She Spies Retro Futurism By The Seashore- My Favourite House in Portstewart

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Houses like these make my heart soar. Just look at that staircase in the long, completely glazed hall. Look at that totally impractical reverse pitched roof. I always have to slow down to ogle this home when I'm driving past to get to the Portstewart Strand.

I did a little poking about online and found some info on Alan In Belfast's blog. In a post dated 2006, he shares a little history of the building, which he is next door to. The two photos below are his, and show the house in disrepair a decade ago. However the building is listed, and rather than be demolished for apartments, like so many old plots along the coast, today sees it as in the photo above. It's inhabited and all fixed up.

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Alan's investigation found that the reason for its listed status was not the architecture alone, but the large outdoor mosaic adorning the front of the building. It's a piece by the Irish artist Colin Middleton, one of the few surrealists of the early part of the last century hailing from our island. He was heavily influenced by Van Gogh, and spent the latter part of his life living in Bangor, where I'm from.

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The story of how this particular piece of his came to be is an interesting one. The story goes that Middleton had been staying in a house in Portstewart, but didn't have enough money to pay for his board, so he designed this mosaic to pay his way.

The architect of my dream house, Noel Campbell, also commissioned Middleton to create a mosaic for a home he designed in Ballymena, Scandia, seen below. 

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Another of Noel Campbell's houses is just round the corner from Portstewart Strand, Little Rock, on Larkhill Road, below.

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But my heart belongs to the Strand Road beauty! 

Family Friendly London #2 The London Transport Museum

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Tucked in a corner of the vibrant Covent Garden square, nestles the  London Transport Museum.

I have an Underground crazy nine year old, so on our last trip we made a point to devote a couple of hours to visiting this museum, after visiting the Natural History  & Science ones previously.

The location is very simple to find, and within minutes walking distance from Covent Garden tube station. It's also only a short walk from Leicester Square, so if you are approaching from the tourist hub of the theatre district, it's actually easier to walk above ground than go hop Underground stations from the Square to Covent Garden. 

There are also dozens of mini boutiques and cafes you may want to pop into along the way too. Covent Garden has a concentration of glorious little makeup stores of some of the more independent brands that don't show up in Department Stores. There's even a shop dedicated completely to The Moomins.

 

The Transport Museum has a small, modern, glass entrance pavilion, with a free to browse merchandice store and upstairs Cafe. You can then purchase tickets for the Museum on the day, or collect your prepaid online ones. 

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Kids go absolutely free at this museum, adult London Transport Museum tickets are £17.50, but there are group discounts, concessions etc so click through to the website to see if you can take advantage of any of their offers. 

The museum is on several levels, all accessible by lift, and they layout is very easy to follow around. The displays are engaging and informative, with interactive portions so kids won't even notice they are being educated on the sly.  

Dotted throughout the whole museum are these card stampers. Each child will have their own card with numbers on it, to find and stamp as they pass through the exhibitions. The stamp cutter then chops their card into various different shapes, the same way a train or bus conductor would mark a ticket back in the day. 

Smix really enjoyed this game and it makes for a cute souvenir for the scrapbook back home. 

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You'll learn the history of public and private transport in London from the early beginnings of the settlement, right through to the present day. 

The history of steam trains, with life size vintage carriages and even engines you can pop inside and pose for pictures in.

There are old London buses, with the history of the service within the city, as well as horse drawn carriages that used to be seen on the streets of 19th Century capital. 

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Smix was most interested in the history of The London Underground, which the museum features heavily, so he was delighted.

The history of the various lines, how the tunnels were made,  the specs of the trains used, there was even a section on driver uniform and the different seat fabrics used for each train line's carriage (shown right). That was my favourite part- a capsule exhibition about the retro advertising campaigns was also a winner for me.

If you have young kids with you, even up to Smix's age, will enjoy the special play area on the main exhibition hall floor (see below).

They can drive a bus, ferry, train, or even work as the lost property in a mock up Underground Station. 

The interactive fun area gives Mums & Dads time to have a sit down & a coffee and snack, if you wish to. We were there mid-week, mid-summer & it was busy but by no means chaotic. Lots of tables & room to play. 

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Smix stood for ages just watching this HUGE live map of locations of buses & tube trains over the city, very cool.

