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Archive for the ‘Parks’ Category

Much like visiting Fort Canning park itself, attending Films at the Fort is something I have been meaning to do but never got around to. Last year I didn’t go because by the time I got my rear end in gear to buy tickets, the shows were mostly sold out, not cheap and ugh, what if it rained? This year I was a bit less worried about inclement weather, a bit more organized, and I am glad for it.

Wednesday night, a few friends gathered to watch the documentary, The Two Escobars, a story of Columbian soccer in the 80s and drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Truth be told, I couldn’t believe how much we lucked out with the weather. We set up our blankets on the slope in front of the screen and set out our picnic.

filmsatthefort

filmsatthefort2

The event allows outside food, but not outside booze. Food is also purchasable at the event, courtesy of The Providore and your ticket comes with a free serving of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

So what of my initial concern that the event was not cheap? If you gather 5 or more people you get a discount of 20%. I also noticed that bottles of Casillero del Diablo purchased at the grocery store came with a 20% off coupon for the event.  In the end, this discount makes the event about $20 a ticket.

“You know, I thought this event was a little pricey for a movie at first,” I told a friend. “But I think by charging it keeps the event from being too crowded and actually really pleasant.”

“Well, when you count the ice cream into the price, it probably brings the cost down by about half,” joked my friend.

Touche. Ice cream in this town is not cheap. Need proof? Here’s a pint of Haagan Das “on sale” at the grocery store for $14.45 SG a pint (that’s about $10 US).

ice cream in Singapore

Films on the Fort ends for the 2015 year on August 23rd. Tickets are still available for the 21st and the 23rd. Get on it now, or you’ll have to wait for next year.

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I was given a tip to stop by the York Sculpture Park while traveling from Leeds back to London. Husband and I had some time to spare and thought, why not?

I wasn’t expecting anything major, maybe something along the lines of the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. I was surprised to find that this place was so expansive and impressive. We ended up spending the whole day exploring the grounds and exhibits.

 

York Sculpture Park is just one mile from Junction 38 of the M1 and is open daily except 24 & 25 December. Admission is free, parking is £5. 

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After my post about bluebonnets and daffodils, I was pointed to this Guardian article on bluebells in Southwest Britain. Seems like the UK has it’s own spring time sea of blue. In the past few weeks I have started to notice blue flowers in small and large patches of green around town. For an excursion, a friend recommend I check out Abbey Wood.

A walk through the ancient south east London woods did not disappoint.

Bluebells at Abbey Wood

Bluebells in Abbey Woods

As we wandered through the woods, we eventually came up on Lesnes Abbey. The abbey, now in ruins, was founded by Richard de Luci in 1178 as penance for his involvement in the murder of Thomas Becket. In 1524, Lesnes was closed by Henry VIII along with scores of other monasteries in England and Wales. The ruins make an interesting backdrop for picnics and the like. The proximity of the woods and abbey to London makes it an easy place to visit.

Lesnes Abbey

Lesnes Abbey

Lesnes Abbey

After our outing, we stopped by the Old Mill, a converted 18th century mill with a large beer garden. The locals were on good form and so was the owner, so we ended our day in Southwest London with a few real ales. I am embarrassed to admit that  real ale tastes like flat warm beer to me. Perhaps I need to spend more time at the pub to develop a true appreciation.

Authentic Real Ale at the Old Mill

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Yesterday's lunch break on Primrose Hill

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Leroy and Mariah were both in town visiting. We were at a pub looking through our travel guides  and trying to decide what exactly it was we wanted to do with our week. The contrasts were stark.  Husband was completely embarrassed by our public display of tourism. Mariah, ever the planner, had her wheels spinning. Laid-back Leroy was agreeing to every suggestion without too much enthusiasm. That is, until we mentioned visiting a few monoliths. The Discovery Channel buff in him suddenly perked up and Mariah and I knew we had to make it happen.

Since Stonehenge is a little cliche and Mariah and I had already been there, we decided to visit Avebury. Word was that it was better and the oldest stone circle in Europe. The stone circles are multiple in number, more accessible and integrated into the town. In fact, the town is built inside these massive stone circles.

Luck was with us as the sun was shining for our drive out to Avebury. We parked the car and quickly found the main attraction: strategically placed large stones. Although Avebury does not carry the iconic image that Stonehenge has blazed in our collective consciousness, the sheer number of stones and organization was much greater than that of Stonehenge.

Avebury

After a bit of walking around the stones we headed into the museum. I needed context for what we were viewing. The staff at the museum was a breathe of fresh air. Tourist sites have a tendency to make one feel like cattle. The people at Avebury seemed generally excited to have our company. It was a bit like dating the sister of the prom queen.

A walk through the stones.

Let’s consult Wikipedia for historical background.

Constructed around 2600 BCE, during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises of a large henge, surrounded by a bank and a ditch. Inside this henge is a large outer stone circle, with two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is not known, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremonial usage. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

In the Late Mediaeval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones in the monument, and a village was built in the centre of it. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeologists proceeded to excavate at the site in the 20th century.

It’s wild to think about someone chopping down this ancient stone arrangement to build onto their house. I guess it felt silly to go in search of new raw materials when these had been delivered right to your doorstep. Plus, the historical nature of the stones may not have been widely understood or respected in the Late Medieval and Early Modern times.

