Snapshots in Greenwich

Some photos from a (slightly) hungover stroll on the first day of spring.

I honestly have no clue how I’d managed not only not to visit Greenwich before moving here, but also not to really have even heard of it. I think it’s easily one of the most underrated spots in London and the absolute greatest place to spend a Sunday.

Places visited: The Queen’s House / Tulip Staircase / The Water Gate / National Maritime Museum / Greenwich Park / Royal Naval College

In Brief: February

To be perfectly honest, one of the reasons I wanted to move to London so badly was so that I could visit all the restaurants and bars I have read so much about. I’ve been pretty good about getting out and about where I can (the fact that both Matthew and all my friends share my taste for food helps) but I don’t always take my camera and rarely blog about¬†everywhere I go.

A lot of these places deserve mentions though, so I’m trialling a monthly(ish) round up of the restaurants & bars I’ve visited lately. Here’s where I managed to get to in February:

Bo Drake, Soho: Food was delicious, wine fairly cheap, company great. I may do a full post on this if I can persuade Kate to let me borrow her pictures of the evening, but if you are going, TRY THE RIBS. Steak was also delicious. Our only issue was that they had run out of both of the above by 8.30 (we had the last orders of each) and then the waiter dropped one of our ribs on the floor. Rating: 4/5.

London Cocktail Club, Shoreditch: M & I visited for cocktails on a Friday night. Good cocktails, extensive menu, good atmosphere. Service was friendly enough but not particularly genuine. Rating: 3/5.

Red Dog Saloon, Hoxton Square: I visited to satisfy a pulled pork craving after a frankly awful blogging event (more to come on that soon). Food was fine, beer was fine, service less so РI had a much better experience when I visited in the summer! Rating: 2/5.

The¬†Cocktail Trading Co, Soho:¬†Remains one of my favourite spots in London. Having had such a good time the first time around, I had to take Kate & Sophie and although it wasn’t¬†quite¬†as good, the service was still super friendly and the atmosphere extra buzzy. Rating: 5/5.

Greenwich Farmers Market: A surprise discovery on a Friday off, this is a brand new farmer’s market and there were samples galore. I bought some absurdly delicious coconut fudge and there’s a great array of stalls so I’d highly recommend. Rating: 5/5!

Rivington Grill, Greenwich: Fast becoming a regular haunt of mine, this reminds me of the parent-friendly favourites of Exeter. We visited for lunch this time and it was dependable as ever, with efficient, friendly service and a nice relaxed atmosphere. Rating: 4/5.

Peyton & Byrne, Greenwich: A much wider selection of cakes than we had anticipated, including the cutest mini carrot cakes and delicious looking fig rolls. Matthew and I shared a sinfully rich chocolate caramel cake and a fantastic coffee & walnut cake (and I don’t usually love coffee & walnut). Always busy; a solid choice for coffee & cake by the Cutty Sark.¬†Rating: 4/5.

Okay, I actually didn’t realise how often I’m eating out at the moment, for which I can only apologise to Mr Natwest. And believe me I have a list as long as my arm of places I still have yet to visit!

Have you been to any of the above? Anywhere I should aim to check out in March? Let me know!

Back to [Blog] School With Tug

A couple of weeks ago, an email dropped into my inbox containing an invite to an event hosted by Shoreditch SEO agency, Tug: “Stylish SEO.”

Now, I haven’t been to¬†that¬†many blogging events, but this one seemed different to the others. The invite promised presentations from some of Tug’s SEO experts, which seemed much more educational than the usual branded free for all, and most importantly, it also promised a prosecco reception in an intriguing rooftop space. Never one to turn down the opportunity for some weeknight sparkles, I wangled my buddy Kate a spot on the guest list too and on Thursday night we settled ourselves on the front row, notebooks in hand, like the eager beavers (or just a bit late) that we are.

Other than the above, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I can safely say that “Stylish SEO” was by far the most worthwhile and possibly the most fun blogging event I’ve ever been to. As promised, we were the audience for 6 snappy presentations, each along a theme (thing social media, content, Google guidelines and so on). I learnt so much that it would be impossible to share it all, but I thought I’d compile a list of some of the most useful tips. So without further ado, here’s Tug Agency’s top tips for SEO:

  • Domain Authority¬†is key. I thought this was the kind of thing you could only find out if you were some sort of tech professional, but it turns out you can download the Moz Toolbar for free and found it out yourself. It’s out of 100, and the higher it is, the better for you.
  • Links to your page are also key (and that’s what builds your DA). The guys at Tug put it to us as each link being like a “vote” for your page. The pages with the most votes (the most links) get the highest domain authority, and come up higher in searches.
  • There are “good links” and “bad links“, with bad links being things like too many reciprocal links (i.e only exchanging links), big huge directories, and so on.
  • Timing¬†is crucial. As head of social media Simon put it, you wouldn’t walk into a room and start talking about something that nobody else is talking about, so research your posts and target them.
  • On that note,¬†targeting¬†your audience. If you’ve written a post you think so and so from whatever magazine or blog or wherever else would like – let them know!
  • Searching keywords on twitter/elsewhere is a good way to find out what people are talking about and how you can enter the conversation.
  • Blogging should be 40% research; 20% actual blogging; and 40% outreach. This was probably the tip that surprised me the most but it makes sense! Just having a post written is satisfying, but not nearly as satisfying as having other people recognise it, so making sure it gets out there is key.

