An Endless Afternoon in Camden Town

Camden Lock Market

I love London in the summer and I think there are few places more beautiful than England when the sun is shining.   I used to save all of my money so that I could spend holidays in England and I have fond memories of long afternoons spent catching up with friends in places like Soho and Camden.

Horses at the Stables Market in Camden

Last week I visited Camden for the first time since I returned to England in 2007.  It is crazy that I hadn’t visited sooner; I spent masses of time in Camden as a child in the 70s and I lived around the corner in the 90s.  I guess I took it for granted but I was also worried about two things: what remained after the fire in 2008 and had it become tacky and dated over time?

Browsing at Camden Lock

We spent some time browsing around all of the stalls in the Camden Lock Market and the Stables Market.  I was really impressed by the vibrant colours, the creative and imaginative wares, and most of all, the reasonable prices!  I will definitely be making more frequent trips to Camden in future, just not on Sundays when it is so full that the Underground station becomes exit-only.

Lebanese Mezze Stables Market Camden

We decided to eat lunch at the Lebanese Mezze restaurant in the Stables Market.  This was a cool, relaxing and comfortable place and they were surprisingly baby friendly!  The staff were warm and inviting too and we didn’t feel rushed at all.

Colours of Lebanese Mezze Stables Market Camden

It was inside the Lebanese Mezze that the afternoon became positively magical and endless.  We reclined and chatted for what seemed like ages in this lovely place.  We had some Lebanese cardamom coffee which has a lovely spicy taste.  Of course, being more used to Greek and Turkish fare, you’ll be glad to know I just managed to refrain from crying out “oh, you mean like Turkish coffee!” when the patron was explaining what cardamom coffee was.

Mezze Platter Lebanese Mezze Stables Market Camden

The food was simply divine.  I opted for the mezze platter with meat and Gyda had the vegetarian mezze platter.  The servings were quite generous at £7/£6 and the food was delicious.  My only complaint is that I prefer hand rolled falafel to the pre-formed ones but I have noticed most places in London serve them like that.

Food Lebanese Mezze Stables Market Camden

I’ve never been a ‘foodie’ as such.  I’m certainly not a connoisseur like some of my bloggy friends (JaPRA and Melizza, I’m looking at you!) but the food on offer at Camden Lock looks so enticing, yummy (we sampled many stalls) and inexpensive.  Perhaps that is why I seemed to enjoy the food aspect of the market so much more here compared to Borough Market?  In any event, I will be going back to Camden at least twice in the near future – once to visit Lebanese Mezze again and once to go to the Mexican restaurant next door!

Stables Market Camden

I can remember visiting Camden Lock Market in the late 70s and early 80s at the height of the New Romantic craze.  All I can remember was visiting stall after stall selling either Victorian trinkets and antiques or vintage lace dresses.  Camden has come a long way since then and a long way since being the centre of the Gothic explosion in the late 80s and 90s.  (Did I mention I bought two pairs of Dr. Martens boots in Camden?)  I’m so glad to see it going strong and think that the redevelopment of the Stable Market has been a good thing (even if the massive horse statues freaked me out).

After we ate our lunch, we went for a long stroll down Regent’s Canal.  Those photos will have to wait until next time – I was really lucky to finish my class early (hence the post), but cost accounting homework calls to me now!

The Ruins of Whitby Abbey

The Ruins of Whitby Abbey (1)

Following our Fish and Chips at the Magpie Cafe in Whitby, we decided to visit the famous ruins of Whitby Abbey. Unfortunately, we arrived at 6pm, just as public access to the abbey was closing for the day.  Given my love of castles, churches, history and ruins, it is safe to say that I was Very Disappointed.

The Ruins of Whitby Abbey (2)

Still, being the fearless and intrepid girl that I am, I managed to climb up a bank to get some photos of the abbey from the south.  This is such a stunning ruin and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I will be back to see it again one day.  

The Ruins of Whitby Abbey (3)

I wonder what work is being done to preserve the ruin from further eroding?  Not even mountains are safe from the ravages of time, sea salt and weathering.

