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London Travel Guide: Shop, Eat & Wander

London Guide intro
Amsterdam is a beautiful city but I would swap it without hesitation for a life in London. Every time I visit that city, everything has changed. It’s an ever changing rollercoaster, full of life, color and sound. I have now discovered the best way to travel to and from London, is by boat: there is no limit to your luggage’s weight and you arrive early while feeling fresh and rested after a good night sleep. I book an apartment through University Rooms (I have yet to find a great AirBnb address) as I love going to farmer’s markets and buy fresh food to cook at least once a day. All you need to take with you is a mini London A-Z (it’s vital, forget the map in your travel guide, it will never be comprehensive enough), your camera and a biiiiig bag to hoard all the inspiration you can take with you.
I have been wanting to write a travel guide since I arrived there with my one-way ticket, many many years ago. But how can you try to capture a running city? Nothing ever stays the same. Not entirely. Even after a few months I felt my notes were already outdated. The only option left is to blog about it, re-writing a guide after every trip.London ShopsThere is a reason why I prefer to pack light when traveling towards London: its shops and markets are a treasure chest of marvel.

  • Brixton Village is an arcade, a maze of covered passageways full of quirky shops and vibrant restaurants from all over the world. It’s culinary heaven. Before getting there, you will find Brixton Station Road Market, a community market run by local traders. The fruit and vegetables in Brixton are some of the best I have ever tasted (and super cheap). Ah, the papaya’s…
  •  Chatsworth Road market in Hackney – every first Sunday of the month. I carry my bag from Bramble & Mr Twigg everywhere.
  • Capital Car Boot in Pimlico: hello, my dear Mulberry shirt and Chloe dress for under 20 pounds…
  • Favourite streets: Lamb’s Conduit Street is a street in Bloomsbury in the West End of London. There are many independent traders along the street. The People’s Supermarket food cooperative is always a highlight to me: not only the cooperative part of it but tha fact that it has a kitchen and sells freshly cooked food. All the ingredients come from the range sold in the store, from items that have reached their sell-by date or are past their best. Everything I have ever tried was delicious and low priced.
  • Broadway market, with or without the market
  • Charlotte street hides one of my favourite breakfast spots, Lantana, but also a nice array of shops.
  • For upmarket inspiration: The Shop at BlueBird in Chelsea.
  • You will find them everywhere, charity shops. This is where the rich and famous (I have seen clothes donated by Victoria Beckham and SHIRLEY BASSEEEEEY!!!) give away their clothes, most of which are still perfectly wearable. Make sure to be there early in the morning as you are not the only one preying on them.

London Food
London is the capital of food lovers. The scene is ever changing and you will find the best chefs of the world within walking distance: some in renowned restaurants, others in amazing street stalls.

  • For a daytime treat in a very hidden place, Rochelle Canteen by Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson. You enter via a buzzer on a tiny door in the wall of an old Victorian school on Arnold Circus.
  • The Modern Pantry, Ottolenghi (I love the table toasters with their chord hanging from the ceiling, but my granola was the real star of my visit) AND Lantana for breakfast
  • La Fromagerie for more granola
  • The Espresso Room for coffee
  • Exmouth Market around lunchtime. Eat your catch of the day from the street stalls on the green of Spa Fields Park
  • Granary Square (King’s Cross) is home to KERB every Tuesday-Friday lunchtimes. Street food galore. Are you in for more? Head to Street Feast
  • Green Valley‘s Lebanese icecream or sweets, plus the harems that occasionally step out from their Rolls Royce.
  • Tea at the Orangerie ( it’s touristy and queues are long but it’s really lovely) or the Dorchester (I bumped into Mick Jagger on my way out, iiiih!). I have been told that the one they serve at the Modern Pantry is to die for…
  • Coffee and croissant at the Wolseley

Wander around London
Yes, the city is crazy, noisy and incredibly busy but buy a bus pass and wear good shoes, and you will discover so many green spaces, amazing architecture or quirky details, wonderful museums and street art, hidden street markets, beautiful stories. It’s an incredible soup of inspiration. A few of my favourites:

  • In no particular order: The National Gallery (do take part in a tour and limit yourself to five paintings), Fashion and textile museum, Design museum (so far I have seen super inspiring exhibitions about Paul Smith, Christian Louboutin, Designs of the year…), the Enlightment room in the British Museum which is like a miniature museum about culture, nature, science and art in one room
  • It’s the perfect place to relax, Somerset House, whether it’s an exposition about the Rudeboy culture or time to put your iceskates on. The terrace overlooking the Thames is extremely nice.
  • What would family life have looked like for a family of Huguenot silk weavers around 1724 – 1914? Go and visit the Dennis Severs’ House to find out
  • Chelsea’s Glebe Place is just off King’s Road. On number 50 you will find Ornate House, the work of architect John Lowe. An eccentric and slightly scary Victorian building with ivy-covered walls.
  • Besides the river Thames, London also has a lot of smaller canals all across the city. I equally enjoy Little Venice and the towpath between Hoxton and Hackney.
  • Read a book at the Barbican Lake Terrace. Find the perfect book at Skoob, the secondhand book temple at Brunswick centre
  • Walk along the Thames. I usually start at Embankment and end at the Tate Modern.
  • Bikes are a relatively new phenomena in London. I have seen the situation improve during the past few years. I find it very inspiring to see how people overcome small problems, like pear shaped lamp posts…
  • Take a course, most museums (FTM, V&A) have one-day workshops and if you look around you will find so much. The teacher’s are usually heroes you have been following for years on Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook. Or what about a Guardian Masterclass? I have learned how to screenprint at the Print Club Studio and how to ‘cup’ a coffee at the London School of Coffee.

Summer sleigh bells

summer sleigh fun

Monday and Thursday evenings are fun, in Amsterdam. Everyone puts out the garbage and with it many unwanted objects. Think antique cupboards, vintage chairs and wooden toys. It’s fun, really fun. Especially if you are like me and can think of a million things you could do with, let’s say, a simple wooden box. My interior is filled with repurposed items, although I usually use them for something else than their original purpose. A few days ago, I was doing my evening walk with Jan and suddenly I saw a huge traditional wooden sleigh between the garbage bags. It was still intact, the wood, the metal underneath its runners… how could someone throw it away? I was sure it was once a child’s most treasured possession. Probably someone’s grandpa. Yes, at that moment I even knew how that child was called (Maarten, if you want to know), as that is how my imagination works. I hugged the sleigh and decided it would come home with me.

SLEE_ZANDJan’s upside down mouth and unamused stare were telling another story. No, the sleigh was NOT coming home with me. But it was coming with me to somewhere, maybe a friend was just looking for a sleigh?

It was a hot evening so probably none of my friends would greet this idea with enthusiasm. The sleigh was extremely heavy. The wood was of good old-fashioned quality which means it weighted as much as a small person. Jan didn’t even want to touch it and I started to panick. On the one hand, I felt so sorry for the poor sleigh and on the other hand, I was almost collapsing under its weight. To make things worse, a drunken and very dirty beggar started following me, screaming ‘Let me see that! Is that a sleigh? I want to sit on it. Give it to me!’
Just when I thought ‘I am going to leave this here and run’, the ideal new home for my old sleigh appeared out of nowhere: a very large sandpit in a nice and leafy playground near my home.
It has been a week and every day I see small children having the time of their life moving the sleigh around, sitting on it, building things on top of it. You are never too old to start a new life.
slee_amsterdam_SPEELTUINSource: here