11 February 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: The Roasting Shed, Hackney Wick

After a cold, rainy January in London, 1 February was a gorgeous sunny day. For once, I'd picked a good day to take off work. Of course, with the UK in lockdown, my opportunities for fun were somewhat limited, but I did get back on my bike for the first time in a few weeks, and cycle to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hackney Wick, a straightforward ride along Cycle Superhighway 2. I wasn't planning on making a coffee stop, but when I was about to head home, I happened upon The Roasting Shed's Hackney Bridge location. I knew the espresso bar was in the area but had managed not to add it to my Google Map.

26 January 2021

Lighting Up London Lockdown at Connected by Light, Canary Wharf

Although London is in lockdown for the foreseeable, we are at least still allowed to go out for exercise once per day and despite the cold, grey weather, I've been going for a walk, run or cycle ride every day. Well, as I'm still a fair-weather cyclist, I've mainly been walking and running, which does limit the places within a reasonable distance. Much as I love running west along the river from Tower Bridge, close to where I live, I have done the same loop about 150 times in the past year and so I've been looking for some other options.

13 January 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: District, Nine Elms

While the UK remains in lockdown, I have still been able to seize small moments of joy by getting a takeaway coffee while on my allotted daily exercise. Last week, my walk-of-the-day took me to Nine Elms where I was able to visit the closest of District's three Aussie-inspired cafes; the other two locations are in Parsons Green and Mayfair. Unsurprisingly, I've missed travelling a great deal over the past year, so it was nice to take the opportunity to visit a small piece of Australia rather closer to home.

8 January 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: Frequency Coffee, Angel

The original Frequency Coffee has long been a favourite of mine, and its King's Cross location was convenient for my office. Of course, working from home last year — and for the foreseeable — has meant I haven't been able to visit owner Justo and his team as often as usual. But when I stopped by on a staycation day in November, I found out that Justo was soon going to be opening a second branch, on Camden Passage in Islington.

4 January 2021

At Six by Nico, a Festive Dinner in Six Parts

Before Christmas and when restaurants were still open in London, I was able to get a table at the London location of Six by Nico. Nico Simeone's small family of restaurants are currently located in six UK cities (the original was in Glasgow) and specialise in themed, six-course tasting menus priced at an extremely reasonable £35. The restaurants are currently closed but will hopefully be back again soon when restrictions ease with another exciting theme.

31 December 2020

My Top 5 Books of 2020

This is the last of my 2020 round-up posts, and highlights my favourite five books that I've read this year. My reading habits changed as much as my travel habits this year, and I've read far fewer books than last year: 94, in total. I used to read for pleasure mainly on my bus ride into the office and when travelling. I've technically had more time this year, but I've tended to use it for other hobbies, like writing (my own novel is now technically finished after I wrote the final 30,000 words this year) and doom-scrolling. I also got stuck on Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light for several weeks, which I did enjoy but felt it should have been 200 pages shorter. Il Decameron is a pretty hefty read too, even in English, rather than the Italian original I studied at university, but its Black Death setting and black humour felt apt for this year. 

Spotted in Rye, Sussex

30 December 2020

Five Travel Stories from 2020

Despite it being a leap year, 2020 hasn't been a year where I've felt like leaping much, what with one thing and another. As such, my annual travel round-up post, where I highlight some of my favourite places for leaping that I've visited that year, has had a bit of a revamp. In January, I had seven international trips booked, but only completes one, to New York and Seattle, before the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the others. This year has been the longest I've been in the UK without leaving the country in two or three decades, and it's been hard not to miss the excitement of discovering new cities and countries, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. But I have managed several smaller-scale adventures closer to home this year, and I thought this was a good opportunity to share a few stories.

1. Arriving in NYC in the 'before times'

I spent a few days working in Manhattan before a conference in Seattle in early February, and in typical fashion, took the earliest possible flight on the Saturday morning to maximise my weekend in my favourite city. I didn't know it at the time, but this would be my last international trip for the foreseeable. There had already been cases of the new coronavirus reported when I arrived, but New York was just the same as it always is in February — cold, slightly less busy than usual and particularly quiet in some areas, but with the same frenetic energy that I love so much. Walking through Chinatown amid the Lunar New Year festivities, I couldn't work out if I was pleased to see business as usual, or concerned. Like everyone else, I knew so little then. As I pulled up my scarf over my face against the chill, a charity fundraiser called, "hey, nice mask" — sarcastically, I think. I saw the Snow Moon, ate out a lot, walked the High Line, went to a modern art exhibition featuring fruit and veg, and went to see Parasite at a cosy Brooklyn cinema. I'm glad I got to do lots of my favourite New York things, because I don't know when I will do so again.