London, Travel

Dear UK

With everything happening in Britain right now with the “Brexit” and the fragile social, political and economic situation in the UK, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my life there. I lived in Watford, Hertfordshire for 23 months in my early twenties and practically regard the UK as my second home.

In this post I urge you to leave all your troubles behind, pour yourself a cup of tea (or as we say in Australia a “cuppa”) and let me introduce you to a few of my favourite places and memories in my beloved UK.

BathCrescentBathBathHousesBathRiverRomanBaths

Bath and I crossed paths at the very beginning of my time in the UK after I found a travel brochure offering tours to every imaginable tourist attraction in the country. Naturally I was drawn to Stonehenge, one of the seven wonders of the world, and thankfully Bath and Salisbury were included on the tour. There’s a certain charm and beauty to this UNESCO World Heritage Site that photography alone cannot convey. You have to actually walk the streets lined with 18th-century Georgian architecture to truly understand Bath. My top recommendations for architecture lovers are the unmissable Crescent and Circus – residences arranged in a grand semi-circle and circular layout that will leave you breathless.

The main attraction in Bath is the stunning natural hot spring bathhouse of the original Roman Baths, where steam rises from the sage-green pool of water before your very eyes. Bath is a bustling yet peaceful town that can easily be explored on foot and at times you will even feel like you’ve walked straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Let’s just say, one visit to beautiful Bath was not enough for me.


Shere1ShereShereHollywoodShereMainStreetCharmingShereSurrey

I was picking up a Gumtree purchase for my shop in this quaint town of Surrey, known as Shere. This picture-perfect place left a great impression on me and the surrounding countryside views were some of the best I had seen in the UK. Luckily, I can re-live my time in Shere by watching Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law in the romantic comedy The Holiday (2006). Among other places, they filmed at “The White Horse” pub where there’s a framed photo proudly displaying the fact.

You can read my previous blog post about Shere here.


LondonTowerBridgeLondonResidenceNottingHillLondonBigBenLondonArchitecture

Oh London, how I miss you! I must admit that I get really emotional looking at these photos taken 3-5 years ago. Even though the sights and sounds of London town are behind me I still feel largely connected to the British capital. I have such fond memories of beautiful sights around Notting Hill and Hampstead Heath, as well as the areas around Kensington and Westminster.


Almost every Sunday I would walk around Hyde Park and marvel at the friendly squirrels. It was the only day that my shop was closed so I put my best walking shoes on and wandered street after street of each borough I was attracted to. I loved feeling like a tourist while taking photographs of locals on their Sundays.


NightOxfordStXmasMarketXmasMarket (2)My favourite time of year to be a tourist in the UK was definitely at Christmas time. Oxford Street comes alive with street decorations and lights while the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland of market stalls, rides, food and attractions (like ice-skating) really puts everyone into the festive mood.


BenAffleckLesMiserablesJohnnyDepp

My favourite thing to do in London was attend all the glamorous movie premieres held in Leicester Square. I was so excited to come within touching distance of Ben Affleck (Argo Premiere) and Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger Premiere) and the cast of my favourite Les Miserables (2012). London is an amazing place for film buffs.


HarrodsExteriorInsideHarrodsHarrodsFood

I remember spending hours and hours in Harrods whenever I had nowhere to rush to. The food hall is an absolute masterpiece and the lavish interiors and luxurious products really impressed me each time. If only I had a larger wallet!

You can read about my time in Harrods here.


Snow

Anyone that’s ever been lucky enough to wake up to powder white snow covering everything from tree branches to rooftops knows how magical it can feel. While snow never lasted too long in Watford, it was epic fun while it was there and certainly different to the sort of winters I’m used to here in Melbourne.


Sunsets

Gazing out the window to this view every summer’s evening was a definite treat! Sunsets in Watford were absolutely breathtaking. More about that here.


WatfordUKLocalParkDuckHampsteadHeathCountrysideVibe

Watford is where I spent 6 days of my week for 11 months straight when I ran my shop. It’s a place where the English countryside provides a peaceful escape yet there’s enough buzz in town to get you excited about the shopping and nightlife. Locals are friendly and everyone gets along, Watford still feels like home to me to some extent.


MyShopInsideMyShop

The thing I miss the most about life in the UK is my little stationery and gift shop on Chalk Hill. I feel truly blessed to have had this opportunity to be part of the Watford small business group with such welcoming surrounding businesses around me.


Food

Who doesn’t love a hearty traditional English pub meal? It’s always great value.


BuckinghamPalace

Last but certainly not least, it was hard to watch the Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations in front of this gem of a palace. Every time I stood at the gates of Buckingham Palace, I felt like I was a true Londoner. And boy did it feel great!


Hope you’ve enjoyed my top memories of life in the UK.

