Belfast City Guide

To be honest with you, until last year I didn’t get Belfast. I probably would have gone as far to say I didn’t like it. I had been a couple of times and it just felt so… nondescript. I think like many people I came here expecting to see history with a big H. Instead, I was faced with another city centre with the same high street shops everywhere, the likes of you see pretty much everywhere in the UK.

But then last December I came back to check out the Christmas Market, the biggest in Ireland, and I received some great recommendations through Instagram and suddenly, it clicked. I started falling in love with Belfast. I think the trick is to definitely leave these expectations behind, yes there’s history but it won’t necessarily jump at you, you’ll need to dig a little. But the key is getting a good grasp of Belfast’s geography.
Belfast is the sum of its quarters, each with its own atmosphere and identity. Something that totally escaped me on my previous visits and therefore I ended up stuck in a loop around the City Hall (which is a beautiful building by the way so do make time for it, pictured above).

My favourite Belfast’s quarter on this trip was the Queen’s Quarter which is located in South Belfast. It is named after Queen’s University and I loved the laid-back, student-y vibe of the area!

Each quarter has its own specificity. In the city centre, you’ll find the Cathedral Quarter which feels like the city’s historical centre. Go West and you’ll reach the Gaeltacht Quarter. Look at the streets signs and shop fronts, they are both in English and Gaelic, and here you might hear Irish being spoken.
The Titanic Quarter, the new kid on the block, has emerged with the recent opening of the Titanic museum.
It’s worth planning your trip in advance so you can experience the best of Belfast’s multifaceted areas.

Click the button below to download the PDF version of this guide for free.

bittles bar belfast

SEE / DRINK

BITTLES BAR

Bittles Bar is a Belfast attraction in and of itself because of its impressive whisk(e)y collection and selection of beers and ciders. But what drew me in is undoubtedly the incongruous architecture of the building. Reminiscent of New York’s Flat Iron, the red-bricked facade looks certainly most intriguing. This traditional Victorian pub now stands next to the uber modern Victoria Square Shopping Centre, which makes for an interesting contrast.
I climbed to the top of the latter to check out the panoramic view out of the Dome but I found it all a bit underwhelming to be perfectly honest with you.

MUSGRAVE CHANNEL ROAD

Tip from Alex from The Full Shilling blog who kindly messaged me afterwards that the view from the rooftop bar of the Grand Central Hotel is way more impressive. I didn’t get the chance to check it out but I thought I’d pass the info along here!

SEE

COMMERCIAL COURT

Commercial Court is to Belfast what Temple Bar is to Dublin. Lined with traditional pubs and covered in cobbles, this charming alleyway see its fair share of night life and enthusiastic tourists. It certainly catches the eye with its fairy lights and other seasonal decorations. During the festive period, sparkly umbrellas were dangling over us. Come Summer, expect to see colourful pots of flowers adorning the walls. Step in the Duke of York to get a sense of music history as it is here that Snow Patrol played some of their first gigs. With regular live music shows, you might just catch the next big thing on the Northern Irish scene!

SHOP

To be honest with you, when it came to shopping in Belfast I was dead excited about the charity shops. You’ll find this city bountiful if like me you enjoy a bit of treasure hunting. Good areas for thrifting are the city centre, Botanic Avenue, Lisburn Road and Ormeau Road. My personal favourite shops were Oxfam Home on Dublin Road and Action Cancer on Lisburn Road.

EAT

I didn’t do it on purpose but all my food recommendations from my stay in Belfast are vegan. The definite highlight was this fry-up from Maggie Mays, a local greasy spoon chain that pretty much does breakfast all day. It’s the go-to place for hungover students and I can see why. It feels a bit like being at your Mam’s kitchen table. Meals are cheap as chips, filling and delicious, a full menu of topnotch comfort food! I had my first potato farl (or potato bread) and man, where has this slice of heaven been all my life?! I’m obsessed!
If you like Middle Eastern Cuisine, I recommend Falafel Eatery & Coffee House. The falafel had great taste and texture but I would have liked to see a better selection of veggie sides.
I was dying to try 387 Ormeau Road Cafe‘s vegan sausage roll but unfortunately it was so busy that I gave up and went for a Greggs’ one instead. It ended being quite tasty indeed!

