Comfortable and stylish UK and international travel tips, combined with a mix of tea, luxury and animals. The Cosy Traveller is a UK travel blog focusing on helping you make the most of your annual leave.
Alright, so we’ve got a bit of catching up to do. Since the last time we spoke I was chatting all about my Christmas break to Switzerland (!), I think it’s about time I gave a little low-down of everything that’s been going on since then.
Warning: This might be a little long (sorry in advance)…
1. I went to Paris for my birthday
This was probably the most spontaneous trip I’ve ever taken, only booking our trip three days before we left. We got a cracking deal on the Eurostar (plus a hotel with a pool), and it was too good to pass up! The last time I went to Paris I was 21, so it was good to visit for a little longer and see new things that have sprouted up over the city. Plus TWO cat cafes. I even celebrated my birthday with an 8km morning run from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower…
2. I’ve been to the theatre. A lot. Over the last few months I’ve seen Avenue Q, Come From Away, The Twilight Zone and Fiddler on the Roof…and in a few weeks I’m going to see Hamilton for a second time! I always resent spending £60+ on West End tickets, so I was beyond happy when I discovered TodayTix which gives you the opportunity to get cheaper tickets for various shows.
3. I appeared in a TV advert. Work were looking for volunteers to appear in a TV advert, and I can never say no to doing something a little different. See if you can spot me in the advert…
4. My nan and I went to Somerset
Last year my nan went away to Poole and ended up in hospital with a fractured pelvis and shoulder. So when she wanted to go away this year I offered to go along with her – just to help her out (and keep an eye on her because she has a tendency to want to go 100mph). So, in May, we spent 5 days together on a coach trip, seeing the sights of Somerset including Cheddar Gorge, Weston-super-Mare, Wells and numerous Costa coffee shops. It was much more of a slower pace than I’m used to, but it was an enjoyable little break full of lattes and tea. I think my nan also enjoyed it because she’s already asking where we’re going next…!
5. I started planning our New York Christmas break I managed to persuade Ian to return to New York at the end of the year for a bucket list trip – seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and all the Christmas decorations in the city! Seeing as how we’ve had around 12 months to save up/prepare, I’ve had plenty of time to start up my spreadsheet of all the stuff we want to do. So far I’ve bought tickets to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and an ice hockey game at Madison Square Garden and I can’t waaaiiit.
6. But I’ve also got some pretty cool London things planned Actually, pretty much everything I have planned for the rest of the year is happening in October. I’m going to see Jonathan Van Ness (from Queer Eye) on his UK tour, as well as Sir Ian McKellen (couldn’t say no to £10 tickets).
7. I fell in love with, lol, darts (don’t judge) If you’d asked me a couple of months ago what the most boring game of all time is, darts would have been up there. But we went along to Flight Club, the ‘home of social darts’ for Ian’s birthday, and now I’m straight up obsessed. Flight Club make it so easy to play because the dart board counts up your scores for you as you go – making it super quick and easy to whip through several games.
8. I’ve been saving like MAD. My savings were wiped out at the end of last year when I had a gap between jobs and I had to pay the rent on my flat in London. I’ve been trying to take on as much freelance work as possible to boost my savings once again, but DAMN saving whilst living in London is tough.
9. I went to Mighty Hoopla festival (and I met a great cat all on the same day)
Meet Pearl. She’s ace. She belongs to a friend of a friend and is possibly the most sassiest creature I’ve ever met in my life. We went to Pearl’s house to get changed (my friend was cat-sitting; she doesn’t just make a habit of turning up at people’s houses to get dressed) before heading off to Mighty Hoopla festival – a colourful festival in South London dedicated to all things cheesy. All Saints, Jamelia and my all-time-fave Samantha Mumba were on the bill and it was a great day out. I was even back home in bed by 9pm! Love a day festival.
10. I put on a few pounds Not the end of the world, but still. I need to get back into the habit of running regularly and eating healthily (Ian’s a huge fan of pasta with a side of pasta, which I’ve recently started to adopt too…). I can feel my body becoming more sluggish and I’ve been feeling a lot more BLUGH so am looking forward to getting fitter this summer.
11. I had the most insane hot chocolate
I caught up with Shika (from Why Waste Annual Leave) and Keri (Ladies What Travel) for a mooch around the Shoreditch area. Even though I used to work in Shoreditch, visiting Dark Sugars chocolate emporium was a new one for me – and the hot chocolate was unlike any other I’ve ever tasted, with shavings of different types melting into the cup for a rich and decadent treat. Definitely recommend!
