Thank you Notting Hill Carnival

After a 2 year absence, carnival was back, bigger and better than ever.

Only love ❤️💚❤️💚

High skyline view spots of around Acropolis and the city of Athens

Every tourist and local love the view of Acropolis. The streets around the hill can get busy so here are some spots you can enjoy a cocktail, coffee, a romantic dinner or walk away from the buzz and hussle of the busy streets below.

Lycabettus Hill from Hill Athens Rooftop in Thiseio
Night View of Acropolis from the rooftop bar of the hotel A for Athens
Sunset view of Acropolis from the rooftop of Anglais bar in Monastiraki

Acropolis and Athens cityscape from Filopappou Hill. A perfect spot for walking amongst the trees, a short uphill hike to exclusive views over the Parthenon, Lycabettus and the city.

New year’s Bethnal Green

New year new start. Can’t help but look back a little, and yet remain grateful for today.
Today I’ve gone back to Bethnal Green where I lived at for thirteen years.
Bethnal Green is a strange yet warming place. If you were to look it up online, it looks quite grim. 2 up 2 down level terraced rows of workhouse housing, surrounded by loads of high rise social housing estates built in 1800s to the 80s dotted on every corner, with a through road high street.
I must admit, I had some of the funniest and most learning times growing up here in my 20s and that’s purely down to a local and transient mix of people and pre war and post war architecture.
Imagine in one day hanging out in a 1900s pub, a high rise tower block built in the 1970s, trekking on cobbled streets and through grafitti glad Victorian alleys. It’s pointless going into any detail on this as this is my story.
But perhaps sharing these pics from today, will give the platform from which to imagine a constant of stories intertwined.
From the housing flats, to the terraced houses, the odd patches of greenery, the mix of bengali, cockney, underground arty, and now poshy touristy and transient peeps, this is the Bethnal Green in 2022. Many will pass through and many more still remain. Yet, new year’s memories to come may remain similar to past.

Green list picking: Madeira

One thing is for certain. Summer in the UK has been a super mini version of hot summers we got used to in the past two years.

By August, and a very wet one, I begun deliberating when the next two hour slot of timid sun would pop its head through the clouds. Even on the lucky occasions work wasn’t tying me to the desk and I caught some of it, the cooling breeze and the inconsistency of it made the decision much easier than expected. I needed out.

After two years of no international travel and no proper holiday, I had to go.

So in all good pandemic manner of things, here I was looking at green and amber options.

Still too out of habit, Amber became the elephant in the room.. Will anyone notice and switch or do I risk it?

And no, my money and time were too precious to gamble so I made the safe bet.

Madeira

And what would have I known if I knew?

Stunning green covered volcanic mountains dipping straight into the sea, accompanied by plenty of flowy waters splashing on the roads from high up the dark and rocky walls.

In the Atlantic, sort of Portuguese sort of north African, Madeira was the humid medicine I didn’t know existed so close to home.

Mild temperatures, sun and warm waters make up a perfect hike to the beach, swim and hike up mix.

Locals are warm. Daily life is super affordable to many other European hotpots and I can’t think of a single thing that I miss.

If not convinced yet, take a look.

Plenty of cute little or the larger kind of surprises too

Of course, the local fresh produce offers loads of culinary delights.

Octopus and chips, dinner for two 18 euro, I think with the drinks it came to 22 euro

Faith, culture and iconic representation:

Whether early in the morning to start the day, or in the afternoon for a little pick me up, there’s another place where locals will be seen religiously. The cafe.

And of course, lunch on, there’s always time to taste the local ‘poncha’

Poncha with ginger
Poncha as it comes

I believe the Madeiran experience is made up of hikes, coffee, levada walks, fish dishes and poncha. For tourists and locals, living the moment is all about these flavours.

With the subtropical climate blending it all together, the Madeiran experience makes an irresistible ‘poncha’.

Go have a taste!

Lesnes Abbey and woods

This gem of a scenery is tucked away a few kms east of Woolwich, in Erith.

Lesnes Abbey is a site of ruins from 12th century, in the Borough of Bexley. At one point a few centuries later on the building was used as a monastery.

The site offers a lot for a day packed with a variety of fun activities. It’s free to visit. Walking amongst the ruins of the rooms from where the abbey once stood, there is plenty of  hide and seek games to be had and reimagining the spaces from past times.

Uphill from the abbey, the path swings to an outlook with the most extraordinary views over the City of London. Bear in mind, this is a very long cycle even from the Eastend, and over 1 hour drive or trip on public transport from central London, yet the proximity apparent in the views tell a different story.