As I said, this is just a snippet of what we were told but they were all things I hadn’t really thought about before and it has already completely changed my outlook on blogging. I’m back in the game big time!

After the talks, the team hosted a fab mixing & mingling session upstairs in their super cool penthouse (which was just as cool as promised), with plenty of prosecco on tap and a really genuine friendly vibe that was a welcome relief – blogging events are great, but so often they are a bit awkward. This wasn’t at all, and the Tug guys and bloggers were mingling all over the shop (so much so it was actually difficult to tell who was who!)

Kate and I have a habit of just chatting to each other at these things (we always have a lot to catch up on) but this time we had the absolute pleasure of chatting to Helen, Sasha and Zaz, as well as some of the very, very lovely Tug team members themselves.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the whole Tug team, especially those who presented, for sharing their infinite wisdom with us and also for their immense hospitality. I came away feeling like I’d really learnt a lot of valuable things and I’d had a brilliant time to boot so really, what more can you ask for?!

What’s the best blogging tip you’ve ever seen or heard? Please do share!

Mudchute City Farm

I don’t need to tell you that Canary Wharf is one of London’s most recognisable landmarks. You’d never know that there is a huge great farm quite literally at its feet – but, as we found out last week, there is.

I’d come across Mudchute City Farm somewhere online and read that it is one of the biggest city farms in Europe, but still I could hardly believe it actually existed just a stone’s throw away from both the Wharf and, most importantly, my house. On that gorgeously sunny Sunday last week, Matthew and I decided to go check it out.¬†Sure enough, after a 5 minute DLR journey and a short stroll through Asda’s carpark (I bet nobody thinks there is an enormous ASDA lurking in the shadows of the Wharf, either, do they?), we found ourselves in what seemed to be the most rural of countryside.

I won’t lie, I was beyond excited. I’ve been to a couple of city farms before (hey, Kentish Town) and they have mostly consisted of a couple of sad looking horses, but this was the real deal. To my delight, the first animals we saw were these gorgeous long-eyelashed alpacas (possibly llamas…I’m not sure).

As it turned out, you could buy bags of carrots from the farm’s courtyard to feed the animals, which hordes of children were doing. This meant that the alpacas weren’t remotely interested in me, but I took a picture with them anyway. (Next time, I’m buying carrots too).

The farm put all the animals to bed about 4pm – no party animals here – and as we got there they were putting the donkeys in their coats and leading them away. But I couldn’t resist a shot of them with Canary Wharf behind!

The sheep were particularly popular with the carrot-wielding children. My favourite was this guy, and his crazy impressive horns.

And there are also plenty of goats. They’re cute, with super silky floppy ears that I love, but not nearly as cute as their pygmy counterparts. The pygmies were even too small to get a good picture of, but trust me – I want one.

Continuing on our wander, we found more munching sheep (it must be said that Mudchute’s boast of 150 animals seems to come mainly from sheep).

And one last treat: one delightful pig, who, again, was not at all interested in posing for my camera. I think I got a little smile out of him in the end, though…

I don’t know how well known Mudchute farm is but as far as I’m concerned, everybody should go there. The Docklands area is a funny old place, but this is definitely one hidden gem. You can get all up close and personal with the animals, they all seem happy, the staff are all friendly, it’s completely free; what more could you ask for?!

There’s a little cafe and a courtyard for picnicking, too, and there’s also a lot of parkland around the farm which we’re definitely planning on utilising when it gets a bit warmer. I’m also hoping that the farm will have some baby animals in the near future; a baby pygmy goat would definitely¬†be something I could get behind.

To visit Mudchute City Farm yourself, just hop on the DLR to Crossharbour and follow Google Maps through the ASDA car park. When you spot a llama, you’ve made it!

Hanoi House, Greenwich

Vietnamese is a cuisine that I have always imagined I would probably like, but never really tried (I don’t think dining hall banh mi way back in Virginia counts). Matthew and I noticed Hanoi House, an inconspicuous new pop-up arrival on the streets of Greenwich, quite a while ago, but it took until this weekend for us to finally get down there and check it out.

