Becoming a north Londoner

At the end of August, I moved from east to north London. This may not seem like a big deal, but I’d lived in east London ever since I was a little bookworm. I’d always felt quite strongly that east London was place the be, so it was strange to leave the hipsters and rich young families behind, and transport all my belongings to leafy north London. I’d been quite unhappy at home this year and so I made the decision to move in with a friend in West Hampstead – and I love it! I’ve made my room my own and spent the past six weeks exploring. I’m surrounded by bookshops, coffee shops, and gorgeous houses, as well as Hampstead Village and Hampstead Heath. I’m still so excited to be close to London transport and lots of beautiful and fabulous places. At my old flat, I spent a lot of hours in my room and so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t love my new one as much, especially as it’s a little smaller, but it’s even better! I moved one of my bookcases and desk into my room, and my other bookcase is in the living room, helping to make the flat feel more like home. My housemate works in the book industry, too, and so was perfectly happy to have more books around the flat! As much as I adored my old flat – it was my first rented home in London – I didn’t think much of the area (it wasn’t as trendy as Hackney, which is where I grew up) but thankfully I adore West Hampstead. It’s very me, especially in autumn. I’ve loved spending the past few weekends blogging in the coffee shops, visiting the Freud Museum and stunning National Trust properties, and wandering around Hampstead Heath. I love central London – eating out in Soho and visiting Foyles Charing Cross and Waterstones Piccadilly – but I also love spending time in my local area, taking advantage of everything it has to offer and supporting the local businesses. And there’s lots more exploring to be done! I’ve previously visited Highgate and Highgate Cemetery, Archway and Crouch End – and I’m quite familiar with Islington. I also discovered that I’m less than half an hour from Kew Gardens (albeit, in south London), one of my favourite places; I hope to go to Christmas at Kew this year. Like the start of a new school term, my new life began in September, and I hope to have lots of fun as a north Londoner for the next year… at least!
If you have any recommendations for places to visit in north London, I’d love to hear about them! On the list is Alexandra Palace… 

What I’ve Discovered / Fresh Flowers, Lucy Fleming’s Illustrations & Who Gives a Crap

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This is a new feature dedicated to all the things I’ve discovered, loved or enjoyed most recently!

Pretty Vases and Fresh Flowers

I used to think that fresh flowers were a waste of money (they die so quickly), but that was before the realisation that they were an easy way to brighten my day. Now I have a fresh bunch on my desk every week and yellow daffodils are my current favourite. A little vase of joy is a really easy way to make me feel happy in the mornings. I’ve also enjoyed buying them for birthdays and Mother’s Day – and people seem to like getting them!

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Lucy Fleming’s Illustrations

Last year I visited my friend Kat’s home for the first time and noticed she had lots of lovely framed drawings on the wall. I thought this was such a lovely idea. I’ve never been one to buy art, but recently I picked up two stunning prints of Edinburgh (one of my favourite places in the world) and prints by Lucy Fleming, a book illustrator that I discovered on Twitter (she also runs a beautiful Instagram account). I bought two beautiful illustrations from her website: Orionid and Flying, a couple of frames, and put up one in my living room and one in my bedroom. Perfect.

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Who Gives a Crap

No, sadly I haven’t stopped worrying about what other people think about me just yet. I want to talk to you about 🚽’s. I came across Australian brand Who Gives a Crap on Instagram and thought they were pretty awesome. They produce toilet paper, tissue boxes, kitchen roll, etc. made from recycled (“forest friendly”) paper, and 50% of their profits are donated to help build toilets for those who need them – they’ve donated more than £650k so far. I thought that was pretty cool, so I ordered tissues and kitchen roll to last me a year (!). I adore my pretty new tissue boxes and they’re super soft, so I thought I’d share the love.

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2018 Goals

I don’t particularly enjoy making New Year’s Resolutions. I hate the way it makes me feel if I don’t accomplish them, but this year I’ve set a few goals that are super achievable and will make me feel great at the end of the year.

My TBR

    • Read 52 books and save £1 for every book read

Like most booklovers, I’m doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge, as I’ve done every year since 2011. Back then, I read 100 books but these days I aim to read 52, one per week. But it’s less about the number for me and more about the joy of seeing all the books I’ve read over the year (it also aids my terrible memory!). I saw people tweet about Aoife’s idea to save £1 for every book read, so I’m going to pop a coin into my ‘What happens in book club, stays in book club’ mug for every book I finish.

    • Visit two new countries

I’ve travelled a little over the past couple of years (and I hope to blog more about my travels, both around the UK and abroad) and this year I’d love to visit at least two new countries: Hungary, the Czech Republic, USA, Norway, Australia… or somewhere else!

    • Visit 10 new places in London

I’ve lived in London most of my life but there’s still so much left to explore. Whether a new museum, borough, coffee shop or park, I want to visit at least 10 new places in London this year. I really enjoyed doing this last year, from visiting Highgate Cemetery for the first time to discovering amazing new brunch places to go to with friends.

Stockholm, Sweden

    • Acquire fewer material things and reduce the amount of stuff I own

This is something I tried to do in 2017 and would love to continue this year. Last year, I decided that I wanted to spend my money on experiences, rather than on stuff. This includes buying fewer but higher quality clothes, frequent book-culling, frequent spring cleaning, buying new toiletries only when others are empty, and being aware of eco-friendly packaging.

