Here are some awesome and less awesome things I’ve seen and done in London during what was the LONGEST month ever.
I usually go to Lumberjack because their mocha is Just. The. Best. If you’re hungry, get a slice of banana bread, a simple avocado toast or one of the ever-changing cakes on offer … heck, just get everything, plus one of their cute tote bags to go.
WELLCOME COLLECTION Bloomsbury
Ignoring the fact that this health/medical museum is located on one of London’s most polluted roads, this place is a nice breath of fresh air on the capital’s cultural scene. In addition to its permanent collection of medical history, this institution puts on some of the most thought-provoking exhibitions you’re likely to see.
SAN MARINO Brixton
You could walk past a place a thousand times before you actually walk in. I know, because I did when I was looking for a place for an English Breakfast in Brixton. If you are looking for a no fuss and cheap Full English breakfast this is the place to be. They also do vegetarian, vegan and even halal. Keeper!
WALLACE COLLECTION Marylebone
The Wallace Collection is a beautiful Instaworthy old mansion house filled to the brim with more 18th and 19th century paintings than you can imagine. But I won’t give away too much, as I’m putting together a proper post for my Museum Musings series.
DAUNT BOOKS Marylebone
You have seen this bookshop on every self-respecting Instafeed or on one of their iconic tote bags. Enter at your own risk! Depending on your level of impulse control, you might want to ration yourself as it’s hard to leave this place without picking up everything for your bookshelf.
If I had money to burn it would be at Skandium, a Nordic design & furniture retailer, with everything from Moomin cups to sofas and chairs you’ll never want to leave.
But not everything can be awesome, so here’s a heads up on what to avoid.
MILDREDS King’s Cross
With mock chicken burgers, soul bowls and smoked tofu, this vegetarian food paradise has got you sorted…or does it? I want to say I loved it, but it was too expensive for what you got. The Mac & Cheese was dry, the chips were inspirationless and the soul bowl was soo lemony that it ruined the other flavours. If I ever return it would be for the baclava type of dessert and their grilled anchovies.
HACKNEY FLEA MARKET Hackney
The maps and decorations looked amazing. The clothes were overpriced and mainly 70s lycra fabric vintage dresses and overworn jumpers! To top it off it was rush hour tube levels of crowdedness.
Elephant and Castle. Despite having neither of things mentioned in its name (at least I haven’t found them!), this little slice of London holds a special in my heart.
My first entry into London’s Zone 1 was to this South London neighbourhood. I got on the 468 at Whitgift Shopping Centre in Croydon and got out at Elephant and Castle where family friends were awaiting. I still remember my fun-filled day, chowing down on Bosnian comfort food followed by a walk around the shopping centre and finishing up with bowling at the Palace Superbowl. And it was the first of many of my visits.
Opened in 1965, this shopping centre was first covered shopping centre in Europe. The area itself is steeped in history, getting shout outs in Shakespeare, and even being known as the Picadilly Circus of South London in the 1900s.
For better or worse, not too much has changed, at least as far as much of the shopping centre is concerned. Despite ever growing numbers of residential towers sprouting up all around, the shopping centre has retained its much of its retro charms, and is one of the few places you can truly step back in time in London, and experience a variety of different tastes and flavours.
But sadly, the shopping centre’s time is running out – as a prime central location, its no surprise that it will soon be replaced by a new development with fancier shops, apartments and a cinema. So enjoy while you can, give the vendors as much support as you can, and here’s some pictures to celebrate this tiny gem.
This year I’ll be doing another round of selected museums and seeing which one is truly worth your time to visit! To make it all scientific and as logical as possible, I’ve concocted a grading system so we can compare each place on its own merits and really find out what makes it tick.
The criteria I’ve been judging are: How easy is it to find your way around? Did they arrange all the exhibits in a way that make sense or leave you more confused than the Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror? Is it far from the city centre? Can I combine it with something else in the area? To top it all off, there are extra points to be had for places with a wow factor, because let’s face it…that sometimes makes all the difference.
The Imperial War Museum showcases a comprehensive overview of the military conflicts and wars that UK had to deal with since the beginning of the WWI.
Location – 11/20
The Imperial War Museum is located about 5-15 minutes’ walking distance from the tube stations Waterloo (on the Bakerloo, Jubilee and Northern lines), Lambeth North (Bakerloo) and Elephant & Castle (on the Bakerloo and Northern Lines).
You could combine it with a visit to Mercato Metropolitano.
Exhibits – 14/20
The ground floor covers the First World War, the next level up is on the Second World War, one higher and you’ll find a selection of the more modern wars (cold war and spies!), and then there is the Holocaust exhibit on the top floor. The First World War has been refurbished and brought up to date with super flashy and modern ways of story telling.
This does mean that it leaves the WWII and Modern War area feel a bit outdated, but I was told they will be working on that next.
