Guide to what’s on in London in February 2015

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Celebrate Chinese New Year – the Year of the Sheep – in Chinatown and Trafalgar Square

We’re one step closer to spring and with the nights gradually getting lighter, we’re being encouraged to venture out more. Of course there is the distraction of Valentine’s Day in the middle of the month, but if you’re not cynical of the commercial celebration of love or are happily single, there’s plenty more going on in February. Here’s a guide to what’s on in London in February… and thankfully, most of the events are indoors.

For Metro Girl’s special Valentine’s guide, click here.

  • 29 January – 1 February : Destinations – The Holiday & Travel Show

Presented by The Times, the Holiday and Travel show is full of inspiration for your next adventure or holiday. As well as meet lots of travel companies, there is also the Experience The World zone, where you can sample culinary delights from around the world, or see a nurse for vaccination advice. Tickets: £11 in advance. Olympia London, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest tube: Kensington Olympia. For more information and tickets, visit the Destinations – Holiday & Travel Show website.

  • 3 February : Budvar Tank Tuesdays Closing Party @ Zigfrid von Underbelly

Enjoy an evening of art, music and drinking at London’s smallest gallery. Photographer Claude Crommelin will be unveiling his final exhibition of street art images, representing Hoxton Square, while DJ Francois Dirty South and DJ duo Gem Precious & Judy Walsh will be on the decks. There will also be a free pint of Budvar Tankové Pivo to the first 102 people through the door. Open 6pm-1am. Zigfrid von Underbelly, 11 Hoxton Square, Hoxton, N1 6NU. Nearest station: Old Street or Hoxton. For more information, visit the Zigfrid von Underbelly website.

  • 6 February : Farewell Leicester Square – Friday Lates @ London Transport Museum

Mark the end of the Goodbye Piccadilly exhibition, which focuses on Londoners during WWI and the onset of the jazz age. Featuring activities, workshops, illustrated talks, live music from the KD jazz and dance orchestra band and cocktails mixed by Erik Lorincz, head bartender from The Savoy’s American Bar. 6.45-10pm. Tickets: £10, £8 concession. London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 7BB. Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Charing Cross. For tickets, visit the London Transport Museum website.

  • 7 February – 8 March : Orchid Festival

An orchid display is coming to the Princess of Wales Conservatory for four weeks. The sea of colour from one of the world’s most stunning flowers will certainly brighten up a dull winter’s day. General entrance tickets to Kew Gardens includes orchid exhibition: £15 adults or £14 concessions. Brentford Gate, Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest tube: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • 9 – 22 February : Imagine Children’s Festival

Two week children’s festival at the Southbank Centre, including art, theatre, books, music, free fun and workshops. Including readings and appearances from Russell Brand, Judith Kerr, Lauren Child, Laura Dockrill, Anthony Horowitz and Helen Skelton. Lots of activities and events are free. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX. Nearest tube: Waterloo. For more information and booking visit the Southbank Centre website.

  • 10 – 15 February : Ealing Music & Film Valentine Festival

Five day festival at Ealing Studios featuring musical performances, film screenings, tours of the studios, talks and exhibitions. This year’s theme is Polish heritage. Ticket prices vary. Events take place at various venues, including Ealing Studios, University Of West London, Ealing Town Hall and Ealing Abbey. Nearest tube: Ealing Broadway or South Ealing. For more information, visit the Ealing Music & Film website.

  • 11 – 17 February : The Rio Carnival @ Guanabara

If you can’t afford to fly to Brazil for the real thing, let the spirit of Rio come to London as Guanabara hosts a week of celebrations. Including performances from Samba, percussion and capoeira artists, Brazilian street food and the best rum cocktails in town. Open Mon-Tues 5pm-1am, Wed-Sat 5pm-2.30am, Sun 6pm-midnight. Entry ranges from free to £12. Guanabara, Parker Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5PW. Nearest tube: Holborn or Covent Garden. For more information and daily listings, visit the Guanabara website.

  • 12 – 15 February : Telegraph Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show

The UK’s largest exhibition for adventurous people who like travelling, photography, climbing, watersports and exploring the British countryside. Tickets: £14-£17 in advance, £20 on the door (also includes entrance to The London Bike Show, Triathlon Show and the London International Dive Show). ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1XL. Nearest tube: Custom House (DLR). For more information and to book tickets, visit the Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show website.

  • 15 FebruaryMaslenitsa Russian Festival

Russian folk festival to celebrate the end of winter and coming of Spring in Trafalgar Square. Family friendly event with children’s theatre performances, music, food and a Russian bazaar. Free. Trafalgar Square, Westminster, WC2N 5DN. Nearest tube: Charing Cross, Leicester Square or Embankment. For more information, visit the Maslenitsa website.

  • Now until 15 February : Mapping The City

An innovative exhibition featuring over 50 international artists from the street and graffiti art world expressing their chosen cities through art. There will also be events including talks, workshops, performances and film and music evenings. 10am-6pm (last entry 5.30pm). Free. (Enter via the River Terrace), Somerset House, The Strand, WC2R 1LA. Nearest tube: Temple, Embankment or Holborn. For more information, visit the Somerset House website.

  • 16 – 22 February : London Beer Week

From the people behind London Cocktail Week, here comes a celebration of beers, ales and ciders alike with venues across the capital hosting tastings, master classes, pop-ups and parties. To have access to the special deals of £3 speciality beers or £5 boilermakers in over 100 of the best beer bars, all you need is a £10 wristband. For more information and to purchase your wristband, visit the London Beer Week festival website. Check out Metro Girl’s blog post on London Beer Week.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The Richmond Performing Arts Festival runs for six weeks

  • 17 February – 29 March : Richmond Performing Arts Festival

Six week festival featuring dance, music, singing and drama at various venues across Kew and Richmond. For more information, visit the Richmond Festival website.

  • 22 February : Chinese New Year

Festivities to mark the Year of the Horse take place across Chinatown, Shaftesbury Avenue and Trafalgar Square. The parade from Duncannon Street to Shaftesbury Avenue will start at 10am. From 12-6pm there will be performances from Chinese artists in Trafalgar Square, including the Chen Brothers Flying Lion Dance. Free. Nearest tube: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Chinatown website.

