We are back from our London trip.
It was amazing, amazing, amazing.
We are knackered, broke and filthy, but this is testament to what a great time we had.
I would usually give blow by blow accounts of all things, but I have made a conscious decision to blog less over the holidays. There are several reasons for this. Firstly I am spending more time with my family and am away from the computer, secondly I am very busy doing stuff that means I am not in front of a computer anyway, and thirdly I am extremely tired at the moment.
All this means potted histories are the way forward for now.
We were delighted that we got to see our old friends Keith and Noreen twice this year. It did look at one point like we might not get to see them at all, but some judicious tweaking of timings meant two meetings, for which we were extremely glad. We managed to catch Sasha (Liberty London Girl) on one of her rare moments at home, and more importantly, got to pinch the Lovely Lettice for a trot round Regent’s Park one afternoon. It was sausage dog based joy. We got to spend a lazy, sunny afternoon with our good friend MaryAnn, a great morning of shopping and eating with our friends Claire and Erin, and a day with the girls’ dad, all of which were most enjoyable. We also got to meet a new friend, Carmen, who I knew from Twitter, and who turned out to be just as adorable in the flesh as she is virtually. We also got to spend the day with our oldest of old friends, Gina, which was terrific, especially when Jason, who had a meeting in town, gate crashed dinner on the same day. It was an excellent holiday for spending time with people we love and just don’t get to see enough.
This year we finally managed to get to a London based National Trust property, and visited Sutton House in Hackney, original home of Thomas Cromwell’s right hand man, Ralph Sadleir. It was architecturally fascinating, and at 500 years old, the oldest inhabited house in East London.
We did the Museum of London; Docklands this year, which was left over from last year’s unfinished to do list. It’s fascinating, and free. We particularly enjoyed the exhibition about Christina Broom, a famous woman photographer, who took some brilliant photographs of the birth of the women’s suffrage movement. There are also some stunning WWI photographs by her in the exhibition. It’s well worth a visit.
We took the cable car from Victoria Docks (DLR) to the Millennium Dome or the O2 arena as it is now called. There’s a stunning Gormley sculpture on the banks of the river as you come in by cable car, which I thought was worth the trip on its own. It’s part of a sculpture trail called The Line, which I really wanted to do, but we ran out of time. Next year beckons.
We revisited the Geoffrye Museum in Hoxton, which is good for studying interiors, and is a beautiful building in itself. It also has cracking gardens which were at their best at this time of year. It’s not a huge place so we combined it with a trip to Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. This is a small, but brilliant shop where you can buy things like tins of Rising Dread, or boxes of Impacted Ear Wax, or rolls of Fang Floss. All proceeds go to the creative writing and story telling courses that are run from the back of the shop. It’s brilliant. Opening hours are rather erratic, and they only take cash, so go prepared.
We went to the Jewish Museum in Camden, mainly to see the Judith Kerr retrospective which is on tour from Newcastle’s Seven Stories museum. The whole museum is fascinating, but the Judith Kerr exhibition was standout.
We went to Dulwich Picture Gallery to see the Ravilious exhibition, which I was desperate to see and which didn’t disappoint. The day was glorious and we had tea on the lawn at the gallery, and mooched through beautiful Dulwich afterwards, which was at its best on a leafy, Sunday morning in the sunshine.
We visited Granary Square at Kings Cross, a new development where the excellent book barge, Word on the Water, has its new home. The children played in the fountains in the sunshine while MaryAnn and I sunned ourselves and drank wine. It’s a hard life.
We explored Ealing, where we were based. We walked for miles, and took in Ealing Studios, Walpole park and drifted by Pitzhanger Manor house, which was the summer residence of John Soanes, and which is sadly closed for restoration until next year.
Our favourite thing was taking a tour of Angels costumiers out in Hendon. They have tours twice a month. They take twelve people per tour, and the cost is £20. It may seem steep, but you get two hours of magic and 12 miles of costumes to marvel over. We loved it. If you’re interested in costume and film you must do it. You won’t regret it. We’d go again in a heartbeat.
We ate. Boy, did we eat. Recommendations this year include:
Osteria del Portico at Ealing Broadway. Decent Italian food and a great value lunch menu for £11.99 a head.
