Friday night and after a drink at the Booking Office at St Pancras, we set off to Gallipoli.

Not the Turkish beach where Australian troops were dropped off in the wrong place and picked off one by one, but a Turkish restaurant on Upper Street in Islington where diners ate meze bite by bite.

A nice tasting meze plate later with a collection of appetizers, hallumi and a zesty Turkish white wine and we strolled our way to Angel tube on a busy Friday evening in London.

The weather forecast looked good for a weekend of… bloody flat hunting!

Shake ‘n Step

Despite of course having overdone things slightly in Booty Busters on Tuesday and not entirely having the full use of my right arm, I rashly signed up for Shake ‘n Step.

I wasn’t sure it was a good idea but as the music started, I stepped back in time and before I knew it, I was back at my crappy old gym 24Hour Fitness in LA where I managed to do every aerobic class on offer. Apparently I have a slightly addictive personality.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t brilliant, there were times when I ended up facing the wrong way, had the wrong foot on the step or had to laugh at my complete lack of coordination but as it was my first cardio class in years, I was pleased I actually wasn’t too unfit. Dragging the Purple Duchess up the hill to Ally Pally may have helped.

An hour later I emerged. Red faced (almost purple) and dripping in sweat. It wasn’t pretty and as I walked home in my sodden gym clothes, I felt a bit embarrassed but I felt great for it. 

And for my next class… let’s see what the weekend has to offer.

Booty Buster

Today after work, I broke the ice and embarked on my first exercise class at The Fitness Mosaic, the new exercise place I signed up for. Ten days for £20. It’s fairly obvious what happens next.

Sure enough, I picked the Booty Buster class to embark on my new regime.

The first ten minutes were fantastic, it was back to the 90s with aerobic routines and music pumping. Yeah, feel the burn!

After ten minutes it was time to pick up the hand weights and then it was repetition after repetition. Up and down and round in circles and my arms were like jelly. Ouch, feel the burn.

Then it was the legs. Squats and lunges and then just when I thought I’d never walk again, time to work the abs. Or at least, where they should be.

The class ended and I walked down stairs. Slowly. Feeling the burn.

Nine more days. If I can walk tomorrow, I’ll go back for more Booty Busting.

Still feeling the burn…

Step Away from the Buffet

Bank Holiday Monday and it poured with rain. 

Again, we weren’t allowed to stay at home and wallow in misery so we decided to go out for lunch. It’s been a weekend of eating as apparently we needed comfort food to recover from our disappointment.

We went to Euston station and set off to Drummond Street, home of the best South Indian food in London. A wet and miserable Monday meant only one thing, an all-you-can-eat Indian lunch buffet for £6.95.

We ate at Diwana Bhel Poori House where the lunch buffet was incredible. Some of the best Vegetarian Indian food I’ve ever eaten and insanely cheap. Of course, with a buffet, the temptation was too much and the greed set in. We left feeling we may have slightly over-indulged and my skirt was feeling a little bit tight.

After lunch we walked along Tottenham Court Road and down to Trafalgar Square to the National Gallery. It was busy but we suffered the crowds and popped in to have a quick look at the permanent collection.

From there it was back to Covent Garden where I rashly decided it would be a good idea to try on summer clothes. This of course was an extremely bad idea. It was raining, we were depressed and I’d eaten an enormous Indian banquet buffet. To say I was bloated was the understatement of the century.

An hour or so later, I left feeling very traumatized. I had caught sight of myself in the mirror and the shock was horrific. Needless to say I came home empty handed and had to face facts. There’s only so much denial one can have.

Time to step away from the buffet!

London by Foot – the Vale of Health

Sunday morning and we knew we couldn’t be trusted to stay at home and look at Zoopla (the best property website and the most depressing dose of reality) and so we jumped on the Northern Line and set off to Golders Green.

It was one stop past Hampstead and an area of North London as yet unexplored. Amazingly we haven’t looked at any property in Golders Green and so we thought it was worth a look. 

First impressions, not bad and after getting our bearings, we set off to walk up the hill towards Hampstead.

On the way we discovered Golders Hill Park, a lovely park with rolling green lawns, a Chinese pavilion and koi pond. Little cottages were hidden along the path and there was a twinge of house-envy.

A glorious day on the Heath

Before long we came over the brow of the hill, along the edge of the Heath and down into Hampstead village. We discussed the possibility of moving out of London into “The Country” but soon realized that the Heath was enough country for us when Letad talked of getting a taxi if one got lost.

In The Country – Hampstead Heath

We stopped for lunch and a reviving ale at The Horseshoe in Hampstead where we enjoyed excellent fish and chips, one of the best and then off we went to walk off lunch.

Heading back to the Heath, we discovered the Vale of Health. A beautiful enclave of houses with their own lake. It was stunning and I imagined how it must have been a Victorian health spa founded by early hippies.

It really is the Vale of Health

How wrong I was when I looked it up on Wikipedia later. It was originally a bog and the houses had been poor houses. The name had been given to it as a euphemism.

The map

If only they could see it now where houses sell for millions despite having a small group of gypsy caravans and a fairground nearby. 

Houses in the Vale of Health

Still, it felt like a little bit of paradise to me and I certainly wouldn’t mind living in the Vale of Health one day!

The lake

We continued around the Heath for a while as it was a gorgeous afternoon. 

Glorious Hampstead Heath

Past the ladies’ pond where some brave or foolish souls were swimming. Past the mens’ pond where gentlemen were making new friends and suddenly we were back in Parliament Hill.

