Mar 5, 2012

The Colours of London When the Skies Are Grey.

I'm learning fast about the weather in London.  The sunny days are a rare blessing.  I was lulled into a false sense of what spring in London meant when my first two days here were cool but sunny.  Fortunately, the rain is mostly a light shower than anything torrential at the moment.  Nothing that a mini umbrella and a strategically positioned hoodie can't handle.  The good thing about the rain for tourists like me is that the cloudy, grey skies added some interest to my holiday happy snaps by allowing the early spring colours at ground level to shine without any competition.

These posts are running the risk of sounding like paraphrased chapters of the Lonely Planet London (which I have faithfully adorned with labelled 3M coloured tabs and used the included map so many times already that it is wearing out in the folds).  So today, I'm just going to show you my favourite photos from Saturday and have a general chat.  I think it is actually Sunday morning in Australia so it will the perfect plan for a Sunday post.

My travels for the day were centred on two regions of London - the City and Notting Hill.

Tower of London as seen from the Trinity Square Gardens. 
I began at the Tower of London.  The Tower confronts you menacingly the moment you exit Tower Hill station.  It's really a fascinating place to visit and the audio tour is very informative.  Booking ahead online saves you heaps of time rather than buying a ticket on the day.  The Yeoman Warders conduct live tours several times a day but don't on rainy days.  I got to see both the Crown Jewels and the famous crows of the tower.  There are also exhibits about the various kings and queens who met gruesome ends here as well as the varied purposes the towers have served over time.

A view of the Tower Bridge from the Tower of London.
My favourite part of the visit though was being able to walk around the towers on my own.  If those walls could talk, what stories they could tell.  The differences in construction from one level to the next  are a reminder to me that the construction of the site began over 1000 years ago.

My one woman journey through all the cafe chains of London continued with a visit to Paul for lunch.  If you like your mochas made with actual melted chocolate, Paul is the place to go!

Paternoster Square, next to St Paul's Cathedral and home to a Paul outlet.  

St Paul's Cathedral is as beautiful inside as it is on the outside.  Aside from the intricate ceiling and the ornate carvings and sculpture, it is also a place of great spiritual beauty.  Not only is the cathedral a focus of Christian worship, it plays a greater role in British society by promoting the equality of all faiths and being a place that unites everyone in times of crisis such as after the London bombings or post 9/11.

Magically, we had sun by the afternoon.  Being the weekend, I took the opportunity to visit the Portobello Markets.

I clearly wasn't the only visitor who had that idea that day.  I think this hand written poster was an act of community service to spare the locals being hounded by market goers wondering why they still hadn't seen the market after taking about 5 steps out of the metro exit (myself included).

When your front door matches the blossoms of the tree in your garden, you know you're living on Portobello Road.
Where do I begin?  Whilst the Borough Market is my favourite for food, Portobello shines because of its location in a residential area which embraces colour with such conviction I'm sure that's the reason the sun shone on Saturday afternoon.

There are regular stores that line both side of Portobello Road but on the weekends, stall holders set up shop on the sidewalk in front of the permanent businesses.  Just about any antique or retro item you could need to decorate your house can be found somewhere along the road.

The markets were heaving by the time I got there in the early afternoon.  A leisurely browse was out of the question with so many people jostling along.

I'm going to abandon paragraphs for a bit and write captions instead. I think it tells the Portobello story a little better this way.

A range of door knobs from Chloe Albery, door fitting specialist.

The colours of the union jack reflected in the paintwork of these two shops.
Brass candlesticks glinting in the sun.  Very Oliver Twist.
A silver tea service on a stall holder's card table.

A table of vintage cameras.  Perhaps I can call them a Kodak of cameras.

A wall of Singer sewing machines in the local branch of All Saints,  a local clothing chain.

This yellow bicycle is clearly for display purposes only, no room on the road for a quick ride on market day.

Just your usual vintage jackets, satchels and gas masks...

Cupcakes iced to match the buildings.

I'm just going to call these honky horns.

The paella stall was doing a roaring trade.  Chicken outselling seafood by a ratio of 4:1.

The Primrose Bakery cup cake store was down this stretch of the road but it was too crowded to get in.

This time hand bags to match the buildings.

Even travel is a colourful activity in this neighbourhood.

The window display of the local pizza bar.

Legs Britannia. 

A wooden floorboard and letter store.  I have no idea what the two have in common but it seems to work.

My Portobello strawberries.  They were as sweet and juicy as they look here.

Okay, that's it from me for today.  I've had my afternoon cup of PG tips and now it's time for an afternoon nap.


  1. Oh I would so love to go back to London. Wonderful photos. Thank you.

  2. The Distressed MotherMarch 5, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Looks like you're having a fab time!  I have friends living in that neighbourhood and they're never planning on coming home. 

    TDM xx 

  3. I love Portobello Road markets...not the crowds though. I bought a candle snuffer from there back in 2000. 

  4. CanberracitygirlMarch 5, 2012 at 9:05 PM

    When I was 16 and travelling with my parents we went to Portobello Road and I bought a pale pink pashmina. I still love it, despite the fact pashmina's went out of fashion ages ago (probably before I even bought it!). Mr C literally just booked flights back to Europe in July - your posts have been "research". My credit card is helpless. 

  5. Sarah, Semi ExpatMarch 5, 2012 at 10:42 PM

    Great photographs and fab write up. I am feeling all homesick!! Particularly love those antique cases. And yes, PAUL is a great cafe/chain - really yummy delights to eat and coffee not bad either. xx


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