Category Archives: shopping

“If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me?” Helene Hanff

I’ve just read this delightful non fiction book and I absolutely loved it! It consists of the two-decade long correspondence and friendship between the reserved Frank Doel, an employee at Marks & Co. Booksellers at 84, Charing Cross Rd in London and the New York based writer and bibliophile Helene Hanff. She is an avid and enthusiastic reader looking for rare second hand books who doesn’t like the dirty, broken editions she can find on NY stalls so she prefers buying them overseas. From the start we can appreciate the contrast between her American informality and Frank’s British professionalism, but as long as the story goes she establish a friendship with him, his family and all the employees of the library and the correspondence becomes informal and heartfelt. We gradually see Helene becoming intimately involved in the lives of the shop’s staff, sending them food parcels during England’s post-war shortages and sharing with them details of her life and career.

I’m grateful that this book had been published in the 70s and that it’s a true story, a modern fictional writer would have inserted a love affair between Helene and Frank who was married and had two daughters, ruining the spirit of the book. Because the magic of this book it’s in its innocence. The rare and pure friendship established between people who live so many miles away thanks to letters.

That’s so relatable to me: I feel so unloved and underappreciated by everyone I live with, while I feel like I’m another person when I’m virtually or in person, with my overseas friends.

I recommend this read to all the book lovers, those who like to browse little bookshops or used book stalls and, like Helene, love “inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins”, like “the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned” and are fond of “second hand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest”.

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The Marks & Co book shop located at 84 Charing Cross road has closed, but the street, located in the Charing Cross district at the west end of the Strand in London, is still renowned for the variety of the second hand books shops and independent book stores. The biggest and most known one is for sure Foyles opened more than 100 years ago, but the main road and also the side streets are full of little gems.

The road is named after the homonym district, where, in front of the railway was placed one of the twelve crosses that marked the route of Queen Eleanor funeral procession. It is in central London, very close both to Oxford street and Leicester Square, so with countless of shops, theatres and places to eat.

A little curiosity: in the Harry Potter books, The Leaky Cauldron pub is in Charing Cross Road.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Friends will be Friends – Queen

 

“The best traveller is one without a camera” Kamand Kojouri

<We were walking and you exclaimed:

-You’re pretty when you smile: you get dimples,

-They’re wrinkles.

You laughed, then you looked into my eyes and sweetly said:

-I love you because you never take yourself seriously!

So I grabbed your arm and screamed in my head: “Please, say that you love me again!”>

As I told many times, I love exploring London. One area that is barely mentioned despite of being surrounded by posh neighbourhoods like Maida Vale, West Hampstead, Queens Park and Kensal Rise, is Kilburn. I hope that the fact author Zadie Smith decided to set her new novel “NW” here, will give to Kilburn more visibility.

It is very easy to get there since the transport link is fantastic, I came here from the Bakerloo line, hopping off at Kilburn Park.

This area has been traditionally Irish for a long time, but now it has a huge and diverse mix of nationalities and races (I saw a large presence of Italians, for example). It is claimed to be dodgy at night, but the main street is always full of people. This one is a very long road called Kilburn High Road and it has chain stores (Primark, M&S), pound shops, a beautiful library, a famous cinema (The Tricycle Theatre), independent stores and a few pubs. Fun fact: Ian Dury formed his first band in 1970 and called it “Kilburn & the High Roads”.

Despite of being originated as an ancient trackway, a part of a Celtic route between Canterbury and St.Albans, High Road it’s not very attractive. Just a long serie of two storey buildings that make it look cheap.

In Kilburn Square there’s a very lively market where you can find mainly fabric, candles, hand made stuff and flowers.There are plans to redevelop it and revalue the whole area, but until now nothing has changed.

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I didn’t eat there, so I can’t suggest any gluten free option.

