Stormy Days + Marylebone

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I think autumn has come to stay in London. Each morning I wake up to cool winds and slight fog. Some people get depressed in this kind of weather – not me, this is my absolute heaven. I think I was made for days exactly like this.  There’s just something so wonderful about being bundled up while walking the streets, even if there’s a little rain mixed in, it’s not so bad if you get a hot cup of coffee at the end.  So when the forecast was 80% thunderstorms all day, I chucked on my heavy raincoat, loaded my pockets with tissues for my DayQuil resistant headcold and headed out for a new adventure in London.

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Of course, Michael Buble’s ‘A Foggy Day in London Town’ was playing in my earphones as I made my way to the tube station. My two ultimate favorites, cold weather & the crooning king, made for a good start to my (sickly) day. I was off to Marylebone to check out the High Street and find a little coffee shop to hole up in while I read my course book – see Dad, I am doing school work! So when the stop before Marylebone was Baker Street, I jumped off to see the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Do yourself a favor and go watch Sherlock if you haven’t already. It’s fantastic.

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The museum was fun, relatively cheap and included the set from the BBC series exactly as it seems on TV. I was just waiting for Sherlock to walk through with some solved crime spilling out of his mouth. From there, I headed further north and came across a little hidden gem. The Paddington Street Gardens were just a little gate on – you guessed it – Paddington Street, and it was a nice green space to take a break from all the large buildings in the area. The garden was created in the 18th century as extra burial space for the old St. Marylebone Parish, where over 80,000 graves were dug. It is still consecrated ground, although the tombstones have been moved with the exception of the mausoleum due to its tasteful design.

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As I turned on to Marylebone High Street, I ran right into Daunt Books – store I found on a list of 20 best bookshops in the world. Of course, I was going to spend a good chunk of time there. There’s something about bookstores… the time that you can lose just flipping through a good travel book or finding the perfect novel for a cozy evening of reading. The roof of this store was all glass, and I kid you not, the second I set foot in the store, the clouds began to release all their rain. It was magical. I sat there and listened to the rain with a big smile on my face because at that moment, life was pretty darn good.  

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Daunt Books has several locations throughout London, but I think this is by far the most beautiful of the settings. Marylebone has so many different shops up and down the little streets, ranging from high fashion to small and independent. The walk around the area is a great place to get lost for the day, if you must.

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By the early afternoon, my throat was sore and I was in need of a serious pick me up. I had heard of this cool coffee shop, Kaffeine, in a YouTube video by one of the many London vloggers I watch. Only a quick 15-minute walk from the Marylebone High Street, Kaffeine was bustling with a young crowd of baristas and businessmen coming for a mid-afternoon coffee. I sat down with a decadent chocolate brownie and a flat white for a much needed body recharge.  A quick break turned into an hour due to the novel I was reading for my Berlin studies class – Alone in Berlin is a tragic and captivating story of Nazi Germany.

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As their sign says, the coffee made me strong enough to get through the 15-minute walk to Oxford Circus, where I caught the tube back to Stamford Street and a little nap. Days like these are so perfect and fun. Adventuring is my kind of sightseeing – just choosing a point on the map and then figuring out the smaller details as the day goes on.

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In the last four weeks, I’ve found my niche within the city and I’m growing incredibly fond of it. While it’s impossible to not think of the countdown to my flight back to the States, there’s no time for crying, because I’ll just have to figure out a plan to move back here eventually. I’m currently on my way to Edinburgh for a quick weekend trip and exploring with some friends, so keep your eyes peeled for a Scotland post sometime early next week!

Shoreditch & Spitalfields

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So far, I’m two weeks into my time in London and I’m making a promise to myself now – I will explore a different area of London each week on my day off from university.  And by putting this promise out there, I’m hoping you readers hold me accountable to that, since I don’t want to come home regretting not exploring my area enough. This week, my University of Washington adventure buddy, Westley, and I decided to catch the tube to Shoreditch in East London for an afternoon of walking around and hopefully not spending too much – I guess my wallet is just on a diet? Losing a few pounds every day… (that was horrendous, so sorry)!

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We ended up in the Indian and Pakistani neighborhood of London and regardless of the directions I had, we weren’t stumbling across the promised vintage shops.  After a few misguided turns, we found the entrance to Old Spitalfields Market – an open square with vendors selling cheap goods and vintage designs. It was as if we stepped into a heaven of fun and interesting shops beckoning us with their window displays. We decided to try out the Wagamamas (Asian-fusion deliciousness) on the balcony of the market which gave us an ariel view of all the shops and let us plan our afternoon shopping.

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Back in the States, there’s a store called All Saints that sells the absolute best leather jackets along with so many other chic items – and the only issue being that they are ridiculously expensive.  In short, I’m obsessed with this brand.  When we came across the All Saints in Spitalfields, we learned that it was the flagship store and that the lead designer was just downstairs working on a few products. I was stunned and eventually depressed when the trying on all the amazing clothing and realizing I just don’t have the funds for these additions to my wardrobe.  One day, one day, All Saints I will own your merchandise.

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I’m constantly impressed with the historic buildings at each corner around London and then all of a sudden, the modern buildings are placed right next to them.  It’s really beautiful to see two different architectures up against each other, somehow educating you of the past and present simultaneously. Shoreditch is full of intersections like this, there are so many beautiful shops and old landmarks and randomly you’ll see a modern building from the next neighborhood at the end of a street. photo 5

There’s no doubt that the United Kingdom is well known for their tea – and I love having a good cup before bed…but I miss coffee. It’s so expensive here and rare to find actual ground coffee in a grocery store so you can make it yourself! Enough with the rant – in Shoreditch there was this amazingly modern cafe called Brooklyn Coffee that reminded me of (and made me tremendously miss) my New Yorker sister and the fun times I’ve had traveling there as well. And it was a welcome site to have a latte in hand as I roamed the streets of East London.

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If you’re into a younger feeling in a neighborhood, Shoreditch has that along with artistic graffiti on the streets near the tube stop, Spitalfields Market for the cheap and funky goods, the vintage market open Thursday through Sunday for all the your retro desires. There are loads of book stores, record shops and quirky house stores along the streets – so basically a trap for anyone with a few pounds in their wallet, since it’s impossible to leave without having done some shopping. Even though we were only 8 stops away from Central London and our campus, the differences in the neighborhoods are fantastic to see and explore.

Any suggestions or recommendations for which neighborhood of London I should explore next?

Until next time,

Laura Reed