ditta takes london – day 4

John wanted to show her around his neighborhood on day 4 so we headed over to Brixton after work.

He took us around the places he showed me when I first arrived: Brixton Village, Bowie Wall, etc.

We had dinner in Pop Brixton at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. I had been itching to try African cuisine and I’m glad I tried it. Had the delicious jollof fried chicken with the hot pepper mayo. John and Ditta got the stews and they were much spicier than I though they would be. It was all good, though probably not one of those meals I would have a craving for later. Washed it down with some palm wine, which kind of taste like kombucha.

It was great to get together with old LA office buddies.

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ditta takes london – day 2-3

I had work during the week so we met up after and wandered around London some more. The nights were kind of a blur since we explored all the nearby neighborhoods.

We hit up sights in Chinatown, Soho, and Trafalgar Square. While walking around, we even found where Ben Franklin used to live and Ditta showed me this super cute hidden gem she learned about online – Neal’s Yard.

Day 2: Took her to the rooftop of my office in South Bank. We ended up having dinner there – cheap but yummy pizzas and cider.

Day 3: Had dinner at the Admiralty at Trafalgar Square for some traditional British pies and ale.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I led us astray a bunch so ended up walking miles each day. We kept joking that we would be super fit after her visit instead of putting on vacation weight.

ditta takes london – day 1

I’m hosting my first visitor – the lovely Ditta.

She is hopping around Europe for the next 2 weeks with my apartment as home base. Thanks to John for lending the air mattress and Anne for the extra comforter. 🙂

I picked her up from the Heathrow on Sunday, dropped off her bag at my place, and straight away began the tour!

We walked along Bank Side to the London Eye, Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral.

She saw online that the Coppa Club had outdoor igloos so she made a reservation for dinner there that night. We typed in Coppa Club to Citymapper and made our way there. Of course, we ended up at the wrong one near St. Paul’s. I wish I could say this is the only time that happened during her stay, but we ended up walking 10 miles a day while she was here due in part to my horrible sense of direction.

We ended up in the right place finally and had a couple appetizers and drinks. I wouldn’t say the food was all that great, but it wins for ambiance and view.

After we walked by Tower Bridge and the Tower of London and made our way back. She had counted Sunday as a travel day, but we ended seeing everything she wanted to see in the city in those few hours!

herne hill

This weekend has the best weather  I’ve experience since moving here. I was just planning on hanging at home on Saturday but I ended up going to Anne’s neighborhood of Herne Hill. She was kindly lending me a comforter for an upcoming friends visit. It was such good weather we ended up exploring her part of town. Gotta say it I like the area!

We walked around Brockwell Park, which was just what I needed. Big, green open spaces on a sunny day does wonders for my psyche. I really took for granted the blue, sunny skies of LA.

After strolling through some of the gardens, we then ate at the cafe at the Brockwell Lido’s – which I found out means swimming pool. Ordered a carrot cake and beet/apple juice. I don’t love beets but I had to get it since it reminded me of the daily beet smoothies my mom made our family at home.

With cute attached houses and a huge park, Herne Hill is also conveniently located next to the bustling Brixton.  It’s an area I wouldn’t rule out living in – quiet, but close to the action. And, it’s only 20 minutes from work.

We ended up eating dinner at Pop Brixton, where I again ordered Koi Ramen. It was super crowded since everyone was out with the nice weather, but we found a spot upstairs.

Ended the day with a cider at The Regent Prince – a local pub that I would totally go to again. Busy, but with enough space to sit down and have a conversation.

brixton

On Saturday, my old parking buddy/ co-worker, John took me to explore his neighborhood – Brixton.

Brixton has a super cool vibe, very Berkeley-esque. There are tons of street markets and vendors of ethnic wares.

We walked around Brixton village and had coffee at his favorite place – Federation Coffee. Ordered an americano… It tasted a bit too strong for me.

Lunch was in Pop Brixton – a collection of old shipping containers turned into restaurants, clothing stores, and various trinket vendors. I ordered from a stall called Koi Ramen. It was actually good! Best ramen so far here.

The highlight was actually the local Tesco. It carried food from all over the world. Aisles of food from Asia, Africa, etc. I was so jealous.

