Tomorrow, I’m flying back to New York to spend Christmas, my birthday and New Year at home for the first time in six years. Six years! While I’ve been lucky enough to travel home a few times a year lately, it is my favourite season there and how I let that much time pass in between, I have no idea. And so, I’ve decided to take a real break, including from Little Observationist, freelance projects and my work email which I can never seem to switch off. That means I will have two weeks of little communication so that I can fully enjoy this time.
With that in mind, I’ll be back with new posts in January and wish all of you the happiest time over the holidays!
Photo: London’s Covent Garden during the holidays, 2014
Ever rummage through the shops before the holidays feeling like you always buy the same sort of gifts for people and then wait until the last minute for inspiration to strike? Me too. So I dug around for a few bits and pieces that are somewhat out of the ordinary for anyone who is still looking!
By the time I’d walked from Chelsea, through Pimlico, across Vauxhall Bridge and down to Westminster, I hit the South Bank crowds leaning over the river wall to take photos of Big Ben, queuing for the London Eye (which I’ve still never been on) and venturing into the Christmas market.
As I walked along, a busker played music from the Titanic soundtrack. Another one was dressed as Santa. There was a group of hip hop dancers surrounded by a thick circle of onlookers. Nearby, the carousel that always reminds me of home (North Tonawanda, New York, which is called “The Home of the Carousel), spun slowly with gleeful kids riding their horses. I remembered the race to choose the coolest animal when my brother and I were kids.
I realised on Saturday that it would be my last chance in 2014 to take a Winter walk through London since I’m off to New York this coming Saturday and working a full day means the sun has gone down by the time I go home. So I set out walking with the great dome of St. Paul’s in mind as my destination, thinking about swooping through the South Bank Christmas market, a stop in Tate Modern and a slow crawl over Millennium Bridge to see if I could spot any of Ben Wilson’s chewing gum art.
Armed with a cup of tea, I headed down King’s Road, cutting over toward the river with a detour to the tiny market of Pimlico set up in the square on Pimlico Road. It smelled of orange and cinnamon wreaths and great big hunks of French cheese. Festive music added to the atmosphere from the man playing an accordion on the side. There were piles of brussel sprouts still on their stalks, artisan pretzel sticks and a stack of stollen for Christmas. I actually have never eaten stollen so I didn’t know exactly what it was since it’s not such a tradition in the States. (If you need enlightening like I did, it’s a fruitcake, often with marzipan, covered in some sort of icing sugar.)
This is one of my favourite market finds in London. I love all of the big markets, the famous ones, of course. But there’s something a bit special about places like this and Duke of York on King’s Road and Maltby Street Market near London Bridge. There’s a great little community spirit about them. Everyone seems to know everyone else. They’re not huge, and you can’t find everything, but you can definitely pick up the basics and a few treats while supporting the vendors rather than the supermarket chains. I think I spend about 80% of my monthly income in Waitrose so it’s nice to shop at these places on the weekends.
Last weekend, Jorge and I crossed the city to Islington to break some Christmas crackers with some Spanish friends, sent off all of our cards and finished ticking the presents off the lists. I also managed to make some delicious almond biscotti (which turns out to be an excellent recipe for the beginner). It was a pretty hectic week, but we managed a much needed relaxing and inspiring night in the festively decorated garden at Bumpkin sharing a bottle of wine and some venison before topping it off with plenty of dessert. Tonight is my company Christmas party and my one week count down to New York! This weekend, we shall see…Later next week, I’ll be contacting the winner of the Travelodge competition, so if you haven’t entered the giveaway yet, don’t forget.
What are your plans for the next few days? Up to anything exciting?
Photo: Chelsea Manor Street, London SW3, December 2014
If you’re shopping for someone in your life who loves to travel, there are plenty of ideas to work with, from an oversized scarf to wear on the plane to an actual travel experience (or travel through books) to a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Here’s a bit of inspiration I gathered from around the internet.
The whole flat smells of almonds and oranges – like Christmas! I’ve dug into Deb’s archives full of treasures on Smitten Kitchen and pulled out the most delicious recipe for almost biscotti. This is my first attempt at making biscotti, ever, and she nailed the recipe for beginners like me. It was on Deb’s blog in 2008 and she adapted it from a Bon Appetit recipe from way back in 1999. So it’s tried and tested (and makes a ton, so plan on sharing)! They’re great to have around the house for morning tea and coffee, especially if you have guests staying for the holidays.
In the spirit of the season and because I know that I, for one, can always use a little getaway holiday after the holidays, I’ve agreed to team up with Travelodge and give away two night’s stay in any UK Travelodge of your choice!
What I love most about London is the mishmash of cultures who live here, the fact that you can find the whole world in this city. So I’m excited to see the launch of Ed Hewitt’s app, World in London, which will lend a bit of organization into the multicultural experiences that can be found here. I thought it would be fun to pick his brain about this a bit more, find out some of the hidden gems he’s discovered in his reasearch and a bit about his travels along the Silk Road last year. He also has a great story about a nudist couch-surfing host.
LO: Tell us a bit about yourself. EH: I’m Ed, a 29-year-old male, 6ft 0, living in Hackney. More interestingly (I hope), I’m passionate about all things environmental, multicultural and most things which involve travel and sport. I was once in a band called Tokyo Trio (which featured a glockenspiel, recorder and a symbol. I was the recorderist). More recently I’ve set up a project called ‘World In’. It’s all about inspiring people to travel the world in their own city. The first city is London. It’s called ‘World in London’. More on that later….
Can you believe we’re already finished with the first week of December? It has always been my favourite month (though October is a close second), possibly becuase it’s my birthday and I love the festive atmosphere that takes over the streets and the shops. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some good old Buffalo snow when I head home in a few weeks. The countdown is on.
This weekend, I have a few meetings, a haircut (much-needed) and Jorge and I have dinner with some friends in Islington. It’s the first weekend we have together, both in London and not working, in about a month so here’s to making the best of it. Perhaps some ice skating at Somerset House or a wander through the Christmas markets on South Bank. Hoping to crack on with some Christmas card writing too!