Adventure in Enfield

Day two of cycling in London and we decided to ride to Enfield in North London to have coffee with the dad of Letad. 

It was ten miles to get there and so bright and early on Sunday morning, we carried the bikes downstairs and carefully eased our aching bottoms on to the saddles. 

It seemed that having ridden to Stoke Newington the day before had awoken some muscles and things were fairly painful. 

Still off we went and made our way through North London enjoy the ride especially down a nice hilll past Manor House although realising that it wouldn’t be much fun on the way back.  

We made good time and arrived in an hour. Even the Duchess hadn’t slowed progress much. 

We spent a nice couple of hours eating the speciality of the house, a delicious lemon drizzle cake before it was time to head back. 

Ouch! It hurt getting back on and it was less than appealing to ride home but off we went. 

The traffic was much busier as London had started to wake up and despite the appeal of riding in the bus lanes, it must be said that London double deckers are really big. We were stuck behind three of them and only a fool would overtake them. Oh well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

There was a long slog up the Camden Road but finally we made it to Kentish Town and it was a downhill coast. 

A little slower to get home and then the icing on the cake, carrying the bikes upstairs. 

Mission accomplished. Twenty miles done!

Bike Riding in London

Bike riding in London is a new and exciting adventure only to be undertaken by the very brave or the very foolish.

As we were flat hunting, we decided it would be a great idea to do it by bike and so set off from Chalk Farm to Swiss Cottage and on to South Hampstead.

That was all very nice with the exception of the Swiss Cottage intersection which required careful navigation.

Arriving in South Hampstead it seemed we had missed the estate agent by five minutes (they don’t wait around for long) and so it was off to our next destination, Stoke Newington.

We set off up a long, slow gradient towards Hampstead Village, I had plotted the route on the iPhone which unfortunately didn’t take hills into consideration. Halfway up Fitzjohns Avenue, we stopped for a breather. The Purple Duchess was proving to be quite heavy and fitness levels needed a little improving.

Off we went and before long we were whizzing down through Gospel Oak and Dartmouth Park. Past the never-moving flat and on to the Holloway Road. From there it was past hundreds of Arsenal supporters heading to the match, through Highbury Corner and off to Stoke Newington. 

We made it and had a quick cup of tea before heading to our next viewing. The now familiar routine of Saturday flat hunting. 

Four hours later, we made it back to Chalk Farm, lugging the bikes back up the stairs and collapsing upon arrival. 

Flat hunting had been fruitless and while bus dodging is not the most relaxing of pastimes, London by bike is a great way of exploring the city. 

Fifteen miles on the Duchess and my bum really hurt!

Friday in Paris

5:30am and I was up. The birds had been singing for half an hour as they were lulled into a false sense of Spring by the unseasonably warm winter but time to get up, I was off to Paris for the day. 

It all sounds rather glamorous and I do like to travel however I was going to a trade show so not quite as glamorous as I would have liked. 

Still, a nice Mercedes to take me to St Pancras and then off on the Eurostar to Paris, can’t really complain can I?

Two and a half hours of travelling backwards and we arrived at the Gare du Nord. I bought a ticket and then was off to a huge convention centre on the way to Charles de Guallle so not really Paris after all!

Four hours of walking around the Maison Objet trade show later, I decided to head back into the city. I’d gathered a lot of research and my time had been well spent. 

With a couple of hours before my Eurostar, I decided to walk to Rue Montorgueil, a pedestrian area in the second arrondissement where I stayed in 2010. 

Paris felt grittier than it had then. Perhaps because it was January and not June but it seemed dirty, grey and cold. I walked down the Boulevard St. Denis where a number of old, ropey prostitutes lined the pavement. 

It was a far cry from the summer days when I skipped around in a light summer dress feeling free. Still, it’s one of my favourite streets in Paris and was worth the pilgrimage. 

And so after a quick look around it was time to head back to the Gare du Nord and get the train back to London.

I was exhausted and by the time I got home, I felt like I’d run a marathon. The only thing to do was have a bath and an early night. 

It’s a shame Eurostar is so expensive, it was so much easier than flying and a weekend in Paris is always appealing, gritty or not!

Cold in New York

Having complained last winter when London was minus two degrees celcius, imagine my horror as New York was minus eight today. And that was the high. 