SEE

BOTANIC GARDENS

Unsurprisingly, I was extremely excited to visit Belfast’s Botanic Gardens and they for sure didn’t disappoint. The reason is first, well, you know me, I never miss a chance to visit a public garden but secondly it is an important location in The Fall, a series I’m not soon to forget about. The gardens possess a few interesting features such as the Tropical Ravine House which had recently undergone a major renovation. The design is rather unique. Inside a Victorian building is nestled a sunken ravine full of tropical plants such as ferns, cinnamon and banana plants. This subterranean jungle can be admired from the overhanging balcony or you can straight walk through it.
My favourite part of the Botanic Gardens was undoubtedly the Palm House. It is one of the earliest examples of a glasshouse made of curved iron and glass. And if it looks familiar to you, it is because it was the work of Richard Turner, a Dublin iron founder who then went on to build the glasshouses of Dublin Botanic Gardens as well as Kew Gardens in London. Pretty impressive CV, right? The Palm House has a tropical wing and a cool wing. At the time of my visit, the latter was peppered with colourful tulips which was a jolly sight!
Handily, you’ll also find the Ulster Museum inside the Botanic Gardens walls.

COLLEGE PARK, BOTANIC AVENUE
FREE ADMISSION

st george's market belfast soap mystiques enchantments

SHOP / EAT

ST GEORGE’S MARKET

If you ever in Belfast on a weekend, definitely give St George’s Market a visit. This place is poppin’! There are so many great stalls to browse. Expect local produce, fish and meat, bric a brac, lots of different cuisine to sample, flowers, etc… And if it rains, don’t worry as the market is covered. It’s actually the last Victorian covered market left in Belfast. It’s been opened since 1890. I visited it on a Friday at lunch time. I made a beeline for the hot dog stall as I had heard through the grapevine that they had a vegan offering. And indeed they did! Great brioche bread and sausage but unfortunately lacking in the topping department. I didn’t leave the market empty-handed as I bought a divinely-fragrant soap from Mystique Enchantments and a bag of loose organic peppermint tea from Suki Tea.

12-20 EAST BRIDGE STREET

SEE

QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY

Located in South Belfast, Queen’s University gave its name to the quarter known as Queen’s Quarter. You’ll find it next to the Botanic Gardens. The pièce de résistance of the campus is the eye-catching Lanyon building, a tudor-revival quadrangle-shaped building with a magnificent courtyard in its heart. If I may say, I never seen a lawn so pristine-looking on a campus. If it had been my uni, that lawn would have been trampled in less time that it takes to say ‘free pot noodles’. Anyways, I was dead impressed and I can see why it is often said to be one of the most beautiful universities in the UK. You can book for a guided tour or grab a free map at the Welcome Centre to explore at your own pace.

UNIVERSITY ROAD

SEE / DO

BELFAST CASTLE

Belfast Castle is located in North Belfast, a good 30 min bus journey from the city centre. It is set on the Belfast Hills which you can see on the horizon throughout the city.
Rumour has it that they inspired Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as their outline looks like a sleeping giant.
Built in 1870 in the popular Scottish Baronial style, Belfast Castle catches the eye with its turrets, stepped gables, red features and spiral stone-staircase. Unfortunately it is mostly closed to the public as it now serves as a venue for weddings or other events. Nonetheless, a walk in its landscaped garden is a pleasant experience. The view over the city is spectacular. And the gardens are cat-themed which is rather charming. 9 cats are hidden in the design. Will you be able to find them? Cats are intertwined with the castle in an old legend that professes that the residents would only find luck as long as a white cat lives on the premises.
Belfast castle is also the starting point of Cave Hill hiking trails.

ANTRIM ROAD
FREE ADMISSION

STAY

I stayed in the Crescent Townhouse Hotel, located in the Queen’s Quarter. It’s a great base for exploring the area and there are so many food options literally on your doorstep. I could see Maggie Mays from my window! The staff was so accommodating and friendly. The room was cosy, the bathroom even had a claw foot bath! All in all, it was great value for money.
It’s worth noting that the hotel is located in a lively area so it can get noisy, especially on the weekends. If that bothers you, you might want to mention in your booking that you’re looking for a quiet room. With that being said, I stayed on a Thursday night, street side, and it was completely fine.

13 LOWER CRESCENT

It took a few tries but it’s safe to say that Belfast has now my heart. And there’s still so many good reasons to make another trip back soon. Heck I haven’t even touched on the fact that it is Game of Thrones country. Coinciding with the end of the series, an exhibition displaying the show’s props opened this year. It is on until September 1 2019.
The Titanic Museum is also a major attraction I would like to visit one day and for a good dose of history I’d like to see the Peace Wall as well as take part in a Black Cab Tour. Until next time, Belfast!

Click the button below to download the PDF version of this guide for free.

