Monthly Archives: June 2015

A day at Notting Hill.

Hugh Grant was so cute at one time. Or maybe I was young 🙂 *shrug*

Remember that movie with Julia Roberts where they fall in love over a spilt coffee or something while sashaying around a film set with quaint, colourful houses and a bright, idyllic sky?

I was there, and it wasn’t a movie set. It was a real neighbourhood where real Londoners lived their real British lives. Only, they live those lives on a permanent movie set! It’s an amateur picture from my phone, I promise, and yet there’s no mistaking the Hollywood quality of this area.

nottinghillSurrounded by poshness such as this, who can blame Hugh and Julia for frolicking around and falling in love, hey? Plus, the residents obviously pride themselves on the USP of Notting Hill — colour. Check this out!

pinkdoornottinghillWe noted all manner of colourful doors — bright pink, dazzling ochre, ruby red, neon green, to name a few.

Getting out of the tube station at Notting Hill Gate, walk up towards another London icon — the Portobello market. Essentially a gourmand’s delight, vendors at the PM sell everything from antiques to souvenirs to hats and scarves. Just the bustle of the area is enough to make a lazy, meandering day worthwhile.

portobellomarket If all that meandering makes you hungry, there’s a choice of a million restaurants to choose from. High-end steak places rub shoulders with Cafe Nero -type chains with indie pizza joints. I even found a 100% vegetarian falafel tent where the guy fried up the crunchy-soft chickpea balls right in front of me before wrapping it up with a chunky hummus, fresh toppings and pickled veggies (!) into a giant wrap — and all for 4 quid! That wrap easily kept me full until dinner, and the taste of such freshness was absolutely incredible!

falafelnottinghillBecause the kids of course had no interest in all this marvelousness,  I had planned to spend the late afternoon at a splash park nearby. A 10-min walk brought us to the Kensington Memorial Park where it was now the kids’ turn to go bonkers. Play structures, climbing walls, bucket swings and even a zipline would have been enough for them to spend a good couple hours in, but the park topped it all with a water fun area! Oh, the joy on their faces. Luckily, it was a warm afternoon but the water was still quite chilly. No matter.

IMG_3101A direct tube ride back to our hotel. Tired legs but happy faces all ’round!

UK vs U.S., First Impressions

After living the last few years in America, getting used to the UK is not going to be hard by any means, but I do find myself catching a thought every now and then that goes like, “In the U.S., this would be…”

  • The pedestrian walk signal only button activated at least on suburban roads, likely because being one-laned, a traffic light would only back things up. At the same time, it lasts such a short time, and beeps so ferociously all that while, that you feel inclined to dash rather than amble across. If you walk slower than 10mph, you’d better be holding a cane.
  • No one stops a fair distance away if they see you crossing or are rounding a corner. Clearly, pedestrian isn’t king here!
  • If you’re in the habit of smiling as you walk past someone on the street or share a table at a Starbucks, you’d better lose that grin or risk being stared down. Apparently, even new moms aren’t that desperate for company that they’d just smile at any old person they pass, so better zip it. The only places that encourage small talk are small bakeries that you buy coffee from.
  • Food just tastes better here. You first notice the normal size of produce: no giant green peppers, strawberries the size of small melons or red onions to feed a small village. Even in big supermarkets, labels inform that most perishable food is coming from within the island, maybe as far as Ireland, but no further. No Mexico or Colombia or Guatemala labels here. There is still the illusion of abundance without the green bananas or rotten raspberries on display.
  • Coffee isn’t as ubiquitous as in the U.S., but even the cup at a gas station tastes of something other than dark hot water.
  • But, alas, washrooms! Like I do in India, I have to remind the kids to use the restroom before leaving the house or else. Stores typically won’t have one open to public. Not even a fast food place like Subway. Not the local library. Not the tiny mom-pop bakeries that are a dime a dozen. I miss just walking into a shop close at hand to take a quick leak. “Public toilets” aka porta potties are your only option when out and about. Quite discouraging.

There’ll be more — this is only week 2.

The UK: Installment – First Ever.

And, we’re finally here.

In the land of fables and the “choob”, tea with clotted cream and churches from the 1200s, Harry Potter and Nancy Drew, of hard-to-understand accents that can make a septuagenarian sound sexy. I grew up reading about sixth form escapades, vast green spaces described as vales and glens and woods and never knowing the differences between them, crumpets and scones whose taste was as alien to me as a tagine at that point. I now have the opportunity to not only gawk like a tourist but actually live life like a local. How exciting is that?!

The suburban town centres are super quaint and so European — I love it! 🙂

IMG_2891A visit to Windsor castle on Sunday was a splendid outing, culminating in the “long walk” through pristine gardens hosting picnicing families on a gorgeous summer day. Buggy rides through town seemed to be a hit, and no wonder when there’s buildings like this to ogle. I wish I could photoshop the crowds out of the picture but even with them…

IMG_2894Pubs and patisseries abound on tiny side streets paved with cobblestones that don’t feel out of place in the 21st century. To think that some of these places have been in business for centuries!

IMG_2896I don’t know what honeysuckle smells like but in my mind, this is it! All the juvenile characters I read about ambled into hidden gardens like these to discover imaginary worlds that thrilled my imagination then, as they evidently do now as well. What a treat to discover these gems as part of my normal life!

Virginia gave me some great friends and many happy memories but, Mr UK, I reckon I’m going to love you heart and soul in a jiffy. Blimey.