Monday, February 01, 2010

A Winter's Weekend

If you follow the weather as religiously as the Brits do, and trust me the British love to talk about the weather, then you'll know that us Londoner spent the first two weeks of the year in below freezing temperatures with several days of light snow. Gosh, it is spring yet? That said, Keenan and I spent several weekends during the snowstorm being home bodies in our beloved flat, eating soup, watching movies, and travel planning. Oh, did we mention that we attempted to do a 10 day detox but failed miserably after 5 days? The weather just recently started to warm up, and by warm I mean above 40F (5C), so we spent the past few weekends meeting new friends through various connections, reconnecting with old friends from home, dining with former colleagues in town for business, and spending time with our favorite Londoners.

January 2010/Clapham Common:

Last Monday, one of Keenan's work colleagues from San Francisco was in town on a short business trip. His time here was limited, but we managed to arrange an impromptu dinner and drinks with him near London Bridge at a great tapas placed called Brindisa (BTW, I love the chorizo sandwiches at Borough Market owned by the same people). It's always fun to see a familiar face from home! Hope you enjoyed your time in London.

The next day Keenan left my lonesome by myself as he spent the rest of the week in Dresden on business. Good thing, I had something called work to keep me busy while he was away. It was a long hectic week at work, but we had a fun Friday evening to look forward to with our Fulham-turned-Claphamite couple friend at the Natural History Museum. One of the best things about London (among many things) are all the wonderful museums, which are all free to the public. You can easily spend the weekend museum-hopping in South Kensington between the V&A Museum, The Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum. Each museum also host a "Late Night" at least once a month for an adults-only evening of jazz, cocktails, wine, and food. Great fun and an excellent place for a date night.

Natural History Museum and the Bird Room:

Insects at the Darwin Centre:

Keenan flew back to London late Friday afternoon and met up with our friends for drinks and quick bite, while I bid farewell to my work colleague who is leaving to our Brussels office. I made my way to the Natural History Museum in time to visit the Darwin Centre, a state-of-the-art science and collections facility. The highlight of the evening was the excellent Wildlife Photographer Exhibition, an amazing collection of beautiful photographs of birds, lions, wolf, tigers, puffins, landscapes, and all things related to nature. I highly recommend it for all you nature/photo enthusiast. In fact, I'm inspired to pick up photography as a hobby!

Darwin Centre:

Wildlife Photo Exhibit:

Saturday morning, we woke up to beautiful blue skies. Ah, the sun. If you live in London long enough, then you'll know that we rarely see sun for most of the winter. But, on Saturday the sun decided to grace us with its presence and what better way to spend than a lovely walking tour of North London! Our friend recommended that we do a walking tour as part of the annual Walk London Winter Wonder Weekend. She gave me a couple of walks to choose from, and in honor of my new work project in North London, I suggested the 6 mile walk from Highgate to Stoke Newington, a tour taking us through the boroughs of Haringey, Islington, and Hackney along the green (and muddy) Parkway Walk to Finsbury Park, Clissold Park, Abney Park Cemetery and ending in Stoke Newington (aka "Stokey") up in N16.

We were surprised by Stokey given that it is in the London Borough of Hackney and all -- it's quite cosmopolitan filled with cute little shops, boutiques, green space, and even a Whole Foods on Stoke Newington Church Street. Stokey is not only filled with young urbanites and families, it is also home to a sizeable Turkish community. I lost count but there was at least some 12-18 Turkish restaurants on the High Street. I've read great reviews from various London-based food blogs about Mangal Ocakbasi, a Turkish restaurant known for its succulent grills. And since we were in the not-so-connected neighborhood of Stokey/Dalston, we decided to give it a try, after all it is unlikely that we'll trek it up to N16 in the near future. We devoured plates of grilled kebabs, beyti, and kofte with thick pide bread and Cacik (cucumber-garlic-olive oil yoghurt sauce)...ummmm. To round out our meal, we had Turkish coffee and the perfect baklava -- the perfect way to end a wonderful day out under sunny blue skies.

Moving on to Sunday. Some time ago when Keenan first moved to London, he joined an organisation called the Chatham House, which is very similar to the World Affairs Council in San Francisco, to network and meet new colleagues with an interest in international relations and world history. We attended their Christmas party back in December at Clifford Chance and met many people in the field of international development, law, renewal energy, and human rights. I honestly don't remember much of the evening thanks to the endless flow of complimentary beer and wine, but I do remember meeting this nice couple who were getting ready for their "Down Under" holiday in New Zealand and Australia. Anyways, to make a long story short, we reconnected with them over Sunday brunch this past weekend at a cute little place called Del Aziz in Fulham. It was good fun! Among the many things I love, love about London is the privilege of meeting so many interesting people from all walks of life.

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