Apsley Marina

Built in 2003, the Marina in the Apsley district of Hemel Hempstead is a compact mooring which is part of a smart regeneration project, providing boaters, either with the perfect stopping off place on your journey, or as a more permanent mooring.Due to it’s location on the previously mentioned Grand Union Canal, Apsley was an important Victorian Mill Town.

Located on the confluence of two rivers (the Gade and the Bulbourne), the area was an obvious location for a Mill. John Dickinson, the inventor of a new method of continuous paper-making, purchased an existing mill in the area in 1809. Due in part to his revolutionary method of manufacturing, the John Dickinson Stationary Company became, and remains to this day, one of the largest station manufactures in the world.


This one’s purely imagined, based on the assumption that if an Antarctic colleague were guest of honour in the nearest market town, one was surely expected to have him over to one’s stately home for tea or something (making sure to keep him well away from one’s unmarried sisters, of course). This assumes you can both reach your destination before killing each other.

I found this while digging through old art in search of something else. It was in a folder named ‘WHY’. I’m still laughing five years later, so I guess that’s why.

Apsleys At The Lanesborough

This weekend I visited Apsleys, a Heinz Beck restaurant in the hotel The Lanesborough situated on the Hyde Park Corner. Ed and I treated ourselves to the three course lunch, and it was just so good I just had to share. P.s I wish I could describe the food in more detail but extremely French waiters are quite hard to understand. !

This was the chef’s amuse-bouche, thewelcome appetizer to the restaurant which was a terrine burger with carrot and cucumber shavings and a canape stick which were both delicious. We were also given a shot of some type of puree.. with crispy lentils on top? That one was pretty interesting.. but still enjoyed the flavours. 

For starter we both chose to have the chef’s homemade pasta which was perfect al dente tortellini filled with warm ricotta that bursts in your mouth when eating. Surrounded by courgettes, aubergines and a rich tomato sauce. (This was my favourite).

For my main I chose the chicken with vanilla. Oh. My. Goodness. I will never be able to eat chicken again after tasting this as it was the most ‘moist’ and tender chicken I’ve ever eaten in my life. It also had perfectly cooked vegetables (as expected) and a apple sauce puree. 

This was Ed’s main which was the Iberian pig shoulder complemented again with the vegetable sides and apple puree. I sampled this too, and it was amazing. 

For dessert I had the Cucciolone; a beatifully presented three layer cake with a printed Apsleys chocolate sheet on one, a peach ice cream stick on the other and surrounded by glittery strawberry sauce. 

Ed’s dessert was the Surprise, a light cake with chocolate topping and a chocolate dipped stick on top, with a banana sorbet side. I have to say attention to detail in every dish was precise and really showed their michelin star quality. 

And as if we were not full enough we had cappuccinos and a selection of chocolates to finish.

Annnnd two hours later here are some photos of us very happy at the end of lunch. 


The Royal Albert Hall was never to be. Although we arrived, and took several moments admiring its opulence, afternoon matinees had resulted in a cancelation of all tours. 


We snapped a few shots, walked around the building, and eventually continued down Hyde Park.  There weren’t as many pigeon and squirrel hobos this time around, probably due to the off-again/on-again rain.  We crossed by areas previously glanced by on the first day.

The Aplsey House marked a considerable shift in time and focus.  Dover centered on the 1300s and World War II.  Windsor talked often about the House of Tudor.  It appeared a trend; locations would discuss their history but often orbit around one topic or one moment of history.  The Tower of London wallowed in a relatively brief time where they were executing people like it could somehow go out of fashion. 

The Aplsey House visited an era lacking in our vacation until then.  The House was made famous by the Duke of Wellington, renowned for his military campaign with the French, specifically his victory at the battle of Waterloo against the emperor and despot, Napoleon Bonaparte.  Napoleon was riding high on his second reign as ruler (long story) and his loss at the hands of Wellington proved more disastrous than the loss of men of prestige.  Exiled from his homeland, Napoleon found himself surrendering to the very people that defeated him, and the English deposited him on an island where he lived several years before finally dying of conspiracy-ridden stomach cancer. 

I know this and the scrutinized details because those events only just happened.  Until now, our tours were either conducted via local expert or most often by audio headset.  And although we were handed a headset immediately upon our arrival at Aplsey House, it was the button merchant tasked with the selling of trinkets to British Soldiers that got our attention.  As it turned out, the battle of Waterloo occurred 500 years ago to the week, and this region of the city, proud of its heritage, was conducting seven days of celebration including, but not limited to, actors performing both outside and inside the House.  The button merchant was not a soldier, never picked up a rifle, but he slogged in the mud side-by-side those charged with the killing of those across a very narrow field.  In one of the larger and less majestic rooms (only slightly) this merchant paced a few feet from folding chairs occupied by attentive audience members and talked about the details of the battle which, to him, only occurred the day before.  After the presentation, he fielded questions; most dealing with the events after Waterloo, the fate of Napoleon, and the legacy Wellington left behind.

“Well, how could I be aware of such details, sir?  I’m not a necromancer.  I have no capacity for foresight, to peer into events which have yet occurred.  However, if were to wager an educated guess…” and then he would go about answering.  The most entertaining question was offered by an elderly individual that inquired about the theories revolving around Napoleon’s death, specifically the accusation that he was poisoned by the British to prevent a third rise to power.  When asked of his origin, the elderly man answered that he was from France.  Oh this was going to be good.  Very quickly, the merchant explained the discrepancies of such an allegation.  Napoleon knew that the British wouldn’t kill him, which was why he surrendered to them in the first place.  The British spent considerable money organizing his exile; they could have just executed him after the trial.  And there was nothing to gain by his death, as he was considerably unpopular within his own country.  In fact, the vast majority of the French despised him for his failures in war and public policy.  They didn’t want him back, but conveniently enough, they wouldn’t have to deal with such an eventuality.  How fitting.

After posing for a few photos, the entire house was emptied to follow a line of Wellington “soldiers”, muskets locked in hand and resting on shoulders.  By command of their captain and synchronized by their drummer, the company made their way to the intersection and entered Hyde Park across the street.  In shadow of the Wellington Arch, also made in tribute to the events commemorated this week, the men conducted firing drills, following the routine of priming and loading of their muskets, the aiming and firing, ending with a pronounced bang.  They shouted “BANG”; the weapons didn’t actually fire. 

After this, we entered the Wellington Arch; it actually had an elevator.  We snapped a few shots from its pinnacle and re-entered the park, bound for Buckingham Palace.  It wasn’t so much a destination as a place to walk by.  There were other museums in the area, but by this time most were closed.  We walked The Mall from Buckingham to the Horse Guards Parade.  Once again, any noteworthy events here had played out hours earlier.  I had seen photos of grand pageantry in choreographed marches with men and horses.  Now, all we had was a wide field of sand and closed exhibits.  I filled up the camera and we made our way back to Trafalgar Square…where we stumbled into a concert.

We had seen signs for the West End Live but gave it no mind, thinking we would never be back in this area.  In the intervening days, they had built a concert stage, erected speakers and security fencing, and enlisted local artists to perform to a mostly free audience.  This was a good moment of relaxation and we finished off our tour this day with the few final sets of modernized jazz.  Over all too soon, we walked over to Piccadilly Circus.  My culinary radar was on the hunt for the Japanese Center, a building with a dozen different restaurants and shops.  Odd we never made it there, finding another Japanese place en route.  It was called Toku.