Primrose Hill

On the northern front of London sits Primrose Hill, a well-to-do neighborhood bubbling up from the touristy beacons around it, a refuge for the nouveau riche from the surrounding masses.

The neighborhood Primrose Hill is capped by a knoll of the same name. At more than 250 feet high, the proper Primrose Hill rewards its breathless climbers with an equally breathtaking view of the below capital city. The skyline sweeps from Westminster to points south and east, new skyscrapers dwarfing–but yet not overtaking–the building silhouettes of centuries past.

For months I lived in Primrose Hill’s shadow. And though I made frequent trips to Camden, and Hampstead, and everywhere between, I somehow never walked those 20 minutes to one of the highest points in London.

I finally made the plunge this year, and I hiked up that deceptively named “hill” to see all that London had to offer. The sky was hazy, the breeze cold. And I finally saw my city as I had never seen her before–from above.

Legend has it that it was from nearby Parliament Hill that Guy Fawkes intended to watch Parliament explode. This Bonfire Night, swing by Primrose Hill instead, and watch London come alive with color.

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Tuesday Tip: St Dunstan-in-the-East

Originally built around 1100 CE, St Dunstan-in-the-East has seen the best–and the worst–of London history.

Things were good for the first 500 years or so. Then came along Thomas Farynor, a baker in Pudding Lane who had skipped fire safety day at school. When he neglected to properly extinguish a blaze in 1666, nearly 80% of the city–including St Dunstan–was damaged.

The church was mended, and it was given a new steeple designed by Sir Christopher Wren. But the nave roof was too heavy for the structure, and in the 1800s St Dunstan had to be rebuilt again.

Then came along the Germans. A nearly direct hit during the Blitz of 1941 left St Dunstan in shambles.

After more than 800 years, London called it quits on St Dunstan after that bombing, and the church has sat as attractive ruins ever since.

St Dunstan is a quick walk from the Tower of London. Hidden behind a few modern buildings, the church is virtually unknown even to those who live in London, and the grounds are often deserted.

It is a peaceful respite from the nearby marauding gangs of tourists and, with a view of the Shard through one of the crumbling windows, is a tantalizing comment on the ever-changing nature of one of Earth’s greatest cities.

What’s On at the Fourth Plinth

Several months ago I shared with you the weirdness that is Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth.

While visiting London in March, I happened to arrive at Trafalgar Square just after the unveiling of the newest sculpture, Gift Horse.

Picture of the sculpture Gift Horse in Trafalgar Square, London, England

My friend theorized it was a commentary on war, in that the horse is wrapped up in a pretty bow made of a stock ticker–symbolizing profit–but underneath it is just death. It’s a good theory.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the sculptor intended. But, if art is what the viewer makes of it, then I’m going with my friend’s explanation instead.

Regent’s Canal and a Lovely Day for a Stroll

Formerly the hunting grounds of Henry VIII, Regents Park today is home to a university, Queen Mary’s Gardens, and–if legends are to be believed–one of the residences of the Sultan of Brunei.

A canal runs along the northern edge of the park and down south to the Thames. Designed by John Nash and opened in 1816, the Regent’s Canal was, like so many new waterways of the time period, quickly obsolete.

A few dedicated people cling to life on the canal. Mostly, though, its only use to modern Londoners is as a place for a peaceful morning jog.

And I think it serves that purpose just fine.

Picture of Regents Canal in London, UK

Picture of Regents Canal in London, UK

Picture of Regents Canal in London, UK

Picture of Regents Canal in London, UK

Tuesday Tip: Beware of Thieves!

I’ve always considered myself fairly savvy when it comes to petty crime. While in London, though, my friend saved me from a phone thief.

The scam is thus: Thief comes into a restaurant/bar/cafe. This being the age it is, many of the customers will have their phones on the table. Thief pretends he is selling magazines/newspapers and goes to a table with a phone on it. Thief puts the magazine over the phone on the table, palming the phone while he displays what he’s pretending to sell.

The customers at the table are in the middle of conversation and, annoyed, quickly dismiss the thief. They don’t notice he’s taken the phone with them until it’s too late.

My friend had nearly lost her phone to such a thief while in Paris. So when the paper went over my phone as we were sitting at our favorite hot pot restaurant, she lurched across the table and grabbed the phone away. The thief ran off.

The simplest remedy would be to just not keep your phone on tables, but, if you’re like me and your phone has become an additional appendage, that’s not going to happen. I hope, then, that this cautionary tale helps keep your favorite possession safe!

Have you been the victim or attempted victim of a thief while on holiday? If so, please share your story with us!

Food, Glorious Food

Well, I’m back from London and adjusted to East Coast time again. My trip already seems like a distant memory—isn’t it funny how quickly we fall back into the grind of everyday life?

One of my favorite parts of any trip is exploring the local food scene. As usual, London did not disappoint.

Picture of tofu cutlet and mash from Manna in London, UK

Tofu cutlet and mash from Manna

Picture of vegan sticky toffee pudding from Manna in London, UK

Vegan sticky toffee pudding from Manna

Picture of vegan English breakfast from inSpiral Lounge in Camden, London, UK

Full English breakfast–vegan, of course!–from inSpiral Lounge

Picture of peach cake with vegan cream from Amico Bio in London, UK

Peach cake with vegan cream from Amico Bio

Picture of Vegan fish and chips from The Coach and Horses in London, UK

And, finally, my favorite discovery of all—vegan fish and chips from The Coach and Horses

What’s the best dish you’ve had while traveling?