Thursday, 12 October 2017

Dark Circus Party - Halloween Special

With Halloween coming up I thought I'd let you know about one of my favourite Halloween events, the Dark Circus Party by Bourne & Hollingsworth.


Alternating between the Dark Circus, Prohibition and the Blitz Party, the style of these events is more or less the same. You have a huge room, beautifully decorated according to the theme of the night, a stage for the musicians and other performers (burlesque and cabaret acts feature heavily), a bar with bespoke cocktails create especially for the event and some other extras that vary between events.


One of my favourite features of the Dark Circus party in particular is that there is a pole in the middle of the dance floor and it's open for anyone to give it a go. While they also have professional pole dancers who come on and do a beautiful show with moves that us mere mortals can only dream of, I'll have you know that I can do some decent spins and turns so when I get the chance to show off a bit I definitely take it.


Another great thing about the Dark Circus is that everyone who attends makes an effort with their costume and makeup; a lot of them are regulars to all 3 events and have accumulated beautiful pieces they can bring out every time there's an event. For those who may not be sure what to do and prefer to show up with something more classic, there are makeup artists and hair stylists who will take your look to the next level with some kick ass makeup and hair.


In terms of the Dark Circus dress code I'd say corsets are always welcome, tutus, shorts, stockings, accessories with stripes, lace, fishnets and frills and of course a mask. I've also seen people at these events wearing only their underwear and some chains so anything goes really. Here is me (on the left) from the last Dark Circus party with another girl I met on citysocializer. If you don't have anyone to come with you to this there's always a social on citysocializer for these which is what I've done to get people going with me before.


If you are looking for a Halloween night out where you can drink, dance and get lost in another world I strongly recommend this one. Two of my friends got together in one of them, I've seen people go off making out with people they thought looked interesting and have fun without worrying about what is appropriate or not. In my opinion this is what a masked ball should be all about; putting on a mask to take off the masks we all wear every day.


To get tickets for the Dark Circus party check here and if you see me there or at any of their other parties do come and say hi!

Lots of love
Kristine

PS: comment below what you're going to be for Halloween!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The History Of London Course By Dr Matthew Green

Welcome back lovers of London! Today we'll be looking at a very interesting course, all about London across the centuries. It is Unreal City Audio's the History of London course by Dr Matthew Green (same guy from the 17th Century Coffeehouse Tour) and I have to say, it is one of the most enjoyable course setting experiences I've had.

The course itself runs for 6 weeks, going through several periods of London's expansion and touching on some major cultural points of each era, so let's continue and have a look at a few of them.

Part 1: Medieval London

The course begins at medieval times, transporting you through time with smooth transitions between fascinating panoramas of the city and metaphorical zooming ins to slices of city life. Going through jousting tournaments, the justice system whose punishments meant to publicly ridicule offenders and strange fashion laws, you get to imagine everything from life in the Tower of London to an evening inside a medieval inn. Hint: it was not particularly pleasant.

history of London course Matthew Green

Part 2: Elizabethan London

Shakespeare's London was a time when immigration saw the population grow to 200 thousand and as it seems most of them had quite gruesome hobbies. Bear and bull baiting was a very popular passtime, even the Queen would attend, while playhouses were kept outside the city walls to avoid crime, plagues and sacrilege. You will also find out a few more facts about Shakespeare's life, one of them being that his plays would start at 2pm as well as some of the history around his famous Globe theatre.

Fun Fact 1: The phrase to steal one's thunder comes from this era, when a thunder sound effect from a play that got shut down (because everyone hated it) was stolen by a rival company and used for their play instead. The horrified writer stood up in the theatre and called them out for stealing his thunder and the phrase stuck.

history of London course Matthew Green

The era also saw Sir Francis Drake going around the globe on the Golden Hinde, the rise of tobacco smoking which was proclaimed to have various outlandish health benefits (Tobacco Dock has existed since that time), printing around Fleet Street, mainly by Caxton's apprentice, Wynkyn de Worde, as well as extensive theory behind garden creation; labyrinths were quite popular as they symbolised the path to salvation.

Fun Fact 2: A labyrinth only has 1 path, while a maze has lots of paths and dead ends.

