Ha, this blog is like A Tale of Two Cities! Except not at all, really.
I spent last weekend in London, for my November trip. I flew in on Friday early evening (Aer Lingus into Heathrow, as I like to avoid Ryanair whenever possible) and flew out late Sunday night (BMI, first time I've flown them, and they were quite okay). I've been to London maybe half a dozen times before (although never for more than a few days at a time, unfortunately) and did most of the touristy things the first couple times, so now I go there usually with something specific in mind to see or do, in addition to the random wandering about. It occurred to me more than once throughout this trip that I wouldn't at all mind living in London.
This time, my mission was threefold: 1) find a good bowl of pho; 2) see the Chihuly exhibit at Kew Gardens; and 3) visit Loop, a yarn shop that I'd heard had just opened in Islington . (It's getting seriously cold, and my knitting activity is inversely proportional to the temperature.)
The yarn shop I found by looking up British knitting groups on-line and the pho I found by asking on the Lonely Planet message boards. It turns out there is a cluster of Vietnamese restaurants in Shoreditch on and around Kingsland Rd. We passed a few quite promising looking ones and settled into Song Que, a longish trek from Old Street tube station. It was a good choice. The pho was great- I'd forgotten how much I missed the stuff, and the whole meal with drinks was about GBP10 each, so cheap as well.
The yarn shop was small, but lovely. They had a smaller selection of yarn that I am used to (their whole collection would barely take up one free-standing display case at Weaving Works) but everything they carried was beautiful. I couldn't find the Debbie Bliss cotton in the color I wanted (I'm in the middle of a wavy pattern scarf and ran out of yarn) but I did buy some very soft kid mohair that I'm planning to do something in a lacy, open-work pattern with. Not sure what yet. The best part about the yarn shop, though, was getting to it. It's in Islington and and I took the tube to Angel station and walked to the shop. And discovered a great neighborhood in the process. I passed by merchants packing up stalls from what must have been an antiques and second-hand merchandise market. I was sorry that I didn't make the trek out earlier in the day, 'cause a lot of the stuff still out looked quite interesting and browsable. There were lots of little independent shops as well, which is a nice change from the chains. We stopped at a cozy looking pub for a quick pint (of bitter, since it's harder to find that in Dublin) before dinner. This was one of those times when I felt I could really enjoy living in London.
The Chihuly exhibit at Kew (I know, all way across continents just to see Chihuly) was totally awesome. I mean, yeah, glass art is just sort of inherently pretty and cool, and Chihuly's stuff definitely as a large "wow" factor, and there were lots of pieces at Kew that showed that off. The bits I liked best, though, were the simpler sculptures. The best ones were pieces where the glass mirrored or copied the shapes and colors of the plants around it. There were a couple times we stopped to admire a plant or to touch the leaves, and didn't even notice for a long time that the "plant" next to it was one of the glass sculptures. The other installation I liked was the blue and white "Heron", where the glass pieces, blown into shapes reminiscent of herons and long-necked birds, were put into one of the lily ponds. We had only intended to spend two or three hours at Kew and then spend the rest of the day at Camden Market (highly recommended by some friends) but we liked it so much we spent the whole day there and only left when they closed. That's okay, that means Camden will make the perfect excuse for going back.