Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Tour Of East London

Today I went on an artsy, flowery, crispy walk in East London, courtesy of my friend Kinzie who lives in Islington. We started out along Canal Walk, which took us from Islington to the Columbia Road flower market and then onto Brick Lane.
There are loads of boats dotted along the canal ranging from homes and cafes to stores selling hats and sundries. The surroundings are industrial, cool and rustic all at the same time...kind of reminded me of Berlin or Amsterdam.

We stopped at the cutest little coffee shop on the canal called Towpath Cafe. It's all very laid back and casual here and it seems like a place filled with weekend regulars.  I loved these beautiful orange and blue flowers on the little coloured tables. 
Isn't this such a great setting for a cafe? Love the worn wood paneling in the kitchen. The flat whites were very tasty and the food smelled delicious...this is definitely a hidden gem on the water. 
A colourful block of flats I spotted on our walk. I only took my eyes off the path for a minute to take this photo...if you don't you'll be run over by a biker!
After a leisurely walk we ended up at the fabulous Columbia Road flower market! There are so many florists lining the street shouting "two bunches for a fiver!" You can get some pretty good deals...we went a little later in the afternoon so I think they were trying to get rid of all the last blooms.
Here's my pick! I don't even know what they're called but they are the quirkiest, prettiest fall flowers and they look perfect on my dresser.
Next on the agenda was UpMarket off of Brick Lane for lunch (a big warehouse full of stalls selling food and clothes). We ate on picnic benches right outside the building and then browsed the stalls a bit before moving to well-known Spitalfields to do some shop a little more. There's everything from jewelry and art to restaurants and accessories.
Especially loved these handmade chic leather clutches! I'll definitely be coming back in the future to browse the stalls and pop back over to Brick Lane for a good curry.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Primrose Hill & Hampstead Heath

Last Sunday we toured the lovely Primrose Hill area of London, following Gwyneth Paltrow's walking tour from her new GOOP Guide app. It's such a pretty neighbourhood that reminds me so much of San Francisco, especially the high street lined with cafes, home stores, book shops and doggie stores. It's also allegedly home to celebrities like Sienna Miller and Kate Moss...shame I didn't see them walking around! We also explored Hampstead Heath which is just a quick tube ride away from Primrose Hill. Here are a few snaps from our leisurely eating and sightseeing tour.
From Fulham we took a 45-minute tube ride up north to Chalk Farm which leads you right to Primrose Hill. The first thing we did was walk through the lovely lush park where this sign is engraved in the pavement. 
Here's the amazing view from the top of Primrose Hill park. You can see the BT Tower (that really tall skinny building in the middle) and even the London Eye in the distance. I love all the greenery contrasted by the skyscrapers in the city centre.
We had to have Union lattes in my hand for our walk in the park. It's similar to Blue Bottle coffee, but not quite as good...then again, is anything?!
It was a brisk but beautiful day, so thankfully we could see everything from the top of the hill. You can definitely feel that autumn has arrived...we got all of our winter clothes just in time for the rain this week.
After the park, we spent some time walking along the high street. Along with some yummy-looking restaurants there were several small grocery stores with fresh, local produce like these cheeses. Since we were out for most the day we didn't pick any time! 
We turned off the high street to head over to to the famous Lansdowne pub for an authentic thin crust pizza lunch. I had a butternut squash pizza which was unique and fabulous, along with a glass of chardonnay. IT was so lovely being cosy inside while the clouds darkened outside. I've really come to love pub life here in England...particularly on Sundays when loads of families come in for a roast dinner.
Here are a few of the pretty brick buildings and colourful doors in Primrose Hill. It's so quiet on these streets and there's a suburb feel that's a welcome change from the bustling city. 
Our post-lunch treat was a vanilla and chocolate cupcake from the little family-run Primrose Bakery. Even had coloured sprinkles on top! And we managed to gobble this up in minutes on the sidewalk...classy!
After a quick tube ride from Primose Hill to Hampstead Heath ,we walked down Gayton Street which is lined with tons of old brick houses. This lead us to the sprawling green Hampstead Heath park, which as you can see from the photos, is absolutely gorgeous and peaceful.
Our final stop after browsing the stores on the Hampstead Heath high street was this little gem...Hampstead Creperie Stand, where we enjoyed their most famous treat filled with banana, cream and maple syrup. Such a  perfect way to end a day exploring our city!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Massimo Dutti Has Arrived!

American friends...the day has finally come...Massimo Dutti has landed in the States!!! I am so incredibly excited for this development since Massimo Dutti is by far my favourite store in the UK. I literally can’t go in there without buying something. Everything from their jeans to their jackets is really well made and super stylish without being over the top expensive. Their first American store just opened last week in NYC, and I’m sure it won’t be long until the west coast gets its very own flagship store. Until then, you can head to the online store. Happy shopping everyone!

[Images via Massimo Dutti]

Monday, 15 October 2012

Chanel's Little Black Jacket

How gorgeous are these photos! They're from the Chanel Little Black Jacket exhibit I went to over the weekend at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. This exhibit trumpeted all the fashion at museums I've seen before because it was so accessible and relevant. Karl Lagerfeld is not only a Chanel's designer; he's also a renowned photographer and actually shot all of these photos for the exhibit. It was so cool to see how each celebrity and model chose to wear the jacket in their own way to really accentuate their individual style. The message is that this iconic little black jacket can be worn by one and all, even after all these years (the jacket was first created by Coco Chanel more than 60 years ago). My favourite was Vanessa Paradis, second to last one down. The parasol, big, sexy hair, slit up the leg and skinny black tie with the white ensemble are so timeless and perfectly Parisian. And of course I loved SJP (fifth one down) for her fabulous crown and cropped jacket, which so remind me of  something Carrie would  wear on Sex and the City! Overall it was so worth it and I highly recommend visiting if you're in London, especially because it's free. The exhibit runs through 28 October. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Scenes from Stockholm