12. My sci-fi dreams came true
Remember when I wrote about London Film and Comic Con last July and swore I’d be back? Well, in March I went off to London’s Spring Comic Con and got photos taken with Tom Baker AND Sylvestor McCoy. This means I have now officially ‘met’ 4/14 Doctors (including David Tennant and Paul McGann). Plus, this summer I’m going back to London Film and Comic Con to get photos with Christopher Eccleston (aka the 9th Doctor) and Colin Baker (aka the 6th Doctor). OFFICIALLY NERDING OUT WITH EXCITEMENT.
13. I’ve officially entered the world of credit cards
I’ve been toying with the idea of credit cards for the last few years – mainly for the handy little perks – but I’ve always been a bit scared of them. Well, this has been the year I’ve started to get to grips with them and so far things are working out pretty OK. I got both an American Express (for the British Airways airmiles points) and the Virgin Money credit card (for the Virgin Atlantic airmiles points). As I was close to a reward flight with Virgin Atlantic, I’ve been using that credit card mostly – and excitingly, I now have enough points for an off-peak return flight!
14. I met some deer at Knole Park
Ian and I went on a day trip to Knole Park in Sevenoaks, Kent, earlier this year – mainly because I wanted to visit some deer. They were so friendly, and I can imagine it’s even more of a beautiful park to visit in the summer.
15. Ian and I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour
At the beginning of this year we watched the Harry Potter movies over several nights. Ian had never been to the Studio Tour in Watford, so I surprised him with tickets for his birthday! I’ve already been twice but maaaanny years ago, and it’s completely unrecognisable now. Loved the new Hogwarts Express and Gringott’s bank additions!
16. We enjoyed afternoon tea on the Thames
Ian’s sister and her partner got us a voucher for Christmas that entitled us to afternoon tea on the Thames. We were treated to a nice (and sunny!) day for our trip along the Thames, and thoroughly enjoyed eating our weight in scones, sandwiches and cake.
17. I learnt so many new things at work!
This is a bit of a nerdy one, but I’ve genuinely been so excited to try a bunch of new things at my full-time job – filming videos, managing projects, volunteering at events. It feels good to have a job where I feel like I’m helping make a difference in peoples’ lives, and I feel stupidly lucky every day that I found such a great place to work!
What’s been going on for you during the first half of this year?
Last weekend, I was invited along to a Vintage China Upcycling Workshop run by The Indytute. For those who’ve never heard of upcycling, it’s basically the process of taking something unwanted and turning it into something fresh and new. As a massive hoarder who hates throwing ANYTHING away, this is something that has always intrigued me… Think how much I could have got away with not throwing away over the years!
A Morning of Vintage China Upcycling
This 90-minute workshop was run by The Indytute, a company that offers unusual gift experiences and days out in London (think everything from paddle boarding to designing your own terrarium. I kind of want to do everything on their site, so narrowing it down to just one was incredibly hard.)
Our workshop took place in the iconic furniture shop Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road. I loved that we weren’t shoved away in a windowless conference room out the back – instead, tables and chairs were set up for us on the shop floor, so we got to get crafty while surrounded by the gorgeous design pieces sold in the shop.
I arrived 10 minutes early, so had enough time to grab a tea from the store’s cafe upstairs, before meeting some of the 20-odd others who had arrived. Everyone was so lovely and welcoming, it didn’t feel weird at all that I was there by myself. In fact, a lot of others were there alone too, keen to try something different on their Saturday mornings.
Our wonderfully supportive workshop leader Claire spent a few minutes talking about The Indytute before encouraging us all to come up to pick a piece of crockery from a table. There were cups, saucers, large plates, jugs – some with patterns already on, and some completely bare.
Once we’d chosen our piece of china, we then had to get designing! We were supplied with dozens of pages of waterslide decals. Naturally, my mind was instantly drawn to all the cats, but there was everything from flamingos to florals, insects and lipstick kisses.
I absolutely LOVED getting my craft on. Do you remember being in arts and crafts back in school, and just spending a whole afternoon zoned out while finger-painting? It was basically that but on a grown-up scale. 90 minutes of blissfully cutting out designs, sipping tea, and chatting to everyone about their lives. There was lots of giggling about our designs and wondering about what the next step of the process would be…
After finalising my design, I still had oodles of time. Claire encouraged me to pick up another piece of crockery and try something a little different. Honestly, it was so much fun, I just wanted to stay there all day and create a whole new 215-piece dinner set.
The next step of the process involved making our designs permanent (or at least as permanent as they can be with china and waterslide decals). Bowls of water were dotted around the tables and we had to soak each of our decals in for around a minute – or until the transparent design decided it was ready to slide away from its backing paper. After positioning the decorations on the plate, we had to dab it dry and use the warmth of our fingers to help it stick.
