Posts Tagged With: borough market

While the cat’s away…

And boy did the mice play!

When first Jason mentioned he’d be going Stateside for a full week, I was admittedly at a loss as to what I was possibly going to do with so much time alone.  With visions of long, luxurious bubble baths complete with wine, candles, and a smutty romance novel dancing playfully about in my head, I figured I could probably manage well enough.  In truth, I actually had rather ambitious plans to transform our little flat (which had been accumulating a rather alarming amount of muck) into a sparkling palace through a weekend of deep cleaning and minor renovations of both decorative and functional varieties.

Needless to say, most of that didn’t actually happen (though to my credit I did manage to vacuum, clean our bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, and also do a bunch of laundry over the course of the week).   Instead I found myself “out and about” almost every day, gallivanting around London, an expedition complete with several nights of drinking, feeding the rodents of St. James’ Park…twice, shopping, visiting a horseback riding school, and having my hair dramatically dyed and cut (a decision made while completely sober, if slightly hungover).

I can’t in good faith claim full credit for my weekend deviance, though, as I had considerable help and encouragement from Katharine whose boyfriend, incidentally, was also away for a week.  Honestly, I had a great time if there was any question.  Everyday I’m becoming more and more intimately acquainted with London and feeling more and more settled.  Katharine is lovely company, and given our numerous similarities we certainly don’t lack for mutually enjoyable trouble to get into.

Having left mid-week, most of our shenanigans were relegated to the weekend, though Katharine and I did go to St. James’ Park to feed the critters nuts and bread and then out for dinner and drinks at a fantastic Irish pub called Waxy O’Connor’s Wednesday night.  Thursday remained uneventful, and Friday saw a reprise of St. James’ Park before I headed home to handle a bit of industrious cleaning.

Saturday began early with an appointment, after which I met Katharine at Borough Market for what seems to be a growing tradition of “Saturday Morning Coffee” and lunch before heading out on our mission for the day: assessing a riding school in Dulwich (pronounced: Duhl itch for anyone who cares).  Travelling to this little area in southeast London would ordinarily have been a relatively simple affair if it weren’t for all the engineering works being done on various rail lines throughout the city in preparation of the impending Olympics.  Inconveniently, both train lines we needed to take to get to the school were closed for the weekend so we had to do a bit of creative travelling by bus and foot to get there.  On the upside, this route turned out to be rather scenic, and Dulwich is a gorgeous area.

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived, though still quite light out.  The Dulwich Riding School (creative name not withstanding) was clean and quaint, greeting us at the gate with a pleasant and enthusiastically hand-painted sign on a slate of wood that said:

It’s hard to tell whether this is an offer to any runner passing by who might be in need or a call to emancipation!  In any case, I wasn’t in the market, but you never know when the need for horse dung will randomly pop up.

Having ridden at a few different schools in the States, all in the rural areas of South Carolina on great stretches of open land, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of a riding school in the middle of the city with little or no conceivable “countryside” to make use of, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to notice that the school in terms of land space was quite small.  Set literally on the roadside, it appears to have carved a small acre (I’d be surprised if it was much more than that) out of the edge of Dulwich Park.  The school has presumably been there for 50 years, so it’s possible that the park was built around it rather than the other way around.  In any case, it boasts of a small stretch of stables housing perhaps 20 horses and ponies, an outdoor ring, an indoor training facility, and a small paddock all clumped together in a charmingly old-fashioned sort of way.

While there were a few cars parked in the lot, the stable area was largely deserted save for a handful of curious horses poking their heads over their stall doors and the most adorable little Rottweiler puppy sitting with its little puppy tail wagging  frantically and pink tongue lolling underneath a “Beware of Dog” sign.  Katharine and I couldn’t resist petting and playing with him/her (we didn’t check) for a few minutes while we waited for someone who looked reasonably official to come back into the front area of the school.

Eventually we wrangled a young woman out of a stall where she looked to be busily weighing and tying up bundles of hay to speak to us for a few minutes.   Lessons at this school are surprisingly inexpensive – only £22 for classes (up to 8 riders) and £27.50 for semi-private (2 to 3 people).  On top of the excellent price, the school is also rather conveniently located near to Clapham.  Katharine and I immediately scheduled a lesson for the next possible opening (April 14th at 11:30am) and can now hardly wait for it to get here!