  • Now until 26 February : Broadgate Ice

Temporary ice rink at Broadgate Circle in the City of London is open for over three months. This year’s rink will be accompanied by luxury pop-up bar and restaurant The Tasting Room, which will serve smoked dishes, gourmet doughnuts, local craft beers and winter warmers. Open 10am-10pm. Session times last 1 hour. Adults £12.50, Children £8.50. Broadgate Circle, EC2M 2QS. Nearest tube: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit Broadgate’s website.

  • 26 February – 1 March : Vodafone London Fashion Weekend

London Fashion Weekend follows London Fashion Week, giving access to everyone who loves fashion (who has tickets!). Tickets must be bought in advance, which are available for different prices and packages, starting from £20 for the bronze package. Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA. Nearest tube: Temple or Holborn. For more information, visit the London Fashion Weekend website.

  • 27 February – 1 MarchView Festival

Three day festival of art history, featuring debates, talks, film screenings, student presentations, exclusive museum tours and an art book fair. Some events are free, while others cost up to £10. Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, 17 Queensberry Place, SW7 2DT. Nearest tube: South Kensington. For more information, visit the View Festival website.

  • Now until 28 February : Ice Rink Canary Wharf
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The Vault Festival returns to The Vaults underneath Waterloo station
© Jack Abraham

In the middle of the soaring skyscrapers on Canary Wharf and surrounded by shops is another pop-up rink. Session times last 1 hour. First session times vary from 9.45am/10.45am ending at 11pm most nights. Adults £14.50, Children £9. Canada Square, E14 5AB. Nearest tube Canary Wharf. To book, visit the Ice Rink Canary Wharf website.

  • Now until 3 March : Post Pop: East Meets West

An exhibition of pop art and its influence from the US to Russia to China. Artists includ George Pusenkoff, Leonid Sokov, David Mach, Vitaly Komar, Alexander Melamid and Michael Lin, among others. 10am-6pm. Free. Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 4RY. Nearest tube: Sloane Square. For more information, visit the Saatchi Gallery website.

  • Now until 8 March : Vault Festival

Six week arts festival in the tunnels beneath Waterloo, featuring 10 performances a day. There will also be free live music every Wednesday and Sunday. On Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays there will be late night parties, including a Valentine’s Ball and Mardi Gras. Tickets range from free to £15. The Vaults, Arch 233, 10 Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest tube: Waterloo and Lambeth North. For tickets and listings, visit the Vault Festival website. For more information, check out Metro Girl’s blog post on Vault.

  • Now until 29 March : Bond In Motion

An exhibition of over 50 James Bond vehicles, including the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me and Aston Martin DB5 from Goldeneye. Tickets – Adults: £14.50, Children: £9.50. Booking in advance highly recommended. London Film Museum, 45 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 7BN. Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Temple. For more information, visit the London Film Museum website.

  • Now until 12 April : The Art Of The Brick

Nathan Sawaya’s Art Of The Brick exhibition features a range of sculptures made from millions of Lego building blocks, from recreations of iconic artwork to new contemporary pieces. Tickets – Adults: £14.50-£16.50, Children under 12: £8-£9.50. Open daily, hours vary. Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6QL. Nearest station: Aldgate or Shoreditch High Street. For more information, visit The Art Of The Brick website. For Metro Girl’s review of the exhibition, click here.

  • Now until 12 April : Sherlock Holmes exhibition

An exhibition of the world’s favourite fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, featuring historic artefacts from Victorian London and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Tickets: £12 adults, £10 concession. Museum Of London, 150 London Wall, City of London, EC2Y 5HN. Nearest tube: Barbican or St Paul’s. For more information and tickets, visit Museum Of London website.

  • Now until 30 August : Wildlife Photographer Of The Year exhibition

An exhibition of the annual Wildlife Photographer Of The Year – the 50th year of the competition. Although entrance to the museum is free, this exhibition is ticketed. Adults: £12.60, Children & Concessions: £6.30. Open 10am-5.50pm daily. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 5BD. Nearest tube: South Kensington. For more information and booking, visit the NHM website.

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Fancy a pint… or three: ‘Hop’ on down to London Beer Week

© Carnaby

Hop down to the Carnaby Quarter to celebrate London Beer Week

Following the success of London Wine Week and London Cocktail Week, it is only fair that beer fans get some love too. From Drink Up London, the inaugural London Beer Week comes to the capital in February, a celebration of craft beers, ales, lagers and ciders.

London Beer Week will see bars and restaurants across the capital hosting offers, tastings, workshops, masterclasses and talks on all things beer related from 16-22 February. The main hub during LBW will be 14 Newburgh Street in Soho, where people can pick up their wristbands so they can make the most of the offers, as well as sample nice and new craft beers. There will also be the opportunity to meet the team behind Cornish brewer Sharp’s, whose brew has been voted the World’s Best Lager.

The Carnaby and Newburgh quarter in Soho has lots of venues taking part in LBW, including Two Floors, The White Horse, Whyte & Brown, Wright Brothers, Kua ‘Aina, Shoryu, Señor Ceviche and Carnaby Cocktail Co. Local stores are also getting in on the action on Wednesday 18 February, with Dr Marten’s, Lomography and AQAQ Man, among others, offering tasters of their favourite beer brands to shoppers.

  • London Beer Week runs from 16-22 February 2015. To have access to the special deals of £3 speciality beers or £5 boilermakers in over 100 of the best beer bars, all you need is a £10 wristband. For more information and to purchase your wristband, visit the Carnaby website or London Beer Week website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

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Eltham Palace: A trip through history from Tudor kings to an Art Deco makeover

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The stunning Entrance Hall of the 1930s house was created by Swedish designer Rolf Engströmer

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The Medieval Great Hall features the third-largest hammerbeam roof in England

Eltham Palace is one of South London’s best kept secrets. After visiting the stunning palace and gardens for the first time last summer, I was surprised that the palace isn’t higher up on visitors’ to do lists when it comes to the capital. Unlike many palaces across the country, what makes Eltham unique is the amalgamation of two different, iconic periods of architecture – late Medieval and Art Deco. It sounds like an unusual mix, but thanks to the Courtaulds, who were responsible for the restoration of the original buildings and the creation of the 1930s home, they complement each other.

