Idea Store Whitechapel

If you love reading like me then the Idea Store library in Whitechapel is the place for you; it is home to largest collection of books, audiobooks, magazines and CDs and DVDs in Tower Hamlets.

The library is a short walk away from Whitechapel Tube Station and can also be reached by buses 25, 106, 205, and 254. From street view its unusual architecture can easily be mistaken for a contemporary art gallery.

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The Idea Store from Whitechapel High Street

There are four floors; on the ground floor you will find the DVD and CD section where you can pretty much find the latest releases. If you sign up to become an Idea Store member you can borrow anything for free, just make sure to return your borrowed items back on time to avoid being charged with late fees.

On the upper floors you will be able to access the large collection of fiction and non-fiction books. There are also plenty of individual desks which is great if you are looking for a place to study. Most of the desks have electric sockets so you can plug in your media device. The library also offers complimentary WiFi and you can book a computer on the first floor. I like to study at the Idea Store as other people using the library are mostly considerate and keep the noise level down. In addition, the large windows allow a lot of sunlight into the building and there are water coolers on each floor so you can help yourself to some delicious H20!

If you are feeling hungry visit the café located on the top floor which has a stunning view of the gherkin and the rest of the city. You can buy a sandwich and a hot drink here but there’s also a Sainsbury’s supermarket just behind the library, or you can bring your own packed lunch (cold food only).

The Idea Store in Whitechapel is by far my favourite library in East London, and signing up is pretty easy just enquire at the help desk on the ground floor.

Written by RC

#LoveShadwell

Growing up in Shadwell in East London I’ve also grown to love a lot about my area. Some of the things I love about Shadwell include its diverse community, excellent transport links and vibrant Watney Market where I can buy fresh fruit and vegetables at bargain prices, much cheaper than in the supermarket I must say!

As of recent, St George in the East Church were running a #loveshadwell twitter campaign asking what local residents love about their neighbourhood and what they would they would like to see changed – which I think is a great way to involve the community in the development of the area. The answers would then be projected on the side of the church on most evenings.

Personally, I would love to see more public amenities being promoted. One of my go-to spots is the King Edward VII Memorial Park which is located south of The Highway and easily reached by bus routes D3 and 100.

The park is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the scenic view of the Canary Wharf skyline. There’s also a regular running club run by Fitability here every Saturday, as well as a bowling green and a tennis court, so it’s a perfect place for anyone looking to become more active.

I’d also recommend taking a date here for a romantic stroll, especially during the summer evening as it’s quite a beautiful sight when the city lights switch on.

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Another gem in the area is the ‘The Chicken & Fish Shop’ restaurant. Located opposite the Shadwell DLR station, this family owned business only uses fresh fish for their fish and chips, and arguably serves the best in the area and it’s quite affordable too – costing less than a tenner.

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Have you ever been to Shadwell? Tell me what you love about the area and don’t forget to tweet using the #loveshadwell tag!

Written by Ray C

5 tips to have an affordable Valentine’s Day in London

Valentine’s Day is just around corner and if you’re on a budget and stuck on ideas on what to do here are my 5 tips on how to have an affordable Valentine’s Day in the city.

1. Take a vintage bus ride across London. The 15H is the only surviving Routemaster route in the city and departs every 20mins from 9:30am till 7:30pm daily from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square passing iconic landmarks like the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral. Best of all it only costs £1.50 for a single journey on Oyster PAYG.

2. Go for a walk along the Bankside/Southbank. Riverside walking may be cold in February but when the lights come on during the evening the city has never looked so romantic. You can purchase a hot drink to keep you warm or dine in at the Pizza Express in Bankside which offers a lovely view of the city.

3. Visit an iconic London landmark for breath-taking views of the London skyline. What’s more romantic than watching the sunset from above ground? The Monument in the City of London offers some amazing views. For full details check out my blog entry about The Monument by clicking here.

4. Dine in! Impress your date with your cooking skills – it’s a budget-friendly alternative to eating out. But if you’re really worried you might burn the kitchen down then purchase a ‘Valentine’s Day Dine In’ meal for two. Getreading lists the best offers available in popular supermarkets chains including M&S and Waitrose.

5. Purchase the perfect Valentines gift online and save money through cashback. Sign up to cashback sites like Quidco and Topcashback to get cashback across many UK online retailers. In addition, Groupon an online marketplace offering discounted activities; travel; and goods are currently offering 25% off for new customers.

