28-30 degrees celcius all week. It’s London, so we gotta talk about the weather! It’s marvellous currently – and every capable Londoner and tourist of every age is out to celebrate it. From sunrise till way past sunset, every park, plaza, pavement, bike-lane and pub with outdoor service is brimming with life, colourful clothes and laughter…
Shoreditch, Thames, Chelsea, South Ken, Hyde Park, Mayfair, Marylebone, Regents Park, Primrose Hill, Angel. As Monday is a bank holiday, I’m free to roam around and smile at all of my favourite spots in London all day, and as the coming days are going to be quite social, both in terms of work (I’m used to working in my own little bubble; this week, work is interactive) and pleasure (daily breakfast, lunch and dinner dates with friends), I’ve purposefully not made any social plans – until tonight. I want today to be all about London. As such, I meander around the narrow cobbled streets of Spitalfields and Shoreditch in the early morning hours when the city is just coming alive. So many memories attached to each street, each corner, each vantage point. Various scenarios, times of the day, companions, states of mind, seasons. Past the entrance to Shoreditch House, where people are queuing with their swimwear to be able to grab a sun bed by the rooftop pool as soon as the club opens, turning right onto Redchurch Street, one of my very favourite streets, grabbing a coffee at Allpress, where I’ve had soooo many breakfast meetings in the past, and up past my old house on Swanfield Street. Yes, Shoreditch is gentrified and identikit hip; yes, it’s way cooler in a way quirkier way further East. BUT, this used to be my stomping ground and it still has got that same energy I first fell for seven years ago when moving here. Having continued down Columbia Road and past Hackney City Farm, I bump into two friends by Broadway Market! As they both travel extensively, I hadn’t told them I was going to be here: we’re equally surprised to see each other here. Happily so! Big hugs and a walk along the canal to catch up, cheerfully, confidentially, quickly… After 15-20 minutes, when we’ve reached Kingsland Road, I hug them farewell and cycle down the road to have breakfast (by now it’s 8am) at Ace Hotel’s beautiful Hoi Polloi, recalling that morning three years ago when my brother, parents and I were breakfasting here before boarding Queen Mary II to cross the Atlantic; that other morning when my flatmate and I had Sunday lunch here when suddenly a brass band started to play right by our table; all of those times I’ve met friends for coffee or cocktails in Ace’s lobby bar; all of those times I’ve worked from the long table in the lobby – something that still seems to be equally as popular as it was 2 years ago. Ahh. From here I cycle down past Bank and St Paul’s and westbound along the Thames. I know where I long to go, but I also want to be spontaneous and open to sudden inspirations. Thankfully, I don’t have to look at a map – I can explore and go down roads I haven’t travelled along before, but I always have a general idea of where I am. As such, I pass myriads of holidaying locals and tourists on my way past Big Ben and Westminster Abbey to get to Sloane Square. Check out what’s new at the Saatchi, my all time favourite gallery. Admire for the 100th time those quaint little streets between Chelsea and South Ken. Catch the thought-provoking, very illustrative and well-curated Fashioned from Nature exhibit at the V&A. Smile at the kids playing in the courtyard fountain at the gallery. Walk through Hyde Park, where thousands and thousands of people of all ages are lounging and frolicking on the lawns, bathing in the lido, sailing on the lake and sipping aperol spritz and Pimm’s at the cafes. Healthy, hearty lunch at Deliciously Ella in Mayfair. Wander up through Marylebone High Street and buy I’ll Give You the Sun in Daunt Books, the most beautiful old bookshop I know, ‘for readers who like to travel and travellers who like to read.’ From here, my journey continues up through Regent’s Park, equally as vibrant as its sister further south, to get to my favourite favourite spot in all of London, Primrose Hill. I climb to the top, gaze across the skyline and settle down in the grass with my book, listen to snippets of conversations among the picnickers and sunbathers around me, stretch my body and just allow myself to breathe deeply and think slowly. Ahh. Again, tonnes of memories fill my mind – hanging out with the girls here on hungover Sunday afternoons, showing this special place to my parents when they’d visit, early morning yoga classes with a friend down on Regent’s Park Road. Now I’m here. Viewing, sensing, hearing, smelling London from here. I flick through my book, but then close my eyes for a bit to slow down the sensory overload. It has been a pretty full-on day. In the early evening, I cycle down through Camden and past Kings Cross to get to Angel and zigzag through two other favourites, Upper Street and Camden Passage. There is something special about these two streets – they are lively and beautiful and romantic; they used to make me feel proud of having made London my home. I could keep exploring the inexhaustible city and keep returning to these two streets for a familiar embrace. I remember once picking up a Christmas package sent by my mum at the post office just off Upper Street. How much I missed her, but how at home I simultaneously felt right here – at Christmas, in spring, in summer, in autumn. (All of this nostalgia reminds me to also remember to appreciate how well I feel in Singapore.) My legs know the way down along the canal, where so many people are hanging out in the golden hour, and back to meet the friend, with whom I’m staying, at her flat. We have dinner at the organic gastro pub, Duke of Cambridge, enjoying the gorgeous summery night, with a glass of rose, of course, and then head back home to watch The Great British Bake Off until we fall asleep. Pretty damn dreamy day!