By the time we made it back to the more central area of London, it was growing late.  Though we rushed to try to run a couple of quick errands, most of the shops were closing, and sure enough the store Katharine needed to go to was closed by the time we reached it.  Abandoning any remaining effort to be productive, we hopped on a train and headed west to the Baron’s Court area to meet up with a friend of Katharine’s, also from Trinidad.  A couple bottles of champagne and wine and several hours later the two of us were stumbling home in a cheerful haze.

Sunday started off slowly, and painfully – wine hangovers are the worst – but ended with the highlights of getting pampered at a hair salon followed by a Caribbean dinner and a gourmet French bakery for post meal coffee and dessert (amusingly the food and coffee here

were better than anywhere I ate at in Paris, and the wait staff was infinitely friendlier).  I had something called “Russian Honey Cake” with a honey and ginger latte.  It was really delicious.  The cake tasted like graham crackers and custard.  Katharine had Bailey’s cheesecake with a hazelnut and ginger latte.  We split both.

Work largely kept me out of trouble for the last two days before Jason got home, though I did manage to completely devastate my kitchen making homemade Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes for supper Monday night.  The meatballs were actually quite delicious despite my forgetting to add one ingredient (2 egg yolks) and putting a bit too much nutmeg in the mixture, but the mess I made in the kitchen looked more like my refrigerator had exploded across the counters rather than a simple dinner for one.  I’ll say this though, cooking in a tiny, one-countered galley-style kitchen requires a special kind of talent (and patience) that I’ve evidently yet to master.  I honestly would have taken a picture if I hadn’t been either up to my elbows in raw meat or trying to mash potatoes and whisk gravy simultaneously.  God knows how I’m going to manage to cook a respectable Easter dinner for 8 or 10 people this weekend.

Interesting Tidbits:
  • Squirrels are adorable close up.  They’re also surprisingly polite when taking nuts out of your hands.  Very gentle.  Birds on the other hand are flat out obnoxious.
  • I’m in dire need of a puppy fix.  Rottweiler puppies are ridiculously cute.
  • Bank/Monument Station is quite possibly the most convoluted place I’ve ever had the misfortune to be in when in a hurry.  Allow at least 20 minutes to find your way out of the rat maze that is Bank station.  (It has three or four lines, 11 exits, and naturally, just as with airports, the line you arrive on is the furthest away from the exits when you’re in a hurry and requires you to travel through three other line platforms to just find your way into a common area.)
  • The Piccadilly Line is by far the best tube line.

~Ronni

P.S. Most of the images in this post don’t belong to me, as I have once again failed at photo logging my experiences.  One day before I die, I will adopt this habit.

P.P.S Check out the newest video uploaded to the “For Laughs” page here.

Advertisements
Categories: London | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

If the shoe fits…buy it in every color!

“Well apparell’d April on the heel of limping winter treads…” – William Shakespeare

“You better come home with something cute!!”

These are magical words, and when coupled with a cheerfully surrender piece of plastic, a joyous song to the ever devoted shopper.  With an unrepentant enthusiasm for fashion and a weakness for shoes, I can hardly claim to be anything but patently female.  So who am I to argue (or disappoint) when my boyfriend hands over his credit card and shoos me out the door for a day of shopping with a new friend in downtown London, his only stipulation being that I must come home with something?

With the promise of pleasant weather, a colleague from work and I arranged to meet up Saturday for a day of self-indulgent shopping.  Katharine may well be the first significant “friend” I’ve made in London thus far.  A four feet something Trinidadian native, she moved to London some four years ago with her Irish, rugby-playing boyfriend when he moved back from Trinidad, and while she definitely enjoys it here she sympathizes with me about missing certain things from home (like tumble dryers) and the ups and downs of adjusting to a new place and culture away from family and friends.   Though 9 years separate us in age, Katharine and I discovered by the end of Saturday that we nonetheless share a surprising amount in common by way of personality, interests, and personal tastes ( both in terms of shopping and men apparently).

I met up with Katharine at Borough Market near London Bridge around 2:00pm.  We didn’t spend a great deal of time here since she had already been at the market for several hours with some friends of her uncle’s visiting from Trinidad, but we did wander around a bit after she showed me a vendor that makes fabulous mochas.  Borough Market deserves a full day of exploration, as well as a full blog post about it, so I won’t expound on the details until later.  Suffice to say it’s an amazing and fascinating place stuffed cheek to jowl with people by midday on the weekend.