London, Markets

A London Christmas

Southbank Pigeons

London truly comes alive during the festive season. I was fortunate enough to spend the Christmas of 2011 and 2012 in London and feel the electric atmosphere of its markets, street lights and decorations, as well as experience the general excitement and buzz of tourists and locals alike. Europe is something truly special during Christmas, isn’t it?

The Winter Wonderland is a phenomenal place to feel the spirit of Christmas. Located in London’s famous Hyde Park, there’s an ice-skating rink, small wooden chalets with everything from Christmas toys for the tree to unique decorations and candles. There are also German gingerbread houses and pretzels, Spanish churros and Belgian waffles to try, not to mention the fun rides, giant talking tree and singing reindeer! Pure magic!

Along the river Thames, with views of Big Ben and the London Eye, another brilliant addition to the London Christmas scene is the Southbank Centre Christmas Market. Here the scent of roasting chestnuts and cinnamon-spices fill the air. People can be seen drinking warm mulled wine and buying last-minute Christmas gifts to surprise their loved-ones with, all to the tune of catchy Christmas tunes and carols.

Other places worth visiting during the holidays are Covent Garden and Oxford Street, with its famous Selfridge’s department store creating wonderful store windows for all to see. Simply wandering around the city brings an indescribable sense of pleasure to everyone who happens to be in London over Christmas and it’s a feeling that cannot be discovered in any other city quite to the same extent.

Covent Garden Oxford Street

London, Our Shop

Remembering our Shop

On September 29th 2012, the doors of our retail shop opened on Chalk Hill in Watford. I wanted to commemorate the anniversary of this event two years ago and tell you all a little more about Graceful Avenue’s humble beginnings in the UK.

I remember that autumn day so clearly. Miraculously enough the sun shone down on us (no rain that day!) and everything went off without a glitch. I spent that day double-checking all the stock levels were correct and making sure everything looked clean and presentable. A few customers entered and some even bought something. It was a great start to our trading calender.

Interestingly enough I lived on the same street as my shop, so going to ‘work’ was not only quick and enjoyable, it was the most rewarding job I’ve ever had! I would cross the street on Mondays – Saturdays (you’d be surprised how difficult it was even though it had only one-way traffic!), unlock the door at around midday, make myself a cappuccino and work on my designs right there in the shop. Some days I could be seen making paper flowers, while other days I had my sewing machine out producing drawstring pouches. Time passed slowly but I enjoyed every single minute in there. Then at 4 o’clock I’d lock up, cross the street and I’d be home again! I knew I would never ever commute to work that easily again and I treasured every single work day I was fortunate enough to do so.

In the summer evenings I’d go bike riding through the forest a few blocks away from my apartment and smile to all the squirrels around me. We don’t have them in Australia. I learned to get into a rhythm where I worked 6 days in the shop and spent Sundays wandering the streets of London, discovering cute stationery stores, photographing picturesque squares and admiring everything the city had to offer from the eyes of a tourist. Secretly I was also taking inspiration from high-end shops and boutiques with regards to their store layouts, window displays and visual merchandising. London was full of creative energy and every step forward I took along their high street, only opened up a new web of thoughts in my mind as to the direction my shop could take. I didn’t realise it then, but I had a pretty great life.

I’m looking forward to possibly opening a shop again one day, but in the meantime I’m happy working in my studio and taking life as it comes.

2 Years On

London, Travel

Residences of London

One year ago today I landed back home in Melbourne. I was thrilled to be back but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss London. The UK was my home away from home for 23 months and I strongly believe that any city you call home for longer than a month is likely to be hard to forget and easily heart-warming to reminisce about. London and I became very good friends. I enjoyed my short train rides into the city from my apartment and loved many different aspects of my life there. In this blog post I wanted to showcase London’s residential architectural styles in various areas like Belgravia, Chelsea, Kensington and more. Each area was so unique and different from one another and I loved that about London. I was proud to call London home and hope to return some day soon and live in one of these beautiful buildings right in the centre of the city.

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London, Music, Travel

Last Day in London

Around this time last year I walked the streets of London for the last time. On a cloudy Sunday that transformed into a warm and sunny summer’s day, something very unplanned happened. Dad and I were up early every week because on Sundays he was the conductor of a choir at an Armenian Church in Kensington. I would explore the city each Sunday, discovering new places, picturesque squares and beautiful streets. Those were my favourite days when I think back on my time there.

It took some time for me to warm up to London. When I first visited the UK in 2008 on the way to Germany for my studies, I must admit it wasn’t true love at first sight! London was a much busier city than Melbourne, with plenty of events going on and a hustle and bustle that I didn’t expect to see. Londoners struck me as very serious people, never smiling, always rushing somewhere and being very private about their business. However, when you really get to know London and its locals, finding places that make your heart sing along the way, it truly becomes a one-of-a-kind destination and one that I find myself yearning for more and more.