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens | Gibraltar

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

I can’t hardly pretend it’s ‘business as usual’ over here. Like many of you I’m sure, I feel stunned, confused and sad right at this minute. I’m generally of the mind that my travel blog is not suited for politics but with recent events, it’s getting harder and harder to hope for the best and just keep going. I want to talk about what’s happening to us and those who represent us. I just might, I don’t know, I need to tidy up my mind, it’s all jumbled up and raw in there. I think travel can open our minds and horizons, change our definition of what it is to be human and to belong. The topic is obviously close to my heart but I keep wondering if what I write here is enough, in a world that seems to be dominated by the fear of the unknown, I feel like I should push myself to write about travel in a way that brings us closer. I’ve no idea if I have it in me or what shape it is going to take but I’m going to work on it. Anyways, in case you need a bit of escapism, here is the post I had planned for this week.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I spent a couple of days in Gibraltar last month. It actually was the second time I visited the Rock (the isthmus, not the wrestler) and these pictures actually date back from my previous trip. Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, also known as the Alameda Gardens, were on the top of my list of things to see. You know me and my Botanic Gardens! Once, I crossed the Spanish border and the airport runway, I made a beeline for the gardens. In 15 minutes, I had walked the entirety of Main Street (Gibraltar High Street) and found myself standing in the car park where the cable car that goes to the top of the Rock is located. Very conveniently, the garden entrance is just next to it.

Gibraltar Botanic GardensGibraltar Botanic Gardens

The gardens were built in 1816 by the governor as a place for locals and stationed British soldiers to take a break and wander. They’re still a splendid place to do just so but they’re also a great source of education today. A great array of plants from parts of the world with a Mediterranean climate are displayed on terraced beds while facts pertaining to them are beautifully written on tiled boards. My favourite section was the succulent and cactus area, those weirdly shaped spiky things really thrive in the Gibraltar salty air.

Gibraltar Botanic GardensGibraltar Botanic Gardens

The location of the park is in itself worth the detour. One one side, its high position offers impressive views over the bay where huge tank boats go about their business. On the other, it is overlooked by the majestic Rock Hotel hanging on to the… well… Rock! Its Art Deco architecture evokes so much 1920s glamour, it’s difficult not to imagine the lavish parties that must have taken place there.

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

The gardens has a few interesting features to explore. For instance The Dell, a mysterious staircase surrounded by orange trees or the typical red telephone box that looks wonderfully out of place, lost in the foliage. One thing that made me stop in my tracks is a statue of Molly Bloom. Let me tell you I didn’t expect a James Joyce character in such an exotic place but had I gotten over the first few pages of Ulysses, I would have known that Molly Bloom is a native from Gibraltar and the Alameda Gardens are actually mentioned in the Irish classic. Funny how some things follow you in the most unexpected places!

Gibraltar Botanic GardensGibraltar Botanic Gardens

Another great surprise for me was to find the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park at the back of the gardens. You see the week I was visiting Gibraltar the cable car was under maintenance which meant I couldn’t go up to  see the monkeys to my utter dismay. Luckily, the conservation park had a few Barbary Macaques as guests that day. They care for native species that are considered for reintroduction to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. But their main vocation is to offer a haven for animals who were rescued from illegal traders and raise awareness against the issue. When I visited, they had parrots, rabbits, tortoises, bats, peacocks and a couple of otters that were having a full conversation over the wall separating their pens.

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens
Gibraltar Botanic Gardens
Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

Gibraltar is really small so there’s no excuse for you to miss this beautiful haven. You can easily walk there from pretty much everywhere but in case you were feeling pressed by time, the nearby bus stop is served by all the lines (except the 8).

ALAMEDA GARDENS PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Gibraltar Botanic Gardenswebsite
Red Sands Road
Gibraltar GX11 1AA

Opening Hours
8am – 9pm (or Sunset if earlier)

Admission
Free

Alameda Wildlife Conservation Parkwebsite

Admission
General £5 / Reduced £2

Opening Hours
10am-5pm

Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities | London

The Last Tuesday Society

Halloween is creeping up on us so what better time to take you to a dark basement in East London, right? More precisely, we’re going to Hackney. There’s this strange-looking pub on Mare Street, with a black front and curious knick-knacks haphazardly displayed in its window. Inside the atmosphere is suitably lugubrious. On the ground floor, the Last Tuesday Society is a pub like no other. As your eyes get used to the poorly lit environment, you may notice that patrons may look rather strange… Yes, you’re seeing that right, it’s a rather menacing stuffed lion wearing a top hat sat at that table! Now as much as this is definitely the most intriguing drinking institution I’ve been to, I’m actually here to tell you about what lies beneath it…

The Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday Society

Mention the museum to the bartender and you will be shown to a gaping hole on the ground where a staircase spirals down to a red-glowing mouth. Hold tight to the banister, a few more steps, please, please mind that one, and you’ve landed in Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities. There, a couple of rooms are lined with glass cabinets filled with so much stuff you don’t know where to start. There’s a lot of taxidermy as one expect from such places but the specimens are arranged in strange scenes, sometimes placed alongside surprisingly mundane objects. For instance, there’s this striking stuffed two-headed lamb standing right next to Dora the Explorer.

The Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday Society

The associations are mesmerising, you feel like you’ve just tapped into Viktor Wynd’s stream of consciousness. His interests are strangely intertwined behind the glass windows: tribal art, erotica, taxidermy, celebrity culture, Happy Meal toys and the flashy world of dandies. With his personal collection mixed with donations, Viktor Wynd wishes here to “recreate a 17th century Wunderkabinett with 21st century sensibilities”. The idea is not to educate but to leave the visitor with a sense of wonder. Undoubtedly, some pieces are awe-inspiring such as the perfect dodo skeleton, the precious glitter suit of celebrated dandy Sebastian Horsley or the predator bones lurking behind the bars of a cage at the back at the museum.

The Last TuesdayThe Last Tuesday SocietyThe Last Tuesday Society

But mostly, this little shop of horrors is deliciously facetious. A closer inspection to the book covers will make you blush, with titles like The Naughty Nun or Mrs Thompson’s Water Domination (!). And look at that angry stuffed chihuahua taking cover under the giant crab! It’s also well worth reading the labels on the various pots and jars exhibited on the shelves. There are some very puzzling spontaneous donations such as Russell Brand’s pubes (which are actually beard trimmings sent by his hairdresser), Amy Winehouse’s (fake) poo and Russell Crowe’s (actual) wee. The world of Viktor Wynd is undoubtedly fascinating but what you make of it is the added reward.

The Last Tuesday Society
Practical Information

The Last Tuesday Society,
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities – website

11 Mare Street
London E8 4RP

Opening Hours
12pm – 10.30pm (Wed-Sun; same hours as the pub)
Tours are also organised

Admission
General £5 / Concessions £3 (includes a cup of tea & a guide book)

Bus
26, 48, 55, 106, 254, 388

Summer Days in London

Summer Days in London
Last month I went for my annual trip to London and as always I had the best time exploring my favourite city. I only stayed a long weekend and this time I felt like taking it easy and didn’t pack as much as my last trip. A lot of time was spent in parks just basking in the sun, it was wonderful. I thought I would write a quick and casual summary of what I was up to during these few blissful day because there were a few great London discoveries that were made.

When your breakfast spot has the prettiest facade on the street 💕
Day 1 started with a lovely breakfast at Well Street Kitchen. I opted for the granola and greek yogurt topped by a deliciously tart berry compote. Portions were generous and everything was well done and fresh (bar the OJ that tasted like it was cut with concentrate juice which was slightly disappointing). The digestion phase was spent sitting in the nearby park and observing the people passing by. It always strikes me how close-knitted the East-end community looks like from afar, everybody seems to be talking to each other.
Summer Days in London
Summer Days in Dublin
Next I hopped on a bus to Islington High Street. I had briefly window-shopped there before, it’s quite a vibrant area with an interesting mix of shops. I took advantage of being in the area to check out Home & Pantry, an independent Interior Shop I had long wanted to visit. But the real reason I was in the area was to go to the Victoria Miro Gallery to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition. This was first on my ‘London wishlist’ this year as I really didn’t want to miss it before it closed. I had previously seen Kusama’s work before in the Tate back in 2012 and absolutely loved her universe. This time the exhibition seemed to focus on reflections, ripples and pumpkins. It was a completely mind-blowing experience to stand in the room of ‘All the Eternal Love I have for the Pumpkins‘.
Summer Days in London
Afterwards, I went to Spitalfields market where I had a late lunch at Leon. I had heard of their sweet potato falafel box and thought it sounded like a great combination. It turns out it was a tad bland, it was nice but nothing to write home about. I immediately got luncheon remorse when I noticed that Pilpel was just outside the market hall. Oh well, you win some, you lose some… I wanted to wander in the area to take pictures of the old Georgian streets. I went back to Folgate Street where stands the molto brilliantissimo Dennis Severs House and explored Fournier Street and Princelet Street for the first time. These were honestly two of the most beautiful streets I had ever trod on, pure film set material.
Summer Days in London
The day’s explorations ended with a walk along Brick Lane and a quick look to the facade of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. It was unfortunately closed by the time I got there but it’s a fascinating place, full of history, as it is here that Big Ben and the Liberty Bell were cast. I definitely need to come back during business hours.
Summer Days in LondonSummer Days in London
On Day 2, I went to Sutton House. This I will need to write a post about but it is a beautiful Tudor manor, the oldest residential building in Hackney actually. It used to belong to Ralph Sadleir, a courtier of the terrifying Henry VIII. You can visit the many rooms but if you don’t care much for history there’s also a tea house and a cafe. The inner courtyard is a wonderful little place to sit down and have a cuppa.
Summer Days in London
And on the final day, I went to Camden Market. I hadn’t been there in years! Even though my recollection of it was the most crowded place in London, I’m pretty sure it managed to get even busier since the last time I was here. The market stalls expanded quite a bit too. The food variety would make anyone’s head spin (especially if you suffer from option paralysis like me). Unrelated question but does anyone know what happened to the group of punks who would always hang out by the bridge? Did the crowds make them run away and hide? Is punk dead?
Summer Days in LondonSummer Days in London
Following that, I was in dire need of a quieter and greener place so I took off and headed to Primrose Hill. But first, I stopped by Wholefoods to get a few snacks for an impromptu picnic. Another overwhelming place for little old indecisive me but I managed to get out with some interesting quinoa crisps and novelty pop corn as well as a refreshing cold-pressed watermelon juice.
On my way to the top of the hill, I crossed a couple walking 5 dachshunds. Their little stumpy legs were working hard! Incidentally, this is not the first time I see 5 dachshunds on a hill!
Primrose Hill offers fantastic view over the London skyline (although I think I might prefer the view from Hampstead Heath). The wind was strong at the top and some kids were flying kites. Which meant I had Mary Poppins Let’s Go Fly a Kite looping in my head all afternoon!
Summer Days in London
I noticed the hill was not too far from Little Venice so I hopped on the canal pathway and lazily wandered along the water. I’m actually not sure I even went through Little Venice (?), I walked until I met a dead-end. It was such a pleasant stroll, the canal was bordered by grandiose-looking manors. Back onto the streets, I found my way to the nearest tube station. Next stop: Westminster!
Summer Days in London

