8 February 2016

columbia road flower market


after church yesterday, we took a little detour on the way home to peruse columbia road flower market. i was absolutely delighted to find in this place another total wonderland corner of london. i was buzzing with joy the whole time we were there, starting as we walked closer and closer to the market, as evidenced by the number of people on the street with big, brown-paper-wrapped bunches of flowers under their arms.

those couple of blocks of columbia road were packed with colours, scents, beauty and people. we could hardly move faster than a scuttle down the street because it was so crowded. but the atmosphere was so, so exciting and lovely. i just adored it! here’s some photos of the glorious sights we saw – wish i could capture that smell too! (as well as the energy in the air and the accented yells of the merchants and the happy faces of the buyers…)


god is sure an incredible artist!

5 February 2016

london life lately

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it has been nice in the first weeks of two thousand sixteen to have a bit of downtime. from mid-december to mid-february is the longest we have been in one country in quite a while :) we are headed to prague next week for valentine’s weekend, and i’m so excited – hoping we’ll see some snoooow!

the first month of the new year brought some real long work hours for ian, and the start of his studying for the cfa exam, which he is taking in june. i’m continually grateful for my flexible work schedule and have been learning from staffing restructuring and new deadlines. i’ve also been exploring some other work projects that i’m excited about! we have been enjoying taking mini-excursions around london, teaching the primary children at church each sunday, trying new recipes at home, and of course thinking and talking a lot about the tiny baby moving around inside me!

the other day we met for lunch in the middle of the workday, which is always a real treat (especially when there have been long work hours). i ran to the boy’s office before lunch and then up to st. paul’s, across millennium bridge and back home along the thames after lunch. it was such a sunny, bright, beautiful day in london! (check out that sky! ^^ ^^) i’m enjoying exercise in a new way since i’ve become pregnant. i absoltuely love going to yoga classes at a great studio i found in soho – and the walk there from home is half the joy. i’ve also been continuing to get in some workouts with weights at the gym, and am pretty proud of myself that i can still hold a five minute plank at eighteen weeks pregnant :)

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^^ a scene from my walk home from yoga. i want to take out my phone more often and snap photos of the delightful sights i see all the time around the city. the boy and i notice something new and beautiful every single time we are out and about in our neighborhood (or elsewhere in london). it’s so, so great. and here’s a picture ian took of our dinner one night ^^ because he thought it was pretty – i love that! it was really tasty too – chipotle baked salmon with mango salsa!


last saturday morning, the boy went out for a run while i was getting some things done around the flat. when he came home, he told me he had a surprise! (he called it a peace offering, actually, because we had a little argument – haha!) it was a stack of colouring books that he had found at a nearby bookstore, and he told me to pick one to keep. it’s definitely random, but i’ve really been wanting an adult colouring book - they looked so fun and i had heard it is very therapeutic to take some time to slow down and colour them in. i chose the one i liked best from the stack and we went back to the bookstore together to return the others. the boy hadn’t taken much of a look around when he popped in originally, but when we went back together we both realized we had found a complete wonderland!!!

stanford’s is a travel-themed book and map store just around the corner from our flat, and it is seriously so fantastic. the minute we went inside, i was spellbound and in love! we both adore it and could have spent all day in there, but managed to just pick out some coloured pencils to go with my book (so pretty, right? <<< i’m obsessed…) and get back to our saturday tasks.

in less happy news, last week i got a really terrible haircut. i was worried about having to pay sooo much for a cut in this expensive city, so i signed up to be a “model” at a styling academy and get my tresses trimmed for just five pounds! wellll, that didn’t turn out so well. long story short: the haircut the stylists-in-training were working on that day was preeettty funky and left me with bizarre chunky layers that i’m trying to figure out how to tame. it was a funny experience, and hair grows!

a couple of days ago i invited a friend to do a “city walk” with me. i have this stack of cards that are little walking tours all over london, and i had been wanting to explore the neighborhood of chelsea more. there were some neat things to see along the suggested path, but the best part of our (four and half mile!) walk was definitely the vibrant mews we happened upon, tucked behind the posh main thoroughfares. don’t you just love these colours?!IMG_8240IMG_8242 IMG_8244IMG_8246
^^ these next door colours made me extra wonder about the tiny human inside me – pink or blue?! we find out in three weeks and can hardly wait! ^^
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it was fun to get a feel for chelsea and we’re determined to go back when it’s a little warmer and blossoming! i’m already pining for spring…

life is beautiful!