Lesnes Abbey and woods are on the Green Chain Walk route from Oxleas Wood to Thamesmead Riverside. We took a different route on the Woolwich Ferry and cycling east on the Thames Path, through Crossness Nature Reserve.

Lesnes Woods up on the hill are a true sanctuary of old tall trees, ferns and squirrels playfully enjoying the abundance of the nature reserve. There’s a fossil park, a cool tree trunk sculpture of a Green Man, and a plethora of secluded walks through the dense woodland rich in flora and fauna.

At the top of the woods a heath is a welcome flat walk through fern surrounded paths. On the way back, try a different way down. If you get to the clearing with the abbey for a view, you’re onto another special lookout over the ruins.

What converting Hagia Sophia into a functioning mosque really means

10th July 2020, a Turkish Court order approved Hagia Sophia’s convertion from a museum to an operational mosque.

For many Christians around the world, aborting a historical monument that represented the centuries of Byzantine Eastern Orthodox with Ottoman faith-inspired culture in the region, to having it reclaimed as a faith space for Islam, is a vilifying act of disrespect. The region has been affected by territorial tensions for millenia and many in the Balkan and Western Asia Minor, have experienced relocations, marginalisation, faith based extradition, torture and incarceration.

It is a non surprise western Turkey struggles with their record on human rights abuses, and corruption has been developmental to the Greek economy even in modern times.

Looking past the historicity of the region, and the unsettled air Erdoğan’s latest move has created, I can attest to the following:

– Erdoğan has three years left before the next election.

– The Hagia Sofia move was his check mate to Europe beyond the Greco-Turkish spats.

– Erdoğan doesn’t want to join EU (and all the monitoring and regulations), the EU will not have Turkey as it is today, but to make sure they don’t interfere, he needed to growl over his territory.

– Putin will turn a blind eye, despite Russia’s Orthodox Church affinity. Faith is only useful when it serves one’s interests by masking transparency. Christian links to the European church history are problematic for Putin’s and Erdoğan’s dark and underhanded populist and divisionary operations.

– Unmonitored, anyone challenging Erdoğan like the Kemalists, will end up in jail or dissappear.

– Turks in Turkey, Germany and the UK love Erdoğan. He took power and water to the favelas. He is making profits from the Syrian refugees that have no labour rights but plenty of will to do whatever yet not get paid or paid scraps of peanuts when they do (a 10th of the Turkish labour rates according to reports).

Noone wants drama on their doorstep. Turning adversity to positive stories is a way for populist governments to get away with the uttermost abuse of human rights.

Minorities and culture are the capital nasty regimes use for political coercion.

Coercion to domestic opposition, and coercion in international relations contexts.

Threatening securities makes vulnerable populations anxious and puts actor resources at high risk and alert. This costs actors money and make populations more predatory between them. Double win.

Hagia Sophia is the starting line of an incredibly narcissistic performance we will expect to see from Erdoğan in the next three years.

I can only hope there will be limited loss and blood lost in the process, but not set on having any hopes at this point.

In the middle of a pandemic, reclaiming a museum to a faith institution is a bold move.

To be continued…

A year ago today…

I had just finished my exams, celebrated my birthday and got on a flight London to Seattle.

I found myself arriving at a 22 buck a night air bnb in Highline on the outskirts of Seattle with a quarter full suitcase and lots of time to absorb my new home, write my dissertation, and quickly explore the city in five days before catching the greyhound to Portland.

I loved where I was staying instantly. A wooden structure, shared between three of us, just the right dynamics of chats, learning about our differences and expectations en transit, keeping sweet vibes throughout and respecting each other’s time needs and privacy. I loved waking up surrounded by the alpine greenness of pnw. Got my Orca loaded, and picked my daily trips between jumping on the 35min bus journey to the city centre, or 35 min walk to the coast.

Seattle is where my journey begun, and where it ended.

I got caught on the rising tide on a private beach, I studied in the most quaint little library in Fremont, strolled in unexpected familiarity up and down University Way and experienced the awe of Japanese tourists in Suzzallo and Allen Libraries the setting of some of the Harry Potter scenes.

Seattle is the uber cool without the forced coolness. It is grounded, down to earth, green, gorgeous, creative and blatant.

I couldn’t have ever imagined Seattle would have made such a fundamental mark and given me so many beautiful memories from this two month trip, and without sparing any important details, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Other than to return, again and again to soak up the atmosphere before I move on again.