As testament to the amount of fun we were all having, we were all there at the end of the 90 minutes, still happily sticking our designs down and taking photos of our finished products in the surroundings of Heal’s. Claire provided us with lots of newspaper to wrap our creations in, as well as some tissue paper to finish it off in case we wanted to gift it.
By the time the end of our session rolled around at midday, I honestly didn’t want to leave! I had completely forgotten how much I enjoy getting crafty. So much so, in fact, I stopped off at two charity shops on my way home to look for any items of crockery I could pick up and upcycle…
Claire recommended that we popped our creations in the oven to help seal the design onto the china. I did so as soon as I got home, before carefully wrapping my pieces up in tissue ready to be wrapped up as Christmas gifts!
China Upcycling at The Indytute: Overall
The workshop was one of the best things I’ve done since moving to London a year ago. I left the session with a huge smile on my face and a bounce in my step, my creative juices given a boost and a reminder of how much arts and crafts is good for my soul.
So many people I spoke to at the class said that they were gifted their voucher by friends/family, and I can’t help but feel an experience like this would be such an epic treat for someone special. Or maybe even for yourself? Now, if you don’t mind me, I’ve got to be off to upcycle some more china (apologies to all my loved ones for giving away your Christmas gifts…)
£35 for 2 people
90-minute classes take place one Saturday a month
Central London or Shoreditch location
Everything (plates, decals, scissors, expert guidance!) is all provided
Yes, those asterisks in the title are 100% needed! One of the most exciting things that happened this month was a campaign I worked on with the fabulous folks at Three UK and Samsung Mobile. Along with 40 other bloggers, I was sent a Samsung Galaxy S9 phone for a few weeks so that I could get to grips with the in-built camera.
In truth, it wasn’t a hard thing to do because I’m an Android girl through and through (I own a Pixel myself…), but even I was blown away by the quality of the camera. On my various jaunts to places like the Jurassic Coast, I even left my SLR camera at home and just took the S9 along with me!
At the end of the fortnight, we were all invited to submit the best photos we had taken. (Take a look at the #ThreeGallery hashtag on Instagram and Twitter if you want to check out some of the photos from other influencers.) I’m the first to admit I’m no expert photographer, but these were the ones I chose to submit in the end. Which one’s your favourite?
In the end, I settled on the last photo. It was taken during sunset at Citadel Festival in London and very almost didn’t happen. It was only when Ian and I decided to have a wander down to the Main Stage before we left that we saw just how magical the sky looked. I loved how everything was silhouetted against the colours of the sky, save for the vibrant lights of the ride.
One picture from every person involved was hung up in the Herrick Gallery in Mayfair, London. It wasn’t just an exclusive blogger event either – the gallery was open for two days so that members of the public could pop in and have a nosey at our work. It’s pretty surreal to think that hundreds of people I’ve never met have gazed at a photo I took one evening at a festival…
I popped down to the gallery itself for a reception evening, and it was especially lovely to bring along Ian. In 6+years of blogging, I think this is the first time he’s ever attended an event with me, so it was so lovely for him to see such a major part of my life in full swing!
Look at him, being a proud little boyfriend
Of course, it was very exciting to see my picture up on the wall, alongside a little plaque with my name on. It was hung up over the stairs, so Ian and I were joking that at least absolutely everyone had walked past it at some point!
The only downside to having your photo displayed above the stairs is the fact it’s REALLY HARD to get your photo taken next to it…
As exciting as it was to see my own photo, I also just really enjoyed seeing what photography route everyone else had gone down. I was a little overwhelmed to start off with because we had such an open brief, but I love how everyone had interpreted it differently. There were pictures of lavender fields, animals, close ups of fruits, doors, people, flowers… With such a diverse range of subjects and photos, it just goes to show how good the S9 camera is. I couldn’t believe some of them were actually taken with a phone camera!
Got to give an extra special shout out to the lovely Emma from Adventures of a London Kiwi. Unfortunately she couldn’t be there as she was out of the country (bloomin’ travel bloggers), but her picture of Cologne is just gorgeous!
Many thanks to everyone at Traverse, Three UK and Samsung Mobile for hosting the campaign – I doubt I would ever have had a photo of mine displayed in a gallery otherwise, and it’s definitely something I can tell the grandcats!
A few months back, I was invited to stay at the brand new Roomzzz aparthotel in Stratford, East London. With its central location just minutes away from Westfield shopping centre, I was so excited to finally rock up with Sophie (from Luggage Tags and Ticket Stubs) in tow last weekend, ready for a relaxing few days.