After escaping the shuffling stream of people wending its zigzag path through the aisles and alleys of the market, we caught a train up to Westminster where Katharine lives and from there cut through St. James Park (which is lovely by the way) to start our shopping trip by fanning our fashion frenzy with a stroll down the infamous Bond Street where we dutifully left plenty of nose prints on the windows of such shops as Cartier, Prada, Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Michael Kors, Alexander McQueen, etc.  Aside from lovingly fondling a few gorgeous handbags and pairs of shoes, however, we didn’t do much but window shop here, though Bond Street did, by happy coincidence, provide us with the highlight of our day in the form of a blown glass and kinetic sculpture exhibition at a small art gallery we happened to stumble upon.

I don’t recall who was responsible for the large sculptures like this one,

but the blown glass belonged to a small, round artist from Seattle with frizzy, fly-away hair and a black eye patch by the name of Dale Chihuly who has garnered quite the reputation for himself worldwide for his enormous and exquisite blown glass sculptures, chandeliers, and gardens.

Bond Street conveniently dumps out onto the high end of Oxford Circus, which by virtue of vicinity remained significantly out of our price range.  So, instead of spending any time there, we headed down toward stores more our speed.  By this point it was grown dark and the threat of early-closing shops meant that we had to sacrifice leisure browsing for efficiency since Katharine had a handful of stores she wanted me to see in particular.

Our current, mutual, favourites include:

Though strongly tempted to take this jacket home with me…

…I resisted and instead ended up with both of these tops as my souvenirs for the day:

Interesting Tidbits:

  • London doesn’t exactly have a “style”.  Unlike cities in the States where certain things become a trend and spread en masse, style is a personal choice in London…and everything goes.  Literally.
  • Pastels seem to be the choice colors for spring – pale blue/greens, blush pinks, mauvey lavenders, and creamy yellows are everywhere.
  • Though at first skeptical, I have discovered that there is actually affordable shopping in London.
  • Shops in London close at the weirdest times.  On Saturday night Warehouse closed at 6:00pm while Zara and Mango were open until 10:00 at least.
  • I vaguely suspect that women born and raised in London actually have no feeling at all in their feet.  There is no other possible explanation for how they can walk about all day in heels of any kind.

Don’t forget, you can keep up with all the places we go here!

~Ronni

Categories: London | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Long awaited,and still not done…

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

Note: I’ve put placeholders in for now for pictures. I’ve been holding off on posting this until I could get the pictures from Jason, but we’ve been so swamped in the evenings after work we haven’t had time to sit down and load them onto the computer.  So those are coming…in the meantime, this is at least to catch you up!

Well I’m well past due on getting an update put together – big surprise.  With how eventful the last two weeks have been, though, at least I have plenty of material to work with.  Jason and I pretty much hit the ground running after I got in at Heathrow.  Between social events, work, and moving to a new flat, we haven’t yet had a whole lot of time to do much exploring…not that we’d necessarily have wanted to. Until about two days ago it has been, in Jason’s words, “bitch ass cold” or, if you like, in mine, “colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra” (Nana would be so proud).

Fuck Winter

To Jason’s credit, he didn’t bat an eyelash at my excessive complaining about it, and, as there’s a silver lining to everything, now that it’s warmed up to 30 degrees, it feels quite balmy.

Besides the extreme cold, which every Londoner has told me is highly unorthodox for the area, the weather itself has been really rather lovely.  It’s snowed twice.  The first time was only a few days after I arrived.  It stuck for one night, largely melting away by the end of the next day, but that was enough for Jason and me to go out and enjoy it a bit.

The second snow happened in the middle of last week.  It was pleasant because it didn’t stick…which meant it was, by comparison to the first week and a half, actually too warm for it to!

Aside from the snow and cold, I’m pretty sure people exaggerated how gloomy London is supposed to be.  We’ve had a fairly reasonable balance of sunny, partly sunny, and drizzly days.  It’s actually not been that unusual or depressing.

The Job

Jason, being the slave driver that he is, had me at the office my first full day in London (Thursday, February 2).  I honestly didn’t really mind too much; everyone’s very nice, and I’m excited for the work.  Though, I definitely struggled a few of the first days to stay awake during the quiet periods when I was left to my own devices.  I am currently, officially, assigned to the “partners team” meaning that I help manage the accounts of other companies who buy our products white label and then advertise them through various channels as their own products with their own branding.

Coming from a marketing department of 1 to one of 50+ is really fascinating.  There are teams of 5 to 10 people, and each team is dedicated to a specific range of tasks (partners, ventures, retention, VIP, design, social media, etc.).  Because of how big the department is and how localized duties are, I feel pretty fortunate that I’m able to work outside the confines of one single team.  My primary job right now is with the partners, but I’ll also soon (hopefully) be starting in on working with marketing design, Flash development, and somewhat with retention as well.  As my skills with various programs and company assets progress, it’s my goal to eventually end up down with the game design/animation department too.  I guess we’ll see!