Stockholm was nothing short of fabulous this past weekend. Again, this was one of those places I'd never really thought of visiting until I moved to London, but I'm so glad we did. Autumn is a lovely time to go: the leaves are turning a beautiful burnt orange, there's a chill (maybe a bit too much) in the air, and there's still a good amount of sunshine. And the Swedish people were so polite and helpful and almost everyone we met spoke perfect English. We didn't research a ton before going...we hardly ever do when we the week before we just picked out the top places we'd want to visit. And we easily got through all of the major sites we wanted to see in two days without rushing.. Here's a look at our weekend tour...
The view from the green island of Djurgarden, the park where the royals used to hunt. It's home to lots of  historical buildings and monuments, galleries and museums like the famous Vasa Museum. You can take the overground train from the city centre to Djurgarden, although the price is a little steep at £4 one way. 
Posing near the water in Djurgarden and loving the sunshine. All of the gardens are perfectly manicured. This was our first stop on the Stockhom tour before heading into the Vasa Museum, which houses the only preserved seventeenth-century ship in the world.
After the Vasa Museum we took a long walk in  the Djurgarden park. It's so green and lush and there are great views of the water and the other side of the city from every angle. 
These are the gorgeous streets in Gamla Stan, the old city which is filled with chocolate shops, bars, restaurants and boutiques. We spent hours walking through the streets and checking out the cafes and stores along the way. 

I love the colourful buildings in Gamla Stan which remind me so much of the buildings in Amsterdam. They're each so different, it's like a collage!
This was on our first night...we went to dinner in Gamla Stan and you have to walk across the bridge from the main part of town. Luckily we caught the end of this gorgeous sunset on the way. 
Loving the crisp, cool air on our way to dinner. Also feeling very relaxed after a little nap...we were so tired from a day of sightseeing!
We booked ahead at this lovely restaurant called Den Glydene Freden. It serves up fancy Swedish food and came highly recommended by our hotel (and TripAdvisor!). The atmosphere was cosy and upscale and the food was really delicious. Jim had a lamb shank and I had vegetarian meatballs, yum!
After dinner we headed back towards Slussen, on the other side of the bridge, where we popped into the Ice Bar at the Nordic Sea Hotel. I'd never been to one before although they have them in many cities around the world. It was damn cold but a really cool experience...and the cosmopolitan served in a frozen glass was fabulous.
This was on our second day...we went back to the Royal Palace where we'd been on the first day as well. You can buy at ticket for about £15 that gets you into three museums: the royal apartments, the treasury (pretty small for a treasury!) and the Tre Kronor (which houses artifacts from the palace that burned down before this new one was built).
After the museum tour we went to Sodermalm which is the more eclectic  neighbourhoody part of town. I found it really calming to walk around here as opposed to Gamla Stan, which is much more touristy  There are lots of vintage boutiques shops and nice looking restaurants (and people!). And there is a lovely park near Urban Deli shown above. where you can hang out and enjoy the sun.
I'd read about Urban Deli in a booklet from our hotel. It's a laid back restaurant and grocery store with a bit of an edge (loud music, hipster waiters) and it had a good selection of food (that is, if you like meat). I found that my selection was limited at a lot of restaurants since I don't eat red meat. But I did have a delicious mozzarella burrata dish here and perfectly seasoned french fries.
And lastly, a beautiful view of Gamla Stan and the main island from Sodermalm. And that was the end of our Stockholm tour!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A Posh Guide To London

Gwyneth Paltrow just never ceases to amaze me...not only is she a gorgeous actress and adorable mother, but she’s also a savvy business woman who’s got great taste in fashion, food and culture. And lucky for us, she’s put that great taste into her new app that I've just downloaded. It’s called GOOP City Guides and although the price is a bit steep for an app ($3.99), I think it’s so worth it! GOOP has guides for London and New York, with LA soon to come. To be honest it probably doesn't make sense to purchase unless you live in one of those cities or are going there for a week-long holiday, but if one of these applies, get downloading! The London guide has posh recommendations for everything from food and city walks to bars and beauty. Even though I've lived here for a year now (crazy, I know!) and I like to think I've gotten around to some of the city sites and trendy spots, I still haven't been to half the places she recommends. And most of them look like they're worth a visit.

The past few nights I've been spilling over the London guide and making lists of everything I want to do. I've been wanting to visit the lovely Primrose Hill area and Gwyneth has a “London Walk” suggestion for a full day out from the best boutiques to the best pub in the area. I’m also planning to go to the Pimlico farmer’s market which she says features lots of fabulous French fare.  And I've even made a reservation at one of her Chelsea restaurant picks, Tinello, a little Italian joint. Basically I've become obsessed and am now planning my life around this guide...I can’t wait to report on these new adventures!

[Images via Apple]

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Pomegranate & Elderflower Fizz

Our summer and now autumn drink of choice has hands-down been the pomegranate & elderflower fizz. It's simple, easy and so satisfying on a hot day or after work to take the edge off. I have yet to experiment with other flavours because we've become so obsessed with this one, but I'm sure the lime & coconut or a mango flavour would be delicious. I think these drinks are also known as Italian sodas but I prefer the word fizz.

All you need is two ingredients: San Pellegrino or any other fizzy water and Pomegranate & Elderflower cordial. I prefer the Bottle Green brand because it's easy to get from Waitrose, but I'm sure your local store has something similar. Simply pour about 1/4 inch of cordial in the bottom of a tall glass, and fill it to the brim with San Pellegrino. 

Sip and enjoy!

[Images via Product Review, Bottle Green]
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