Honestly, this stay couldn’t have come at a better time. The weekend gave us a much-needed break from job hunting (actually that’s just me), and stressing about general life problems (OK, me again, sorry).
There’s been a lot of buzz around Roomzzz recently, but in case you’ve yet to hear of them, here’s a little more about them. Roomzzz offer a series of ‘aparthotels’ across various UK cities, including Leeds, Manchester, Chester, Newcastle, Nottingham and London. While similar in essence to a hotel – you check in, get your room key, and have 24/7 reception service – the aparthotels offer you a home-from-home in the form of your own little apartment.
And that’s exactly what greeted Sophie and I when we opened the door on our accommodation for the weekend. With a lounge area, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, I’m pretty certain that the apartment had more floor space than my own flat! And that’s not to mention the fact we had our very own little balcony, complete with two chairs, table, and views out over Stratford Park.
The first thing we had to do before we went out exploring was to have a nosey around our cosy apartment. Our kitchen was fully stocked with everything from teabags to utensils, crockery and even a dishwasher! I loved the fact that the kitchen had a microwave and an oven, giving you the option to bung in something cheap and quick if you just fancied a night in. It all felt and looked so squeaky new and clean, that we barely wanted to touch anything!
Next stop was the bathroom! I loved the fact there was a choice of two shower heads – including a rain shower! – plus shower gel and shampoo/conditioner from The White Company. This is quite literally an apartment you could check into and have virtually all of your needs catered for.
And then there was the bedroom, with its grand double bed, plump cushions…all pointed towards a great big HD TV on the wall. As much as I was tempted to flop into bed straight away, I had to remind myself it was only 3 o’ clock in the afternoon…so I settled for flopping onto the sofa in our lounge instead for a little bit of European Championships coverage on our second HD TV. That’s right, the ratio of people to HD TVs in our Roomzzz apartment was INSANE.
Exploring Stratford: Day 1
Once we’d pulled ourselves away from the comfort of the sofa, Sophie and I decided to head out to explore more of what was on our doorstep. That wasn’t before we had a small recce around the Roomzzz facilities downstairs, which includes a fully equipped gym, a lounge area and a small shop where you can pick up groceries and snacks. Honestly, if you weren’t that interested in seeing much of London, you could pretty much live in one of these Roomzzz apartments and not leave for weeks.
While Stratford isn’t a part of London that’s new to us – Sophie used to live round the corner and Westfield shopping centre has saved my life on many an emergency shopping trip outing – we decided to view the area with fresh eyes. The rest of London is so easily accessible via Stratford’s superb transport links, but we decided to stay in the area as much as we could. From Roomzzz, it’s a 20-minute walk to the Olympic Park which was where we headed off to while it was still light.
Firstly, I love the Olympic Park. Walking around the park fills me with so much nostalgia from the summer of 2012, plus it’s also somewhere that feels so incredibly peaceful. Despite being next to Europe’s biggest shopping centre, it’s large enough to make you feel like you’re miles away from civilisation – that is, until you look up and spot the city’s skyscrapers looming in the distance.
The Arcelormittal Orbit is one of the most iconic landmarks in Stratford. Situated right next to the Olympic Stadium, it’s possible to slide or abseil down the 114.5-metre-high sculpture (both of which Sophie has done in the past few months…). Or you can just do what I did and head up there in the lift and walk down. Each to their own.
While walking around the park we also stumbled upon an open-air climbing wall which I had absolutely no idea was there! We had a quick climb up a few of the foot holds, and then panicked and legged it back down again. Skills.
Before we’d even realised it, our walk around the park had quickly inched into the evening. On the way back to our apartment, we stopped off in Westfield shopping centre to pick up two essential items: doughnuts from Doughnut Time, and matching Disney pyjamas from Primark. It’s not a proper sleepover without them, after all, is it?
While it would have made sense for us to get a few groceries in and whip up some marvellous concoction in our brand spanking new shiny apartment kitchen, we, uh, decided to get a takeaway instead. We were spoilt for choice on Deliveroo, but we plumped for pad thais from Rosa’s Thai Cafe (with prawns for Soph, and tofu for me). It was hands downs one of the best takeaways I’ve had in recent memory.
Being the awesome bloggers that we are, we decided to chill for the evening in matching PJs with our doughnuts and some crappy movies on the TV. It was bliss.