Located just four miles from Greenwich, the original Medieval palace was initially a moated manor house which was given to King Edward II (1284-1327) in 1305. During the 14th to 16th centuries, the house was used as a royal residence. King Edward IV (1442-1483) added the Great Hall in the 1470s, which still stands today and has the third largest hammerbeam roof in England. The hall was frequently used by a young King Henry VIII (1491-1547) – then Prince Henry – during his childhood.

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The 1930s house was built for the Coultards on the site of the original house

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Virginia Coultard’s 1930s bedroom features striking maple wood panelling

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Luxury bathing: Virginia’s bathroom features a marble tub and gold mosaic tiling

When the riverside Greenwich Palace was rebuilt in the late 15th century, Eltham’s popularity with the royals began to drop. After the royal family ceased to use Eltham as a royal residence from the 16th century onwards, the Medieval and Tudor buildings went into decline. The estate was ravaged during the English Civil War, stripping the land of trees and deer. Following the Restoration, King Charles II (1630-1685) bestowed the ruined palace on Sir John Shaw (1615-1680) in 1663, who went on to build a separate dwelling, Eltham Lodge in the Great Park. The old palace buildings were then used as a farm, with livestock actually living in the Great Hall. In 1790, artist William Turner (1789-1862). painted the Hall full of haybales. In 1828, the Great Hall was lined up for demolition, however a campaign to save it resulted in a restoration, despite it continuing to be used as a barn. The estate remained in the Shaw family until the 1890s, by which time only the ruined Great Hall, the 15th century bridge across and the moat and some walls remained. By the 19th century, Eltham’s estate had been greatly reduced, with only two small areas of 21 hectares and 29 hectares featuring parkland.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that the fortunes of Eltham Palace turned around. The estate was acquired by the wealthy Stephen Courtauld and his wife Virginia in 1933. A new private house was built on the site of the original adjoining the Great Hall. The new house was designed in the Art Deco style with Swedish architect Rolf Engströmer creating the stunning Entrance Hall, featuring wood panelling and a domed roof. They also restored the Great Hall and added a minstrels’ gallery, as well as extensively relandscaped the grounds. The Coultards remained at Eltham during World War II, with Stephen firewatching from the Great Hall’s roof. Like much of South London, the Hall was bombed in September 1940 – with some of the scars still visible in the woodwork today. The Coultards ended up leaving Eltham before the war ended in 1944, with it then being acquired by the Royal Army Educational Corps, who remained on site until 1992. Some of the upstairs quarters in the house today are as they were during the Army’s residence, while the ground floor and master bedrooms have been restored in the style of the Courtaulds.

Having been taken over by English Heritage in 1995, Eltham Palace and gardens are now open for the enjoyment of the public. The audio tour of the palace and grounds is really informative and I believe essential for any visit. There’s also a good café on-site when you need a rest, we had a really good lunch there.

N.B. Eltham Palace is undergoing a renovation from October 2014 until Spring 2015 so opening hours are reduced and some rooms may not be open. Check the website for further information.

  • Eltham Palace, Court Yard, Eltham, Greenwich, SE9 5QE. Nearest station: Eltham or Mottingham. Tickets: Adults £10.20, Children £6.10, English Heritage members free. For more information, visit the Eltham Palace website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The Medieval Great Hall has hosted a range of living creatures from a young King Henry VIII to livestock over the centuries!

To learn about the remains of King Edward III’s Manor House in Rotherhithe, click here or the remains of Winchester Palace in Southwark, click here.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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Dirty Bones review: A treat for carnivore and cocktail lovers in this cool basement joint

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Getting my Yankee on: Classic Yankee Veggie dog served in a brioche bun with caramelised and spring onions, French’s mustard and tomato ketchup

London is loving the ‘dirty burger’ at the moment – gourmet, juicy meat patties served with flash fries, such as Cajan or rosemary salted. However, many of these American-style burger joints are lacking in style and feel like one of those ‘eat and leave’ places (my nickname for certain venues where you don’t feel encouraged to linger long).

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Cheers: Top Dog (Finlandia Vodka, fresh strawberry, Chambord, lemon and Jeio Prosecco)

This is where Dirty Bones offers something a bit more sophisticated and cool. Located in Kensington Church Street, DB is a basement bar and restaurant decked out in a retro style with a mix of booths and chairs. Low lighting gives the venue a suitable evening vibe, so it’s a great locale for groups of friends looking for cocktails and grub. I visited with two friends for a post-work catch-up so were keen to take advantage of the ‘Dirty Hour’, with 2-4-1 cocktails on Tuesdays-Fridays between 6-8pm. I was particularly drawn to the Top Dog (Finlandia Vodka, fresh strawberry, Chambord, lemon and Jeio Prosecco), which was fruity and refreshing.

When it comes to eating, the main choices are either hot dogs, bones (chicken, ribs or steak) and burgers. Although carnivores will be salivating over the carnivore choices, vegetarians are catered for with the Veggie Hot Dogs. The choice of dogs (pork, beef or veggie) are served four ways, ‘Classic Yankee’, ‘Brit Dog’, ‘Mexican’ or ‘Asian’. I opted for a veggie dog served in Classic Yankee style, which meant in a brioche bun with caramelised spring onions, French’s mustard and tomato ketchup. The veggie dog was really tasty and the packed-to-the-gills bun made the dish a lot more substantial and filling than a typical hot dog would be. The side orders looked particularly attractive to our empty stomachs and we ended up ordering way too much. We ended up sharing triple cooked fries, mac & cheese and dirty fries, which were gluttonous, but delicious.

Overall, we really enjoyed our visit. The venue feels more of a night out kinda of social spot for drinks and food, rather than a place for just a meal out. I would recommend for groups of friends looking for an informal, relaxed night out.

  • Dirty Bones, 20 Kensington Church Street, Kensington, W8 4EP. Nearest tube: High Street Kensington. Open 6pm to midnight from Tues-Sun. For more information, visit the Dirty Bones website.

For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.

