Saturday, July 31, 2010

July: A Month in Review

It's hard to believe that we're well over half-way through the year – time sure flies! The month of July went by in a blink of an eye with many evenings spent watching the long awaited 2010 World Cup held in South Africa; numerous picnics in the Common thanks to warm sunny days; and seeing old friends and family almost on a weekly basis in London. It was a great month overall, so a month in review in numbers:

27 days with temperatures over 70F/22C with 6 days of temperatures soaring above 80F/29C (a REAL summer this year!)

1 4th of July celebration over icy-cold American lager

1 new UK city/region – St. Ives, Cornwall

 1 World Cup Final ~ Espana (W) vs. Holland (L)

1 missed Wedding Celebration in California – many congratulations and many blessings to my dearest friends. 

2 friends, who are also Middle East scholars, in town for research trips/conferences. Their favorite place in London: The British Library!

1 overnight guest: Keenan's younger cousin, and more to come in August and September (can't wait!)

2 Middle Eastern dinners (Persian and Lebanese) on Edgeware Road (aka Little Beirut) and planning our 18 day odyssey to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel/Palestine in December.

1 too many jugs of Pimms, pints of lager, and bottles of rose...

1 new TV obsession now that LOST is over: Mad Men 

Many great friends to enjoy the long summer evenings...

Fingers crossed that summer will stay around for another month or two, especially for our visitors from sunny California and H.K.!

From London with Love, L.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Family Time, Part Deux

Lily and I just had a fantastic weekend with my little cousin who visited for the weekend on her way home to California from a pre-MBA trip to Turkey, Croatia, Greece and Italy with 25 of her fellow classmates who will start at Columbia Business School this fall. Having family in town to visit is always special because you share such a commonality that you are able to link up your present and future with your past in a way that only really good friends and family can do. 

You also get the update and fun news on cousins, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and in our family, nine little nephews (no girls yet in the new generation). It was also nice for her to see London as our grandfather, Papa-ji, had spent many years here for medical school when he was young, so this city does have a bit of family history for us as well. 

As this was my cousin's first visit to London, we took her to the usual tourist haunts over the weekend. Friday evening we took a pleasant stroll along the South Bank, enjoying the balmy evening and the beautiful sights of the London Eye, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. We then carried on through Trafalgar Square, Chinatown, Leicester Square to soak up the loud, if somewhat chaotic, atmosphere of Soho. Exhausted from her previous all-nighter in Venice, we decided to take it easy and went back to Clapham Old Town for a few night caps before hitting the pillow. It's been some time since we had family in town, so it was great catching up with her and her learning about her new adventures in New York City.

On Saturday we went to Borough Market for lunch, then on to Tower Bridge, the Mayor's Office, Tower of London , and then back to St. Paul's Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, and the Tate Modern. Later that afternoon, we took her to a friend's backyard BBQ up in leafy Hampstead and had a great time meeting new fellow Americans. We couldn't let my cousin leave without trying the quintessential British summertime drink: Pimms. I hope she managed to pick up a few bottles from duty free for her parents and sister.

Sunday we had a leisurely brunch at Raoul's in Notting Hill and then walked off the calories along the famous Portobello Road. We also strolled through Hyde Park to our final destination Harrod's in Knightsbridge. 

We thought it would be fun to have a homecooked meal of southwestern-style shrimp and blackbean enchiladas, Mexican rice, and guacamole for dinner with of course a few bottles of coronas. We spent the evening chilling out and looking at her amazing travel photos. It was really low-key evening, but much needed one spent with my little cousin. Best of luck at Columbia and  hope to see you in the Big Apple soon!  K.V.

Monday, July 19, 2010

On the Cornish Seaside...

We couldn’t pick a better weekend for an escape to the Cornish coast given how hectic work has been the last few weeks. 
For those who need a lesson in geography, Cornwall is the region in the southwestern tip of England where it juts out to the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike England’s South coast, Cornwall has some of England’s most dramatic coastline and gorgeous sandy beaches of all of U.K. Seriously, if you didn’t know better, you’d think you’re somewhere in the Mediterranean with its sunny sub-tropical climate and crystal clear bluish - sea green waters. Just look at it…Cornwall is absolutely stunning.

We had two objectives during our weekend in Cornwall – relaxation and enjoying some Cornish delicacies, among them Cornish pie, clotted cream, fresh seafood, and Cornish cider. Ummm...

