With life full back to normal in London, the choice of places to try can be overwhelming.
That’s particularly true for those who tip their toes in the sea of options and perhaps are looking for good tasting treats in not too crowded settings.
The following five cafes show how can you be in the know, eat and drink well at cool spots, not break the bank and leave with the appetite to return for more.
1. CINNAMON CAFE, Wapping:
On Cinamon Street, facing an original crane glad warehouse in the still very much cobblestones Wapping, the Cinammon Cafe offers sweet vegan treats and tasty cold brews amongst other flavours that get regular 5 star ratings.
With old wooden school desks and chairs, on a suntrap of a side street, against yellow bricked walls, Cinammon Cafe is a very special and warm corner of the London world to visit.
Coffee brews and vegan cakes for £5 for the lot.
103 Wapping Ln, London E1W 2RW
2. 21 WEST, Smithfield:
Wall to wall windows give way for views of the Barbican towers from this chilled out disco vibing cafe/kitchen. With a typical clean white and beech furniture and light green plants, 21 West provides a sacred feel like escape from the rich backdrop of Smithfield Market, the Georgian town places and brutalist architecture of the East. Perhaps a bit pricier than your average trendy looking kitchen, and with a good reason for it, the beet oat latte and vegan pistachio cake were out of this world.
Right from the peak of summer through to the deep winter, ARTFIX is a hide out on a side alley from the busyness of Greenwich Market itself. It has revolving art on the wall, and attracts regularly a unusual/ethical/green/political crowd. The chai latte is to die for as much as the super comfy sofas whilst you’re people watching locals and visitors alike strolling through the market. Management is student friendly offering discounts and a quiet study room at the back. I love this place because I’ve personally had many memorable moments here working away, bumbing into and meeting friends. I am a big fan and pleased Greenwich got this uniquely colourful calm addition to its cafe portfolio.
4. DOCK Cafe, Blackwall:
In one of the new developments next to Blackwall Dlr, right by the bus terminal, you’ll find Dock Coffee across the plaza, next to the playground. What’s special about this place is the delicious Vietnamese sandwiches (bah-min), coffees, friendly service and we’ll brewed lattes in addition to the usual sugary snacks you’ll find in other brew serving joints. I love this place because it’s a suntrap, has a cozy upstairs space and can always find savoury food.
Unit 9 Elligood Court, 21 Goddard Way, London E14 0RG
5. GELATO A CASA, Republic, East India
Homemade gelato in all delicious and non traditional, vegan and for doggie flavours, Greek baklava and sweets, tsoureki and mean protein shakes and coffee. Gelato a Casa is known for the 5 star ratings, uber friendly hosts and beautiful surroundings. In the summer you can bask under the sun surrounded by greenery and view of the dock. In the winter, the lit trees and cozy passage offers a cool spot to chill out in the evening. They are open til late which is an extra bonus. Try once and you’ll be hooked.
One thing is for certain. Summer in the UK has been a super mini version of hot summers we got used to in the past two years.
By August, and a very wet one, I begun deliberating when the next two hour slot of timid sun would pop its head through the clouds. Even on the lucky occasions work wasn’t tying me to the desk and I caught some of it, the cooling breeze and the inconsistency of it made the decision much easier than expected. I needed out.
After two years of no international travel and no proper holiday, I had to go.
So in all good pandemic manner of things, here I was looking at green and amber options.
Still too out of habit, Amber became the elephant in the room.. Will anyone notice and switch or do I risk it?
And no, my money and time were too precious to gamble so I made the safe bet.
And what would have I known if I knew?
Stunning green covered volcanic mountains dipping straight into the sea, accompanied by plenty of flowy waters splashing on the roads from high up the dark and rocky walls.
In the Atlantic, sort of Portuguese sort of north African, Madeira was the humid medicine I didn’t know existed so close to home.
Mild temperatures, sun and warm waters make up a perfect hike to the beach, swim and hike up mix.
