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Merge Festival, Bankside

Last week I headed on over to check out what was going on at Merge Festival – an annual arts, music and performance festival held in Bankside.

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It’s on until the 4th of June, so you’ve got a few days left to catch live music and performances throughout the neighbourhood. The weather was absolutely stunning, so we managed to catch some of the live music on the Thames Clipper, but you can still catch some of the acts at Borough Market, or at Citizen M.

Merge Festival Bankside

We also made it to Drive Dead Slow, which is the trippiest bumper car experience I’ve ever experienced – personality tests and all. I’ve popped down the rest of the events until the 4th below – get yourself down there before it’s over!

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12th May – 4th June – Drive Dead Slow – the ultimate dodgem experience

What: The world’s first artist-designer bumper car arena: a collective of visual, sound and light artists have each adapted a 1960s Supercar to give each vehicle a personality to match your mood. Career around a disused fire station and see which car/ personality you’ve chosen!

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Artists include: Marcus Lyall, Bompas & Parr, Jimmy Cauty, Luke Morgan, Ed Baxter, Tony Pletts and Dave Cranmer.

Where: Southwark Fire Brigade, Southwark Bridge Road (entrance on Sawyer Street), SE1 0EG

When: 12th May – 4th June (ongoing through MERGE), 12:00 – 19:00 daily (until 22:00 on Friday nights)

Cost: Free from 12:00 – 16:00, £5 after

Merge Festival Bankside

12th May – 4th June – Candy Chang Confessions – Hilton London Bankside

What: A top-secret confession booth set up by Taiwanese-American artist Candy Chang. Divulge your innermost thoughts, facts and quirks and write whatever you’d like on a wooden plaque, and leave behind anonymously. Throughout the festival, a gallery of these hanging confessions will be created outside the booths where you can delve into others’ thoughts – some may be shocking and some might show we are not alone in our quirks! 

Where: Outside Hilton Bankside, Prices Street, SE1 0UG

When: 12th May – 4th June, all day, every day

Cost: Free

12th May – 4th June – Acoustic Buskers at Borough Market

What: Perk up your lunch break with live acoustic sessions at Borough Market, featuring local musicians Tim Newman, Lucy May Walker, Alex Monk and Marku Michelucci.

Where: Market Hall at Borough Market, 2 – 4 Bedale Street, SE1 9AL

When: Monday – Wednesday during festival, 12:00 – 14:00

Cost: Free

12th May – 4th June – Skyline Sessions at Mondrian London

What: Head to Mondrian’s recently revamped skyline bar, Rumpus Rooms, for live acoustic music and excellent drinks throughout MERGE.

Where: Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD

When: Every Wednesday during the festival, from 19:00

Cost: Free to enter

12th May – 4th June – Jonny Drop at Boro Bistro

What: Adding extra musical flair to the MERGE line-up are Boro Bistro’s Thursday night DJ sessions, playing Latin, Jazz and Soul on vinyl.

Where: Boro Bistro, 6 – 10 Borough High Street, SE1 9QQ

When: Every Thursday during the festival, from 19:00

Cost: Free

12th May – 4th June – Live music at Union Street Café

What: A celebration of the humble olive at Union Street Café’s Olive Grove. Drink and dine under an olive tree canopy and sip on martini cocktails whilst enjoying live music.

Where: Union Street Café, 47 – 51 Great Suffolk Street, SE1 0BS

When: Every Friday during the festival, from 20:00

Cost: £25 for four small plates and a cocktail (quote MERGE Bankside)

12th May – 4th June – Sunday Sessions at Bedales

What: A weekly Sunday musical experience at the legendary Borough Market bar.

Where: Bedales, Borough Market, 5 Bedal Street, SE1 9AL

When: Every Sunday during the festival (excluding 14th May), from 18:00

Cost: Free

15th May – 3rd June – ‘This is Not Culturally Significant’ at Bunker Theatre

What: A darkly comic one-man show that explores various characters’ eccentricities. Performed entirely nude, it’s both uncomfortable and mesmerising.

Where: Bunker Theatre, 53A Southwark Street, SE1 1RU

When: 15th May – 3rd June, 20:00

Cost: Tickets start at £10

24th May –  4th June – Patrick Tresset’s Machine Studies

What: Immerse yourself in a classroom of 20 robot pupils, each with a distinct personality. Watch how they respond to English, maths, science and art lessons. In another room, have your portrait drawn by a robot as they now turn their gaze on you.

Where: Platform Southwark, 1 Joan Street

When: 24th May – 4th June, Wednesday – Sunday, 12:00 – 19:00

Cost: Free, pre-book a portrait drawing at mergefestival.co.uk

31st May – 2nd June – Caravan Shorts

What: A 15-minute theatre production from a caravan, produced by Robert Linde. Nine audience members at a time can experience one of eight short dramas in this intimate and exciting setting. The caravan will move locations throughout the Bankside area over the course of the festival.

