Richard and I are not in our own flat yet but we do feel more settled in London now. We have grown quite fond of this corner in Crouch End which has a great Indian restaurant a few minutes down the road – we’ve eaten there twice so far! Also within walking distance are many small shops which stock a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables along with miscellaneous long-life goods. I’ve really enjoyed shopping at these kinds of places and market-style stalls. With basic supplies on hand, I have been able to cook a bit which is a relief. Most dinners now are eaten in, which feels a lot better than eating out all the time. Due to the very long days here at the moment, we can sometimes find ourselves eating dinner at nearly 8pm and still doing the dishes without turning any lights on. Days this long certainly feel glorious.
Almost all the stalls and shops here have beautiful eggplants/aubergines on sale and they’re one of my favourite vegetables (you may recall I ate a ridiculous amount in China). Finally I decided to buy one and make something that had a whisper of a caponata to it (I lacked some of the key ingredients but the feelings and emotions were there!). I needed an eggplant which could be obtained from a shop around the corner. At the counter my lonely aubergine seemed too small for an entire bag so I picked it up and carried it home. Let me tell you, a couple of hundred meters suddenly feels impossibly long when you’re carrying an aubergine in your hand! I felt so silly and many of the pedestrians and drivers probably thought so too given the strange looks I got. It’s like the “togs, togs, togs, undies” situation where the moment I was out of the shop, it made no sense to be walking with an eggplant and nothing else. I had only taken the house keys and a few coins in my pocket so I basically had nothing but a vegetable for company on the way home. Nevertheless, dinner satisfied my craving so I deemed to it totally worth looking like a weirdo.
While we are on the topic of produce I want to mention red onions. We purchased some during our first week here and were blown away by how sweet they were. After cooking for a brief time they kind of self-caramelise and become candy-sweet. This unexpected, but pleasantly workable, discovery led to a later meal of “caramelised” red onion, parma ham and comté cheese quesadillas (so international haha!).
The only thing we’re still adjusting to in terms of daily consumption is water. While we were told it is safe to drink tap water here, it tastes awful. Boiling it does not improve the taste either unfortunately. Even amongst the bottled water options we have to select mineral water because “spring” water tastes just like tap water. In saying that, some “mineral” water tastes bad too… I’ve been heartbreakingly buying Sainsbury’s bottled water which has a taste we can tolerate. The amount of plastic involved makes me feel awful and I hope when we get to a more permanent location we can have filter jugs and find other ways to avoid buying so much water. Sorry environment!
In between job searching, we have been able to fit in a couple more tourist activities. Most notably, we went to the Tower of London. It was a bit dreary and drizzly on the day we went but it was a ton of fun. We joined the first Yeoman/Beefeater tour of the day which was a delight. It is amazing to imagine the lives of these Yeomen who live and work inside the tower walls. Although as our guide noted, it did mean that at 10pm every night when the gates closed, they always knew where their children were!
There was a lot to see within the Tower walls which included earlier royal quarters, armories and where noble prisoners were kept. Throughout my childhood I had a fascination with the history of the monarchy here so finally seeing these places was incredible.
It was surreal to be inside the chapel where Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey were buried. The stories of the many people imprisoned and beheaded at the Tower felt suddenly very real in a way which left me rather speechless.
For our friends in the accounting and finance industries, we found this amazing tome.
It is a 914-page ledger (!) of receipts, returns and issues of items in the armories and Spanish weapon house in the Tower of London. Should you be interested, it covers the period from 21st June 1675 to 2nd September 1679. Fun times!
Inside the tower are also the Crown Jewels. Wow! Unfortunately no photographs were allowed but it wouldn’t have been worth the time anyway. There are plenty of nice photos on the internet and it was more about absorbing the grandeur of being inches away from those majestic pieces! The main attractions including the Queen’s sceptre, orb, and crowns, are lined up beside a slow travellator. We were conveyed past it all including the Koh-i-Noor and Cullinan II diamonds, and able to remain awestruck for a while before being jolted back to reality by the end of the travellator.
On a sunny day we also decided to finally visit The Monument to the Great Fire of London in 1666. It is a beautiful structure standing rather proudly in a bustling part of the city. Richard had come from an interview and very shortly after commencing the climb up 311 stairs, was regretting the decision to see this attraction in a suit. The stairs were wound tightly up the inside of the column and were incredibly narrow. It felt endless! I was the one eager to see this because I had been promised outstanding panoramic views of the city. We were let down because the whole viewing area was surrounded by metal wiring. No doubt this was totally warranted for safety, but it meant the view was somewhat disappointing.
The descent took longer than the climb because I felt like I was about to lose balance and topple down to the bottom. Some of your will know how clumsy I am and how poor my balance is. The amount of concentration I used to stay upright for the whole time was probably the most tiring part. With great patience, we made it out an even received a certificate to recognise our athletic achievement for the day.
On Saturday Richard and I decided to check out the Portobello Road Market. The market is open every day but Saturday is definitely the day to check out all the action. It was a blazing hot day and the market was jam packed almost the entire way. It is predominantly known for being an antiques market which was of passing interest to us – good to see once but I doubt we would go shopping there. Portobello road is long and the market stalls seem never-ending. The energy was great despite the sense of squishy-ness from the crowds. A portion of the market is dedicated to fresh produce as well and we greedily purchased a punnet of huge blackberries from one of the stalls. With great satisfaction we stood on the side of the road and consumed them all.
While not a tourist attraction, we spent half a day at IKEA. During our visit I heard a girl gush “I’ve never been happier than I am now!” I didn’t feel quite so strongly but only just short of that if I am going to be honest. I have been to IKEA stores twice before, once in Kuala Lumpur and once in Melbourne, but going again and actually being able to pick things to buy is mind-blowing. Everything is so customisable and it’s almost criminal how satisfying it is to see things fitting together perfectly. It’s crazy talk to be so excited by a homeware store but hopefully someone out there will understand.
For the first time, we also ate at IKEA. I had meatballs of course and was so pleasantly surprised at how appetising the flavour was. It felt like IKEA can do no wrong.
We didn’t buy anything on that particular visit but soon we will be in our own place which means it won’t be long before we can! We’re both incredibly excited at the prospect of moving in our own flat finally. While the process of getting our own place has been difficult and riddled with obstacles, we’ve hopefully managed to overcome them and can move in this Saturday. That should mean next time we can share photos of our home sweet home.