Category: travel

photography travel

Destination: Hastings

Hastings Town and Beach, East Sussex

This week, summer finally decided to come to England! Planning ahead for trips in the UK is difficult because the weather is always unpredictable. But with temperatures in the high 80s yesterday, you can bet all I wanted to do was be somewhere near a beach. Brighton is the usual hot spot, but last time I went there, my friends and I had to stand in the aisle the for the entire journey because the train was so jam packed with beach-goers who had the same idea that we did. I wanted a beach without the crowds and a little variety as far as things to do and see.

East of Brighton, along the coast between Eastbourne and Dover, is the ancient town of Hastings. Hastings dates back to the 6th Century, although it’s claim to fame was the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when William the Conquerer invaded from France and killed the last Saxon King, paving the way for the Norman Conquest of England.  There are still remnants of the Normans’ time in Hastings, most notably the ruins of Hastings Castle overlooking the sea. In the early 1800s, it became a smuggler’s port, with natural and hand carved caves in the cliffs below the castle where smuggled goods would be hidden. The caves also served as an air raid shelter during WWII when the town took hits from German bombs. Although not as industrious as it once was, Hastings is still an active fishing town with a  seaside full of carnival rides and other tourist attractions.

I went with my friend Robbie. Our three goals were to eat seafood and visit the castle and smuggler’s caves. It turns out that even on a Saturday in August, Hastings’ two biggest attractions close at 5pm. The most happening seafood restaurant was also booked out for the evening. So we made do with pints in the Pump House pub and a walk along the mostly empty beach at sunset, and you know what? It was a damn fine substitute if I do say so myself. A wonderful way to spend what has surely been the hottest day this summer.

Hastings can be reached on the Southwest train services from London Victoria and London Bridge.

All photos © Kendra Bean and are linked to my Flickr account.

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london photography travel

Exploring London: Highgate Cemetery

After finishing grad school last September, I was constantly stressed out about being in the dreaded Transition Phase. I’m sure anyone who reads this can relate to that state of mind–you’ve finished school; you have a good degree; so what are you going to do with your life? Wait, didn’t you already go through this after getting your BA?

For five months, I constantly worried about finding a job so I could stay in London. And for those five months, I had way too much time on my hands. Now, between working two jobs, I feel like my free time is practically non-existent. Stress and I have been on intimate terms for a long time, and as someone who is prone to anxiety, it’s really important for me to take opportunities that allow me to just chill out. My go-to method for mentally unwinding is photography. When I can, I like to grab my camera and head out with a friend, or solo, to take photos around London.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Anthony and I decided to go on a photo walk in what is possibly my favorite part of London. Highgate is a beautiful village bordering Hampstead Heath and the ancient Highgate Wood. Its biggest tourist attraction is the hauntingly atmospheric victorian cemetery where many notable people, including Karl Marx, George Elliot, Ralph Richardson, Jean Simmons, Lucian Freud, and most of Charles Dickens’ family, have found their final resting place.

Highgate Cemetery is split into two sections spanning either side of Swains Lane. The East Cemetery is open to the public for a small fee. The West Cemetery, often referenced in film and literature, is accessible by guided tour only. We chose the West Cemetery and were led on a trek by a quirky guide who regaled us with stories of the cemetery’s famous inhabitants and put to rest the urban legend of the Highgate Vampire. No ghosts or vampires were seen on our tour, but it’s easy to see why such stories abound in this quaint corner of North London…

Highgate Wood

Highgate Cemetery

Cedar of Lebanon, Highate Cemetery

Circle of Lebanon, Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery
White Eagle Hill, Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery is roughly a 10 minute walk from either Archway or Highgate tube stations (Northern Line)

london photography travel

Autumn in London

The ponds Kenwood House

As we enter November, autumn will soon start to give way to the bare trees and cold, wet days of winter. But for now, the season is still in full bloom, even in here London. Although a sprawling metropolis, London offers plenty of sectioned-off green space filled with beautiful foliage and wildlife that have populated the area for centuries. Many of the largest parks and estate grounds were bequeathed by royalty, so they remain immaculately kept and are enjoyed by thousands, if not millions of visitors each year. This past week, in between sending out job applications and watching copious amounts of films rented from the Hornsey Library, I took my camera out to try and capture some of the magnificent color and beauty of autumn in the capitol.

