London Insider Guide


London has an annual 17.4 million visitors, which makes it one of the most visited cities in the world.  London can be quite overwhelming, so it’s always handy to have a quick checklist of things to do in the city.

Having lived in London for 8 years, it has to be on our list of top travel destinations. London will always have a place in our heart, a treasure trove of great things to do & see. Remember though, that London is forever changing and offers a different experience for each person. Discover some of the amazing places London has to offer, here are a few of our favourites…

1.Spend an afternoon in Hampstead Heath, Hampstead.

Hampstead Heath is a large, ancient London park, covering 320 hectares (790 acres) with great views across London. The Heath is rambling and hilly, embracing ponds, woodlands, a lido, playgrounds, a modern training track, and the adjoining stately home of Kenwood House and its grounds. Put together a picnic or cheat and order one from Melrose and Morgan, Primrose Hill and Hampstead, (Hamper from £39.95). Open a bottle of Prosecco and spend the afternoon people watching – London is bursting with great characters!

2. Lunch at The Spaniards Inn

The sun isn’t shining? No worries, cancel the picnic and break for lunch at The Spaniards Inn

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do

As one of London’s oldest pubs, The Spaniards has earned itself a place in the history books, quite literally. Dickens immortalised it in The Pickwick Papers, and it is said that Keats wrote the Ode to a Nightingale here over a claret or two. Indeed, the characterful 16th century inn is a romantic idyll in itself, with a few tales of its own to tell.

3. Catch some of the best views of London at The Shard, London Bridge Street.

Ranked in the world’s most beautiful skyscrapers, The Shard is the tallest building in the UK and towers above the London skyline.

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do

4. Dine at one of our favourite restaurants – Clos Maggoire, Covent Garden.

Renowned for its outstanding French-influenced cuisine and one of the world’s finest wine lists – Clos Maggoire is the 2015 winner of London’s most romantic restaurant. Enjoy!

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do

5. Enjoy a truly authentic Arabic dining experience in the heart of London at Mamounia Lounge

After an indulgent shopping spree, we recommend that you take a moment to stop off at Mamounia Lounge. With venues in both Mayfair and Knightsbridge, the opulent Arabic restaurants offer the very best of traditional Lebanese and Moroccan cuisines and delicious cocktails. Top tip: complete your Middle Eastern experience by trying an authentic shisha! In the evening Mamounia Lounge comes alive with beautiful belly-dancers and traditional musicians, evoking the energetic buzz of Marrakesh for an unforgettable Middle Eastern experience right in the heart of London!
Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do

6. Or treat someone special to a traditional afternoon tea at The Ritz

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz is a quintessential British experience; a rare and wonderful tradition that has stood the test of time.  Indulge in the finest sandwiches with classic fillings together with freshly baked scones, strawberry preserve and clotted Devonshire cream, followed by a delectable selection of afternoon tea cakes and pastries.

7. Visit Little Venice

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do
Little Venice is London’s answer to the famous Italian city. Home to various waterside cafes, pubs and restaurants, the area comes alive in the summer months. Jump on a canal boat or walk along the riverside to nearby Camden or Regent’s Park.

8. Shopping on Sloane Street, Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 

Sloane Street is internationally recognised as one of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious shopping destinations, situated in London’s Royal Borough.

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do9. …or shop vintage at Camden Passage

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to doTucked behind Upper Street in Islington, Camden Passage is a real treasure trove of cute cafes, independent boutiques and vintage shops. You’ll find everything from exquisite one-offs to unique fun party outfits, as well as an antiques market selling furniture, curios, war memorabilia and various bric-a-brac.

7. Ciro’s Pizza. Eat the best pizza in town (in our opinion, anyway😜)

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do No airs and graces pollute this cute and cosy Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge. Unashamedly kitsch, this isn’t the place for a sophisticated, quiet candlelit schmooz with a loved one but it’s the perfect place for a fun, sociable soiree set to a colourful backdrop of live music. From Elvis one evening to belly dancing or flamenco the next, the entertainment is varied and decidedly exuberent. Popular with locals, celebs and passersby alike, the food here is surprisingly good and reasonably priced. The perfect place for a birthday bash or a fun and friendly night out.

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do

8. Spend Sunday afternoon at Chelsea Farmers Market

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do
Chelsea Farmer’s Market is a little gem tucked away on the King’s Road end of Sydney Street SW3. Packed with several restaurants and shops in an outdoor complex it’s the perfect place to hang out on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Make sure you check out the rest of the Farmer’s Market – there’s a Pet Pavilion, a Nail salon, a Pizzeria and Gelato parlour, along with an organic food store.