The Ruins of Whitby Abbey (4)

This was the closest I came to the ruin.  I was on the other side of a wall when I had wanted to stand inside of it! 

The Ruins of Whitby Abbey (5)

There is an almost surreal air to the abbey and the atmosphere is powerful.  I guess the word I’m looking for is “epic”.  It is an absolutely majestic structure and proud despite crumbling down.  It is hard to explain why but Whitby Abbey had a much greater effect on me than Stonehenge but it seemed to be so much more important and historic.  Perhaps I was still under the spell of the sea fret?

The Ruins of Whitby Abbey (6)

Some of you might know that I hold a national certificate in health and safety.  Let’s just agree that me balancing on top of a fence on my tip toes while I took this photo (supported only by my similarly qualified husband), was the epitome of recklessness, negligence and unsafe practice.  Still, I escaped unharmed and was pretty happy with the result. 

Fish and Chips at Magpie Cafe, Whitby

The Famous Magpie Cafe in Whitby
The Magpie Cafe in Whitby

We’ve had a couple of long weekends in England and on Good Friday, we decided to take a day trip from Bolton to Whitby.  Despite leaving at 11am sharp, we spent most of the day sitting in traffic and arrived at the famous Magpie Cafe in Whitby just before 2pm.  Of course, the Magpie Cafe is very famous and we waited in line for quite some time before we made it inside.

Whitby Abbey (obscured by sea fret) 
Whitby Abbey (obscured by sea fret)

While the rest of the United Kingdom experienced record high temperatures and blue skies on Friday, Whitby experienced the strangest fog.  It is known as a sea fret and is caused by excess moisture in the air.  The sea fret rolls in from the sea and does not burn away like a normal fog.  It is no wonder that Bram Stoker was inspired to write Dracula in this town!

It was frustrating because my friend Nina pointed over the roof and told me that was where I would see the ruins of Whitby Abbey but I could see nothing.  I had no idea how big or small the place would be, whether it was near and imposing, or far off in the distance.

Magpie Cafe Whitby
Magpie Cafe, Cod & Chips, Haddock & chips and Mint Slice

We finally made it inside to the warmth and welcoming atmosphere of The Magpie Cafe.  We started off our meal with one of our favourite starters: scallops.  For mains, Stephen ordered a large haddock and chips, and I tucked into a small cod and chips.  We complimented the meal with a lovely bottle of German semi-sweet wine, Kreuznacher Kronenberg Kerner Kabinett which the waitress recommended.  Thankfully, Stephen wasn’t driving as he had most of the bottle of wine while the rest of the six of us had a couple of drops!

We spoke to the waitress about the sea fret and she said it had been completely clear that morning as she sat on her balcony at her inland home, watching deer and enjoying a cup of tea.  I would love to be able to spot deer from my balcony, what bliss!

The meal was good but Stephen and I agreed that the fish and chips we ate at Abar Bistro in Portsmouth last year was much better. 

Whitby Fish Market
Whitby Fish Market

The building housing The Magpie Cafe was built in 1750 as a Merchants House and a cafe has been at the premises since about 1939.  It is across the road from the Whitby Fish Market and they always ensure that they have the freshest possible fish.

Parish Church of St Mary in Whitby
Parish Church of St Mary

The sea fret began to fade toward the end of our meal and we could finally see the Parish of St Mary Church on the top of the hill. To the right of the church, you can just about make out the ruins of the Whitby Abbey.

Sea Fret over Whitby Harbour
Sea Fret over Whitby Harbour

Despite the strange weather, there were some perfect photo opportunities and I really liked the feel of this fishing and seaside town. I imagine that the photo about would make a really good jigsaw puzzle!

Streets of Whitby 
The Dracula Experience, Whitby Swing Bridge, Seagulls and Specksioneer

It is no surprise that Whitby is home to the Dracula Experience, as well as the annual Bram Stoker Film Festival and The Whitby Gothic Weekend.  That sort of thing would have been right up my street 15 years ago!