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Square Meal

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Head underground as The Vault Festival returns to Waterloo

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The Vault Festival returns to The Vaults underneath Waterloo station
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From the end of January for six weeks, the Vault Festival returns to the tunnels below Waterloo station. The unthemed, arts event, which originally started in 2012, features 500 events, including theatre, comedy, music, entertainment, food and drink.

Situated underground at The Vaults, this year’s festival will feature London premieres of radical theatre company Filter’s Macbeth, a new play True Brits from Rich Mason Productions and HighTide Festival Theatre, as well as shows from interactive artists Artful Badger, Red Bastard’s longest ever run and comedian and performance artist Yve Blake.

On Wednesdays and Sundays, a music programme has been curated by Mercury Prize nominee and contemporary folk pioneer Sam Lee’s The Nest Collective. For those looking for some after-hours action on the weekend, there will be late night parties on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays up until 3am. Among the Vault Lates events include The Love & Lightning Valentine’s Ball (13-14 February), Kansas Smitty’s Collective’s speakeasy club (31 January), Jum Jum old school house and garage (30 January), Mardi Gras (20-21 February) and Time Out Presents Filth – a silent disco with a difference (7 February), among others.

© Jack Abraham

The festival bar will be open nightly featuring drinks and music
© Jack Abraham

For younger arts fans, there is mini Vault over three weekends for families, including a comedy club, Big Fish Little Fish family raving crew with their Magic Under London rave (8 March) and interactive children’s show Albee Vector The Sound Collector.

Vault Festival Director Tim Wilson said: ‘We programme for Lambeth, for London, for the UK and for everyone. We make sure the festival has a pulse of many voices – there are 500 individual events happening at Vault, chosen by mixture of invitation, public submission and charitable competition, so each day has a unique heartbeat… It is now the longest, biggest, broadest-programme, most central performing arts Festival in London, all behind one magical door in Waterloo. It is a madness of superlatives. And you can drop by anytime and discover us, and surprise yourself, for free.’

Tickets range from free to £15. For those unorganised to get tickets in advance, the festival bar is free and will be open nightly for drinks and dancing.

  • The Vault Festival runs from 28 January – 8 March 2015 and takes place at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and tickets, visit the Vault Festival website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

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Valentine’s Day 2015: Guide on where to treat your love in London

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It makes the world go round…

Yes it’s that time of year again – hearts, flowers, chocolates… aka Valentine’s Day. While big gestures are encouraged, sometimes it’s just a bit too hard to find the energy to dream up an original celebration. For those wanting to mark the day of love with something a bit different from their usual favourite Indian restaurant down the road, here’s a guide to just some of the special events on in London this Valentine’s Day. I would strongly advise booking most of these in advance as they are unlikely to have availability on the night. However, if you’re single or not a fan of Valentine’s, I’ve also compiled a list of some Anti-Valentine’s events at the bottom of the post. Most events listed are on 14 February, unless otherwise specified.

  • Late London : Bohemian City (13 February)

Late night opening at the Museum Of London in honour of Sherlock Holmes (exhibition currently on a museum until April), featuring Trans-Siberian marching band performances, Desire Lines installation, learn about Absinthe Chalkboard Philosophy workshop, a bar and life drawing. 7-10pm. Tickets: £12 (event only), £18 (event plus exhibition). Museum Of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN. Nearest tube: Barbican or St Paul’s. For more information and booking, visit the Museum Of London website.

  • Valentine’s Week @ Vinopolis (14 and 15 February)

Celebrate Valentine’s with your loved one and wine at Vinopolis. The Valentine’s Day package for two includes Framboise Fizz sparking wine cocktail each, 2 x Essential Wine Tasting tickets, cheese and charcuterie sharing plate and a bottle of Prosecco. Tickets: £70 for two people. Vinopolis, 1 Bank End, SE1 9BU. Nearest tube/overland: London Bridge. For information and booking, visit the Vinopolis website.

  • Film & Fizz at One Aldwych – Pretty Woman (13 and 14 February)

Enjoy a three-course dinner in Axis, a glass of Champagne Lallier and watch Pretty Woman in the hotel’s private screening room. £49.50 per person. One Aldwych Hotel, WC2B 4BZ. Nearest tube: Charing Cross or Temple. For more information, visit the One Aldwych website.

  • Valentine’s Day at The Deck (14 February)

A pop-up restaurant comes to the exclusive rooftop venue above the National Theatre for one night only, which is not normally open to the public. Enjoy a four-course meal and welcome drink on arrival while looking at the sights of the Thames. Tickets: £75pp. The Deck, National Theatre, Upper Ground, SE1 9PX. Nearest tube: Waterloo. For more information, visit The Deck website.

  • Nomad Cinema comes to Hyde Park (13 and 14 February)

Pop-up cinema company The Nomad Cinema screens films over Valentine’s weekend in Hyde Park. Movies include Harold And Maude, The Graduate, The Notebook and Drive. Tickets £25 (includes glass of fizz and hot meal courtesy of Madame Gautier). There will also be outdoor fire pits to toast marshmallows on. The Lookout, Hyde Park, W2 2UH. Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch. For more information and tickets, visit the Nomad cinema website.

  • Candlelight Club’s St Valentine’s Day Ball (14 February)

Prohibition-themed club night The Candlelight Club featuring cabaret host Champagne Charlie, burlesque by Vicky Butterfly, dance routines from the Gatsby Girls, live jazz from Benoit and his Orchestra and fortune tellers. Tickets: £30pp. In a secret location to be revealed 24 hours beforehand. For more information and tickets, visit the Candlelight Club website. For Metro Girl’s review of the Candelight Light Club, click here.

  • London’s Highest Cinema Screening @ View From The Shard (10 February)
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Head up The Shard for stunning views of London and a movie treat

Watch Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet 100s feet up on the 69th floor of The Shard. £40 ticket includes entry to View From The Shard, the film screening and a glass of champagne on arrival. 8.15pm until late. The View From The Shard, Joiner Street, SE1 9SP. Nearest tube/train: London Bridge. For more information, visit the View From The Shard website. For Metro Girl’s review of a late night event at The Shard, click here.

