Londonness - The Accidental Awesomeness of Brixton

This week I'm going to ramble on a bit about my recent trip to London. Since I'd never been before (and neither had my travel partner), and we didn't do too much researching beforehand, it was an exciting land full of adventure to be had. Or, you could say I was just being lazy by not learning that much about it before embarking on our trip. ANYWAY.

One of the first things we did before leaving was check out cheap places to stay. Sure, we could've jumped around from place to place, in and around London, but we both agreed we'd prefer to be in one place for the entire stay and venture out from there. Our home base ended up being in Brixton, based on a super awesome place we found on AirBNB.

All I knew about Brixton going in was entirely based on Attack the Block, a fun movie about aliens attacking a neighborhood band of hoodlums. So, y'know, I was ready. When we arrived on a pleasantly overcast Friday morning, fresh from over 24 hours without sleep, we were thrilled to discover the Brixton Underground station to be just right around the corner from our new flat. Unfortunately, it was about 11:00am London time and we couldn't check in until 3:00pm. So we picked a street and dragged our luggage until we found a quaint coffee shop called Opus to plunk ourselves down in and siphon off some of their free wifi. We stayed long enough to discover there was a pub right across the street, and swapped our coffee cups for wine glasses.

The next day we decided to experience the Brixton Market, a large winding string of outdoor vendors of everything you could imagine. Lots of fish, lots of scarves, suitcases, even VHS tapes. More fish. We lingered under the false promises that a fashion show was about to happen, but when it was over an hour overdue we instead chose to go further into the thick of Brixton Market. We went through a secret passageway (okay, it was an archway called "Brixton Village") which took us into enclosed section. At first we assumed it was just an extension of the market but oh no, it included so much more! Tons of tiny boutiques and restaurants boasting local, gourmet meals, all tucked away into a winding series of aisles.

As soon as we knew it was there, it became a regular stop throughout our entire stay. Although I never got to the magical upper level of this one wine shop called "The Cheese Room" (WHAT COULD BE MORE MAGICAL??), we did nab breakfast at a charming gluten-free bakery called WAGfree, snag a much desired seat at the Brick Box restaurant (which had gluten-free crepes), and on our last night managed to get into the uber-popular sourdough pizza restaurant Franco Manca. All places had fast, friendly service and yummy food. Since our typical style of travelling was to wander down the wrong street and miss out on all cool things that happened to be one block over, we couldn't believe our luck at finding this happening area.

Across from Brixton Village, another restaurant that boasted a good mixture of happy hour cocktails and french-inspired food was the Market House. Unfortunately we only went here on our last day, but we did make sure to do it twice. A little up the street from there was The Prince pub, which had a great cheese plate and enough tables/chairs that on the jampacked weekend nights we could still be sure to find a seat. Our closest pub, which had 2 cats and boardgames (and therefore became our favorite) was Trinity Arms. It was small, cozy, and neighborhood-y enough to make us Yankee tourists feel welcome.

I just realized that I'm already mentioning a LOT of the pubs we went to, and this isn't even my pubs post! That's later in the week. Clearly, a lot of our "London Activities" involved just sitting around drinking in various places. Don't judge.

So if you want a friendly, hip, up-and-coming city in south London to visit, I couldn't recommend Brixton enough. Its citizens seem to care a lot about making Brixton better and better, and they've clearly already done a bang-up job.

Tune in tomorrow, when I go more into detail of trying to travel on a ridiculous diet, like the Low FODMAPs one I have!

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I Prefer Awkward

Recently my boyfriend and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary awkward-style: by going to a B&B.

For those of you not in the know, B&B's stand for Bed and Breakfast, and are the perfect culmination of everything you could find terrifying about going on a vacation. That, instead of going to a nice, private, secluded hotel where no one bothers you unless you ask them to, you go to stay with one of your relatives. A relative so distant that you don't know them at all, and you pad around their house and sleep in one of their beds and have them wait on you and serve you breakfast. Any small talk you manage to make is extremely forced, and you can't help but notice that each night they are sleeping under the same roof as you. Shoes must be worn at all times, especially when venturing out of your room (terrifying) in the middle of the night to get a glass of water or (horrors!) use the bathroom. Yes, you are paying to feel uncomfortable in someone else's home.

I've managed to survive many years of B&B's with just this simple mantra: Bring on the awkward. My parents introduced my brother and I to B&B's by throwing us headfirst into a series of them while we were vacationing in Scotland. I was 19, my brother was 22. We were completely foreign to the concept of inviting ourselves over to another family's house and forcing them to make room for us. In Scotland we experienced the full range - from a big B&B complete with unlimited, hotel-esque breakfast ... to the one place you could stay on a tiny island where "my mother's ancestors came from" and based on the icy welcome we received, my brother and I stayed up the whole night waiting to be stabbed. Luckily all the B&B's in between (we were there for a while and my parents liked to jump to a new place every night) were amazing, and the Scots proved to be incredibly warm, generous hosts.

But I digress. Here's why I've come to love B&B's:

  • It's just fun to get away. Yes, even if sometimes it's weird sneaking around someone else's house, it's fun to be a part of that house's history for a blip in time. Most B&B's I prefer are older and creekier, which adds to the fun.
  • I like thinking of them as haunted, as long as they're not actually being haunted. If there are more than a specific number of dolls around (i.e. one) you should probably rethink your stay. Just saying. Wood carved cherubs are okay though.
  • Some of them are suprisingly gorgeous, and worth any amount of time you feel obligated to hang out in the hallway and make small talk with your host. We once stayed at the 1890 Caroline House in Fredericksburg, VA and got our own private suite - complete with a HUGE tub, a fireplace spanning two rooms, and a comfy sitting room. Although, I have to admit, my favorite part was each morning when the hostess brought out a series of elaborate, lovely meals full of food my boyfriend didn't eat. Every time she left the room he'd hiss "TAKE THESE STRAWBERRIES!!", all panicky. Good times.
  • Embracing the local history of the place you're in, even if it's just up the road, is part of the point. And you get to be as cheesy exploring that place as you want - strap on the fanny pack, attach a cell phone to your belt.
  • Chatting with other couples/not making new friends. Remember when you're B&B'ing it, you have permission to not be yourself, and to say things you'd never normally say. "This crepe is divine!" "I can honestly say I love this wicker!" "Where did you find that statue of a boy peeing?" And by all means, be pleasant with the locals/hosts/other guests. Just ... y'know, remember when you get back home you might realize you really don't like talking about golf, and that was the one thing you had in common with that couple.

If I had to stress out about whether or not I'd feel comfortable at a particular B&B or naturally click with the host/ess, I'd never go! And I would've missed out on waking up one fine autumn morning, in the attic bedroom of a large old house, heading downstairs expecting breakfast and encountering instead ... PILES OF DOLLS.

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