Columbia Road Flower Market

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Flower markets are very common in the Netherlands, but in London they are quite special. Last week I visited the flower market on Columbia road, and I must say it’s quite worth a visit! The sea of flowers is really pretty, but I personally wasn’t so much intrigued by the flowers themselves, which all come *surprise* from the Netherlands, but more by what’s behind them. Hidden behind the flower stalls you find lovely shops selling things ranging from interior design, to vintage clothes, to art. Another thing that’s quite unique about Columbia road is the way the coffee shops/bars are set up. Most of them consist of little more than just a coffee machine in a tiny space between shops. All in all, Columbia Road is a lovely place to visit both on a Sunday when the Flower Market is open, as well as on any other day.

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Coffee cravings – London

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A couple of years ago the UK was definitely not a coffee country. If you wanted a proper cup you really had to just drink tea or go to a coffee chain such as Starbucks, Costa or Cafe Nero. But a lot has changed since then. Especially in London. Of course, there’s still a Starbucks on almost every street corner, but if you know where to look you’ll find a lot of nice coffee bars that serve very good coffee. These are some of my favourite places which I found through The London Coffee Guide (2014) and by just wandering around.

Store St. Espresso – This coffee bar, which is around the corner of UCL, was my coffee haven during exam time. Store St. is a really nice light cafe with friendly staff. Perfect for a quick coffee to go as well as for catching up with a friend.

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The Attendant – The Attendant is located in a former Victorian public lavatory, which might as well be the most original location for a coffee bar in all of London. It does sound a bit weird to have coffee in a place that people used as a loo, but it’s actually not. The place is renovated in a very stylish way to make sure everyone enjoys their coffee and food to the fullest.

Monocle café – This cafe is a spin-off from the Monocle magazine. Just like the magazine it’s very polished and quite hipster chique. It’s a small cafe so perfect for a quick coffee before you go and explore the shops of Marylebone or indulge yourself in the art at the Wallace Collection.

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Appestat – Appestat is a lovely cafe located in the Camden Passage in Islington. The owners are really friendly and I always find it a pleasure to go for a coffee there. Apart from coffee, they sell a range of artisan products such as cheese and charcuterie.

The Coffee Works Project – Next to Appestat you can find the Coffee Works Project, which is always buzzing with life. The best thing about this cafe is the garden in the back, which, if the weather allows it, is a perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Look mum no hands! – This is a coffee bar and bike shop in one, so you can have a coffee while you’re waiting for your bike to be repaired. Look mum no hands! is a very colourful place, decorated with cool bike accessories. The coffee as well as the food is delicious.

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Some other places I’d recommend are: Ginger & WhiteNude Espressoand Shoreditch GrindBut this is really just a small selection of the great coffee bars in London. I’m sure that in a months time I’ve already visited places I could add to my favourites list.

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Cycling in London

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Just like most Dutch people, I love biking. For me it’s the best way of transportation within a city. You don’t have to wait for your bus or tram to arrive, you can leave whenever you want, which gives you a lot of freedom.

But when I moved to London, I wasn’t completely sure whether I would start biking or not. I’m used to biking in Amsterdam, where traffic can be just as busy as in London, but the big difference between those cities is that in Amsterdam cyclists are at the top of the traffic hierarchy, and in London they are absolutely not. Another big difference is that in Amsterdam, and actually in all of the Netherlands, everyone cycles. Students, children, the elderly, business people, even the prime minister cycles to work. Whereas in London the typical cyclist is somewhere between 20 and 50, rides a racing bike and wears special bike clothing. Lots of people wear a helmet, some put on a visibility jacket, and others go all the way and put on anything that is fluorescent yellow. Even shoes.

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In London, cycling is not just seen as a means to get from A to B, but as a very serious sport. As I said a lot of people wear special cycling gear and some of them also cycle as if they are training for the Tour the France. Also bicycle racing seems to be quite a ‘hip’ sport and hobby in London. I’ve also seen quite some (hipster) cafes that, apart from food and drinks, sell cycling gear and sometimes even have a bike repair place in the back. And they are often decorated with bike accessories such as shirts of the Tour the France. I recently had lunch at one on Old Street called Look mum no handsIt’s a really cool place, and the coffee and food are delicious!

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I think London has great potential to become a real bike city, just like Amsterdam. Especially now the mayor, Boris Johnson (who’s already got the public Boris (barclays) bicycles called after him), has confirmed that the city will get segregated bike lanes and a cycling superhighway. But for now, I must say that biking in the UK’s capital is a challenge and sometimes I feel like I need at least double the ears and eyes I have. Nevertheless, I’d recommend anyone to start biking, because if more people start to bike, other traffic just has to adapt and the city will ultimately become more bike-able 🙂

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Living the London Life

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 20.59.02About a week ago I moved from Amsterdam to London, and thus far I’ve had a fantastic time! The first couple of days I was mainly busy moving and arranging stuff at my future uni, but after all of that was done, I went out to explore the city. I’ve been to London before, so I tried to visit parts of the city I’d not seen yet. But of course I did some touristy things as well 😉

First of all, I went to the glorious department store Liberty. If there wouldn’t have been so crazy many tourists, I would probably have walked around the store for the whole day. It’s not just their collection, but the whole building that breathes luxury. I love walking around every floor and making a wish list in my head of all the pretty things I want to buy with the famous Liberty print. Yes, one day I will walk out of that store with one of their signature purple shopping bags containing a fancy gift for myself. But that will probably take a while, since I basically have to spent all of my money on rent..

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Luckily, not everything in London is expensive. For example, the temporary World War I memorial at the Tower of London is really a must see, for free! It’s there until the 11th of November, so if you’re going to be in town before that time, you should definitely go see it 🙂 Another free, and awesome thing to do is go to the Sunday Up Market at Brick Lane. There you’ll find a lot of interesting stalls selling clothes, crafts, and food from all over the world. Afterwards, you can relax a bit on the rooftop of the Queen of Hoxton with a real British Pimm’s (or any drink of your liking).

 

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If you’re lucky to find yourself in London on a sunny day I’d recommend you going to Hampstead Heath. It’s a big natural park in the north of London and a fantastic place to relax and get away from the hectic city life for a bit. Close by, you can get a great coffee at Ginger & White. I found this place through The London Coffee Guide which leads you to the best independent coffee places in London. So no need to go to Starbucks anymore 😉

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But of course, London has enough to offer for rainy days as well. I’m a big fan of the Victoria & Albert museum, where they currently have the exhibition “Wedding Dresses”. The collection displayed features wedding dresses from the early 19th century until the dresses Kate Moss and Gwen Stefani wore to their weddings. And their permanent collection is great as well, my favourites are the fashion and jewelry ones.

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My last visit of this week was to the British Library. I have loved libraries since I was a little girl, so maybe this visit was more exciting for me than for the average person, but I was quite impressed with what I saw. The building itself is not very special, but their permanent collection of ‘treasures’ is really cool. The library owns, amongst others, original documents from Leonardo Da Vinci, Shakespeare, and The Beatles. I am definitely going back there, and would recommend it to every literature lover.

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So this is how I spend my first week in London. Let me know if you have tips about things I have to see or places I should go 🙂