The Hidden Mews of London

Fitzrovia, in west central London, is the quiet area hidden between Oxford Street and Regent’s Park. If upmarket Chelsea was a flamboyant socialite, then Fitzrovia would be the bookish cousin. Quietly grand buildings line quiet streets (including the famous Harley Street), and off it can be found a number of quiet mews. These are small streets, or courtyards that used to function as rows of stables with living quarters sitting above. Nowadays, these historical remnants have been refurbished and remodelled into unimaginably pricey townhouses, painted all the pastel colours you can dream of. I love strolling down these beautiful side streets, they both shelter from the hum and heartbeat of the city, yet instead of an escape, take you closer to the heart of it all.

Spare half an hour next time you’re in central London and find these gorgeous spots for yourself!

Spotlight: Katharina Grosse @ Gagosian Gallery, London

There is a gallery space hidden down Britannia street near King’s Cross station (so near, in fact, there is no excuse not to go). It opens up into a maze of compact but seemingly vast expanses of pure white walls interspersed with swathes of natural light. I’ve been to galleries before, but this was on another level of pristine purity.

Katharina Grosse is a German-born artist whose work involves paint, stencils and negative space to produce striking, geometric pieces.

In ‘Prototypes of Imagination’, Grosse reveals the ways in which painting catalyzes the unfolding of multiple dimensions on a single surface

– Gagosian exhibition pamphlet

One almost falls into the first installation, the small antechamber of the entrance hall opening up to the largest room with no warning, no ceremony. The largest piece was canvas hanging from the ceiling, almost like a waterfall. One could peek behind it as there was no wall directly behind it, which added to the drama and impact on arrival.


In the adjoining rooms, huge individual canvases dwarfed the viewer. I felt truly moved by the scale of these pieces, the energy and emotion that weaved its way through the collection. Some pieces were hard, jagged, abrupt with pointy, straight lines. Some had colours flowing around areas of negative space.

There is no boundary between reality and imagination. To imagine is to realize. My pictures are prototypes of this recognition; they try out – and dramatically compress – the characteristics of reality. I build prototypes of the imagination so they can be reenacted and applied to other fields of endeavour

– Katharina Grosse


One piece (not pictured), brought up feelings of dread from afar with brutal lines and use of grey. On closer inspection, one saw the lichen-like dabbing of acrylic, that the grey was actually a silver sheen, and that up close it behaved completely differently.


If this collection explores imagination, then it inspires as much as it has been inspired. All the pieces were unnamed, unadorned, unexplained. Part of me struggled with this, I needed to know why that drip was there, what that shape meant. What did the artist feel in the exact moment of that brush stroke? Not being titled, though, seemed to almost be the title piece itself. Allow your imagination to be explored, each canvas said, and tell me what you think. I think in that lies the real genius of this collection.

Things I Want To Do In 2018

It may be a little bit beyond the new year, but I guess spring is as good a time as any to plan the year and set any travel and experience goals! These aren’t big, but that’s the point. Nowadays glamorous travel bloggers seemingly seeing the world for free, access to more and more remote travel destinations has become entry level and a badge of honour. I sense a sort of travel snobbery evolving, so I want to try and keep it real this year.

I have really felt the pressure to see and do more, but my education in slow living is teaching me to try and make smaller, more tangible experience-based goals. I would of course also love to visit far-flung and remote places, but I also want to feel simple pleasure and easy bliss. Life isn’t just one long bucket list, because what if one doesn’t complete every task? Have you then failed at life? Call me melodramatic but it is something I think about. I do have a list of places I want to go and things I want to do, but I also try and find a balance. I don’t have to use every bank holiday weekend for an international city break, or every week’s holiday to sprint off to Asia. It’s fine to dream small, because sometimes big things happen too.


