Everyday London

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig, home again, home again, jiggety-jig! ………….

…………… well actually, we didn’t buy any fat pigs (the customs patrol at the airport would have frowned on that), though we did return home with a suitcase full of fun and distinctively unusual things (to the average tourist) after a ten day visit with our daughter and her family in London, including a short getaway to Cornwall, England.

Being an island, England has wonderful sea salt and we always pick up enough Maldon Sea Salt to give as gifts and to keep us cooking till we return. Maldon, England is only 50 miles north of London and so this chef’s choice salt is very inexpensive and readily available at every grocery store. With Cornwall surrounded by the sea on three sides, the Cornish are also famous for their salt, so a few containers of Cornish Sea Salt were tucked away among our other stash.

There’s also unique glassware, fun bowls and miscellaneous “treasures” from the many charity shops (the equivalent of our thrift stores, but tiny, quaint and definitely one-of-a-kind) that line the streets of London. I have hard time passing by them without taking a quick browse ………….. you just never know what you’ll discover (plus they are among the few shops I can afford in London!).

Probably the strangest thing that found its way into our suitcases on this visit was thirteen pounds of Cornish slate! Slate? Oh yes, we fell in love with some slate place mats while in Cornwall and knew they’d be a lovely prop background for our Café photography. Be on the lookout, you’ll be sure to spot these in future posts! The only problem was for poor Scott; we divided the four pieces between our two carry-on bags and, being the gentleman that he is, he’s the one who hoisted those slate-laden bags into the airline’s overhead bin!

Since we arrived home on Sunday, I’ve been to the grocery store, stocked the cupboards and my oven, dishwasher and KitchenAid are quite pleased to be back in commission after a ten day sabbatical. We’ve got a ton of Fall and holiday recipes planned for the weeks ahead, but we thought, along with a peek into our suitcases, we’d give you a glimpse of everyday life in London. Nothing fancy or touristy, just a few of the unique aspects of ordinary life in this bustling city of 8 million. …………….

Each morning, rain or shine, we walk the girls to school. It’s about a mile by the time we get them all delivered. There are no school buses in London, and traffic is so crazy that driving to school makes no sense at all. Solution? Scooters. Most London children start “scooting” when they’re around 2 years old. If one had to walk everywhere with the children’s short little legs and pokey ways, life would take forever. On their scooters however, I have to run to keep up with them!! Mum has them well trained though; each time they get to a intersection, large or small, they know to wait for the adults to help them cross the busy London streets.

In the past, I was always a bit envious of the children flying down the street on their scooters. It looked like such fun. Annie, got a new scooter just before we arrived this time and it can bear an adult’s weight! She so kindly allowed me to borrow it and I loved it! Even Papa Scott thought it was quite cool to scoot!

We scooted all over the place with one of our escapades taking us right 
through an ancient cemetery on the way to church.

Because of the crazy traffic, another very common and popular mode of transportation are bicycles. Our son-in-law, Josh, rides his bike to work every day, 8 miles, right through the heart of London traffic. It worried me at first, but London drivers are highly trained to always be on the lookout for bicyclers and motorscooters, since there are so many. In fact, drivers are taught and trained to continuously check all of their mirrors while driving, mostly due to the abundance of cyclists on the roads.

Our daughter, Cait, travels all over London on her bike. 
It’s nothing for her to pedal here, there and everywhere.

 If I’m biking with her, I just keep my eyes glued to her and copy every move she makes.
There are all kinds of cool contraptions for bikes to carry children and supplies. This woman has four children and transports them to and from school on the front of her bike!
Oh, and if you don’t have your own bicycle in London, no worries. They have these awesome self-service bike rental stands all over the place. If you ride for an hour or less, it’s free with a nominal fee after that. You can start in one area of London and drop the bike off any place you see another Barclay rental stand. So cool.
We love to rent these bikes and pedal all through Hyde Park, around the Serpentine, past the Round Pond and alongside Kensington Palace. There’s so much fun to be had in London without spending much money!

The Thames is just a ten minute walk from our daughter’s home. We love to stroll along the pathways that line the river with lovely hundred year old tree branches shading our journey. 
Cait was on a crew (rowing team) in college. She’s taken up the sport again, this time on the historic Thames River. We were able to catch some shots of her one day during her rowing training. To me, she’s quite brave, as the thought of taking a spill into the murky Thames would have me shaking in my boots ……………. but not this girl!!