All in all, over the entire museum's exhibits we must have spent a good two hours there, but if you took time to read more of the displays and all the history you could easily spend twice that time. 

I would say with the kid entrance being free, if you are just paying for one adult then it's a fair price for a few hours of fun and entertainment in the centre of the city. 

Even the seating section outside the bathrooms (below) looks super cool, and we could have spent a fortune on Underground merch in the store. 

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So a big thumbs up from us for the London Transport Museum. If your kids love trains, buses or The Underground it's a must-visit on your next day in the city.

Check out our review of the London Duck Tours for a family friendly London trip too! 

The Best Little Edie For The Day-Compare Drew Barrymore, Christine Ebersole & Bill Hader's Versions Of The Famous Grey Gardens Costume Speech

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I'm totally obsessed with Grey Gardens right now, and was searching for a video that showed just how close Drew Barrymore got to actually being Little Edie Beale in the HBO drama version about the ladies' lives. Drew won a Golden Globe for her amazing performance, but sadly YouTube didn't have any videos with her renditions of any of the famous sections of dialogue right beside the original clips from the documentary.  So I had to make one!

I decided to compare some other classic Little Edie performances, first with Christine Ebersole's Tony Award winning version in the Grey Gardens Broadway musical. Christine plays a younger Big Edie in the first act of the show, set when Grey Gardens was at its peak and Little Edie was a young girl. Then in the second act, set around the time the Maysles made their infamous documentary, Ebersole takes on the role of Little Edie. The Costume For The Day speech is set to musical accompaniment, and the whole second act quotes much of the documentary, which die hard fans adore.

Lastly, I just had to tag in Bill Hader's 'Little Vivvy' from the half hour spoof 'Sandy Passage', part of the Documentary Now! series which parodied a whole collection of classic documentaries including The War Room & Stop Making Sense.

Who do you think does the best Little Edie? I didn't include RuPaul's Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon's version as she doesn't do this speech on the episode, but I may go back later & see if I can find her quoting it in the Return to Grey Gardens stage show she has performed. 

The Finest Grey Gardens Products Money Can Buy

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 Little Edie Scarf (devestatingly for me, $125)

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(Jinkx Monsoon as) Edie Beale doll  £23.87

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This weekend I'm ordering a copy of this amazing book, which includes a 60 minute CD of the women singing, and their comments on first watching the film when the Maysles screened it for them in Grey Gardens itself.

I'll blog about it when it arrives but it looks incredible. 

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Win a Ravensburger Scotland Yard Board Game to Mark National Unplugging Day #GoGadgetFree

I can see the irony in posting a blog about National Unplugging Day, ON National Unplugging Day, but if you are online today and feel inspired to get prepared for some gadget free days over the school summer break, I have a  Ravensburger Scotland Yard game to give away you might like to play.

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The game has one player be Mister X who is on the run through the streets of London. The other players play detective, with the only clues being Mister X's transport tickets. He can travel by bus, London Black Cab, or the Underground. If Mister X eludes capture then that player is the winner! 

The game is suitable for age 8 and up, with two different styles of play described in the instructions. You can play a slightly easier version of the game to start, or if you have young players joining in. So the game can adapt to your skill level. 

You can find the game at Smyth's Toys, or a variety of online stores. 

So would you like to win the game to play over the summer holidays? Simply take part using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck! 

The Best Burrito In Bangor, County Down- Bebe Adrianos!

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I'm going through one of my phases of being totally addicted to a certain food or dish, this time it's the amazing, fresh burrito bowls from Bebe Adrianos. The new-ish Mexican spot is handily located beside the home of Bangor's best kebab, Piccola Pizza in High Street.

Burrito takeaways are a recent thing to Northern Irish shores, I don't think there was somewhere to purchase fresh burritos until Boojum opened in Belfast and that was only 6 or 7 years ago.

 Bebe Adrianos works the same way as Boojum does- you choose whether you want a classic burrito, tacos, fajitas or burrito bowl, then pick your meat and add on peppers, cheese, guacamole etc.

If I were to give a recommendation I would say go for the pulled pork, the spices they use are delicious, and get lots of the sweetcorn salsa.

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The menu also has chips, sweet potato fries, poppin style chicken etc. There is room to sit in, as well as the takeaway option, and they've just launched a new app so you can order and pay online and have your burritos delivered to your door.