It’s fair to say that it was really cold and while I had a good coat, hat, gloves, wool tights and two more layers, it was fairly brutal. 
Cabs are hard to find. It’s Super Bowl week so the city is full of NFL fans here for the big game this weekend and it’s too cold to walk anywhere. 
I wrapped my scarf around my face and breathed the warm air of my breath. The cold air was too harsh and I wasn’t prepared. 
After four presentations I was exhausted. I work hard on these trips and by the end of the day, I was ready for a warm hotel room.
Hard to believe but it was even too cold to shop!

Swimming in Kentish Town

I’ve decided, despite my deeply ingrained fear of English public swimming pools, to go swimming. 

The dad of Letad swims twice a week at 80 years old so I’m inspired and when it’s too cold, wet and dark to go walking, perhaps this is the solution. 

I went down to Camden and kitted myself out. Goggles, cap and sporty suit and then it was off to Kentish Town Sports Centre to check out the pools. Perhaps the wrong way round?

The Kentish Town Sports Centre is housed in a listed Victorian building and has two pools and a private gym. At first appearances I wasn’t optimistic as the first pool was full of screaming kids on lilos dive-bombing each other. Nightmare!

But then I was shown the other pool. Blissfully quiet with a handful of people swimming laps. The water was clean, the Victorian building beautifully restored with skylights and a vaulted roof. 

It was a far cry from my memories of learning to swim at the Stokesley Baths. The water was freezing cold in the main pool and a curious toxic yellow in the infant pool. I hated the stench of chlorine and always sneezed after putting my face in the water. I couldn’t open my eyes and I hadn’t been a strong swimmer, as a result failing in my quest to retrieve a brick while wearing pyjamas. 

In Australia I bought goggles, took adult lessons (the shame) and things improved considerably. I started to enjoy being in the water and learned to snorkel and scuba dive. It turned out it was all about being able to see. 

And so discovering that it’s possible to pay £4.85 to go swimming (no membership required) I’ve decided to go next Saturday (if I get back from New York). 

Banish the memories, I’m ready to take the plunge!

Finally… good sushi in London!

After two years in London I have finally found (thanks to Noodle) a fantastic Japanese restaurant! Hurray, WabiSabi has been equalled and I can satisfy my yearning for yellowtail.

Atari-ya in Swiss Cottage for anyone who might be in the area, is definitely worth a visit and having eaten at several Nobu’s as well as many years of sushi in California, this place rates very highly.

We started with a seaweed and cucumber salad, crisp and refreshing with a taste of the sea before progressing to extremely delicious spicy prawns. I could easily have ordered these again but instead we progressed to yellowtail sashimi, melt in the mouth soft, buttery and perfect, my absolute favourite. Then unagi (eel), an excellent spicy tuna roll and then a small rest before continuing on.

We were quaffing hot saki which was going down very well and then we progressed to a perfect black cod, delicate and flaky before finishing with the ultimate test, yellowtail with jalapeño in citrus sauce. This is my benchmark dish and I have to say I was impressed, presentation needed a little finessing but the overall flavour and texture were spot on. I was complete.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the cheapest night out but it was absolutely delicious and after almost accepting defeat, a welcome surprise to find excellent sushi in London. 

Kilburn and the giant dog turd

As the despondency of flat hunting continues, we have been forced to extend our search beyond the comfort of the nice NW post codes.

We decided it was time to venture into South Hampstead (a pleasant surprise) and then unfortunately, into Kilburn. Despite the deceptive post code of NW2 (lovely Chalk Farm is NW3), Kilburn was not quite what we hoped for.

Things started off fairly well. I left work and jumped on the 31 bus. At the risk of sounding like a public transport loser, it is one of my favourite bus routes as it conveniently runs from Camden to Swiss Cottage and on to Maida Vale and Notting Hill Gate, very convenient. It also runs through Kilburn.

Getting off the 31 bus I headed up the Kilburn High Road. It was a little bit rough to put it mildly and as I tripped along in my faux fur vest and firkin (fake Birkin) I looked a little out of place (despite the knock-offs!)

I reached the road (a handy betting shop on the corner), stepped in a giant dog turd and skidded on one foot with arms outstretched desperately trying not to fall. Thankfully I didn’t.

Arriving at the flat, I met Letad and taking off our shoes (so gross) we went inside. And big surprise, another overpriced dump.

I think the giant dog turd summed up the whole experience.

Let’s just say we’re not quite ready for Kilburn.