Sleep under the stars

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There is nothing a city-dweller loves more than taking advantage of the lack of occluding pollution when visiting less urban spots. Use a cool stargazing app, I use Night Sky, which can identify the planets and constellations when the phone is pointed towards them. I’m obsessed with the heavens, and have been since I was a child. When I am out of the city, staring up, I imagine what it must have been like hundreds, thousands of years ago. No hard scientific evidence, weather forecasting, news on CNN. No way of knowing if what you are doing was right, or what might happen in the future. There’s a certain kind of hope that lies in the sky, either that we are not alone, or that the gods are watching over us. It’s fascinating to me, and something I hope to teach any future kiddies of mine all about.


Watch the sun come up on a beach

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Watching the sun go down is easy, you fall into it after a lazy afternoon and before happy hour. Actually waking up extra early and watch the sun come up, though, takes extra effort. Dawn is my favourite time of day, as an introvert having the true peace of knowing most people are still tucked up, asleep, is so calming. I always talk about having a lie-in on holiday but still find myself up before everyone else, slowly sipping a coffee on the balcony while everyone else dreams. I’m South African, I love beaches, so combining my two favourite things equals an empty beach and plenty of awesome photos.


Hire a canal boat with friends

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Picture this: a lazy Saturday, the mid-summer air is heavy, and you and a few friends are sipping drinks on the deck of a narrowboat, the length of a canal behind you. This has been my dream for ever, and I do solemnly declare that 2018 is the year I am going to do it. The only question is, what cocktails do I bring?


Have a gourmet picnic

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After years of London living, summertime requires an almost military-level of organisation in order to enjoy even an hour of sun in a nearby park. Tote bags, mismatched beach towels, and a few bottles of beer (never the opener though… sigh) are all we can scramble together in the sprint to enjoy the sun. This year I pledge to get a proper picnic set, ready to go at a moment’s notice, and take some proper homemade food to enjoy outdoors in style. Just add friends and prosecco.


Go on a cooking course

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Bread-baking, pasta-making, you name it I would love to do it. This year has to be the year this recipe-dodger (physically can’t follow them, it must be a genetic thing) actually learns to cook something intricate and fancy. Thai? Tacos? Who knows, but I can’t wait!


Visit the UK’s only desert

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You would be forgiven for not knowing that England has its own desert, and it is located on the south coast. In between Hastings and Folkestone, this area is more famous for its nuclear power station. Years ago only artists, poets and filmmakers inhabited the quaint fisherman’s cottages in eccentricity. However, there is a contemporary architecture scene growing along this portion of the wind-battered coast. The feel seems to be very wild west, very interesting, and promises to yield picture-perfect scenes for any photographer.


See an open-air performance

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I have been meaning to do this for years, especially as London’s Regent’s Park has a not-so secret outdoor theatre showing critically-acclaimed performances. I’m imagining a balmy-but-cooling evening, lots of prosecco, and some fantastic theatre.

At the end of 2018 I plan on re-sharing this list, but replacing the stock photos with my own. I can’t wait for some fantastic adventures!

Blending in and Belonging: a Third Culture Kid’s Story

I was born in urban Johannesburg, South Africa to Irish and South African parents. At the age of nine, the family relocated to suburban Athens, Greece. After a few years, we relocated to rural Ireland. I went from swimming pools to giant forests in my backyard with just a few years inbetween. The countries separate my developmental stages, child, pre-adolescent, adolescent, and young adult. Every move I sought to reinvent myself, but found myself mostly staying the same. The same, but indescribably different.

I have always been confused about where home is to me, I both resent and exploit the eccentricities of my upbringing. When in one of My Countries, I tell people I’m from The Other. I have always wanted to belong, blend in, wave to neighbours in the street. I also like to be the new girl, the blank slate, the one who makes small, silly blunders of colloquialism and translation. I am a walking naughties flick chick caricature.

Learning about bugs, or something

I have reached a point where I have stayed in the same city for seven years, and the same country for ten (gulp). I have itchy feet, wanderlust, and dream of foreign shores daily. Yet I am still here. Here but not here. Always I wonder: do I not belong because I don’t put down roots, or do I not put down roots because I feel I don’t belong? I’m not sure I’ll ever know the answer; and yet I remain untethered, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. I too am a Millenial, a member of Generation Rent, does that help me or hinder me?