Exploring Stratford: Day 2
Most city breaks see me getting up at an absurd hour to make the most of my time in a new place. Whether it was the comfortable bed or the fact we were still digesting that delicious Thai, Sophie and I didn’t stir until almost 10am. Thankfully, we still had enough time to run downstairs and collect our grab and go breakfast. The breakfast station had pastries, muffins, fruit, yogurts, hot drinks and juices, and you can fill up your brown bag with as much as you like. Of course, this is intended to benefit those who want to head straight out to explore, but Sophie and I sloped back to bed with our haul…
Once we’d eventually showered, dressed and checked out (thank goodness for the option to check out a little later for a surcharge), we lovingly bid our apartment goodbye, and decided to go for an early lunch in nearby Hackney Central. Just a few stops from Stratford, Hackney is home to lots of cool pubs and bars, but one cafe in particular is getting Instagram talking.
With its hanging plants, pastel colours and edible glitter lattes, Palm Vaults is an Instagrammer’s dream. It’s recently expanded its menu to include toasties and lots of avocado-based snacks, so you can be sure you’ll be getting the full hipster experience. While I felt it was a little on the pricey side (and the service was a little lacking, but that’s another story), it was a fun place to visit for an hour or so. Sophie opted for the rose latte with edible glitter art, while I had the colour-changing lavender iced tea. We both had some aesthetically pleasing pink cake too, neither of which we really NEEDED to eat, but seeing as we were there…
Oh, and another tip if you do head there: be sure to wear layers. Whether it was to do with the heating or the optimum plant environment, the cafe was boiling. We were pleased to get back out into the fresh air and back on the train towards Stratford!
Our last stop was at Roof East in Stratford, accessed via lifts within Stratford Centre. Once a rooftop car park, it’s now styled as a summer-only ‘adventure playground for grown ups’, complete with crazy golf, bars, street food, and a rooftop cinema. We were hoping to come here the day before to relax (and hopefully catch a rooftop movie) but for some reason it was closed. By the time we eventually got there around 2pm on the Sunday, it was a little rainy and we were virtually the only two up there. Nonetheless, I can totally see how Roof East would be the most awesome spot for nighttime gatherings during the warm summer months.
Even if you don’t want to pay for some of the games, there’s still plenty to see. There’s colourful wall art, deck chairs and giant Jenga games, amongst lots of quirky art features. It’s one of those places you could easily spend nothing…but also easily spend half your wage. Enter at your peril!
Final Thoughts on Our Weekend With Roomzzz Stratford
Before now, I’d thought of Stratford as only being a transitory part of London, visited only if you were looking for some new clothes or wanting to see a football game at the Olympic Stadium. My weekend with Roomzzz completely changed that perspective. Stratford itself has a thriving atmosphere, and there’s so much on your doorstep that it really is such a good location to base yourself in if you’re ever visiting London. The ability to have your own apartment at a Roomzzz aparthotel is particularly novel, and I loved how you could still have your independence while still benefitting from the 24/7 security and knowledge from the concierge. We both had such a comfortable and trouble-free visit, that I couldn’t recommend staying here enough!
Sophie and I were guests of Roomzzz, however all thoughts and weekend activities are my own.
I remember the first time I moved to London for university in 2011. My bags unpacked and my mum waved off, my first foray into the Big City was an evening walk along the Strand and over towards Blackfriars Bridge with some new friends. Seeing London by night – by myself, with no adult in tow – was something completely new to me. The crowds of business workers had dispersed and tourists were tucked into restaurants and theatres, leaving only London’s array of interesting locals scattered around the streets.
Rather than feeling scared or overwhelmed, this was a pretty monumental evening for me. As a town girl through-and-through, seeing city life roll on past sunset and into the night was eye-opening. There were new experiences to be had and new sights to see in a different light, and suddenly my live had just got that little bigger.
London Nights Photography Exhibition
Today, London by night is something I’m much more familiar with. With work, late-night gigs and blogging events, I often find myself rushing around the city by myself at night. And London by night still has a whole different feel than London by day, as people race home and the frantic work day comes to a close.
It’s this interesting phenomenon that is tackled at London Nights, a new photographic exhibition at the Museum of London. Featuring over 200 pieces of work by 60 photographers, the exhibition takes you on a journey of London at night – from the 19th century to the present day. It takes in key sights at night, as well as iconic events like King Edward VII’s coronation procession route in 1902, and the flashing neon lights of the West End.
Piccadilly at Nightc. 1960, Bob Collins
The concept of looking at the history of London by night is a simple one but one that really blew my mind. The exhibition itself looks at the way people work, play and relax in the capital at night, and it really brings the many faces of the city to life. There are the tops of clubbers’ heads accentuated by the venue’s flashing lights; the weary worker leaning against the bus window; and drag queens gearing up for a performance. It reminded me of the many different lives that are led all over the city.
