Wandering in London

We recently went on our first international trip since the pandemic began, and wow, did I feel rusty packing a suitcase and navigating a (not even very) foreign country! But I got back into the swing of travel.
London in April is really nice - leafier and greener than I expected and, luckily, hardly any rain - which I think was maybe a fluke. I thought you might like to see some of the highlights!
So, let's go - 


Wisteria Insanity

I don't know if you've heard of this thing called 'Instagram', but if you have, you may know how images of certain things will dominate your feed for a while and then morph into the next wave of images as the seasons change. For me, pumpkins and gourds are everywhere in fall, which give way to Christmas greenery, which gives way to an avalanche of flowering spring bulbs in the spring - you get the idea.
Well, I follow a decent number of British floral designers, gardeners and similar types, so there was no way I could *not know* that April was Wisteria time in London, and I definitely wanted to see at least one example of this British Wisteria insanity in person.

 Mission accomplished!

It was a sight to behold, and I liked how these people had chosen their front door color for maximum Wisteria effect.


A Serene Dinner to Remember

We stumbled upon our Wisteria moment as we were walking to Clarke's Restaurant in Kensington for dinner.

photo: Clarke's Restaurant

Amazing fresh, simple, flawlessly-prepared food reminiscent of the legendary Chez Panisse here in Berkeley.

And that is probably not just a coincidence - because I got nearly all my London restaurant recommendations from the Instagram of Fanny Singer, a writer and the daughter of Chez Panisse's famous founder. This girl knows food, so when you're traveling to a new city, it might be worth a little scrolling through her account to see if she's been there - definitely saved me some time - and I knew her choices would be really good.


Ok, back to some insanity - 

Paper Goods Insanity


I am a sucker for beautiful paper goods, as I imagine, dear reader, are you!

Present and Correct, a tiny, Instagram-famous and beautifully-curated store tucked away in Clerkenwell did not disappoint! 



Stylish paper clips from Italy? Washi tape in any color? A notebook with rainbow tabs? Vintage labels and stickers? Erasers in any shape or color? Yes. You have come to the right place. Very satisfying, I have to say.


And now another dose of serenity - 

An Enchanting... Church? Park? Church-park?


I didn't know before this trip that the downtown part of London is actually the oldest part of the city. It's a neighborhood confusingly called 'City of London' that is roughly the location of the old Roman town - and parts of the Roman perimeter wall are still visible in between office buildings! There's also a long curving street called London Wall which is, you guessed it, the location of a long stretch of the old wall.

In bustling City of London there are lots of very old churches built (and many still owned) by the old trade guilds, and we found one - the lovely tucked-away St. Dunstan in the East - which should win some kind of award (maybe it has?) for most beautiful transformation of a bombed out church. 



Most of East London was rubble after WWII, and this was the only example we saw of a bombed structure being preserved as a relic. I loved how it was allowed to be pleasantly overgrown and softened - an experiential reminder more effective and nuanced and alive than any statue or plaque could be. 'Oasis' is probably the best word for it!


One more dose of bustle and activity? Ok- 

Flower Market Insanity





 The Columbia Road Flower Market happens every Sunday in East London, and it is truly a mini circus of flower sellers calling out deals, shoppers chattering, kids running around, and cute little shops - including so so many bakeries doing brisk business. 

If you go, definitely check out Mason and Painter, a skillfully-curated vintage housewares shop that also features paintings (and two books on London vintage shopping) by the expert and friendly owner.



At the end of the street, we happened upon the unofficial king (or queen) of the flower market. A cat had found a quiet sunny spot on top of a car, and made himself at home - calm, happy and safe from any dog attention. He was the star of the show and had a very appreciative audience! I wonder if he's there every week?



And on that sunny note, I bid you cheerio from London! (That's what all the locals, say, right? Nope. No, it isn't.)

I hope you find this list helpful for your own travels or just as a little reminder of the fun of seeing new things and places. 

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