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Sip, Browse & Play

Last Sunday began with a trip to The Conran Shop on Marylebone High Street. It ended with afternoon tea at the brand new Drink, Shop & Do. In short, it was a perfect day.

I found out about the new venue through Groupon, the website that fuels my bargain addiction on a daily basis. If you haven’t joined it yet, do it now.

The venue is a two-minute walk from Kings Cross station. It’s easy to spot, due to the colourful beach chairs adorning either side of the door. This particular Sunday was bitterly cold, so no beach chairs were needed. However, I can see the appeal for those 3 days a year when England actually decides to let the sun shine through.

Oh-so-welcoming

Drink, Shop & Do

When we entered Drink, Shop & Do, we found a table perfect for two. We were given our choice of a welcome drink: sherbet cocktail, mulled wine, or mulled cider. I went for the mulled cider while my boyfriend tried some of the wine. Yummy!

We took in the atmosphere. The place is somewhere between a vintage shop and a 1950s milkshake bar. Everything you see is on sale. From the sofas to the clocks to the quirky swan shaped vase sitting at your table. It’s all mid-century modern retro stuff, which made me fall in love with this place. I love all things vintage!

Christmas decorations hung from the wall, and a massive tree sat decorated in the corner. I looked at my boyfriend and said, “This is totally a Lynsey kind of place” and he agreed. It’s quirky, fun, laid back, and right up my alley.

Fierce competition

Drink, Shop & Do has dozens of board games to choose from. You find a game, take it to your table, and waste the afternoon away drinking, eating, and playing. How could I not instantly fall in love with this place!?

Scrabble and sandwiches

I reached straight for the Scrabble board (a vintage set from the 1970s) and challenged my hesitant boyfriend to a competition. I can hardly blame him for being scared to play a game of Scrabble with me; he always wins and I always get angry. My competitive nature is something I should definitely work on in 2011.

When all was said and done, he did beat me and I demanded a game of Connect Four so that I could win something. Luckily for him, I came out triumphant. But maybe he let me win in order to avoid an argument? Hrmmmm.

A spot of tea

Our afternoon tea voucher included a second beverage of our choice. I chose another glass of mulled cider while Steve chose tea like a proper English gentleman. I admit it was quite silly to go to afternoon tea and drink cider, but it was mighty good.

We received a tiered plate of cucumber, ham and mustard, and cheese and pickle sandwiches. I traded Steve all the cucumber sandwiches for all the ham and mustard sandwiches in a transaction that resembled a primary school cafeteria swap. Everything was quite tasty (and filling).

And then it was time for the good stuff. We each received a generous slice of orange and ginger cake. This was good, but perhaps a bit too orangey for my taste. Although I must say I ate all of it, so it clearly wasn’t too bad. Next we had a chocolate cake, which was heavenly. After cleaning our plates, we rolled ourselves out of Drink, Shop & Do, vowing to never eat that much food again (it always ends this way with us).

Drink, Shop & Do something!

Drink, Shop & Do organises everything from knitting evenings to poetry readings. Take this as an opportunity to mix up your regular routine and try something new.

Check out their website at www.drinkshopdo.com for more details.

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Posted by on December 5, 2010 in Lynsey Free

 

Front page news

Yesterday, my classmates and I had the honour of visiting the newsroom of the Daily Telegraph here in London.

This was an exciting experience for all of us. We were informed by our instructor that we should consider ourselves lucky; it is not often that The Telegraph agrees to give a tour to such a large group of people (there are 42 of us in the international journalism programme).

The first copy of The Daily Telegraph: June 1855

Welcome to the Daily Telegraph

We met in the lobby of the building at 10am. We continued upstairs to the conference room after being greeted by a jolly security guard who made a joke about my last name (I’ve heard them all, so please don’t bother).

A staff member greeted us with some basic facts about the newspaper. It was no surprise to hear that The Telegraph’s circulation has dropped in recent years. Sadly, this is the case for almost all western newspapers. Luckily, this is not the case for countries like India, where print media continues to grow.

How does a newspaper make money?

Simply put, a newspaper is a business. A print publication must never lose focus of its need to make a profit. If the publication doesn’t make a profit, it goes under. To a certain extent, every decision must revolve around finances.

A look inside The Daily Telegraph

A newspaper must constantly be looking for new ways to gain more subscribers. It must come up with innovative marketing ideas. It must write articles that appeal to a wide audience.

