Roman London and Retail Therapy

Separated for a few hours from my travel companion, who was off to meet some fellow historians at the British Library, a chilled out shopping morning seemed a perfect way to start the new day and the new week. Upper Street is high street heaven but I am more interested in what lies in the little alleys behind it – the independent bookshops, boutiques and concept stores that don’t populate every high street and shopping mall in the world. Therefore my destination was Islington’s Camden Passage. Famous for its antiques market, this area is an extremely cute collection of cafes, restaurants and independent shops – browser heaven.

camdenpassage

I started the day with a caffeine fix in The Coffee Works Project, reputed to have the best coffee in the area. It was packed mostly with what I assume to be students, self-employed workers and freelancers  – as many of the customers were typing feverishly away on their laptops. All very Carrie Bradshaw. There was also a healthy sprinkling of yummy mummies taking a break with a soy latte and the odd tourist checking if the coffee is really as good as they say. The verdict – it was a damn good cup of coffee.

Then for an hour of intensive window shopping in this little retail Utopia. Take a look for yourself….

Appetite well worked up, there was time for a quick lunch before heading to the British Library to catch up with my husband. I probably would have tried The Breakfast Club as I have read great things about it but even at 12.30pm there was already a queue and I didn’t have much time to spare. I did however spot the last remaining outdoor table at the neighbouring The Elk in the Woods. It turned out to be a good choice. I dined on a small plate of calamari with chorizo mayonnaise accompanied by a side of salt baked new potatoes and garlic aioli. It was light but tasty – the calamari perfectly cooked, the aioli particularly delicious. Accompanied by some ice water and a glass of house wine, sitting in the sun watching the world go by, it made for a very enjoyable lunch. Then off to the tube, although not before getting distracted by two cute little tees in Joy that I felt would work well with skinny jeans (one with heels and one with converse).

My hubby and I regrouped at the British Library, his lunchtime talk and general networking probably making his morning more productive than mine. But surely it couldn’t have been more enjoyable. And he doesn’t now own a little jersey tee with a cute bumblebee print!!!!

We headed for St. Paul’s and the old city  – the focus of the rest of our day. After a quick hello to the head of John Donne, we walked the square mile, visiting spots where evidence of the Roman city had been uncovered and marvelling at the way cities develop over time and yet some remnants of each century remain – the past almost effortlessly juxtaposing with the present. We took a break at the Dickens Inn on St. Katherine’s Dock, a beautiful old pub with exposed beams and wooden floors, quotes from Dickens’ classic works adorning the walls.  Our little tour ended at the stunningly preserved Leadenhall Market Place, the site of the original Roman forum and basilica of Londinium.

After quite a lot of walking we ate fairly forgettable french food in a little neighbourhood bistro, followed by overpriced drinks in a soulless chain bar, before heading to the Guildhall for the highlight of the day – an outdoor movie in the Guildhall Yard, over the site of London’s ancient Roman amphitheatre. There were a few technical hitches but it was a lovely evening. There was seats, burgers and hotdogs, beer and wine, popcorn and even an onsite archaeologist to explain the history of the site. Somebody forgot the movie but he admitted he was “a massive tool”, the movie was found and the show did go on. Gladiator on the site where actual gladiators would have been forced to perform! A great evening and if in London this summer do check out Pop Up Screens listings – just remember it gets cold, no matter how fine a day, so bring jumpers and jackets to wrap up in, then sit back and enjoy xo

 

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