Last year I visited the S.Augustine Church, an Anglo-Catholic Parish Church consecrated in 1880 and affectionately known as the ‘Cathedral of North London’, one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. It is beautiful! I don’t like taking pics inside churches, so if you want to visit it, the church is generally open half an hour prior to the advertised service times and for up to 20 minutes afterwards. Additionally there is normally access on Tuesdays and on Saturdays in the morning.

I will surely come back: there’s one thing left to see, The Good Ship, a well known music bar actively committed to bring the best bands to Kilburn; it is also a place where you can see performing a large variety of artist, since every kind of entertainment is welcomed. Moreover there’s a 100 CD juke box and until the coin mechanism is fixed (probably never, they say) it is free.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Periscope – Papa Roach feat. Skylar Grey

“I like good strong words that mean something” Louisa May Alcott

As I stated in my previous post, this blog doesn’t contain any sponsored content: everything you will find here comes to my personal tastes.

I got to know MyIntent thanks to JD because they engraved the word Evaride, that it’s his band. I was curious to know more about this project so I started browsing the web and visited their site. First of all it’s not a jewellery company but a service project whose aim is to encourage people to share more truth and inspiration with each other.

How? Simple: you have to choose a word that represents you or the one you need in your life or something you need to look up to and fill the form. Words are engraved on a round token, you can choose between silver, gold or black (I chose this last one because it’s my favourite colour). You can have it as a twist bracelet, adjustable necklace (like mine) or chain, dainty or bead necklace. There is also a keychain option. If you want you can share your story not only with the person who’s going to make your jewel (in order to put more commitment in the process), but also with the community through social media.

MyIntent motto is “What is your word?” because words are very powerful, not only in a negative way ( “loose lips sink ships” or as we say in Italy “tongues kill more than swords”), but also in a positive way. Wearing your word may be either a powerful reminder or a daily inspiration; it can also lead to productive conversations: you will be amazed in finding out that everyone has an intent for their life and how many interesting, inspiring, moving stories are behind a simple word. It also helps you to question your life asking yourself:

You can also choose to make a gift to a friend or a relative, offering them the word they need the most.

Here’s my necklace, my word is quite peculiar since it’s an acronym.

F8 stands for many different things.

-It’s the FATE I can’t choose.

-It reminds me to have FAITH because things can eventually get better.

-It’s a daily reminder to FIGHT.

 JJD are the initials of a person who daily inspires me, gives me strength, pushes me to look for the light in every situation, reminds me I’m loved and worth.

Check MyIntent site for further informations, more inspiration, models and prices.

https://www.myintent.org/

So: What’s your intent?

TRACK OF THE DAY: More than Words- Extreme

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring”- David Bowie

collage-2017-06-08If you go to London, Brixton is a must see place. It’s the last station of the Victoria Line and it’s a pleasure for the eyes as soon as you go out of the Tube, for, just opposite the street, in Tunstall Road, there’s a mural painting of David Bowie made by the Australian artist James Cochran. It’s a personal version of Aladdin Sane’s album cover and I first saw it last year in January, when the place was full of flowers and grieving messages. On January this year it was the same, save for a glass put to protect the artwork.

Bowie was born in Stansfield road in Brixton and there are several places to see if you’re a fan of him or just a music lover, like the Arts Lab, the hair salon where the Ziggy Stardust hair style was created or the park where he performed in 1969. When I was in London there were two different walking tours that offer people an all-encompassing journey from birth to death of one of London’s biggest icons, with passionate guides able to enrich the visit with stories and anecdotes. There’s a 2 hour tour and a 4 hour one that includes a trip to Beckenham, browse the web and look for the most suitable for you.