There are many coastal towns to stay at whilst in Cornwall. We chose to stay in St. Ives, a quaint artsy-bohemian town just south of Newquay, the U.K.’s surf capital and a popular destination for stag and hen dos (read: bachelor and bachelorette parties). St. Ives is also home of the Tate St. Ives, a beautiful museum overlooking the Porthmoer Beach, as well as numerous art galleries.

We didn't do much other than eating, taking in the view along St. Ives' many coastal walks, and lounging on golden sandy beaches whilst people watching, and of course, putting the Nikon to work. Below are some shots around St. Ives.

The walk from St. Ives Harbour to Porthwidden Beach to Porthmeor Beach via the island is just beautiful -- rugged rocky coastline and wide sandy beaches. Porthwidden Beach is perfect for families as it is protected from the wind and less choppy, but if you're looking for some waves, head to Portwidden or Portminster Beach, both fabulous beaches with beach bars, cafes, and restaurants.  

The next day, after spending several hours lounging on Portminster, we set on a 4 mile hike to Lelant via Carbis Bay. This walk along the Southwest Coastal Path is probably one of the most exhilarating hikes we've been on in a long time. We loved the sight of palm trees, lush greenery, and colourful gardens. Definitely worth it!

While it was a short trip to the Cornish coast, it was a much needed escape from the hustle and bustle of London, and I trust this will be the first of many trips to Cornwall in the future. It is England's hidden gem and I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

To Market, to Market

Last weekend we celebrated 4th of July with our favorite Americans  at the All-American Beer Festival in Shoreditch. We spent the afternoon laughing over several pints of Sierra Nevada, Blue Moon, and Brooklyn; and doing what Americans do best -- eating! We devoured American classics -- potato salad, corn-on-a-cob, hamburgers, and hotdogs. It was good fun! Hope everyone had a great 4th Stateside!

While out and about in East London, we also took the opportunity to visit the famed Columbia Road Flower Market which is held every Sunday in this up and coming neighbourhood of Shoreditch. The neighbourhood itself reminds me a lot of San Francisco's Mission; one-part grunge, one-part hipster, and two-parts artsy-bohemian. East London is also home to several awesome markets including the aforementioned Columbia Road Flower Market. In fact, London has some amazing markets around town, so I'd thought I'd share some of my favorite London markets in this post, hence the title 'To Market, To Market."

Columbia Road Flower Market (E2):
The weather has been absolutely amazing in London the past several weeks -- blue skies, sunny, and warm with the temperature at 25C! We arrived to Columbia Road at noon on the 4th of July to find the street packed with people. Columbia Road Market was bursting with colours of blue hydrangeas, bright yellow sunflowers, purple iris, ivory-white lilies, gorgeous pink peonies, deep red roses, and much more... If you're in need for flowers for your loved ones, be sure to visit the Columbia Road Flower Market and then treat yourself to delicious Vietnamese food on nearby Kingsland Road, or go bar hopping on Great Eastern Road.

Portobello Road Market (W11): 
I love Portobello Road Market. Perfect for a Sunday morning of browsing through beautiful antique stores, used bookstores, and vintage clothes shops, followed by brunch and a dose of sugar at Hummingbird Cafe for red velvet cupcakes. The neighbourhood is full of charm, but heaving with tourists. If you visit us in London over a weekend, we'll definitely make an effort to take you to this market in Notting Hill on a Sunday morning.

Camden Market (NW1):
Camden reminds me so much of Berkeley and Haight-Ashbury -- the streets are filled with tattoo palours, alternative clothing stores, and funky souvenir shops. Come here on a Saturday to enjoy the open-air international food market along the canal. Also visit the nearby Stables and Proud where you will find some interesting bars, more food and small trader stalls. If time permits, enjoy a leisurely walk along the canal to Regents Park.

Spitalfields Market (E1): 
Just a skip and hop from Liverpool Station, Spitalfields is home to a thriving creative community. The market sells everything from interior, fashion, antiques, arts, crafts, and jewelry. Sunday is the busiest and most lively time to visit Spitalfields Market. Grab a cuppa of joe and happy shopping...

Borough Market (SE1):
My favourite food market of all - Borough Market! Foodie lovers paradise, indeed. Be sure to come here hungry on a Saturday morning. Borough Market has everything from fresh produce to artisan cheese, cured meats, shellfish, patisseries, loads of other culinary goodness...

I also love Monmouth coffee and our friend recently introduced us the The German Deli at Borough Market; that's where he picked up German delicacies for our German brunch a few weeks ago. You can also have a leisurely lunch at Brindisa or Roast. To burn off the calories, go for a walk along the Southbank. Enjoy!