Locals are warm. Daily life is super affordable to many other European hotpots and I can’t think of a single thing that I miss.
If not convinced yet, take a look.
Plenty of cute little or the larger kind of surprises too
Of course, the local fresh produce offers loads of culinary delights.
Faith, culture and iconic representation:
Whether early in the morning to start the day, or in the afternoon for a little pick me up, there’s another place where locals will be seen religiously. The cafe.
And of course, lunch on, there’s always time to taste the local ‘poncha’
I believe the Madeiran experience is made up of hikes, coffee, levada walks, fish dishes and poncha. For tourists and locals, living the moment is all about these flavours.
With the subtropical climate blending it all together, the Madeiran experience makes an irresistible ‘poncha’.
Well here we go again, only this time things are a bit different.
In London, there are noticeably less people out after dark, but shopping malls and cafes are still serving take outs and grocery essentials.
This means the earlier photos from the lockdown in spring bear a significant difference to the way urban landscapes look now.
For example, there are a fair amount of labourers and cleaning staff going out and about their business as usual. Spaces look less derelict and more like Sundays before London got crowded millennium onwards.
In urban green spaces, people don’t consider being in fairly crowded conditions, a threat from covid anymore. Benches are open and cyclists have equal access to parks.
The level of interaction with larger crowds is a personal preference.
On a recent cycle with Simon around trendy Hackney Wick and guardian reader pretentious Hackney on Victoria Park, the crowds were heavily dense in many public play areas and entrances.
Away from the long queues outside to pick up coffees and take outs in places where some think it’s important to be at, our was certaintly picking a fish and chips from a good old reliable affordable local chippy just east of Victoria Park to the Wick.
No queues, no wait, no hassle. After a five minute walk, we were enjoying dinner on a bench in the park.
In my next blog I will write about meaningful ways to spend preparing for Christmas holidays and Christmas day itself.
Many get carried away with meaningless cultural traditions, missing the point. Culture can be as oppressive as American culture’s cultural non existence, when it adds no experiental reflection or mindful rest.
In a time of self reflection I couldn’t be luckier having met four days after landing back from a two month trip away early August 2019. And here we are still are today.
Back in the park, we sat watching the lowering sun introducing the mist, the temperature drop, the sensation of colours struggling to define themselves in this new reality.
I suppose this time, it is also the first time of the year’s season under covid for our urban neighbourhoods too. Well I say, we can only pay homage to this another new reality for the family albums to come.
Really, what’s there to complain about? And why not to?
Noticing the small changes in the way the air’s scent carries cooking smells, perfumes and sound vibrations…
The light moisture chilling the edges off living things…
The light mist flowing through the land, thickening and lightening as it absorbs the wind.
Wood burning in the city, logs burning in the fireplace, smoke climbing up from canal boat chimneys into the gaps of the urban air channels.
The yellowy orange with blues of the sunsets and the sunrises. A sun blessed season eclipsing into the vibrancy of the next. Nature signalling for a final celebration before it returns next year in spring.
The cozyness of the orange, greys, dark purples, bronze and blacks decorating cozy corners energised by alchemy, alcohol and warmth.
I had just finished my exams, celebrated my birthday and got on a flight London to Seattle.
I found myself arriving at a 22 buck a night air bnb in Highline on the outskirts of Seattle with a quarter full suitcase and lots of time to absorb my new home, write my dissertation, and quickly explore the city in five days before catching the greyhound to Portland.
I loved where I was staying instantly. A wooden structure, shared between three of us, just the right dynamics of chats, learning about our differences and expectations en transit, keeping sweet vibes throughout and respecting each other’s time needs and privacy. I loved waking up surrounded by the alpine greenness of pnw. Got my Orca loaded, and picked my daily trips between jumping on the 35min bus journey to the city centre, or 35 min walk to the coast.
Seattle is where my journey begun, and where it ended.
