Halloween themed afternoon

I love autumn and I particularly love October…why you may wonder, one simple reason: Halloween! 🙂
Maybe it’s due to the fact that I have never celebrated it as a child (no, it’s not because I had a sad childhood, but simply because in Italy was not so popular 15-20 years ago), or simply because it is just another excuse to be creative, to dress up and to organise parties.
Falling the 31st on a Wednesday, we all took the chance to double the celebrations and party for two weekend! That was cool! 🙂 A Mexican friend of mine organised a Dia de los muertos themed party and it was amazing how everyone made the effort of showing up properly dressed and made up! And let me tell you…crossing London with that skull make up on has been an experience! 🙂

I thought of organising something slightly different and unusual…well at least for a late twenties/early thirties bunch of people: a Halloween themed afternoon on a Sunday. I think the last time I had some sort of party on a Sunday afternoon was for my 10th birthday or so. When I sent out the invitation for a “pumpkin carving and Halloween-ish food afternoon” I wasn’t sure how my friends would have reacted to this, but surprisingly everyone was quite excited about it.

It was a very pleasant afternoon, we all showed our childish side and this is the result:

Carved pepper with guacamole!

Nutella crostata with marzipan decorations

White chocolate ghosts popsicles

my carved pumpkin with feather eyelashes! 🙂

Halloween table

A few carved pumpkins

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday lunch in Brick Lane

Brick Lane is one of my favourite London’s area: vintage shops, street markets, trendy people, food markets, clubs, bars…the list could go on and on.
You can literally go there at any time of the day and find something cool to do, or something tasty to eat.

It’s famous for its delicious Indian restaurants (which are really nice, although so far my super uber favourite one is Tayyabs, which is not exactly in Brick Lane, but not far away either), however if you go there during the weekend (especially on Sunday) you will also have a wide range of ethnic delicacies to choose in the food markets.

Last Sunday we woke up late, still feeling slightly knackered from the night before…we were hungry but couldn’t be bothered to cook…we were tired and wanted to stay home, but it was sunny and hey, we all know this is not something usual in London, so Brick Lane suddenly sounded like the place to go.

We met with some friends, walked a bit around the food stalls just to have a look and try to decide what to get (you have so much choice that it is really hard to pick one thing!), and once we made our minds we sat outside and enjoyed our meals.

Needless to say that it was lovely…the food, the company and just the possibility to sit outside in the sun (after such a rainy summer we do deserve some sun!). 🙂

This time I gave Ethiopian food a try…despite all those curries, burritos and tempura were so appealing, I really felt like having something light and healthy and those Ethiopian dishes were just what I was looking for: injera (Ethiopian soft pancake) with three sauces, chick peas, beet root salad, olives, and those little bright green pearls whose name I don’t remember (help me if you know it!). 🙂

Ethiopian meal

Ethiopian meal

Here below you can find a few other pictures from the food market.

Aren’t you hungry now? 😉

Notting Hill Carnival

It started about 50 years ago and it became bigger and bigger: the Notting Hill Carnival is a huge street festival organised by the Caribbean community in London, and is now one of the most exciting events in town!
If you happen to be in London during the last weekend of August, you’d better not to miss this. With some jerk chicken in one hand and a nice cold beer in the other one, get ready for two days of complete madness and fun!

We all know Notting Hill and its quiet, posh, residential lovely streets, if you have watched the movie you know what I am talking about. Well, forget about that! You will hardly recognize the area: it will be completely transformed in a huge open air disco. I used to live there and I had the best time when they set a huge sound system right in front of my flat. OK, when the floor started trembling for the music it was a bit strange and I was not feeling too safe, but after I got used to that, I just started enjoying the atmosphere…OMG that weekend was epic!!!