Tangawizi in Richmond for Michelin starred Indian dining. The channa was superb, as was the mango paneer.
The Grain Store at Granary Square in Kings Cross – Great, friendly service. The best sparkling rose I’ve had in my life.
Five Guys – A fabulous burger place. Not cheap, but if you are a burger afficionado this is hard to beat. Amazing skin on fries, fabulous shakes.
Parkway Greens – A fruit and veg shop, but the pinnacle of fruit and veg achievement. I ate the best blood peach I’ve ever tasted in my life, and I could eat the Moroccan apricots until the cows come home. For sheer variety and flavour you cannot beat it.
Da Paolo – Traditional Italian trattoria off Charlotte Street (Goodge Street tube). Tiny and cramped but authentic as hell. I had amazing pappardelle.
The Breakfast Club – We had pancakes at the Hoxton Square branch. Still the best American breakfast this side of the pond for my money. Pancakes like mattresses and proper maple syrup.
Said – I raved about this chocolate shop/cafe in Soho last year. We had lunch there this year. The service is incredibly slow but the food is great, the cake is amazing and the shakes are pretty damn good too.
Retsina and Moussaka – this is a tatty looking Greek restaurant out in West Ealing. Make the trip. The food is amazing, the portions are beyond hearty and the people are lovely. Take your appetite and you’ll still need a doggy bag.
Wa – This is a Japanese style patisserie in Ealing. Everything is minimal and weeny and so rich you will need to lie down for an hour after eating anything. The food is gorgeous. The tea is a ritual. Try the Mont Blanc cake. It’s heavenly.
Liberty – We had breakfast at Liberty one day. I love the tea room. It’s tiny, and on the women’s couture floor so seldom visited, except by us. The food is great, the crockery is exquisite and the toast is out of this world.
Paperback Coffee and Tea in South Ealing is an excellent bakery and coffee shop that also sells books. You will need cash, and to not be easily offended. Service can be brusque and the signs are quite breathtakingly rude, but also funny. The food and coffee are worth it, and we are looking forward to visiting again.
Ealing Park Tavern – This was just round the corner from our house. I’ve eaten here before and always enjoyed it. It’s a beautiful pub and the food is good.
Rococo – Superb chocolatiers on Moxom Street off Marylebone High Street. We made our yearly pilgrimage. Try the rhubarb and custard truffles and the Anglesey sea salt and caramel ones dusted in cocoa powder. Oh my word, yes.
Pierre Marcolini – Belgian Waffle has a lot of good things to say about Pierre Marcolini, particularly his ravishing eclairs. I couldn’t quite bring myself to spend a fiver on one, but I did eat one or two of his chocolates, and very fine they were too.
Cafe Momo – We visited the Marylebone branch for breakfast one day, and it was very nice. Nothing special, but great coffee and pastry with generous helpings of jam and unsalted butter and great service.
My final tip is that if you’re looking for somewhere nice for tea and buns near Hackney station, do go to the Odeon cinema. They have fine cakes and great coffee and they also do decent chips. Any suggestions for anything less commercial in the area would be most welcome for our next jaunt. It all got a bit desperate.
The usual suspects as far as bookshops go: Daunt in Marylebone had to be done, as did Foyles on Charing Cross Road. I didn’t make it to Persephone, but I will return later in the year and do the pilgrimage. We did get to Gosh, the comic book mecca on Berwick Street, and spend oodles of time and money in the excellent Oxfam bookshop on Ealing Broadway. It is to be highly recommended for many things, including their home made mobile of Jeremy Clarkson’s face.
Charity shopping was absolutely superb this holiday. South Ealing, where we were based was rich in charity shops, and richer after we left them. I got many awesome bargains, including a Jaeger shirt and Gap jeans for £2 each. Camden Parkway Sue Ryder shop was fabulous and the road from Parkway to Mornington Crescent tube has a whole plethora of great charity shops if you’re bargain inclined, which we are.
I’m sure there’s plenty of other things I missed. We did do a lot. An awful lot, so there’s bound to be, but that will do for now.
Next post will be Bake Off related. I haven’t forgotten!