Written by RC

How to get yourself a student card while you’re not studying at university

Living in London can be very expensive so I always go in search of deals and discounts at shops and restaurants. I’m not ashamed about this because I believe if you’re young and saving up for a future it’s the smartest thing to do.

When I graduated from university I missed being able to get student discount, but luckily I’ve found out the quickest and legal way to become a student without having to go to university again. And no this is not a scam it’s the real deal!!

By following these instructions you’ll be able to purchase an NUS card and gets access to many discounts across the UK and internationally saving you a lot of money in the long-term. *To see the full list of discount visit https://www.nus.org.uk/en/nus-extra/discounts/

Firstly, copy and paste http://www.shawacademy.com/learning/?product=foxtonuk&lang=en into the URL bar. Then select one of the free courses available with Shawacademy, and perhaps select a course which you are interested in learning.

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Once you’ve selected a course enter your details, and click continue. You won’t be asked for your credit or debit card details as this is a free course. Shawacademy will then send an email to verify your sign up. Log into your email account and open the email to verify your account and start your 30 day free trial.

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Once you’re inside your Shawacademy account you will see the course you’ve signed up to.

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Now to get your student card visit http://www.nus.org.uk and click ‘buy your student card now’. Don’t forget to type in your email address!

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Enter ‘E Careers’ as your place of study, then click continue.

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Set the start month/year of study as the current month and year, and the end month/year of study as one year from the current month and year. Choose ‘professional/vocation’ for both course level and course discipline, and then continue.

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You are then presented with the option of buying an NUS card valid for either 1, 2, or 3 years. I highly recommend 3 years.

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Now continue completing the application and once you’ve paid for your NUS card it will take up to a week to arrive. You will be notified by email to inform you when your card has been dispatched.

Once you’ve received your NUS card you can start shopping! Enjoy 🙂

I’ve received mine so you know it actually works!

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Written by RC

Free Megabus coach trip to Wales

Sometimes living in London can be really draining, so a day escape from the Big Smoke can be rejuvenating.

Last month, I managed to book two free return tickets (including a 50p booking fee) for me and my mum from London to Cardiff, Wales travelling by Megabus coach.

Megabus is a low-fares coach provider currently offering 20,000 FREE seats to 90 destinations across the UK between the 9th of January and the 9th of February.

On the 21st of January, we arrived 8am at Victoria Coach Station in London where we boarded the Megabus coach bound for Cardiff.  The coach was clean and fortunately did not have a ‘weird’ coach smell that I experienced a lot when travelling on coaches when I was younger. There was also generous leg room and heating which made the 4 hour journey a very warm and comfortable one. Additionally, there was an on-board toilet (also clean) and free Wi-Fi. The coach arrived at the Kingsway stop in Cardiff which was also the pick-up point for our return journey.

Cardiff is a beautiful and friendly city home to landmarks like Cardiff Bay, the Wales Millennium Centre arts complex and delicious Welsh cakes – it was definitely worth the visit.

Here are some photos I took during the day!

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The green and red Welsh flags decorate the city cente streets

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You’ll find Welsh cakes being freshly prepared inside the historic Cardiff Market

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Cardiff Bay is a perfect place to relax and unwind

Moreover, the main shopping area is walking distance from the Megabus stop with mostly high street shops you will find across the country.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and get some winter sun by booking your free seat on Megabus today via http://uk.megabus.com/20000-free-seats-in-our-massive-giveaway.aspx

Written by RC

Paris on a budget

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time, and this applies to short breaks and long vacations. Preparation and planning for a holiday is very important. By researching your destination weeks in advanced you can set yourself an appropriate budget to spend on travel, food, accommodation and entertainment.

Paris Review

Like London, Paris is an expensive city to live in but if you have the opportunity to visit I recommend it as it is a city that offers a lot of history and culture.  This article offers tips to make sure you have the best Parisian experience on a small budget.

Getting to Paris:  You can take the coach but the Eurostar train is the fastest way to travel into central Paris with journeys taking less than 3 hours. Trains depart from Kings Cross in London and arrive at Gare du Nord in Paris as early as 9.30 am. A return journey usually costs £78, but if you are lucky to purchase a ticket during their sales you can purchase a seat for only £58 (saving you £20). Personally, I enjoy traveling by Eurostar train as seats are quite comfortable, and there is also an electrical plug next your seat so you can charge your personal electronic devices.

