Monthly Archives: March 2018

London

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About London But Were Afraid to Ask II

Every year around Easter, summer and Christmas my inbox explodes with questions from people who found my blog and want to know more about things to do and see in London, which always surprises me as the internet is so full of recommendations, but I’m happy to share the most frequently asked ones.

The best neighbourhood to stay?

The closer to Central London the more expensive it gets, but the further out the more you’ll pay for travel. If it’s a short trip and you don’t want to travel too much then consider paying more for a hotel. I would say zone 2/3 to save money on travelcards and travel time. For Air BnB look at areas closer to the famous one. Camden too expensive? Try Kentish Town! Shoreditch too steep? Look at Bethnal Green instead. Hostels can be found everywhere but some of my faves are The Clink (my very London Hostel), the Generator and St Christopper’s Inn.

What dessert or sweet treat would you recommend for someone visiting London for the first time and where?

Afternoon tea perhaps? Sketch is worthwhile, but I can imagine that’s not in everyone’s budget so you could check GroupOn for cheaper options. Marks & Spencers also offer afternoon tea at its big branches. My go-to treat is a Signature Slice from Timberyard, with GAIL’s carrot cake a close second, and pretty much any ice-cream from Chin Chin Labs.


What’s the best time of the year to visit the city?

I notice more tourists in the summer and around Christmas and that’s probably for a reason. And who am I to say anything else?

What are your recommendations of things to do in the London in the evening?

For me personally it’s watching whatever show I’m binging at the moment, but I imaginee that’s not what you’re in London for. But I love doing the walk from the London Eye to Tower Bridge as you get to see the famous sights in a different light. You can go see a movie, try your luck at a music venue, hope there’s a late night museum event on, chow down at a night street food market, check if there is a (pub) quiz anywhere around you or just go for a pint.

What top London attractions are worth paying for?

For me personally it was worth it paying to see a play Shakespeare’s Globe and visiting View From The Shard. The London Eye...not so much. You can get away with doing London on the cheap by sticking to the museums.

If I was visiting London for a weekend and wanted to have one brunch at the best most typical place, what do you recommend?

Hmm typical? How about traditional. A Sunday roast at a local pub? A Sunday Roast consists of meat, roast potatoes, gravy, roast vegetables and the delight known as Yorkshire Pudding (hint: it’s not pastry). I also think the brunch menu at Aster (Victoria) and German Gymnasium (King’s Cross) are great value for the money. They are more likely to have a queue so keep that in mind when planning your day.
maltby street market london

What the best food street market to visit?

I don’t know about the best, but my all time favourites are Maltby Street and Broadway Market as they are always fun and vibrant without getting too crowded.

Where would I find some great vintage shops?

I loved the East End Thrift Shop and all of my best buys came from that place, but they recently closed and sometimes have a pop up show. Beyond Retro in both Camden and Brick Lane and Rokit in Covent Garden have relatively ok priced vintage clothes.

Where can we find awesome vegetarian food in London?

I’m not a vegetarian, more a flexitarian so I don’t really hunt these down. The few veggie places I’ve been didn’t leave a big impression and often felt like they only had one seasoning in their spice rack. Most places in London have a vegetarian option which has never let me or my taste buds down. However I have it on good advice from a v. friend that long-running organic vegetarian diner Mildreds in Soho, The Gate chain and serve-yourself salad spot Tibits off Regent Street are all worth popping into.


Where can I find the best street art in London?

The most obvious one is in and around Brick Lane and Shoreditch where you’ll find all the spots that you’ve seen on Instagram. You’ll find the famous David Bowie just across from Brixton Station and I’ve also encountered nice examples while walking around in Camden, Kentish Town and Hackney.

What is the most important thing I need to know about London for a first time visit?

Stand on the right when on an escalator – especially during rush hour – and always ALWAYS! let people out of the tube carriage before going in. Also please don’t be so loud.

If you could eat at any one place in London for dinner, without regards to worry about price or reservations, where are you going?

Probably Duck & Waffle as it’s such a hassle to get to and if I could revisit one for the over the top experience it would be L’Atelier Robuchon.

Which is your favourite location in London from where you can see the entire city? Would you rate any of it better than London Eye?

When I lived in Kentish Town I loved walking to Hampstead Heath – it’s a green oasis and perfect to get away from the crowded city life and enjoy the view. But I imagine you might be looking for something more central, so why not go for the 360 degree panorama view from The Switch House at Tate Modern (free) or Sky Garden (also free, if you manage to get a reservation) or if you have budget, St. Paul’s Cathedral or View From The Shard are worth it too. I’m not a big fan of the London Eye and one of the most read posts on here here is actually the post on why I don’t like it. It might a fun experience, but don’t do it for the view.

Where would you say is the best breakfast place in London?