Shoreditch, Soho, Chancery Lane, Tower Bridge. The morning sunlight spills in through the window of my friend’s living room in Angel, where I sleep on the sofa for the 100th time, and wakes me up at 7am: time to walk along the canal and pretty terraced houses to get to Shoreditch Grind, where I down a cold brew coffee in the stark light flooding the glass walls of the cafe while gazing out on the myriads of people emerging from the multiple exits of the roundabout’s tube station to start their day in the Silicon Valley of London, and then to Ozone, where I meet a friend for breakfast, also at a window seat. From there, we move over to Renzo for another coffee, sitting on a bench outside the artsy cafe and chatting about California (where her boyfriend just moved), Singapore (where she and her boyfriend visited me a few weeks ago), life, love and books: she gives me a copy of The Perfume Collector, which she just read and loved. So sweet! From there, I cycle to work and find that the Shoreditch-to-Soho cycling crowd has tripled since I lived here! Or maybe it’s just due to the weather. There are even skateboarders amongst us! I love my beautiful office on Soho Square – to think that I can just come here and belong. Happy reunion with colleagues. Pop out for lunch with a friend from Singapore in a small park near Chancery Lane – I love all of the healthy, freshly-made takeaway lunch options in this city! I miss her in Singapore, and am happy to see that she’s definitely thriving with her decision of moving back here – she almost makes me wonder if we should do the same, haha. At some point, perhaps! At night, after an afternoon with back-to-back meetings and 1:1 catch-ups at the office, I cycle down through Soho and Covent Garden, cross over Waterloo Bridge (my favourite Thames bridge!), and, as per my own tradition, stop midway over to properly take in the magnificent view of the skyline popping up on both sides of the bridge, turn left on the south side and then go straight until I reach the Greater London Assembly by Tower Bridge, where the first English friend I met in London is waiting for me. We buy picnic items in Sainsbury’s and find a spot on the lawn by the iconic bridge to drink our rosé, eat our buckets of hummus and talk, talk, talk, talk… she and I used to work together, and we’ve been travelling quite a bit together as well: holiday in New York, skiing in France, visiting her parents in Cornwall and my parents in Denmark. Importantly, whenever we meet, we just pick up where we left off – it’s never a matter of having to find each other again. So easy. Hours later, I’ve got a big, thankful smile on my face as I cross London Bridge and an office building right next to it where I spent 3 years of my life working 8-8 five days a week and continue up past Bank and Shoreditch Roundabout to get back to Angel – to watch more of The Great British Bake Off with my friend. I am really at home.
Marylebone, Covent Garden, Notting Hill. At 5:15am on Wednesday, I cycle through the quiet golden hour to get to a fun, demanding 6:15am class at XtendBarre on Marylebone High Street. Wish I’d known about barre when I lived here, haha!! I do now. And it’s fun to experience different methods and styles all over the world – and nice to find that no matter whether it’s in Byron Bay, Santa Barbara, Hong Kong or Copenhagen, barre is the right exercise form for me and always led by sweet, knowledgeable, dedicated teachers in beautiful studios. At 8am, I meet three friends for breakfast at stylish, warm, calm Abuelo in Covent Garden – one flew in from Quebec, one flew in from Boston and one drove in from Richmond to make it for our fresh, organic meal and perfect craft coffee, haha. At lunch, my team and I pick out food from Berwick Street Market (I always get the falafel wrap!) to eat in the sun on the roof terrace of our office building. After work, I cycle along Hyde Park to meet a friend for dinner at The Oak in Notting Hill. On every bit of the way that runs through this day, I soak in the distinctive Londonesque impressions … One of the most exciting and romantic cities I know, and so composite.
