siu filling so that I can make char siu buns!

Depth of field

26 Jun

I’ve always loved taking snapshots.  It’s always a joy when you point and shoot a camera and you capture the nicest scenes.  Lately though, I’ve been trying to take photos properly.  I’ve been learning techniques on a bridge camera, not quite a DSLR but a good enough one to practice the photography techniques on.  Mind you, I’ve got a long way to go because I constantly confuse what the AV mode does (something about the aperture) and TV mode (which controls the shutter speed).

One of the exercises was depth of field.  Now I can’t, for the life of me, explain properly what depth of field is so I’ll use Cambridge In Colour’s definition: “[It] refers to the range of distance that appears acceptably sharp. It varies depending on camera type, aperture and focusing distance, although print size and viewing distance can also influence our perception of depth of field.”

I think I managed to show depth of field successfully on the rose and everything else in the distance is blurry.

The Rose and the Treadwheel Crane

I love photographing birds and I seem to have a gazillion photos of seagulls now, courtesy of Harwich Pier.  I do love this photo of this huge seagull with the Port of Felixstowe in the background.

Seagull

More snapshots to come though.  I’ve got a lot to learn!

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