London by Bike – Walthamstow and the Waterways

We’d been hearing a lot about Walthamstow, an area of North East London which is always ripe for development but somehow seems to have avoided it so far. Friends are buying a house there and so we thought we’d go and see what all the fuss is about. And of course we thought we’d go by bike.

We set off on Sunday morning and arrived in Walthamstow Village in time for lunch at The Nag’s Head. We rode through seven and a half miles of suburban sprawl on another hot and sunny day and so, spotting the first pub in the village, we downed bikes and downed pints.

A pint of cider on a hot day starts as a lovely thing but soon becomes a force to be reckoned with and sure enough, it went straight to my head. Perhaps a second pint wasn’t such a good idea.

Walthamstow was a strange mixture of twelve century village surrounded by low income housing. The village itself was a tiny pocket of loveliness surrounded by all things horrible. We decided it wasn’t fur us.

Leaving Walthamstow we decided to come home a different way and as luck would have it, we discovered the bike path along the River Lea.

The River Lea runs down to the Thames through Hackney Marshes. We had a gorgeous ride along the river where dozens of swans lazily dozed on the surface of the water and dozens of people filled waterside pubs.

We passed the River Lea Weir, a brilliant feat of Victorian engineering where water gushed through metal sluice gates, passed the old sewage filtering system, now a well fertilized nature reserve and wound our way towards Stratford where we saw the Olympic stadium and red Helter Skelter sculpture before turning right and heading back along the Regents Canal.

We headed west along the canal, winding our way among tourists until we arrived back in familiar territory.

Another six hour bike ride. Good for the Whippet, challenging on the Purple Duchess!

The Chalk Farm Whippet

Riding our bikes from Chalk Farm to Bethnal Green to go to a barbeque (a speedy half an hour ride past Kings Cross and up Pentonville Road), Letad announced that all the recent cycling had turned him into a whippet. From the Kilburn Supermodel to the Chalk Farm Whippet.

I’m dubious, I don’t see a rib cage but it could be a well covered whippet.

There’s no doubt though, we’re definitely fitter as a result of extended flat hunting and cycling through London has become a much enjoyed pastime.

We rode back several hours later having enjoyed a fun day out with friends. Riding along Regents Canal we stopped briefly to paddle in the fountains outside The Grain Store at Granary Square, a recent development near Kings Cross and arrived home just as dusk fell at 10pm, a late dusk on the longest day of the year.

And for our next excursion…

London by Bike – The Golden Triangle

Coined by Letad’s best man, we set off on Saturday to look at six flats all within our golden triangle of NW5. From Prince of Wales Road to Kentish Town Road, up to Highgate and back down Hampstead Heath, it’s the area we feel the happiest. I felt that after seeing six more flats if we didn’t like anything, we might be the problem.

It was Mid Summer’s Day, the weather was glorious and even the dodgiest parts of K-Town sparkled in the sun. We were optimistic and it seemed as though luck might be finally on our side.

The first flat seemed ideal and we were about to plonk an offer on the table when a herd of elephants ran overhead. It turned out a very loud family lived upstairs, loud enough that the seller had asked the estate agent to mention it as an issue. Not for us it would appear.

Another flat, for the bargain price of half a million pounds, had a bathroom made of glass bricks in the hall and had a curtain instead of a door. Call me old fashioned but I tend to prefer walls and a door with my bathroom. Not for us it would appear.

And then there was Castlehaven Road. A nice flat with a garden, just down the road from The Grafton pub and the Kentish Town pubic baths and a lazy five minute walk to work for me. It needed work and had potential. Seemed ideal. We knew it would be popular but we emailed our offer in and now we wait (again). Offers will go to “Best and Final” tomorrow, a wild card lottery system we’re very familiar with where one randomly offers the largest amount possible to outbid the other parties and the biggest fool wins!

Shit on Toast

Tonight, Letad made the worst food he’s eaten all year, shit on toast.

Cheap, nasty cheese on cheap, nasty bread with a cheap, nasty slice of cheap, nasty corned beef on top. Melted under the grill, it was a cheap, nasty mess.

