Tag Archives: travel

“Travelling tends to magnify all human emotions” Peter Hoeg

 

I know I probably write the same each time I post something about London, that is “this is one of my favourite places”, but I can’t help if every corner of this city is amazing.

Here’s Hampstead Heath part one, I don’t really have part two, since I have no pics from Parliament Hill or Kenwood House or Keats’ House, but I plan to go there as soon as I go back “home”, so stay tuned. Here’s our stroll from Hampstead Heath tube station to The Spaniards pub.

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We headed on the right and panted for a solid quarter of hour on an uphill road called Heath Street, with a little deviation on mount road where I took a pic of a lovely white house that looked like something out of Alice in the Wonderland. My friend will never admit that, but we get lost as we followed Admiral’s Road and ended in a narrow street with a lot of plants and mud. Never trust the locals again! My advice is going straight on from the tube until you get at a roundabout. on the left there’s a park with more ponds and nice walks, on the right there’s Spaniards Road.

We followed the  main road, but you can also venture in the nearby park, where you can have a pretty nice view of the city. I stopped there just for a couple of pic, then I went back to the safe, trustable pavement.

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After a bit (or a lot, it depends on how you’re tired) of walking uphill, you get to a white building, That’s the Spaniards, one of London’s oldest pubs, immortalised by Dickens in “The Pickwick Papers” and it’s said that Keats wrote there his well known “Ode to a Nightingale” I didn’t stop there for lunch because I wasn’t sure they had gluten free options, so I ate a banana to stop my stomach from grumbling while I was waiting for the bus and taking pics of an attractive blue plate. I forgot I was right in front of Harry Styles’ crib, so I apologize once again for being in his security camera recording, eating a banana.

We were too hungry and too tired to walk any more, so we took the 210 bus heading to Finsbury Park and hopped off at Archway to catch the tube again. It’s a pleasant ride since you can see one of the richest London areas and have the chance to see many luxurious houses and cars. The bus goes towards Highgate Village, one of the poshest districts (if you want to have an idea about who lives there, look for “The Highgate mums” on social media and have a laugh) and I recommend you to visit the homonym cemetery, one of England’s greatest treasures since it has some of the finest funerary architecture in the country.

The East Cemetery is where Karl Marx is buried. Visitors may roam freely on this side, but there is an entrance charge, while admission to the West part is by guided tour only. Please notice that George Michael’s grave is in a private part of the cemetery, not accessible to visitors. I didn’t take any pics because I respected the meaning of the place, however, they’re allowed for private use.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Sign of the Times – Harry Styles

 

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“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

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart” Haruki Murakami

<Do you remember when I bought that watermelon chap stick without realizing that it was a tinted lip balm, so I applied it totally random on my mouth? And that when we crossed Stamford Bridge it was a very windy day, so you looked at my messy hair and my smeared red mouth and told me:

-You look like that fat dude with lipstick you love. That singer from that band of grave diggers.

You have to thank your irresistible smile and the way you helped me to wear the lip balm off if I didn’t kill you.>

Reading Proust taught us that the taste of something can evoke lost or hidden memories; those can be triggered by a music, a smell or an object, like a stupid lip balm found in the bathroom drawer. So, before memories start tearing me apart, better move to another part of Fullham and start illustrating something nice you can visit in London if you love football as I do.

My best friend is a huge supporter of Chelsea, so I promised him to take many pics of the Stamford Bridge stadium. To get there you have to hop off at Fullham Broadway station and go ahead on Fullham Road. After a few minutes walking, on the left, within the Moore Park Estate also known as “The Brigde”, you will see the home ground of Chelsea FC.

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It was opened in 1877 and has been the venue of many football matches and has also hosted a variety of other sporting events including greyhounds races.

The North stand is named after former Chelsea director Matthew Harding, while the West stand is the first thing you see entering by the gate in Fullham Road since it’s the main external face of the stadium.

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There’s a Hall of fame and the statue of Peter Osgood sculpted by Philip Jackson and unveiled in 2010 by his widow Lynn in the presence of his friends and colleagues. He was a very important player and scored more than 150 goals. The inscription says:

Ossie King of Stamford Bridge
Stamford Bridge has many heroes but only one king. Graceful technician nerveless striker. Icon of the swinging sixties. Adored by fans, scorer of immortal cup final goals.
A big man for a golden age.

