Christmas morning

I am writing this as I listen to the carol on tv.

I am not a religious person but listening to a carol service always has a magical effect on me. It makes me realise how lucky I am to be able to have a Christmas morning in my own home with family, warm and content.

Time-off for everyone…

The penguins are enjoying a rare time-off from being pushed around by raucous kids.

Have a lovely holiday, everyone!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Epping Forest

Over the past few days, I binge-watched three Christmas Carols on TV. I know it was a clithé but without them, it would never feel like Christmas, don’t you agree?

After watching George C. Scott version of Mr.Scrooge, I suggested Hubbie that we could have a little walk in Epping Forest in the afternoon. ‘What a splendid idea!’

He grabbed his beloved Leica and I grabbed our beloved Bella, and off we went to the forest by car.

The roads were far from empty but the traffic was flowing smoothly, and in less than an hour, we were parking at a car park by the visitor centre.

Let’s have a little stroll, Bay Bay…

Bella acted funny throughout the journey as usual. She was not a big fan of travelling in a car and she whimpered and panted restlessly as Hubbie sat with her in the rear seat and did his best to comfort her. It is so weird that she loves buses and even she falls asleep on them. Then, why she hates cars so much? I just want to know what is in her mind so I can help her!

Do you feel better now?

While Hubbie wandered around with his camera, Bella and I walked on a thick carpet made up from oak leaves and acorns.

Anyone home?…

Bella asking for Mr.Squirrel so she could deliver a seasonal greeting. Unfortunately, no one was around.

Part of the ground was very muddy thanks to the overnight rain…

I am cold and my paws are stuck!

Well, we must come back to the forest again when the ground is a bit firmer and drier, Princess.

Once we were home, Hubbie made fine cups of tea and we shared a box of mince pies. Bella also enjoyed small crumbs of the pie crust.

Now, she is fast asleep on her bed and I am watching Miracle on 34th Street on telly. It may be a cliché but I feel quietly content and mellow.

Everything is winding down and Shoreditch is ready for the Christmas Day…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Afternoon tea @ St Pancras Renaissance

The last afternoon tea I had was at the Lanesborough during last July. My friends were visiting London and they wanted to have a traditional afternoon tea (who wouldn’t?), therefore, I recommended there. This time, I wanted to take my girl Bella with me, therefore, I picked St Pancras Renaissance. In London, there were more than a few dog-friendly afternoon tea venues to choose from. However, most of the places were in West London and St Pancras Renaissance was the only hotel which was close from our place and also welcomed four-legged guests open-armed.

Hurry up, you all!

Even though her legs were short, she climbed the stairs much quicker than me. Why is that? Would I run up the stairs much faster if I got down on all four?!

Behind the present building, there are platforms for Eurostar…

The Victorian style building has Grade 1 listed status and the original structure was constructed in the late 19th century.

I distinctively remember how the place used to be before all the regeneration works transformed the entire area. It was in the early 90’s and the station just looked dirty and unloved. I think I was on my way to visit Cambridge and the train route was starting from St Pancras. The journey was made on one very cold February day and in my memory, the platform was utterly devoid of human beings and as cold as a tomb.

During the 1960’s, there were serious discussions regarding the future of the station. Some wanted the station to be closed and demolished altogether for inner-city redevelopment. However, the station was spared, thanks to fierce opposition by the Victorian Society.

The fortune of the station improved further in 1996 when LCR – London and Continental Railways won a contract from the government to reconstruct St Pancras. The company was to build a 109-kilometre (68 mi) high-speed railway between London and the United Kingdom end of the Channel Tunnel as well as to refit the existing St Pancras for accommodating 300-metre+ Eurostar trains.