The most relatable part in the WII section was following the family Allpress and their day-to-day life during the Blitz. As someone who grew up in a war I know a bit about having a bomb shelter in the backyard, food rations and my mom unpicking an old knit jumper of hers to make one for my and my baby brother.
Value For Money 20/20
Like most museums in London anyone can browse the permanent collection for free. So that’s a full 20.
Wow Factor – 14/20
For a museum focused on war, there’s not really a ‘wow’ factor so to speak, but it’s more an emotional impact, which this place definitely offers.
Layout – 12/20
You enter the main hall with its tanks and planes, then from there, you can walk into different floors, each highlighting a different War. The idea is that you follow a route on each floor and each section so in theory it should be easy to get though, but that only works for the WWI exhibition as it has a clear path. The other floors have too much open space and entrance points for it to be as smooth it could be.
Total: all in 71/100 points. Especially in this time and age this is a museum we all should go to. I believe it’s essential to remember what terrifying things humans are capable and museums like these are an important reminder of that.
I know it’s all about 2019, but let’s not be too hasty to shun it’s little brother 2018 (he still has a lot to offer!), and in that spirit – here’s what I got up to offline in the last three months of last year.
Another Visit To The Motherland
Where I got to experience the autumn season for the first time in years! This meant I got to experience things like roasting chestnuts, eating young walnuts and waking through Wuthering Heights-level mist, ‘Oh Heathcliff!”.
A Stop In Rastoke
On my way to Bosnia I spent a few hours in Rastoke, a town that’s known for its waterfalls and mills. It’s one of those fairy tale type towns you won’t believe actually exist until you see it in one of those listicles. I get it! I mean look at it. Add it to your go-to list guys.
No matter how many vitamin D pills I pop … S.A.D has kicked in, I did put in some effort to get out so most weekends didn’t go lost in the grey skies. I went to the cinema a lot, wandered around galleries and museums, gave ice-skating a go, had a ridiculous amount of cheese platters and mulled wine, went to one of the places Instagram recommended, tried Korean plum wine (I think it’s a keeper!) and crossed another Mexican place off my list.
I set foot on Eel Pie Island and enjoyed some random art Eel Pie Island Art Studios has to offer. In the 1960s Eel Pie Island was a music venue based at the hotel on the island and artists like the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart were all famous and musicy. Now the island is a private community of artists who open their studios twice a year for the public to visit and purchase their work. But really you just want to look at the weird things like the ice-cream/sweets inspired house, the Aquaman/Barbie artwork and adorable cats parading around.
What were you up to in the last three months of 2019?
With everyone on Dryanuary, NOSpenduary or Vegananuary it’s so tempting to spend your weekends indoors binging whatever Netflix throws at you. But don’t give in yet! Why not take a walk, a ‘green’ walk that is. London is full to bursting with walking routes, many within easy reach with public transport. Here are three to consider this weekend.
Wimbledon Common – Richmond Park Walk
Living in London is great, but sometimes I’m just starving for greenery and a place to walk without carbon monoxide in my face, you know? Only 20 minutes away from Central London there is Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park, two large green spaces which can traversed together for a nice day out. Wimbledon Common feels a lot more wild, with lots of little paths and a sense of getting lost, while it features a lovely little Windmill (NL♥) and you even get to cut across golf courses and encounter a horse traffic light! When you make it to Richmond Park you can explore the Isabella Plantation, go up to Poet’s Corner and King Henry’s Mound, relax by the Pen Ponds and of course, catch some beautiful deers in action (if you’re lucky you might even see one taking a bath!). When you’ve seen enough green stuff for the day, you can head out of the Petersham or Richmond Gates for a stroll by the River Thames, part of Thames Path major walking route.
Still need convincing?
This 128 km route lines the River Thames all the way from Hampton Court in the west to the River Darent in the east, with sections split between the north and south side banks. There’s a lot to see and do along the route, with highlights such as Hampton Court Palace, Parliament, Kew Gardens, London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Old Royal Naval College, the O2, Canary Wharf, Thames Barrier, and a lot lot more. One of my favourite stretches is the old industrial areas that are found between the Thames Barrier and the O2, with massive cranes and industrial materials, some still being used. If you feel a bit cheeky you can make use of the TfL Riverboats to get a different persective along London’s major river, plus it’s also a bit faster than your old feet.
Still need convincing?
Green Chain Walk
They say you don’t know South-East London til you’ve done the Green Chain Walk. Alright, you got me, no one’s said that, but they really should. This hodgepodge of little routes goes all the way from weird dinosaur models of Crystal Palace Park to the Clockwork Orange film location of Thamesmead, just on the River Thames. The routes can be a bit hit and miss, as there’s often a quite a bit of walking along roads, but there’s definitely gems to find here and it’s especially magical if you don’t know the areas, and feel like your exploring a hidden route with the only clues being little signposts every so often to guide you on your way. My particular highlights were the Lesnes Abbey Ruins and Woods, Oxlea Woods with Severndroog Castle, plus the route by Eltham Palace, which is a must-see in its own right.
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