The Non-Touristy Travel Guide When Visiting New York City

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What is the most non-touristy thing to do when visiting New York City? 

Answer: A visit to the Cooper Hewitt Museum is an absolute must. It's probably well known to locals, but it was very sparsely attended during my recent visit and we had a tour guide all to ourselves for free. 

It has many fascinating features and inventive ways to think about sustainability. For example the decomposing burial suit. It might be grim to think about it but we're not exactly eco-friendly when we commit ourselves to the ground. 

I also loved this electronic wallpaper room that allowed you to create your own designs and logos. It's quite simplistic. The 007 wallpaper took me all of 20 seconds to make (as I'm sure you can tell) but the effect is fantastic and makes for a great Instagram photo. 

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Best Non-touristy places to Eat in New York 

If you're looking for a place to eat near the Cooper Hewitt Museum then the Le Botaniste at 833 Lexington Ave is great value for money. It's also not at all over-crowded and I have no idea why. We went twice and it was empty. 

However, the food was delicious made of plant-based prescriptions bowls with combinations of cereals, veggie proteins, seeds, and vegetables. 

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Surprising not overly busy: Central Park 

I was surprised at how empty Central Park was. We went round on the weekend, the weather was great and there was still plenty of room to set up a picnic. Dogs are kept on a leash between 9am and 9pm, so you won't have to compete with animals and owners sprinting around chasing frisbees. 

Good to know:

If you're traipsing back to the hotel after hours be mindful the gates at Central Park close at 1am. 

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Place to ourselves 

If you're looking for a quiet, non-touristy hotel in NYC, but would like to stay fairly central, then I can recommend the Freehand Hotel. It's capacious, with multiple communal rooms and bars. Even a rooftop bar. But a lot of the time it felt deserted. 

It has a wonderful artisan feel. You can tell it's made by a team of creatives, for creatives. 

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And why not while you're there

Visit Trump Tower. Believe it or not you can just walk in. You'll have a mandatory back check but I was surprised at the ease of access. Again very few people around.

There's not much to see that's open on the ground floor. A couple of gift shops and a restaurant. But it was en-route and free. You may as well whilst you're in the neighbourhood. 

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Places we went to that were crowded 

Grand Central Station 

Grand Central station is very busy. Imagine Liverpool Street during rush hour but bigger and more aggressive. All the pubs and bars within a stone’s throw are equally busy around 5-7pm. I'd avoid that area if you're looking for a quiet drink or meal. 

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The Guggenheim Museum 

Whilst it wasn't too busy, I found that it was quite noisy for an art gallery. The building is impressive (if you've seen Mr Poppers Penguins you'd be familiar with the elliptical stairwell that runs serpentine up 4 floors. 

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The Natural History Museum 

Again it's a museum that's a huge tourist attraction. Sadly a bit outdated compared to modern museums. However, the dinosaur exhibit is worth the price of entry alone. 

48 Hours in Palma, Mallorca, Spain | Thing to See and Do

Friend of the blog and contributor Peter Brooker, editor of Human Research, has just landed back from a long weekend in Palma. Lucky so-and-so, dodging the English rain as per usual. 

In this article Peter will give you the skinny on where to stay in Palma, restaurants to visit and some tips on things to see and do. 

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Palma, Mallorca, or Majorca for the English-phonetic, is a drop below the luxury of Saint Tropez, but a class above Ibiza. (So I'm told, have been to neither). 

All I can say is that Bilbao was a right-off. I've been in the dog-house ever since for taking my girlfriend to Bilbao, the place with one decent looking building, one inaccessible James Bond location and beyond average unadventurous cuisine. 

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The missus has since revoked my rights to book anything accept short stay car parking at Gatwick. Which was actually harder than it sounded given the immediacy after the BA debacle at Heathrow and reported fire at Victoria. Trains were out. Flights got cancelled/delayed. We really had to walk between the raindrops just to catch this flight. 

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Where to stay in Mallorca

Hotel Tres has it all. It’s a twenty minute cab ride from the airport that will cost you 20 Euros. We stayed for four nights at roughly just over 200 GBP a night. This came with breakfast included, which was decent enough. Though they charged for the coffee which didn't sit well with me. Sure you can get a regular black coffee, but we asked for soya cappuccino and got given a bill. I mean sonofabitch. Is it really that much of a calorie burner? 

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Ok I'm angry, but I would still recommend this hotel. I asked them to recommend restaurants ahead of our arrival and they did so. They also helped me try and get some movie location spots locked down, which was real sweet of them. 

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The room has one of these rolling tables that stretches the entire length of the bed. Genius. Someone is finally listening to me. I'll once again lay out the essentials of what I look for in a hotel room. 

1.   Room to dump stuff. 

2.   A bidet. 

3.   Soft pillows. Medium to soft mattress, queen size minimum. Not to single mattresses wedged together. 

4.   Decent shower pressure. 

5.   Air con that won't give you the lergie. 

6.   A telephone that you don't need a degree in astro-physics to use. (The phone did not work). 

7.   Decent WiFi. 

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The rooftop had something close to an infinity pool. You had a view of the Cathedral opposite. (Shut on a Sunday). Every now and then we saw the waiter, Thomas. We liked Thomas, he was an enterprising young man. 

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Where to eat in Mallorca

The good people at Hotel Tres were able to offer the following recommendations. The hotel is within walking distance of all three restaurants we frequented. Less than 5 minute walk. 