Summer Days in London
I hadn’t seen Big Ben in years! It still takes my breath away and fills me with nostalgia, bringing me back to being a teenager discovering London for the first time. I’m forever impressed with this city’s grandeur, the Houses of Parliament look like it was chiselled from ice and the Thames so strong, ploughs through the city like a thousand concrete-coloured stallions. Just as I was crossing Westminster Bridge, I noticed a group of Asian couples in the middle of a wedding photoshoot. It was just the weirdest thing, the brides wore sneakers under their beautiful tulle dresses and gave their best smiles to bossy photographers.
I patiently waited for them to finish their shoot and headed to that little tunnel under the bridge to take that famous framed picture of Big Ben. Unfortunately the light was pants but as I crossed to the other side of the bridge, I was welcomed by the warm golden hour.
Summer Days in London

This was the perfect ending to another successful trip to this city I love so much. It was great to chill and revisit old favourites. I’m quite chuffed with the new places I saw too. But now it was time to go to the “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning” and bid good bye to London. Until next time old friend!

Columbia Road Flower Market | London

Columbia Road Flower Market

I’ve well and truly been bitten by the Springtime bug, fawning over every bloom I pass on the streets, getting teary-eyed over shedding cherry-blossom trees and sniffing lilac like there’s no tomorrow. Spring in Dublin is magical but I have to say I get a teeny pinch in the ticker when I see all the flowery London snaps on Instagram. I mean, have you seen the #wisteriahysteria hashtag?! And did you know that the shops in Chelsea are decked with hundreds of flowers in honour of the Chelsea Flower Show? I can’t help being a tad jealous of the floral fete London is experiencing at the moment. So I thought it would be the perfect time to reminisce over a lovely Sunday morning I spent at the flower market in East London last Summer.

It was my first time visiting the Columbia Road Flower Market despite seeing it featured countless times in blogs over the years. Truth is, waking up early on a Sunday morning was rarely on my list of priorities in my twenties. Especially when visiting my favourite city. But with the thirties come wisdom… or at least a great urge to see flowers arranged neatly in buckets.

Columbia Road Flower MarketColumbia Road Flower MarketColumbia Road Flower Market

The flower market is a great little slice of London life. You’re surrounded by the colourful accents of the sellers hollering at the passersby, elegant women who look like they could single-handedly organise a party of 150. Others who quickly scan the stalls like resolute captains of their gardens and then there are the girls who look for a little bouquet to brighten up their small rentals. When the clock strikes 11, the street gets so crowded you can hardly move. I managed to go up and down Columbia Road a few times to take these pictures. It was one of the most intense photographic exercise for me. There’s people literally everywhere, the sun was shining bright on one side of the road while the other was plunged in the dark, shaded by the street houses. I generally like to take my time when I take pictures but I had to act quickly, constantly changing settings and trying to be discreet in order not to disturb anyone. I enjoyed snapping the pretty posies – roses, peonies, sunflowers and hortensias were in season – but also the patrons carrying their loot and their cute dogs!