Friday Night Social

There are some very neat things about work that I’m likely to end up getting spoiled on.  Firstly, they provide a rather impressive array of beverages to all employees for free including: juice, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, pop, milk, etc.  Secondly, every morning right around 9 o’clock each kitchen area (there are 4 that I know of for sure) is supplied with a bowl of fresh bananas, apples, oranges, and pears.  Since the vast majority of people don’t come in until 9:30 or 10:00am, I end up having breakfast every morning.  Bananas are the most popular of the fruit, though, and I’ve had to learn to play rugby in order to ensure I get one.  Jason cheats…he picks up the bowl on his way to his desk, ostensibly to be nice to the admin girl who delivers them to the various kitchens, but I think it’s just his clever way of getting first pick of the bananas. 😉

The other notable neat thing that the company does is hold a sort of post-work social on Friday evenings.  Supplying the top floor “game” room (which consists of couches, tables, a kitchen, a pool table, and some video game consoles) with alcohol and snacks, every Friday at 5:30 employees are welcomed to go upstairs for an after work drink and socializing.  The drink and snacks last all of about 10 minutes I think, but it’s a very cool tradition that probably promotes camaraderie in the company and lets people unwind at the end of the day.  I’m convinced the early morning rugby matches over the fruit are intended to train you up for the Friday evening alcohol rush.

The Flat

Jason and I have happily vacated “the circus tent” in Finsbury Park and settled down in a cozy little flat in North Clapham which is part of a charming and bustling area in south London called Clapham Commons.  Clapham (or “Slap Your Momma” as Mommy likes to call it) is home to a large number of restaurants, bars, cafes and leisure facilities. As a result it is now regarded as a fashionable and desirable place to live for new university graduates, foreigners, and the general British “middle classes” and is within easy commuting distance of the city center.   The area apparently dates back to Anglo-Saxon times though, and interestingly the main road through, Clapham High Street, is an ancient “diversion” of the Roman military road Sloan Street.  There’s a Roman stone from that original road in the Clapham Library that says it was erected by Vitus Ticinius Ascanius and is estimated to date from the first century AD.

Clapham High Street

Our flat itself is situated on a residential road a little ways off of Clapham High Street.  When it was “bitch ass cold” out, it seemed like a very long walk, but in actuality is quite short and also very pretty with row after row of old houses of various color and character.  There are a smattering of trees along the way as well that I think will make it really picturesque in the spring or summer.

Killyon Road

Our flat also benefits from being less than a 2 minute walk from Wandsworth Road Station (which we can see from our bedroom window).  This is an over ground train that makes our commute into the city for work every morning very convenient.  We’re also fairly close to the North Clapham stop on the Northern tube line (which we avoid in the mornings because it is slam packed, Tokyo style), and about 15 minutes walk from Vauxhall (?) Station on the Victoria tube line (I think this will also be a very pretty walk in the spring/summer).

The flat itself is on the second floor of what was probably once an old house but has been converted into a three story apartment building.  There are a couple of girls in the flat on the 3rd floor and a few in the 1st floor as well, but they are mostly very quiet.  Jason and I haven’t met them yet.  We share our own flat with another couple.  Iza (Izabela), who is from Poland, will be 25 in June.  Her boyfriend, Emmie (which is short for a name I couldn’t begin to pronounce or spell), is a 31-year-old technical security professional from Malaysia.  We haven’t yet spent a great deal of time with them, but I sat down and had a beer and chat with Iza on Monday (February 13) night while Jason was at basketball.  Besides seeming to be overall friendly people, they have the added perks of being fairly quiet and pretty tidy, which makes them fabulous in my book!

Jason and I have, by London standards, a very spacious room in the flat.  It lacked in the way of storage for our personal needs having only a wardrobe, chest of drawers, and bedside table with two small drawers when we moved in, but with all of the stuff between the two of us we definitely needed some extra closet space so Jason and I ordered an additional wardrobe and a desk and chair, which Jason put together Saturday night after they’d been delivered.  (As an aside, I also learned Sunday night that he can magically unclog a toilet without a plunger.  I’m not sure how, but I’m pretty sure he gets extra man points on his man card for those skills!)

