What a whirlwind December was! I started off freshly out of a lockdown and hopeful about spending Christmas with a loved one. Then ended with a new mutation, a whole new tier and the realisation we’re in this for much longer than I thought.
My first outing after the November lockdown was to Kew Gardens. This is my third visit, and I have to say that the place is starting to grow on me.
On my way back I went to Soho to pick up a Christmas present. I hadn’t been there since summer and it was so nice to see the car-free streets. I also grabbed a mouthwateringly good hot chocolate at Chin Chin Labs.
Then I visited my favourite food hall: Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant & Castle for my first mulled wine of the season. It was one of the few food courts that was open during Tier 2, and they had everything sorted. From distanced tables and alcohol tokens to the table service for drinks. I also stocked up on one of my top pasta dish ingredients, pecorino cheese, at their food hall.
At home, I finished my Routemaster bus Lego set. I managed to spread it over 4 afternoons, maximising the fun. I haven’t been in an actual bus since March 17 2020, which is very weird to grasp. I’ve had a lot of dreams that feature buses though – not sure what that means.
I also managed to visit the Sir John Soane House just before the new restrictions were introduced in December. It’s tucked away in Holborn and showcases all the things he collected and his work. It was also interesting to walk around the place with only two other people.
I walked back to the station via side streets. I can’t get over how retro City Thameslink Station is, I never looked at it as it used to be my commute station and I would just rush in and out. If you find yourself near this year, go and have a look at the notice boards and fonts.
The weekend after, London and the South East went into a whole new tier which meant the shops and other non-essential places closed. For me it was back to walks around my neighbourhood. This time, the Christmas decorations kept it interesting.
I started my festive season by decorating a Pandoro (raisin-free Panettone-style) cake. It’s delicious on its own, but a bit of mascarpone, powdered sugar and almonds sure bring it to the next level.
A hunt for coffee brought me to Federation Coffee at Brixton Market. I also spotted this mini sharing library. It actually had some books that were interesting to me. I’ll have to see what books I want to get rid of and do a swap.
This year’s Low Waste Christmas Roast was made possible by Oddbox. The only two products that came in plastic were cranberries and fresh herbs, which is great for my 21 for 2021 goals. The Brussels sprouts were a favourite. The lunch lasted us three meals and I made a Quiché from the leeks, and soup from the leftover parsnips and carrots.
Treats from the homeland. Once in a while I do a little swap with the amazing Olga. She sent me chocolate sprinkles, cookies stuffed with almond paste and even a can of my favourite hot chocolate brand among other things.
The hot chocolate was particularly delicious and enjoyed alongside wafers – a north Netherlands treat that is mostly enjoyed during New Years. This went down well while playing a game of Codename Duet. It’s definitely interesting playing it with a linguist while English is my third language.
And I ended the year with a cheese plate and Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Marathon. I only made it until the end of The Two Towers, so The Return of the King will have to wait.
As you can imagine, so far I haven’t been able to cross off going to a football game, taking that sleeper train or watching Eurovision in the Netherlands from my 2020 to-do list. But I have managed to cross off 10 things that I’m quite proud of.
Go To The Tower of London – I DID IT! I finally went to the Tower of London! Only 14 years after seeing it from afar for the first time, but it was long due and I’m so happy I got to explore the grounds and learn more about the history of my all-time favourite London landmark.
Go To The Andy Warhol Retrospective @ Tate Modern – I also went to the Andy Warhol Retrospective back when the museum re-opened in August. The exhibition itself did not wow me, but it was interesting to walk around in an almost empty Tate and its Turbine Hall.
Go Glamping Or Stay In A Tiny House – When I was in the Netherlands I did stay in an alternative accommodation, but I don’t think it was alternative enough. It has taken me a long time to find a place that meets all of my requirements, but I have finally found a tiny house I can reach via public transport. It’s only booked for February 2021, but who knows where we’ll all be then.
On top of that, there’s some that I already covered in my last update, but as they are something I’m working on all year round I’m including an update on them too.
Make The Most Of My 2 For 1 Railcard – My 2 for 1 card expired but I have been exploring little villages just outside London. The big highlight so far was the charming village of Shoreham in Kent. It’s not too far from the Pick Your Own Apple orchard and their Lavender Field that you must have seen on your Instagram feed.
Brush Up On My French 101 – I’m level 12 on Duolingo and have been getting stuck into an audio course. In the coming months I want to watch French movies or TV shows – and no Emily In Paris doesn’t count.
