Picnic in the Park

A sudden burst of spring and London came alive. People lined the outdoor cafes along Regent’s Park Road and flowed from the pub on to the pavement as the football reached fever pitch inside. The weather was glorious and so I strolled from my flat along Regent’s Park Road to meet the writer for a picnic in Primrose Hill park.

Having lived in Los Angeles for many years it’s hard to explain how unvarying the weather actually is without sounding incredibly ungrateful. The thing is when it’s sunny everyday it’s easy to take it for granted and only now, being in London, do I truly appreciate the variety. I’m obsessively taking photos of the sky, the clouds and the changes in the weather and I’m loving every mood and subtle nuance.

The writer and I popped into Shepherd Foods and bought picnic supplies including a couple of bottles of cider and made our way to the incline of Primrose Hill. The park was a buzz of activity with families, couples, dogs and everything in between lounging, playing and generally making the most of a gorgeous sunny afternoon.

We sat and talked, exchanging life stories and experiences until the last of the afternoon sun disappeared behind the hill and we admitted it wasn’t perhaps quite as warm as it had been and went off in search of warm drinks.

It had been a hint of what’s to come as spring and summer start to emerge in London.

A Weekend in Notting Hill

The day I arrived in London my sister and I were sitting in a Pret a Manger planning the next day’s attack on the estate agents of London. A man sitting next to us was shamelessly eavesdropping and after a while struck up a conversation. He was a writer, the conversation was intelligent and he seemed like a character; eccentric and interesting. Upon parting, Hil gave him her phone number and my email address because, well, why not?
A week later I had an email asking how my flat search had gone. An invitation to coffee resulted in an invitation to see a movie and so I ended up on Sunday morning meeting a random stranger at The Electric Cinema in Notting Hill.
The night before, I had caught up with my friend Nicola who lived just down the road and so, as these things go, one glass had led to several and I’d spent the night on the sofa. Will I ever learn? Having gone to bed at 3am I was feeling a bit ropey but I was excited about a new adventure and so off I strolled at 11am to meet up with the writer.
Nicola lives on Portobello Road; as she puts it, “the crunchy end.” For those who know the movie, Hugh Grant’s Little Travel Bookshop is there and several other landmarks. It definitely was the crunchy end and felt a lot busier, dirtier, and generally more “London” than the little bit of paradise which is Primrose Hill.
The writer and I met up, bought coffees (thankfully) and headed inside. It was the most stylish movie theatre I’ve even seen (the so-called movie capital of the world, LA has nothing like this). Individual squidgy vintage leather armchairs, leather footstools, adjoining coffee tables, blankets if you feel cold and a full bar at the back. It was amazing. I sank into an armchair, put my feet up and sipped my coffee. Bliss.
The view from my squidgy leather armchair
The film was a documentary about a fashion photographer called Bill Cunningham. At 82 years old he still works for the New York Times, rides around New York on a bicycle, lives in a tiny studio apartment and takes candid photos of street fashion. A lovely, naive and inspirational man and a brilliant film. I loved it. (Bill Cunningham New York – see it immediately!)
Not the actual screen, it was much bigger!
After the film The Writer took me on a tour of the building. Built around 1900, a winding wooden staircase takes you upstairs to a restaurant and on the floor above, a bar and then up again to another room where the exposed beams of a circular cupola make up the roof. A mixture of decorative styles from the original to what looked like 1980s  clashed together but in way it all just worked. It seemed quite the Sunday brunch scene, lots of families eating together, people reading the paper and all enjoying an overcast Sunday morning.
By the time we left the weather had changed, it was raining hard and the temperature had dropped. I wasn’t dressed for it as I hadn’t been home to change from the night before so I began to feel quite cold and my pathetic hangover started to rear its ugly head. After another coffee and more eccentric conversation,  we did a tour of a restaurant I must go back to (I was fading quickly by that point) and we amicably parted ways.
I made it safely back to Chalk Farm on the tube (it was touch and go for a while) where I immediately went to bed swearing that I’d never drink again!
I’d had an excellent Notting Hill weekend.

The Delights of Primrose Hill

How could a place called Primrose Hill not be lovely? I’m very lucky as just across the road from where I’m living is Regent’s Park Road, the local shopping area for Primrose Hill.

Walking in Regent’s Park

I spent the afternoon meandering along the road, strolling into the local shops and getting to know a couple of the shop owners. Delightful gift shops, a fantastic bookshop, several really nice cafes and an enticing looking pub line the road which curves around Primrose Hill and leads towards Regent’s Park.

Primrose Hill in the afternoon

 I came across the most exciting food shop (Shepherd Foods) which stocks all kind of foods and even caters to high maintenance diets! Hurray! As much as the Morrisons superstore is a bargain shopper’s paradise where you can buy three bars of soap for 39p, I was much more in my element and spent a long time browsing the shelves.

Strolling on I discovered an organic vegan restaurant appropriately named Manna (mannav.com). The menu sounded delicious and they have organic alcohol which makes for a much more tolerable albeit more expensive hangover. I’m looking forward to Stella coming to London as it’s perfect for dinner!

A little further down the road I came across triyoga (triyoga.co.uk). With several locations around London, triyoga has a great variety of classes from ashtanga to iyengar with vinyasa flow thrown in for good measure. I’m going to try a class this weekend and will see how I get on. I suspect I’m a little bit tense after my recent move so will ease myself in gently.

In the window of a tiny art gallery I spotted a gorgeous Chagall lithograph. Funnily enough it would be perfect in my new place but at £450 (which is actually a great price) my budget only allowed me to take a photo of it. I might go back, just to look of course!

The Chagall lithograph – just looking of course

In addition, Regent’s Park Road has three hair salons which is a massive relief as I’m watching the grey hair inch slowly through with unfailing regularity so I think I’ll give Privato (privato.co.uk) a try when I can’t stand it anymore. I picked up a 20% off flyer for new customers, always a big plus.

So I’m very pleased, I can go to yoga, eat and drink excellent food, walk to Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park, buy art (I wish) and get my hair done within a five minute radius of where I live.

Today I started to feel as though I’d found my little village in London!

Regent’s Park Road

(more photos to come)