Through A Glass Darkly #34. 2016. Photograph by Nick Turpin.
Bourgeoisie from Night Flowers. 2014. Photographer Damien Frost.
Some of my favourite photos, however, were those taken during World War II. Nighttime obviously took on a very different feel, what with the Blackout to confuse enemy aircrafts. With street lights dimmed or turned off and windows covered with black paint or cardboard, London’s landscape would have been completely different to what we’re used to.
East End Underground Station Shelter, 1940, Bill Brandt.
Another range of photos that caught my eye were those by Chris Shaw, a night porter who worked in several London hotels between 1993 and 2004. During his shifts he’d take photos to help him stay awake, and the photos reveal a relatively unseen side to hotels, from drunk guests to drowsy colleagues!
Left: Song and Dance from the series London by Night 1983, Photograph by Tish Murtha Right: Sarah Ginn, Farbic, 2017
What I like most about the exhibition is the fact it appeals to so many people. Whether you’re into London, photography, history, sociology or feminist issues, the exhibition really delves into so many different areas. I can’t recommend it enough!
The London Nights exhibition is on at the London Wall site of the Museum of London until 11th November 2018. Late-night entry is every Friday until 9:30pm. Entry is from £10, but under 16s go free!
Note: I was provided with complimentary entry to London Nights, but I was under no obligation to write about it. I just loved it and thought you would too!
I had THE BEST time at London Film and Comic Con. Honestly, 24 hours on I’m still absolutely buzzing, and wish it was the weekend all over again! Going to a convention like this has always been on my list of things to do in London. I went to Kapow Comic Con a few years ago and saw some of the comic greats, but this was the first time I’d been to an event that had big named stars and all the cosplay fun that surrounds it.
What is London Film and Comic Con?
Ok, before I get a little carried away with telling you JUST HOW AMAZING my day was, I should probably cover the basics. London Film and Comic Con is basically a three-day convention that celebrates the biggest and best TV shows, movies and comics around. Held at Kensington Olympia, the venue features an entire floor of stalls selling merchandise, t-shirts, cupcakes, the lot…while the entire second floor plays hosts to big-name stars from TV and film that you can meet.
This year, Jason Momoa (from Game of Thrones and Aquaman) was the big named star, but there was also David Duchovny (X Files) and dozens of other big names. I was predominantly there for the Doctor Who actors (Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, David Bradley, Colin Baker, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Tom Baker and Christopher Eccleston were all there on various days across the weekend).
This is already sounding like the nerdiest blog post ever and I am absolutely loving it.
A Day at London Film and Comic Con
The day started early for me, as I had to get dressed up in my finest togs. It was a last-minute cheapskate decision to go as a female version of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, and my outfit involved one of Ian’s work shirts, a black skirt, burgundy braces and a bow tie, plus a fez and a sonic screwdriver. Ian reluctantly had a photoshoot with me in full gear, often stopping to shake his head to whisper, “You’re such a nerd.”
He loves me really.
The venue opened at 9am, so me and my friend Aislinn decided to avoid the initial surge and arrive at 11. First mistake. We ended up queuing around the venue and back to the tube station for around half an hour. Luckily it moved pretty quickly and people in the queue were all chatting excitingly about what they were going to see, so it felt much shorter.
As soon as we were in, my first impression was WTF. To my right there was a life-size Batmobile car; on the other, several Transformers vehicles. And straight ahead were hoards of people all milling around the various stalls. It took a while to get over the sheer size of the event, and we definitely got lost on more than one occasion. My biggest piece of advice is: if you see something you like, don’t think, “Oh I’ll come back and find that later.” YOU WILL NEVER FIND THAT STALL AGAIN.
I was also shocked at how few people had actually dressed up. Don’t get me wrong, it was obvious that people had put a LOT of effort into their outfits (I saw several One Punch Mans, multiple Doctors and various anime characters), but I’d say a good 70% of people were just in normal day-to-day clothing. I thought it was a given that everyone who attended had to be in some sort of dress, but I was absolutely wrong!
After getting our bearings around the two gigantic halls downstairs, we headed upstairs to take a look at the celebs. I’m not sure why, but I thought that the big celebs would be hidden away so us non-autograph paying commoners couldn’t see them. A few were, but most of them were just out on the main floor behind desks, signing away for their fans. Occasionally a small gap would appear in the huge queues and you’d get a glimpse of Peter Capaldi’s smile or Pearl Mackie’s hair, and that was about enough to leave me jumping for joy.
