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Lifestyle, London

BLONDON Discovers The Best Of East London Part 2

July 27, 2013
As I mentioned in my last post, there is so much to do and see in East London. Ever since I moved to London from the States I heard rave reviews of the famous East End markets and the curry houses of Brick Lane. Naturally, I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. After checking out three East London markets, all of which surpassed my expectations, I then took a stroll down the other local shopping hotspot, Brick Lane. Here are my findings:

FEAST & FORAGE:
For the ultimate foodie experience, you have to visit Borough Market, East London’s most renowned food market, which is open from Monday – Saturday each week, Thursday – Saturday being the full market days. 

There is a yummy morsel for absolutely everyone and anyone here, so make sure you arrive with a big appetite! Traders of all types of cuisines and drinks are set up in the 9 different trading areas of the market. If you are prone to getting lost easily then check out the interactive Borough Market app here to help navigate your way around.
On Saturday, the market is absolutely jam-packed from 8am- 5pm, so wear comfy shoes, bring a big tote, and make your way around the stalls as you enjoy one tasty treat at a time. Here are a few shots to showcase the variety of stalls at Borough Market – try not to drool too much!
Don’t tell your dentist, but there is patisserie and pudding galore here for anyone with a sweet tooth.
An edible cheese statue – now this is one way to get your daily dose of calcium!
Mozzarella mini cones: the new take on ice-cream for fellow cheese-lovers.

If Turkish delights are your indulgence of choice, then you will have plenty to choose from.

I never knew so many different types of olive oils existed. Popeye the Sailor Man would be spoilt for choice!

This massive paella was insanely good. Taking a doggie bag home to nibble on later was a no brainer.

The colours of the mustard rainbow.
I wasn’t brave enough to try Naga (aka a ghost pepper), the hottest edible chilli you can sample. Google “eating a ghost pepper” and you will find some entertaining attempts on YouTube!
I adore truffles, so I joined the line to take a big whiff of truffle fragrance.
The produce stalls here are mesmerising. Mushroom lovers, eat your heart out!
£25 a cheese? More like ker-ching ker-ching rather than citrus zing.

SHOP TILL YOU DROP:
Whether you are looking for the perfect birthday gift, a new frock for summer, or a Royal Baby souvenir, the vast selection of shops and market stalls in the East End have got you covered.
Spitalfields and Old Spitalfields Market, are among London’s oldest markets and you can buy just about anything – think really cool vintage fashion, edible glitter covered organic cupcakes, funky jewellery, leather interiors, and all types of crazy knick-knacks you never knew existed. Both of these markets (which are adjacent to one another) are open to the public 7 days a week, Sunday being the busiest day. 
A lot of the fashion stalls at Spitalfields feature up and coming designers rather than well established brand names. You can find some seriously stylish clothes here without spending a fortune, which is always a plus in London! Here are some stalls that especially caught my eye:
Headed on a summer safari? Then check out the new African market at Old Spitalfields for some authentic African gear.  
I loved these miniature pictures in a giant frame- perfect for a last minute but lovely gift.

Just looking through these posters reminded me of my dorm room during my university days… sigh

Yep, there really is a stall entirely dedicated to boutique door handles and dog mugs – definition of a niche market!
A suitable present for your ex?
FLOWER POWER:
No matter what the weather conditions might be, every Sunday from 8am – 3pm, Columbia Road is transported into a floral fantasy known as The Colombia Road Flower Market
The street is jam-packed with foliage, flower sellers, people and plants of every colour, size, shape, and smell imaginable. If you feel claustrophobic in big crowds, then avoid the end of the market day (3pm), when sellers yell “Everythin’ for a fiver” and £ notes fly in the air as people rush to grab their prized discounted flowers.
Whether or not you are an expert gardener or floral aficionado, it’s hard not to take an immediate shine to the Columbia Flower Market. Columbia Road is packed with quaint cafes and boutique shops, so you can take little breaks to escape the floral mayhem.
The lively and rather hectic atmosphere is amazing, and you can see and buy a huge variety of flowers and plants, for a fraction of the cost you might spend at the Chelsea Flower Show
Don’t try haggling with a dealer early in the day, as the vendors will probably tell you to get lost and come back before closing time, when they can offer you a better deal. 
There are so many gorgeous flowers at the flower market, it is almost overwhelming to decide which bouquet or potted plant to take home… all the more reason to return again and again!