Part 3: Plague London

This week looks into the causes and reactions to the plague, with a look inside an apothecary shop (think of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter) and the birth of the cosmetic industry; makeup and fun shaped patches were popular to cover spots and as odd as you would expect. The prison system at the time is also an interesting topic to look at, including the conditions inside the infamous Newgate prison. Some things that luckily have not made it to the present day include boiling the heads of executed prisoners and placing them on spikes, forcing people to plea innocent or guilty by putting weights on their chest in the pressyard and attending your own funeral before you die in front of an open casket, all of which were popular spectacles for locals and visitors at the time.

history of London course Matthew Green

On the other end of the city, the west end had started developing, new squares (Covent Garden, Bloomsbury Square, Soho Square and St Jame's Square) had popped up with big expensive developments around them. Of course those were mainly for the rich, and most of the time so were the chocolate houses, where you could spend your evening gambling your fortune on dice, while sipping hot chocolate with vanilla, cinnamon, hot spices and allegedly human blood. White's and Berry Brothers were two of the most famous ones.

history of London course Matthew Green

However, soon 4/5 of the city would be destroyed, due to the great fire that started from Pudding Lane, and, expanding rapidly due to the wind, destroyed around 11 thousand houses. Luckily, only 25% of the population were in the City so not as many lives were lost.

Part 4: Georgian London

This era is my personal favourite, with a lot of interesting cultural developments and dubious ways of entertainment, see the jellyhouses, a place where men paid prostitutes to eat jelly in front of them. The main news of the era however were the coffeehouses. The lapse of censorship laws in 1695 meant that information was now circulating freely and coffeehouses were hubs of new ideas and social interaction. The very first thing you would hear upon entering was 'Your servant sir, what news from Tripoli?' or 'What news have you' for short [Quid novi? if you happened to walk into the latin coffee house] and you were then expected to share some new piece of information with the patrons before taking up your seat. Coffee houses were also a great place to exchange commercial information, especially those close to the Royal Exchange. You can read my review of the 17th Century Coffee House Tour for more info on the topic.

history of London course Matthew Green

In other news, the more affluent classes enjoyed visiting the city in sedan chairs carried by Irish men (if the chair was available it would be carried backwards) for the new available entertainments, including shopping. Shops denoted their products by big signs, whose imagery was usually a play on words, as a lot of people would have been unable to read actual writing. For example Adam & Eve would indicate an apple shop, the sun would be selling books, a civet cat meant perfume, a unicorn meant pharmacy and the world's end showed that the shop was at the edge of town.

history of London course Matthew Green

Other popular entertainments of the era included Freezeland Fairs, which were set up on the Thames when its surface froze. DOs: Get a memento 'printed on ice'. DON'Ts: sink and die when the ice thaws (it happened more often than you would hope). A visit to Bedlam hospital, which would only set you back 2 pence, was also considered a fun way to spend your day, laughing at all the mentally ill inmates and marvelling at the great building that housed them, a metaphor for the strength of the fabric of society. For some extra fun there was also the Tyburn fair, located where Marble Arch is today. There you could watch a hanging and listen to what the prisoners would say before they were hanged (speakers' corner is a remnant of that tradition).

history of London course Matthew Green

Fun Fact 3: The soon to be hanged had the right to stop at a pub for a free pint, bought by the other patrons. They would then say 'I'll buy you one on the way back' which of course would not happen. The phrase 'one for the road' originates from this.

Part 5: Victorian London

With the population growing to 4.6 million people, the rise of anonymity and technological developments, Londoners were suddenly living in a very different world. Railways and horse buses brought even more people to the capital every day for work, and curiosities kept them interested in the world around them. From Mr Jamrach's exotic animals (lions, tigers, elephants) and freak shows with bearded women and the elephant man to slumming, where the rich would tour Whitechapel to see what the 'people of the abyss' were up to, in what could be called poverty porn, and to actual porn in Holywell Street, which had to be entirely demolished to get rid of the porn hub in the area.

history of London course Matthew Green

The era also saw a reform of education, a lot of it thanks to Dr Barnardo and the introduction of the Underground trains, which ran over 300 million journeys per year. A new form of entertainment were music halls, where people went to drink sherry or gin, have jacket potatoes and watch a variety of shows in the same night, including blackface singing, dancing dogs, cyclists playing music, tightrope dentalists, sword swallowing, ventriloquists, dioramas, ballet, talking ducks, from imitators and stilt walkers.

