Travel Flashback: Southbank Christmas Market

There’s nothing like the Christmas season (festive period, I mean) to make me quite sure that I will never get over missing London.

Not that there was really any doubt. I still haven’t unsubscribed from the TfL Weekly Updates emails, even though there is no reason for me to know which tube lines aren’t running and which Boris Bike stations are closed.

But anyway, I’ve been feeling especially nostalgic lately about London at Christmastime, and I realized there was one bit of it that I didn’t share in last year’s “Christmas in London” post. I thought this week would be a good chance to take a quick break from roadtrip posts for a bit of holiday cheer!

As you might guess, it takes place in my favorite spot in London – Southbank. Come November, a full German-style Christmas market springs up along the Thames, vending everything under the sun.

The first time Amity and I discovered it was right after we’d gone to see a production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic, starring James Earl Jones. His voice was just as good in person as you’d imagine it to be.  You could tell he was only speaking at conversational level, yet his voice boomed around the entire Death Star theatre as though he was using a megaphone!  I loved it.


We decided to walk up to the river after the play was over, and we discovered the Southbank Christmas market. I went back a handful of times later on, after or between classes, since it was just over the bridge from LSE. I basically couldn’t get enough.

First of all, the entire place is draped in fairy lights!

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The river walk is lined with little wooden stalls selling food, drink, and festive goods. There’s even a stall selling more fairy lights. Very meta.

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The spread is pretty diverse.  There are, of course, roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate (did I mention Bailey’s hot chocolate? HELLO.), as well as plenty of stalls selling sweets, fudge, and all manner of warm gooey desserts.

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One time last year, Nausheen and I wandered over with a couple of hours to kill before our pub quiz night. We split a handful of hot chocolate samples and picked up a few holiday gifts for family. I loved these handpainted candles with scenes from all over the world on them, and the “smallest book in the world” stall which had holiday classics printed barely larger than a postage stamp (pretty sure it was leftover Flourish & Blotts inventory).

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Past the snacks & goodies, there’s a magical lit-up carousel before you start smelling the mulled wine and hot cider. That’s when you know you’re getting close to dinner…

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Nausheen and I got sucked over to one of the stalls that had steam billowing out from under the eaves, and found skillets the size of car tires overflowing with sausage and stuffing.

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She went with brisket on brioche and I had the turkey dinner sandwich, which was stuffed so full that I trailed shredded turkey behind me all the way back across the bridge. Ah well.

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After walking up the steps to the Golden Jubilee Bridges, we stopped for a last glance back over the twinkling roofs with hoards of happy holiday folk roaming among them.

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Of course, this was last year’s Christmas market. I’ve heard from friends and former classmates that it’s been arranged a little differently this year. Whatever the setup, I’m craving some peppermint cocoa and glühwein straight from Southbank. Londoners – go have some for me, okay? Today’s your last chance! And for more ideas on how to spend the holidays in the British capital, check out Jen’s guide to Christmas cheer in London.

I’ll be comin’ at ya with more western roadtrip excitement soon. Until then, Happy Christmas y’all!

Broadway Market to Angel

The sad time has finally come, folks. It’s my last London post.

I know, I’ve been dragging this out. I’ve been back in the US for a few weeks and have New York, California, and Outer Banks travels from the past month to catch up on (I’m currently in the DC airport which is the woooorst place). Guess I should get a move on.

As I dig through and organize my thousands of photos from the past year, I may find inspiration for a few new Brit blog posts… but for a while, at least, this is it.

One of my last London adventures was a full day out with this lady right here. Jen is my first (okay, technically only) blog friend turned real-life friend!


(her photo!)

As she’s a fellow American expat in London and a pretty hilarious writer, her blog was quite a treat to stumble upon. Back in June, we finally stopped being awkward and decided to meet up and enjoy brunch at New Toms in Notting Hill – which, just like it sounds, is the new establishment that used to be just plain Toms, the place Amity and I ate on our very first day in London. Sadly, it took us ‘til August to get together again!

We both used to be west Londoners but Jen had recently moved up north and offered to show me around her new ‘hood. We spent a beautiful sunny Saturday wandering amidst the stalls of Broadway Market in Hackney and walked all the way to her new neighborhood of Angel. But hold up. First, a question for Londoners, or otherwise knowledgeable parties: what are these round things?!


Amity and I used the one down the street from us in Fulham as a landmark all year, and I spotted this pair in Hackney. I think I also saw one in Battersea. Do they have something to do with gasworks? Please write back.

Anyway. I was late to the market because BUSES UGH, but eventually I met Jen and we spent the morning exploring the stalls of fresh produce, street food, and flowers.


There was simply too much on offer to decide, so we did a lot of mini orders and sampling while we observed the quirky (this may be putting it mildly) locals and funky London street art.



We saved the majority of our appetites for this nearly-hidden courtyard that houses a bunch of international cuisine booths, including Mexican, Creole, Thai, and Mediterranean.



This guy was the real deal. His tacos were to die for and he was pretty fun to chat to, too.


The “Let’s Taco ‘Bout It” was the main reason for taking this photo, yet I somehow cut it off. So lame.

We went to walk off our tacos in the green of London Fields, where I watched on jealously as heaps of little kids frolicked through the fields of tall grass and wildflowers without a care in the world and no fear of ticks. That’s just not an option in the Northeast.



We took our time moseying along and catching up on our previous couple of months in London before eventually making our way back to the market and checking out the other end of the main street. Lucky we did, for ‘twas then that we happened upon our favorite shop in the joint:


How I’d survived nearly a full year in London without finding a reliable live eel importer to source my hot jellied eels, I’ll never know. Crisis averted.