I went again this year and it was just how I remembered it: music, big smiles, fun, wild dancers and rivers of alcohol! 🙂

Just to have an idea of how busy and mad it gets, have a look here:

 

Thank you to all the athletes and some inspirational pictures

I want to dedicate one post to all the wonderful athletes that in these days are making us dreaming with their spectacular performances.
You represent years and years of hard and constant work and training…you are all an excellent model to follow!

Thank you for those breath taking dives, jumps, runs and much more…I wish the Olympic Games would last longer just to keep watching you.

PS: all the picture in this post have been taken from the web.

Olympic Torch relay and some other interesting facts

Two of the London 2012 Torch Bearers

Two of the London 2012 Torch Bearers

The flame is a symbol of the Olympic Games, whose origins lie in ancient Greece, where a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics.

The flame was reintroduced in the modern Olympics during the 1928 edition held in Amsterdam, and became part of the Olympic traditional symbol ever since. The torch relay was instead introduced in 1936, during the Berlin edition.

According to the tradition, the Torch is ignited several months before the start of the Games in Olympia, the hometown of the ancient Olympics, with a very precise ritual. It is then handled to the hosting city during a ceremony at the Panathinaiko Stadium and then transferred to the hosting country after a short relay in Greece. Once it arrives in the hosting country, it starts the relay which ends the day of the opening ceremony, when it is used to flame the Cauldron. For more information regarding the 2012 route, click here.

The design of the torch changes for each Games (my bad, I have only realized this when the torch bearer walked in front of me and I saw the London 2012 logo!) .

London 2012 Olympic Torch

London 2012 Torch was designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgery, who won the competition organised by the London 2012 Organising Committee and the Design Council.

The triangular shape was inspired by a series of ‘threes’ that are found in the history of the Olympic Games:

  • The three Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship;
  • The three words that make the Olympic motto – faster, higher, stronger;
  • The fact that the UK has hosted the Olympic Games in 1908, 1948 and will host them for the third time in 2012; and
  • The vision for the London 2012 Olympic Games to combine three bodies of work – sport, education and culture.

The torch is then extinguished on the final day of the Games, at the end of the closing ceremony.

Torch Bearer: I was very surprised to learn that in English is called with such an “easy” (and logical, how often happens with English words!) name. In Italian we like to show off and use “difficult” words, so we call it “tedoforo”  taken directly from the Latin/Greek words teda=torch and phero/fero=to carry. T-e-d-o-f-o-r-o: I honestly really like the sound of this word though!

This year I had the chance to assist to the Torch relay and I must admit that was one of the most touching moments ever. It was a strange feeling to finally being able to see with my own eyes something that for all my life I had only seen on TV.
It was just a perfect timing, I came out of the tube and saw the torch bearer holding his torch, and I have immediately realized that he was actually waiting for the other bearer to light the torch and leave for the next part of the relay route.

This is a short video I managed to record with my phone…unfortunately the quality is not the best and it is a bit shaky! It was very hard to record a video among all those people and most of all, standing on my tip toes! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!


First thought after relocation: be aware of estate agents!

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote something, but I think I have a pretty good excuse!

The last 2-3 weeks have been craaaaaazy! What I did?
Well, first of all I resigned from my job, second..I left Switzerland and relocated to London (as I am sure you have already figured out from the title!).

Getting things -properly- done in such a short time has been a challenge..this was not the first time I relocated from one country to another, but really..leaving Switzerland is just incredibly hard! Well, not hard, but if you will ever have to do that, then be prepared to fill in A LOT of forms and documents! I think I will write a whatToDoWhenYouLeaveSwitzerland post at some point, and I hope it will be helpful to someone out there.

Anyway, after almost three weeks we are almost settled down. I say almost because we had a bit of a rough start!
When we arrived we had a studio booked for one week which was great because it gave us the time to look for a proper flat. We booked it through HomeTrip which I think is an amazing website, I suggest you to spend 10-15 minutes on it and I am sure you will like it! The studio itself was not too bad, cozy and quite new..I was just a bit disappointed because it was not super clean!