Hampstead Ponds
Afternoon sunshine

We’re like pathetic homing pigeons as we walked past the end of the road we almost moved to and then, we turned right and walked away, past Gospel Oak through Oak Village, a lovely terrace of unspoiled Victorian cottages surrounded by council estates and home to Chalk Farm.

It had been a very long walk and four hours later we were too exhausted to look at flats on Zoopla… or so we thought.

Self-inflicted torture.

London by Bike – Adventures in North London

Saturday morning and we set off on our bikes to explore areas of London beyond the immediate vicinity. We had to go outside Zone 2. Prepare for culture shock.

And so off we went to see a flat near Alexandra Palace (Ally Pally to the locals), one of the highest points overlooking greater London.

We went up past Gospel Oak, past the flat never-to-be-mentioned (I resisted the temptation to throw a bag of poo through the window), over Dartmouth Park Hil, past Highgate tube and over to Muswell Hill. It was very steep and the Purple Duchess, now with an extra-heavy lock, has proved to be a great beast of a bike. Good for the legs but really hard work.

We arrived in an area at the back of Ally Pally and went through the familiar viewing process. A two bedroom which seemed to have a cupboard instead of a bedroom. It was nice enough but where on earth were we?

To get our bearings we rode to the top of Ally Pally. That was a climb, the hardest we’ve done and by the top my poor legs were really feeling it. 

Ominous skies and London in the distance

With some seriously grey skies ahead, we decided we should push on to Crouch End, an area Letad had been interested in showing me. We arrived just as a storm whipped up, the rain pelting down and sheltered in a cafe for a late lunch while we hoped no one was stealing the bikes.

Resting outside Ally Pally. Rain ahead…
The aerial at Ally Pally

The skies cleared and before long we were riding back towards Highgate in glorious sunshine. How fickle.

Back to Kentish Town where we discovered a hidden nook called Torriano Cottages. Oh the bliss of being able to live there and we realized that, as always, we seem to end up back in NW5, Kentish Town, Parliament Hill and Hampstead Heath.

Despite having been riding for five hours, we decided to head into Covent Garden to buy a map of North London. This is now war and with a large map and a red pen, we will mark up the areas we intend to invade. Watch out North London, we’re angry buyers.

Of course this all takes energy and we were tired and hungry. We locked up our trusty steeds at Euston station (the bike racks are under CCTV surveillance so they can watch your bike being nicked) and we went to have subterranean Malayasian food at a little hole in the wall, The Roti King theguardianreview.

The food was amazing and cheap. I had the roti (bread) and dhal and only wished there was more. For £5.50 each, we were tired, full and happy. A place to definitely go back to.

The only thing left to do was reclaim our bikes (still there, hurray!) and ride home through the ambiance of Camden.

A little saddle sore…

Bank Holiday Weekend

Friday and we started the long weekend off with the afternoon off!

Letad and I set off to the York and Albany yorkandalbany for an extended Friday lunch where we whiled away a few hours and had a frustrating conversation with our solicitor. He seemed optimistic things may still progress however as the estate agent has thrown in the towel, we’re not so sure.

After lunch we meandered around Primrose Hill where we stopped for a drink in the Engineer before slowly making our way home via The Pembroke. pembrokelondon

It must have been a case of sorrow drowning as we were feeling quite upset and depressed about the wasted time and now, as property values have gone up even more, we think it might be a case of game over.

Trying to stay positive…

The final link

After months and months of waiting, offering more money, mortgage applications and follow-up emails, the bottom finally dropped out of the chain and we are back to square one.

The seller of our flat has decided not to proceed with his purchase and the estate agent emailed to tell us to stop wasting our time.

To say we were angry was an understatement.

It’s hard to explain how difficult it is to find property in London. It’s incredibly expensive, incredibly competitive and the prospect of starting again, fills us with dread.

I suspect we will regroup and rethink our strategy and perhaps we’ll think about going further afield. It was only a couple of days ago that Letad was waxing lyrical about living in a house, after all. Perhaps it was a sign.

And so harsh words were uttered, threats of extreme violence under the cover of darkness (I may have bought a balaclava) towards the seller and the idea of a voodoo doll may have been mentioned today but we believe in karmic revenge and so we’ll start again and find somewhere incredible while the seller rots in his miserable flat.

Not bitter…

A new regime

A new exercise centre has opened in Chalk Farm (the fitness mosaic) and with an enticing offer of ten days for £20, off I trotted to sign up. Sucker!

They offer a variety of dance classes, Pilates, power plate and boot camp so I might find something I enjoy. As much as I’ve enjoyed yoga over the years, I do like an old-school step class. Now where are my legwarmers?
It was slightly intimidating however when I met Iron Mike, the boot camp trainer, so it might take a few days to get my courage up. I’m not sure I’ll be signing up for boot camp. 
£20 down the drain? 
Let’s see.

Milan to Milton Keynes

After a whirlwind trip to Milan, the following day was spent in a large outdoor shopping centre in Milton Keynes. From one extreme to another!

The glamorous Milanese were replaced by the ever-so-slightly less glamorous Milton Kensians, otherwise it was hard to tell the difference. 
Another busy day of retailing as we covered Asda, H&M, BHS, River Island, M&S, Top Shop, Next, Primark and all the other high street shops with the convenience of one stop shopping. The consumer products industry can be daunting. 
By the end of the day people were fading and the warm sleepy car ride home lulled some into afternoon naps. 
Not this one despite it being a tiring week.