9. Spend an evening at Ronnie Scott’s legendary jazz club

Alphabet Lifestyle Visit London Top tourist attractions and things to do

Opened in 1959, this legendary jazz club made its name as the first UK music venue to host American jazz artists. Find it on Frith Street, Soho and make it a must on your itinerary! Are you a true jazz head? Check out the weekly late-night sessions at The Ronnie Scott’s Upstairs Jazz Jam!!

We hope our insider guide to London is helpful. Let us know your favourite hotspots!

Celebrating London


Around every corner there is a story waiting to be discovered, a melting pot of culture and promise. London is a great city created by people from around the world who have helped to shape its history and its future. Our advise for the best way to learn about London is to get out and experience it!

Visit NOTTING HILL

The Notting Hill Bookshop, London
The Notting Hill Bookshop,  London (image via easy.com)

 

The Churchill Arms, Notting Hill
The Churchill Arms, Notting Hill (image via shopmodmint.com)

 

 

Visit BRICK LANE

Brick Lane street art, London
Brick Lane street art, London (image via theplant do.com)

Visit SOHO

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Visit COVENT GARDEN Continue reading “Celebrating London”

Top 10 things to do in Sri Lanka


We recently embarked on a trip to Sri Lanka after being inspired by a friend who declared the country an absolute must-see. As Sri Lanka has so much to offer we decided from the offset that this needed to be more than a holiday – it would be a mini adventure! So we packed a bag and booked a flight…

Sri Lankan surf beach bar
Sri Lankan surf beach bar

Check out the Alphabet Lifestyle list of top things to do and see in Sri Lanka:

  1. Take the express coast train from Galle to Colombo. 

Riding the train is a great way to get around Sri Lanka as its cheap, safe and an overall great experience. (Alphabet Lifestyle Top Tip: Make sure to book first-class and grab a window seat!)

Express train from Galle to Colombo
Express train from Galle to Colombo

2. Learn to surf.

Surfing is great fun in Sri Lanka with ideal surf conditions for both the novice and the expert surfer. East coast resorts such as Arugam Bay offer some of the world’s best places to surf, whilst the waves at Whisky Point are ideal for beginners.

The South Coast offers plenty of options for beginners and intermediates. Try Mirissa Beach or Unawatuna for chilled surf culture, cheap surf hotels and great beach bars. After a long day, sit and relax in one of the many bars, order the catch of the day and watch Sri Lanka’s idyllic sunset.

Mirissa Beach
Mirissa Beach
Sunset at Unawata
Sunset at Unawatuna

3. Visit a National Park

Yala National Park is the second largest in Sri Lanka and gives some of the best opportunities to witness Sri Lanka’s variety of wildlife, including elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, water buffalo, deer and the star attraction – leopards! Visitors can take a jeep safari across the park which spans 400 sq mile across the heart of the country.

Yala National Park
Yala National Park

4. Take a seaplane

See Sri Lanka from the sky! Cinnamon Air seaplane flights carries routes from Colombo to the coastal town of Koggalla and Kandy, central Sri Lanka. It also makes the arduous 6-hour journey to the beautiful beaches of Trincomalee on the North-east coast much more accessible. We flew from Colombo to Victoria Golf resort landing on Victoria Dam.

 

5. Play a round of golf at Victoria Golf and Country Resort.

The award winning resort, Victoria Golf & Country Resort, is situated just 10km from Kandy, Central Highlands, and offers breathtaking views and picturesque scenery. Golf Digest ranks it in the top 100 Most Beautiful Courses in the World. Not bad!

Sunset at Victoria Golf and Country Resort
Sunset at Victoria Golf and Country Resort

 

Relax in the pool and are in the views
Relax in the pool and take in the views

6. Visit Kandy

Hire a driver and visit the Sacred City of Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Royal City, Kandy is the home of  Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth). The temple is regarded as one of the most important Buddhist religious sites in the country. Take a walk around Kandy lake, the focal point at the centre of the city. Visit the temple if you’re looking for a cultural experience and a serene moment amongst the hustle and bustle of the city. (Alphabet Lifestyle Top Tip: Pay the small fee for a guide to provide an insight into the religion and customs.)

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7. Photograph the stilt fishermen of Koggala

The old Sri Lankan traditional stilt fishermen can be spotted along the coastal road from Koggala to Galle. The fishermen sit on a crossbar called a ‘petta’ tied to a vertical pole driven into the sand. They hope to catch small herrings and mackerels which they store in bags tied to their waist.

