Portobello Road Market + Abbey Road

On a crowded Saturday afternoon David and I, with some friends from Canada went to check out the world famous Portobello Road Market. The market takes up most of Portobello Road andportobello road market is about 2 miles long. As you could probably imagine, to walk from one side to the other can take quite some time. There are 5 distinct markets within the market. These include Antique’s, Fruits and Veggies, New Goods, Fashion Market and the Second Hand Goods area. It was at this market that I realized I should never pay more than £1 for a scarf! I picked myself up two new ones, a patterned pink and brown one and then a solid brown one to wear twisted together. Our friends snagged a few deals themselves on jewelery and tops.

Portobello Road only started to take notice and become recognizable around the 1850s when Paddington and Notting Hill started residential development. Once these areas were built, it soon became the perfect place for a market. Originally the stalls were predominantly food but as the neighbourhood expanded people began selling general items. The world famous antique section of the market began around 1945.

Today was all about famous roads as from there we went to check out Abbey Road and Abbey Road Studios. Note to all planning on visiting this ever so famous street and taking your own crosswalking pic: IT IS STILL A abbey road studioVERY BUSY ROAD! It takes multiple attempts to get it right and you would be lucky if you do. If you are really determined to get the perfect Abbey Road pic do not go during rush hour or on a Saturday. Those at Abbey Road Studios must find it amusing as they have a live webcam from their building producing a live feed of people trying to get that perfect photo. You can check it out here. Out front of Abbey Road Studios is a dedicated graffiti wall where fans can bring their sharpies and write down their inspirations, dreams or even draw a picture. It was my favourite part about the area as primarily Beatles fans from all over the world have left their comments.

Chocolate Festival + Winter Festival

If you wander down to Southbank area in London you’re guaranteed to see or learn something new. Last time we were here I learned about sheep, this time it was chocolate!

The Chocolate Festival happens twice a year in London, first at Easter then of course at Christmas. Dozens of booths are in the area showcasing their artisan chocolate, all made from pure ingredients. They have chocolate everything here, from your basic truffles and cakes to chocolate chili and chocolate mulled beer. My personal favourite was learning aboutwater ganache truffles Water Ganache, The Chocolatier – A Niche by Aneesh. I had never heard of this concept before and it is simply amazing! The truffles have no cream, no butter, no eggs and no gelatine. Aneesh will only pair his chocolate with high quality fresh ingredients and water. In doing so there is nothing masking the flavour of what you really want, the chocolate. Seriously, his chocolate is so smooth and the best part it doesn’t stick to the top of your mouth. You can buy his chocolates online here.

After the chocolate festival we walked down near the river where the Christmas Market was taking place (pictured in the featured image). This traditional Christmas market is German themed with 80 individually decorated wooden chalets, famous German Bratwurst and “Glühwein” (German Mulled Wine).

Across the bridge from the Christmas market is Somerset House. Here they have outdoor ice skating and a Somerset Housevariety of pop-up shops for the Christmas season called The Christmas Arcade. It celebrates British design from exclusively British boutique brands, featuring over 50 designers. I love this idea of popup Britain, truly giving the chance to entrepreneurs who don’t have the finances to take on running a shop on their own. There’s one of these also in Greenwich that I will be sure to get some Christmas gifts at.


Camden Markets

We spent 6 hours wandering through the maze of stalls and booths throughout Camden’s Markets on a Saturday afternoon and could have easily gone for 6 more. Adding up all the stalls and booths out of the 6 markets in the area there is well over 1,000 of them to see. The markets we went to included Camden Street Market, Inverness Street Market, Electric Ballroom, Camden LockCamden Market Market, Camden Lock Village Market and Camden Stables Market.

Camden Street Market is closest to Camden tube station and has packed 200 stalls in narrow alleyways with pick pocketer safety messages everywhere you looked. This market was originally knows as Buck Street Market and was ultimate in crazyness. Most stalls had the same items in them so if you’re a good barterer it’s definitely the place to be since they never want to give up a sale. Inverness Street Market is just across from there where the location was once full of fruit and vegetable stalls however there are only a few left today. Electric Ballroom was a fashion market with both awesome and not so awesome designs, to each their own.

