one year of London

Exactly one year ago today (on Labor Day in the US), we landed in London. We had left for the airport directly from Montauk the day before, in my fiance’s Lebaron convertible loaded up with our suitcases.

This year has certainly been the most eventful of our lives. We traveled like crazy – our most recent calculations are that we’ve been away on 26 different trips this year. We’ve become expert RyanAir flyers and expert Air BNB renters. We also moved in together, got a new job (me), got a new degree (him), made new friends, and got engaged.

We’ve recently decided that we are relocating again. This fall we are moving to San Francisco.  We leave London in just under 2 weeks, which is feeling way too soon for us to fit in everything on our UK bucket list. But we got off to a good start this past weekend. Highlights included a trip to Harrods for macaroons, one last visit with my family in Oxford, a friend’s Mexican themed bash, and a bike ride around Hyde park. It was crammed full of activity — as I expect every day over the next 2 weeks will be.

Lebaron departure from Montauk

{ One year ago: our labor day weekend departure, with a wills & kate wave }

Standlake at the Limes

{ this weekend at the limes – my grandparents’ house in standlake, england }

punting boats in oxford

{ punting boats in oxford }

English countryside gardens

{ bean picking in the english countryside }

Bike Riding Barclays bikes Hyde Park

{ bikes in hyde park – our sunday staple activity in london }

Harrods - the British tradition

{ outside harrods – an english shopping haven }

Ladurée in Harrods

{ pastel perfection – macaroons at ladurée }

Statues and Street Hockey in Hyde Park

{ statues and street hockey in hyde park }

Still remaining on our list – the tate, a big night out with our london crew, one final dinner at burger/lobster, and another trip to portabello road market. Anything else we can’t miss, before we go?

London Sundays – the Columbia Road Flower Market

Like most attractions in London, the Columbia Road Flower Market is steeped in history. Two fun facts:

1. It was started in the 1800’s by Angela Burdett-Coutts, who was known as the richest heiress in England and who married her 29 year old secretary when she was 67. The original Demi Moore??

2. Originally this market operated on Saturdays, but it was moved to Sundays in the mid 1900’s to allow the Jewish traders who lived in this area to work. In order to do this an Act of Parliament was passed because Sunday trade was prohibited at the time.

Although Columbia Road has had different market trades operating throughout the years, it is now strictly a flower market. There is an amazingly varied selection –  the gorgeous blooms on display feel like a culmination of the year-long drizzle you find in England.

The market is fun to see, but the crowds around the flower stalls on Columbia Road are pretty intense. So pickup some peonies and then turn off onto one of the side streets. You’ll find narrow, cobble stoned streets lined with boutiques and small restaurants. There is often live music, and the overall vibe is much more conducive to spending a lazy Sunday. I tried Jones Dairy for freshly shucked oysters which were served outside, with Tabasco and lemon.

Vendor at Columbia Flower Market

{ vendors with cockney accents were yelling out discounts on flower prices – “three for a tenner!” }

Flowers at the Columbia Road Flower Market

{ cheap bundles of flowers lined up at columbia road flower market }

Columbia Road Flower Market London

{ stalls at the flower market }

Jones Dairy Cafe on Ezra Street

{ the promise of good food afterward = the easiest way to convince my fiance to trek over to columbia road }

Oyster Shucking at Jones Dairy Cafe

{ oyster shucking at jones dairy cafe }

3 bunches for a tenner

{ floral deals at columbia road }

Note: The market is open every single Sunday of the year, even Easter Sunday, unless Christmas falls on a Sunday. It runs from 8am to 2pm (but the Jones Dairy Cafe often runs out of their oysters by mid-day! )

London eats

Most New Yorkers who visit London don’t come back with recommendations about the food. There’s a perception that the fish & chips and the curries are awesome, but that everything else is mediocre (at best). After living in NYC for 5 years, I have to say that London food was an adjustment. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of fried fish and Indian food, and would probably fly to the UK just to eat either one!  But compared to NYC? Home of bagels, deli sandwiches and pizza slices? Sorry but the cheese and pickle sandwich at Pret a Manger doesn’t stack up.

So, during our first few months living in London, I ended up cooking almost every meal at home. This was a good thing.  But gradually I realized – London’s culinary scene is there. You just need to know how to find it.

Here are a few of my favorite (aka favourite) finds:

1. Burger Lobster

there’s no menu at burger lobster because they only serve 2 things: burgers and lobsters. Either option is £20, so to get your money’s worth go for the lobsters (which they import from Nova Scotia). You can have it grilled, steamed or as a roll. You can always order a burger as a “starter” to share with your dining companions. They’re rolling this restaurant out across the world soon, but I’ll remember that London was first, and give them some cred for that.

