Uncategorized Archive

Fun London Walk From Tate Modern Across Westminster Bridge and Back Via St Pauls Cathedral

We took our London fun Thames walk in May. The River Thames can make an ideal walk as a first foray out into London for new visitors. Why is the River Thames embankment such a great choice?Well, it offers both the flavour of the real London atmosphere, and a high level of iconic architectural history in one short burst – Tate Modern, South Bank, Royal Festival Hall, Waterloo Station, London Eye, Thames Embankment, Westminster Bridge, Big Ben, Downing Street, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge. These London landmarks combine history, beautiful architecture and riverscapes with certainty – that is, newly-arrived visitors cant get lost! They go down one side of the River Thames and up the other, taking in many of London’s most famous landmarks and attractions on the way. Those with time to unwind and enjoy London can stop to explore these sights and venues, others can bookmark them on their map for next time – or at least take a photo of the outside!Another great reason to choose a Thames River walk early on in a fun London trip is that, combined with a simple map, this walk really helps new London visitors to get their bearings for sightseeing during the rest of the trip. The River Thames is an easy delineator, neatly cutting, as it does, the two halves of the historic capital city of England in two halves.Starting at the Tate Modern art gallery for example, tourists have an ideal opportunity to walk and to view contemporary modern art for free and even those with not much time can pop in, perhaps just to see one or two favourite pieces and similar works nearby. Walking left out of the gallery, scenic views can be enjoyed (and photos taken) of the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral across the water – providing a good bench-mark for London walkers wanting to get their bearings about where they are headed.Continuing left, a pleasant riverside stroll towards the Royal Festival Hall takes visiting walkers past a quaint hidden-away shopping quarter where there is an opportunity to take refreshments such as coffee or ice creams. In summer a festive spirit is in evidence with events such as Street Art exhibitions or sand castle art sculpture taking shape on the ‘beach’ of the Thames.More fun, particularly for those with kids, can be enjoyed at the little playground to the front of Waterloo Station, and by watching the street entertainers in the gardens and ‘promenade’ adjacent to the London Eye. Alas, visitors who have not bought advance tickets for the latter London attraction may not have time to schedule a ride here as well as a walk.Before reaching the uber photo opportunity stop of Westminster Bridge, sculpture can be appreciated either by paying to visit the Dali museum on the left, or just by stopping to admire the free exhibits outside. The giraffe is always popular with children and makes another good holiday photo opportunity.Great views and fun London photos of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben can be enjoyed from Westminster Bridge, and the walk continues over it, taking visitng London walkers along past The Houses of Parliament and Parliament Square. Originally called The Palace of Westminster, this iconic building was built over the place where Edward the Confessor ordered the first palace to be constructed in the 11th century. This was the residence of English kings until 1512.Moving on, via Parliament Street and Whitehall, this fun London walk brings visitors to Downing Street. Number 10 was presented by King George 11 in 1732 to the then Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, who wanted it to be made available to subsequent first Lords of the Treasury, interestingly, the first role of English prime ministers to this day!Fit walkers who appreciate the fresh air, exercise and sightseeing can continue along Victoria Embankment towards Blackfriars, The City and their eventual destinations – St Paul’s Cathedral and back over The Millennium Bridge. Those whose tired legs need a little help by now have the options of an eight minute tube ride to Mansion House.Those who choose to walk may find the working London atmosphere of The City and Fleet St an interesting contemporary comparison, should they choose to take a detour from the river. The street furniture and greenery of the vintage lamps and the park, not to mention more photo opportunities at Cleopatra’s Needle are the alternative on the more river-hugging route closer to the Thames. Good shots of the London Eye (which walkers left a short while ago) can be taken here too.The present church of St Paul’s Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and makes an atmospheric and peaceful place to sit and rest, either inside or outside, and for reflecting upon the architecture and the time it took to build – 33 years up to 1708. Originally, however, there had been a church on the spot in 608.From here it is thankfully just a short distance back to the Millennium Bridge and the start of the fun London walk.

An Introduction to Lifestyle Living in South Africa

The idea of lifestyle living has redefined the South African property market in recent years. A concept that has numerous applications, it appeals to those who want the very best of life. This is because it arouses an emotional desire for true quality and a yearning to live a life of choice.While not unlike lifestyle living in other countries, the concept has a special appeal within the African context, with South Africa offering a combination of raw scenic beauty, African adventure, an extraordinarily rich cultural heritage, and world-class facilities and living standards. Gone are the images of lions roaming the streets of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Instead the famous Big Five live in well managed game parks while the streets of South Africa’s top cities offer shops and restaurants that promise First World luxuries and treats at affordable prices – especially for those who visit from foreign lands.So it is not surprising that lifestyle living is a concept that appeals to both foreigners and locals alike.Nestled between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, South Africa is the 25th largest country in the world, covering an area of 1,221,040 square kilometres or 471,446 square miles. It has a population of more than 47-million people from a wide variety of cultures and religious beliefs. There are nine official languages and nine provinces, making the country truly a rainbow nation.Anyone looking for property opportunities within this southern-most country in Africa will find that property agents enthusiastically espouse the concept of lifestyle living. On the other hand, magazines published locally use the term loosely to describe just about anything that relates to quality gracious living: food and wine, health and beauty, and occasionally, property.The beauty of the lifestyle living theory is that it can be adapted to meet almost every discernible desire. That is undoubtedly why the term is often used to promote property values and desirability. As such, lifestyle living has defined its own place in a very competitive industry. And to many, it is absolutely irresistible.It is accepted that any type of lifestyle estate in this country will provide an exclusive home environment where you are secure and have easy access to the amenities you value. Thousands of gated communities in towns and cities across South Africa meet this basic definition. However quality lifestyle-living means a whole lot more than living in an upmarket housing estate densely packed with identical-looking mansions and triple garages.Quality rural lifestyle living is the connoisseur’s prize; far removed from city stress. Savvy developers of successful country lifestyle estates link the needs of buyers to lifestyle desires such as game farms, private nature reserves, golf, wine, horses and “gentleman” farming, whether on a full-time basis or “get-away” retreat within a few short hours drive from the city.Many international buyers want all the benefits of a “Farm in Africa” without the management worry or financial liability. For every buyer there is an environment that satisfies and soothes both the soul and the budget.Once you understand your options, you can look for the place of your dreams, just like I did.