  • Mrs Peel’s From Venus With Love (14 February)

Pop-up sixties cabaret discotheque Mrs Peel’s hosts a penthouse party for Valentine’s Day. Featuring compere Count Indigo, live music from Rory More Duo, DJs Narinder and Thomas Dynamic, Go Go dancers, face-painting and live art happenings. Tickets: £15 in advance, £20 on the door. 8pm–2am. The Eight Club, 1 Dysart Street, EC2A 2BX. Nearest station: Old Street, Liverpool Street, Moorgate and Shoreditch High Street. For more information, visit the Mrs Peels Club website.

  • A Cinderella’s Valentine @ Medieval Banquet (nightly)

Celebrate Valentine Medieval style, featuring food, drink, champagne and entertainment from aerialists, jugglers, contortionists and singers. Tickets £65pp. Ivory House, St Katherine Docks, E1W 1BP. Nearest tube: Tower Hill. For more information and booking, visit the Medieval Banquet website.

  • Seduction With Sugar @ Basement Sate (14 February)

Special Valentine’s degustation menu at Soho’s new cocktails and dessert bar. For £38 for two people, you will get 3 mini desserts and 3 mini cocktails to share. Open 5pm-1.30am. Basement Sate, 8 Broadwick Street, Soho, W1F 8HN. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Basement Sate website.

  •  The Dark Side Of Love – Valentine’s Masked Ball (13 February)

A masked ball featuring over 200 performers on nine stages. Including Poseidon’s Picture Palace for hot tub movies, the Lovers’ Vaults dungeon, a menagerie in Butterfly’s Pagoda, onion chopping and wallowing at the Onion Cellar and an all-star line up on the Cabaret Stage. 10pm-4am. Tickets: £20 early bird. Coronet Theatre, 28 New Kent Road, SE1 6TJ. Nearest station: Elephant & Castle. For more information and tickets, visit A Curious Invitation website.

  • Valentine’s Weekend – London Eye (13-15 February)

Choose from different packages to celebrate Valentine’s while enjoying one of the best views in London. Starting from the Valentine’s Champagne Experience (£32.40pp) for a ride on the Eye, a glass of champagne and Hotel Chocolat luxury chocolates or Valentine’s Cupid Capsule (£375) if you want a whole capsule for just the two of you, including champagne and chocolates. London Eye, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube: Waterloo, Westminster or Embankment. For more information and tickets, visit the London Eye website. For Metro Girl’s review of the London Eye, click here.

  • Valentine’s Day Tipsy Tea (14 February)

Mayfair bar Mr Fogg’s are hosting their own twist on the afternoon tea for Valentine’s Day. Guests can choose between choose between pink Ruinart Rosé champagne cocktails, or selection of Tanqueray TEN alcoholic gin teas (served in tea pots), accompanied by heart-shaped sandwiches, cakes, pastries and petit-fours. 3-6pm. Normal afternoon tea: £35pp, bottomless gin cocktail tea:£60 or bottomless champagne cocktail tea: £70. Mr Fogg’s, 15 Bruton Lane, Mayfair, W1J 6JD. Nearest tube: Green Park. For more information, visit the Mr Foggs website.

  • Night Safari: Love in the Natural World (16 February)

Valentines-themed evening at the Natural History Museum, featuring the option of the ‘Romance’ or ‘Passion’ tour. Listen to the museum’s scientists and get a closer look of some of the behind-the-scenes specimens. Tickets include a complimentary drink in the Hintze Hall. 7-10pm. Tickets: Non-members £40, Members £36. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 5BD. Nearest tube: South Kensington. For more information and booking, visit the Natural History Museum.

  • You And Me Cocktail (throughout February)

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic cocktail for those with a sweet tooth. Jelly Belly have teamed up with Grace Bar to create a limited-edition romantic cocktail including citron vodka, apple juice, grenadine, passion fruit syrup, lime and mint, which replicate the taste of pomegranate Jelly Bellies. On sale throughout February. Grace Bar, 42-44 Great Windmill Street, Soho, W1D 7NB. Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Grace Bar website.

  • Ealing Music & Film Valentine Festival (10-15 February)

Five day festival at Ealing Studios featuring musical performances, film screenings, tours of the studios, talks and exhibitions. This year’s theme is Polish heritage. Ticket prices vary. Events take place at various venues, including Ealing Studios, University Of West London, Ealing Town Hall and Ealing Abbey. Nearest tube: Ealing Broadway or South Ealing. For more information, visit the Ealing Music & Film website.

  • Dinner cruise on the Thames are offering various Valentine’s Day packages, with the Symphony and Harmony Valentine’s Dinner Cruise costing £140pp. Includes four course meal, welcome glass of champagne, live music, selected wine and beer served during the cruise and a single red rose.

Bateaux London includes food, drink and entertainment, with their Valentine’s Day and Night packages ranging from £125-£150pp.

City Cruises are offering a Valentine’s evening cruise with three-course meal, champagne, wine and live band, ranging from £115-£125pp. Alternatively thrill-seekers may enjoy a daytime Thamesjet ride from £35-£49pp.

  • Ice Skating

    © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

    Break the ice on a rink (and hopefully no bones!)

For an extra bit of romance, head to one of the two open air ice rinks still open. Or visit one of the permanent all year rinks.

Ice Rink Canary Wharf – Open until 28 February. 9.45am/10.45am ending at 11pm most nights. Adults £14.50, Children £9. Canada Square, E14 5AB. Nearest tube Canary Wharf. To book, visit the Ice Rink Canary Wharf website.

Broadgate Ice – Open until 26 February. Open 10am-10pm. Adults £12.50, Children £8.50. Broadgate Circle, EC2M 2QS. Nearest tube: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit Broadgate’s website.

Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, N22 7AY. Nearest train: Alexandra Palace.

Lea Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, E10 7QL. Nearest train: Clapton.

Queens Ice And Bowl, 17 Queensway, Bayswater, W2 4QP. Nearest tube: Queensway or Bayswater.

Streatham Ice And Leisure Centre, 390 Streatham High Road, Streatham, SW16 6HX. Nearest train: Streatham.