4 February 2016

very rough & first draft london city guide


ever since we moved to london – even after we’d only been here a few weeks – i have recieved regular requests for tips on things to do and see when visiting this incredible city. i feel like such and novice and  i have so, so, so, so much to learn about london and its delights, but i thought it might be helpful to post a very rough & first draft city guide. i’m sure i’ve left out loads of wonderful things that i have not yet discovered, but for now, six months in as a londoner, these are my favourites and my recommendations for those visiting london for a first and/or short time.

{i keep track of others’ tips for london on a pinterest board that you can find here. everytime i look at it i get a little overwhelmed because i want to discover every lovely corner in this city! also, i have super loved getting london recommendations from blog readers, so if you think of something i’m missing in my lists below, leave a comment letting me know!}

my suggestion for an epic walking tour: this could be an all-day event if you want to do everything (loooots of walking - but really awesome sites all along the way!), or you could split it up. 

  • start at trafalgar square (charing cross tube station) - pop in the national gallery if you want, because it's free and the impressionist galleries are one of my favourite spots of art in the world, look past nelson's column to big ben, take some photos with the lions, admire st. martin's in the field and appreciate it's history.
  • then walk down the mall to buckingham palace (time this for 11am if you want to see the changing of the guard, which i think is cool but not a total 100% london must). 
  • stroll back towards the river through st. james’ park to westminster abbey (i think going inside is a big must, but if you want to just do a walk by first, that's cool!) and then around big ben and the houses of parliament. 
  • cross lambeth bridge and walk along the southbank (right along the thames on the south side) under the london eye (ride now, or later) and down to waterloo bridge, which has amazing views on both sides. 
  • grab some lunch at one of london's awesome chain healthy fast food options: pret, eat, pod, pure, tossed...you'll see some along the way. 
  • head back to southbank from waterloo bridge and continue down the south side of the thames to the tate modern (it's free if you want to peek in and they usually have really cool exhibits in the main super tall gallery) and then check out globe theater, which is right next door. 
  • if you want, continue walking to borough market (which you should go to no matter what, but as part of this walk only if you're not exhausted!). 
  • from the tate modern (return there if you've gone to borough market) and then cross millennium bridge, which leads right to st. paul’s cathedral. it costs to go in, but entrance fees include a trip to the top of the dome, which is really, really cool (so do that as part of this walk or later). you can also enter for free for the evensong service, which starts at 5pm monday-saturday and is a really cool experience. 
  • there's a nando's close to st. paul's at the one new change shopping center, and that's a great option for dinner after this walk. we love nando's - it's certainly not the very best and most awesome food london has to offer, but it is seriously good and should be tried at least once by every visitor in my opinion! while you're at one new change, make sure to go to the top floor for awesome views of st. paul's and over london. 

another fun, shorter walk that hits some neat places: (this is a bit more girlie with pretty stores, etc)

  • start at leicester square and walk up to picadilly circus. the energy there is just always so great. 
  • walk down picadilly street and admire all the beautiful buildings and shops. i suggest popping in to hatchard's bookstore and especially fortnum & mason, likely the world's most lovely department store (i absolutely like it better than harrod's - but it's much smaller). there is a "parlour" in fortnum & mason where you can get ice cream, cakes, scones with clotted cream, soda, and small savory bites. it's adorable. 
  • walk up burlington arcade and then wind along the charming streets of mayfair. your destination should be liberty london, which, okay, is maybe an even more lovely department store than fortnum & mason. it's a wonderland to explore. 
  • from there you can meander down regent's street or head up to oxford street (or both) - london's premiere shopping streets. they're just fun to window shop along and have a very distinct london feel to me. 

other things i'd suggest definitely doing in london:

first, a few from the walking tour that, if you did only a walk-by on the tour, i suggest you return to:

  • visit the national gallery (and the national portrait gallery) - amazing art in a stunning building, free entrance. 
  • visit westminister abbey - order tickets online in advance and be prepared to wait in line when you go. this is the one paid attraction in london that i recommend without any reservation to all visitors. it’s absolutely incredible.
  • ride the london eye - it is a bit pricey but quite fun and a great way to get a feel for the layout of the city. this isn't as much of a must to me as westminster, but it's pretty awesome in my opinion
  • explore borough market - go at breakfast time and get a donut from the bread ahead stand, or go at lunchtime and sample amazing foods from the plethora of different prepared food carts. and just explore - it's amazing. 
  • go inside st. paul's cathedral (climb all the stairs to the top!)

and some other things not from the walking tour (i've tried to put things that are next to each other geographically next to each other in this list):

