#LondonBaby : 2 days in London and why I have to move there immediately

30 December 2013

I will live in London one day. It just seems so much more exciting than any other city I've lived in so far: the gigs, the food, the parks, the markets.. what's not to love? I love Edinburgh too but I feel like I've got to know it too well over the years and it's becoming a little boring. 

This time we went to London because I found super cheap train tickets (£30 for a return I think). We didn't have many plans apart from just walking around, eating in some good places and maybe meeting up with friends, feeling like in Love Actually etc. 

3.5 hours on a train and we were at King's Cross. It was midnight and the station was full. In Edinburgh it would have been completely empty - that's one of the other reasons I love London - so many people! (does it show I've only visited a handful of times). We went to our airbnb flat and frankly were a little bit disappointed but also happy to have somewhere to crash. We only stayed in airbnb twice before in the same flat in Warsaw, which was absolutely amazing so our expectations were perhaps a little inflated. It was a basement flat between Hackney and Dalston, which looked as though it was a nursery during the week. Hints: a row of tiny chairs, arts and crafts kit in the living room, children's books in the bedroom. It was clean enough but not spotless. A little less than I expected given the price and the description on airbnb website. But oh well, it's London, we were happy to just have a place to crash for the night and also in such a good location. 

On Saturday morning we went for breakfast to one of the local cafes (Wilton Way Cafe), which turned out to be one of those hipster places with bare light bulbs, salvaged furniture and a barista who feels too important to serve you coffee. You know the type, you kind of don't feel good enough to deserve to order something but then you really want a coffee and an overpriced toast with avocado. It turned out that Robert, our friend, lives a short walk away from that place so he joined us for breakfast and a very short session of making fun of talking about people who wear hats indoors and are baristas in coffee shops like that one. (Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against baristas, I worked as one myself for over 6 months, but I would never wear a hat indoors). I'm sure they're pretty harmless but it's become such a trend of 2013 that it's now a little boring. 

But I digress. 

The coffee was good (and I'm hard to please, so it shows), and my sour dough toast with avocado was amazing. It had chilli flakes on top and at least a whole avocado mashed with olive oil or something else, it was pretty good. 

Then we headed off to Dalston and took the overground to Shoreditch and Brick Ln to continue our hipster education. I spotted two pieces of street art by Roa, a Belgian street artist, who also has painted a beautiful mural in Warsaw. We ventured through a couple of vintage shops (overpriced), market stalls with T shirts featuring moons, supernovas and kittens and ended up in Old Spitalfields Market, which was a lot of fun. I loved the Christimas wreaths on the doors and the weather was just glorious for a long walk.We walked around for another hour or so and then took a bus to London Bridge. 

 Note the steering wheel made with wine bottles.

 He had to.

 Roa number 1

Roa Number 2

Took a glimpse of the Shard and headed off to Borough Market, which was packed. Quick burgers for lunch and a trip to Notting Hill to the Portobello Rd Market, and a stroll among the colourful town houses plus some crepes with nutella and bananas. In the evening we were meeting our friends fro drinks in Angel and the night didn't end there shall we say... 
 Oh so pretty.
 people like their coffee

 clear skies and brick buildings- nice welcome London
 Jakub's collection of interesting registration plates

 The Globe, the real one. I can't wait to go see a play there. Imagine going to watch Hamlet, I'm buying a standing ticket of course.
 Gorillas this way.

 Millenium bridge. Always reminds me of the scene from Harry Potter.

 Catching the tube

I checked the Londonist  website for things that were happening that weekend and it turned out that Chris Hadfield (the famous astronaut who was takes awesome pictures of the Earth from the International Space Station and makes videos about things such as "what happens to your tears when you cry in space") was signing his book in Watersone's in Picadilly Circus so we went there to meet him, but the queue was too long for us too wait and we had to catch our train back to Scotland. 
 A walk through West End to catch a bus to Hackney.

It was a very full weekend, perhaps even a little too full? It would have been nice to walk around the neighbourhood we stayed in or even go to the winter wonderland or Oxford Street. 

Until next time London. I don't need much more convincing that you're the place to be when a girl is still in her twenties. You're also only 2h away from Paris... ooh tempting. 
See how happy you make me?


28 December 2013

 As I write this, it's 10 degrees outside, the sun is shining and half of my family is still in their PJs. My dad and uncle are doing some work outside in the garden. We haven't had breakfast yet and I don't know what day of the week it is today. That's my kind of a good holiday.

Hope you've had a good one too.

ps. I'm planning to finish writing about 2013 before the end of the year. Coming up this weekend: London, Dublin and maybe some more Ireland and Edinburgh.

Is it the Caribbean?

20 December 2013

... no it's Ireland. (more after the jump)

Isle of Skye: Part 2

16 December 2013

I'm only writing this post because I know only a handful of people read my blog and most of them are friends. Here comes the best kept secret of Scotland. You're welcome.