Seagull in Whitby 
Sir Seagull

This seagull very kindly posed for me and even let me snap him from various angles.  It is scary how tame these gulls are and they are not shy to swoop down and pluck your fish and chips from under your nose!

Whitby Harbour in Sea Fret
Eerie Whitby

I love this photo.  Having experienced a sea fret first hand, I absolutely understand how it was that Dracula appeared to materialise out of thin air and the overall spirit and atmosphere of the novels.

Whitby Swing Bridge
Whitby Swing Bridge

The swing bridge at Whitby has stood for over 100 years and was built in 1908. It replaced the previous swing bridge which only allowed a clearance of 45 feet and did not cater for larger steel ships being built further up river. The current bridge is a twin leaf bridge and allows the maximum possible width to river traffic, increasing the clearance to 100 feet.  Although ship building has declined on the river Esk, it is still important to maintain navigation to and from the upper harbour.

The man above was very interested to see what the people below had caught in their haul.  There were many amateur fishermen along the river that day, mostly children!

Copious Whitby
Copious Whitby

It was so nice to visit a town in England that is not in decline and it was good to see that fishing still appears to be a lucrative train for the local fishermen of Whitby.

Fishing in Whitby
Fishing in Whitby

These fishing nets and cages were all over the harbour. 

Whitby Abbey Above Sea Fret in Whitby
Whitby Abbey Above Sea Fret

As the sea fret finally began to clear a little more, we could finally see a bit more of Whitby Abbey and we decided to pile into our car and drive up to the abbey. 

Afternoon Tea in Mayfair

The Ritz Hotel Mayfair

Yesterday afternoon I travelled to Mayfair for afternoon tea with my colleagues.  I arrived with an hour to spare and decided to take a little walk around first.  It was hard to believe that a Royal Wedding had taken place merely 24 hours before, with approximately one million people descending upon the area, because it looked remarkably free of litter or any other such signs. (Forgive me, I hail from Africa, there would be signs of street festivities of that scale). 

At least The Ritz Hotel had a sign saying, “Congratulations, Your Royal Highnesses”. 

Green Park in Spring London

I went into Green Park which is looking beautiful and green this spring.  I took a seat on a park bench in the sun and read for a while.  It was a beautiful, sunny day but definitely still weather for a light cardigan as there was a fierce wind blowing.  I didn’t have a light cardigan but managed to sit in the sun for over half an hour.  Bliss.

Green Park London

London is so beautiful when the sun shines.

Alleys and Back Routes in Mayfair

We were meeting for afternoon tea at the Chesterfield Mayfair.  The hotel provides instructions for the journey between Green Park station and the hotel, and I understand why.  I followed Google Maps and experienced the best of Mayfair’s back roads and alley ways.  London is such a city of contrasts, it never ceases to amaze me.

The Chesterfield Mayfair

Afternoon tea is the quintessential English tradition.  It used to be the domain of fancy old ladies but is becoming more and more popular with the younger generation.  This was very much in evidence as the people all around us were young, trendy and most importantly, relaxed!

Afternoon Tea at the Chesterfield Mayfair

The service at the Chesterfield Mayfair is impeccable and we had a lovely afternoon.  We had a special Royal Wedding afternoon tea which consisted of sandwiches and scones with jam and clotted cream plus wedding fruit cake, William and Kate cupcakes and the Queen’s pudding.  There was also an option to include Champagne with the tea but I passed on account of all the Champagne I had at our Royal Wedding part on Friday.

William and Kate Royal Wedding cupcake

Afternoon tea was quite an experience and one that I would be happy to repeat.  The price of the award-winning afternoon tea at the Chesterfield Mayfair begins at £23.50 which is quite reasonable compared to other locations and it was worth every penny.  Yum.

My New Year resolution was to fight the complacency of living in a big city and to do at least one London activity a month.  Other activities this year include the Secret London photowalk in January; the Southbank Graffiti photowalk in February; and an evening at The Royal Albert Hall in March.