We also did a quick stop by Clapham Common, a nice centralized area that has a large park, chain stores, restaurants, and one of the most accessible transport hubs in London.

After, we went to Soho because he had to some errands to run and stopped by TY Cafe, one of his favorite work-on-the-weekend spaces. I ordered a peach lemonade and it was refreshing after all that walking. It was a cute place to meet up and have a conversation, but I probably too far and pricey to be a regular haunt for me.

We ended up near-ish to Chinatown, so stopped by and loaded up on a bunch of groceries.

 

Most of my weekend adventures so far have been outside of London, so it was nice to explore one of the local neighborhoods.

dover & canterbury

On Friday, I noticed another trip posted for Saturday for the Meet Up group I  had previously attended with my co-worker. She was out of town on vacation, but I saw that another girl, Hui, who we met at the last activity was going and it was the same group leader, Mark. After a brief period of social anxiety, I messaged her if she was still going and decided to go for it!

I also signed up for a membership to English Heritage to force myself to see more things.

The group was quite small this time. Other than me, it was 2 girls, 2 boys, and a couple who brought their young children in a double stroller. We ended up walking over 10 miles that day so kudos to the parents!

We started off bright an early for the 8:30AM high speed train to Dover from St Pancras Station.

We started by exploring Dover Castle. Mark is actually a professional tour guide. He set up the trip for research for an upcoming tour he was professionally guiding for a high school group.

After heading in, we went straight for the underground war tunnels. Normally, he said the wait can get over an hour so I’m glad we did that first. It was super cool to learn about the history, but no photos allowed in the area.

Hui and I tried to explore most of the Castle, but it’s huge! Definitely a whole day thing. We left at 1:30PM and headed over to Canterbury.

Canterbury is another historic sight and the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest position in the Anglican church – other than the monarch. Before heading to the Cathedral, the most iconic landmark, Mark took us on a little detour.

He showed us Love Lane – a quirkly colorful street in town. Then, he took us to St. Martin’s – which I thought was even better than the Cathedral. By the time we got there, it was supposed to be closed. The sweet old groundskeeper had forgotten his keys to lock up, however, and had sent his son to drive them over. Meanwhile, he let us in and told us the story of St. Martin’s. Legend has it that St Martin’s is the oldest English speaking church in history. The illiterate pagan English king had fallen in love and married a French Catholic princess and had given her that area so she could worship. The groundskeeper excitedly told us that they found proof that this actually happened and showed us photos of old coins that had the legendary priest that the princess brought over’s name on it. It’s actually a small, understated building, but I love this type of thing.

After visiting the Cathedral,  which was awe inspiring and grand, we ended the day with dinner based on the recommendation of a local. The Good Shed is set up as a farmers market and a restaurant that only used local ingredients. I had the duck and it was to die for. Forgot to take pics though. I will say that the homemade ginger beer was a bit too strong on the ginger for me but it was an excellent meal. Would do again.

blenheim palace & oxford

A co-worker invited me to a meet up group to visit Blenheim Palace – a UNESCO heritage site. I had never heard of it, but I had hardly heard of any sights in the UK.

Having never been to Europe at all before moving here and arriving practically friendless, I’ve decided that I have to “put myself out there” and force myself out of the my naturally introvert ways.

I had actually signed up for Meet Up years ago in  LA, but was always too nervous to check it out. My co-worker had also moved relatively recently to the London office and was also keen to see things around our new city.

I’m glad I went. The weather agreed with us. It was beautiful and sunny as we explored the gardens and the poured while we took a tour of the palace. As we finished the tour, the sun came out and we got to see a double rainbow!

The host of the group, Mark, was very knowledgeable about the palace and let us know that his father actually helped put together the exhibits. Blenheim palace is the home of the Churchills. John Churchill received the land as a reward for being a decorated war hero. While his other famous descendant, Winston, was born there, he actually didn’t live there as a member of the branch instead of main family. I recall very little about British history, so it was interesting to learn about this decorated family.

After, we spent a short time exploring Oxford. While on the public bus, I caught a glimpse of the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to frequent. Definitely didn’t spend enough time to see a lot, so hope to come back.

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