Where: Flat Iron Square (Union Street)

When: 31st May – 2nd June, 12:00 – 14:00, 17:00 – 19:00

Cost: Free

1st June – Electronic DJ at citizenM

What: citizenM gets into the MERGE spirit with a special electronic DJ night.

Where: citizenM, 20 Lavington Street, SE1 0NZ

When: 1st June, 17:00 – 19:00

Cost: Free

4th June – Super Glad at the Union Theatre – musicians

What: Music nights return to showcase local talent at this Bankside institution, paying homage to legendary pub ‘The Gladstone’s Sunday sessions. The day will be jam-packed with live music and drinks, featuring Billy Bones, The Swamp Stomp String Band and Vinyl DJs.

Where: Union Theatre, Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, SE1 0LR

When: 4th June, 18:00 – 22:30

Cost: Free

More details on the festival, now in its seventh year, can be found at mergefestival.co.uk, as well as links to purchase any tickets.

Merge Bankside is a festival curated by Illuminate Productions, created in collaboration with Better Bankside, a Business Improvement District dedicated to making Bankside a place to work, live, and visit. It is also supported by Tate Modern.

Have you made it down to Merge yet? Comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

A Weekend in Mexico City

Back in February I was lucky enough to go to Mexico City for work. It’s always been a dream of mine to go, as I am a massive fan of Mexican food and culture, and I spent one of the best weeks of my life there. I was there for a week, and most of it was spent working – it ended up being an extremely hectic week. I managed to extend the trip so I got the weekend there, and was lucky enough that one of my friends from school recently moved back, so I was able to get some incredible recommendations.

I absolutely fell in love with the city, and would love to go back one day – but I managed to pack quite a bit into my weekend!

Sightseeing, Museums and Culture

I started out staying in the Reforma neighbourhood, so extremely near the Diego Rivera Mural Museum, Bella Artes, and the Franz Mayer Museum.

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I’ve loved Frida Kahlo’s work ever since I can remember, so a visit to Casa Azul was an absolute must for me. I had one of the most memorable mornings of my life there, and couldn’t recommend it enough. I thoroughly recommend buying tickets in advance though, as you’ll be queuing for hours otherwise.

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After Casa Azul, I spent some time wandering around the Coyoacan neighbourhood, too – although the market there was pretty overrated (I’ve got some great recommendations for shopping coming up).

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The museums in Mexico City were really amazing – I managed to get to the National Museum of Anthropology, which was also walking distance from the Museo Tamayo.

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I also wandered around Zocalo, and walked up to the top of Chapultepec Castle.

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Shopping and Eating

My wonderful friend Mercedes gave me the best recommendation for shopping in Mexico City – Bazaar Sabado (or Saturday Bazaar) in San Angel. It’s only on Saturdays, but they had the most beautiful and unusual pieces – not your usual tourist tat. We also stopped off at La Camelia Cantabar for delicious ceviche and chicharrones (pork crackling). It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

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That’s not to say I’m above the usual tourist tat – I managed to pick up several souvenirs at the Mercado de Artesanias, where they had some amazing agua frescas and quesadillas, too.

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Other foodie highlights included La Cerveceria de Barrio for their fish tostadas, and Taqueria El Caifan for their tacos.

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Going out

The nightlife was excellent in Mexico City, but two particular highlights were a Mezcal bar called Bosforo (where they also served quesadillas with crickets) – they had excellent Mezcal and cocktails there. For dancing, I had an excellent time at Cafe Paraiso – it was so much fun.

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Getting around

I spent most of the time getting Ubers, but spent the last day getting a Turibus around, which was cheap and a fantastic way to see the whole city.

Have you ever been to Mexico City? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

Paradise Cove

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without visiting a luau.

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It’s unbelievably touristy, and incredibly kitschy, but it’s just one of those things you really have to throw yourself into. We went to Paradise Cove on my last trip, and I had such a fun evening – it was really fun to be surrounded by people visiting from totally different points in their life. You’d be sat next to those celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, to those on their honeymoon – all sitting round a big table, family-style.

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Whenever you book any touristy trips like luaus, scuba tours, or even when you are getting souvenirs, I’d thoroughly recommend going to the Swap Meet and Market Place at Aloha Stadium. It’s on every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and you can find your usual tourist tat as well as deals on tours for a fraction of the price you’d find in Waikiki.

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You have to go in prepared for the level of cheesiness, but watching people dance with fire is always a good time, especially when there are Mai Tais involved!

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The sunset alone is worth going for – it’s absolutely breathtaking.

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Have you ever been to a luau? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

Riga, Latvia

After a wonderful stay in Tallinn, we bundled into our hire car to continue our tour of the Baltics – next stop, Riga.

