Summertime: London vs New York

When I was asked to compare summers as I remembered them from New York and summers as I now experience them in London, nostalgia and anticipation kicked in in equal measure.

This year, summer also means our wedding.

In both places, summer means planning holidays, which is always exciting. To find London hotels for our wedding, a few friends have used Hotel Direct, who have sponsored this post. We’ll be looking for honeymoon options soon, so I’ll be doing searches for Hawaii, Costa Rica and Kenya to weigh our options. In the meantime, bring on that summer sun!

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New York summers for me were not city summers as you might think when New York comes to mind, but upstate New York summers, which are much different.

Temperatures soar to reach 30C / 85F or higher in New York,. There is a real crisp distinction between seasons. It can be humid and exhausting after a while, but after a harsh, snowy winter, it is much appreciated. In London, summer could sit at spring-like temperatures of 20C / 68F with a random spike up to 28C / 82F on a handful of lucky days. When that happens, layers are stripped, parks are packed and the whole city digs out their sunglasses.

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Summer in New York smells of freshly snipped mint decorating a refreshing glass of iced tea. There’s the earthy scent of just watered cherry tomatoes growing in the garden, freshly cut grass and nighttime campfires. London summers smell of sugary roasting nuts on Westminster Bridge, the sweet scent of rose gardens in Regents Park, the mix of curries and crepes in the markets of Brick Lane.

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In New York, summer tastes like juicy cheeseburgers cooked on the garden grill, of Piece of Cake ice cream eaten on the rocky banks of the sparkling Niagara River and of sticky s’mores roasted over a bonfire on a warm night. In London, it’s jugs of fruity Pimms all around, cups of gelato enjoyed during a walk along the Serpentine in Hyde Park and lovely picnic spreads with strawberries, cheese and freshly baked baguettes from Gails.

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The buzz of local outdoor concerts mark the summer sounds of New York. Also, loud music pumping from souped-up cars and the outburst of afternoon thunderstorms we watch from the front porch as fork lightning streaks across the sky. In London, summer brings the sound of revving engines tearing down the King’s Road, buskers’ Calypso music played on steel pan drums and the merged conversations of crowds milling on the pavement outside of local pubs.

Summers in New York bring textures of hot driveway blacktop scalding bare feet, the rough bark of logs tossed into the fire, the hot seats of a car parked too long in the sun. In London, summers bring grass between toes in Hampstead Heath, the lightness of fabrics between fingers and the many pampering textures of a pedicure.

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In New York, summers mean camping in the wilderness, kayaking on the lake, outdoor music and Fourth of July fireworks. There are shorts and flip flops and baseball caps. In London, summer means the colours of Holi celebrations, visits to the lively Columbia Road flower market and lazy afternoons enjoying long lunches and people watching at outdoor cafes. There are flowing summer dresses and strappy sandals and designer sunglasses.

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This is summer for me. Let me know what summer means for you, if you’re going anywhere exciting this year and what memories it brings back from your childhood days!

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London Events: Rebel Bingo World Championship

Everybody loves a good secret, and by the looks of the photos on their website, Rebel Bingo is one that you’ll want to spread. It’s not really just bingo, you see; it’s a night of chaos. It’s a growing phenomenon in London, Bristol, Manchester, Brighton. It’s even headed over to New York pretty soon. 

The Underground Rebel Bingo Club founders claim it’s better than sex, so I got in touch with rebel Freddie Fortune to give us all the juicy details.

LLO: So, what exactly is “rebel bingo” then? 
FF: It’s the most hardcore form of bingo. It’s addictive. It’s in your face. It makes your heart beat faster; it sets off explosions in your brain; it makes your ears bleed and your eyes pop out… but you’ll like it.

LLO: How did you get involved?
FF: A year ago we were throwing parties in a church hall. At the end of the night we would hang out in the basement. We found a bingo kit stored there, and one night we started messing around with it. We knew it was wrong, but it felt good. Things got out of control, and it ended up as a mental bingo party. We called it The Underground Rebel Bingo Club.

We wanted more people to feel the way we were feeling. We moved the club upstairs to the church hall. It went mental. People were dancing on tables, screaming and drawing on each other. Hundreds of people started turning up every week, but we still had to hide what we were doing from the church the whole time. Eventually we got rumbled by the church warden and we got kicked out of the hall. But we couldn’t let it stop. So we didn’t.