They are running a competition on their Facebook to win £100 to celebrate their app launch, so that's worth a visit. 

Let me know if you try them out! 

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Retro Stylised Wonder Woman Print from Hand Drawn Creative

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There's been quite the buzz about the new Wonder Woman film, with the heroine updated for the 2000s. Of course like most superheroes, Wonder Woman started out as a comic book heroine, and Neal from Hand Drawn Creative has paid tribute to these beginnings with his fab A3 print.

Also new is this swish little promo, Let's Learn To Draw The Hand Drawn Creative way. We get to meet Neal and tour his drawing office, as well as watching him at work. 

Don't forget to visit the Hand Drawn Creative Etsy Store, where A3 prints are a very reasonable £20

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Stay in the Streets of 'Made in Chelsea', London, From £15 a Night. Hostel Prices Without the Hostel Horrors, My Go-To Booking, EasyHotel Earl's Court.

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I like a bargain & the less you pay for a hotel when you visit a big city like London, the more money you have to spend on the important things when you get there. Like shiny, fluffy stuff from Skinny Dip London, or Build a Bears dressed like Beefeaters who play 'The Whip' when you squeeze their paw. 

So whilst I don't mind forgoing luxury during the lights-out part of the trip, I do like to be somewhere clean, safe and reliable. This means hosteling isn't really suitable. I'm always travelling with Smix who is nine now, and I don't want to have to share a room or bathroom with strangers in a city miles away from anyone I know. 

Thats why when we visited last August, we stayed in the Earl's Court Easy Hotel. That would be my fourth or fifth stay in an EasyHotel in London, I have also stayed in the South Kensington one, which is only about a mile's walk from this one.

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Prices for rooms start at £15 and personally I've never had to pay more than £45 any time I've stayed. Like with booking an EasyJet flight, you can use the EasyHotel site to tailor the room to your needs, as well as watch for flash sales, bargain deals booking a long time in advance, or indeed last minute.

Again similar to the philosophy of the airline, you pay for the add ons of what you need, which builds a package visit tailored exactly to your needs. 

Rooms are small, which allows the prices to be lower than most London city centre hotels. I find with a London jaunt you really only use the hotel to crash at and sleep, you don't hang out or eat there, so a room with a bed & mini bathroom is spot on. 

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Rooms are small, standard & twin. The small has barely any room to stand about, it's a little like a capsule hotel but with more space. This is what I always stay in when I'm travelling to London alone. Rooms have either one double bed, or two singles in them. 

Another choice you can make is whether you need a window or not. If you are happy enough with no window, you can pay less to stay in one of the central rooms. 

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Every room has its own mini-bathroom. It's a complete wet room, with a curtain to pull round to shower. You get one fresh towel, should you need more or want it washed during your stay, that will cost extra. Also if you are staying more than one night and want your bedding changed, again, ask for that add on. If you want to travel without toiletries, there is a pump dispenser at each shower with a shampoo/shower gel you can use. 

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All rooms have heating & air-con, which is free of charge, and there is the option to add-on wifi access or the tv in your room. I counted three plugs in our room, which is always important to know when   you've gadgets to charge overnight.

There isn't a wardrobe, but there is storage space under the bed frame, and on the wall to hang coats & bags. 

Early check in, or late check out, will cost you £15, but times are very reasonable anyway. 

There isn't a breakfast restaurant in the hotel, but you are located in a beautiful area of the city and your walk from Earl's Court Underground Station to the hotel passes dozens of places you can get coffee, breakfast, croissants, whatever you might feel like when you get hungry. I'm pretty sure each hotel has a basic vending machine in the reception, as well as all your tourist attraction leaflets and maps on hand.

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We had a lovely stay and a quiet night's sleep. I would recommend staying with EasyHotel to anyone thinking of visiting the city, and if you aren't going to London then there are other cities with Easyhotels there too. 

The next morning we strolled the 15 minute walk to the Natural History Museum. The hotel location is really superb for tourists, with Harrods just another short dander as way.

Don't forget to visit the Tardis outside the Earl's Court Underground Station if you have Doctor Who fans in your family! 

To keep up to date and be alerted to room sale bargains, follow EasyHotel on Twitter, or Facebook

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