Add New Recipes To My Go-To List – Thanks to the Green Roasting Tin, I’ve discovered a delicious fennel and brussel sprouts bake that I want to add to my weekly recipe list.
Wear All Of My Unworn Clothes – I’m trying to wear all the clothes I own. Sure I can try them on briefly, but wearing them throughout the day works much better. I have lots of vintage that don’t get enough wears and by using them all I hope to find the ones that aren’t for me and sell it on and try to make someone else happy.
Keep A Plant Or Vegetable Alive – Sure, I did drown my green beans and let insects take over my pak choi, but I did grow a few tomatoes, some dill, coriander, rosemary and basil. I mentioned the fern in my last update and happy to report it’s still alive and has been joined by a little succulent and a pilea. I also have a monstera cutting that has grown roots and a second leaf. So excited to see where it goes next.
While I don’t think I’ll be completing any other things from the list, I’m very pleased with the things I got to see and do. I might move some of the remaining things to my 21 for 2021, but on one side it feels like cursing it and on the other side I’d like to have some things to look forward to.
Anderson has a special place in my heart. His distinctive visual style, with complementary colour palettes and symmetrical framing makes his movies a treat for the eye and not to mention Instagram worthy. And thanks to #accidentallywesanderson we can find thousands of curated images of places that look like they could be a screengrab from one of his many films. Think a mustard yellow lighthouse, a pastel orange store front or a bright pink bowling alley, to name but a few.
I have too often shouted ‘that’s so Wes Anderson!’ when spotting something that could be a backdrop in one of his movies. And today I’m sharing some real places in London whose colour palette or even fonts could be straight out of a Wes Anderson movie.
This summer is set to break the record of hottest summer ever (what global warming?) in the UK and this weekend the thermometer exploded past the 30 degrees mark in London. Oxford Street might be too hot and crowded to walk around, a train to the nearest beach might be too expensive or you just might want to escape your boiling hot room. So what do you do when you’re melting in the capital?
Get Wet at the Lido
Go dust off that swimsuit, grab a towel and lather up the sunscreen, and you’re good to splash your way through the day. Some of my favourite and easily accessible outdoor swimming pools include the Serpentine Lido, Hampstead Heath Ponds and Brockwell Lido.
Indulge in Frozen Treats
It’s cold, it’s sweet and it will make things better. There’s Chin Chin Labs, which serves liquid nitrogen ice cream in flavours like tonka bean, strawberry hay and burnt butter caramel. Snow Flake gelato have a guilt-free sorbetto range or perk up your ears to listen out for the ice cream van tunes and bag yourself a classic 99 Flake.
That other Ice
When everything is melting outside, the best thing to do is jump into a fridge, so if you are not into the above-mentioned kind of ice why not go to the Alexandra Palace or Queens ice rink to cool off and show off your moves?
Chill Out at the Movies
I don’t know about you but sometimes on a sunny day all I need is a blockbuster in a cool dark theatre, air-con to the max and a big ‘ole bucket of popcorn and a cold drink of your choice. For art house movies, head to Curzon in Soho or Picturehouse Central and for the blockbusters shimmy on down to the nearest Odeon/Vue multiplex.
Check out Museums and Exhibits
Hot days are perfect for exploring a museum and London’s museums have some amazing collections, exhibits and most of them are free, but most importantly they all have air-conditioning systems -for keeping paintings safe that is, they don’t really care about you. The British Museum and the National Gallery are two of the big ones where you can easily spend hours and hours of discovery.
Enjoy a Cooling Drink on a Rooftop Bar
I have to start with saying that water is of course the essential part of staying cool – either drinking it, swimming in it or pouring directly over your head. But at end of the day why not take in the city skyline with a refreshing cocktail or a cold beer or six in hand. Mondrian London, Frank’s and Netil 360 are some of the best spots to do this.
May came and went by so quickly that I forgot to schedule in this post! Here are some things I loved and some things that are a big pass for me – hope it proves useful!
Intercontinental Park Lane
Stumbled upon this place when I was looking for a reasonably-priced afternoon tea that wasn’t too traditional. They were doing a Commonwealth theme one with a lot of delicious flavours to make your way through including Jamaican-inspired chicken sandwich, Australia-style pie and Nigerian-influenced cake. The Park Lane has put a spin on a classic British favourite, and they’ve nailed it!
This urban jungle is the perfect place to spend your Sunday afternoon and dream about all the nice things you could have if you weren’t a serial plant murderer. The best bit? It won’t cost you a cent.