Situated just across from Greenwich Market, Hanoi House is small and kitted out pretty simply, but with just enough knicknacks to keep things interesting while you wait for your food. There are about 5 tables, and when we arrived on a sunny Sunday afternoon, they were all taken up Рbut luckily, everything is available to go. The menu itself is pretty simple, with three sections: banh mi, pho, and summer rolls, with about 4 varieties of each.

Hanoi House also has an impressive array of interesting looking drinks on its menu. Unfortunately they were out of coffee on the day we were there so we couldn’t sample Vietnamese iced coffee or indeed anything similar, but I ordered a peach iced tea which was delicious.

I didn’t really fancy slurping pho in the streets of Greenwich, so we both went for banh mi; lemongrass chicken for me, and the “Hanoi House Special” (pork, vietnamese sausage and pate) for him.

Before long we were handed two satisfyingly warm baguettes and headed out into the welcome sunshine. On a sunny day, Hanoi House is perfectly suited for an alfresco lunch in the shadows of my new favourite London landmark, the Cutty Sark.

The sandwiches were huge and the meat substantial, with just enough hot sauce for a healthy kick at the end. Safe to say I was a very happy bunny – and, at just under ¬£7 for a sandwich as big as my face¬†and¬†a drink, so was my (beautiful new Valentine’s present) purse.

If you’re in the area for a spot of sightseeing (or if you live there!) I’d highly recommend Hanoi House: it’s a step away from the hustle and bustle of the market, and way more original than the chains that line the rest of the general Cutty Sark area. According to their twitter, they’re here for as long as Greenwich will have them – which, if I have anything to do with it, will be a very long time!

Bits & Pieces

Despite my best efforts and even a fair amount of motivation, I’ve not found much time to blog recently. I haven’t even been doing an awful lot, but work has been ridiculously busy & stressful and is only going to get more so and all my weekends have some event or other. Nevertheless, here’s a quick snapshot of things that have been going on recently.

  • ¬†I spent a post-Valentine’s Sunday morning cleaning the flat and listening to Radio 2, and I unashamedly liked it.
  • Matthew and I have been hunting for our next citybreak. I’m tending towards Copenhagen or Seville…any tips/thoughts, anyone?
  • We went for a low-key but still perfect Valentine’s Day, with delicious cake at Peyton & Byrne and then our first visit to Greenwich Picturehouse to see The Imitation Game, which I absolutely loved. M and I agreed that “heartwrenching” is the only word to describe it, and really, Keira Knightley is a wonder isn’t she?
  • I went to¬†Tayyabs for the first time with work to celebrate various birthdays/leaving/company anniversaries. The boss ordered so I’m still not sure exactly what I ate but it was all delicious!
  • In the spirit of doing more couple things, M & I had Kate and Will over for a lovely civilized dinner party where we talked about grown up things like work and then watched Marky Mark videos on youtube because we’re not really old yet.
  • That same weekend, I also made my first ever visit to Infernos to celebrate Mae’s birthday and it was everything I ever hoped for.
  • We’ve started watching House of Cards (after everyone I know told me I should) and I’m loving the way it’s written and the snappy dialogue, even if I’m finding it a little difficult to keep up!
  • I went for a meeting at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (right next door to The Ivy) and fell absolutely in love with the place. I’ve resolved to return as soon as possible for lunch and/or drinks; their 3rd floor bar is gorgeous¬†with a sweet outdoor area I’m excited to try out.

In amongst all of this, I have also been doing a few things a bit more blogworthy and have some fun posts (& events) lined up in the next couple of weeks – but first, what have you lot been up to?

A Transatlantic Visitor

A few weekends ago, I was part of a fairly complicated plan to smuggle an American into the country. That’s right – our fave Virginian-turned-New Yorker Lydia was coming to London, and it was all super top secret because the reason for her visit was one Miss Emily’s birthday.

It all went so well until the eleventh hour, when one near-miss turned into another and jetlagged Lydia found herself waking up to the sound of Emily’s key in the door, prompting a sprint to a closet and a good twenty minutes or so of me and Sophie hysterically trying to come up with a new plan from the safety of our offices.

Nevertheless, the surprise was pulled off (just not in the way we planned) and so followed an epic weekend of brunch, burgers, 90s R&B, farm visits, and wholesome walks over Hampstead Heath. And also rather a lot of gin.

We finished the weekend by my very first visit to Five Guys (the drinks machine is by far my favourite part), followed immediately by a trip to High Tea in Highgate for a spot of cream tea where we all got entirely altogether too hysterical and laughed until we cried. As ever, I was struck by how studying abroad quite honestly changes your life forever and I’m so happy that our little transatlantic gang is as strong as ever.

Till next time, Lydia!