It must also be concerned about whether a certain paid advertisement is going to upset readers. It must try its absolute best not to lose loyal subscribers due to offensive advertising or insensitive articles.

A steep contrast

It is interesting to consider the difference between a newspaper like the Daily Telegraph and the BBC. The BBC has the benefit of receiving £145.50 a year from

BBC: the most valued source of news in the UK

every household in the UK that owns a television. Wow, that’s a lot of money.

Because of this, the BBC has the luxury of not having to worry about finances in the same way that newspapers and independent broadcasting companies do. It doesn’t have to constantly struggle to keep viewers interested.

Despite viewer satisfaction, the BBC will continue to receive the same amount of funding each year. Why? Because if you and I want to have televisions in our homes, we are required by law to pay a TV licensing fee.

I would like to open this post up for discussion. Please feel encouraged to share your views on the following:

What are your thoughts on the BBC?

How can newspapers compete against new media and the BBC?

What is the future of print journalism?

Should TV license fees exist? If so, should all of the money go toward the BBC?

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2010 in Lynsey Free

 

From art to Elvis

I always find the lesser-known areas of London to be the best ones. This is probably why I enjoy living in Kilburn so much.

Small and Beautiful

I have only lived in the area for two months, but it has already won my heart. With an abundance of restaurants, bars, and cultural activities, who wouldn’t love it here?

It’s up-and-coming

This part of town has just recently become a “cool” place to live. Young, trendy professionals have moved to the area in recent years, changing Kilburn’s image from slightly dodgy to mostly hip.

Because the trendies are moving in, the venues on the high street are also becoming increasingly trendy. And although it may not look like much upon first glance, the high street has loads to offer its residents.

Kilburn will undoubtedly continue to evolve in the coming months and years, and I am certainly looking forward to being a part of that change. But for now, please allow me to share a few gems that already exist in this northwest corner of London.

Fix your hunger

I suggest grabbing a meal at Small and Beautiful. The menu is varied, the prices are cheap, and the décor is quirky and fun. The atmosphere is lively and full of young people.

I wouldn’t say there is necessarily a theme to the menu, but there is certainly something for everyone. I recently went there for dinner and enjoyed the daily special (a two course fish plate) for just £5. Add on a £2.50 glass of white wine and you’ve got an entire meal for the small and beautiful price of just £7.50.

Laugh the night away

If you enjoy stand-up comedy, check out the Good Ship. Many well known comedians performed here before they got their big break, and the venue continues to host very funny people every Monday night.

The Good Ship, Kilburn High Road

The Good Ship was voted Best Small Comedy Club in London by the Chortle Awards in 2009, which is quite impressive. I think it’s safe to say that the show will be well worth your £4 admission ticket.

Comedy acts begin at 8:30pm, but get there earlier to avoid having to stand during the performance. Arrive before 7pm and enjoy happy hour at the bar while you wait for the show to start.

Films, plays, and other cultural stuff

Kilburn’s most unique feature is definitely The Tricycle. You could easily spend an entire day in this cinema/theatre/art gallery. It hosts both mainstream and independent films, and holds up to 250 people in its theatre. The gallery constantly rotates its exhibitions from one talented artist to the next, and there is a lovely café bar to quench your thirst and your appetite.

Tricycle Cinema

Tickets aren’t as cheap as you might expect (£15 per play, £9.50 per film ticket), but it always feels nice to support independent establishments such as this one. I’d much rather give my money to a local business than give in to Odeon’s ridiculous rates.

Elvis is alive

That’s right, folks. Elvis is alive and well at the King’s Head. This is my absolute favourite Kilburn establishment, for more reasons than I can count.

First of all, no one seems to know about this place. Every weekend, the North London Tavern and other mediocre bars on the high street are packed with patrons but I can always walk into the King’s Head to find a friendly bartender and a comfy seat.

But the joy doesn’t stop here, folks! It’s like I’m back in Atlanta when I walk through these doors. The walls are lined with Elvis records, along with old pictures of Hank Williams and Ray Charles. There is a vintage jukebox playing nothing but oldies, and I immediately feel at home on the plush velvet seats.

Board games are available from behind the bar, which adds to the unique atmosphere. I love places that offer board games. I recently fell in love with a similar place in Atlanta, where I challenged my boyfriend to game after game of UNO and Scrabble. Speaking of Scrabble: if anyone fancies a game at the King’s Head, I’m in!