If you want to have an incredible experience you can book the one hour long tour that will take you behind the scenes of the Blues, giving you access to areas normally reserved for players and officials, like the press room, the home and away dressing rooms, the tunnel and the dug-out areas.

The tour include the entry to the Museum (that can be visited also without taking the tour), giving you the chance to see how Chelsea has evolved on and off the pitch over the years and to see memorabilia and get to know the most representative players.

Don’t forget to visit the shop!

TRACK OF THE DAY: Blue is the colour – Chelsea FC Anthem

 

“Always there have been six ravens at the Tower. If the ravens fly away, the kingdom will fall” John Owen Theobald,

I read a smart book by Julia Stuart that has been published as “Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo” in the UK and as “The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise” everywhere else. I don’t like to sum up plots, because mine are only honest personal opinions and not reviews, I can only anticipate that it describes the life of the little close community living within the gates of the Tower of London: the Beefeaters (particular Mr. Jones and his wife Hebe), the mean Raven master, the Rev. Septimus Drew who writes erotica under a pen name and has a secret passion for the barmaid of the Tower’s Rack & Ruin pub. The novel is also set in the “Underground Lost Property Office” where Hebe works and That is a continuous parade of odd, unusual objects and weird people. All the characters are well rounded and sometimes absurd, but here it lays the best feature of the novel that is a hallmark of British humour: despite of the tragic event in the background (the death of the Beefeater’s son), the novel is enjoyable and interesting. Here and there you can read facts about the Tower or about its prisoners.

The parts describing the animals are really enjoyable, but my favourite parts were the ones at the Underground lost property office, not only because Stuart makes the history behind each lost object interesting and endearing, but mainly because I figured in my head the amount of the bizarre things that people may forget on the Tube trains. How cool is imagining the history behind them and how hard must be rejoining them to their owner, I think this job it’s more interesting that it looks.

And at last, a thing that I really loved about this book, is the hate that the people working in the Tower, have towards dumb tourists. I used to laugh and shake my head while reading, approving every single nasty comment.

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You know how much I hate tourist traps, so I can’t write any useful guide for Tower Hill, I only hopped off at the homonym tube station and had a quick look around the Tower of London before heading to Shoreditch that is a place where I’m more at my ease.

It’s worth a visit, anyway. I like to take unusual pictures, so I tried to capture the contrast between the ancient Tower and the shiny Shard. And, to be frank, the Tower Bridge is always a good model.

TRACK OF THE DAY: You’ve got time- Regina Spektor

 

 

“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

 

 

 

 

“I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill” William Blake

One of the London spots I love the most because it’s the set of some romantic memories of mine, is Primrose Hill, the highest point of the eponymous district. You can get there after a 10 minutes walk from Chalk Farm tube station, there’s a well kept green area whose summit is almost 63 metres above sea level and where the trees are kept low so as not to obscure the view. It formerly belonged to Eton College, but became Crown property about the middle of last century and it’s a stunning sightseeing spot above all on clear sky days.

The summit features an inscription on York featuring the quote from William Blake I used for this post. The poet believed that Zoroastrian rites were performed on Primrose Hill and affirmed that this place was sacred to the sun without without giving any explanation as to why that particular site was appropriate.

Another literary reference is an oak known as “Shakespeare’s Tree” that stands on the slope of the hill, it was first planted in 1864 to mark the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

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If you feel hungry after climbing the hill, there’s a lots of nice places to eat around there. We settled for Manna in Erskine Road because it offered a large selection of gluten free options. Here’s how to get there.

We didn’t eat in the end, but we had a lovely glass of wine (mine was a lovely, rich, Argentinian, red wine). They serve organic wines, free of synthetic chemicals and often hand harvested that are also vegan. They also have a large variety of delicious food, so I planned to go back there for a pleasant lunch or dinner as soon as I go back to London.

Primrose Hill is worth a visit if you want to have a stunning view, a romantic stroll or if you’re a simple bench warmer who needs quiet. Oh, if you go there, give my regards to “my” bench: if you listen carefully you can still hear my sighs.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Running up that Hill – Placebo (cover)