When I think back on my time in London there are certainly a few moments that stand out to me. One of those is of course the beautiful shop I was lucky enough to manage and sell my own creations in. Other highlights include attending movie premieres and seeing stars such as Ben Affleck and Johnny Depp only a few metres away from me! Attending shows of Jack Savoretti and riding the London Eye also count as fantastic memories. However it was on my very last day that without any knowledge of the event what-so-ever we came across a festival in Hampstead Heath with one of my all-time favourite bands performing there. Call it destiny or fate but seeing the wonderful band Keane perform in the open-air (for free!!) was incredible to say the least.

After walking through Kensington, admiring the palace in Kensington Gardens and shopping in Selfridge’s, I met up with my dad in Trafalgar Square – the heart and soul of London. We knew that we wanted to spend my last afternoon in one of London’s best kept secrets so we got on the iconic red double-decker bus directly to what soon became one of my favourite areas in London. I can’t express how much I loved it there and how glad I was to arrive by sheer luck on the day my favourite English band was performing. Beyond the illuminated trees came the music that I grew up listening to. Songs like “Everybody’s Changing”, “Somewhere Only We Know” and “This is the Last Time” warmed my heart and I left London that evening with a strong sense of accomplishment, passion and belief that everything happens for a reason. Some would even call it love.

Life, London

Beautiful Sunsets

I got to experience some spectacular sunsets from my apartment window in Watford, UK, in the summer of 2013. Those sunsets were so vibrant and captivating that I even remember observing the changes in the view every 30 minutes or so, and pressing the shutter button on my camera very frequently just trying to capture the best shot possible of the beauty before me.

These photos were all taken from the same window, located on the third floor of an apartment block on Chalk Hill looking towards Watford’s city-centre. I miss my life there a lot.

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London, Melbourne, Products, Travel

2013 in Photographs.

Whoa, what a year 2013 has been! From exploring our favourite European cities to running our shop in Watford (UK) and finally arriving back home in Melbourne after almost 2 years of being abroad, 2013 has been packed with fun escapades, new experiences and enchanting discoveries.  From attending many London movie premiers to walking the streets of that captivating city, it was an honour to have lived so long in the UK. Something else which was very exciting was publishing our very own magazine about Paris, attending our first Aussie market this month and reuniting with a special pet after many days of being apart. Launching our Mishka Collection and visiting Spain (including Barcelona twice!) would have to be highlights. Goodbye 2013, you’ve been surprisingly pleasant and enjoyable. We can’t wait for the New Year!

London, Travel

Harrods Department Store, London

I’ve been back in Melbourne for almost 3 weeks now and can definitely sense that time goes much faster here than it did in the UK. I don’t know what it is about the southern hemisphere but I truly get the sense that the earth just revolves around faster in this part of the world.

I’ve been going through my travel photos again and came across a series of photographs taken in Harrods last month. I’ve decided to share them with you here so that you can see the splendour, grandness and luxuriousness of this world-renowned department store for yourself. If you’re ever in London a trip to Harrods is a must!

London, Travel

London, Yesterday

London is such a lively and enticing city to live in. Just one day of sightseeing allows you to easily see all the major tourist attractions the city has to offer. It’s definitely not a very compact city, it’s extremely broad and sprawled but thanks to their incredible bus network it becomes simple to see everything in a short amount of time.

Yesterday I was in London and it was a beautiful Sunday. It wasn’t hot thankfully and the breeze made it bearable under the warm sun. I went all around the amazing city. I started at Kensington Gardens where I witnessed a very hungry squirrel climbing on a man’s leg to get fed! After that I caught the bus to Trafalgar Square and entered the National Gallery. I was inspired by art from Da Vinci and Michelangelo and many other incredible artists. After a little retail therapy I caught the bus to Tower Bridge and just a short walk away found the beautiful Leadenhall Market, which was unfortunately closed by that time. There was something extra special about walking through a deserted market enclosure, completely free of people. It was like a secret place that only I knew existed! Lastly, I went to Big Ben, spotted the London Eye in the distance and walked to Buckingham Palace to end the day. Gotta love London!

Film Industry, London

“The Lone Ranger” London Premiere

I was so excited to attend “The Lone Ranger” premiere today in London. Accompanying Johnny Depp were his co-stars Armie Hammer, Ruth Wilson and Tom Wilkinson, as well as producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski. The atmosphere was electrifying with thousands of cheering fans turning up in spite of hot conditions.

From what I could tell Johnny was an extremely gracious and humble person. He spent lots of time talking with his fans, signing heaps and heaps of autographs and accepting drawings and gifts from devoted members of the public. He was so genuine and natural and just re-confirmed in my mind all the reasons why we love him so much. He’s just such a normal person but so talented and so undeniably attractive!

It was an absolute pleasure to attend this premiere, even though I had to wait for 3 hours in 28 degree heat to see this man. It’s a memory I will treasure forever and it was totally worth it. God bless Johnny Depp.

LoneRangerArmie HammerJohnny Depp