It’s a bit of a weird thing because if you’re dressed up, people will come up and ask to either take a photo of you, or even with you. It took me a while to get used to this – where in the world would you have randomers asking to take photos with you like you’re a celeb?! Eventually, though, it all became second nature and you sort of just get carried away in the spirit of it all.
Choosing between autographs/photoshoots/talks
So how does it work? Basically, you purchase your entrance to the venue (in 2018 it was £23 to attend on the Saturday), which gives you access to all the areas. However, you have to pay extra if you want to get an autograph from a certain celebrity or get a photograph with them. This can range from anything from £10 for lesser known actors to £200++ for diamond passes with the bigger name stars. These passes guarantee you an autograph, a photoshoot, and access to their talk.
It can add up MASSIVELY. If you were mega keen, you could end up spending a small fortune…but I managed to get away with only spending £54 which wasn’t too bad overall…
But which do you sign up to? Seeing as it was my first proper convention, I had no idea where to start, but luckily my friend Aislinn who came with me is an absolute dab-hand at them. Basically her advice was this:
If you queue up for an autograph, you often have a little time to chat with the actor. They’ll either sign something you bring along, or they’ll provide you with a glossy print free of charge. If there are loads of people in the queue, you’ll often get a number – you have to just keep checking what numbers they’re working through at different points throughout the day, but it’s a good way to minimise waiting times.
Photoshoots are usually pretty quick (in/out sort of fashion), so you don’t get much of a chance to talk to the actor. Sometimes you’ll get the opportunity to have a green screen photo with the star, but often you just end up looking tiny next to all the props. On the other hand, a normal photoshoot gets you both in the photo a lot better. It all depends on what you prefer!
Because I’m a) the most socially awkward person ever, and b) also really really hate having my photo taken, I opted for a green screen photo of the TARDIS console with 8th Doctor Paul McGann. It was a bit of a rushed operation – you queue up outside the closed off area, before your ticket is scanned and you’re allowed in. I then had about 8 seconds to say “Hello, lovely to meet you”, shake his hand, hear him say “Fezzes are cool!”, me to awkwardly reply “Thanks!” (?!), our photo to be taken, and me to shuffle off.
But you know what? I absolutely wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It was ACE and I know my mum would have been dead jealous/proud. She probably would have replaced my graduation photo with this:
My personal highlights of London Film and Comic Con
OMG SO MANY. But here are my top moments:
Jason Momoa walking right past me. Because there were so many lookalikes at the event, I half assumed it was a wannabe Momoa, but then I realised he was flagged by security and people were chasing after him screaming “JASON”, so yeah.
Being told Stephen Moffat was there a day early, just milling around “in a white shirt”. Like yeah cool, narrows it down.
The first thing I found at the venue being a replica Batmobile which my mum TOTALLY would have gone mad for.
Meeting Paul McGann for all of 0.712 seconds
Just picking up gifts for friends on the various stalls, and being strong enough to resist buying multiple geeky t-shirts for myself
Having our photo taken on replica sets of Stranger Things and Sherlock
Taking a photo of what I thought was a Cyberman costume prop… And then screaming the place down when the Cyberman lunged at me
My Tips For London Film and Comic Con
I’m by no means a pro at these types of events, but here are my tips for first timers (please leave me a comment if you have any other tips to add!):
Wear comfy shoes. You’ll be doing a LOT of walking.
Take cash with you. There is an ATM inside, but it charges you for withdrawals. Most stalls and vendors only accept cash!
Only dress up if you’re comfortable being photographed.
Familiarise yourself with the area before you have to get to a signing/photoshoot. Often they do start late due to over-running sessions, but you don’t want to miss out if you get there late!
Take some water with you – queues for the food places are LONG, and the items are way overpriced. Also mints. You’ll be doing a LOT of talking, and my mouth got insanely dry.
While it’s probably best to book your photoshoots/autograph sessions in advance so that you can adequately plan (and budget), don’t panic if you want to book something while you’re there. I booked my photo with Paul McGann on the website using my phone while I was walking around the convention – however, there are sales desks at the event, and you can also queue up and pay for autographs at the signing table itself.
In case it’s not clear, I absolutely LOVED my first experience of London Film and Comic Con. I’m already excited for next year’s event, and I’ve even decided on my next outfit… Watch this space!
Are you a fan of conventions? If so, do you have any tips? Let me know in the comments below!
One thing I love about London is that there’s always something weird and wonderful going on. Fancy going to a gig? A puppet show? A yoga class with dogs?! No matter what day of the week it is or whereabouts you are, there’s usually something epic going on that you’ve never even thought could possibly exist.