OMBU - Rating: 8/10 decent food, good service. We got a seat outside both times. Best dish? The Corvina ceviche with avocado, kumquat in syrup and kilos. 

KOA - This was our favourite. No outside seating but very tranquil and classical interiors. Best dish? The 
Golden ceviche, ginger sweet potato, seasonal fruits and fried plantain.

Caballito del Mar we tried on the first night and had the black paella. In fairness that paella lasted us for days, but generally this was the most touristy of all restaurants. 

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Just bear in mind that all restaurants will bring out white bread and olives. Which you won't have asked for, and isn't free. But this covers a service charge that most restaurants in London will charge you for regardless. 

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Shops to visit in Mallorca

The Puzzle shop is the most famous. The lady in charge is a lot of fun. She invites you to solve puzzles and there's nothing more satisfying than proving your manliness than cracking the puzzle in under 30 seconds. 

That only happened once. 

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Opposite you'll find the Vilebrequin store. Of course lots of overpriced swim shorts but it's handy to go in and try some on. I now know what size I am should I find some crop up on eBay. Yes I'm sorry, but I'm not spending 250 Euros on a pair of swim shorts. Do you know how much travel writers get paid? 

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Favourite store has to be Typographia. Now here I did a mini splurge and bought 3 t-shirts. The fit and quality is immense and the designs are quirky. They currently stock in Tate Modern, no international shipping which is nuts. So if you see it, you buy it ok? 

Ice creams are consistently good everywhere. Fill your boots. 

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Train Ride to De Soller and Boat Trip to Magaluf

Sadly I can't recommend the company we booked with as they gave us mis-information which nearly led to us missing our boat. However, you'll find plenty of companies online that you can book through. 

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The train ride through the mountains is a very famous feature of the island and you shouldn't pay more than 50 Euros a ticket. There are no toilets on the train, so don't get caught out. The train ride will take you an hour but it's open-window, cool and feels antiquated in a good way. 

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The full day boat ride is also a very popular touristy thing to do. Both beaches you'll reach on the tours are saturated. No space to build a sandcastle. But you can jump off the boat and cool down in the sea. The food is thrown in and is actually quite tasty. 

It's a good way to spend a day if you're running a tight budget. 

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Hop on Hop Off

These run fairly regular outside of the Cathedral. It will cost you 18 euros a ticket. Nice way to kill an hour but you'll learn very little about the city from the commentary. 

I actually dozed off. But don't let that deter you. It's important to take bus tours I think to get a feel for the city. 

Budapest: Things to See and Do | The Ultimate Travel Guide

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Today I'm going to let guest editor Peter Brooker talk more about his recent travels. His last article 48 hours in Bilbao will prove to be a very useful tool for me as I weigh up options for future weekends away. Today he's going to talk about his recent weekend break in Budapest. With some tips, hints, how to budget etc.

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I'd been once before to Budapest. Like most men subjected to a long week working on a production line, rueing missed opportunities and poor life choices,  a weekend reprieve in Budapest was just the antidote.

That was me ten years ago, embarking on a friends stag do that would prove to be one of the most blistering, relentless anarchic weekends of my life. Much like the Kennedy case file, most of the information of what happened that weekend can't be revealed until all parties have effectively, well, died. Let’s just say we lost the hotel deposit before we even got to our room.

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This recent trip as a sober man in his forties with a respectable girlfriend, featured none of that debauchery. Although I did get to see packs of disaffected men on the fringes of being thrown off planes, marauding through the Hungarian capital with lecherous dog-hungry eyes.

I don't think it's an exclusively British thing, but we have a fetishistic nature about us that makes us easier to spot when on holiday.

Where to stay in Budapest?

The Baron Residence Hotel is acutely central in Budapest. Relatively cheap, 3 nights for 282 GBP with breakfast thrown in. Breakfast is bare-bones; hardly the flagship for Budapest cuisine but can tie you over for a few hours.

It's not an Instagram-type hotel. I didn't get one shot inside. But not all hotels were designed for the purpose of showing off. This is classic eastern-European utilitarian style.

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Where to Eat in Budapest?

There are many great Hungarian restaurants on a street called Raday Utca. This is mainly populated by locals and we were recommended this street by the concierge at the hotel.

The ONYX is probably one of the most expensive restaurants, we didn't go there but looked inside and it looked very swish.

The Kacsa Restaurant is quiet and out of the way. Little old school in terms of decor but I want to give them a mention because the gentleman who served us was genuine and well put together.

Anna Cafes are dotted around and is the best place for lemonades and people watching.

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Things to see in Budapest

I'd definitely take a walk up to Liberty Statue. It’s incredibly scenic with plenty of lofty views of the Danube. You don't really get those views in London. Primrose Hill maybe, unless you do the Shard or certain public high rises.

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The National Gallery has some great photography exhibitions. Especially the Fortepan exhibition Every past is my Past. This gallery has pictures mined from clearance sales, discarded photos, most handed down through generations. The owners and subjects are sometimes unidentified. There are currently 111,000 photos in the collection.

Up in the dome you'll also get some awe inspiring shots of the city.

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The Labirintus

So who knew that Dracula was a real person? Vlad the Impaler was a nasty piece of work. He tortured people by shaving the skin of his victims feet, coating the open wounds in salt and had goats lick them.

Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned here in these endless labyrinthian tunnels which is worth a visit, but you'll be pleased to leave.