Head to Kilburn this Friday night

Take the Jubilee line to Kilburn station. Turn right onto Shoot up Hill and you will find all the mentioned venues on the right side of the high street. Have fun, and I hope to see you around the Scrabble board.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Lynsey Free

 

Erotica takes London by storm

As journalists, we don’t always get to choose the events we cover. This was made clear to me on Friday when I, along with a classmate, spent six hours reporting from the London Erotica exhibition in Olympia. We interviewed patrons of the event, took hours of footage, and attended various workshops in order to create a package for our television production class.

Erotica 2010

The event has been around since 1997, and has grown every year. This year, an estimated 60,000 visitors are expected to attend. After speaking to the organizer of the event, we were briefed on the difference between pornography and erotica, and told that erotica should be a part of everyone’s life. Wow, really? Not sure I subscribe to that idea.

We arrived at noon, got our press passes, and explored the lay of the land. I had an idea of what the event would entail, so I wasn’t very surprised to find vendors selling adult novelty items and leather. Lots and lots of leather. What I wasn’t prepared for was the extreme variety of visitors.

I admit I had a preconceived idea of the kind of people who are willing to pay £20 to attend an Erotica exhibition on a Friday afternoon. And believe me, these people were in attendance. But there were also grandmas and grandpas. Grandmas and grandpas in latex. I never expected that.

May I have an interview?

 

A burlesque performer

Finding people who were willing to speak on camera about their reasons for attending the event was surprisingly easy. We were turned down by two people, but everyone else was willing to take a few minutes to share what brought them out to the exhibit. We spoke to a cross-dresser, a retired couple in their seventies, and a young couple in their twenties.

Despite the age differences in our interview subjects, one thing remained true for everyone: they were all proud of their lifestyle. They all wanted to break the taboo of erotica.

Taking a trip back in time

The event wasn’t just about adult novelties and swingers cruises (although there was a booth promoting this very thing). The exhibit also paid tribute to 1920s burlesque, which even I could appreciate.

Entertainers took to the stage at various times to perform cabaret style acrobatics and dance routines. I quite enjoyed the innocent performances, but I could have done without the half naked ones. And I certainly could have done without the cat performer who poured milk all over herself and the stage. Oh dear. Is that supposed to be sexy?

Dita Von Teese signs autographs

Burlesque star Dita Von Teese was on hand signing autographs before her 6pm performance. Dita is clearly a popular performer, as fans formed a long line in order to meet her. I was unable to attend the performance, but I do know that Dita was the reason that many people chose to go to the exhibit. I certainly hope it was worth their while.

Not for everyone

Would I suggest you attend next year’s Erotica exhibition? Probably not. I would take that £20 and spend it on a new shirt. Or a nice meal out. Or basically anything other than half naked women spewing milk out of their mouths on stage. However, if that kind of thing sounds appealing to you, visit www.erotica-uk.com and book your tickets for November 2011. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Lynsey Free

 

A little piece of Mexico

Wahaca Mexican Restaurant

As someone who was born and raised in Atlanta, I absolutely love Mexican food. I adore it. I dream about it. If I had to choose one dish to eat for the rest of my life, it would undoubtedly involve spicy chicken, tortillas, salsa, and lots of cheese.

There are Mexican restaurants on every corner in Georgia, so I had no idea that finding a decent one in London would prove to be one of the most difficult tasks of my life. I searched high and low for months and months. I travelled north, south, east, and west. Over and over again, I was disappointed. The dishes were mediocre at best. I longed for my usual meal at La Cazuela, my family’s favourite restaurant back home. But all of this changed the day Wahaca entered my world.

Cue the music, food, and fun

Wahaca has four locations: Covent Garden, White City, Canary Wharf, and a brand spankin’ new location in Soho. No matter which venue you choose to visit, you’ll be impressed when you walk through the door. It’s lively, colourful, and bustling with activity. Bartenders pour speciality margaritas into glasses as servers take orders from eager customers.

Dinner time at Wahaca

The restaurant describes itself as “Mexican market food,” offering a tapas style approach to dining. 2-3 dishes per person are recommended. You do have the option of ordering a “plato fuerte” (bigger plate) but I think it’s more fun to order a variety of smaller dishes to share with your friends.