After a few more nibbles, our feet took us out of the market and along Regent’s Canal, which was a gorgeous reflection of the blue sky above.



There was plenty to see along the canal, including a handful of people who actually get to call it home.


(I love that little bit of art along the embankment – it reflects “Shoreditch” onto the water when the surface is glassy enough!)


As much as I hankered after some of the houseboats, this was the place I was really anxious to put down my money for:


How perfect is that front door?!

The weather only got lovelier as we walked and talked, watching the water people go about their days. We saw people cutting hair, walking dogs, and locking up bicycles – all on their boats.



Our journey came to an end when the canal dove under a dark bridge and the footpath disappeared, so we trekked up the hill and in to the fun and bustling neighborhood of Angel.


Jen and I stopped for coffee and did a little browsing through stationery stores and market alleys. It was such a fun afternoon and I loved getting shown around a new part of London by my blog buddy (go visit her at Lady, Relocated – she tends to me more diligent and definitely more succinct than I am, and I will admit it – she’s just as funny).

It’s always exciting when you befriend a person and almost immediately realize you can let the crazy out around them. I’d tell you we ended by searching for a gift for a dog’s birthday barbeque, but you’d never believe me.

London Summer Highlights

Summer in the city is anything but restful and relaxing.

On the contrary, the fleeting sunshine seems to send everyone into a frenzy of energy and excitement, and London kicks into high gear.

July felt like a whirlwind, but the main event was that my dad came back to London for his first visit since he and the rest of my family were here over New Year’s.  We packed his ten days to the gills with London excitement.  I’ve been wanting to share the details of his visit with the fam, as well as the best parts of London summers with my fellow Anglophiles out there – luckily, they line up pretty perfectly!

1. Concerts, Events, & Entertainment

You are positively spoilt for choice when it comes to music in this town.  If there’s an act playing anywhere in the world, you can pretty much bet they’ll have dates in London.

Due to a slight scheduling miscommunication, I ended up abandoning my dad in my flat for his first evening back in London while I trekked over to the O2 in Greenwich for the show of a lifetime:


The five remaining members of Monty Python put on a once-in-a-lifetime reunion tour cheekily titled Monty Python Live (Mostly), or One Down, Five To Go.  It was a hilarious evening, and seeing the dead parrot sketch and The Lumberjack Song performed live was an opportunity that won’t ever come round again!

There are plenty of incredible but fleeting entertainment events like this in London, so be sure to jump on them if you have the chance!

2. Street Food

Food trucks.  Festivals.  Pop-ups.  Traveling markets.  There is no lack of good eats come summertime in London.  Some of my favorites are Street Feast (weekends in Dalston) and KERB (Saturdays at Kings Cross and the first weekend of every month at Southbank).  I’ve followed KERB to Southbank a fair few times to stalk Batch Bakery for the delicious brownies of my dreams.

Speaking of Southbank… I am in love with it.  You already know this.  My dad’s first full day in London brought us there to enjoy the gorgeously sunny afternoon and one of my favorite of all London food trucks: BOB’s Lobster.


They have a pop-up as BOB’s & co. above a pub near St. Paul’s which I’ve gone to a few times (once when Kate was visiting in March), but the summer months find them under the bridge at Southbank in an old red and white VW bus, serving up the same amazing lobster rolls and ahi tuna tacos that we all know and love.  Also, their only beverage offering is prosecco, so you know they’ve got respectable priorities.



There are plenty of tasty options in the city that I never even got to – check TimeOut London for what’s on any given day!

3. Summer Sport

Without hockey or much of a ski culture, there’s a bit of a lull in the British athletic calendar during the winter, but there is no shortage during the summer.

One of the main reasons for my dad’s visit was to see the Tour de France race through London, which we did on a beautiful day along Victoria Embankment (much like the Tour of Britain in the fall).


Later in the week, my dad and I camped out in a pub in South Kensington for an entire afternoon, watching the Wimbledon men’s final on their TV while simultaneously keeping up with the Tour de France stage and the Formula One qualifiers on our phones (when I said goodbye to him at Heathrow, he told me I was a great son).

This summer was even sportier than usual with the World Cup going on – and let me tell you, there is no better place to watch World Cup match than in an English pub.  None.


4. The Great Outdoors

The weather in London is magnificent during June, July, and August.  To be honest, I’m a fan of it the whole year round (What a weirdo! I hear you shout), but nobody can argue with sunshine and mid-70s (low-20s if you’re in Celsius).  Aside from the occasional summer shower and even more occasional thunderstorm (which I love), it’s simply lovely.

My dad and I hopped the District Line west one day to check out the more adventuresome side of Kew Gardens.  When I visited with the Higgins’ in April, the flowers were at peak bloom – we were a little past that in July, but I knew my dad would be even more in to the Treetop Walkway.


The walkway is 18m/60ft high and lets you walk through the canopy with a bird’s eye view of the gardens and greenhouses.


Everything was green and lush, and we spent the next few hours wandering through the half of the gardens that I hadn’t gotten to previously.



London is the greenest city of its size in the world, and there’s no better time to take advantage of this than the summer.  Other beautiful outdoor spaces include Regent’s Park, Hampstead Heath, the awesomely wild Richmond Park (I’ve not gone myself, but apparently wild deer sightings are commonplace!), and, of course, Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park… among many, many others!

It’s hard to go wrong if you’re in London during the summer.  It’s just so spectacular.  Catch a show, find some great street food, watch a match in a pub, and get outside – this is just a start for making the most of it!  My dad and I had a few more adventures, posts still to come (hint: we skipped out of Great Britain but not the British Isles…) but our time within old London town couldn’t have been better.

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