Kenwood House is a certified English Heritage-managed stately home in Hampstead, North London. I took the 210 from Finsbury Park which dropped me off right in front of the gates.The house itself dates back to the 16th century and is surrounded by luscious grounds with duck ponds, bogs, romantic gardens and dark woodland bordering Hampstead Heath. Paths meander through the woods for what seem like miles, shrouded in a canopy of luscious orange, yellow, red and brown.  I wanted to take advantage of the soft afternoon light, so I brought along my new 50mm f/1.4 lens, an early Christmas present from my mom, and snapped away! It is very tranquil and beautiful this time of year, and the best part about Kenwood House is that it’s free.

The Regent’s Park borders Primrose Hill and Baker Street in central London, and is home to the London Zoo. This huge park has beautiful was endowed by Henry VIII as a hunting ground and now has rose gardens, large sports grounds, and the famous Open Air Theatre, where Vivien Leigh once played Anne Boleyn in a 1936 production of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. Sit by the lake and feed the birds or stroll through the immaculate gardens with a cup of coffee. Whatever you fancy, be sure to wear a scarf to keep you warm.

All photos in this post © Kendra Bean/

photography the oliviers travel

Destination: Stratford Upon Avon

Holy Trinity Church Shakespeare's grave

For someone who’s been dead for nearly 400 years, William Shakespeare sure knows how to make a living. His birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, is a virtual tourist trap for travelers who come from far and wide wanting to indulge in all things Shakespeare-related. One can learn of the town’s Tudor history at Falstaffs Experience, see plays come to life at the famous Royal Shakespeare Company, and even visit the bard’s final resting place in the Holy Trinity church–all for a price, of course.

Luckily, I had no need to elicit the services of a conspicuous-looking man in a doublet and lace, leather gloves and a wide brimmed hat on my visit to Stratford yesterday. My tour guide was the lovely Emma Parry, a long-time friend of who invited me up to have a look around. Being a fellow Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier fan, Emma knew all of the best sites to see.

We had lunch in a great restaurant called Edward Moon. The leek and potato soup, and mushroom and madiera chicken were fantastic–no room left for crème brûlée, sadly! Afterward, we took a walk to the Royal Shakespeare Company to see where the Oliviers performed in Macbeth, Titus Andronicus and Twelfth Night during the famous 1955 season. Although it was overcast, the walk offered beautiful views of the theatre and parkland on both sides of the River Avon. We stopped by the Holy Trinity church to pay a visit to Shakespeare himself and saw the memorial tree that had been dedicated to Vivien Leigh.

Our tour of Stratford was followed by a drive in the country to visit Emma’s home town, Chipping Campden, and then on to Broadway, both in the picturesque Cotswolds. We enjoyed afternoon tea with fresh scones, clotted cream and home-made jam at the Bantam Tea Rooms in Chipping Campden before heading over to Broadway to buy sweets in the old fashioned candy shop. The Cotswolds are the definition of a picturesque English village, and look like something out of a Thomas Kincaide painting. One of the most notable buildings in Broadway is the Lygon Arms. This famous hotel has served as a rendezvous spot for many famous people over the centuries. Notable guests have included Oliver Cromwell, J.M. Barrie, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, and the Kennedys.

It was wonderful to explore the heart of England with a kindred spirit. I honestly feel very lucky that this website has brought me in contact with so many amazing people. Thanks again for being a fabulous tour guide, Emma!

All photos in his post © Kendra Bean/

photography the oliviers travel

Return to Notley Abbey

31 Days of the Oliviers {Day 7}

I mentioned in a previous post my friend Zsazsa’s visit from Hungary. Because she had missed the Weekend with the Oliviers back in May, we decided to take a trip out to Notley Abbey. I admit I was a bit nervous about doing so, for fear there would possibly be a wedding on. I needn’t have worried. All was quiet save for a few couples driving up to view it as a possible wedding location. The day was windy and overcast, but Autumn was definitely definitely set in, turning Larry’s Lime Walk to a brilliant yellow and brown. The various trees around the house were splashed with fiery reds and oranges.

I’ve already written about my experiences at Notley, so I asked Zsazsa if she’d like to write about her own, and will post her account later. For now, she’s given me permission to post some of the photos she took. As you may already know, Zsazsa is a brilliant photographer, and she perfectly captured the aura of romance and history that surrounds Vivien Leigh’s and Laurence Olivier’s former country estate.

See more of her work here.

Photos in this post © Zsazsa Ribai.
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