In Central London I like the Black Penny in Covent Garden/Holborn, followed by the nearby NY/Parisian style Balthazar. And if you are going South then Duck Egg Cafe at the Prince of Wales in Brixton or the pancakes at Three Eight Four. I always see a queue outside the Breakfast Club venues, but I’m not too much of a fan and prefer the Diner when it comes to chain breakfast options.
 

What are some of the non-touristy and less explored places to check out in London?

It needs some planning ahead of time, but the Hidden Underground Tours are great. If you have the time go and explore the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace park or one of these alternative things to do in London.

What’s your favourite day trip from London?

I’m going to mention the obvious ones first – as they are popular for a reason: Brighton for the hippy seaside vibe, Oxford for discovering the places that influenced your favourite books, and the charmingly traditional and quaint Leigh On Sea.
Did I miss anything? Ask away!

London

Pup Into Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs Exhibition

If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson, or stop frame animation you need to ‘pup’ down to the free exhibition featuring the puppets, models and sets used for his new film, Isle of Dogs.



It’s a rare chance to walk into the world of Anderson and savour the pop-up exhibition featuring 17 original sets from the movie. While your eyes feast on the intricate displays, your can also treat your tastebuds to ramen noodle paradise at a life-size recreation of the noodle bar featured in the film. And to complete your walk into Anderson Land the original score by Alexandre Desplat sets the scene.

Isle of Dogs tells the story of Atari Kobayashi, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

It’s probably best to to watch the movie beforehand, but the experience is just as magic without. The exhibition runs til Thursday 5 April and is open daily from 10am – 7pm (Thursday and Friday until 10pm).

Can’t make it? Or not bothered by the queues? Here’s some snaps to tempt you.

 

travel

Give Me A City Break: Bad First Impressions (And What I Would Do Different Next Time)

A while ago I wrote about places I loved and wouldn’t mind visiting again, but I can’t forget the places I didn’t click with. Spoiler alert: it was me, always me (not them!).

BARCELONA

On paper, Barcelona and I sounded like a match made in heaven: much needed winter sun, lots of history and delicious food – everything I usually need to satisfy that wanderlust. But for some reason we just didn’t hit it off.

Do Different Next Time: there was some kind of spark and I’m not sure if I should revisit Barcelona or try another region in Spain to rekindle the romance.

KYOTO

The day I arrived in Kyoto it rained and I was jet lagged and disoriented. As me and my friends only had one afternoon to check out the Gion area and the nearby park, it didn’t leave me in awe and neither I nor the city projected warmth and acceptance. Though the geisha we spotted was a plus.

Do Different Next Time: not just use it as a base for day trips but actually book a ryokan, explore the wider city and maybe even throw in a tea ceremony.

LJUBLJANA

Poor, poor Ljubljana, the city I passed by so many times, but never really gave a chance – friendzoned it almost – as it was the last pit stop on our long drives from the Netherlands to Bosnia. And the one time I did make it to the city I was too tired and I couldn’t be bothered to visit anything except the castle and the main square.

Do Different Next Time: explore the city and tourist attractions instead of just the outer suburbs, plus maybe try the prison turned hostel.

VILNIUS

Back when I was young, wild and free I thought it was a good idea to hit the 3 Baltic capitals in 5 days. Tallinn was cute and charming, Riga was raw and romantic and Vilnius was a finish line and the place to catch a breath before taking the plane home. Which is a shame as I only remember this Alice in Wonderland mural and a coffeeshop that made amazing lattes.

Do Different Next Time: schedule in more time and see what’s beyond the streets of the hostel.

SYDNEY

While I was in Melbourne I was on the tightest budget ever, so I didn’t get to see much of the Down Under. A weekend trip with friends to Sydney was superbudget and supershort and you really can’t cover everything in two days. The Coogee to Bondi walk and day trip to the Blue Mountains were special, while Darling Harbour and the Sydney Opera House were not so much. Also … I kept comparing everything to Melbourne, which isn’t really fair..

Do Different Next Time: you guessed it right … take the time to learn, relax and see more of the city. And stop comparing it with the ever-perfect Melbourne.

CHRISTIANA

Freetown Christiana in Copenhagen was another letdown. Where I expected a hippie community living from art, producing their own goods and living the life it was overshadowed by trash, torn down sheds and people smoking hash. Not to mention men in masks selling drugs on the main street and a lot of huuuuuuge dogs were walking around.

Do Different Next Time: yeah … there won’t be a next time, unless I can find a time-travel machine!

ISLA MUJARES

My research on Isla Mujares made it sound like a car free paradise where you could get around by golf car and with a world-class, beautiful beach, but instead there was traffic, streets full of rude golf car drivers and beach views ruined by tons of boats doing day tours cluttering the water. Isla Mujares was supposed to be this paradise and escape from Cancun, but it was really just Little Cancun.

Do Different Next Time: lower my expectations if I ever get the chance to go to Yucatan and maybe visit Isla Cozumel, Isla Holbox or one of the other smaller islands instead.

                                              What places did you just not ‘click’ with?