I got caught on the rising tide on a private beach, I studied in the most quaint little library in Fremont, strolled in unexpected familiarity up and down University Way and experienced the awe of Japanese tourists in Suzzallo and Allen Libraries the setting of some of the Harry Potter scenes.
Seattle is the uber cool without the forced coolness. It is grounded, down to earth, green, gorgeous, creative and blatant.
I couldn’t have ever imagined Seattle would have made such a fundamental mark and given me so many beautiful memories from this two month trip, and without sparing any important details, I couldn’t have asked for more.
Other than to return, again and again to soak up the atmosphere before I move on again.
I would like to start this blogpost acknowledging this has been one changeable mood kind of a month.
It begun in semi frustration and acceptance: this is what we need to do and we commit to it. Blindfolded into commitment, no questions asked. Then days, then weeks passed. The exhaustion of changing habits in and out of home. The disappointment of realising you can’t walk into this pub, or straight into the shop, they are either shut, or there is a queue. You can’t hug your friend or pat the back of your neighbour. And that cycle route you always thought as the best, is out of bounds, too many runners using the tow path and daddies training their little ones to cycle. So forced into rediscovering your vicinity in new conditions, you get to become the tourist again, and that is cool.
Then the important stuff happening unnoticed until you think there’s value in the time you have saved from travelling and all the social stuff you can no longer do. So talking to friends and neighbours you end up rocking up to a community space in a church build on the ruins of one that was built in the 1600s, thinking you’re not the religious type but there are enough Muslim kids and white working class families about to take the edge off.
Next thing you’re committed and talking to new people. That guy is familiar, of course he is in and out of my block, and we chat, I hear the news and off we go.
Those who are organising everything, early on in the outbreak, with little knowledge of the impact yet without hesitation, they set up shop quickly. They asked and got donations, listened unjudgmentally to the community’s input, and attracted people of all ethnicities and faiths to help. They reassigned resources quickly. The initial food was delivered to 40 odd people three times a week and now it has grown to double of that.
Today, the last day of April feels like a halfway point on a long holiday. It’s been thrilling, confusing, too long, too short, too busy, and now seems to be going too fast and to be true, I don’t want it to end yet, but I do want to be able to make plans for the future.
Somehow the reality is: I can’t, and none of us can.
As we will gradually re-enter a version of normality in the coming months, there will be plenty of vulnerable people who will still not be able to leave their home. This help will not stop with our needs being met, and not until they have their fully met. It has been challenging at times running up and down unfamiliar estates, motivating oneself to get out, cover up, do your deed, run home, take everything off, clean everything, shower. Yet it’s been worth it. The smiles, the chats, the waves, the odd requests, or the kind wishes and offers. It all makes it so special.
This month has also been one where I covered nearly 200km cycling. It’s not a lot, however in addition to my training, and the bursting energy of spring colours and smells, there was plenty of visual richness to record.
The blog and the photos are dedicated to the community leaders, and those who need their swift action. They are being both my inspiration and motivation throughout the past six weeks and the very out of the ordinary month of April 2020.
Even more so, this month I hope does not go by forgotten. Everyone has been affected by it and I purposely included the empty canary wharf development. No one is immune to this and I hope this chance for a level playing field is finally grasped like the breath of fresh air we so much need.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, mindfulness, video calls, checking-in on friends and neighbours, social distancing and exercising, have become the norm of daily life prescriptions.
Recommendations on finding meaning in small things and appreciating the moment of what we have, to adjust from our fast paced life, have been a challenge for many. Yet, there is beauty around that for those operating in high levels of anxiety or to-do projects and achievement-oriented mentality, has been marginalised in view of personal gratifications and quick wins.
The Covid-19 situation has highlighted the reality of our unsustainable living, exemplified in shopping habits, sociopathic needs, drama karma, and neediness for external gratification.
Yet, the ample emergence of existing situations that have been in existence parallel to modern human material and immaterial condition, are increasingly claiming a place to the forefront of service and significance.
In the current re-adjustments of living and requirements new pressure points can afford us to look and really see.