Camden Lock Market was my favourite area. It was once T.E. Dingwalls timber yard before other methods of transportation took over and it had to shut down. Only a few years later in 1973 the area became the first of Camden’s markets opened by Northside Developments Ltd as the original arts and crafts market. The Market Hall area consisted of primarily hand crafted items, mostly talented jewelers using a varietCamden Market Seatsy of different resources to make their jewellery out of. We saw everything from jewellery made out of scrabble pieces to orange peels! Camden Lock Village Market has rows and rows of food near the water making it extremely difficult to try and choose something. They had everything plus some like Zebra and Kangaroo meat. The coolest part about this area is you sit on these fake scooters lined up in a row with a bar table across the front of them. The iconic Lion for the market is also plastered on the side of buildings, as statues and as flags.

Camden Stables Market is massive and the home to some truly vintage items that would be difficult to find anywhere else. This area of the market has massive Camden Stables Marketstatues of horses throughout the building, never losing touch with what this space was once used for. Proud Camden is a club/bar inside the 200 year old Horse Hospital. They converted the original stables that used to house the horses who were injured pulling canal barges into hip lounge areas. This was a great place to stumble upon during the day as you could see how they kept original elements from the stalls when redesigning them. There are 7 stalls in total and each has an HD flat screen TV with the option to watch TV, Movies or even hook up the PS3 or Xbox Rock Band. The stalls all have a different personality to them and can be booked in advance for parties. Every evening there is live music starting at 7:30pm.

If you plan on visiting Camden Markets do not think this will be a morning thing to check out, it’s a full day’s worth of an adventure and you will be amazed at what you find!

Dinosaurs, Organs & Harrods

This weekend was the perfect break between David’s job hunting and reading chapter after chapter of my school books. We decided to take advantage of some of the free museums nearby, V&A, Science Museum and The Natural History Museum. After majorly underestimating the size of these museums, thinking we could visit two or three of them in one day, we didn’t even get through one!

We ended up spending almost the entire day in the Natural History Museum (image featured above). The Natural History Museum is broken down into 4 different zones, blue (dinosaurs, mammals & reptiles) , red (the planet and it’s natural forces), green (ecology, bugs, birds & minerals) and orange (wildlife garden & Darwin centre). We got through all of the red zone, green zoTuojiangosaurusne and the dinosaurs from the blue zone.

My favourite part was the Dinosaurs! You had to line up to go see them, or stand in the “queue” as they say here. During the wait you could donate money to light up one of the dinosaurs outside the exhibit and hear it roar. Definitely some good marketing going on. If you donated via text your name would be displayed on the screen beside the dinosaur.

This dino pictured above is a Tuojiangosaurus, pronunciation is two-wang-oh-sore-us. This little guy is 6.7 meters long and a peaceful plant eater. The intimidating plates and spikes are just protecting itself from the meat-eaters so don’t worry. If you don’t eat him, he’ll leave you alone ;)

After the hours flew by in the museum we walked down the street to visit Harrods. The Harrods building is beautifully lit at night (image right) Harrodsand full of clothing, shoes, toys and food that I don’t think I will be able to afford anytime soon. My favourite part of Harrods was of course the chocolate, cheese and then the Christmas section! Part of one of the 5 floors of the store is all Christmas stuff with fake snow and everything.

I also loved/laughed in the “Harrods” section of the store. It’s for people like me who can’t actually afford any line they carry in the store but might be able to splurge a little on one of the stuffed bears with a Harrods sweater on it to feel better about yourself. The bears were very cute though, and I’m sure the sweater muuust have been designer.

David got asked more times then me if he needed help with anything, glad I have a rich looking man at least. I hardly got asked at all for help…it could’ve been my ripped purse I was carrying at the time.

To finish the weekend off we went to an organ recital by Robert Quinney at Westminster Abbey. Most memorable fact for me about the organist himself was that he also played at the Marriage of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The building is unbelievable with so much attention to detail you could just sit and stare at the walls for hours. Westminster AbbeyYou were not allowed to take photos inside the church so included in the post is the photo from the outside (image left). You will just have to go visit Westminster Abbey yourself to see how remarkable it is. If you’re like us and tight on budget go to a recital or service, they are free, otherwise, pay the fee and get the tour because I’m sure the entire building would be fabulous to see.

