Archive for the 'Look at that tree!' Category

Open Garden Squares Weekend

Don’t miss open garden squares weekend – it’s on now! A ticket is 8pounds but that gets you entry to all of the gardens Saturday and Sunday. Most of the gardens open are ‘private’ gardens not normally open to the public, which of course makes them well worth checking out! With over 190 gardens open, this one takes some planning, but the best strategy is probably to pick an area or two and just garden hop for a few hours. I think my strategy will be to go out to Kensington and Notting Hill tomorrow, where there are a slew of private gardens open for display (and of course they are all quite nice, given that area!). On the website, click on ‘the gardens’ to peruse by area what’s open, with each area having a helpful little map. See the map for Kensington and the map for Notting Hill area. Be sure to start your journey at a garden with a pound sign – that means you can buy your tickets there. Most gardens appear to be places you can do this.

And the garden I’m definitely going to? Lloyd Square, (click on list of gardens – islington – lloyd square WC1) a private key entry only garden for residents around the square that I walk by every single morning on my way to work and wish I had access to every single morning. And though I the residents take great care of it to be honest I never or hardly ever see anyone in there enjoying themselves. Unlike me, who would be in there reading a paper or some such every morning. So there. No bitterness here, no…



Postman’s Park

May I recommend a slightly famous but often overlooked little gem of a park, Postman’s Park. Literally one minute walk from St. Paul’s, it’s well worth a look (it was also featured in the movie Closer, if you happened to have seen that). Postman’s Park is a tiny oasis in the middle of the city financial institutions. It was established by a Victorian guy who wanted to celebrate ordinary men and women, so in one corner there are all these tiles that celebrate ordinary heroes, mostly people who saved others from drowning or from fires. Their deeds are described in duly lurid Victorian prose, but it’s touching nonetheless. The park is a charming little spot – go on the weekend, when it’s not crowded with office workers on lunch – and the unique tiles (handpainted by the Victorian man who set up the thing who was an artist) are truly worth a gander:

Tile 1



Victorian quirkiness and sentimentality at its best. To get there, leave St. Paul’s tube station (or just leave St. Paul’s cathedral area, if you happen to go tomorrow while the tube strike is still on) and walk towards the Museum of London (should be signs). Postman’s Park has an entrance that is hard to see until you are right up on it on the left, just as the Museum of London comes into sight.

Hamley’s for all your summer fun

Now that we are into June we can almost officially call summer.  The weather here has sure felt like it lately, with just a few exceptions here and there.   With great weather comes the great outdoors.  For Londoners (those without cars or means and ambition to travel outside of their zone) this means tromping to your local park for some sunning, picnics and playful games with friends, families and even strangers.  For all those park outdoor activities i.e. frisbee, cricket, football, american football, etc, why not head to Hamley’s–the most famous toy store in London, located in the middle of Regent’s street almost equal distant from Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street.  If you go into Hamley’s, you will quickly see it is not just for kids.  Last year, my friend and I went there and bought our first frisbee of the season.  There are plenty of toys, games and outdoor play equipment to suit any fancy and even a broad selection of board games for that ever expected rainy day.  My next purchase I think will be a cricket set or maybe a croquet set.  Summer is just beginning, so go to Hamley’s then head straight to the park for a perfect afternoon.

Canal walk + market + park = goodness

Lovely day? Want a nice walk but also a fun market perhaps followed by some lounging in the park? May I suggest a stroll down Regent’s Canal, through Broadway Market, and then a nice lie down and look up at the trees in London Fields.


Start at Angel tube station, in Islington. Turn right out of the tube station then right at the York Pub (Duncan Street). Duncan Street dead ends into the Islington entrance to Regent’s Canal. At this point, you can only go East because the canal becomes non-pedestrian as it goes west under the Islington Tunnel. Start strolling! It’s about an hour’s walk (at strolling pace) along one of the quietest and most interesting stretches of Regent’s canal. Parts are industrial and rough, parts are refurbished and beautiful, and some bits are just green and pretty, but through it all you walk along the gently waving canal, which of course is just spectacular if it’s sunny and the sun bounces off the water.












You’ll be amazed as you enter it at first the contrast with loud, busy Upper Street. You’ll pass lots of colourful canal boats


Just be sure to watch out for bikes! Most cyclists are very polite, and expect the same from you along the narrow at times canalside paths. Listen out for the ding of bike bells, especially around tight corners under bridges. Note: if you are a cyclist, if you haven’t used Regent’s Canal as a great way to get through a lot of North London do it, now!