Angel, Soho, Marylebone, Clerkenwell. Thursday, I meet one old flatmate for breakfast at the Breakfast Club in Angel, another old flatmate for lunch at Sourced Market in Marylebone, two colleagues for after-work drinks at Boston in Soho and two previous colleagues for dinner at Moro, Exmouth Market. As on the other days, everyone is super present and sweet. Some, I catch up with regularly, while others I don’t, but regardlessly, all of the conversations this week flow so easily, confirming, if I needed it, that friendships transgress geographical distances. In-between all of those treats, I actually manage to get a lot of good work done with my team on Soho Square. Whilst I enjoy working remotely and find it easy to communicate online, there’s obviously something quite irreplaceable about being able to talk to your colleagues directly, in person, right when you need or want to, rather than through email, instant messaging or scheduled video calls. Ever so often, at least. 4 days of condensed London happiness – a lovely synergy of impactful work and pleasure in various well-known parts of this wonderful, dynamic city. I know that there’s so much more to learn about these areas – and that beyond them there are so many areas I don’t even know… but for a 4-day work-trip, it feels good to have stuck with what’s familiar. I’ve done a lot, but it’s all been in a good, natural flow.
Frederikshøj. On Friday night, my brother, parents and I enjoy a completely incredible 12-course dinner with a splendid view of the Aarhus Bay. Probably the most spectacular, creative and memorable dining experience I’ve ever had, in beautiful surroundings and served with impeccable care and attention to detail. Given the elaborate nature of the meal, which is accompanied by a thoughtful “drivers’ wine menu,” meaning that we only get half a glass of wine perfectly paired with each dish, it stretches over 5-6 hours, giving us plenty of opportunity to talk, laugh and really enjoy each other’s company.
Saturday. Whereas the cherry trees in Copenhagen and other urban areas were blooming a few weeks ago, the ones outside my parents’ house in Juelsminde are late bloomers – they turned pink when I was in London, and as I go for a morning walk on Saturday, I pick up some fallen bouquets from the lawn below the gorgeous vista and give them to my mum as a Mother’s Day gift along with prettily packaged Doisy & Dam chocolate bars from London and the newest German edition of one of my favourite lifestyle magazines, Flow. We spend the day walking on the beach, chilling on the balcony, working on various passion projects. For lunch, we have my mum’s delicious homemade bread and salad with mango and coriander. At tea time, she serves her homemade vegan chocolate cake. For my evening train ride to Copenhagen, she provides homemade sandwiches – and three small pieces of the cake as well. It sucks to say goodbye, but I’ll see them very soon again. As the train rolls through the beautiful spring-green country, I edit my friend’s master thesis – and continue the work when I get to her place in Frederiksberg, both os us glued to our laptops in her cosy living room. I stay over at her place, and early next morning we continue the work, chatting briefly now and then, both so glad we get to do this.
Rist with Rockpaper. At 9am, I say goodbye to my friend and pop down around the corner to Rist in Værnedamsvej, where I’m meeting Cathrine of the Danish lifestyle blog Rock Paper Dresses for the first time. I translate her writings into English so we email each other on a pretty regular basis, like pen-pals. As we eat our soft-boiled eggs with rye bread and drink a good flat white, I discover that she’s just as sweet, smart, curious and altogether lovely in real life as in writing. We get along really well, and when I have to leave for Singapore, she and her cute pug Frida walk me to the nearest station. As with the friend I stayed with overnight, and all of the friends I’ve been catching up with in Europe over the past two sunshiny weeks, this is such an energising meeting. Fuelling me with warmth and inspiration for the long afternoon / night flight to Southeast Asia.