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The Latvian capital was only just under a four hour’s drive from Tallinn. We had arrived at quite an eventful time – there was so much going on as the city was preparing for midsummer. One of the things I immediately loved about Riga was the attention to detail on all the buildings – the architecture was stunning.

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The midsummer celebrations were a lot of fun – I was probably the only person without flowers in my hair, and they lit a massive bonfire.

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My favourite part of the city was without a doubt the Art Nouveau district – streets after streets of incredible architecture, really stunning.

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Not having had the inside knowledge we’d managed to get for Tallinn, a lot of our meals out were a bit hit-and-miss, but we had one really nice one at 1221 Restorans.

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The few days we spent in Riga were lovely, although Midsummer meant that a lot of the places we would’ve liked to see were closed. Luckily, its a lovely city for walking around in, and really easy to get around. They also seem to have the most well-managed Twitter account of any tourism board I’ve come across, who were super helpful and quick to respond!

My only disappointment of the trip was the old aerodrome. Having seen photos all over Pinterest and fallen in love, I’d enquired (via Twitter) whether or not it was open. Having made everyone get in the car and drive for 45 minutes, we arrived and open it most certainly was not – it was boarded up completely, and looked like it had been for some time. Oops.

Other than that, I had a great time in Riga, and would love to go back to explore further!

Have you ever been to Latvia? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

Tallinn, Estonia

The past month has been completely full-on, and non-stop, so finally getting to sit down and write my Tallinn trip up feels like an absolute luxury. I’ve been working on some exciting big projects, as well as doing a big design course, and I can’t wait to bring everything together – watch this space!

Earlier on in the summer we did a trip round the Baltic States, and I had such an incredible time – we started our trip in Tallinn, Estonia.

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Just under 3 hours away from London by air, Tallinn totally surpassed any expectations I had. First of all, it’s absolutely beautiful – in fact, the entire city was so on-point from a design perspective I was somewhat convinced that I was on the set of a Wes Anderson film for most of my stay.

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It’s a fantastic city to walk around and explore in, and there is so much to do – some fantastic museums and cafes, perfect for a romantic weekend break.

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Estonia is also 50% forest, so we took our hire car 30 minutes out of the city centre on a hike in the Pääsküla Bog, which was really beautiful. (Make sure you take bug spray though – I didn’t, and it was the only thing about my Estonia trip I didn’t like).

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Our Airbnb was beautiful, and right in the centre of town, the perfect location in a beautiful old building – I had an amazing stay there.

Another massive bonus for me was the fact that every restaurant I went to in Tallinn was not only delicious, but that most restaurants had their gluten-free options clearly marked on the menu. I had a few friends who had lived/worked in Tallinn, so getting their food recommendations was great, and we didn’t have a single bad meal out there!

Where to Eat in Tallinn

I would be remiss if I didn’t do a list of all the incredible places I ate out at – but I’ll also include the restaurants that were recommended to me, but that I didn’t manage to get to (but definitely plan on ticking off of my list next time)!

Kohvik Maiasmokk

Maiasmokk is the oldest cafe in Tallinn, and is full of old-world charm. Kohvik Maiasmokk, or ‘Sweet Tooth’ Cafe, is largely the same as it has been since 1864 – there’s a cute marzipan display, an adorable mini ferris wheel of tea cups and saucers, and a train full of sweets – its mindnumbingly kitsch but a lovely place to have a coffee and something sweet. They also did the best macchiato I had in Tallinn, so it’s worth going for the coffee alone!

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Maiasmokk is self-service (a relic from the Soviet era) and has some beautiful rooms – its definitely worth having a wander round before you tuck in.

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Von Krahli Aed

I was slightly sceptical about this one at first, only because it is so close to the town centre. Having lived in London and New York, where they tend to keep the crappiest restaurants near the big tourist attractions (like Spaghetti House or Olive Garden) I was wary to say the least.

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Luckily, I was proven incredibly wrong – not only was Aed beautiful inside (they had a nice courtyard, too) it was really delicious – beautifully crafted seasonal and local dishes.

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The others also went nuts for the bread, and ended up buying a loaf to take back home with them.

F. Hoone

F. Hoone is in the incredibly trendy Telliskivi neighbourhood, in an converted warehouse.

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It had a great vibe, and I’d thoroughly recommend their steak tartare!

Kohvik Sesoon

Sesoon is in the list of the Top 50 restaurants in Estonia, and it’s easy to see why – everything I tried was really delicious, but also really reasonably priced. Again, they do seasonal local dishes – I tried the rabbit with fennel and chantarelle puree, which was incredible.

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The other restaurants that were recommended to me, but that I didn’t have time to try, included Rataskeavu 16, kohvik moon, Ribe, cru, rea, sinilind, and cafe Klaus – if you go to any of them, let me know!

All in all, I had such a lovely few days in Tallinn, and would definitely recommend it for a city break!

Have you ever been to Tallinn? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!