Brixton of course, it’s not only Bowie, its market is the Europe’s biggest Afro-Caribbean food market. You can get there with just a two minute walk from Brixton tube station: Brixton Village and Market Row (just across the road) are basically a collection of narrow streets called ‘Avenues’ where you can find everything, tasting a large variety of street food and have a good meal for £10. As I’m gluten intolerant, I looked for something for me and it was a pleasure to see there was a wide choice. Beside of the always trustable Honest Burger, I personally tried Sansla creperie and I wasn’t disappointed. Remember to order a galette and not a crepe if you need to avoid gluten. The Banoffee tasted heavenly and the vanilla shake was delicious. Since I want to go back there to visit the windmill, I will surely hit Sansla for a different option. Here’s the link: http://www.senzalacreperie.co.uk/

In addition to all the open market stalls, the area is full of shops (included my beloved Poundland) and many interesting things to see (as I stated before, I need to go back to visit all the art galleries and the music shops) like the O2 Academy (or Brixton Academy), that was once a cinema and now it’s an important  centre for live music. The Academy was built in 1929 and still have its wonderful art decò style.

So, if you’re in London, don’t miss this incredible borough.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Guns of Brixton – The Clash

 

 

 

 

“And the city itself was just a glow on the dark earth” Monica Ali

As I said before, I’ve just read “Brick Lane” by Monica Ali and I totally fell in love with it. I borrowed it from the library only because I liked the title (lately I’m only looking for novels set in London) and it was a positive surprise. It’s a choral novel even if the main point of view is Nazneen’s, a Bangladeshi woman relocated to London through an arranged marriage to a man nearly twice her age. The books tells her story, but also many other of the people of Bangladeshi origin she meets, with a look on what happens in her country of origin through what’s happening to her sister Hasina. The book is not properly set in Brick Lane, maybe “Mile End” would have been a better title, but if you’re familiar to that part of East London, there are many places that can be easily recognised. The plot is pleasant and interesting, characters are well depicted, the descriptions are vivid and the reader’s interest is always kept alive. I loved seeing the main character growth: at first she’s submitted to her husband, unhappy and prefers taking refuge into her past and happy childhood rather than taking pleasure in daily life. Then she learns English, she starts earning her own money, she gets a lover who helps her to see over the four walls of her apartment. In the end she realizes who she is and what she wants to be, so she gets rid both of her husband and lover and opens a sewing workshop with some friends of her and finally fulfill her desire to ice-skating even in a sari.

If you want to visit Brick Lane you have to hop off at Aldgate and walk for a 5 minutes. Besides the street art, the first thing that strikes the attention is the Old Truman brewery, once home to London’s largest brewery and now location to a hive of creative businesses like independent shops, galleries, markets (only at the weekends), bars and restaurants.

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If you keep walking along this long lane, you will find The Cereal Killer Cafe that sells over 100 different types of cereal from around the world. You can eat there and they have vegan and gluten free options.

Another well known place is the Beigel shop, open 24/7 whose menu is focused on beigels (not bagels, it keeps the yddish pronunciation) baked in the traditional Jewish style (it’s being boiled in water before baking, a step that produces its crisp crust and moist, chewy interior) with  a lot of tasty fillings. It also serves pastries, cakes and sweets as well as white, rye and black bread. It’s not expensive, but it has no gluten free option.

If you raise your eyes, once you pass under the railway bridge, you will see the 123 building that is a four-storey mini department store packed with recycled clothing.

And on the less known part of Brick lane, just crossed Bethnal Green Road, there’s Tatty Devine my favourite handmade jewellery shop, where you can find some original, playful, colourful, laser cut acrylic things. There’s another shop in Covent Garden, but I use to go there.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Brimful of Asha- Cornershop

“I was so thin I could slice bread with my shoulderblades, only I seldom had bread” Charles Bukowski

There is something I’m always reluctant to talk about and it’s my unintentional weight loss. And while everybody seems having the opposite problem and struggles between diets and gym courses, it’s hard to say that I’m losing weight without dieting or increasing physical activity. To be completely frank, I never went to a gym, I love to walk, but the closest I can ever be to a sport, is yelling at the tv while watching football, rugby or golf.