Part 6: Blitz & Recovery

With 30 thousand civilians lost in the Blitz, out of the 8.5 million London had at the time, and a lot of properties destroyed, the post war years saw a boom in new developments, with a number of housing estates being built to make up for all the homes that were destroyed (their target was 3 thousand new homes per year).

history of London course

The era also saw the rise of the teenager, with young people having disposable income for the first time. It was the right time for rock 'n' roll and new coffee bars sprang up, like the famous 2is coffee bar, where David Bowie and Cat Stevens made their early appearances. Surprisingly all you could drink was coffee and milk; no alcohol was available. On the other side of the city, in Chelsea, the hub of the bohemians could be found, with rich extravagant fashions, a lot of it centred around Bazaar, the boutique opened by Mary Quant and Alexander Plunket Greene.

And the story of London goes on...

The most important lesson this course has to teach is not just history; it is London's mentality and ability to survive, grow and evolve. It is also noteworthy how in every era Londoners thought the city was too big, too chaotic, only for it to grow exponentially to new levels. London's resilience has made it the city we know (and love) now and taking a look through its history and development feels like browsing a friend's photo album (or old facebook posts) and finding out what made them who they are.

To join the next History of London course follow this link. You can also read a lot of the info included in the course in Dr Green's book London: A Travel Guide Through Time or join one of his walking tours focusing on specific topics like coffee houses, gin and medieval wine.

Do let me know if you have any more questions about the course that I can help you with or if you have attended anything similar, as I always love finding out more fun things to do like this.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Thessaloniki Food Guide: Here's What To Eat & Drink

Hey guys!

You may or may not know already that I studied for my undergrad in Thessaloniki, so I spent several years there, enjoying the best the city had to offer and making some amazing friends, including my best friend Christina.

Now that I live in London, I still go back to Thessaloniki to visit Christina and her family, which is always a great opportunity to catch some sun and eat delicious Greek food! Now, for those of you visiting Thessaloniki for the first time, I wanted to let you know a few things you got to order when you are out for a meal.

Keep in mind that most people in Greece order a variety of meals for the table and share everything instead of getting individual dishes. That way you can try lots of new things at the same time!

SEAFOOD

Do I really need to say this? I will anyway. Seafood in Greece is the bomb! We got these in a restaurant in Kalives in Chalkidiki but you can get it anywhere.


Now, fish itself is delicious but octopus is much harder to get in England so I recommend ordering it for sure! Grilled is the best, but you'll also find it cooked in oil and vinegar and it will still be amazing.


As for the Mediterranean classic, calamari, just order it! Whether fried or filled with rice, squid in Greece tastes better than anywhere else and you will not be disappointed!

MEAT

While Greeks love their fish the meat is also first rate! The dishes here are from Dia Tauta, in Athonos, next to Aristotelous Sq.


This is a mixed meat fry up (tigania). It has chicken, pork, beef and sausage, usually wine as well, and it is delicious! This dish can be found across the country but it is much more common in Thessaloniki and the north in general.


Another northern speciality is soutzoukakia, grilled mince meat and spices shaped into a cylinder. They are one of the Turkish cuisine influences which are quite prevalent in Thessaloniki. You will also find a version of them served with yoghurt or tzatziki and pita bread.

SIDES

This is where my previous comment about sharing really comes in. While you will also have shared your meat and fish dishes, sides is where the real options start. This is also why the starters and sides sections are usually much bigger than the mains.


Let's get this out of the way... everyone loves chips! Getting chips for the table is almost automatically assumed. Potatoes in Greece taste different. They do so in every country, it has to do with the soil. Order the chips, do not assume they will be the same as home.


Fried courgettes are also a must. They may be cut in different shapes and sizes but they usually taste the same anyway. Ideally they'll be served with tzatziki or some other dip. Courgettes are delicious!