2. Princi

this was a bakery that did pizzas as a sideline, for their lunch crowd. Its baked goods are still around and delicious, but it has expanded to include a sit down restaurant with an industrial and urban vibe. Go for the pizzas, which are served individually and prepared Italian style. Prepare for a difficult decision about toppings.

3. La Bodega Negra

this is London’s hot spot for Mexican food, complete with a “speakeasy” bar on the ground floor where you can go for late night cocktails. Their guacamole, Mexican style corn and carnitas tacos are all done extremely well. What’s even better? The staff. Despite huge crowds, they will help you find a spot to post up at the bar. They’ll even bring you chips & dips while you wait for a table. Great service… in a place blasting hip hop tunes, known for visits from Kate Moss, and with hour long waiting lists?? Toto, we’re not in New York City anymore!

La Bodega Negra in Soho London

{ la bodega negra in soho }

Pizza from Princi in London

{ pizza at princi }

Burger Lobster - lobster roll

{ went for the roll at burger lobster }

Shopping the High Street

There are countless markets, vintage shops and antiques stores in the UK that are worthy of their own blog posts (or even their own books).  But there is also the High Street. “High Street” is the equivalent of “Main Street” in America. Almost every London neighborhood has its own High Street, and they are found in towns and cities across the UK. The High Street is lined with that neighborhood’s clothing stores, supermarkets, bookstores, etc.

To the British, there’s a fashion implication – if you shop the High Street, you shop at places like Zara and TopShop that feature on-trend but affordable clothing. I am definitely a High Street shopper, and when visiting foreign countries I enjoy checking out their versions of the High Street stores. Even if I know there’s an H&M around the corner from my apartment, there’s something fun about seeing what the buyers stock in individual markets and picking up an item that you couldn’t necessarily find at the same chain’s local locations.  On the flip side, buying a scarf in one city, only to come home and realize it’s in your hometown’s store at a cheaper price compared to what you paid in pounds is not great.

Here are three stores to hit if you’re in town:

  1. TopShop: This store epitomizes High Street fashion. Skip the Oxford Street flagship store because the crowds will make it too stressful to enjoy. Instead, go into any of the smaller locations – there are over 300 in the UK. Even though TopShop has come to the US, you should still shop the UK locations if you’re in town. Why? It’s actually cheaper to buy TopShop in the UK than it is to buy the same item in the US. The pound prices are doubled when they’re priced in dollars. So if a shirt is £40, it will be marked at $80. If the prices were based on current conversion rates (£1 = $1.55), a £40 shirt should cost $61 – a fairly significant mark up.
  2. Primark: I particularly recommend this for bargain hunters. It’s like the UK equivalent to Target – the locals call it “Primarché” much like Americans say “Targét”.  Its ethical trading policies are admirable, and the clothes are cheap cheap
  3. Jack Wills: This one isn’t a mainstay of High Street shopping compared to the other two. However, as their tagline proclaims, it is “Fabulously British”. If you were spending a weekend at an estate in the countryside, you’d want to be decked out in head to toe Jack Wills. They have locations in the preppy towns of the US (Nantucket and Westport, CT, to name a couple), but for the authentic experience, buy something while you’re in the UK – that way you’ll get to ask the shopkeeper if they have any “jumpers” or “gilets” (aka sweaters or vests).

shopping high streetJack Wills Penbury Satchel 

Primark Printed Jacket

TopShop One Piece 

Wondering which stores to skip? If you can wait, visit Brandi Melville, Anthropologie and Apple stores when you’re stateside. From what I can tell they charge the exact same prices in pounds, dollars, and euros regardless of the going exchange rates. You can pay £30 for an item (the equivalent of around $45) or buy it for $30 in the USA.

photo 3

a fabulously british manor house – be sure to visit one decked out in your high street finds

Welcome!

Hi, I’m Blythe, and welcome to my blog. I’m currently living in London with my boyfriend, where I’ve made it my mission to get so many stamps on our passports that we have to order new pages.

I am starting this blog in part to help preserve all of the experiences, places, and things I’ve loved throughout our travels.

Plus, I love receiving recommendations, and felt it was time to start sharing my own. I hope it inspires you to visit some or all of them.

Boats in Morocco

{ boats in morocco }

London streets sunset

{ london streets }

Hidden beach in panama

{ a hidden beach in panama }

Vernazza houses on cliffs cinque terre

{ vernazza, the cinque terre }

sheep on the beach in wales

{ sheep on the beach, wales }

lake tahoe, california snow capped mountains

{ lake tahoe, california }