London

Get Your Kitsch On at Made in North Korea: Everyday Graphics from the DPRK

This was my second visit to Granary Square’s House of Illustration in King’s Cross. The first being Female Comic Creators which had so much potential, but in my opinion was a bit of miss and lacked coherence.

When I read that this guy was showcasing posters, comics and packaging from North Korea it reminded me of the American student who was imprisoned for attempting to steal and export a propaganda poster…so you can say it had my interested piqued and I wanted to give the venue a second chance.

As you enter the first room with socialist style posters you’re given a sheet of paper with the translations explaining them, which worked really well. I won’t give too much away, but I loved the vivid, surreal and optimistic design that was refreshingly sincere. But there were too many pictures and not enough storytelling to transport me to Pyongyang (I realise for £8.25 that’s too much to ask). It might have been interesting to learn how the collector managed to get hold of everything and what his thoughts were (maybe that’s the book is for…).

A Google session taught me that he organised tours to North Korea and obviously has lots of access and stories from his trips and I couldn’t help but wonder why some of that wasn’t mentioned. If anyone could explain why there were North Korean Lady Di stamps, it was him.

I also had an issue that it was a bit glorified, you can argue that it’s not up to the curator to inform us about the current affairs of the country (and I’m not expecting posters of the labour camps) but with an issue like Korea you would expect a better backdrop. If you don’t want to go into that, fair enough. But why not go for the socialist realism as an dying art form?

All in all a nice snack, but it left me hungry for more – thankfully the surrounding area is full to bursting with restaurants like Caravan, Granted & Co and Dishroom, so plenty to satisfy your hunger of the stomach (not the mind!).

The exhibition runs til 13th of May at the House of Illustration. Make sure to also check out the the Lucinda Rogers exhibition about the gentrification of London’s East End.

UK

Hello From The Cotswolds

In December I wrote a post on the places I’m hoping to visit in 2018 and now (only a few months in), I can finally cross off the first one! I went to the Cotswolds – even if you are not from the UK and the name doesn’t ring a bell, chances are you’ve seen pictures of the quaint brick houses in fairy tale-like villages where people seem to live the slow life.

And things are definitely slower in the Cotswolds – I get frustrated when I miss a tube/bus and have to wait 5 minutes – but if you miss the bus there you’re stuck for at least an hour if you’re lucky. A taxi came to the rescue and I was joined for a cab share with a local for a short ride to Stow-on-the-Wold where I learned that the recently opened Aldi and hospital are the talk of the day.

Cotswolds are a popular blogger destination so I have read a post here and there, but what no one mentioned was the noise pollution from the constant stream of cars, which is understandable as it’s the main way of going from A to B, but it does take away from the fairy tale/slow life feel.

”Speak, friend, and enter. ” The doors of the St Edwards Church inspired Tolkien’s Doors of Durin – the gates of Moria. Thankfully there was not a monster-filled mine behind these doors, but just a small, peaceful religious spot. It’s also worth noting that a pub in the nearby Moreton-in-Marsh inspired the Middle Earth’s most famous drinking hole, the Prancing Pony Inn. St. Edwards Church is only a few minutes away from the main square and a must stop, even if you are not a Tolkien fan, just to appreciate how the mastery of combining large trees into the architecture.

As I had time to kill before the hotelroom was ready I had the option to go to a pub, have an afternoon tea or walk to the nearby village of Broadwell. As the weather was great and I wanted to find that slow life I went for the walk, which was an easy one – mud is probably your only obstacle, plus the fact that the alpacas on the route are not interested in you and will avoid any form of communication (ghosted right!?). Broadwell itself is tiny, with one main street with a church, bus stop, lots of B&B places and one inn.

My favourite bit of Broadwell was watching these sheep – the one on top of the stone wall seemed to be on an adventure of his own and braved a perilous walk on the wall instead of taking the longer safe route on the ground. Better than anything Netflix released in the last 3 months.

During most of my teenage years I worked in a country hotel/restaurant that would fit the boutique hotel category these days and I love staying in similar places that bring back these memories. The Old Stock Inn did all of that and came with a lovely interior and map art work adorning its walls. There are restaurants/traditional inns in Stow and the rest of the area where you can head to for your lunch/dinner and as well as more afternoon tea place than Pret-A-Manger’s in Central London, but I opted for dinner at the Old Stock Inn where they focus on regional and seasonal dishes. I couldn’t be more happy about the onion tarte tatin and the beetroot/goats cheese starter.

The walking trails to nearby villages are adventures on their own as you have no idea where it will bring you next – Google Maps hasn’t caught up yet, but that’s a good thing. The yellow arrows on gates and fences will lead you from walking next to the main road to a muddy meadow where the horses and sheep come and greet you. More than once you’ll start to doubt the trail and your map and wonder if they are real walking trails or if the farmer will wait for you with a pitchfork. They didn’t.

Which destinations have you crossed off your 2018 list?