Columbia Road Flower MarketColumbia Road Flower Market

Becky from the blog ACCOOOHTREMENTS shared her brilliant Londoner tip in the comment section:if you get there between 3-3.30pm, the sellers that are left are often doing very good discounts (last week I got 2 gorgeous bunches of tulips for £5!) :)

The market is not the only appeal of Columbia Road and its area. There’s a cute flea market in a nearby courtyard and so many beautifully curated shops on the street itself. Three especially got my attention: A Portuguese Love Affair which will remind you of a minimalist A Vida Portuguesa if you’ve ever been to Lisbon, Mason & Painter offers a great mix of vintage and new homeware, I absolutely adored their aesthetics and finally Choosing Keeping, a very chic stationary shop that made me want to have an army of pen pals.

Columbia Road Flower MarketColumbia Road Flower MarketColumbia Road Flower Market

There’s also a great selection of eateries, bakeries and places to get refreshments. If you’re in need of coffee, which let’s face it is more than likely seeing the market’s time window, I heartily recommend the little coffee stall located in The Royal Oak‘s backyard. I’m not a coffee connoisseur by any means but their flat white was so smooth I completely skipped the mountains of sugar I usually dose my caffeinated beverages with. The pub itself is actually a great spot too, I loved its old London charm and creaky floors.

All in all, Columbia Road is one of the most charming areas I’ve visited in London and I would love to go back, maybe this time on a weekday so I can give more attention to all the beautiful shops and the street architecture.

Columbia Road Flower Market

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Columbia Road Flower Market – website
Columbia Road
London E2 7RG

Opening Hours
8am-3pm, every Sunday

Bus
26, 48, 55 (Queensbridge Road stop)
8, 388 (Barnet Grove stop)
67, 149, 242, 243 (Kingsland Road Waterson Street)

Tube
Bethnal Green (Central Line)

Overground
Cambridge Heath

The Geffrye Museum | London

Geffrye MuseumGeffrye Museum
Exactly a year ago, I was spending a few days in London and I visited the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch. I was lured in by the promise of period rooms. I already briefly touched on it in a previous post but basically the museum explore the evolution of English homes over 400 years. I wanted to delve a bit deeper into it today as their annual Christmas Past exhibition is back on.

Eleven rooms are dedicated to the recreation of the living spaces of the middle class and how they would celebrate Christmas from the 1600s to the present day. The food on the table, the ornaments and the traditions evolve as you change rooms. Watch Mince pies, colourful jelly, parlour games, mistletoe, tree decorations and everything that is quintessentially English make an apparition as you go further in the exhibition. It’s like a trip in the Christmas tardis.

Geffrye MuseumGeffrye MuseumGeffrye Museum
Geffrye MuseumGeffrye MuseumGeffrye Museum
Geffrye Museum

Unfortunately, the garden was closed when I visited but it looked gorgeous from what I could see from the window of the conservatory. That room was actually my favourite, it looked like something straight out of Mary Poppins, the pastel walls reminded of the underworld of Bert’s chalk drawings. The circular shape, of the merry-go-round, even the horse on the wall had the distinctive Disney long muzzle.

The museum is located in former almshouses that were destined for the poverty-stricken pensioners of the Ironmongers Company. It was built in 1714 by Sir Robert Geffrye, Master of the company and Lord Mayor of London. Facing the building lies a park where it feels good to take a break from the busy road outside.
Geffrye Museum
Geffrye Museum
Geffrye Museum

In one of the wings, two of these almshouses have been left in their original state and they are now open to the public on certain days of the week. Compared to the cosy Christmas rooms in the main part of the museum, they did look spartan but it was a very tangible way to picture the conditions in which the retired of the Iron trade and their family were living in the 18th and 19th century.

Geffrye Museum
Practical Information

The Geffrye Museum – website
136 Kingsland Road
Shoreditch
London E2 8EA

The Christmas Past Exhibition is on until Sunday 3 January 2016

Opening Hours
10am – 5pm (Tue – Sun; Bank Holiday Mondays)

Admission
Free (there’s £4 entrance to the Almshouses, check the museum’s website for tour schedules)

Overground
Hoxton Station

Bus
67, 149, 242, 243 & 394

Rococo, Finnish Trolls and More Pizza | London, Day 6

Shut the front door! Has it been really a month since my last post?! This is just a bit ridiculous, I’m not sure how that happened, time has slipped through my fingers….
Well today is the day I’m finally coming at you with the tale of the last hours I spent in London this Summer. This is how it went.