Eventually, you’ll pass a host of other bridges and things and hit Broadway market area. Use Shoreditch Park area as a marker – there are signs for it and it’s almost exactly halfway between Angel and Broadway Market/London Fields area. Just when it starts to look rather very sketchy and you hit a very large bridge with lots of traffic, pop out of the canal (there are stairs for entry and exit at various points). If you’re on Regents’ Row you are in the right place – there is also a sign for Broadway Market on the fence by the canal. If you hit Victoria Park you’ve gone way, way too far, but that’s okay – just go walk around Victoria Park instead!

After exiting the canal path, at peace with life from the quiet and water, go right for only a few steps and then turn left into Broadway Market. You’ll know it’s right by the sudden appearance of nice pubs and food shops, and probably a host of young trendy types. Broadway Market is an interesting place. The full food market is only on Saturdays,  but the whole street is lined with wonderful shops to peruse at anytime – don’t miss Broadway Books! The Saturday market is a wonderful jumble of prepared food, meat, and produce. Once a rather rundown and rough area (though with strong community), London Fields area (of which Broadway Market is part) is getting increasingly gentrified, but it still feels like a real ‘place.’ It’s a tad upmarket feeling now and absolutely swamped by ‘artsy’ types with much of their parents’ dollar to spend, but it’s still a great sensory experience and hey, artsy types always make for good people watching.











Follow the market street all the way to the end, however leisurely you’d like, and it ends right into London Fields. Once a plague burial ground, it’s now a very nice park, full of open green space yet gorgeous leafy trees. And it feels more local, like the people who are there live around there, than the other big parks like Hyde Park which feel more like cut-throat competitive grounds for a bunch of strangers jostling for the best picnic space on sunny days. London Fields doesn’t feel like that at all. There is even a permanent stone ping pong table – bring your own paddles and ping pong ball if you wish and can manage to get a spot. As mentioned earlier, London Fields is also fabulous people watching, due to the fashion-off that happens there daily as hipsters vie for the most unique or trendy look. When I was there last I got to experience the weirdness of five male friends travelling together as a posse, each with a particular ‘style’ carefully crafted to stand out just enough from the other. They were like an indie boy band who had each chosen a decade to wear ironically, including the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. If only one of them had whipped out a ukelele, it would have been hipster complete.


Beyond that though, London Fields is great for a sit/lie down after the walk and the market, to take in the sunshine, shade, families, and hipsters. You can get back to Angel, Tottenham Court Road, etc. by getting the 38 bus off of Graham Road – follow London Fields West Side road that hugs the (you guessed it) West side of the park North as it becomes Greenwood Road and then intersects with Graham Road. Or you can always walk back by the canal if you’re feeling not tired, which I imagine at this point is unlikely…

p.s. if you need to pee, go sneak into the pub on the park, just off London Fields on the east side. Sadly the public toliets have been closed for awhile so this is your best hope. Or even go grab a pint – it’s a great pub.    

Saturday sorted.


A Challenge to Ourselves

Following our last post about how much we’ve been slacking in the blog department, I pose a challenge to C and myself.  We will post one blog entry a day for the next two weeks–that’s right 14 new posts starting from tomorrow 31 May to 13 June.  In an ideal world/my fantasy world of having abundant amount of time I would like to post everyday, let’s be realistic shall we, that isn’t going to happen and I know I will be on holiday starting 10 June for 2 and 1/2 weeks so I doubt I will update much during that time too.  But Challenge On!  Hopefully this will make up for the lack of posts in May (I know the last actually one was on 3 May).  Bad sunshine…bad.  Post 1 of Challenge–see you tomorrow!


A & C

A’s Favourite London Getaway–Isle of Wight

In this blog we try to capture all the great things London has to offer; however, as many British people will tell you London is not the whole of England (with well deserved emphasis!).  Both C and I try to get out and see what else England has to offer when we get the chance, hop on a train (in my instance usually very last minute planning as well) and head in any direction.  Between the two of us we have seen a respectable amount of ‘outside London England’ and to capture this I’m going to highlight my favourite little getaway:  The Isle of Wight.