Or for singles…

  • Red Single Valentine (14 February)

Party planner extraordinaires The Mansion are hosting a special Valentine’s Day party for singles. Featuring DJs, house music, live performances, art and more. Dress code: Red. 9pm-3am. Tickets: £20-25. At a secret Holborn venue to be revealed 48 hours before. For tickets and more information, visit The Mansion website.

  • Love & Lightning Valentines Ball (13 and 14 February)

Valentine’s Ball for both singles and couples as part of the Vault Festival. Featuring Love Nor Money and The Penny Black Remedy on Friday 13th and Chainska Brassika and The Dirty Valentine on Saturday 14th. 10pm-3am. Tickets – Early bird: £16.50, Standard £21.50. The Vaults, Arch 233, 10 Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest tube: Waterloo and Lambeth North. For more information, visit the Vault Festival website. To find out what else is on during the Vault Festival, click here.

  • Anti-Valentine’s Party @ Prince Charles Cinema (14 February)

For singles or couples who aren’t a fan of the schmaltzy stuff, head to the Prince Charles Cinema for a screening of 1981 horror film My Bloody Valentine. 9pm. Tickets: £11/£13.50. Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Place, Chinatown, WC2H 7BY. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. For more information and booking, visit the Prince Charles Cinema website.

  • Valentines Traffic Light Party Cruise (14 February)

Thames Dinner Cruises are hosting a four-hour cruise with traffic light party theme. Tickets include glass of fizz on arrival, playing card badge (find your match and get a free drink), DJ entertainment and VIP guest list at Opal nightclub on Embankment. Guests are invited to wear green if you’re single or red if you’re nearly wed. 7-11pm. Tickets £35 per person. For more information and booking, visit the Thames Dinner Cruises website.

  • Anti-Valentine’s Party – Bounce (14 February)

Ping pong bar and restaurant Bounce are hosting an anti-Valentine’s party, featuring DJs, games and tournaments. 9pm until late. Tickets: £5. Bounce, 121 Holborn, EC1N 2TD. Nearest tube: Chanchery Lane. For more information and booking, visit the Bounce website. For Metro Girl’s review of Bounce, click here.

  • Carnival Extravaganza Masked Ball – Guanabara (14 February)

As part of their week long Carnival celebration, Brazilian bar and restaurant Guanabara are hosting a masked ball on Valentine’s Day. Headlined by the Notting Hill Carnival parade 2014 winners Paraiso School of Samba, alongside DJ D-Vyzor, Basil on Percussion, Guanabara Samba Crew, Capoeira Brazil, and DJ Limao. Open 5pm-2.30am. Early bird pre-7pm tickets £10, post 7pm £12. Guanabara, Parker Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5PW. Nearest tube: Holborn or Covent Garden. For more information and daily listings, visit the Guanabara website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

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Sit back and enjoy one of London’s best views: The swan benches on the Albert Embankment

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The swan benches line Albert Embankment between Lambeth and Westminster Bridge

I’ve previously blogged about the creation of the Victoria and Albert Embankments in the 19th century which coincided with the creation of the camel and sphinx benches, the sturgeon lamps and Cleopatra Needle’s sphinxes. However, there is another item of street furniture which appeared around the same time – the swan benches on the Albert Embankment.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Bringing some grace to the Thames: The benches are often used by patients and visitors to nearby St Thomas’s Hospital

In Victorian London, the rapidly expanding population were creating major issues including the disposal of waste and sewage, most memorably the ‘Great Stink’ in 1858. The local government recognised the infrastructure couldn’t cope with surge of people living and working in the city and established the Metropolitan Board Of Works in 1855. One of board’s biggest projects was the creation of the Victoria and Chelsea Embankments on the north bank of the River Thames and the Albert Embankment on the south. The MBW’s Chief Engineer Sir Joseph Bazelgette (1819–1891) oversaw the extensive project, which involved reclaiming marshland and making the river slimmer in that part of the capital. As well as creating a sewage system and new streets to relieve traffic congestion, a lot of slums on the banks of the river were cleared. In regards to the south bank, the creation of Albert Embankment was also designed to protect low-lying areas of Lambeth from flooding at high tide. The creation of the Victoria Embankment started in 1862, with work commencing on the Albert Embankment in July 1866 and was finished in November 1869. The Chelsea Embankment wasn’t finished until 1874. The embankments were named after the reigning monarch of the time Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert, who died in 1861.

In the typically Victorian way, the new Embankment needed to have suitable ‘street furniture’ to give London – heart of the British Empire – a look of prestige and style. English architect George John Vulliamy (1817–1886) was hired as the Superintending Architect. Among one of his many projects in addition to the iconic London ‘dolphin’ lampposts, were creating benches for both sides of the Thames. On the north side, the benches’ panels and arms were designed in the shape of Egyptian sphinxes and camels – complementing Cleopatra’s Needle. On the south side of the river, there aren’t quite as many ornamental benches. However, on the stretch of Albert Embankment between Lambeth and Westminster Bridges are 15 benches featuring cast iron swan panels and arms. These benches were Grade II listed in 1981 and are established within Lambeth’s Conservation Area due to their aesthetic and historical significance. Although I am yet to find official confirmation, I would assume the swan benches have been similarly designed by Vulliamy and made by Z.D. Berry & Son of Regent Street. While the reason behind the Egyptian theme of the Victoria Embankment benches is established, the significance of the swans is not clear.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Enjoy the view: Take a seat on the swan benches and gaze across the River Thames at the Houses Of Parliament

The name Henry Doulton is stamped on the base on the benches. I admit I couldn’t find a definite answer (but would welcome anyone who knows to comment below), but perhaps Sir Henry (1820-1897) contributed to the funding of the Embankment. Sir Henry was a key player in the expansion of the family ceramics company Royal Doulton, which was founded by his father John (1793-1873). The company had factories on various sites in Lambeth over the years located just a couple of minutes walk from the Embankment. Sir Henry’s brother Frederick (1824–1872) was a MP for the Liberal Party and a member of the Lambeth Vestry of the Metropolitan Board Of Works from 1855 to 1868. Today, the only remainder of the pottery industry which once stood there is the former Royal Doulton headquarters building on the junction of Black Prince Road and Lambeth High Street, a neo-Gothic building (built 1878) now renamed as Southbank House. Royal Doulton left the Lambeth premises in the 1950s for Stoke-on-Trent.