     

Welcome to “Slap Your Momma”: Cafe Sol Dos

Our first night in Clapham, Jason and I decided to celebrate with dinner out.  At 10:00 on a Tuesday night, we had some trouble finding a place that was still serving food.  We settled for a promising looking (though largely empty) Mexican place on Clapham High Street that had two giant braziers burning welcomingly on either side of its door.  By happy circumstance, Cafe Sol Dos was still serving dinner, so we ordered some Mexican mojitos and ate way too much food.  I had a respectable attempt at a chimichanga (Mom’s are still by far the best ever), and Jason ate chicken and beef mixed grill fajitas which were pretty delicious also.  Overall, we liked the place.  It has a neat atmosphere and the interior decorations are very cool with colorful Aztec/Mayan inspired tile murals on the walls.  Their menu is pretty robust as well.  Our general impressions of the restaurant were validated when we passed by on Saturday night and the place was wall to wall packed with diners.

Borough Market, Sundays in London, and H&M

Little Dorrit Park

Since we had largely been trapped inside our flat on Saturday waiting for Argos to deliver our furniture, we didn’t get to do much in the way of area exploring, so Sunday, after finishing up tidying and unpacking in our room, we headed out to take a peek at a place called Borough Market.  Borough Market is, evidently, one of the largest wholesale and retail food markets in London, selling foods from literally all over the world.  In the 13th century traders selling food wares were relocated from London Bridge to Borough High Street.  The market has existed there ever since.  It sounded very vibrant and interesting, but Jason and I will have to wait to tell you more about it because once we arrived at the correct tube stop we were informed that unfortunately, like many places in London, it was closed on Sundays.  Not to be deterred, we amused ourselves for a bit by hijacking a children’s park before trekking back to the station to head on to the St. Paul’s area.

Where we hopped off the tube at Bank, there is a convergence of several roads and across the intersection was this big building…

Is this the Bank from Mary Poppins??  I thought it looked familiar, and I remember from the “Feed the Birds” song that the old woman goes to the steps of St. Paul’s.  Anyway, a couple of streets up from here is a new shopping mall.  It’s pretty small with only about 10-15 stores and probably 5 or so restaurants, but here I got to have my very first H&M shopping experience!

I have known about H&M for some time, but frustratingly they don’t allow online orders/shipping in the USA yet, and the closest H&M store to Charlotte is in DC (I think)…there might be one in Atlanta too.  Anyway, H&M is notable for having quite fashionable clothes at very reasonable prices.  I got a number of very cute dresses from there (all receiving Jason’s stamp of approval).  The most expensive one was £24.99 which is about $40.  Just to be fair we also stopped in All Saints and got Jason a really nice hoodie.

Summary

All in all the first two weeks have been really great.  Though punctuated occasionally with some misery over the cold (which, fingers crossed, has passed) and random spurts of homesickness, we’ve managed to keep very busy.  Now that we’re settling into a comfortable rhythm, we’ll be able to have a lot more fun exploring, traveling, and socializing more.  What better way than to kick off with a trip to Paris!?  For Valentine’s Day, Jason surprised me with a weekend trip to Paris.  We’ll leave tonight after work and come back on Sunday.  I had a cute little preview of what we’re planning to do and see in Paris, but it’s going to end up being a “post view” because this video, like the pictures, is on Jason’s phone.  In the meantime just…

Imagine A Cute Video Now

P.S. Please pardon any strange or exceedingly British looking spelling in my posts.  Microsoft Word keeps tossing in extra ‘u’s and swapping out ‘z’s for ‘s’s.  I try to catch most of them, but it’s possible a few will slip through.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Dates are always written (and said) in the Day/Month/Year format.  So February 13th, is written and said 13 February.  The same is done for telling time where 12:30 is said, “Half Twelve”. 
  • Kellogg Crunchy Nut Bites: Caramel and Nuts is quite possibly the best cereal ever invented.  I’m tempted to join their Facebook page just to convince them to sell these in the States.
  • Potato Chips are called Crisps, and French Fries are called Chips.
  • 7-Up is referred to as Lemonade here.  If you want U.S. style lemonade you have to order “Cloudy Lemonade”.  Ordering Sprite is right out (at least at Thai Orchid).
  • All pigeons are, in fact, French.  How do I know? If you charge them, they always flee!

~Ronni

Check out the Reviews page to read a bit about our opinions on some of the places we’ve been.  At this point it mostly consists of restaurants.

You can also keep up with the places we’ve been here: London Exploits

Categories: London | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.