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Saint Stephens Basilica

The Americans will have you believe the stairs leading up to the dome go on forever. Don't believe a word of it. A modest schlepp will get you to one of the best views overlooking the city.

The exhibitions inside are not modernised or curated in a way that is the least bit interesting. However, the Cathedral is beautiful inside and well worth a look.

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Where to go in Budapest for movie lovers

Budapest is a city utilised my filmmakers for its post-apocalyptic brutalism that is littered within the capital and its surrounding districts. The Stock Exchange Palace for example was used as Harrison Ford's home in Bladerunner 2049.

The Whale Building on the river was used in The Martian and Heroes Square was partly used for opening sequence in Red Heat.

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If you’re a lover of movie memorabilia you can check out Ernst Gallery for eclectic rare movie posters. There is the Pinball Museum which houses the Rocky Pinball machine and you can also have fun spotting 007 number plates on the cars around town. We only saw one but there are plenty of 00's or 'other agents' as I amusingly coined. (Yes the girlfriend rolled her eyes).

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Some last tips

The local currency is HUF and a lot of places only take cash. There are plenty of ATM's dotted around the capital so you shouldn't worry.

The airport is about a 30 GBP Uber ride into the centre of Budapest. It's a very walkable city and we didn't get any transportation when we were there. We covered 50 km in the 3 days we were there by foot, so make sure you bring comfy shoes.

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The Gellert Hotel is an infamous place for thermal spas. We went inside the hotel to look around but we didn't frequent the spas, despite it being highly recommended. The Szabadsag Bridge is opposite and great for INSTA photos as you can climb up a small section.

The city is very chewed up currently as a lot of construction work is going on in a lot of the squares. This could fizzle a romantic weekend away if you're hoping to see Budapest this year.

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48 Hours in Bilbao | Things to see and do

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Today I'm going to hand over the reins to my guest editor Peter Brooker to talk about his recent trip to Bilbao, Spain. Next year Bilbao will host some UEFA cup games so anyone travelling for the footie might find this interesting. Also as Peter will no doubt discuss, it's a veritable James Bond location.

Hello everyone, I'm going to give you a breakdown of things to do (and avoid) if you're planning on spending a weekend in Bilbao.

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WHERE TO STAY in BILBAO

I have been twice to Bilbao and have stayed in both the COSMOV Hotel and the MERCURE hotel. The latter being more convenient for business, the former being a nice bag-drop boutique hotel that is equipped well enough for an enjoyable stay.

Both located centrally and a minute’s walk from the Guggenheim.

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BEST MUSEUMS in BILBAO

The first things you'll discover a distinct lack of decent museums in Bilbao. I have to put the Guggenheim down as a disappointment. The building itself is beautiful. Made of Titanium, Glass and Limestone. It's reminiscent of a beached ship, an ode to the lustrous ship making history of Bilbao.

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It's also incredibly vast inside. Unfortunately no photography of any nature is allowed inside, but in all honesty, the Modern Art fails to live up to its incredulous chassis in which it is housed.

That said, if you're staying at the Cosmov hotel, I recommend buying your admission tickets at the hotel lobby as it will include breakfast. 24 Euros each, and the breakfast was one of the best we (my girlfriend and I) had all weekend.

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FINE ARTS MUSEUM - in Bilbao was far better. Perhaps because I'm into photography more. The current photography exhibition of Los Zubiaurre. Memoria grafica is utterly beguiling.

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Have a look at this photo of a mother and father receiving a letter from their son. It's the reason why we should all write more. Much more. Admission 10 Euros each.

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BILBAO ATHLETICO - the stadium tour is undoubtedly the best attraction in Bilbao, no matter what your views on soccer are. It's an hour long, immersive and you get a sense of what it's like to be a professional footballer. With access to the press box, the changing rooms, the dugouts and the trophy room.

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WHERE TO EAT IN BILBAO 

This is what let the city down big time. Not enough variety and not enough middle tier pricing. There are 22 Michelin-starred restaurants in Bilbao, but when you're traveling on a budget, minimum course orders starting from 50 Euros are a definite no-no.

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The drop off then is quite staggering. We did find a quirky dig called Coppola, inspired by the owners love for the director Francis Ford Coppola. Decent pizza, nice decor, even prices. But Pizza?! Do I have to schlepp to Spain to get a decent pizza?

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We only stumbled upon this little place by accident as all other half-decent restaurants were shut at 6pm. Some only taking bookings after 9pm. Come on Bilbao! What about Johnny foreigner that likes his dinner done by 7pm and his slippers on by 10pm latest?

A friend of mine called me out after my seemingly blasphemous rant about the Spanish and their fixation on white bread. Apparently it's 'part of the culture. The bread isn't like the white bread you get in Tesco. It's much lighter and really good. Taking away that thread would be like stopping serving chips in a chippy. (Sic). It's not for the tourists at all'.

Well with the last part, I have to agree.

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We did find one restaurant that provided excellent service and quality food. Called The Premierk. Out of the way, but you can find it on the way to the Bilbao Stadium.

MAIN ATTRACTION 

Being a James Bond fan you will at least get to see a James Bond location. The spot where Pierce Brosnan landed as he abseiled out of a Swiss Bankers balcony can be found directly across the Guggenheim and in front of the Jeff Koons Puppy. 

I have written extensively about getting to the balcony, (not open to the public) on my blog here.

