The London Lense: Paramount

At the top of Centre Point on the corner of Tottenham Court Road lives Paramount, a bar and restaurant with some of the most incredible views of the city.

The beautiful sunshine made yesterday evening the perfect time to sit and sip some very tasty cocktails (I’d highly recommend the Gran Milan) while watching the sun setting over London.

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Helen x

The News Room: Midweek(ish) Musings

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Afternoon Londoners! Okay so it’s not quite midweek musings, but, I was far too busy basking in the glorious sunshine so I think I’m forgiven. Here’s a little rundown of London news.

- The Commonwealth Games began this week after a dazzling, yet slightly criticised, opening ceremony. England are currently in the lead with 6 gold medals – go team England. I’m mostly excited for the diving…Tom Daley…

- The inquest into the death of Peaches Geldof was completed this week and revealed the young mother suffered with a severe heroine addiction which she hid from her family for many years.

- Boris Johnson unveiled plans to complete the Docklands Floating Village, an excellent idea we think, but has received mixed criticism with some suggesting it will turn the area into ‘yuppy central’ their words nor ours!

- British born singer Adele’s young toddler Angelo has won a case against the press for unlawfully using his image, he received a personal payout. Go Angelo!

-Rumours are rife that the one and only Jay Z and Queen B are heading to London town with their On The Run tour. Our ears are peeled for more information.

- Carol Vorderman won Rear of the Year again this week…nice bottom yes, but surely there are others out there. I mean, who chooses this award? I suspect its Mr Vorderman…

- One of our favourite places, London’s Imperial War Museum, has re-opened so if you’re in need of some culture this week, pay them a visit.

Have a good weekend, Londoners. It’s beach time for me!

Christina x

The Book Club: The Circle

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Imagine a world where everything you do is being watched, where everyone is connected and secrets are considered lies.

Dave Eggers The Circle is a novel based on a world like that. Initially appearing perfect, heading towards what is portrayed as a utopian society, The Circle itself is a social media corporation, masterminded by, as they are known, the Three Wise Men. The Circle has swallowed sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, and people use Zing, which is basically an impressive, state-of-the-art social media site. Every photo, every video, every comment is stored in the Cloud and deleting is not an option.

The story follows Mae Holland, who is starting a job at The Circle, and is overwhelmed and hugely impressed by the incredible facilities, the welcoming atmosphere and the huge opportunities the job creates. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work somewhere with free food, health care, the most up-to-date phones and tablets at your disposal, regular parties and comfortable free rooms if you can’t be bothered to go home in the evening? I won’t lie, when I first starting reading the book, I thought ‘Wow. That sounds brilliant!’ I then tried to imagine what it would be like if we could connect so easily to everyone, know where people were, have the ability to contact them, and the knowledge that no data we had – photos, videos, conversations would ever be lost…but the more I read of the book, the more I questioned my initial reaction.

I don’t want to ruin any of the story so won’t go into any more detail about what else goes on at The Circle, it’s an amazing read and well-worth it, and one of the best things about the story was just how much it made me think about the way in which we view society, and the way in which our lives are maybe becoming less private. A key quote from the book stuck in my mind once I’d finished – “Privacy is theft” – the notion that keeping something private is essentially robbing someone else of the chance to learn or to see something.

If anyone else has read The Circle, I’d love to know your thoughts!

Helen x

The Book Club: I Am Pilgrim

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I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes is one of those books that I just HAD to get to the end of. From the second I picked it up, I was absolutely hooked. Released just over a year ago, in July 2013, I Am Pilgrim is an espionage thriller, and just a few days ago it was announced that MGM has acquired the film rights to the novel.

The central character is a former spy, brought up by a wealthy American couple, who embarks on a secret mission known only to a handful of people, under the codename Pilgrim. The first 100 or so pages might seem a bit slow going, but there is so much history that needs to be filled in, it makes perfect sense to go through in detail.

The story begins at the scene of a seemingly perfect murder in New York, which, through a maze of stories and characters, leads us to the Saracen, an unknown, ghost-like figure, who has created a version of smallpox and intends to release this in America.

There is a lot of information to absorb in this story, but Hayes has created an epic tale, with an intricately woven narrative. Pilgrim, the hero and protagonist of the novel is believable and has just the right level of humanity for you to be able to understand why he is so driven in his hunt for the Saracen.