LLO: You say it’s “better than sex” and “better than real life”. Would you give up a lifetime of sex for a lifetime of rebel bingo?
FF: Yeah, but even if we agreed to that we’d still have sex and not tell you because we’re rebels and that’s the kinda stuff rebels do.

LLO: Why so super-secret?
FF: Because it’s dangerous and addictive and authorities are after us and you can’t just have any old people experimenting with rebel bingo because not everyone can handle it.

LLO: Give us one last bit of tweet-sized persuasion to show up on the 31st.
FF: One person will walk away a World Champion and become an underground legend; everyone else will have the night of their lives.

The Underground Rebel Bingo World Championships are happening on 31st July under the super secret guise of Global Banking & Finance Convention. Pop over to www.rebelbingo.com to snap up your tickets.

Listen to a Londoner: Alexandra Richards

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’d like to be interviewed, email me at littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Alexandra Richards, 23

Alexandra works as a Buyers Admin Assistant for Topshop. She also writes a blog, Alex Does Fashion. She is 23 and lives in South London.

LLO: Tell us a bit about your blog, Alex Does Fashion.
AR:
 I love fashion, have always worked in fashion and have always wanted to write a blog. And then when my previous job took me to a remote area of Coventry for 6 months, I had not much else to do in the evenings! That’s when I started writing it; it helped me escape and now it’s my baby. Alex Does Fashion is about fashion, art and life from my perspective – because it’s my blog! Plus, I get a bit fed up of all the millions of narcissistic fashion blogs consisting only of thousands pictures of the blogger in outfits, or countless street style photos. Alex Does Fashion is all about what inspires and interests me, and hopefully inspires and interests others.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, talk us through some of the best and worst fashion trends that have hit the city in your lifetime.
AR:
Oh goodness. So many. The one that first sprang to mine was definitely when flat winkle pickers came back as the “pointy shoe” in 2003. When I was 15 I had a white pair with a horrendous silver clasp – not a good look. I also once wore them with black tights…enough said.

LLO: Where is your place to show up in the capital on a Saturday night after buying the perfect new outfit?
AR:
I’d say at the moment I’m definitely more of a bar girl than a club girl, and as a South Londoner, of course I absolutely love going out in Clapham. Tapas and sangria outside on the deck at Carmen Bar de Tapas, happy hour cocktails at Rinky Dinks, more cocktails at the gorgeous art deco Loft bar and dancing in Aqqum. And then of course a good ol’ night time cheeseburger and chips in McDonalds at 4am!

LLO: Where can we find London’s best vintage or retro offerings?
AR:
There’s no doubt about it – Brick Lane is still number 1 for vintage in my opinion. There are countless stores to choose from, but my favourite are Hunky Dory vintage which has fantastically elaborate pieces – and the guys who work there are so friendly and lovely, and I love the Boy London store, housing what’s left of the amazing 80s line, with the fantastically eccentric owner as well as the crazy £1-5 bed sale in the basement (literally a 3ft mound of clothes on a bed). And of course, you can’t forget the humungous Beyond Retro.

Away from East London, one of my favourites is Retromania in Pimlico. It’s almost a costume store and they carry fantastic designer collections. For my birthday, my friends bought me an amazing huge black and white furry angora cardigan from there; and they have a fantastic rail outside which changes every week, where I picked up a great hounds tooth men’s jacket for £1! Perfect for guilt free shopping.

LLO: Which London-based living fashion icon do you most admire and why?
AR:  
I don’t really have a fashion icon – I can admire and be inspired by everything and anyone, especially normal people with normal lives.

LLO: After living in NYC for a bit, how does fashion in London compare to the styles in the Big Apple?
AR:
Like London style, fashion in New York you couldn’t even begin to encapsulate in one sentence. There are so many neighbourhoods, and so many different types of people. Although one thing I did notice that there are a lot more vintage stores and small boutiques scattered about, and many New Yorkers do look to London as the most directional fashion city. One thing about New Yorkers though, is that everyone looks a lot more put together. Everything in New York inspires me – from the people, the bars, the buildings and the New Yorkers’ incessant style. I  truly and absolutely heart New York.

LLO: Favourite London-based designers?
AR: 
I love Mark Fast, Issa, Marios Schwab, David Koma, Holly Fulton – and of course, Vivienne Westwood.

Thanks Alexandra!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Danielle Zezulinski

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers!

Danielle Zezulinski, 29

Danielle started Bloody Brilliant before leaving New York for the cobbled lanes of London. The blog is a record of her journey, and new life in Big Smoke.