The menu can be quite overwhelming at first, as you try to decipher which of the many dishes sound most appealing. My advice would be to spread your choices. That is, order a little of everything. The pork pibil tacos and queso fundido are my personal favourites. It’s almost impossible to make a wrong decision, as just about everything on the menu is delicious. However, I suggest you steer clear of the smoked mackerel tostadas as they lack any real flavour.

Delicious!

When you’re ready to place your order, your server will come with a pen to circle each choice on your disposable paper menu. This helps you remember what you’ve ordered because once it comes, it all starts to blend together into one big, heavenly feast. The dishes burst with flavour. Some are spicy, some are extra spicy, and some have just a touch of sweetness to them.

Experiment with the dishes to determine which are your favourites!

Rest assured that each menu item is around £3 so you won’t break the bank when you visit. I find that a meal for two without alcoholic beverages usually runs around £30. Not bad for a meal in Central London!

Carnivores will appreciate that Wahaca co-owner Thomasina Miers (champion of the 2005 UK Masterchef competition) chooses to purchase meat only from farmers who practice high welfare standards on their farms. She also assures customers that all meat and produce used in the restaurant is locally sourced. So sit back and enjoy those pork pibil tacos with a clear conscience!

It was a sign

A vibrant sign greets customers

I’m not the only one who appreciates Wahaca for all it has to offer. My boyfriend and I talked about our mutual love for Wahaca the night we met. One week later, we found ourselves at the Covent Garden location, getting to know each other over a plate of tacos and a few margaritas.

Fast forward to present day. We still find ourselves at Wahaca quite often, trying new dishes and returning for our all-time favourites. We visited the White City location two days ago, and we will soon try the new Soho location. And I’m 100% certain we won’t be disappointed.

Treat yourself

Visit Wahaca as quickly as possible. Eat, drink, be merry, and don’t forget to pick up a matchbook of chile seeds as a souvenir.

I can’t promise that Wahaca will bring you love, but I can guarantee it’ll give you a great dining experience.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2010 in Lynsey Free

 

Who needs Hollywood?

Last night, I had the absolute honour of attending a live taping of the new BBC show Fast and Loose. The programme is hosted by TV personality Hugh Dennis and had a special guest appearance by Wayne Brady. Brady, who is famous for the American version of Whose Line is it Anyway and Let’s Make a Deal, flew all the way to London especially for this taping.

The audience waits

For a wannabe TV celebrity like me, it was such a joy to be a part of a live studio audience. I was able to experience what people on the other end of the TV screen never see. I witnessed celebrity bloopers, re-takes, and cuts. I, along with the rest of the audience, clapped and laughed when I was told to do so.  I was an actual part of the production!

Welcome to the show

Upon entering the studio, we were greeted by programme creator Dan Patterson, which was a treat in its own right. Dan Patterson is the genius behind the hit TV shows Whose Line is it Anyway and Mock the Week. He also happens to be a personal hero of mine.

Mr. Patterson warmed the audience by telling some jokes and explaining that our patience would be appreciated during this first ever taping of Fast and Loose. We were warned that the taping would take longer than usual, while the crew ironed out all of their kinks.

Improv comedy at its best

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I adore Improv comedy. To me, it is the most creative and challenging form of acting. I have been an avid watcher of both the US and UK versions of Whose Line is it Anyway for many years, so seeing Wayne Brady in action was a bit of a dream come true.

Other cast members included Jonathan Mangum (also from the American programme Let’s Make a Deal), Pippa Evans, Ruth Bratt, Justin Edwards, and David Reed. Mangum and Bratt shined as performers. Edwards and Reed had some brilliant moments, as well as some unimpressive ones. Special mention goes to David Reed for his hilarious impression of a German music presenter. Pippa Evans failed to deliver, as most of her jokes never developed into punch lines.

There was a cameo appearance by David Armand (known on stage as Johann Lippowitz). This was my first time seeing Armand in person, and I can honestly say I have never laughed so hard. He is most famous for his “Karaoke for the deaf” routines which are laugh-until-you-cry funny. Last night, he performed “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles. I was unable to record the performance due to photography restrictions in the studio, but check out his interpretation of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” by clicking the video below.

Patience is a virtue

Just as Dan Patterson mentioned at the beginning of the show, the audience’s patience was a necessary part of the production. Because audience shots were a large part of the show, no one could leave until every cue was read, every blooper was re-recorded, and every clip merged seamlessly with the next. Even one empty seat in the audience would have left an obvious gap in the crowd. I was more than happy to stay as long as necessary.