He then settled down to watch the Brazil versus Mexico game and ranted about the quality of the food in the UK.

I made a delicious frittata.

London by Bike – The Wild West

Another Saturday, another bike ride with the added allure of flat hunting thrown in. This time, heading west to Queen’s Park and beyond.

We set off and rode the now familiar route from Chalk Farm to Swiss Cottage, South Hampstead to Kilburn, on to Queen’s Park and then into unfamiliar territory… Kensal Green and Kensal Rise. It turned out Kensal Rise was a lovely village and definitely worth considering. While it seemed like a long way west from Chalk Farm, it was amazingly close to Central London.

We rode from Kensal Rise to Maida Vale, past Little Venice (one of the first flats we looked at) and on up the Edgware Road. We turned left on Church Street and walked through the market, past the antique shops where I ambled a long time ago and out the other side to Marylebone Station. From there it was over to Baker Street, past the hundreds of gullible tourists outside the Sherlock Holmes Museum, stopped for a late picnic lunch in Regents Park, along the Euston Road (traffic insanity), up Pentonville Road (quite steep) and over to Angel, down Upper Street and then cut back through Barnesbury, Camden Park Road, Leighton Road, Kentish Town, Chalk Farm and back up the bloody stairs. Phew! It’s amazing how London is just a series of small villages all stuck together with sprawl.

Another fabulous bike ride with a twist of irony. We have now made an offer on an flat in Kilburn, the hilarious twist is that it’s the same street as the giant dog turd from January. How the mighty have fallen! If we get the flat, we’re calling it Queen’s Park, definitely not Kilburn!

On another note, we read that house prices are falling in Central London. Perhaps fate has helped us out and we weren’t meant to buy at the top of the market.

What else to do but settle down and watch the world cup.

Hmm… England.

Queen’s Park Rangers

After all our complaining about Kilburn, we actually saw a flat which wasn’t too bad. Perhaps it had something to do with it being June and sunny. Well, who knows what might happen in the world of flat hunting.

We set off from Kilburn and walked towards Queen’s Park, an area I’d wanted to look at but had never quite made it to. It turned out it was only ten minutes down the road and as we strolled from the chaos of Kilburn, the street slowly transitioned into something lovely.

Our friends from LA had liked Queen’s Park and the dad of Letad had said it was lovely and so wearing the cheese graters with the Kilburn Supermodel in tow, we finally discovered Queen’s Park.

The park itself was a lovely open green space filled with evening picnickers; bordered by streets of red brick Edwardian terraces, it was clean and tranquil. We wandered along and soon discovered Salusbury Road, a lively street of cafes and bars where World Cup fever was setting in for the evening and then we found Lonsdale Road, a little road where workshops and garages had been converted into bars and restaurants.

We found a small outside table at Ostuni, an authentic rustic Italian bistro where we shared a selection of antipasti, discovered a delicious Italian wine, people-watched and discussed the etiquette of how to hold cutlery (don’t get me started!)

It was a lovely spot and I was reminded of one of my old haunts in Venice (California), Zinque.
The food was good and we spent a very nice evening in Queen’s Park before jumping on the Overground and discovering we were only three stops from Euston.

I’m quite taken with the area and so, in true flat hunting madness, we’re heading straight back by bike for a flat viewing on Saturday.

Emergency Flip Flops

Walking up Kilburn High Road with the Kilburn Supermodel (see previous post), I popped into Primark to buy an emergency pair of flip flops.

Primark is the Mecca for bargain shoppers, referred to by many as Primarni and so far avoided by me like the plague. Cheap fabrics, garish colours, poor people and yes, I am a self-confessed massive snob!

I was desperate though, I’d bought new sandals I hadn’t broken in and so for a pound I bought a pair of flip flops and we were off.

I was quite impressed until I felt the cheap plastic chaffing the delicate soles of my feet. It was like walking on cheese graters and by the end of the day, the cheese graters were quite painful.

Still, you can’t argue with a pound.
Hello Primark, I may even go back.