Gastropub Love

One of my favorite genre of restaurants here in London is the gastropub, a blend of the humble and ubiquitous English pub and a more ambitious gastronomical experience.  Gastropubs are generally devoid of that boisterous set of lager louts, and have better and more interesting beers, and better and more interesting food options than a typical pub’s fish and chips and bangers and mash.

I love gastropubs for their relaxing stay-all-afternoon vibe, their cosy nooks and cushions and, of course, their food.  And there are so many great ones to choose from!  A few of my favorites:

The Old White Bear, Hampstead.  A current obsession. Cosy fireplaces, nice beer, friendly staff, yummy food,  atmosphere you wish your living room would have. Check, check and check.

The Prince Bonaparte, Bayswater.  An old favorite, and serves Fruli!  A sickly-sweet strawberry beer that is a shameful delight.

The Chepstow, Notting Hill.  Another old stomping grounds from my student days in 2005.

The Windsor Castle, Kensington.  Fabulous outdoor beer garden and home of the little “hobbit doors”.


Moving, Phase III

Phase I of my Great London Move of 2011 (it has a name now), involved packing, shipping, donating, selling and generally de-cluttering all of my possessions in Austin.  It took some time, it was stressful, but at least I could rely on a few faithful friends to commiserate the general sucky-ness of moving with me over a margarita.

Phase II involved traveling to London solo, managing four suitcases.  It also involved receiving shipment of the 20-odd boxes I mailed across the pond, stressing over broken items (despite massive amounts of careful bubble wrapping) and pondering over the Royal Mail’s logic of how some boxes sailed through customs with flying colors and were promptly delivered, while other boxes were slapped with an additional customs and VAT delivery charge.

Phase III (the final Phase!) comes this weekend, 2 months after Phase II.  I re-pack the boxes that I have subsequently unpacked, I hire a van, boxes + me travel across town to Fulham and there I finally set up home.

The best part of moving (looking at the glass half-full here) is the opportunity to take stock of my possessions, to sort them in the “Must keep” / “Donate” / “Throw-away” piles, as prescribed by so many organizational gurus.  When I unpack my things in Fulham next week, it will be interesting to remind myself, this is what I thought worth keeping, and worth transporting 5,000 miles.  This is an object that I couldn’t live with out.  I’m reminded of a quote often cited by many home-decorating blogs, and probably Domino Magazine (RIP) as well:

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
— William Morris


London is a terrific traveling gateway to the rest of Europe and North Africa.  There are so very many countries that are accessible within a two or three hour flight!  — Morocco, for example is three hours away.  Rome, a mere two and a half hours.  For the time it took me to fly from Austin to Boston, I could be in Turkey or Croatia.  Even more far-flung destinations, such as India or South Africa are brought a little bit closer.  While such trips would seem like a terribly long and exotic ordeal from the US, they are a little bit more practical by cutting out the transatlantic portion of the journey.

The Mister and I are starting to brainstorm ideas for next year’s vacations, and it’s great fun to know that so many countries are within our reach and possible for a long-weekend trip.  We might try Italy for his spring break!  (I’m thinking Rome or Cinque Terre…)

Happy and safe travels to those of you venturing through airports and highways today for Thanksgiving!


A Home in Fulham

In 2004, when I first came to London as a student, I lived in North Kensington, in an area called Ladbroke Grove, which back then was just shy of being called “hip” (it was just a bit grungy, the dirty next-door-neighbor to beautiful Notting Hill).  In my return seven years later, Ladbroke Grove (home of the famous Portobello Road and its markets) has been swooped up in gentrification.  It’s strange to be old enough to look back on some period of time and reminisce about “what it was like back then…”  (I better get used to it, though, as I’m only getting older!)

I looked for my home all over London — in Ladbroke Grove and other parts of Kensington, in Hampstead, Golders Green and Belsize Park in North London, in Angel and Islington, in Highbury, and even down south in Clapham and yet further south still in East Dulwich.  Certainly I had a bit of neighborhood indecision, but I didn’t want to be closed minded, and at any rate, my flat hunt gave me an excuse to discover new areas of London.

Finally, finally, I found a nice flat that appeared to tick all of my boxes of living requirements in Fulham.  Fulham is an area in southwest London that is bordered by South Kensington to its north, Hammersmith to its west, the river and Battersea to its south, and Chelsea to the east.  Now as I review my previous posts on my requirements, it seems that most of them on satisfied:

  • at least one bedroom  – yes!  a two bedroom flat, what a luxury.
  • access to a garden (public or private) –a private garden for the puppies, and barbecuing in the summer. 
  • accommodation for two adorable puppies -the landlord is dog-friendly.  Hurray!
  • large bathtub -yes!  a soaking tub and a separate shower.  
  • not a dump -no, it’s not a dump.  Very, very important. 
  • 10 minutes or less walk to convenient public transport  – less than 10 minute walk from two tube stations, and a 15 minute walk to yet another.
  • green and leafy neighborhood -could be leafier.  Could be greener.  I had to compromise on this point. 
  • convenient high street with good and practical shops, like a market, dry cleaners, bank, comfortable pub. (no fancy galleries, high-end fashion shops or furniture stores necessary!) -many nearby amenities and decent high streets.   
  •  nice, respectful neighbors. -well, I guess this is tbd. 

All in all, a success.