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Jocks&Nerds Revival: Can Print Magazines go Advertisement-Free?

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Jocks & Nerds returns after a 2-year hiatus. Founder and Editor, Marcus Agerman Ross spoke to one of my contributors Pete Brooker about why he has revived the brand and got his take on the current climate for the print industry. 

Why did we take two years out and what have you learnt in your two year sabbatical?

I was forced to close it down because the business didn’t work anymore. When I realised I had to shut it down I realised I was exhausted, physically and emotionally - aside from the financial pain of it all. I always says there’s only one thing harder than running a business and that’s running a business that’s failing. It’s a horrible place to be.

I started working over 20 years ago and, for better or for worse, I saw what I did as journalism and that journalism was something independent - an important view on the world.

That has all been stripped away before our eyes - I don’t think anyone really understood how it happened or how quickly. (When I started Jocks&Nerds Instagram didn’t even exist and smartphones where a totally new thing!!)

I found myself in a tough situation. Middle-aged with professional experience in only one industry - one that essentially no longer exists. The skills people want today are brand new and I find them really boring.

(I was actually looking at the site of a fairly creative company recently - not for work but for something else - I clicked on their jobs board and all the jobs were things like UX developer, coder, etc!!) I genuinely think it’s very hard to be a creative professional right now. There used to be outlets for creativity that might not have paid so well as the commercial work but all of those avenues are being torn down by the new technology.

I looked for work in places where I thought my skill sets and experience would be really valued but I got nowhere. I also looked at working in totally new sectors but nothing was really coming together.

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In that time, I decided to start a Jocks&Nerds radio show on Soho Radio so that we could keep the name alive and some connection with our audience. I think radio/podcasts are about the only place where you can be journalistic and independent right now. There’s no money in it but there’s essentially no cost either so you can reach people fairly easily and say what you want. It doesn’t tick every box for what I want to say as an editor but it is very useful.

Over that period I kept meeting readers and fans of the mag who told me how much they missed and that there was nothing else out there. I realised that although the advertising had gone, the readership still remained and I started to think how I might be able to put something back together. That was really the start of it.

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The word is there will be no advertising this time around in Jocks & Nerds, how do you expect to finance the publication?

I’m incredibly lucky that I have managed to build an incredible team of contributors around Jocks&Nerds who believe passionately in what we are trying to do and that we stand up for something important that no one else is doing right now. They give up their own time, money and energy to help make it happen.

Now I’m printing the magazine digitally which means I don’t have to print more copies than I can sell. The downside of this the unit cost is really high hence the higher cover price but it is the only way to get it out.

In reality I’ll lose money doing it but I can’t see any other way right now. I value complete control and the ability to do something of value over advertising. Besides, advertisers ultimately destroyed what we were doing in the first place so it’s much better not to have them.

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Were you tempted to completely rebrand?

We already have a recognisable name and we’ve built a sizeable, loyal audience over the best part of a decade so it makes sense to continue as Jocks & Nerds. But we have redesigned the magazine and made a new logo.

This is partly down to the fact that the content is slightly different now and we want people to regard it more as a book or periodical than a magazine - it’s designed to be archival and of value on the bookshelf.

I was lucky that the art director who worked with me at the very beginning, Phil Buckingham, was keen to get involved again. He knows the ethos behind the magazine inside out and knows how to work with me so that was really helpful in this process.

What part of the physical print format did you miss most whilst you were away?

I’ve said this many times recently but I think it’s a really important point. Magazines are in many ways completely anachronistic today whilst also being vitally important. There are issues about them being hugely expensive to produce, difficult to distribute, slow, bad for the environment, etc.

Equally, they are important because no new media format is able to do what magazines do. By that I mean if you think of audio (music, radio, etc) and visual (TV and film) the end user experience isn’t really altered. If anything some things are better. Digital radio is crystal clear and podcasts can be listened to on the go.

But magazines which are edited around a theme, idea or view on the world, that use design as an integral part of the editorial voice, that combine imagery and text in a considered way, that have scale and impact - nothing else exists that can do that - so they are important if those things are valued and I mean that from an editor/journalist point of view.

As I said at the top, the business model is broken so I hope there can be a new way forward with printing costs, distribution, etc and a break-up of the tech oligopolies somewhere down the line. Independent voices like ours are being crushed and I think it will set a dangerous precedent for media going forward.

More of this interview can be found on Pete’s site, Human Research.

 

You can find all available stockists for Jocks&Nerds through their website.

How to Completely Renovate Your London Home in 6 Weeks

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I've now finished my Asian tour and now back home in London as I'm missed my dog Charlie, family and home. Talking of home, I recently saw a 3D property scan by my friend and guest editor Pete Brooker from 3D Property Scanning.

After a quick chat we agreed it would make for an interesting feature on the blog. Rather than regurgitate everything that Pete and I spoke about, I wanted Pete to tell his own story on how he managed to completely revamp his 2 bed apartment in Chiswick.

Hi all. The flat was primarily sold to us on ideal location, close to where my girlfriend works in Chiswick. You can see in the before 3D scan, that there was a lot of work to be done.

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KITCHEN

We had a great team of contractors in and they noticed immediately that the Gas Boiler was buried in a cupboard, barely accessible in the kitchen. We had to raise that out of the floor and rehouse it directly above.

The kitchen had some hideous blue tiling, fit for a bathroom not a kitchen. We completely retiled the kitchen, added a breakfast bar and installed a dimmable helicopter.