(Also look for our future blog post on Cambridge vs. Oxford in the near or possibly distant future)

From London it is fairly easy to get to either Southampton or Portsmouth.  Your destination really depends on what part of the Isle you wish to end up at with the ferry.  Yes, ferries are involved–one of my favourite forms of transportation (I’ll even take the long car ferry when I’m a foot passenger just to be on the boat longer).  Portsmouth takes you to the main city Ryde while Southampton will take you to Cowes–The Yachting Centre of the World (or so says the sign in Cowes–I like to believe it though).

Cowes Ferry

Cowes Ferry

Ryde looks very much like Brighton with its town spreading up the surface of a hill with the gorgeous white buildings making the town look very coastal, just as it should be.  There is a beach and plenty of restaurants and shops to keep you entertained for an afternoon or an evening.  Also, many of the Isle’s buses go through Ryde making it an easy starting point to get to the rest of the Isle.

High Street

High Street



Cowes, as I mentioned before is a Yacht haven.  If you are at all familiar with coastal New England you will find many similarities that you will enjoy.  Everything in this small town with an easily walkable high street is nautical themed.  Almost every clothing shop is nautical-based and you will find all your popular sailing outfitters like Henri Lloyd, Gill, Mausto (there even use to be a Helly Hansen but I either can’t find it anymore or it has closed).  Also lining the street are cafes, restaurants and pubs where you’ll see signs offering crew packed lunches (C didn’t understand this, so for non-sailors, this means a packed lunch for a sailing crew when they go out all day. Sort of like picnic. For sailors. Less fancy).  The best part about Cowes is that you can wander into the yacht yards and look at all the boats on dry dock (again, for the sailing-stupid as A shakes her head as if this is common knowledge, this means boats not in water but propped up on land so you can walk among them). You can also get great views of water from these yards.  If you really want to see some boat racing I would recommend going for Cowes Week which this year takes place 1-8 August.   I’ve never been but I’m hoping this year I’ll head down to check out the activities.  I can only imagine how crazy Cowes will be during this event.  From Cowes you can also walk along the esplanade and the beach.  If you wanted to you can just keep on walking around the Isle.  Check out this site for walking tips.

Boat in Dry Dock

Boat in Dry Dock


Boat from the Ferry

Boat from the Ferry


My other favourite part about the Isle of Wight is the Needles.  The Needles are this rock formation of the point heading west into the channel.  It is a very picturesque and you can either take the bus to the top of the cliffs or take a chair lift down to the beach.  I did the bus route and you can get a great side view from above (see photo).  However, there should also be boat tours as well that will take you around the sights.

The Needles

The Needles

There are plenty of other things to do on the Isle and many little towns spreading across its length.  Check out the Isle of Wight’s tourism page to see what you can do.  If you are also into music go to the Isle of Wight festival.  This was made famous back in 1969  when Bob Dylan played with backing from the Band.  People just camp out on the Isle like ever other festival in England.

Don’t miss the Osbourne House, an English Heritage site near East Cowes that was essentially Queen Victoria’s posh getaway by the sea.


Osbourne House

Osbourne House




Holland Park

Hidden away enough that A made it almost two years before visiting this west end gem, it’s been a favorite of C’s since discovering it on a literary walk while studying abroad 3 years ago. Incredibly close to the much-beloved (and often crowded) Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, Holland Park is just big enough and just small enough and frequented mostly by locals.  It’s a quick central London escape into beautifully designed gardens, tree covered paths, and Lord Holland’s old impressive house.

We recommend entering from Holland Park street from Holland Park tube station. It’s just a short walk through iconic white Georgian townhouses built for rich people and still inhabited by rich people. We wish we qualified in this category. Oh well, it’s always free to visit.
Holland Park Street

This park changes so much you can certainly find a spot to fit your mood.  At this entrance, follow the path and then turn right where the park opens up to wander amongst semi-wildness, with bramble-lined dirt paths and tangles of trees. You’ll encounter others walking dogs but not much else in this corner of the park. Go straight or turn left to explore Lord Holland’s house, the meticulous Japanese Garden, or the Italianate style mini-gardens.






Be sure to look out for the park’s famed peacocks which you’re almost guaranteed not to miss on nice days.


Things to do after visiting the park (to be covered in future posts!):
Portobello Road Market
Notting Hill – wander around the neighborhood
Beautiful streets of South Kensington
Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens
Shopping on High Street Kensington

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