Stilt fishermen at Koggala
Stilt fishermen at Koggala

8. Climb Adam’s Peak

Located in central Sri Lanka Adam’s Peak, also know as the holy mountain, is believed to be the first place where Adam set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven. Access to the mountain is possible by several trails linked to major cities. The ascent is done on foot through forested areas up thousands of steps built into the mountainside. Pilgrims and tourists make the climb to the temple at the summit to witness the Sri Pada, “a sacred footprint” rock formation, which in Buddhist tradition is held to be the footprint of Buddha.

9. Climb Lion’s Rock

For those less active (like me!) climb to the top of Lion’s Rock, a huge column of rock jutting out from the tropical forest, the Rock is known locally as Sigiriya and offers amazing 360-degree views.
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10. Visit Pinnawela Elephant Sanctuary

Pinnawela Elephant Sanctuary situated north-west of Kegalla between Colombo and Kandy, was originally founded to provide care and protection to the many orphaned elephants found in the jungles of Sri Lanka. The orphanage is currently home to around 80 elephants. Tourists can visit the orphanage and get involved in the bathing and feeding of the elephants.

Pinnawela Elephant Sanctuary sri lanka
Pinnawela Elephant Sanctuary

Comment below to share your travel tips and let us know your Sri Lankan hot-spots!

Welcome to Doha


Welcome To Doha Timelapse from Michael Shainblum on Vimeo.

Check out this great time-lapse video of Qatar by Michael Shainblum. The video captures the evolution of the Middle Eastern state of Qatar’s history from the old to present-day world, and the quintessence of the country’s culture.

It’s fascinating to see how the country has developed since it gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1971 – just over four decades ago!

Doha 1985, Sheraton Hotel
Doha 1985, Sheraton Hotel
Qatar in 1977
Doha’s open-air market in 1977

My Home is Manchester



Social travel writers, Mohammed and Peyman AlAwadhi, better known as ‘Peeta Planet‘  teamed with ‘Visit Britain’ to encourage visitors from the GCC countries to explore the Great British countryside and venture outside of London. The series ‘Dunes to Peaks’ features Manchester and the Peak District, just a 45 min drive from the city.

The series of 11 short videos includes fly fishing on the River Wye, horse riding on the Tissington Trail, a fashion documentary filmed in city centre, Manchester, and a visit to Chatsworth Hall, a stately home in Derbyshire.

Check out the intro video to the series. It captures for me what is essentially British.  The video explores Manchester’s vibrant city, from street culture, shopping and street carnivals to the home of football rivals, Manchester United and Manchester City and introduces a side of the Uk that most visitors from the GCC don’t realise exists, the Great British countryside. Every year Britain welcomes more than 600,000 visitors from the Gulf states but the majority don’t venture outside of London. The Al Awadhi brothers supported by ‘Visit Britain’ hope that they inspire more visitors from GCC countries to extend their city breaks and explore the beautiful countryside.

Check out the full video series on youtube

For more information on Peeta Planet visit their website here. peeta planet.com

See also http://www.visitbritain.com

Katara Cultural Village


Alphabet Lifestyle visits Katara Cultural Village, Doha, Qatar.

No visit to Doha would be complete without a visit to Katara Cultural Village.

Katara architecture
Discover traditional Qatari architecture

The village includes a theatre, art galleries – hosting modern and local Qatari art, an opera house and the piece de resistance; an open amphitheatre. The project was conceptualised to reflect the heritage of Qatar through traditional architecture.

Katara amphitheatre
Walkway to amphitheatre
Katara art sculptures
Katara art sculptures

The Katara Opera House is home to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the breathe-taking amphitheatre hosts world class events (Alphabet Lifestyle Top Tip: Take a cushion, as several hours seated on concrete steps can be seriously uncomfortable!). You will find some of the best cultural performances in Doha, so ensure that you make time to enjoy a performance at the opera house or visit the latest exhibitions. See the link for more details of upcoming events – Katara.net.

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Katara Amphitheatre
Katara Amphitheatre

As well as offering a diverse culture experience, you will also find some of the best restaurants in Doha within Katara. We recommend that anyone visiting Katara should experience L’wzaar sea food restaurant, or Saffron Lounge for an exceptional culinary experience. For a traditional Middle-Eastern food visit Chac late, or Mamig restaurant doha for casual authentic Armenian and Lebanese cuisine.

Watch this space for upcoming Doha restaurant reviews and click here for more photographs from our Katara visit.