(If you’d like to purchase any of these products you can find the links in the 3D property scan. For transparency I’m not affiliated with any of the brands and all the products were paid for, not gifted).

Yes it was a bit of a crazy idea, but we wanted the kitchen to be a fun place to be. The faux brick wall wallpaper was added, a slight homage to the last act in Skyfall. 

TOP TIP

Don't throw anything out. We bought the wood for the breakfast bar and used the offcuts to make the shelfs above the sink. When we asked the builders if this was possible they had to go back to the skip and dig out the offcuts. Ask your builders and contractors to not throw any offcuts away without asking you first.

BEDROOM 

We got some bespoke mirrors made with concave framing to bring the illusion of space. The bed is an Ottoman from Dreams and I can't recommend these type of beds enough.

Perfect for storage and very accessible. We haven't had a chance to fit the blinds at the time of writing this, but have discovered that John Lewis are very competitively priced.

TOP TIP

If you're mounting a TV in your bedroom, always check the bracket compatibility. If in doubt contact the manufacturer, we did. Also plastic boxes from Muji are perfect for storage in cupboards. They do multiple sizes.

BATHROOM 

We completely gutted the bath and installed a bespoke fitted shower. We put a mirror on the back wall again to offer the illusion of space. Also if there are two of you, extra mirrors and dual sinks are a must.

We also installed under-tile heating which will be perfect in Winter and for any household pets to lounge on. A heated towel rail is also very convenient, no more arguments over damp towels.

TOP TIP

Get a shower douche. We didn't have no space for a bidet but a shower douche is the next best thing. The amount of time and toilet paper I now save is just unbelievable. Plus it's a nice feeling, down there.

STUDY

We got a corner desk and married the wood close (but not exact) to the shelfs. You'll notice throughout the flat there is a running theme of dark wood, walnut or black trims. Such as on the dining lights or myriad mirror.

The myriad mirror by the way is fantastic. A real wow factor for the room and I can't recommend the customer service at Habitat enough. Ask for Dawn at Habitat on Tottenham Court Rd, she is fantastic.

The sofa bed is also convenient for guests that come to stay.

TOP TIP

Don't be too precious in having all the wood matching. It was a big fear that the room would look naff with different wood themes. As long as they're closely matching in colour, it's not imperative to get matching wood.

ATTIC  

This was the biggest challenge in many respects. We have a lot of storage space in the eaves so wanted to house a chest of drawers and have them accessible from the outside. The contractors were indifferent at first.

We went and secured the drawers cheaply and had them framed and put some good handles on them. Rather than hide them discretely, we made a massive feature and it works really well I think.

The dining furniture we sourced from Barker and Stonehouse. We really mix and matched all the furniture. I recommend you visit their store in Guildford and spend an hour or so in there. Don't be afraid to rearrange the furniture in the showroom. We did.

MASSIVE TIP

When shopping for furniture ensure that the delivery men are insured to deliver to a second floor flat. (If you're no on the ground floor that is). We had great issues with this from another buyer and it got quite ugly at one point.

The couch we sourced from DFS. We do love the couch but have had some issues with the customer service team. That aside, be sure to put the L of the couch in the best possible position so it can add flow to the room, rather than corner of any space that will see a lot of traffic.

The fireplace also made for a great feature. Be sure to do your research and read all the terms and conditions before buying. Warranty, delivery, installation etc.

Lastly the TV, or as I call it 'the anti-gym' is a curved Samsung Tele 65" from Amazon. We shopped around for the best price versus quality and thought this the best. It does reflect quite a bit of light, but we only view in the evening with the blinds closed.

TOP TIP 

If you're having SKY TV installed, get friendly with the engineers and ask for what engineer discounts are currently on offer. We got the sports package the same day of installation much cheaper than if we paid for the package before or after.

Be sure to check out the video of the before and after renovation and if you need any advice or wish to discuss anything 3D property related I’m available on peter@brookerpublishing.co.uk

Oman | The Places to Stay and Things to See

I spent ten days in Oman and I'll probably chalk this up as one of the bets experiences I've had in my life. I'm dating a classic heliotrope, meaning each year on Boxing Day we migrate somewhere where's sun, leave blighty and it's endearing yet terminally awful weather behind. 

We've had 2 fruitless excursions in the past couple of years. Last year was Cuba, modest sun and a beach rife with semi-dead man of war jelly fish. The year before that was Cyprus, equally mediocre.

This year there was no messing. We went to Oman where the temperatures never dropped below 22 degrees. We had a fully guided tour with Explore Muscat (not affiliated, just wanted to give them a shout) and in this article I want to share some tips and places worth visiting.

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GET A VISA

Yep, we didn't bother. They introduced Visa requirements early last year and now you have to pay a small sum of £30-ish to get in. Only because we only got these last minute we had to pay double to fast track them. Very annoying.

DECENT SUNGLASSES A MUST

The streets are so shiny and reflective out there, that your eyes get no respite from the sun. I brought my Lacoste glasses but they weren't designed for this level of intensity. Of course plenty of tanning lotion and aftercare lotion will be required.

FLIP FLOPS & HIKING SHOES

You'll need to take your flip flops when traversing through the Wadi's. But be sure to pack both because you'll be doing a lot of walking, hiking and trudging through desert dunes. 