It’s a pretty huge read, but it was one of those books that, as soon as I’d started, I made the time for. I can’t wait for the film to come out, I’m intrigued to see who is cast as Pilgrim, but if you love crime stories, spy stories, thrillers, or just books that are excellently written and incredibly gripping, then I’d seriously recommend I Am Pilgrim.

Helen x

The Travel Diary: Barcelona

Sun, sea and sangria – what more could you want from a holiday?! I’ve always wanted to visit Barcelona, and so I was ridiculously excited to spend a long weekend there.

The weather was absolutely beautiful for the three days I spent there, and the trip was the perfect balance of culture and relaxation.

We stayed in the Hesperia Tower Hotel.

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Hands down the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in, with 28 floors, an amazing bar and one of the best gym/spas I’ve ever been to. Floor to ceiling windows in the rooms meant the view was absolutely breath taking. We were lucky enough to be on the 22nd floor, so I was able to wake up to this view every morning:

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I absolutely loved the whole trip, but I wanted to share some of my favourite places and best photos from the trip.

Park Güell – Home to some of the most stunning views over the city (although I wasn’t anticipating how far I’d have to walk to get there!) Park Güell is a garden complex, designed by Antoni Guadi, a Catalan architect. One of the tour books we had described it very accurately as a wonderland.

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(Park Güell)

La Ramblas – Definitely worth doing! This is a tree-lined street in Barcelona, connecting Placa de Catalunya and Port Vell, full of shops, restaurants, bars and market stands.

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(Placa de Catalunya)

Bus tour around the city – Really good idea, especially in a city that has so much to offer. Just buy a ticket and you can hop on/hop off as many times as you want. It was incredibly hot the day we took the bus, so just enjoyed watching the sites go by. Our bus (the Orange route) took us around some of the places used in the 1992 Olympics, and then we jumped off the bus at Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelona.

Beach! On our final day, we wanted to go to the beach. We’d spotted cable cars that went from the harbour, so we jumped in a taxi to get to those. Once we were on the cable cars however, we realised quickly that we were heading away from the harbour, and in fact we were in the Mountjuic cable cars, travelling to the top of Montjuic Hill. The views again were amazing, and luckily we were able to just stay in our car and loop back round to the bottom!

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(View from the cable car)

When we eventually got there, Barceloneta Beach was lovely. It was very busy, and runs alongside a very touristy area, but it was good to visit and relax on the sand for a couple of hours.

Port Vell – The harbour was one of my favourite spots of the weekend. It was lovely just to stroll down from La Ramblas to the beach along the harbour, and I was a big fan of the random giant lobster statue (he just looks so happy!)

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(Port Vell)

The beautiful thing about Barcelona is there really is something for everyone. Beach and bars, museums and churches, incredible parks and open spaces to explore and really amazing food. I had some incredible tapas, don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much salami in my life, and the sangria there obviously excellent, and not too pricey either! We quickly discovered that Barcelona can be done on a budget if needed, but there are plenty of ways to splash out if you want to treat yourself!

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It instantly became one of my favourite cities, so if you ever get the chance to go to Barcelona…go!

Helen x

The News Room: London Update

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Happy sunny Monday London! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend, whatever you were doing! I took the above photo at Hampstead Heath :)

Let’s get the weekend news update…

- J.K Rowling released a new piece of Harry Potter writing! Cue an awful lot of excitement from both Christina and I, watch this space for our thoughts on it… If you haven’t read it, you can find the link on our Twitter

- Boris Johnson has announced that the Metropolitan Police Service will now only recruit police constables from London in order to ensure that they ‘reflect the city they serve.’ Read more about it here: http://www.london24.com/news/crime/metropolitan_police_will_only_recruit_londoners_1_3682916

- Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in extra time to win the World Cup 2014 last night, with Mario Gotze scoring the winning goal in the 113th minute.

- Saturday night saw Holland beat Brazil in the bid to place third in the World Cup. Brazil lost by three goals to nil… Poor Brazil. I did feel for them in that game!

- Cheryl Cole got married again! She walked down the aisle in a very low-key ceremony with just four witnesses. She announced the news on her Instagram with a photo of her (huge) ring. She had been dating boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini for 3 months.

- Aaaaand Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes are having a baby! Not going to lie…that’ll be one cute kid!

Long may this sunshine continue!

Helen x