Patience is certainly required once you arrive at the BBC Television Centre with your free audience tickets. The programme over-issues tickets to allow for inevitable no-shows, so it is necessary  to arrive early to avoid any disappointment. When you arrive, you will be given a coloured wristband. BBC staff make it clear that a wristband does not guarantee entry so those who arrive later may be turned away once they are inside the centre.

Now it’s your turn

BBC Television Centre

I would love to pretend that I am part of a prestigious club that grants me entry to television recordings, but that simply isn’t the case. Anyone can visit www.sroaudiences.com and apply to be a studio audience member to a number of British television programmes.

As Londoners, we’re quite fortunate to have this opportunity at our doorsteps. How many people can say they live in a city where dozens of programmes are filmed every day? If you don’t take advantage of this free opportunity, you probably aren’t playing with a full deck of cards.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Lynsey Free

 

My advice? Take it all in.

I have always found that when you live in a city as amazing as London, you often avoid the tourist attractions. You tell yourself there will always be time to take a ride on the London Eye or see the changing of the guard. But before you know it, you’re moving away and you’ve never even visited the Tower of London. Don’t let this happen to you!

We are all caught up in our busy lives. We work, we study, we commute, and we’re exhausted. But this is not an excuse to ignore your city’s most amazing offerings.

Prisoners and royalty…in the same place?

A trip to the Tower of London

The Tower of London is full of so much history that I can’t even begin to write about it all. I will say that a trip through this historical World Heritage Site is well worth your while.

You will see how it functioned as a royal residence, a prison, and an armoury. If you like history, you will probably find yourself wishing you were born a few centuries earlier so you could have seen the Tower of London as a functioning prison instead of a tourist attraction.

Let’s talk about tickets. The prices are steep, but they include a guided tour and historical re-enactments. The re-enactments are a bit cheesy, but informative. The people who perform here are very passionate about their work, so be sure to show them some respect. Purchase your tickets online in order to save money. Adult tickets are £16.00 when purchased at www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon.

Afraid of heights? Time to get over it.

The London Eye

I must admit I was sceptical of the London Eye at first. After all, every city in the world seems to be using some kind of tower or wheel in order to overcharge tourists. While I still believe the London Eye is rather pricey (£16.15 per adult when purchased online), it is absolutely worth every penny.

I have no problem paying this price for the London Eye because so much can be seen from up there. You won’t have to strain to see Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, or the River Thames. A map is provided for the sights that are more difficult to see.

I recommend taking two trips on the London Eye. One in the daytime, and one at night. You’d be amazed how different the views are. Nothing beats seeing Big Ben all lit up and standing proud over the city every evening.

Do not let a fear of heights stop you from experiencing this. I know two people who avoided the London Eye for this very reason, and they regret it. There has never been a better reason to conquer your fear!

The Queen’s pad

Few people know that when Queen Elizabeth is in residence at Buckingham Palace, her Royal Standard flag flies high and proud above the royal home.

Visit the palace at 11:30am to witness the changing of the guard. This is truly a sight to see. And best of all – it’s free! Get there early to get a good view and visit www.changing-the-guard.com to check out the schedule. It doesn’t happen every day, so be sure you’ve done your research before turning up.

I have seen the changing of the guard several times and I still love the music, the uniforms, and the tradition involved. You won’t be disappointed.

Westminster Abbey? Not too shabby.

The beautiful Westminster Abbey

A romantic interior, stained glass windows, and too many famous graves to count. You could very easily say that I have saved the best for last.

Westminster Abbey is the most amazingly decorated, beautifully adorned church I have ever experienced. Everywhere I turn, I see history. There is an amazing peace that surrounds me when I enter the church. It cannot be explained, but it is there.

My best advice for anyone wanting the true Westminster Abbey experience is to worship there. Participate in the evensong at 5pm and listen to the well rehearsed choir singing songs of praise. Worshiping at the Abbey is free.

If you are more interested in the historical aspect of the Abbey, £15.00 will give you entry to the church and all of its monuments and graves. Sir Isaac Newton and Oliver Cromwell are among the 3,000 famous people buried within the walls of this historical place of worship.

Stop making excuses

Now you know what’s out there, and you know you can’t afford to miss any of it. Make it your goal to see all of the famous London sights before you find yourself saying goodbye to this incredible city.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2010 in Lynsey Free