MUST SEE's 

THE LOST FOOTBALL PITCH

The Football pitch in the mountains. Firstly the 4x4 ride through the mountains is white knuckle enough. Then out of nowhere a football pitch appears over the crest of a hill. It looks entirely misplaced and abandoned, but the design is quite deliberate. The villages come and play of a late afternoon/evening when the air is cooler and it's beautifully maintained. Again, no tourists! 

THE BIMAR SINKHOLE 

This is where it's good to have a tour guide. We saw a dozen or so drivers making wrong turns, U-Turns; you'd think they were looking for the Holy Grail. The Sat Nav is not exact science out here and it's sometimes best to rely on local knowledge. 

When the Bimah Sinkhole comes into view it's quite jaw dropping. Especially as it's so close from the coast. There will be a few people there but not too many to enjoy your swim should you choose. 

WAHIBA SANDS

You can sleep out in the desert. We stayed in a campsite called the Desert Wonders Camp for just under £90. It was very basic (I don't think we even had access to charge points) but it was perfect for our needs. 

Again the thrill of running down those dunes in that 4X4 was just something else. Imagine your best Alton Towers ride, this experience squashes that like broken biscuits. Be warned the temperature drops massively at night and you'll need a few layers to sleep in. I actually got no sleep that night due to the cold. 

SNAKE GORGE / WADI BANI 

For this you'll need to have some dexterity, some balls, and a guide that can traverse all the slopes and hazards. Our guide Muhammed I coined Wadiman. He even gave me his flip flops halfway through as I had abandoned my gripless Kurt Geigers. 

You can have accidents down in the gorge. In fact, if you Google Snake Gorge you'll come up with 'Snake Gorge Oman' followed by 'Snake Gorge Oman Deaths'. Luckily I only learnt about the horror stories after we had successfully negotiated this beautiful canyon. 

My advice is leave your belongings, get a Go-Pro or a waterproof case for your mobile. It's not Mission Impossible, but not for snowflakes neither. 

FAZAYAH BEACH

As part of our trip to Oman we caught a flight down to Salalah. This is where you'll find the better beaches. We were warned that there is not much else to do in Salalah.

However, I encourage you to make the trip. Either a 12 hour car ride or a short flight. It's the best way to decompress after what could be a vigorous few days in and around Oman. 

But there are many things to see in Salalah. The Frankincense trees are UNESCO protected and only grow in this part of the world. There is a waterfall and some beautiful coastal views. 

Lastly, you can drive down to the Fazayah Beach where you'll find the Raysut II wreck grounded during a cyclone in May 2018. 

I have posted a full guide on my own YouTube site for people wanting to know more. If you have any questions on your upcoming tour of Oman then please get in touch by leaving a comment in one of the videos. 

Blog Post Written by Peter Brooker from Human Research.

MASON AND SONS | Tailoring House of James Bond

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The company that has single handedly resurrected the original tailoring house of James Bond. Mason & Sons are an established e-tailor that house many concessions from established British fashion houses such as John Smedley, Baracuta and Fred Perry to name but a few.

They also provide a bespoke service run by appointment only from their Headquarters in Montagu Square, the very building where John and Yoko resided in the 60’s and was subsequently owned by Ringo Starr.

It’s argued that the brands USP is their ownership and revival of classic heritage brands such as Mr Fish and the original tailor to James Bond himself, Anthony Sinclair.

I reached out to Elliot Mason (the ‘sons’ of Mason & Sons) and asked him how they managed to acquire the lost brand and what are the younger generation looking for when it comes to tailoring.

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How did Richard Payne, an early apprentice of Anthony Sinclair get to inherit the Anthony Sinclair brand?

In the 1980's Anthony handed down the keys to his shop and his shears to his apprentice Richard Payne. Richard was there when Anthony was making suits for Connery, he knows all the tales and legends of Sinclair.

When Anthony passed away Richard carried on the business, cutting suits with the Anthony Sinclair label in, this went on for many years. Sadly, Richard fell ill and for years, the company fell dormant. When Richard was fighting fit again some years later he started cutting suits but putting his own name in.

 

How did your father David Mason get to meet Richard Payne and inherit the brand from him? 

My father was on Savile row and they (Richard and David) followed each other round the tailoring houses and they became quite good friends, and in 11’12 Richard unearthed how he was Anthony’s apprentice and owner of the business.

My father obviously couldn’t believe this and encouraged Richard to start up again and in 2012 together they relaunched. That same year the barbican announced the exhibition ‘50 years of Bond Style’ and went on its world tour. EON productions approached Richard and my father to recreate the Dr. NO midnight blue dinner suit and the Goldfinger suit.

 

How did they get blueprints to replicate the suits?

Well funnily enough there was one customer of my fathers who owned a suit from You Only Live Twice. It was a light grey suit in a herringbone and Holland and Sherry still make the same cloth because we’ve made them for a few other customers.

So Richard was able take the pattern from that suit, it was an original Connery suit. I don’t know how many are still alive, maybe one of two suits that are still in existence or that anybody knows where they are.

 

Are the younger clientele looking to dress more Connery?

For the past 3-4 years any of my friends that would need a suit for interviews would come in and ask for the conduit cut. They are taking inspiration from the way Connery dress. (Elliot is 25).

