Rainy London Romance

Just a little shot I took on Parliament Hill the other day.

Rainy Romance

A reminder that despite all the wet weather, there´s still plenty of simple ways to enjoy London!

What´s your favourite way to enjoy a rainy day in this city?

A few of mine:

  • Enjoying a relax tea with a spinach and feta muffin and a good book on a couch in the basement of the lovely little New Zealand themed Sacred Cafe on Ganton Street.
  • A meander through Tate Modern with a stop off in the bookshop to drool over all the amazing art books and design magazines.
  • Electric Cinema? Secret Cinema?
  • Or, well, ordinary things like blogging, baking yummy cakes, having a snuggly rainy day film marathon with tea and popcorn, planning my next adventure (Dubai this Wednesday!) or taking photographs of the rain 🙂
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Easter Egg Rolling on Parliament Hill

Egg Rolling turned out to be quite fun. We gathered in the Garden Gate pub with two painted hard-boiled eggs each. Jorge and I decorated ours with nail polish, Lucy and Danny with water colours and Sharpies, and Kasia and Janka with markers. We sat near the fireplace and asked a friendly and cooperative bartender to judge the best design for the winning prize of Cadbury’s caramel eggs. He chose Janka’s:

And then we set out for Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath on a misty Easter afternoon to scope out the best slope with the fewest grass tufts.

And the games began!

Afterwards, we had to scope out the carnage, check on the survivors that could go on to round two and gather the casualties into the egg graveyard. Here’s the wreckage:

And the graveyard:

But the winner who rolled the furthest was Danny’s egg! Prize: Big chocolate egg with smarties. Yum!

And so concludes my first experience of egg rolling on Easter.

Do you colour eggs for Easter? Is egg rolling part of your Easter traditions? Where do you go for it? And where, for that matter, is the steepest hill in London? Anyone know? (Alexandra Palace? Primrose Hill?)

All this Easter talk and I need some chocolate! Chao!

Rainy Romance and Winter Wildlife

Climb to the top of Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath and you’ll see a stunning view of the city.

London Skyline

But the best part is, that if you turn around and look the other way without moving at all, you’ll be in a different world, a green and peaceful place.

Autumn on Hampstead Heath

Turn to the side and you look down on what appears to be a happy little village.

Skyline

Even in the rain, the Heath is lovely. This couple, with a typical English mindset, refuses to let the blustery rain spoil their romance.

Rainy Romance

It’s a place to gather your thoughts, to contemplate life, to take a few strong gulps of fresh air before heading back into bus fumes and Kebab shop smells of the city.

Parliament Hill

In a city of 8 or so million bodies pressing into small spaces and fighting for air, it’s unusual to catch one person alone and nothing but emptiness and a few trees and the greatness of a vast and open sky.

One Man Walking

This little guy was there to have a rest as well. He just stood still, watching. Waiting for something. Or nothing.

Still

If you stroll down the hill back through the Heath, there are some lovely scenes and wildlife to take in.

Wildlife

Pond Life

Resting Duck

I stared at this bridge for a long time. You can not walk over it, but watch the ducks swim underneath leaving quiet ripples in their wake.

Black and White Bridge

Listen to a Londoner: Daisy Coole

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Daisy Coole, 26

Daisy Coole is a jazz and session musician who has temporarily swapped touring Europe for organising the biggest and best cupcake extravaganza this country has ever seen. Cupcake Camp London will feature thousands of cupcakes and raise money for the North London Hospice, who looked after Daisy’s father until he died in March 2010.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the city throughout your life? Anything in particular you miss?
DC: I miss being able to walk down a street without being knocked over by a 4×4, controversial as I’m sure that is! Drivers try to fit these ridiculously wide cars down the narrow backstreets of London. Use public transport or buy a smaller car! Or walk! I often have to travel with at least two saxophones, a music stand and some hefty sheet music, as well as my boyfriend’s bass and amp but I don’t need a mini truck to transport me across London: my little Ford Fiesta does the job. We are blessed with a brilliant transport system in this city. Except when you want to get from Kilburn to Hampstead. Then it’s a pain. Why isn’t there a connecting line between the Jubilee line and the Northern line before Kings Cross?

LLO: You’re a jazz musician. What’s your favourite London venue to play and what’s special about it?
DC: When I toured Europe last year, some of the best gigs were to hundreds of people in small Swiss cities, so it’s somewhat ironic that my favourite venue to play in the huge city of London is the Green Note in Camden. It’s a tiny vegetarian restaurant and live music venue which has the most incredible atmosphere. The audience are literally at your feet and you often have to swing round to avoid the waitresses as they pass between the rooms but you feel them take every step with you as you perform. Plus the food is amazing – always a bonus at a gig.

LLO: What the best thing about living in your postcode?
DC: I grew up in Hampstead and although it took me 12 years (aged 12-24) I moved back into the area as soon as I could, albeit to Gospel Oak! From my house I can walk to the posh cobbled streets of Hampstead Village, the eclectic and somewhat grubby Camden Town or the bustling (polite word for overcrowded and crazy) central London! Most importantly I’m back near Hampstead Heath, park of my childhood and the scene of many fond memories. It’s also my memorial place for my father who died last March. We scattered his ashes on top of Parliament Hill and you can see the whole of central London, particularly Fleet Street, where he spent so many years as a journalist. There is something overwhelming and yet calming about sitting on a bench on the hill and imagining the thousands of trials and tribulations taking place down in those streets. I find it peaceful.