Actual, barefoot me

I was born into Apartheid, was barely past a toddler when South Africa had her first black president. I have travelled deserts, walked barefoot without my feet touching shoes for days on end, and felt the feeling of nearly drowning many times in the Indian Ocean. I have seen wild fires ravaging parched land, ancient archaeological sites with marble smooth and shiny from millenia of footsteps. I have snowmobiled in Yellowstone, and skied in the shadow of Mount Olympus. I have made and lost more friends I can count; some great, some merely transient anyway.

How can I possibly tell anyone everything I have seen? Everything I know, everything I worry about? People who have stayed in the same city all their lives – with a back-catalogue of friends from playschool to present – how can I possibly compare, communicate? My language is Greek and English, art and Afrikaans, weather, music, starry nights and French and Spanish. I grew up bilingual but also learned foreign languages before both my parents. As a ten-year old my juice stall in a different alphabet, language and currency than what I was born into.

The final question, is can this void in me ever be filled? I plan holidays and I travel. When I travel, I travel incognito, with my local’s disguise. I dread someone finding out who I am – what I am – but what am I? What is it I live in fear of being discovered? A fake, a fraud? Or someone who knows ‘home is where you hang your hat’? Do I try and blend in, or do I open my messy self up for examination?

Do I tell them who I am?

Desert Dreaming: My Arid Landscape Bucket List (part two)

Check out part one of my favourite desert landscapes that I have, and hope to visit!

 

Arabian: Wadi Rum, Jordan

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Wadi Rum Tourism

Around two hours south of the famous ancient city of Petra is the Wadi Rum Protected Area. Moon Valley, a site within the conservation area, is so-called because of its remote and extreme conditions. The seemingly endless peaks and crags present plenty of inspiration for activities. Imagine hiking the same paths that Lawrence of Arabia did years ago?

I want to sleep beneath an endless sky in an authentic Bedouin Camp, and round off an enlightening trip with sand boarding and a camel safari. Wadi Rum looks like the quintessential desert experience.

Stay at: Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp


Atacama: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

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I have always wanted to visit the Atacama – it is the world’s driest desert after all! No bucket list would be complete without some superlative, and the Atacama really seems to be one of the last uncharted places left.

When I go, I want to see flamingoes, vicunas (relation of the llama) salt pans, pastel-coloured hills, and miles of endless expanse. Due to the altitude and lack of pollution, star gazing will be the ideal nighttime activity – no effort required!

Stay at: Hotel Poblado Kimal


Sahara: Morocco, Northern Africa

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Of course, it’s the SAHARA, it has to be on this list. It was the first desert I learned about, and one that still carries so much intrigue to this day. The Sahara is one of the largest desers in the world, covering a large portion of Northern Africa, so provides a near endless selection of ways to enjoy the landscape. My dream thing to do in the Sahara? Stay at a real-life desert oasis by night and wonder the dunes by day.

Stay at: Riad Nomad


Sonoran: Phoenix, USA

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Of course no desert list would be complete without a real wild west backdrop – the saguaro cactus-lined Sonoran desert. Extending through Arizona to Northern Mexico (including the Baja California peninsula), the Sonoran desert has always been a dream destination for me. Unlike a lot of other deserts on this list, it is not completely desolate, but actually full of flora and small fauna. This is the place to hike all day, and camp in a secluded spot at night.

Stay at: The Wigwam Hotel if you don’t fancy a tent!


Viana: Boa Vista, Cape Verde

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A bit of a rogue and unexpected entry, but one that coveniently combines tropical sandy beaches and barren African desert in one handy trip. Off the coast of northwest Africa, a bit further afield than the Canary Islands lie the Cape Verde islands. Unspoiled scenery and an eclectic Creole-Portuguese-African culture make this a little gem, only around four hours’ flight from London. It’s like our own little Caribbean!

Stay at: Spinguera Eco Lodge