Nowadays most men want a slimmer fit, suppressed waist, less flare in the skirt, less drape in the chest, in the past 6-9 months its going the other way. Our clients want less fitted trousers. They’re adding pleats to their trousers, pleated trousers always have a wider fit. People don’t want the shrink to fit in the jacket so there is more drape in the chest. It’s going backwards, these things are cyclical, we’re almost at a halfway house between Connery-Craig, and its going towards Connery in terms for fit. 

They tend to take some time, so you’re see them on  the catwalk, pleats on the catwalk but will take some time to hit the high street.

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Can you give me an update on the Mr Fish collection please? I noticed it’s not on your website anymore.

Our first collection on Mason & Sons was a collection of printed shirts and we sold out. Then we did a collaborative version, that was always going to be for a limited time, now all those styles are available under the Mason & Sons label.

We are currently working on a new collection of Mr Fish ready-to-wear whilst working on bespoke orders for customers. More Mr Fish tailoring will revolve around double breasted garments. 

Michael sadly passed away last year in August. We are very much in contact with his family and they are in full support of what we’re doing.

 

Who is your favourite Bond when it comes to style?

Outside of Sean Connery it would be late Sir Roger Moore, he came to Montagu square, we made his clothes for his last few years of his life. I had the pleasure of answering the door and letting him.

My favourite scene is Goldfinger when he’s about to be chopped in half. The glen check 3 piece is the most iconic and is my favourite. Also in that film, he wears the casual long sleeve black polo that is very similar to the one John Smedley does now. So elegant.

 

And the next thing for Mason & Sons?

The next thing for us we’re remaking the barleycorn hacking jacket and cavalry twill trousers that Sean Connery wears in Goldfinger. It’s taken a very long time to perfect, but it’s there. We’ll do made to order for our customers.   

Catch the full interview with Elliot Mason on the From Tailors With Love Podcast available to download now in iTunes. 

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From Tailors With Love – The New Podcast Dedicated to the Style of James Bond

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Recently launched, From Tailors With Love is a new podcast available on iTunes that's dedicated to the style of James Bond, hosted by my good mate Pete Brooker from Human Research and editor of The Suits of James Bond, Matt Spaiser. 

Not only do they talk about the suits from the James Bond films, but they also do news bulletins from all the brands associated with the James Bond franchise and educate the listeners on the fabrics, the weaves, the patterns and the cuts of the suits worn by the cast. 

In the latest episode Matt and Pete talk about the Brioni suits that both Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson wore to their respected premieres. Mission Impossible Fallout and Skyscraper. Brioni provided the suits for the Bond franchise from Goldeneye up until and including Casino Royale

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Dwayne Johnson is wearing a silk and linen blend bespoke suit estimated to be worth $10,000 whilst Tom Cruise opted for a 3-piece midnight blue single breasted Brioni suit. Interesting features are the 6 button waist coat, not often seen or encouraged on short men. However, Tom looks the absolute business here. 

About the podcast Pete Brooker told me:

"It's a lot of fun to do. It combines two of my favourite things, fashion and James Bond films. Matt is really the authority and I'm just happy to play second wheel, chiming in with the odd crass reference about Bond boning Moneypenny. 

It also gives me the excuse to talk to people within the Bond universe. For example we spoke to Adam Brown, founder and creative director of Orlebar Brown, about the new 007 Swim short collection. He gave us the exclusive on a new Bond-based collection he is releasing next Spring so that's all coming up in the next episode out mid-August". - Peter Brooker

From Tailors With Love is a fortnightly show, 30 minutes long and available every other Wednesday from iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud. 

 

Your Bitesize Guide to Cambodia

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The Golden Temple Residence in Cambodia is one of the most enchanting hotels you could wish to visit. Located in the heart of Siem Reap, this modern hotel offers free airport shuttle services, and is only 4 miles away from the famous Angkor Wat – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Angkor Night Market is 100 yards away and whilst the hawker food market is an enjoyable experience, I'd steer clear of eating any of the street food. (Safe to say it did my constitution a disservice). 

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The hotel has this free architecture design, where nature and architecture are combined. This is achieved by an open restaurant that overlooks the pool and performance stage where daily Apsara entertainment shows can also be enjoyed. 

Remarkably the food is very cheap but it's the quality of the service that really distinguishes this hotel from its contemporaries. Getting a lift back to the airport in the owner’s vintage Cadillac was a real treat. 

 

Where to eat in Siem Reap? 

Well thanks to getting knocked out for a day or two by some dodgy street food, I was unable to dip into the local cuisine. By the time my stomach had climatised I just made do with the hotel food.

Although to say 'made do' is something of an understatement. There is a delectable spread of authentic Khmer-style meals and popular Western delights can be enjoyed at the on-site restaurant.

On the last night I summoned the strength to eat out and we ventured down Pub Street. Yep, that's a real name and a real place. It's like a gentrified version of Ha Noi, decent enough to kill a couple of hours.

 

Things to do in Siem Riep

I would say you'll only need one day in Angkor Wat. You'll need to get there as early as possible to avoid the mania. That said, it's still out of control with Chinese tourists. Everyone will head to the Ta Prohm Temple featured in Tomb Raider, which is understandable as it is spectacular. 

The foot massages are fun and relaxing. You'll get endlessly heckled into having one so you may as well. Take a book to read or something because you won't be stimulated with conversation. 

Food tour. Ok I am going to recommend this because it was utterly bananas. I watched our guide eat a whole manner of creepy crawlies. It was like something out of Temple of Doom. However, I will caveat that by saying I felt demonstrably ill the next day. It could have been the scorpions, the ants, the tarantulas (yes they eat them out there) who knows. 