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Travelling around Paris: If you are staying more than a day in Paris then travelling by foot is the best way to explore the city, however if you are short of time then taking the Metro system is the quickest way to get around. Purchasing a Ticket Mobilis covering zones 1 and 2 (central Paris excluding La Defense and Disneyland) costs €7, and is equivalent to a 24 hour travel card valid until 4 am the following day. It will enable you to hop on and hop off the metro system (excluding RER lines) and the bus network.

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Mobilis  – 24 hour bus and underground ticket

Views of Paris: Make sure to visit Montparnasse Tower for the sweeping views of the city. The tower is easily reached by taking the number (4) metro line towards Marie de Montrouge. Visiting the tower is a perfect way to end the day as the city lights brighten up the night sky making the Parisian skylinelook even more beautiful. For travellers under 26 years old the viewing platform from the Arc de Triomphe is free and the view there is just as amazing.

­­­­­Connecting in Paris:  Any social media addict will understand that using a smartphone without internet is like living without oxygen and water. The internet has become integrated with our everyday lives that we need it everywhere. So if you don’t have a prepaid plan with your mobile network then you can expect expensive data roaming charges. However, Paris is a city which offers plenty of reliable Wi-Fi spots, which means you can Snapchat your friends at the top of the Montparnasse tower.

However, be warned as Wi-Fi can drain out your battery really easily so creating an itinerary before travelling to Paris, as well as carrying maps and guidebooks would be best to avoid using navigation apps to get around the city.

Eating in Paris: There’s nothing embarrassing about bringing your own packed lunch. As far as I know there are currently no restrictions taking food with you on board the Eurostar so you can bring your homemade sandwiches and other snacks. If it’s a sunny day then why not have a picnic as there are many beautiful parks around the city, but I recommend the ‘Champ de Mars’ located next to the Eiffel Tower.

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Also, there is a chain store called Monoprix almost everywhere in the city which I can only describe as the French equivalent to British store Marks & Spencers. They offer clothing, homeware and gifts, as well as a supermarket. You can buy an assortment of French food here for less than 10 euros. But if you are feeling homesick then there are fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Union Burger (which is similar to Burger King).

To summarise, be wise and spend less in Paris as it could mean you have some money left over to save for your next European adventure.

Written and edited by RC

The Monument Experience

When I was a child I had a great fear of heights and I remember avoiding every building floor above the fourth level, but since I have grown out of my phobia and I have come to appreciate the scenic views from tall heights.

On a very cold and sunny Sunday morning I visited the Monument – a 202ft tower hidden between modern office buildings near the northern end of London Bridge. The nearest tube station is Monument Station served by the District and Circle lines, and numerous central London bus routes, including Routemaster bus 15, stop within short walking distance from the tower.

At ground level the Monument looks strikingly similar to Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square, although much shorter in height. Additionally, the tower is topped with a majestic sculpture of a golden urn.

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The view of the Monument Tower from pedestrian level

Interestingly the tower was designed by architect Christopher Wren who is known for designing the grand St Paul’s Cathedral. The tower commemorates the rebuilding of the City of London which was destroyed by fire in 1666. Allegedly, the fire broke out in nearby Pudding Lane.

During my morning visit there were already plenty of visitors. I bought a concession ticket costing me £2.70, which is a bargain compared to similar attractions like the London Eye which costs £19 per person. Even the adult ticket price is significantly cheaper at £4 and a child ticket (under 16s) costs £2.

In order to access the viewing platform you must firstly walk up 331 steps, and believe me it was exhausting as I had to take a couple of breaks to rest. Furthermore, the staircase was also very busy with visitors walking down. A lift would have been ideal to use, however the tower is too small to have one installed.

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Looking down the staircase

When I reached the top I was rewarded by stunning panoramic views of the city. A metallic cage encloses the viewing platform protecting visitors from falling out – although I feel this ruins the opportunity to take good selfies.  But if you’re brave enough to hold your camera at the edge you can take really nice photos of the skyline,  just remember to be careful not to drop your phone!

Here are a few photos I took:

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Posing in front of the Shard with friend and YouTube Vlogger Felix Labwo

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Canary Wharf skyscrapers in the East

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Tower Bridge and City Hall down below

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The view overlooking the City of London where you can see the newly built office towers

To summarise my experience; it took no longer than 30 minutes and I even received a certificate for visiting. My only criticism would be the long flights of stairs to climb. However, this should not prevent you from visiting as the Monument offers spectacular views of the city.

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My certificate of achievement

*The Monument is open between 9:30 am and 5 pm daily until April. For more information check out: http://www.themonument.info/

Written and edited by RC