Today started as almost all of our sundays in London do, the Columbia Road Flower Market. And it was fabulous, as it always is. But after that we didn't know what to do, because the weather was unbelievably wonderful. Notice that last sentence? People in London don't know what to do when the weather is nice... After some deliberation, we opted to explore Hyde Park. Then we discovered these rad bikes that you can rent. The rest is history. Wobbly cycling and all. We had a blast on this very beautiful Sunday in London.
We didn't have high hopes for today. Southern England is half under water and there was a wind storm last night that threatened to smash our windows out (at least thats what it sounded like). But the weather seemed to improve by morning and so we stuck to our original plan to go see the The Garden Museum on the south bank of the Thames River. The highlight of the museum was definitely the exhibit by Rebecca Louise Law where she hung flowers from the ceiling in the main hall. Here is a few of our favourite images from the day.
Since we've been in London, one of our favourite things to do is go to markets and there are so many that by the time we leave we won't even make a dent on the market scene.
There are several reasons why we like markets so much:
1. Markets have awesome food. We've yet to go to a market in London that has bad food. They don't exist. And the food is cheap, which leads to our second reason...
2. Markets don't cost any money to visit. At least until you buy tons of stuff.
3. Pretty much every borough has it's own market, so we're always finding new places and discovering new things on our way to and from the markets. Don't be afraid to go off the main roads. Go down side streets and try new routes. It's the best way to discover a city.
Josh's classmates at school told him that the Camden Markets are particularly exciting. So we headed there on a Saturday to find out. The core of the market is an old horse stable. You can literally get lost for hours wandering the tunnels and little ally's. This market is a bit cheesy when it comes to the vendors, lots of cheap gimmicks for tourists and after a while the stalls start to blend and look the same... BUT there are gems to be found. The food alone is worth a visit.
The London borough of Islington stole my heart. Islington is what I picture when I think of England. The buildings are smaller and older, built in the classic victorian architecture. It's so close to the city centre but has a great small town vibe. It has lots of independent shops and cafe's while Camden Passage is a treasure trove of vintage and antique boutiques. A must visit for sure.
Easily one of my favourite things to do is go for walks along the Thames. Be it during the day or at night. During the day there often is street vendors selling caramelized nuts. If you pass them, buy three packs. They're amazing. Here are a couple photographs we took on our last walk.
Here we are again. The Columbia Road Flower Market has become a tradition. Be it in sun, wind or rain, nothing can hold me back. Every Sunday our house is graced with fresh new flowers. I don't see a better way to welcome the week ahead. So here are some pictures from week two at the market.
Sorry for being MIA lately. Life is just now starting to form some sort of a routine. Josh has started school and I've been slowing chipping away at my giant 'while in London' list. The first few days felt like we were tourists trying to see everything London had to offer as fast as we humanly could (a trait I think I inherited from my mom.) After doing that, we ended up needing a few days to let the swelling in our feet to go down, and our fingers to defrost. This week has been far more enjoyable. Josh's school doesn't start till 10:30 so that means quiet mornings with coffee and breakfast together, which is something we were never able to do back in Vancouver. I explore during the day, and work when it gets dark (it does so quite early.) Overall, it's been wonderful, that said, here is some stuff we've learned about London so far:
No street or park is ever the same. Going for walks never gets boring.
Always have an umbrella on you at all times. You never know when it will start raining. And it always starts raining when you aren't prepared.
Good coffee shops are few and far between, but once you find one it's so worth the £3.
That brings me to my next observation, the word 'cheap'.. does not exist. Josh and I have a rule now: Don't ever, EVER do currency conversions or think about how much something would cost in Vancouver. It's a downward spiral that never ends well.
Never, ever go in those cute red phone booths. Basically just avert your eyes in the opposite direction and keep moving.
Good ethnic food is everywhere. Too bad we're not very adventurous to try it for ourselves (we're picky foodies... If that is such a thing!).
Fish and chips are our new favourite.
Go to markets on an empty stomach. That way you can gorge on street vendors. Such a good idea.
The underground will make you go broke. So have an umbrella and water proof shoes so you can walk.
Don't practice your British accent when you're walking on the street. Apparently it offends people.
If people think you're from the US, they are very mean to you. So work into conversations as early as possible that you're Canadian. The customer service improves 100048420323920% once they don't think you're american.
Favourite coffee shops:
For a really good cup of pour over coffee, and great service - Monmouth in central London. It's really small and always busy so it's not the best place to go if you want to read or work. But if you're on the go, or in the area definitely a must go.
For a good place to go if you want to stay a while and work - Prufrock in Holborn area. It's a great space with a good vibe and of course great coffee. They have great espresso, and a variety of different methods for filtered coffee, including pour-over, aeropress, and some other cool ones that we had never heard of.
If your in East London: Shoreditch Grind is a laid-back coffee shop with a Mt. Pleasant feel (for you vancouverites reading this). They had a nice selection of pastries and it is also a cocktail bar by night.
Favourite fish and chips place so far - Golden Union in the Oxford Circus area.
Goal for this week: find the perfect pastry shop. Too bad this will involve a lot of sampling. Perhaps all the walking will counteract the calories going straight to muffin tops.... Fingers crossed.
I've heard a lot about London's famous sunday farmers markets, but this is the one I've been looking forward to the most. Open every Sunday from 8-2pm, the rule of thumb is the earlier you come the better the pick of flowers you get. Jet leg is still kicking our butts, and the only thing that got me out of bed was the buckets of Ranunculus calling my name. It was a little bit of a trek to East London but at 9am on a Sunday, London is a ghost town.
The market had an abundance of potted plants along with fresh cut flowers. Tulips, daffodils, ranunculus, anemones, hyacynth, hydrangeas, eucalyptus, those are just the few I knew the names of. I wouldn't exactly say the flowers were cheap but nothing here in London is cheap. It's a realization we've been forced to face very quickly. Most spring flowers were 3 bunches for £10, or £4/bunch.
After realizing that we didn't have a vase (and trying to find the cheapest one we could), we began the search for our flowers. I had my mind set on ranunculus and anemones, but there were so many beautiful flowers, Josh literally had to pull me out of the market with my few bunches in hand or I would've been buying vendors out of their stock.
These are some of the pictures from our flower market adventure.
Today we woke up to this kind of a day (see below). Literally could not be more opposite than yesterday.
Blue sky. Sun. and very little wind.
So we began the day thinking we would go to the Tower of London. and we did go the Tower of London, but then we didn't. It cost £21. Each. Forget it. We're poor. It was too sunny to spend the whole day in one dumb fort. So we took pictures of the outside and then proceeded to see as many of the outsides (because the outside doesn't cost money) of epic London buildings as we could. We saw Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, Westminister Palace, St. Pauls Cathedral and the London Eye.
Probably the highlight for me (Josh) was Fabrique. A swedish bakery that served us up a cinnamon bun and pain au chocolate respectively, alongside some tasty swedish coffee roasted by JOHAN & NYSTRÖM. It was worth the haul out to the hood of East London. If anyone would come and visit us, we could buy one of their loaves of bread that cost £10 (about $17.50 CAD) and are the size of a small child. epic.