Whatever the reasoning behind the design of the swan benches, today they stand elevated on a concrete plinth so people can sit and admire the fine view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Located so near to St Thomas’s Hospital, the stretch of Embankment and benches are popular with hospital patients and visitors.

  • The swan benches are on the Albert Embankment, in between Lambeth and Westminster Bridges. Nearest tube: Westminster, Lambeth North or Waterloo.

For Metro Girl’s blog post on the Vulliamy’s camel and sphinx benches on the Victoria Embankment, click here.

Or for more on Vulliamy’s Dolphin lamps, read Seen a Dolphin in the Thames? Story behind the lamps on the Thames Embankment.

To read Metro Girl’s other blog posts on London history, click here.

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Hop along: Giant rabbits ‘Intrude’ upon the Southbank

Jackson & Rye Soho review: All-American lunching at this sleek NYC-style brasserie

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Meaty: Chargrilled rump steak with smoked garlic butter and rosemary fries

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Cheers! A White Peach Bellini while watching the world go by along busy Wardour Street

There’s been a boom in popularity of American cuisine in London over recent years, particularly the gourmet burger. However, most establishments offering the former tend to be more casual, informal affairs. However, one venue serving US fare is offering a more formal and sleeker environment to dine in. Jackson & Rye in Soho is one of three branches (along with Chiswick and Richmond) serving high quality diner-style food, with steaks, burgers, shakes and blue plate specials on its menu.

Located overlooking the junction of Wardour Street and Brewer Street, Jackson & Rye is an upscale New York-style brasserie. The L-shaped dining room has low lighting, muted interiors and a central bar. My friend and I booked a table for a late lunch on a weekday and were given the choice of seating by the window so we could watch the world go by. The service was typically American – friendly and attentive, but without being too much.

At our 2pm setting, my friend (having been awake longer than I) was ready for a proper lunch, while I (having risen later) was ready for brunch – my favourite type of meal. Fortunately both were available from the afternoon menu. My friend opted for the very good value meal deal of Steak and Fries with a glass of wine for £12.95, which is available weekdays from 11.30am-6.30pm. The dish is a Chargrilled Rump Steak with Smoked Garlic Butter and Rosemary Fries, accompanied with a glass of Macabeo or Grenache. The flattened meat was a huge portion and my friend said was really good.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Brunchin': Angler’s Oak Smoked Salmon, Scrambled Eggs, Country-style Potatoes and Spring Onion on grilled toast

Meanwhile, I managed to avoid temptation of the pancakes and sensibly opted for a savoury brunch dish from the extensive eggs menu. I chose a variation on an old favourite – Angler’s Oak Smoked Salmon, Scrambled Eggs, Country-style Potatoes and Spring Onion on grilled toast (£8.95). I was pleased to see a generous serving of salmon – more than most brunch venues offer – and the eggs were a lovely rich shade of yellow which ensured they were delicious, light and fluffy. The square fried potatoes were a unique, but welcome addition to the dish and really more-ish. I accompanied by meal with a light cocktail perfect for lunchtime – a White Peach Bellini (£5.95).

Despite our filling dishes, we managed to find room to share a dessert – after all, Americans do them so well! We shared a Pecan Pie with Rye Whiskey Ice Cream (£5.95). The pie was gorgeous and sweet, but the sugary-ness was toned down by the refreshing ice cream, which complemented it well.

Overall, I would recommend Jackson & Rye as a great brunch or lunch spot. If you ignore the row of Boris Bikes outside, you really feel like you’re sitting in some cool Manhattan eaterie thanks to the menu and design of the place. I loved the feel of the interior, which managed to be both contemporary and warm. A return visit is on the cards so I can sample those pancakes…

  • Jackson & Rye, 56 Wardour Street, Soho, W1D 4JF. Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square or Oxford Circus. For more information and booking, visit the Jackson & Rye website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Just a little bit boozy: Pecan Pie with Rye Whiskey ice cream

For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.

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Gastro delights, sunshine and a whole lotta history: Why Malta has more to offer than you think

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The stunning capital of Malta, Valletta features architecture dating back to the 16th century

With the cold of winter setting in, it’s that time of year many of us start to think about booking a holiday to hotter climes. While most of Europe succumbs to varying states of coldness, there is one place in the continent which enjoys an impressive 300 days of sunshine a year and the temperature rarely gets into single figures.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl  2015

Fine dining: Barracuda is one of the top restaurants in Malta

Last July, I booked a last minute holiday to Malta after admittedly not knowing much about the island. Located in the southern Mediterranean, Malta’s nearest neighbours are Tunisia and Sicily, so it’s no surprise to see the islands have a mixed heritage of Arabic and European. The Maltese islands gained independence from Britain after World War II, but there are still remainders of the country’s former occupiers such as red phoneboxes, postboxes and the British-style pubs. Despite our late booking, we fortunate enough to get a great deal for the five-star Palace Hotel in Sliema – a residential town across the bay from the capital Valletta. The hotel features a spa, three restaurants and a rooftop infinity pool and bar – which was a big draw during the hot July days, when temperatures were in the early to mid 30s. Sliema was a great base as it was so close to Valletta with good taxi and bus connections all over the island. While there are many good restaurants in Sliema, we often headed further out to the neighbouring town of St Julian’s and Paceville or took a taxi or short bus journey to Valletta. One particular establishment which stood out was Barracuda, situated in a stunning 18th century waterside house in Ballutta Bay. Eager to explore Malta’s culinary offerings, we ordered starters of Aljotta, a traditional Maltese fish soup, which was really unusual, but lovely. Overall, the food and service were brilliant and is a good locale for those looking for a special night out for their holiday. Another night, we walked a bit further from Sliema to Paceville, which has more nightlife. We had a delicious dinner at the Profumo di Ristorante Italiano, which served great traditional Italian fare. The staff could not have been more attentive and friendly and for a few hours, we actually felt like we were in Italy. However, we found Paceville nightlife (at this time of year at least) was targeted at a younger clientele, with most revellers in their late teens so it wasn’t really our scene.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Chillax: The rooftop infinity pool at The Palace Malta was an appealing place to be