As I said we gave ourselves one week to find a more permanent place..which considering the huge house offer you have in London is absolutely feasible!
We spent the first day in town house hunting and we were so proud of ourselves because in the evening we came back home with an holding contract signed with an agency for a great flat.
Yes, the flat was great and the estate agent was even more great in convincing us in taking that flat…yes, we have been absolutely brainwashed and when we left his office we were even thinking “OMG, he’s so professional and so good, we have been so lucky”.

Unfortunately that was only apparent luck! Let me tell you how things really went.

We were sitting in a Starbucks, browsing the flat’s section on Gumtree when we came across an advert for a flat that really sounded great. I immediately called the number on the advert to set a view. First of all the advert was listed as “private”, but no, it was an agency instead (I have later found out that 90% of ads listed as private belongs to agencies in the reality!)..anyway the guy was really friendly and told me that that particular flat was already taken (again, I have then realised that this is a very common technique for agencies..advertise the cool flat and then showing you the crappy one) but he had another great flat and suggested to meet up in his office and that he would have driven us there.

In my ingenuity and still confused by all the relocation related mess, I thought “how nice”..and I went to the meeting full of hopes and with a very good feeling…I guess that this was an excellent example of women’s sixth sense’s big, massive fail!

We arrived to the office on time and had to wait something like 15/20 mins because the agent was with a costumer (technique #3)..when he was eventually free he came to us, introduces in an extremely pleasant way and walked us to his car..and this is when his brainwashing attitude started. I know, it’s a sales role, so presentation and communication are key skills, but that was really too much!

Anyway, we eventually arrived to the flat, the guy talked so much that we litterally didn’t realised how much he drove, furthermore he kept saying “it’s just 5 mins away” – yes sure, then why are you driving us there rather than just walking? When we arrived to the flat, I admit it, it was cool..newly decorated and very spacious.
When we pointed out there was mould around the windows he blamed it on the previous tenants saying that this is caused to the fact they never opened the windows..the worst thing is that we trusted him! I mean, seriously? We normally are smart guys, how did we let him fool us in this way?

After all the bla bla bla about how great was the flat, the location – he assured me several times that was a super safe area – and how many other people would have came to see it in that afternoon, we were completely convinced that we had to go and sign the contract.

We went back to the office and basically we signed this “holding contract” in which was stated that we had to pay 1000£ and the agency would have kept the flat for us and started the references check process and suggested us as new tenants to the landlord. If the landlord refused us, we would have lost part of the 1000£ to cover admin cost, if we would have withdrawn our application, we would have lost all of them. Now, how can a honest agency have this unfair kind of contract? And how can two relatively smart people accept to sign it? Well, I don’t know..but we did!

Even after that we were very excited and were really looking forward to moving in the new flat..until..the following night we were out and quite close to that area and we thought of going to see how it looked like at night.

That was the best idea ever as it actually turned out one of the worst experience I have ever had. The area was all but safe! A lot of dodgy people around! It was relatively early, it was no later than 9pm, but the only people you could see in the streets were suspicious looking men in the corners of the street, no women, no families, only men.
That’s not all..once arrived in from of our flat, there was an awful smell of meat coming from the butchery which was right under the bedrooms windows. The air was almost unbreathable!  We were shocked!

We came back home incredibly sad and with the awful feeling of having been scammed! We then started browsing the net and found a lot of bad reviews for this agency and this made us even more pissed off.

The next day we went back to the office, claiming our money back (because in the meantime we had already paid 6 week deposit + one month rent) and the guy turned into an incredibly different person.

Fortunately we managed to get most of the money back and “only” lost those 1000£..that was a shocking experience! We still wonder how we let this guy convince us to take that flat and give them all that money. I tell you they are REALLY good in selling their properties, in brainwashing and confusing you with all their nice talks! BE AWARE! Never trust agencies!

Fortunately we had then found another nice flat in a nicer and safer area, no agencies involved and a (so far) nice landlord.