EXPERIENCE:
After walking around the markets, I strolled down Brick Lane, which is practically an institution in East London. 
Brick Lane is a fun mixture of quirky shops, galleries, cafes filled with cutting edge trendsetters, famous street art, and some of the tastiest curry houses in the world. 
As you can see, it’s challenging to decide which curry house to try from the masses. If you like Indian food, then you have come to the right place!
There are tons of Brick Lane Markets to choose from but I explored the Sunday Up Market and The Boiler House Food Hall, which are two adjacent large warehouses filled with food, fashion, music, crafts and furniture stalls. Both markets get so busy around lunchtime that people just sit on the street curb to eat with their friends if they can’t bag a seat on the outdoor wooden tables. 
Every cuisine imaginable is available. It’s like the United Nations of food halls.
I particularly liked this stall, which only sells t-shirts of animal prints with red glasses.
After making my way through the Sunday Up Market and The Boiler House Food Hall, I kept walking along Brick Lane, passing by garage-sale like pop-up shops, second hand stores, vintage record shops and more street food stalls. 
The atmosphere is absolutely brilliant here and you really feel like you have been transported into somewhere far far away. Whether you like dancing in the street, watching live artists perform, or playing chess with the local ‘chess master’ – it’s all available here.
There were even more food stalls to choose from, but being a smoothie addict, I gravitated towards this fruit stall…
… followed by a quick visit to the Coconut King for some fresh coco H20 – the best!
After a weekend of exploring East London, I hopped back on the bus and returned to my neck of the woods feeling refreshed, stimulated, and like I had been on a mini-holiday. I now understand why all the cool kids flock to East London in droves. It’s a pretty riveting part of the city and I cannot wait for my next dose of the East End.
Travel

My Week In Pictures From Hong Kong

June 24, 2012
If you ever want to feel tall, blonde, and ‘Western’ in a city with a population of over 7 million, then I would suggest you pack up your over-sized Chloe bag and head to Hong Kong. I had the privilege of visiting this amazing city over the Jubilee, which I know sounds very unpatriotic, but there were tons of expatriates in Hong Kong to celebrate with… and boy do they know how to have a fun time in Hong Kong!
Union Jack clad- getting into the Jubilee spirit!
There is so much to do in this city, which literally never sleeps, and a week there can easily fly by. I have tons of recommendations, but I will let my photos from my wonderful week-long visit let you decide what you need to experience when in Hong Kong.

If you aren’t scared of heights…
Then take the tram, one of the world’s oldest railways, up 1,300 feet above sea level to The Peak.
I cannot believe people were once carried up the peak by sedan chair. Now that must have been a real workout! As you can see, I went to The Peak on a rather foggy day…
 … but the panoramic views from the sky terrace were still incredible!
After seeing the amazing sights from the highest point overlooking Hong Kong, it is worth checking out the shops and restaurants at The Peak Tower. Although it is a major tourist attraction, it is a good spot to pick up a silly souvenir or two.
If you’re not feeling too queasy being at such a great height, then you MUST go 118 floors up the Ritz Carlton in Kowloon to visit the highest bar in the world, Ozone. The interior décor of Ozone is illuminated by wild Las Vegas-esque mood-lighting and the views of Hong Kong and Kowloon from the outdoor open roof bar will make your jaw drop! 
While you’re at Ozone, you might just have to enjoy the breeze and a cocktail or two, while munching on the delicious mini Wagyu beef burgers. They are absolutely delicious and worth every savory calorie. 
On your way back to Hong Kong from Kowloon, I would really recommend taking the Star Ferry, which offers the most amazing night time views of a brightly lit Hong Kong from the water. Sailor outfit not required.

If you’re feeling lucky…
The horse races every Wednesday evening during the racing season at the Happy Valley Racecourse is quite the social scene. The arena is packed with people who are busy placing bets or taking in the adrenaline filled atmosphere while sipping on pitchers of refreshing drinks. As you can see, I wasn’t the only one trying to get a snapshot of the horses galloping by!
After arriving in Hong Kong, I immediately took the ferry to Macau, which is the local miniature version of Las Vegas. Staying out late eating the famous Portuguese food at Fernando’s or A Lorcha and gambling in the casinos is one way to beat jet lag! This was my first view of Macau when I stepped off the ferry boat..
Whether you’re up big or have decided to cut your losses and walk away from the poker table, why not dance the night away at CLUB CUBIC, which could be straight out of a Lady Gaga music video?
Grab a beverage and prepare to shake your groove thang until the wee hours!