Finance – More Than Number Crunchers

If you were to dissect the culture of a business, and you ask various people in an organization what the real roles of each department are, you’ll find the well-known dichotomy between “front office” and “back office” operations.Front office staff are the people who deal with customers. They might be the customer service department, the sales department, and sometimes the marketing department (depending on how involved the marketing department is in the sales cycle). Back office staff are usually the admin assistants, HR, and the killjoy of all businesses – the Finance department.In businesses I’ve observed, Finance departments often face silent derision or disrespect. Part of it is an us-versus-them mentality that comes out of the front office staff who feel their jobs are more difficult because they deal with customers (compared to Finance, who deal with numbers). And no one from the front office sends memos to the back office saying “please spend less time crunching the numbers” but it can feel like the back office is constantly memo-ing the front office with “watch this expenditure” or “spend less on client lunches”.Unfortunately, this view is supported by management at all levels that give Finance the nasty job of accounts receivable, the inputting-heavy job of accounts payable, and the dull job of budget forecasting. Compared to the highly creative marketing department and the edge-of-the-seat, in-the-trenches feeling of the sales department, finance is like the broccoli side dish on a plate of steak and fries.But it doesn’t have to be this way! Finance departments shouldn’t be relegated to the back office in the hopes that their sharp pencils won’t poke a customer in the eye! Finance departments can and should play a far more important role in the organization. Here are some ideas:

POSSIBILITY 1: Finance should be more about business strategy than number prophecy. When the Finance department hounds the sales managers to get in their budgets and then turns them around for a final target budget for the year, their role is reduced to mere numerical interpreter. But what if Finance sat down with sales and talked to them about how their numbers connected to expected outcomes? And then, what if Finance sat down with the executives of the company and actually worked out a forecast that was tied to what the market was anticipating! Imagine a world where Finance’s numbers were more than just a spreadsheet that gets pulled out at every quarterly review.

POSSIBILITY 2: Finance should be more about opportunity. Many sales managers have some limited view into which customers are sending business. But the view isn’t always perfect. Or complete. Finance should get involved to show how a customer is really impacting the business’ bottom line. If Finance and Sales talked to each other, Sales might be shocked to discover that their biggest client is actually less valuable than expected because of the amount of work involved in keeping them as clients, or they might discover that a seemingly profitable client isn’t profitable at all because their receivables get very, very old. Imagine a world where the Finance department can relate true business impacting information to Sales to tell them which opportunities are truly the most profitable.

POSSIBILITY 3: Finance should be selling, too. When Finance gets the job of following up on accounts receivables, they can potentially do more harm than good. Finance people are highly skilled at numbers, and they might be good “people-oriented” staff, but they are rarely trained in the art of sales. However, when a Finance person, tasked with accounts receivables, gets adequate training in receivables AND customer service AND sales, their success rate at getting the receivables paid can increase, but so will their success rate at winning more business.
There are so many more opportunities, too. Businesses should be using their accounts payable list as a prospecting list. They should be temporarily swapping roles between Finance and Sales for brief “see-how-the-other-side-does-it” days to enable new appreciation and new connections. Finance should sit in on sales calls to see why Sales sometimes feels like they need to bend the rules to close the deal (and Sales should shadow the work of Finance so they know what work needs to happen at the back-end if they don’t assess risk adequately during the sale).The bottom line for businesses should not be derived from a cloistered Finance department. Instead, a business can uncover new and exciting opportunities when it makes its Finance department an integral part of the entire business.

Contemporary Entertainment Centers

Contemporary entertainment centers or home theatre systems are available today in various colors and designs. A contemporary home theater includes DVD players, CD changers and wide screen TVs.With the surge in popularity of plasma and LCD projection TVs, entertainment centers are designed specifically to house them. There are many entertainment centers available that offer a lot of variety in designs and style. They are sleek and offer lots of storage options for CDs, books and other items.A wide range of contemporary designs is also available for smaller or regular TV’s and other entertainment devices. They can range from small units made by combining a stylish TV tabletop with a combination of drawers to larger column like structures with closed, as well as open, shelf space.For smaller floor spaces, there are many innovative designs of contemporary entertainment centers that take full advantage of the available space. When larger floor spaces are available, then wider and roomier designs are available.The price for a contemporary entertainment center can range anywhere from $800 to $8000. They can be purchased from local showrooms and also from the websites of leading dealers and manufacturers. It is essential to take advice from professional designers when choosing a contemporary entertainment center, as they can help customize it to individual tastes. Some websites offer the option of planning the entire layout of an entertainment unit online.The biggest advantage of a contemporary entertainment center is that it combines a sophisticated design with modern style. They are also designed to be flexible and versatile, and generally have more open shelf spaces as compared to the traditional styles. As genuine contemporary entertainment centers come with a hefty price tag, it is advisable to buy them either at wholesale prices, or when dealers offer special discounts as a promotional strategy.