an early rise to get to the Great Wall for 8am opening time; as it was national holiday week bus tours of Chinese tourists flood the main sights as the local Beijing middle class go away. there are several points that you can go and visit the wall, we chose the second closest point to Beijing, Mutianyu – as we had heard the main nearer site is always crowded. you take a cable car up, which took me by surprise as you just jumped on as it was moving – as you can tell I have never been ski -ing – and then you can choose to take a toboggan ride down, which is both fun and scary; Chinese health and safety is pretty similar to spain – so take caution, if you have young children or old grandparents, there is a safer enclosed cable car up and down, plus you can always hike your way up and save the cable car fees, which I believe takes another half hour, but bear in mind that you will be doing lots of climbing and walking along the wall. we were lucky enough to see the wall with just a handful of people on it, but within 2 hours it was getting very busy and very hot and this was October, so bear this in mind if you go in the heat of the summer, and especially with the steep steps to climb up and down. it really is an incredible feat, and to think that this was built over 4000 years ago. apparently parts of the wall were started in 7BC, fortifications to protect the towns from raids and invasions from the nomadic groups, which eventually were all joined together to create one Great Wall. of course its been rebuilt at times, no wonder its one of the seven wonders of the world, its definitely worth the trip. we took about 7 hours in all, including the travelling to and from Beijing; we booked a driver there and back, which is a bit more pricey, but saves you time as they wait for you, otherwise, you can easily pick up coaches to and from the site, it just so happened that it was easier to take the car from where we were staying. its very nice to take a picnic and sit on one of the steps or on top of one of the fortress buildings roof and enjoy the breathtaking and wondrous view. another tip, is to make sure that you don’t go on a rainy day, probably not good and slippery; apparently autumn and winter are absolutely stunning with the colours and snow! you don’t need to plan too much in advance, as we did it the day before, but look at the weather forecasts before choosing your day. my biggest disappointment was arriving at the start of the cable car and finding a subway sandwich cafe – I guess we cannot choose or criticise what other countries find as progression.
what a great opportunity to see inside the interiors of other people’s homes – openhouse has become a big success – not only for architects promoting their wares, public buildings opening their doors to the wider audience, but proud house owners welcoming you into their abodes. the 1930’s striking white building – Isokon – was built as a social housing experiment by Jack and Molly Pritchard who also built their family apartments at the top. the studios are tiny – but their residents super proud to be there. (I think a students room in a hall of residence may be slightly bigger!) of course the penthouse apartment is spectacular with its plywood clad walls and floors and vast roof terrace – definitely worth the wait to see. there is a little gallery on sitethat tells you the history of the building.
if you are clever enough to book up in advance, you could probably see 3 or 4 buildings in a day, but realistically choose 2 or 3 places in the same area. we then visited Willow Road, which is open all year round as it is owned by the national trust. marvel at the opening wall panels that allow you to reveal one large space or provide several living areas. designed by Erno Goldfinger for himself and his family, it also shows Goldfinger’s collection of art and furniture.
was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to stay in the unique ‘a room for london’, moored on the roof of the queen elizabeth hall on busy south bank – it was one of those experiences of a lifetime. it was a bright, breezy evening and the view was just amazing. the best time was at 5am – when the light was dawning, the lights still twinkling and london as quiet as it can ever get. it really was like staying in a boat, but without the sea sickness and rocking, but you can hear the wind billowing, the boats steaming past, the laughter of passerbys and the music of venues close by. we ate dinner at the oxo tower – it was my 2nd time, but after a delicious starter, the main course was disappointing, but the desserts worth waiting for. quite pricey though ! for breakfast robert went to the local le pain quotidian for croissants which we enjoyed in our cabin – its definitely one of those stays that makes a unique celebration. living architecture have a few of these unusual places, a couple in dungeoness, another one of my favourite places and one near blakeney.
incidentally, this was my vintage skirt purchase from POP vintage
discovered another inner london stable yesterday – tucked just behind brixton tube – ebony stables – what a wonderful thing for the local community – situated next to wyck gardens, it offers local children an opportunity to ride horses, see how to look after them right in the city centre. its so important to keep these open green spaces for the community – god help us if these all get destroyed for more luxury apartments! we are already losing libraries, fire stations, town halls – if they were turned into social housing it wouldn’t be so bad, but lets not lose our green inner city spaces. its what makes london so unique and a great city.
yesterday was an open day of fun for the community run projects in the area – one of them being Baytree, which my daughter introduced me to . all these projects are amazing additions for the community – baytree helps women and children with extra after school studios, mentoring to enlighten and encourage the minds of the girls – the message being that you can do anything in life no matter what your background. all these projects are only possible by the help of volunteers, you only need to commit to an hour a week, so if you want to make a little difference, there are lots of projects in all areas that need volunteers. yesterday the girls spent a happy day rock climbing, boxing, riding horses, decorating cup cakes and face painting – fortunately the weather remained dry and its such a pleasure to see smiling faces enjoying outdoor activities. i was very touched to hear the names of some of the children – ‘goodness’, ‘favour’ – such simply beautiful names…..
i cant believe that after 30 years of living in london that i have just made it to hampstead ladies ponds – of course with all this warm weather, everyone is there enjoying the water and the sun, but luckily this morning, it was only our group of friends. its Jac’s birthday today and this was her request that a group of friends came swimming with her, followed by a picnic on the grass – Jac is amazingly lion hearted and swims all year round, almost every day, come rain, sun or snow. now i can’t wait for my next swim……
hampstead is an oasis in the middle of a city that offers peace and tranquility – it spreads so far from parliament hill and southhill park to highgate that you can always find a peaceful spot. robert and I like to go for early breakfast at Kenwood House – one of my favourite places to enjoy a cup of tea and cake – and cooked breakfast is surprisingly good for a self service restaurant. i have to admit i do wish that they would sometimes do table service, all that queuing and sorting out your tray takes away the relaxing part of having breakfast out. loved the henry moore sculptures dotted in the beautiful landscape.
if you walk around london you will see lots of private squares, usually only open to residents, but this weekend you can have the opportunity to walk about and look at the wonderful open green spaces that divide our london streets. cheek the website to ensure that the gardens you like to visit are part of the weekend.
Easter is a Christian festival and for Christians the custom of giving eggs at Easter celebrates new life. The first eggs given at Easter were birds eggs. These eggs were painted in bright colours to give them further meaning as a gift. We still paint bird eggs today but usually only chicken eggs. my daughter loves to paint eggs, but you do have to be really gentle or they will easily break. you need to pierce a hole at either end blow out all the liquid inside the egg, use for scrambled eggs, or bake a cake! then perch your egg on a barbecue stick or on a chopstick and paint with acrylic paints. you can always thread pretty ribbon through the holes and hang them – they look pretty cute. i really like the tree that maude painted on this egg.
if you are in padstow, on easter sunday there is the annual easter egg rolling down the street – bring your own hard boiled egg – its fun to watch everyone dress up, roll their eggs and raise money for their favourite charity.