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Architecture: Many of Malta’s homes feature enclosed balconies painted in different colours

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The Malta Jazz Festival takes place in the old harbour every July

On several evenings, we ventured across the bay to Valletta, a 16th century city surrounded by its old fortifications. The capital was truly charming and we loved spending hours ambling around the sloping roads and alleys, gazing up at the domed cathedrals and different coloured wooden bay window-style balconies of the houses – a signature Maltese architectural style. While Malta is often visited by Brits on week-long holidays, Valletta could easily be a destination for a weekend city break. As well as plenty of attractions and shops, Valletta is the main hub of Malta’s busy festival calendar. On the week of our visit it was the Malta Jazz Festival. The annual event celebrates local talents and hosts some of the world’s biggest names in jazz. Although not regular connoisseurs of jazz, we loved sitting in the old harbour on a warm summer evening as the music soared over the water.

For foodies, I highly recommend visiting Nenu The Artisan Baker - the only traditional Maltese restaurant in the capital. Located in a converted old bakery, the owners pride themselves on using traditional Maltese baking techniques to create ftira bread. Ftira is similar to pizza in a way and can be served with a variety of toppings, with lots of herbs bringing out rich flavours. We accompanied our meal with Kinnie – a Maltese soft drink made of various herbs and spices to create a bittersweet flavour. It’s quite a unique taste for a soft drink and left my friend and I divided on our opinion over it – I liked it. Our last night in Malta, we headed to the La Sfoglia restaurant in a marquee on Merchant Street. What drew us to the restaurant was the chalkboard menu, meaning the ingredients were fresh that day and the menu was changing depending on what was available – a more rustic approach to dining which I love. Like most restaurants in Malta, they served a lot of Italian cuisine and seafood. We opted for two courses of predominantly fish and seafood and were served huge, delicious portions at reasonable prices. Doted around Valletta were several pubs, but you may find the nightlife rather sleepy for a nightlife capital (more on that later).

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Ftira from Nenu The Artisan Bakers in Valletta (left) and salad with cheeselets at Ta’ Rikardu in Gozo (right)

For those looking for more nocturnal activities, Malta is gradually gaining momentum as the next big clubbing destination with festivals and super-DJs coming to the island. The Isle Of MTV festival is popular, while new for 2015 is the AMP Lost & Found Festival in April. Along with festivals and the dance parties at beach clubs on the coast, Malta also has its very own nightlife village in the heart of the island. Located a short drive from Valletta and just outside the old capital Rabat, is the Gianpula complex. On site there were several open-air nightclubs and bars, including the latest addition Phoenix. A far cry from the tourist-orientated karaoke and disco bars from resorts St Paul’s and Bugibba, Gianpula’s clubs featured international and homegrown DJs playing a range of dance music for serious clubbing aficionados. The clubs had a friendly, glamorous Ibiza-vibe, but without the Balearic prices I was happy to discover, with spirits and a mixer costing around €3.50.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The cathedral of Mellieha features a fresco painted by St Paul

Although we were based on the mainland of Malta, we were eager to exploring the neighbouring island of Gozo, which has its own cuisine and identity. With the help of the Malta Tourism Authority, we were put in contact with our brilliant guide Audrey Marie Bartolo, who took us on a day trip to Gozo. Before hopping on the 20 minute ferry ride to Gozo, we stopped by the historical village of Mellieha in northern Malta. We visited the cathedral, which features a fresco of the Virgin Mary, believed to have been painted by St Luke, and the World War II air raid shelter nearby. It was fascinating to hear about Malta’s involvement during the war and the horrific bombing attacks they were subjected to by the Nazis and the Axis. After crossing over to Gozo, our first stop was the Neolithic, megalithic complex of the Temples of Ggantija, which date back before the Pyramids. We were totally stunned to hear about the Maltese islands’ staggering history, with the oldest temple dating back to 3,600BC and its neighbouring one around 1,000 years younger. Our informative guide told us what is known about the people who built and used the temples and pointed out altars and fireplaces, where it is believed animal sacrifices were made.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Stunning: The Azure Window (Tieqa Żerqa) is a Limestone natural arch near Dwejra Bay, Gozo

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Ġgantija is a Neolithic, megalithic temple complex in Gozo, dating back over 5,600 years ago

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Malta was full of ornate and colourful doorways

Much of our day trip Gozo was mainly focused on food with an excursion to the stunning Azure Window at Dwejra. The ‘window’ is a natural Limestone arch, and features rock pools nearby should you wish to cool off which gazing at such scenery. Heading inland, we visited the Ta’Mena Estate in Xaghra for a wine tasting session and ended up purchasing some of the condiments made on their farm. We also stopped by the Ta’ Savina Xewkija artisan centre to watch food and drinks products being made by hand in the factory, before having the chance to buy from a wide range of Maltese products in the store. One of the best meals during our whole trip to Malta was at Ta’ Rikardu wine bar in the old citadel of Victoria (4, Triq il-Fosos). We were fortunate enough to meet the owner Rikardu for a lesson in making the cheeselets from sheeps or goats milk. The smell of the cheese and herbs had really got our tastebuds going, so after our educational experience we popped next door into his wine bar which serves a simple, but delicious menu of homemade soup, ravioli and salads. Eating the cheeselets in the ravioli and accompanying the salad made a meal that bit more special after having witnessed the process that goes into making them. As our day on Gozo drew to a close, we stopped by the Qbajjar salt pans to watch locals scrapping the season’s salt. These particular pans date back to Roman times and it was impressive to seem them still being worked. After witnessing the hard labour which went into this centuries old tradition, I was intent on buying a bag to bring home as a gift for my mother from a small stand nearby.

Admittedly, I went to Malta lacking knowledge of what to expect but was totally charmed by the islands. Aside from the obvious allure of good weather, the islands are full of history, architecture, culture and food. I’ve definitely added Malta as one of my favourite destinations in Europe and can’t wait to go back and see more.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

We watched locals scraping salt from the Qbajjar salt pans, a centuries old tradition

For more of Metro Girl’s travel posts, click here.

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