The Wallace Collection
THE WALLACE COLLECTION

First I headed towards the fancy area of Marylebone via the dreaded Oxford Circus. It wasn’t too bad actually, I’ve seen worst crowds (namely Oxford Circus on the 23rd of December 2007… never again). There, I came to visit The Wallace Collection. How to explain the Wallace Collection to you if you’ve never heard of it? Take a good dose of silk tapestries, all the colours of the rainbow, if available, add gold in large quantities and tons and tons of majestic paintings and there you have it, the stuff rococo dreams are made of. Needless to say, I pretty much had an eyegasm. There was so much stuff to look at, you can tell from the pictures I took that my senses were overloaded. Not one picture is straight. Oops. I will show you what I can salvage from them in a later post. This place certainly needs a whole post dedicated to it.

Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
http://www.wallacecollection.org/
Covent Garden
COVENT GARDEN MARKET

Then I walked to Covent Garden Market with one goal in mind. The Moomin Shop! Back in 2008, I went to Finland and as well as bringing back bringing brilliant memories, I bore one regret: not buying a Moomin mug. I was too worried it would break as I was backpacking, you see. So London was my chance to send back that regret to oblivion. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so as I got out of the shop empty-handed. I just couldn’t justify the price, especially with the steep conversion rate. Dramatic Face. It was a damn cute shop tho!
Neal's Yard
NEAL’S YARD

I forgot all about my moomin mug misfortune and mooched around Covent Garden, gawking at all the pretty windows (Ladurée <3) and went to Neal's Yard for my final stop of the day… well, of the trip. I had never stepped foot in the colourful courtyard before. It's quite a surprising space to stumble upon right next to London's busiest streets. My stomach led me straight to Homeslice for I had heard only good things of their pizzas. I went for a slice of Margherita and I had a bit of shock when I was handed a portion pretty much the size of an actual pizza. It's definitely great value for money and it was SO delicious!

That’s it for my trip to London this Summer folks, I hope you enjoyed the account of the few days I spent there. I do have a few more Summer memories to tell you about but I think it’s time now to switch the blog on Autumn mode, don’t you think? x

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

A doomed poet, breathtaking views & grave stones | London, Day 5

For one of my last days in London, I decided to go to Hampstead, a green, and may I say, rather posh area in the North West of London. I’m not completely unfamiliar with this neighbourhood. Many moons ago I got lost walking up and down its hills, looking for Highgate Cemetery… without a map. Needless to say, I never found it but I liked what I saw, all of a sudden London felt like a village.
It was time to come back, this time armed with GPS, I wasn’t going to be defeated. Especially as I had accumulated a rather long list of places I wanted to check out in the area. Most of them stately homes, which you know by now my love for them. Unfortunately, my ‘holiday piggy bank’ was considerably depleted by then so I had to pick one and went for the most affordable one of the bunch.

Keats House
Keats House
KEATS HOUSE

I have to come clean with my ignorance, I really didn’t know much about John Keats. I vaguely knew he wrote poetry and that he went through a tragic love story, which is probably very common in the profession anyway. It probably explains why for so long, I kept confusing him with Dylan Thomas in my little ditzy head. Yep, poetry is really not my forte.
I’m glad I got to know him a bit better through pacing the floors of the house he once called his own. I will depict it and touch on his short life in an upcoming post.

10 Keats Grove, London NW3 2RR
website
Hampstead Heath
HAMPSTEAD HEATH

Keats house is handily located next to Hampstead Heath. I needed to cross this beautiful park to get to my next destination. I lingered on its paths, gushed at the cute dogs being walked and watched, bewildered, the locals paddling about in the murky ponds.
I climbed at the top of Parliament Hill, singing Kate Bush to myself to be stopped abruptly by the magnificent view that rolled at the top. I stood there for a while and admired the London skyline surrounded by Londoners, all of us equally oblivious to the rain that had started to pour. But it was time to start on the last stretch of my journey if I wanted to catch the Dead before the closing of the gates.
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
HIGHGATE CEMETERY

You will have guessed it by now, this time I had made it to Highgate Cemetery. I had longed to see its ivy-covered grave stones more than any other cemetery in the world. It was every bit as creepy and mysterious I had imagined and I finally got to see the tomb of one of my favourite writers. It was so teeny that I very nearly missed it. But that’s a story for another post!