LLO: One of your ideal escapes is an armchair in a cosy café. Share your top three comfy cafes?
DC: I hate to sound cliche but number one has to be the Starbucks in South End Green, NW3, because it’s right next to my gym – caffeine and comfort when I need it most! There used to be an amazing cafe in Camden called the Bean & Cup, which had huge sofas to sink into and loads of newspapers in the back room. They also did a divine Strawberry Latte, which I’ve never found anywhere else. My third recommendation is Proud Galleries in Camden: a gallery and live music venue with gorgeously decorated stables, in which you can hang out and have a coffee while browsing the internet, playing Wii or watching TV. The best room is pink with a big white wicker throne and loads of hanging plants. It’s also the venue for Cupcake Camp London.

LLO: As the organiser of Cupcake Camp London, give us a rundown of what to expect and why we should sign up to attend immediately.
DC: Cupcake Camp London is the first of it’s kind in this country, having started in San Francisco two years ago and travelled via New York, Paris and Sydney (among others). It is an incredible day where London’s amateur and professional bakers can bring down their best cupcakes to share with the public and raise money for the North London Hospice. There will be live bands, Frosting Shot Girls, a tombola and a silent auction where you can win seven nights at a gorgeous hotel in India! Bakers can even enter the cupcake competitions, judged by the founders of Primrose Bakery, legendary food writer, Mary Berry, supreme political strategist, Alastair Campbell and the winner of BBC’s Great British Bake Off, Edd Kimber. We have almost 2,000 cupcakes pledged so far and need lots more so sign up on the website www.cupcakecamplondon.co.uk and join us!

LLO:Favourite London bakery and best thing they serve?
DC: I’m a big fan of Primrose Bakery and bought their book while my father was in the North London Hospice. Cue much excitement when they agreed to be judges at Cupcake Camp London! Their bakery in Primrose Hill is almost painfully gorgeous with its yellow shopfront and pastel-coloured interior. I celebrated my birthday there last year with my oldest friends from school and we shared about eight different cupcakes between us. I think my favourite has to be the Lime and Coconut cupcake although it’s almost an impossible decision.

LLO: I hear you’re up for a cupcake tour of London… Tell us the starting point, the ending point, and not-to-miss stop off in the middle.
DC: Bake-a-boo in West Hampstead is the perfect starting point, particularly for anybody with allergies. It is also delightfully pink and girly and they do wonderful ‘Afternoon Teas’ on cake stands for Hen parties and the like. Crumbs & Doilies have a stall in Covent Garden, among other places, and were one of the first companies to support Cupcake Camp London by donating a prize. They do a great ‘name this cupcake’ competition on their website every month and whoever does their piping is a genius – Johnny Depp in icing is quite a sight! Lastly I would travel down to Greenwich Market and visit our Cupcake Camp Vegan judge, Ms Cupcake. Discard any preconceptions you have of vegan cake: these are delectable and rich and not at all healthy… love it!

LLO: After all those cupcakes, what’s a fun way you’ve found to work it off and stay fit?
DC: Most of the cupcakes I bake go straight into the bellies of my boyfriend and his friends, thank God! If they’re not around, I try to get the cupcakes out of the house as quickly as possible to avoid becoming as big as a house. I’m captain of a social league netball team in Islington and we’ve just won our league for the third season in a row, with a random assortment of teachers, hotel executives, insurance brokers and corporate PA’s. Come to think of it, they always complain that I never bring them cupcakes so I should probably get baking before they start a mutiny.

LLO: I’m in London for one night only and want to get off the tourist trail. Where would you recommend I go to eat and drink?
DC: La Porchetta in Chalk Farm produce delicious pizza and pasta in a lovely setting. I was taken there for Valentine’s Day a while ago and keep meaning to go back! Alternatively, the Pizza Express in Kentish Town is in the most incredible Art Deco building, with a floor to ceiling mirror design and wide, sweeping features. I think they have planning permission to tear it down, which would be a disaster as it’s the most beautiful building in the area. The best place for drinks is FiftyFive Bar, down the road in Camden. They serve 180 different cocktails and have a 2-4-1 offer from 6-8pm on Monday-Saturday. Definitely get there before 7pm, though, because it get seriously busy at the bar! If only it didn’t clash with my netball league, I’d also be there every Monday for ‘Mojito Madness’: 2-4-1 on all 12 Mojitos. Genius.

LLO: Best London discovery?
DC: My boyfriend keeps nagging me to get a bike so we can cycle the Regent’s Canal from Camden Lock to Limehouse and the Thames. The path is a bit narrow at Regent’s Park but it’s almost a direct route to the Primrose Bakery – result!

Thanks Daisy!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Little London Lunch Break: Best Parks

Little London Lunch Break posts will appear every Wednesday around lunch time. I’ll ask a questions or start a discussion, give my answer and leave the comments open for the rest of you the same when you have a minute or two. If you would like to suggest a question, please email me at littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Question: London is full of green places to escape the chaos of the city. Which park is your favourite and why?

My Answer:
It used to be Hyde Park for the weeping willows and because I lived nearby and loved to feed the ducks on the Serpentine. Blackheath is flat and empty and perfect for sunny summer days, kicking a football around and close by, Greenwich park has some great views of the city. The same can be said of Regent’s Park at the top of Primrose Hill and I do love the little bridge and the flowers around there.

But overall, I have to go with Hampstead Heath where you can completely escape people, the noise of traffic, buildings. There’s pretty trails and wildlife and it’s big enough you can get lost in the trees and open spaces. It feels slightly more private and poetic with the hills, ponds and woodlands. Hampstead Heath also has Parliament Hill and Kenwood House (which always reminds me of Notting Hill), not to mention a lot of cool pubs around the perimeter and the crepe place!

Back in 2007, about 10 months after I moved to London, I wrote a post in my old blog about a walk on the heath.

Photo of me taken on Hampstead Heath a few months ago, by Daniel higgott

And your favourite green London space?