Living for the weekend….. my London favourites

So this is the actual last weekend I’ll be living in London. I don’t expect to get a lot done, other than running my stall on Saturday and finishing the packing on Sunday. But I thought that with my impending farewell to London, I’d recall some of the best bits from living here, and share them with you….

Poppies Fish and Chips

On Tuesday we had our lovely friend Hannah to visit for the evening after she’d had a worky thing in town. Hannah wanted to go to Poppies before it was no longer our local fish and chip restaurant, and we were only to happy to oblige! The wonderfully kitsch 50s style diner uses sustainably caught fish, as well as other ingredients from Borough Market and even pies from my home time of Stoke on Trent! They have recently been shortlisted for a prestigious award, and will soon fight it out against the likes of Rick Stein in a bid to become the UK’s best independent fish and chip restaurant! And I really hope they win….the food has always been brilliant and the service is great to boot….I’ll miss it so much!

Wilton’s Music Hall

After our fish supper, we took Hannah just down the road to Wilton’s Music Hall for some cocktails. The historic venue hosts fabulous events, theatre, and music, but as it’s currently having a much needed refurbishment to its main auditorium, they are concentrating on the lovely bars they have. The Mahogany Bar downstairs serves a good range of beers, wines and spirits, as well as a few simple cocktails and free nibbles early on in the evening. Upstairs there’s an actual cocktail bar, as well as seating in some of the little rooms off their labyrinthine corridors. There’s also a ping pong table and regular quizzes, dancing and jazz music….we saw the resident band there (who perform every Tuesday) and certainly got toe tapping. You really have to visit this magical place though to get an understanding of its history and personality…there’ll be tours again once the refurbishment is over and I’d highly recommend you take a look in at least then, if not just for a tipple and toe tap before that.

Oliver Conquest

And whilst we’re on the tipples….. Our local, the Oliver Conquest has been one of our favourite finds since living in Central London. Having lured us in with a sign outside boasting their 40+ gin collection, they have now increased their library to over 50 gins! The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and will kindly keep a copy of their gin list behind the bar with your name on so you can tick off each one you’ve tried as you go. And whilst most of the gins need nothing more than a hunk of ice or a dash of their Fever Tree tonic, they will mix you a very fine cocktail and take pride in garnishes to match the qualities of each type of gin. Oh, and there’s a quiz too, as well as regular gin and other booze tastings…..AND they serve extremely good bar food (pork pies, nachos with a very good fresh salsa etc….).

Old Spitalfields Market

Another regular haunt of ours (as you’ll know if you read my Something From the Weekend posts) is the wonderful Victorian covered market Old Spitalfields. A true destination shopping experience, you’ll find great places to eat, independent shops and a few boutiquey versions of some well known brands. And that’s just around the edge of the real market! Seven days a week, you’ll find hand crafted treasures, bargain vintage finds and some brilliant flea market booty. They have special markets on certain days of the week, and on various Saturdays, including record markets, Judy’s Affordable Market, vintage pop-ups and this Saturday, the Designer Makers Market….which I’ll be hosting a stall at. With Christmas coming up, I can’t think of anywhere better to find something for everyone, and if you can’t make it to say hi this weekend, I’d highly recommend you make a visit in the coming months to fill your stockings!

St Dunstan in the East

On a hot, sunny day, there are few things I’d rather do than while away a few hours in my little City oasis. Largely destroyed in the Second World War, as well as being damaged in the Great Fire of London, the little roofless church now contains the most beautiful secret garden. This is truly one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to, and the stunning light and tranquil atmosphere there make for the perfect urban retreat. Whilst we’ve spent many hours there just reading, sun bathing and taking photos with the place all to ourselves, it has become more popular of late as a photography location so you shouldn’t be surprised to find models having their hair and make up done on the benches there before being snapped against the pretty foliage. Still, it’s the perfect place for a quiet picnic (I had my 30th Birthday party there in fact!), and you’ll not find many places more photogenic.
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The Monument

Very nearby is the Monument to the Fire of London, just 61m from where it started on Pudding Mill Lane. The huge Doric column was designed by Christopher Wren, and is worth visiting just to take photos from outside….although inside is where it really gets exciting. Within the column is a spiral staircase which takes the intrepid explorer right to the top, underneath the symbolic golden urn of flames. The views from there are just stunning, and it’s great for taking photos….there is a grill to stop you from falling / dropping things (much to my comfort) but the wires are far enough apart that you can poke your lens out for a clear shot. It’s only £3 for adults to get in, and you get a certificate to say you’ve done it too!

Mudlarking

Whilst atop the Monument, you’ll have had an amazing view of the Thames, and may even have spied a few mudlarkers along the banks! I have long been fascinated by the treasure hunters who trawl the urban beaches looking for exciting finds that come from the river. You can go on a guided tour in fact to show you the best places to look, and to learn about the history of the Thames and some of the things you can expect to find. It’s at least worth knowing where you’re allowed to go exploring and about the tides too….although I recently explored a little beach further East along the river, near Wapping where I got a wonderful haul! I was delighted to find lots of bits of slate that I’ll be using for presentation on my stall and around the house, as well as a pretty little glass and even a complete clay pipe! The more I looked, the more I found, and the more I filled my pockets with booty! It’s really a very rewarding activity!

Thames River Cruises

Still on the subject of the River, I have to recommend a river taxi along the Thames. There are occasionally free river taxis (like the one we went on last weekend for the Thames Festival), but if you’re not lucky enough to time your trip to coincide with those, the £8 or so to take a trip is very much worth it. There are lots of different companies offering different types of trips along the river from the various public piers. My first trip was from Greenwich on one of the City Cruises boats, which took us all the way to Westminster. Although you can take a more commuter friendly boat using your oyster card, I’d thoroughly recommend taking one of the sight seeing boats so that you have plenty of time for snapping photos. Most of the cruises will offer a free commentary from an unofficial guide, all of whom are super enthusiastic about telling you all about the places you’ll see from the river and the stories that go with them. It’s a lovely way to get about and to see more of London, and a great photo opportunity too.

British Museum

As some of you may recall, my (sort of) New Year’s resolution this year was to see every room at the British Museum. The boyf and I are both members and love our visits there for the special exhibitions, but we did realise that we’d seen only a fraction of the permanent display and wanted to remedy that. We started quite well, ticking off rooms from a copy of the museum plan, but having had the busy year we’ve had, we’ve still not managed nearly half of the rooms! Which I suppose shows just how much there is to see and do there…and all for free too. Of all the museums in London and all over the world I’ve enjoyed discovering, this is the one I know I’ll always come back to. I’m so very proud to have a museum like it, and I’ll never tire of visiting or raving about it. There’s an amazing exhibition on at the moment too (Shakespeare: Staging The World), so if you’ve not been for a while, or at all, then do pay it a visit. I know I’m going to miss going so often!

So with all the Olympics and Paralympics fun gone….the special festivals and events of the summer winding down….and the sun being a little less accommodating to those wishing to just sit and bask in it….there will always be plenty of other things to do in London. And I suppose that’s what I’ll miss the most. Knowing that there’s always something to see or do, no matter what the weather or time of year. I’ll miss being able to walk to some of the best places in the country….but of course that won’t stop me from hopping on the train now and again.

Ems x

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