For the foodies…
It goes without saying that I ate my face off in Hong Kong. The fruit is so fresh and delicious, and I was amazed by all the different types of produce you could buy at the supermarket. It’s not every day you can easily make a fruit salad with lychee, dragon fruit, and durian right?
I also fell in love with all the fresh fruit juices you can order in Hong Kong. Sign me up for a glass of fresh watermelon juice any day!
 
The only bad thing about eating absolutely incredible dim sum every day, is that I will now have very high dim sum standards. Oh what I would do for another plate of those perfectly steamed morsels of goodness, dipped in soy sauce with a dash of chili sauce – sigh!
When it comes to puddings, there is a very clear reason why the Chinese have far smaller waistlines than Westerners. For starters, they don’t cover desserts in caramel, chocolate sauce, or ice cream! Most of the steamed bun dim sum puddings I had were usually made from sweet bean  paste.
 
Egg tart and figs served with rice infused coconut juice and lychee syrup were a delicious and relatively healthy pudding.
My verdict on food in Hong Kong after this trip: if you dim sum, you win sum! 

If you are a beach bunny…
A mid-week trip to a practically deserted and beautiful beach on Lamma Island is only a 30 minute ferry ride away from Central. There are two beaches on Lamma Island, but I preferred the more secluded Lo So Shing Beach, where I was one of four people soaking up the sun!
Despite the massive power station, I thought Lamma Island was picture perfect. Lush green trees are scattered everywhere, and there isn’t a car in sight because automobiles are not permitted on the island. 
If you are into seafood, then go to Rainbow restaurant, where you can eat Nemo and all his friends. You could literally devour an aquarium here if you wanted to!

For the shopaholic…
If you’re a big shopper, then you will fit in just fine in Hong Kong. The ten storey mall in Times Square will be sure to knock your Prada socks off! The fashion in this city is cutting-edge to say the least, and every label under the sun seems to have a mega-store in Hong Kong. Whether you are buying high-end designer, or just looking to purchase some keepsakes, you can find just about everything for sale here. Looking in the window at YSL, I was amused to see pastel colors are also very popular in Hong Kong at the moment.
I have always been a sucker for good packaging, so my cousin literally had to drag me out of some shops before I bought bags of perfectly wrapped boxes of tea, silk pajamas in an origami-like napkin, the endless bags of candies and dried fruits, oh the list just goes on!

For all the party animals…
I think my liver is still recovering from my week in Hong Kong – my credit card certainly is. They say New York is the city that never sleeps, but I would argue that Hong Kong is the city with insomnia, because people here go out each night until dawn, only to do it again the next night. Seriously, I don’t know how they do it! This is a picture of Lan Kwai Fong on a Tuesday night…crazy busy for a Tuesday right?
My lovely cousin Clarissa is a local in Hong Kong, so she just had to drag me to all her favourite haunts around town – much to my delight! One moment we were having jello shots at Al’s Diner in Lan Kwai Fong and the next minute, we were exploring the many cool private rooms in Felix Bar at The Peninsula. I have never been on a light-sensitive dance floor before, and I hope it won’t be my last time!
Views of the 8pm nightly laser light show from the top of The Peninsula are unbeatable. Having a cocktail while also getting a dose of culture and seeing the sights -or should I say lights- is my way of putting the T in tourist!
I should also mention that the lady’s bathroom at The Peninsula offers the most breath-taking views of Hong Kong. I took my sweet time washing my hands in this sink!

The after party at Feather Boa in Soho was a particular favorite spot of mine. It is a discreet and not easily found bar that was once an antiques store. Go behind a large curtain and you will find a room full of fun and quirky people letting the good times roll in what looks like Miss Havisham’s house. The chilled strawberry daiquiris served with a powdered chocolate rim coating are out of this world!


If you just need to relax…
I would be lying to you if I said that seeing all the sights amongst the ultra-busy streets of Hong Kong doesn’t tire you out a bit, especially in the June humidity.
 
When you just need a breather, treat yourself to an indulging massage or pampering spa treatment. I had an amazing full body massage at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong’s Plateau Spa. The spa suites there are 5 star fabulous!
Another great way to chill out in Hong Kong is to dip into a refreshing swimming pool, while gazing at the city’s skyscrapers…


 
…followed by sipping out of a fresh coconut. This is the most blissful way to hydrate in my book!
 
You also cannot go wrong with a nice low-key evening picnic by the water. Gazing at the amazing sights of this city by night is perfection. 
 
So, what do you think? Have my pictures from Hong Kong convinced you to book a flight asap?! I had heard a lot of hype about this city before visiting, but I have to say Hong Kong certainly lives up to it.  
Ta ta for now Hong Kong, I cannot wait to visit you again.