Swain’s Lane, London N6 6PJ
http://highgatecemetery.org

And that’s it for my penultimate day in London. Hope you’re enjoying the series so far and that you found a place you’d like to visit. In case you missed any of the previous days, here is Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

Flower market, pizza slices & tower blocks | London, Day 4

Columbia Road Flower Market
COLUMBIA ROAD FLOWER MARKET

Sunday mornings are made for markets, right? One I had been meaning to check out for a long time is the Columbia Road Flower Market. That weekend, I finally managed the early rise necessary to enjoy the market before it gets too crowded.
I’m not a coffee drinker but that morning, I really needed a caffeine fix. I was on full Zombie mode. Luckily, Jane knew a great cafe stall, which was located in the courtyard of the pub The Royal Oak (on Columbia Road). The coffee there was so smooth, I swear, I didn’t even need to put sugar in it! Thank the Lord, I don’t live anywhere near that place, I would have started down the dangerous slope of caffeine addiction at full speed.
I enjoyed the market a lot, I walked back and forth several times to look at all the flowers and to get all the shots I wanted. The light was quite stark, the sun shone brightly on one side of the market while the other one was in the shadow. Switching from one side to the other, in between the people, was a great camera exercise. It forced me to remember the settings and not to rely on my screen anymore. I feel like I made some progress that day! I’ll show you the pictures in a later post where I’ll talk more about the market and the surrounding shops.

Columbia Road, London E2 E7RG
http://www.columbiaroad.info

The City of London Police Museum

After the market, I mooched around in Shoreditch. It’s such an energising area. So many incredible shops and eateries, one can easily lose track of time… and money. I took note of two beautifully curated shops on Calvert Avenue: O’Dell’s and Luna & Curious. My stomach reminded me of its presence and I went on a food mission. I ended up grabbing pizza slice in the snazzy Voodoo Rays. It was pretty good and it gave me the energy I needed to walk all the way to…

Barbican Centre
THE BARBICAN CENTRE

If you’ve never heard of the Barbican Centre, it’s a housing estate slash arts centre slash music and drama school slash conservatory… I probably forgot something but it’s an imposing structure and walking among its halls, I felt like I was on the set of a working-class film from the Sixties. Again, I’ll talk about it in more detail in a later post.

Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
http://www.barbican.org.uk/

Leadenhall Market
Leadenhal Market
LEADENHALL MARKET

The rest of the day was spent walking in the City of London, which is a district I’d never really explored before. I took my sweet time, nose in the air as usual, getting lost sometimes, but always inspired by London’s great architecture and its different variations. And speaking of astounding architecture, my last destination that day was Leadenhall Market. It’s one of the oldest covered markets in London. It dates back from the 14th century. If it looks slightly familiar to you, it is probably because you’ve seen it before in the first Harry Potter film. It is a bit magical, even in real life, even on a Sunday when the shops are closed and the galleries deserted.

London EC3V 1LT
http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visit-the-city/eat-drink/leadenhall-market/Pages/default.aspx

And that’s day 4 over! Only two more days left of my trip to London to tell you all about! If you missed any of the previous days, here is a recap:
Day 1: Audrey Hepburn & Ice-Cream along the Thames | Day 2: Spicy falafel, Totoro, golden gates & confettis | Day 3: Canal walk & neon signs

Canal walk & Neon Signs | London, Day 3

Hertford Union Canal
Hertford Union Canal
HERTFORD UNION CANAL

Saturday started with a peaceful walk along the Hertford Union Canal, which is the canal that goes along Victoria Park and reaches the Olympic Park. Thanks to my friend Jane, I discovered that London has quite an extensive canal system. It’s something I know very little about and I think it’s an area that still feels a bit secret about the city. Isn’t it fantastic that you could cross the whole of London following a canal route?! That’s something I’d really love to explore more next time I visit.
I very much enjoyed looking at the beautiful inhabited barges and the colorful graffitis along the canal. Hertford Union is quieter than Regent’s Canal but it feels like it’s on the verge of turning into something as buzzy, judging from the few eateries, pubs and cafes in cute shacks sprinkled along the bank.
I walked until the Hackney Marshes where I jumped on a bus towards one of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited…

God's Own JunkyardGod's Own Junkyard
GOD’S OWN JUNKYARD

This ‘neon sign graveyard’ had been on my bucketlist for the longest time. The reason was that it’s located quite far in the East of London. I’m so happy I got to finally visit it, the experience was unreal! There wasn’t a bit of wall in this warehouse that wasn’t covered with a colourfully-lit sign. I absolutely adored it and as you might expect, I took one million pictures and plan to dedicate a whole post to the place. Sorry about the teaser, but that’s all you’re getting from me today!

Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St
Walthamstow, London E17 9HQ
http://www.godsownjunkyard.co.uk/

Thanks for checking in today! If you missed the previous days of my trip in London, here are Day 1 and Day 2. See you tomorrow! x