So I never talk about this, because people won’t understand, they will probably say that I’m lucky and because I noticed that skinny people are often body shamed by being called unhealthy, bunch of bones or anorexic. Should I be ashamed of my skin and bones (just to say it in Coldplay’s words)? According to the nasty looks people give me on the beach, I should and that’s so unfair.

The real problem is not being fat or being thin, but looking at the others’ bodies to imitate them or to criticise them. No one is bearer of an absolute truth, let alone the perfect body type. So, look at yourself and yourself only, lose or gain weight only for health reasons or if you (and only you) like your body and stop thinking that people like underwear models are an evil example.

So here it comes the second part of this post: visiting Victoria’s Secrets store in London. I know, I already blamed those who go to London only to show their purchases in popular places, but in my defence, I have to say that I buy my underwear in the kids section and that I was dragged there, by someone who thought I would have loved luxury and invisible panties. Let me say that lace thongs are a big NO from me, since it’s like having a rose stem in the middle of the butt cheeks, but if you fancy sexy lingerie, here’s my tips.

There are three Victoria’s Secrets stores in London: one, I’ve never been to, is next to Brent Cross area, another one, the most famous, is located in Central London at 111 New Bond Street and you can get there by hopping off either at Bond Street or Oxford Circus station. It’s not hard to find, just a cross street of Regent’s Street.

 

 

The third store is inside the Westfield Mall, next to Sheperd’s Bush Station. Well, to be clear, there are two shops: the classic and bland Victoria’s Secrets and the Pink store for younger women that has cuter and more comfortable items (according to me). Anyway both have workout clothes, tank tops, underwear… just in a different style.

 

 

So, if you like this brand and you want to wear something sexy (and expensive) for a hot night under London stars, here you are. And don’t ask me what we bought, I won’t tell you: it’s a (Victoria’s) secret.

 

 

TRACK OF THE DAY: Little Things – One Direction

 

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people and look beyond what’s right in front of you” Andrew Zimmern

I trust my instincts and my vibes and I always get it right, unless it’s about people: they’re too unpredictable and fake. But London has been a constant positive feedback to my hop off the tube randomly game where one the rules is often “I like the name of this station”.

This happened when we got off at Elephant and Castle, that my local friends considered only a purely a transport interchange or a place to pass through on the bus or a train, besides considering it a “no posh” borough. To be honest, Elephant and Castle is a vibrant neighbourhood just south of the River Thames whose area was once famed as the “Piccadilly of the South” and probably it still is if you take the chance to venture around.

The area takes its name from a pub that once was a coaching inn and that owed its name to the emblem of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers of its early owner. But knowing how much Brits love puns and playing with words, you will be told that the area takes its name to the heraldic symbol of a Spanish princess who is said to have stayed here. So “Elephant and Castle” is simply a corruption of the Spanish words “La Infanta de Castilla”.

The first thing that stroke my attention once out of the tube, was the bronze statue of the Elephant and Castle that now it’s located outside the shopping centre, but that once stood high on top of the pub.

 

We spend a few time wandering through the open air market and shopping at the mall that includes a Tesco, several East Europe shops and restaurants and a Poundland that’s one of my favourite places to shop at.

Once out, we took a glance to the Imperial war museum, but since I wasn’t interested to visit it, we didn’t go and then we had a quick stroll around the tube station. My friends told me that there was a Mercato Metropolitano in the nearby that it was worth a visit, but we had other plans, so I saved to see it when I come back.

I didn’t have meals there, but as regarding gluten free options, there’s a Nando’s (that I personally state as safe) or you can buy some fruit at the shopping centre.

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To be frank, Elephant and Castle area isn’t that attractive and appealing due to its big, characterless and dull buildings, but at the moment there’s a big plan about investing in the regeneration of this borough. This investment includes new homes, better transport, improved shopping centres and shops, leisure, new schools and community centres. The biggest project should take place around Elephant Park.

What to say more? I can’t way to go back there.

TRACK OF THE DAY: The City-Ed Sheeran