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.

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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.


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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.


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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.


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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, 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

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!