We also happened to be in London for some fun events the girls were involved in …………..

A carnival at the school. The girls were all given a ration of tickets. The big girls were very cautious and careful about how they spent their tickets, weighing each choice with great thought. Not dear little Lilly! She saw the face-painting booth and plunked down most of her tickets without a care. I do have to say the results were quite fun and lovely. 
She was delighted when she looked in the mirror!

Elle had a blast jumping, but only had to give up two of her precious tickets!

Annie’s first net ball competition. Netball is a common sport for elementary-age girls in London. It’s a bit like basketball minus the dribbling, but there’s lots of tricky throwing and catching. Annie was excited to be involved with her first team sport 
and it was fun for us to experience it with her.

Because the houses are primarily tall, attached row houses in London, most families have little or no yards (gardens) for children to play in. The British solution? Tons of beautiful parks.

We love to walk to the nearby parks and let the girls blow off their energy. 
It’s also a fun place for us to people-watch and learn more about British customs and lifestyle.

Then there are the amazing markets. Open air markets are scattered all over London with the freshest, most delicious produce at extremely reasonable prices. I’m becoming quite well known at the market near our daughter’s house. Everything is priced at just one pound for a whole bowlful. That’s about $1.60 in US dollars. A whole bowl of perfectly ripe figs, two huge bunches of carrots, a humungous cauliflower, two cartons of plump raspberries, 3 fresh pineapples, a large bowlful of the prettiest tomatoes ever, I could go on and on, but each one is priced at one pound. I often loose my brains at these markets. It’s so fun though! Can you see why?

There’s so much more to share about everyday life in London, but I’ll stop for now, since you and I both have lots to do. I’ll leave you with a view from our tiny, charming room, way up on the 4th floor of our daughter’s home. We have a wonderful vista; London rooftops, church steeples and a few modern skyscrapers. Some might not think it too exciting, but for Scott and me, it’s  quite enchanting. We call it our “Mary Poppin’s” room and every time I look out at the slanted rooftop windows, I expect to see a chimney sweep. I always get the urge to start singing:

Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey 
Chim chim cher-ee!
A sweep is as lucky, as lucky can be,
Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey 
Chim chim cher-oo!
Good luck will rub off when I shakes ‘ands with you! 

Be sure to check back on Friday. We’ll be sharing just a touch more of our trip with a delicious Roasted Veggie Coconut Curry our daughter prepared for us on our first evening in London. It’s loaded with wonderful veggies and fabulous flavor. I begged her to make it again before we left and we used that fun purple cauliflower you see in the photo above. Scott snapped a few photos of it up in the Mary Poppin’s room, the only place that still had decent light. Annie was our photo shoot assistant, and a very good one at that!

You’ll love it!!



46 thoughts on “Everyday London”

  • Wow, what a lovely trip, thanks for sharing these photo of it, I feel like I was right there with you. You have such a beautiful family too. I love that everyone rides bikes if Americans did that we would be much skinnier here and healthier.

  • Wow, I wish I could have experienced that lovely trip in person, but so happy you shared all these gorgeous pictures with us! It is so interesting how everyone rides their bikes, but makes a lot of sense too! I love all the smiles, and pure happiness, so beautiful! Hugs, Terra

  • Thanks for sharing the beautiful photographs. Now after seeing Papa Scott on the scooter, I realized sweet Lily favors her grandpa. (this is from great-aunt Melanie).

  • Amazing photos! I love, love, love the one of you riding scooters with the grandkids. The photo of your daughter and the girls is darling too.

  • These are gorgeous photos – you have captured London -and your gals- so well!
    Love the bike rental stands and open markets!
    Looking forward to seeing the slate placemats soon 🙂

  • Thanks to all of you for all your kindness and for sharing our adventures, it wouldn’t be as much fun without you!

  • Oh my goodness! What a beautiful beautiful family! You are a wonderful grandma. I loved seeing all these pictures…it made me miss our time in London. Thank you for sharing this with us. The happiness just emanates off the screen!