Guess what... this long fried thing above is cheese! It is in fact friend feta inside filo pastry with honey and sesame on top. This is considered a savoury side. Feta shows up in menus in different variations mainly fried or baked. You should order it, or at least some type of cooked cheese for the table.


As for the salad, you can go for the classic tomato, cucumber, onion and olives but I recommend trying any house specialties. This one one contains sun-dried tomatoes as well as fresh ones, rocket, grated cheese and vinaigrette dressing.

DESSERT

In most Greek taverns dessert is free. Yay! They will let you know once your meal is over. If you are lucky you can get free dessert, fruit and some alcohol shot but if not you will at least get one of the three. Unfortunately you are not able to choose what you want, as this is usually up to each restaurant.


CAFES

Greek people love coffee, they will usually go for a coffee in the afternoon, drink it for hours and chat. Thessaloniki in particular is famous for people being chilled and taking ages to drink their coffee, as they value relaxation and good times with friends.


Since you can't really get it abroad, order a frappe. I like mine sweet with milk. Coffee regardless of whether you order it hot or cold, comes with something sweet on the side, usually biscuits. In this case I was lucky to have donuts on the side, at Bordura cafe. Donuts are better!


Speaking of donuts, in Poco Loco cafe they serve these fun beverages, topped with donuts. They are hazelnut favoured cold chocolates, the icing is banana and strawberry flavoured and inside the donut you find Kinder Bueno cream. It's an absolute dream! The colours of the drink are just food colouring and do not influence the flavour so feel free to pick your favourite.

COCKTAILS

Summer cocktails can be found everywhere in Greece. Mixing fresh fruit and herbs, Greek mixologists create refreshing and unique drinks that are definitely worth a try.


These unique creations by Times Cafe Bar and Bordura contain strawberry, pear and traditional Greek mastic resin.

THE VERDICT

You probably have guessed it already but I absolutely loved everything in Thessaloniki and I totally recommend it all. In fact, try as many things as you can, take chances with foods you wouldn't normally order and share everything with the rest of your group.


If you have any more questions about Thessaloniki don't be shy and ask away. Since I lived there myself and my best friend is still there I can try and find the answer if I can.

Lots of love
Kristine

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent (Tour & Afternoon Tea)

Cats are amazing! And when it comes to even bigger cats, like lions and tigers, there is so much more to love! I visited the Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent for a tour and afternoon tea experience and had a great time finding out more about them.

I know there is protective glass here but having a tiger so close to my face was pretty scary
The sanctuary expands over 30 acres of land and holds 50 big cats within 40 enclosures. Out of those, there are 15 unique species of cats, 8 of which are part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Program. This is important, because that is how they ensure the species continue and there is enough genetic diversity to avoid any issues that could occur from inbreeding.


Now let's have a look at the beautiful majestic cats you will find in the sanctuary!


Male and female lions live separately.




The tigers would most certainly eat you for lunch.



This snow leopard likes watching people.


Some of the wild cats may look cute and pretty much house cat sized but are still dangerous.





This gorgeous black lady apparently started digging a tunnel under her cage to escape. When that failed she tried playing dead until the staff opened the door to check her, when she jumped up and tried to run.




And some overviews of the facility... There is no clearly planned route and moving from cage to cage means walking through grass and mud so wellies are recommended.



There is also the option to book an overnight stay at the Sanctuary, staying at one of these beautiful lodges. This also gives you the chance to go inside some of the cages of the smaller, less dangerous cats and feed them.


They also now take bookings for weddings. The package includes a tour of the grounds, but apparently throwing the mother in law to the lions is frowned upon (at least that's what they told us).


As for the afternoon tea after the tour, we enjoyed sandwiches, a large scone and a generous piece of cake, everything delicious and fresh. Personally I would have done with less cake and an extra sandwich, but if you have a sweet tooth this is perfect.



All in all, this was a brilliant day out, I loved seeing all the cats and learning more information about the individual animals they have here, their temperaments and history, as well as more information on the conservation efforts of their species.


I would totally recommend visiting the sanctuary and supporting them, as they are doing a great job to ensure the animals in their care have good lives and are well looked after. You can book the tour and afternoon tea experience on Red Letter Days. And, if you have previously visited them I'd love to know what you thought.