I can't decide what was the best thing about staying in Skye - the scenery or the Shepherd Huts.
When you wake up to a view like this, you don't have reception in your phone to be distracted and you stop feeling the urge to instagram your morning so you can focus on actually enjoying it.

On the edge of Britain: Isle of Skye Part 1

10 December 2013

(Soundtrack to this post: Scottish Gaelic song, in which the poet praises the island of his heart. Composed during WWI). 

Oh Skye, you stole my heart. Surrounded by sea, with the migthy Cuillin on the horizon, narrow windy roads and countless crofts, a big piece of the Inner Hebrides jigsaw puzzle.

We went to Skye on a whim. During the summer I watched this documentary about the Hebrides and I couldn't find an excuse for why we shouldn't just drive up to Skye one weekend. We've lived here for over 6 years now, why have we not been there yet. We booked a Shepherd's hut for two nights, packed rain jackets, wellies, burgers and beer to our little car and off we went. J put together 4h of good oldies and road trip music.

^^ Ready to go
 ^^ Crossing the Firth of Forth
^^ First stop for coffee and cake. 
 ^^ It looked like it was going to rain. It didn't. yet.
 ^^ Meadow next to the cafe. pretty.
^^ Narrow windy roads.

Even the drive itself was rather pleasant. A good supply of "paluszki" to munch on, singing along and praying for good weather. Across the Skye bridge, 6 km down the croft (including a couple of stops to let the sheep pass across the road) and we arrived at Janet's place. Janet has two Shepherd's huts, 2 donkeys, 3 greyhounds and a bull. As soon as we arrived I knew we were in one of my favourite places I've ever stayed in, I mean, have you seen those huts? They have everything you need to have a good sleep relax after a long walk or a boat trip, even a small wood burning stove and a bench for sitting outside with a cup of tea to stargaze. After unpacking we drove to the village for dinner. Foolishly, we didn't make any dinner reservations and found all places to be fully booked. No seafood for us then. Waiter in one of the local bistros felt sorry for us and allowed us to eat in the bar area. J had fish & chips, I chose lobster. It wasn't mind blowing to be honest, but after the 4h drive we were happy enough.

I read on twitter that killer whales visited waters around Skye a couple of days back. We set off early in the morning to go on a boat trip. The sea had different ideas and the boats were cancelled. Oh well. Fairly pools then, we thought. That's one of the best things about Skye: there's so much to see and do. A long drive and a short walk down the glen later and we were at the fairly pools. Here is a thing: pinterest is full of lies. To take a picture like this we'd have to climb down the rocks and pretty much stand in the stream. We didn't, which doesn't mean that I didn't like the views. It was peaceful and quiet. Reminded me about walking in Tatry. Portree with its colourful harbour for late lunch and a drive back to our cosy hut.

In the evening we made burgers on a barbecue, sat outside taking in the view and reading books I borrowed from Janet.  I particularly enjoyed reading about history and geology of Skye - any geological process, you name it, and Skye has been through it: volcanoes, glaciers, mountain formation, cliffs, lochs. Also: Vikings, and beautiful names they left behind: Elgol, Bla Bheinn, Soay...

In the morning it was time to leave, too soon. Stopping over at Eilean Donan castle (the most photographed castle in Scotland), Glenfinnan to see the Harry Potter railway and a long drive down the majestic Glen Coe and we were back home in Edinburgh. I would go back to Skye in a heartbeat. I don't know why, and I have thought about it a lot, but I feel I would find happiness in living a simple life on a croft. In many ways it's very similar to living in the North of Norway I guess. Living close to the sea, in harmony but always at its mercy. Who knows, maybe I'll have a chance to try it and I will realise it's just my escapism talking, not what I really want or need. Anyway, this trip, although too short, was the highlight of my summer. In the future I'd love to see more of the Hebrides and meet more people living there. Who knows, maybe it'll happen. Island hopping...yes please.

 ^^ True, that.

 ^^ Getting closer.
 ^^ and closer...
 ^^ the sea!

^^ The Skye Bridge - the only link from the island apart from the boat. slightly scary to cross. 
 ^^ through the croft
 ^^ rainbow!
 ^^... and we're here. Can you spot a little house on the top of the hill? That's not our hut.
^^ view from our hut
^^ and a super comfy bed.

Tomorrow:  staying in Shepherd's Huts, Elgol, Fairy Pools, Portree and Glenfinnan

Practical information:

  • How to get there: about 300 km drive from Edinburgh, or by bus from Glasgow
  • Where we stayed: Skye Shepherd's huts, £70 per hut, sleeps 2, including an amazing breakfast (I can't recommend this place enough, it's awesome)
  • Guide we used: Isle of Skye: 40 Coast and Country walks
  • When to go: depends what you want to see, weather in August was lovely, but winters can be much colder and harsher. But then you can see Aurora Borealis! I guess it depends on preferences and what you want to do. Janet's place is open all year long.
Part 2 of our trip to Isle of Skye. Including staying in the awesome Skye Shepherd's Huts