  • Oh Chris ~ what a DELIGHTFUL post! I enjoyed it so much, gorgeous photos and what a beautiful family you have — I agree with Nana/Monique just above… great genes! 😀 This was a fun mini-vacation for me, thank you so much. xo

  • Chris you are possibly the coolest and cutest grandma around! What beautiful photos and I can’t believe the little man is so grown up already. Wasn’t he only born two seconds ago?!?
    Now…. a bowl of raspberries for $1.60?!?! I may have to fly all the way there just for those!

  • You’ve had such a great time, and because you shared it with us, we did too. Great pictures! Love the idea of the slate, BTW. Where I live quite a few houses have slate roofs. I’ve been eyeing them lately, and thinking how pretty they are. I haven’t gotten around to finding any actual slate yet myself, but it’s one of those ideas I’ve been thinking about, too. Can’t wait to see your pictures using it as a background!

  • Aren’t you the coolest Grandma ever, scooting down the road with your girls? So cute! Love these gorgeous photos. Do you think you’d ever move there? I mean, isn’t it hard to leave? It’s so beautiful! Or is that just your husband’s photography skills fooling me? 😉

    • That’s a great question Veronica. I don’t think we’d be moving there but we sure love to visit! We do have a little sweetheart right here in Raleigh, so that’s a lot of fun too!

  • Your grandchildren are gorgeous!! and thanks SO much for “taking” us with you to London – I do love to go back!!
    Mary x

  • I Love the family pics..
    What genes!!!
    It’s so funny we had Oli (4) all day today..since 9..and I took pics of him on his bike..and with ducks etc..they are such munchkins and make my heart sing.
    Every single one of you is beautiful:)
    I guess I should look at the recipe now..
    🙂

  • I love, love the top photo of you and your grandchildren on scooters! They must be thrilled when you come to visit…you packed a lot of fun into your London time 🙂

  • Thank you for this post! I enjoyed reading about everyday life in London. I went one time when I was 18, but now I really want to go back again!! I just love your recipes (especially your soups) and your blog. Thanks!!

  • Hi Chris, what a lovely post! You made me smile with the opening line: to market, to market… I “sing” it each time I go to the Farmer’s Market here in town. 🙂 The scooters, I think I am going shopping for one now! I was thinking of it for some time as Seattle has this crazy traffic and public transportation is a way to go, although sometimes you need to cover quite a great distance to a bus stop. I am inspired by your post! I am glad to be back to blogging and see all my friends! Looking forward for this delicious Roasted Veggie Coconut Curry! 🙂

  • Thus is my favorite post of yours EVER!!!! Your family is just beautiful, and I LOVE touring around with you. Your stories about the bikes are so interesting, I had no idea! And also that there are no school buses! The children’s laughing faces are just wonderful! And my, that boat is so long!! She IS brave!! I think my favorite picture today is the wonderful one of all of you on the scooters laughing, AWESOME!!!!

  • Chris, thanks for sharing all the beautiful, and fun photos, love the idea of the bicycle rentals…would certainly take up that offer if/when visiting London. Your daughter and granddaughters are truly sweet and beautiful, and the market photos just blowing me away, Those purple cauliflowers are unreal, and the olives selection…oh, my! You all are glowing with happiness and joy…a ‘lifetime full’ of amazing memories! xo

  • What a lovely post and such beautiful family photos! Love the scooting ones especially, and I love your positive take on this big old town! I live here and love the parks too, they are essential if you don’t have a garden. I’m curious as to the market with the £1 bowls of fruit and veg and the purple caulies, would you mind hinting whereabouts this market is? Looking forward to the veggie curry recipe, the shot looks amazing.

    • Hi Chris, thank you so much for the information about the market and the helpful tip about the street, I had figured the general area (a lovely part of London) but had not heard of this market. It’s on my list now as I also love the markets here, like you!

    • Hi Danielle. thanks so much for your kind words! We just love your city, as you can tell. 🙂 The market that’s not far from my daughter’s home, is the North End Road Market. It’s open every day except Sunday and if you haven’t been there, it’s just amazing! That street is also lined with really interesting ethnic grocers, bakeries and meat markets. It’s so fun!

    • Thanks so much Danielle! If you go to North End Market, the best day is Saturday as all the vendors are there 🙂

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