LLO: Give us the basics first – Where are you from originally, how did you end up in this fabulous city and how long have you been here?
DZ:
I grew up in New Jersey, and spent most of my twenties hopping back and forth between New York City and Philadelphia. I most recently lived in Brooklyn before arriving in London just over two years ago by seeking out a transfer to my company’s London office.

LLO: Favourite place in London to get a taste of home?
DZ:
Byron Burger – tasty burgers and Brooklyn Lager in a bottle – heaven! They just opened a restaurant in Islington so I don’t even have to go far.

LLO: Is there a place you love to go for a head-clearing run or bike ride
in the city?
DZ:
I love running up Regents Canal from Angel to Victoria Park and back. The route is about 8-10 miles depending on how you go and Victoria Park is really pleasant and relaxing, though the towpath can get really crowded so it’s best to do it in the early mornings.

LLO: Best independent coffee shop to take a friend for good conversation?
DZ:
Oh excellent question, and a toughie! I love Tinderbox in Angel, Flat White in Soho and Dose in Smithfield. I can’t choose!

LLO: What’s the coolest thing about living in your postcode?
DZ:
Hrm… N1 is pretty great for the combination of its location and its own amenities. It’s really close to the center of town – I actually walked home from Covent Garden last night and it only took 35 minutes – as well as Shoreditch and Hackney, but it also has everything you need and more within its boundaries. If I wanted to, I could probably go for months without leaving the area and never realize it! If I had to pick one thing, it would be all of the markets in the area. I’m a
sucker for a good market.

LLO: Most unique London discovery?
DZ:
Sir John Soane’s House. It’s not quite a discovery, as an old colleague who is English tipped me off to it, but it is one of the most experiences to walk around an old house in candle light and look at a man’s collections and obsessions. Very London! I highly recommend everyone go.

LLO: Share a challenge you’ve faced as an expat?
DZ:
Where do I start! Actually, expat life isn’t that difficult except for all of the red tape around processes. I just applied for the Tier 1 visa and I had so many issues with my bank getting all of the necessary paperwork. And doing US taxes is such a pain in the neck! Resources from the US government are woefully lacking, and I think the main issue is that no one really knows the rules for sure. Everyone is just guessing and giving each other advice they think is true, so all expats are working off of a network of assumptions and Chinese whispers.

LLO: NYC or London?
DZ:
Tough one. They each have their virtues and vices, but I’d say London to live, New York to love.

LLO: What’s the most unusual experience you’ve had since moving to London?
DZ:
  I think that the weirdest thing for me has been getting used to sick on the street. It’s just not done in the US, and it’s pretty shameful if you have to hang over the gutter on a night out. I was shocked when I realized what was all over the sidewalks on Sunday morning… and even more shocked when I did it once. I’m still ashamed of myself!

LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you tell me to eat and drink?
DZ:
This is really hard – there are so many choices! If you were American or wanted a distinctly British eating experience, I’d say 32 Great Queen Street for a fantastically authentic and delicious meal and then a pub/bar crawl starting from Freud in Covent Garden to Soho ending at Bob Bob Ricard for Champagne at the touch of a button. But if you’re looking for something more special, I’d say hunt out Ms MarmiteLover and eat in her front room in Kilburn. There are tons of great pubs in Kilburn to hit afterwards… just watch out to make sure you make the last tube home!

Thanks Danielle!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Little Londoner with a Big Heart

It doesn’t seem so long ago that my brother and I would set up a lemonade stall on our suburban New York street waiting for thirsty grown-ups to walk by and pay us a few cents for a glass. Usually, it was just a few stragglers and grandma dressed up as a stranger trying to trick us into thinking she was a real customer. At the end of the day, we would take down our lopsided “Lemonade 4 Sale” sign, divvy up the coins and head to the Corner Store to gorge ourselves on penny candy.

On Sunday, heading back over to Brick Lane from Columbia Road Flower Market with my visiting family, we stopped by a small girl with a little wooden bear stool selling tiny cupcakes she decorated herself. She was 8-years-old and standing there alone by the pathway. She wasn’t at all intimidated by nine adults towering over her asking questions.

“How much are your cupcakes?”
She replied, “They’re a donation.”
“How much do people usually donate?”
“About one pound,” she said.

Photo taken by Pat Sadler

After she answered more questions about the treats topping each one – dark chocolate, sprinkles, Smarties, we asked what she was going to spend her money on.

“I’m not keeping it,” she explained slowly. “It’s for a charity, for an orphanage in South Africa, for children, so they can have a nicer place to live.”

How precious is that?