    • Go to exercise classes every week and complete Couch to 5k

At the end of 2017, I joined the gym for a 6-week trial and really enjoyed how motivated it made me feel. I plan to renew my membership once my awful chest and throat infection disappears. I loved doing Body Combat (a mix of yoga, tai-chi and pilates) classes and I was also training for Couch to 5k until I suffered from ankle pain. Once I get myself proper running shoes, back onto the treadmill I go!

    • Make lunch and buy fewer lunches/hot drinks

I’m guilty of spending a lot of money on food. It’s probably my biggest expense after rent. I love eating out, but I know that it’s not necessary to buy lunch and a hot drink every day, so I’d like to limit those to once per week. Even so, I’ve swapped to a KeepCup to be more environmentally friendly, which does make it tricky (I get 25-50p off each drink when I use it!). It’ll also encourage me to get back into cooking and being organised with my food shop.

Berlin, Germany

    • Learn to crochet

I bought a little crochet set a while ago, but fear of failure is stopping me from giving it a shot. I’ve been told that crochet is super easy, so I need to just give it a go and make that damn bunny.

    • Take driving lessons and pass the theory test

As a lifelong Londoner, I can’t drive because I’ve never needed to. But a chat with a friend recently spurred me on to try. I’d love to acquire a new skill in 2018 and learning to drive is a big one. I passed my theory test nearly 10 years ago now, so it’s back to square one, but if I pass my driving test this year it’ll be a huge accomplishment. I love the idea of the independence that being able to drive gives someone.

    • Learn to be kinder to myself

And finally, it’s an important one. 2016-17 were tough years for me, in different ways, and I didn’t help much by not being kind to myself. I’m not perfect, but I don’t deserve some of the things that happened, and I need to stop being so hard on myself. If I’m kinder to myself, I’ll have more confidence and energy to do what makes me happy… learning, new experiences, exploring, spending time with friends, and making new ones.

Are any of these your 2018 goals?

Adventures in Adversity

Over the past year, give or take a couple of weeks, I’ve adventured solo to Stockholm, journeyed to Berlin and Barcelona for the first time with two of my favourite travel buddies, explored beautiful English countryside and dreamy Scottish cities, and escaped busy London for the day.

Late last week, I stumbled across Inkifi and, without too much thought, ordered 20 of my favourite travel snaps, all taken from my Instagram. They arrived this week and I’m happy to see that they turned out brilliantly (who knew that Instagram photos were actually excellent quality?!). I’ve enjoyed scattering them around my room, filling up blank, empty spaces with memories of my explorations.

I’m not feeling positive about 2018. 2017 has been a tough year, possibly one of the hardest yet, but these Polaroids fill me with hope. They make me excited to plan adventures for the new year. They remind me that this year hasn’t been all bad, even if the negative constantly tries to push it way to the front. They help make my (rented, regrettably) room my own.

It’s true what they say, about that travel bug.

This was originally posted as a shorter Instagram post.

5 Things to Do in Barcelona

In November, I visited Barcelona for the first time with my friend Sarah before she left London for Australia (😭😭). It has taken me a little while to write this post, but here are five things to do in the city!

Visit… the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Park Güell

Gaudí is everywhere in Barcelona. The Catalan architect’s work is unusual, for this Londoner, and a delight. These spots are pretty standard for any traveller to Barcelona. I particularly enjoyed the stained glass windows (spring, summer, autumn and winter-inspired) of the Sagrada. It’s worth checking out the audio guide and taking a trip up the spire. Casa Batlló was stunning – so much blue and green and turquoise! – and my favourite out of the three, whilst Park Güell is perfect for a sunny day. Don’t forget to book your tickets for all three in advance!

Go on… The Shadow of the Wind walking tour

Sarah loves Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s popular series for bookworms and so we booked places on The Shadow of the Wind walking tour. It was fascinating to visit places mentioned in the book (such as the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books). As we weren’t in tourist season, we were the only two on the tour and so could ask plenty of questions. Our guide kindly kept it spoiler-free for me, too, seeing as I was only halfway through the book (silly, silly Stacey).

Eat brunch at… Federal Café

We visited this Australian café in Barcelona twice because we loved it so much – and I had avocado and poached egg on toast both times. It’s certainly a ‘hipster coffee shop’ but, honestly, those are my favourites.

Drink gin cocktails at… Dux

After dinner, we stumbled across this gorgeous, elegant cocktail bar and it was the perfect spot to sit and chat. I enjoy fruity cocktails (although they don’t love me…) and hanging out at Dux was a great way to spend our evening. In Spain, people eat and drink very, very late and so everywhere you go is super quiet and you can always get a table! Dux had a lovely piano in the corner, the tables were candlelit, and the menu offered pop culture-inspired cocktails.

Browse… Barcelona’s many bookshops

Barcelona is a haven for bibliophiles and I was fortunate to go on holiday with a fellow book industry friend, so bookshops were at the top of our list. One of my favourites was Altaïr. This travel bookshop was cosy, homely and had a little café with sofas. I buy a copy of Le Petit Prince every time I visit a new country and I bought El Principito in La Central. We drank coffee outside and I enjoy playing around on the swing seat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to Gigamesh, the popular sci-fi bookshop – next time! (I used a handy Guardian article to plan our bookish adventure).

We only tried churros twice so I wouldn’t dare recommend the best place to eat them! But a few places on our list to go to were Xurreria Dels Banys Nous, Chok – The Chocolate Kitchen, Granja M Viader, and La Nena.