Granger & Co
The brunch menu at Granger & Co is full of delicious goodies, but for me it’s all about the fluffy scrambled eggs with a slice of sourdough bread. I did share the hot buns (Australian pancakes) this time and I think it might be a new favourite. But don’t tell the scrambled eggs.
This quirky museum in Forest Hill houses a lot of stuffed animals, musical instruments from all around the world and African, South American and Siberian anthropology. Also has a great garden and park area where you can spend a lazy afternoon, plus there’s a food market on Saturdays.
Crystal Palace Park
A huge park with a free maze and dinosaur statues. What’s not to love? Did I mention the dinosaurs were designed before Darwin’s “On the Origin Of Species” so they’re slightly … inaccurate. The dinosaurs are also featured in the first episode of the Good Omens TV show.
St Dunstan In The East
A derelict church in a side-street, left to decay and now turned into a little park. You’ll find it on every ‘Hidden London’ list and it’s got crowded since the last time I was there, but it still has its charm and if you find yourself in EC3 then it’s a perfect spot for a pit stop.
Ice Cream Union
It’s a good thing I don’t go to Chelsea often as Ice Cream Union would make me bankrupt. But artisan gelato is something I am ok to splurge on – especially when it is all-natural and handmade. My go-to picks of pistachio and hazelnut were to die for, as was their take on the banana split. They also use compostable cups and wooden spoons. Win.
Wasn’t for me
Oblix @ the Shard
Yes for the view, yes for the mashed potatoes and yes for the raspberry dessert but I don’t think the food was wowing for the price you have to pay. If I ever have the urge to eat at the Shard I would save up and treat myself and my taste buds at Aquashard.
So despite not liking the sorbet watermelon ice-cream last year I felt I wanted to try their rhubarb custard soft serve and went in open-minded and it wasn’t a success: the staff was just rude and I can’t be bothered with their kind of negativity. Ah well.
Before I go into all the awesome things I’ve seen and done in May I need to go cover all the April things I encountered…
I used to love their bread, but since more and more places started doing sourdough I never really visit anymore. Now my only reason is when I crave a cinnamon bun as their offering is buttery but light with just the right amount of puff.
Probably my favourite indoor foodmarket with an outside seating area – plus its in South London! While getting my Mexican taco fix I stumbled across their recently-opened deli where they had not one but four types of Pecorino cheeses! Sadly, when I suggested I was going to put it on pasta they weren’t too impressed.
WANDLE TRAIL WALK
In search of more green moments I embarked on the Wandle Walk. I followed the Wandle from Morden to Wandsworth and saw lots of ducks and moorhens, parks and flowers and mills and more dogs than you can handle. I loved it, until new apartment building works on the Thames made it impossible to reach the end. Ah well.
It wouldn’t be a worthy recap without including a museum or two…I love Tate Modern, but the more contemporary/modern art museums I visit the more I realise the best thing about Tate is the building itself – and the fact that it’s free. I’ll go into this more in the next Museum Musings.
SOFT SERVE SOCIETY
My first ice-cream of the season was at Soft Serve in Shoreditch. Taro and coconut make a great combination flavour wise as well as in terms of aesthetics. Throw on some Pocky sticks, sprinkles or crushed Oreos and you’ve got yourself a party on your taste-buds!
BLEECKER STREET BURGER
These American-style, mouthwatering cheese-soaked patties are probably my favourite in London and I’m so proud they’ve come this far from their food truck origins. They are so soo good you don’t really need any extra toppings or sauces to distract you.
Train stations can be depressing places, but leave it to Herne Hill station to have an actual gelato place – with a lot of delicious flavours to make your way through including a range of tasty vegan options. Definitely worth missing a train for.
V&A CHILDHOOD MUSEUM
Lovely building but the exhibition style, just like the toys on display, felt a bit outdated. However, if you’re near Bethnal Green with a few hours to spare it’s a great way to kill some time walking around and reminiscing about childhood.
Wasn’t For Me
DENNIS SEVERS HOUSE
Dennis Severs House has been on my list for at least 5 years! I used to intern next to the place and was always curious why people queued up on random days. The idea of the historical house is that the inhabitants just left the place and you get to take a sneak peak. It’s only lit by candle light and I did enjoy the details and little touches like actual vegetables and bread in the kitchen. But all in all it was not worth the £10 entrance fee and queue.
As a reasonable critic I returned to this high-rise spot to check if my opinion from 4 years ago had changed. It hasn’t.
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