For this tour we used Urban Adventures and a gentleman called Kim showed us round. He had a great sense of humour and I enjoyed his company immensely. 

There is the Reclining Buddha in at the top of Phnom Kulen. However, this was on the day where I was becoming dependent on nearby facilities so I let the group go on without me. 

I got 'ok-ish' reviews from the group on their return, but we had seen a lot of Buddha’s already in Bangkok by this point. 

The waterfall in Phnom Kulen was the only highlight of the tour for me that day, most of it was spent in the van convalescing. 

 

Last crucial tip about traveling to Cambodia

We got stiffed at the airport for not having any US dollars. We had to pay some odd VISA fine that really took the jam out of my doughnut. The airport is a zoo, not Cuba-zoo standards (that really is where travel bloggers go to die) but a soul destroying experience. 

 

My Journey into Blogging | A Massive Thanks to my '&FRIENDS' Contributing Authors

It seems a lifetime away from 2013 when I launched my menswear brand Hawkins & Shepherd and starting writing blog posts about shirts, fabrics and what knot to wear with your shirts. In 2014 I launched my eponymous Men's Lifestyle Blog. Back then, to begin with I was looking to drive more traffic to my menswear label, but it soon came apparent that the blog was developing into something separate and deserved its own platform. More and more people were coming to me for advice and I wanted to provide a place for people that wanted to enhance their style. 

It has been a major learning curve moving from my previous career which I was the Global Head of IT Communications & Networking for a major privately owned commodities trading house to starting up my own shirt label and subsequently men's lifestyle blog. Back then when I was building my previous career, I had no clue what a blog was and would have laughed at you if you suggested that I would give up a career that I've spent 15 years perfecting on a gamble for a better lifestyle; but that's exactly what I did. Some friends laughed, some suggested it wouldn't work, some were just worried for me but in most cases they were supportive. All of these reactions are forever indented into my memories which I call upon for inspiration and to make myself even more dedicated to succeed.

One thing I do miss about working for someone else is the holiday pay, the sick pay, actually the consistent pay in general - oh and the odd hangover day when you're on the clock getting paid but not really there mentally! Starting Hawking & Shepherd, not only took a lot of capital but also a hell of a lot of my hours and I think there is a massive misconception about life being greener when self-employed and now I know that to be correct. Since 2013, I've put every single penny that the business makes back into it, to help it grow, improve and to have the best chance of success in the long-term. It's really hard and have so much respect for anyone who has made a successful change in career or launched their own brand.  

Mid-way through 2017 I was thinking of ways to turn my self-titled blog into more of an online magazine, an encyclopedia of everything men's lifestyle. It was then that I decided to seek out other writers and journalists to contribute to carlthompson.co.uk and to help them launch themselves to a possibly difference audience to what they would usually come in contact with. The relationship had to be beneficial to all parties and we have achieved that. I wanted to take this opportunity at the start of 2018 to say a massive thanks to these writers who have contributed to the success of 2017 in which we've seen an increase of unique visitors by 85.8% compared to the previous year.

Unfortuently my budget doesn't stretch to have them all employed full-time. So I'm sure they will not mind if I did a shout out to each of them and say to feel free to contact them if you require unique content, copy-writing, event coverage etc.

Peter Brooker is a Professional Freelancer & Copywriter with SEO experience. Founder & Editor of Human Research. Lifestyle Editor & Podcast host for Menswear Style. Fashion Editor for The Essential Journal. He has interviewed leading ambassadors, athletes, celebrities, actors including David Gandy, Daniel Sturridge, Paul Weller, Evander Holyfield, Sir Steve Redgrave, David Haye, George Foreman, Dita Von Teese, Idris Elba, Jamie Redknapp, Sir Roger Moore and Stephen Hendry. Oh in case anyone is still reading he also writes for Viz and is unbeaten at crazy golf. 

Originally from Cornwall, Holly has two main passions in life: history and gin. With a degree in history and over 7 years of knowledge working in the gin industry, she now writes about both. Holly creates food recipes for artisan spirits companies and is always on the search to try and experiment with new flavours. You can follow her on Twitter @HollyHarwood and on Instagram @HollyHWood.

Patrick McAleenan is a freelance journalist, PR and Personal Trainer, based in London. He is a regular contributor to Telegraph Men, Metro, Attitude magazine and other high profile publications. He was a Stonewall Awards 2014 Journalist of the Year nominee and is currently writing his first work of fiction. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ontheptrain

Suzanne Bernie is the founder and Managing Director of Coathanger. Based in one of the fashion capitals of the World, London; Suzanne is a leading fashion stylist who helps clients develop a better relationship with their wardrobe and how they express themselves with fashion. With over 20 years of experience in the fashion industry and having founded Coathanger in 2002, Suzanne and her team of personal stylist’s aim to help people step out of their comfort zones and develop a whole new outlook on the role fashion plays in our everyday lives.

...and to the newest member signed up for 2018, I'm incredibly excited to introduce to you Christopher Modoo...

Christopher Modoo is the "Urbane Outfitter". With over 25 years experience in men's fashion he is an expert on style and etiquette.Having worked in all aspects of menswear from shop floor to senior creative, Christopher is now a freelance stylist and is working on launching his own label. As well as fashion, Christopher is a keen fan of the cinema and enjoys travel. He is married and lives in Hampton Court.