Seven Dials & Leicester Square

Today we set out to wander around Covent Garden. Now that I’m back at my computer, looking up some of the places we ended up, I am realizing we only saw about 1/4 of the area. We ended up spending most the day in Seven Dials (image featured above), the only village in Covent Garden!

Seven Dials is seven streets of boutiques, brands, vintage stores, grooming salons and pubs. The village was built in the 1690s with a monument at it’s center. The monument has six sundials surrounding it with the seventh being the column itself. From the monument the seven streets all branch out from it. The village was built like this to fit as many houses into it as possible for greater profit. Unfortunately for the designer the village quickly turned into a slum that was renowned for it’s gin shops. From there it transitioned into a place kStreet Performer in Seven Dialsnown for ballad printers and singers. The area then attracted so many workers because of its cheap and compact living spaces that there were up to 8 people living in one room! This mass amount of people that moved to the area influenced the development of the surrounding areas. This caused larger shops to move in and a greater balance today between the vintage boutiques and modern day brands.

The history is still present in this area as there are some very quirky shops still around and extremely interesting street performers as well. We came across this man (image left) playing his guitar and singing all while hanging upside down.

After going up and down the seven streets we walked a block over to China town. The China town here was much different then in Toronto. In the London China town it was all about the food. The streets were lined with restaurants and only a few cheap shops to buy things at.

My favourite part of today was when we went to the ever so lovely Häagen-Dazs restaurant in Leicester Square!!! Haagen-Dazs Ice CreamYes, an ice cream restaurant with my favourite brand of ice cream, we obviously had to go inside. The menu was packed with ice cream/baked goods/drink combinations that you just couldn’t make up your mind on. Then they had a build your own section at the back juuust in case you wanted to try something different. I had a scoop of Baileys and Dulce de Leche ice cream with a Belgian waffle covered in milk chocolate sauce! (image to the right) It was amazing! David had chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate with some raspberries on the side. It was the perfect end to our day.

Piccadilly Circus

Shopping Oxford St., Carnaby St. & Piccadilly Circus

No matter what your budget you can find a perfect place to shop in London to match it. Recently we found some stores that would match our budget as a student and freelancer in the top shopping destination in London. Oxford St., Carnaby St.  & Piccadilly Circus is where you need to go!

Our first stop was to Topshop on Oxford Street. This location had thousands (not an exaggeration) of different items in it spread over 4 floors. One extremely noticeable difference between fashion in London compared to Toronto is that anything goes on the streets here. There are no rules of fashion and you wouldn’t stand out in a crowd if you chose to wear the most bizarre pattern combination you could think of.

Also on Oxford Street was Primark. This store made me happy because I don’t think I saw one thing over £20 including their boots and jackets! They had everything you would want in a high-end fashion store then plus some with an affordable house and home section. David & I made our first London home purchase here of some face cloths, a fitted sheet, pillow cases and a flat sheet all for the grand total of £18. This is our store to shop in!

Once we walked most of Oxford Street we went down to Piccadilly Circus (pictured in the featured image of the post). We could tell immediately why this is such a popular meeting spot. David PurkissThe theatres are all close by as well as shopping and a bunch of restaurants. David found a small music shop down one of the roundabout streets with an insane amount of acoustic guitars. Down in the basement though was a room just for him with a bunch of bass guitars. Although it’s not quite in our budget to purchase an instrument he was very happy we found this store. Some brands are the same as back home but most were unfamiliar. I’m sure we will be back here.

After hanging around Piccadilly Circus for a bit we went to check out the famous Carnaby Street. This street is lined with unique boutiques. My favourite boutique was Irregular Choice (image right). Irregular ChoiceThe shop had beautifully designed shoes unlike any I have ever seen before. I could have easily spent the entire day staring at them however the longer we stayed in the store the more I wanted a pair of my own. The best thing about London shoes are the heels. They are at a perfect height of 1-2 inches making it easy to walk for longer periods of time. Love it!

Another great store we checked out on Carnaby Street was Johnny Cupcakes. The interior of the store is all set up like a bakery and they sell printed t-shirts with a cupcake on them. This is the only London location however there are a few others is the US as well as their headquarters. Johnny Cupcakes is a perfect example of how to tell your brand story in a compelling way to your audience.