Stone Marked Road

One thing about Avebury that I absolutely can not recommend is the Red Lion Pub in the village. The service was more than atrocious, it was comical.  The food was just plain bad. They were out of half the menu. I don’t know how you mess up fried food that badly but the chips were terrible. We were treated like an annoyance by the kid behind the bar. They forgot to bring our dessert. They were out of coffee cups. Not out of coffee, just out of vessels (for there or to go) to hold it in because they had a rush of visitors a few days earlier. Not that morning. Not yesterday. A few DAYS earlier. Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me either.

Do not eat here.

Constructed around 2600 BCE,[1] during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises of a large henge, surrounded by a bank and a ditch. Inside this henge is a large outer stone circle, with two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is not known, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremonial usage. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

In the Late Mediaeval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones in the monument, and a village was built in the centre of it. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeologists proceeded to excavate at the site in the 20th century.

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This is the time of the year when the Texas Highway Department forgoes all mowing and the roadsides become covered with fields of bluebonnets. The long car rides between Texas cities don’t seem so dreary anymore. You have more to look forward to than a kolache at the Czech Stop in the small town of West.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons you see cars of couples, families and friends with their children and dogs pull over to the highway shoulder and begin snapping away with their camera. Everyone who grew up in Texas has pictures of themselves in a field of bluebonnets somewhere. If they say they don’t, they are lying. Or maybe an orphan.

I remember the year it rained continuously and the next spring was a shocking blast of early blue blooms. Standing in front of the sea of blue, sunshine warm, weather still cool enough, it’s hard to think of things that could make you happier. Probably because it’s hard to think of anything else at all.

It’s a symbol that the days are fleeting. The short but gruff winter is over and there is a promise of halcyon outdoor days  before the brutal summer turns water side activity into a necessity. Winter and the corresponding Seasonal Affective Disorder is now so far away. All things are right again in Texas.

 

Texas summer survival.

“My fervent hope is that our homes, roadsides, parks – both community and industrial – and public spaces will provide a home for our wildflowers and other native plants where they can provide economic benefits and add to the eye and spirit of their beholders.” – Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson, picture not mine.

That’s former first lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson. She’s a Texas hero of mine. I image if there was an afterlife that her and former Texas governor Ann Richards would be hanging out swapping stories of Texas politics and having a damn good time.

 

The incredible Ann Richards. Picture also not mine.

Lady Bird was responsible for the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. It’s intent was to control outdoor advertising and junk on the side of the road. It was met with a lot of opposition. Today Texas roadsides are obviously a compromise but it is a sight when the bluebonnets come out.

I was bummed when I realized I was going to miss out on the wildflowers this year. This was before I knew about the daffodils. I was walking through Green Park one day and all of a sudden they were there. Little yellow buds telling me  winter was nearly over. Now the daffodils are everywhere. People stop in the park to have their photos taken with their friends, families, children and dogs.

 

Daffodil Portraiture, Exhibit A

Daffodil Portraiture, Exhibit B

It’s even more stunning when nobody warns you that they are coming, they just appear. It’s a symbol that the days are fleeting. The long and gray winter with it’s cabin fever, roast dinners and endless cup of teas is coming to an end. There is a promise of a short but halcyon summer surrounded by a cool fall and spring. All things are right again in London.

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My first experience of Battersea Park was in July of 2009. I was in London for a day and looking for something to do. I didn’t want to go to a typical site like the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace and the weather was too nice to spend inside a museum. I was craving an authentic London activity, something that a Londoner might actually attend. I ended up at a Bastille Day celebration in Battersea Park. A party in the park to celebrate another country’s independence day? Sounds perfectly London to me. Plus there was French food, wine, sunshine and music. Sold.

 

Bastille Day 2009

My next run in with Battersea Park was when Husband and I were scouting potential homes. We found the most lovely place overlooking the park with loads of natural light and a rooftop terrace to die for. Husband’s commute to work would have been atrocious and there’s no way we could afford the place, but we were starstruck.

Thankfully we came to our senses before our rental bid was accepted and settled for a much more sensible but extremely nice garden flat elsewhere in London. It was still close enough for frequent visits to Battersea Park.

With the weather as great as it has been this week, I made some time to spend at Battersea Park. Many London locations tend to be swamped on sunny afternoons, but understated and overlooked Battersea park was perfect for finding solitude amongst others.

 

 

Brown Dog

Anti-vivisectionists commissioned a bronze statue of this dog as a memorial to a University College London controversy . A brown terrier was illegal dissected with questionable levels of anaesthetia in front of an audience of 60 medical students. The statue was taken down in 1910 due to political pressure. A replacement memorial was placed behind the Pump House in1985 only to be taken down in 1992. The replacement statue was put back up in 1994, but this time it was hidden away in the Woodland Walk near the Olde English Garden.  I guess it gets less notice and therefore less controversy there.

View across the Thames from Battersea Park

Peace Pagoda

I took some time to meditate near the Peace Pagoda before leaving. Cliche, but I couldn’t resist.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, Battersea Park hosts the Affordable Art Fair March 10-13th. Tickets run from £8 – £15. 120 galleries will be exhibiting art all under £4,000.

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