After eleven years, during which there were a few ups and downs and the cost of £800 million, the station was reopened on 6 November 2007 by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Before the present St Pancras Renaissance opened its doors in 2011, the site was occupied by the remain of Midland Grand Hotel. The original hotel which was in the elaborate English Gothic revival style was designed by the architect, George Gilbert Scott in 1865. In its heyday, the hotel was known for expensive fixtures and luxurious decor. The place was decked with a grand staircase and every room had a fireplace. The hotel also sported the latest innovations of the time, such as hydraulic lifts, concrete floors, revolving doors and fireproof floor constructions. However by the 1920’s, all the utilities became out of date and it was decided that the hotel was to cease trading in 1935.

After the hotel was closed down, the place was renamed as St Pancras Chambers and it was used as railway offices by British Rail until the 1980’s before the building failed fire safety regulations.

In 2004, planning permission was granted to redevelop the existing boarded-up building into a new five-star hotel complex. The specification for the new hotel, which was to contain 244 guest rooms, two restaurants, two bars, a spa and a gym with a swimming pool, required a much bigger footprint than the former structure, therefore, a new bedroom wing was created on the western side of the Barlow train shed.

Steps leading us to a beautifully decorated hotel lobby…

The afternoon tea was served in their Hansom Lounge…

It was used to be the spot where the wealthiest passengers were dropped off during the time the place was used as a train station.

Bella wanted to explore the place. ‘Let me gooooo!’

No Bay-Bay! You behave yourself!

Then she went into the sulking mode. Oh no…

I don’t care. I’m gonna make you all feel guilty. Her turned back shouted her silent protest. Oh well. Never mind.

The lounge was very Christmassy…

We ordered their classic afternoon tea. For the actual tea, I ordered Earl Grey, Hubbie opted for Rooibos tea and David went for Darjeeling.

The first plates they brought to our table were sandwiches…

There weren’t any customary cucumber sandwiches but we were given a plenty of savoury fillings filled slices and rolls, such as salt beef with mustard & pickles, salmon with dill crème fraiche, roast chicken with fennel & orange, beetroot with goat cheese and so on. They were all very delectable.

For scones, I asked them to include a few scones without raisins or sultanas…

So Bella could join in our feast.

Then for the cake selections, we were served trays of coffee & amaretto panna cotta, lemon mousse, mini chocolate eclair, pistachio Madeleine and raspberry Victoria sandwich…

They were all great. However, I much preferred to have them, the sandwiches, the scones and the cakes, served altogether rather than to be brought separately. Also the time between each plate was served was a little too long for us. Therefore, for those negative points, I had to say the experience was 7 out of 10.

By the way, their dog-friendliness was 10/10…

One of the staffs brought a bowl of water as soon as we were seated and everyone was very attentive to us and Bella.

It was around 5:30pm when we left the hotel…

That meant we spent nearly two and a half hours chatting and drinking tea?! Wow, time flies when we’re having fun, we all laughed…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Silence is golden

One thing I really loved about the past two days, especially those mornings, was how quiet my neighbourhood was. It felt like I was waking up in the countryside during one of those weekend-away trips. How well and deeply one sleeps if the surrounding is free from the usual clamour of urban life, I admired as I sipped a cup of tea which was kindly brought by Hubbie.

Our Christmas Day was a quiet affair. We watched some old black & white films produced by Ealing Studios and nibbled on mince pies and chocolates.

Then, Hubbie decided to jazz up the atmosphere with his Les Paul…

Van Halen wasn’t very Christmassy. However, I was already a bit sick of benign easy listening which was prevalent during the Christmas period so I was happy with him strumming.

Bella was quite happy with a variety of doggie treats she was showered. We had been indulging her a little more than usual because the bad weather was stopping us from taking her to the park.

She seemed to adore the salmon treat especially. However, all the extra treats made her ever more hyperactive…

Why am I not receiving any attention from you two? Bella demanded to know. Please please Bella, can I have some peace and quiet for a change? You should stop being a diva because it is so un-Christmassy…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Christmas lights on Regent Street

Christmas is almost upon us and the buzz which has been rising around the biggest annual holiday is reaching to a crescendo.

However, all the clamour will ebb away tomorrow afternoon as the city winds down and goes into temporary hibernation…

That is of course, until a tidal wave of the Boxing Day shoppers hits the street again…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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