  • visit the tower of london and tower bridge. going inside the tower of london is pricey, and it's not a must, must, must to me - but most people really enjoy it. if you do go inside, make sure you go on a yeoman's tour. just seeing it without going inside though is very cool. walk across tower bridge (and if you want to pay, go to the top and walk on the glass floor!). it's got to be one of the world's most magnificent structures, and the views to the skyscrapers of east london are really great. 
  • go to notting hill and meander around the portobello road market (check the times for when the market is open first because it's not always open every day). there are lots of cute hidden corners in notting hill - i suggest just wandering if you have the time. the market is awesome, and you'll want to go with at least a bit of an appetite so you can try different foods that are being sold. 
  • spend a bit of time in the british museum, which houses some of the most important historical artifacts in the world. since it’s free and a really neat building too, i suggest all london visitors check it out at least for a short while. if you love art, i also highly recommend the tate gallery (different from the tate modern, on the other side of the city) – it is a really, really fantastic museum.
  • go to covent garden and just enjoy the different shops and lively vibe. there are usually a good handful of street performers about, and some of them are really fun to watch. while you're there, i suggest walking up through the seven dials neighborhood, which is really fun, and getting some pizza at homeslice (my favourite london food find) in neal's yard (the most colourful corner in london, perhaps). 
  • visit the museums in south kensington. i particularly love the natural history museum (the building itself is just to die for so make sure you go to the central atrium) and the victoria & albert museum (the courtyard and cafe are incredibly beautiful). the science museum is also cool if you're into that stuff! all are free!! while you're in south kensington, you may want to walk up exhibition road to see the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints building - it's pretty cool right there in the middle of london. around the corner is royal albert hall, which is just a gorgeous structure. 
  • explore hyde park/kensington gardens. i haven't spent much time there since the weather has been cold, but there's so much to see. i really like the albert memorial (right in front of royal albert hall) and kensington palace is fun to see (that's where will, kate, george and charlotte live!). the orangerie at kensington palace is a wonderful place to have afternoon tea, and the ground are pretty. you can also go inside the palace - i never have, so i can't say if it's a must-do or not! 
  • have a picnic or just spend some time in regent's park - in my opinion a better destination than hyde park! don't miss the rose garden with all kinds of different roses labeled with the most delightful names or trekking to the top of nearby primrose hill, which affords wonderful views over the city. 
  • speaking of views, the sky garden is the top of the "walkie talkie" building and it's free to go up there - you just need to book tickets online in advance. it's a fun thing to do if you are in east london and want a birds-eye view. you can also go to the top of the shard - we never have but i'm sure the views are spectacular. 
  • in east london: spitalfields market, brick lane (where the best curry houses are) and the shoreditch area are interesting to explore if you want to see a less touristy, more gritty side of london.  
  • there are so, so many unique and darling neighborhoods around london that are just delightful to wander around. i haven't gotten to enough to make solid recommendations, but this list would be majorly flawed if i didn’t mention that one really great thing about london is just the beautiful buildings and streets unconnected to any tourist sights. 

day trips from london:

  • greenwich - a darling little town with an awesome market and home to the royal observatory and the prime meridian of the world. you can get there by tube, but i suggest you take the commuter boat along the thames, because it's fun :)
  • cambridge and/or oxford - both are quick and easy to reach by train from london and then explore on foot. i am partial to cambridge if you have to chose between the two - but both are totally awesome.
  • bath - such a lovely city also accessible by train and explorable by foot (although a bit further away from london). climbing to the top of the cathedral, seeing the royal crescent, and visiting the roman baths are all really neat, and you'll see a lot of english countryside on the journey there.
  • stonehenge - you'll need a car to get there, but it's pretty amazing to see in real life. it is near bath so you could couple those two together.
  • beachy head/eastbourne - again, you'll need a car to get there, but the white cliffs at beachy head/seven sisters are completely spectacular (much better than dover in my opinion), and eastbourne is a really cute seaside town.
  • hampton court and/or windsor caste - fun to visit if you are into the castle/palace/monarchy stuff. i believe both are accessible by train - i've never been to hampton but have been to windsor twice and the castle and town are really delightful.
  • stratford-upon-avon is really kitschy with shakespeare stuff, but it's pretty neat to visit. it's technically in the cotswolds, which is a lovely place to experience some rural england with medieval villages and old manors and the like - so that could be a fun little road trip (i haven't spent much time there - yet!)

i’m excited to update this guide after i’ve done more exploring! i adore this city and hope every visitor will fall in love with it like i have!

{artwork by loose petals}

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