Last week, I climbed over the O2 Arena in North Greenwich for a second time, and it got me thinking: just where else in the world could you harness up and hike over a massive glass fibre fabric dome?! In honour of all the crazy things that London has to offer, here are some of the things you can ONLY do when visiting England’s capital.
Visit the starting point of the Fire of London
Last time I went up was in 2012, but the views are arguably some of the best you’ll get over London.
The Monument column sits on the supposed starting point of the 1666 Great Fire of London. Rather than just acting as a memorial, however, the Monument can also be scaled – if you’re brave enough to climb up the 311 steps of the narrow staircase! Bonus points are given for being relatively cheap (£4.50 per adult), as well as for its fab views out over the City.
The skeleton of Hope the blue whale hangs from the ceiling of the Natural History Museum, allowing tourists to stand in awe from all angles. I personally think the museum is one of the most impressive buildings in all of London, so this really is something I’d always recommend people go and see!
3. Visit Platform 9 3/4
I can confirm the entrance to Platform 9 3/4 has got a LOT more exciting since I was there in 2012…
I’m sure there are loads of replica Platform 9 3/4 hanging out all over the world, but everyone knows that the real one is at King’s Cross, London. There’s even a trolly disappearing into the wall, which you can queue up and have your photo taken with for ultimate cool points. (Hot tip: get there early, or be prepared to queue! I’ve been amazed at just how busy it can get!)
And if you want to go a step further, catch a train from Euston and head to Watford to visit the site where much of Harry Potter was filmed. The Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour is absolutely amazing – I’ve been there twice now, and it just keeps on getting better and better. You can imagine what life as a Hogwarts student would be like while checking out the Great Hall, and you can see various props that were used in the making of the movies.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit is the UK’s largest sculpture, built on the site of the Stratford Olympic Park for the 2012 games. You can take the lift up to the top for views out over East London, but if you wanted to go down in an unusual fashion you can either take the twisty slide down…or abseil right down to the bottom. Sophie from Luggage Tags and Ticket Stubs has done both and I’m not even a little bit jealous because, NOPE. But hey, if you want to tick something exciting off your bucket list, here’s the place to do it!
5. Recreate one of the Beatles’ most iconic album covers
Surreee there are many zebra crossings all around the UK, but you need to visit London for the *actual* one. Grab 3 of your closest mates (maybe a 4th cos someone is going to need to take the picture) and head toSt. John’s Wood tube station where you’ll find the crossing.
6. Climb over a giant dome
The O2 is one of the most iconic structures in East London, housing an arena that hosts all the biggest stars on their world tours. Even if you’re not all that fussed about what’s going on inside, it’s worth making a visit to the giant dome to see London from a whole different perspective. Up at The O2 is a 90-minute climb that takes you, well, right to the top of the O2 via a bouncy 52m-tall walkway.
I went with Roma from Roaming Required for the second time last week and it was absolutely epic; after getting harnessed up and shown the (literal) ropes, we were on our way! The first and last sections of the climb are the steepest, but it’s totally worth it for the view once you reach the top. There’s the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, Canary Wharf, and even the Olympic Park in the distance if you’re lucky enough to go on a clear day.
7. Stand in the East and the West at the same time
The Meridian Line is an imaginary line that divides the earth into eastern and western hemispheres. While it passes through many countries (including France, Mali and Antartica), in London you can make a point of showing how you’ve existed in two hemispheres at the same time. Head to Greenwich observatory where you can get a photo of you stepping over the official line!
8. Visit the birthplace of afternoon tea
The Palm Court at The Langham hotel is commonly thought of as the place where afternoon tea was created over 150 years ago. Amazingly enough considering my afternoon tea obsession, the Langham is one place I’ve yet to visit, but I’m most definitely going to have to rectify that soon…
9. Retrace the footsteps of Jack the Ripper
Want something a little more gritty? This is the tour for you! An infamous 19th century serial killer, Jack the Ripper carried out most of his killings around the East End of London. Although he remains unidentified, there are still plenty of tours that seek to monopolise on his name, taking tourists down dark alleyways and dimly lit backstreets to learn more about the mystery…
London isn’t original in the sense that it has a thriving Chinatown, but there’s so much more to the city than you could ever expect. Holland Park has a peaceful Kyoto Garden that’s full of dramatic water features; and then there’s Little Venice by Paddington, and the Italian Water Gardens in between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens!
What else do you think that London has to offer that you can’t get anywhere else?
This post is in collaboration with Hotels.com, however all thoughts, opinions and love of London are my own!