Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Springtime in ............ the UK (Throwback posts)

One thing that we quite like to do when we are staying in London, is to pick a few different parts of the city to stay in, usually in Airbnb accommodation. We also like to try to fit in a few housesits if we can, as that helps to keep the costs down, and gives us both a place to ourselves for a while, and a pet to borrow.

Having arrived back from Spain at the end of February, delays in the build meant that we didn't end up moving in to our new place in Greenwich until late July, so we had a few months of dotting about a bit. It did give us a chance to catch up with family and friends though, so that was good.

It wasn't all the easy life though, after spending some time looking after my mum's cats while my parents went on holiday, we agreed to stay on and help with the joys of clearing out my dad's big shed. By the time we had finished with it, it was unrecognisably tidy and uncluttered; last I saw though, it didn't stay that way for long!

We did a couple of short house-sits for a pair of lovely ginger cats in Hampstead, and I suppose it goes without saying that this is a lovely part of the city. We rather enjoyed taking a wander around the Heath, and pottering about in the village. I was thrilled to find a lovely little button shop, and Nic went off and had a coffee while I spent a very happy half hour looking through trays and trays of lovely old and new buttons. I was very restrained though, I only bought a few.

We had another couple of short sits, this time for a lovely dog in Camden. After a little reticence with us to start with, the dog soon decided that she would sleep on our bed at night, if she could get away with it, right up in between us, taking up as much room as she possibly could.

While in Camden, we managed to fit in the excellent Camden Crawl, which isn't quite as inebriated as it sounds, as although it is in bars, it is more about the music than the drinking. It is an excellent way of getting to hear a lot of new(ish) music acts, some of which aren't all that great, but some are. We took a particular liking to Longfellow and Felt Tip.

We stayed in Finsbury Park for a month. We didn't do a great deal. I had taken up crochet, and spent quite a lot of time here making granny squares and turning them into a handbag. I have taken quite a liking to making things, though I definitely need a lot more sewing practice, and as it is all hand done - sewing machines and rucksacks don't really mix - it takes a long time.

One evening, we had an unexpected visitor. The place was on a private courtyard, so we were leaving the door open to cool it down. We were sat on the sofa, and I suddenly looked down to see a fox standing next to me, presumably attracted by the smell of our bacon sandwiches - and who can blame it for that? We had no intention of giving up any bacon, so it didn't stay long. When Nic stood up, it turned around and trotted back out the door.

For a quick change of scenery, we popped down to Hove for a week, spending our time there and in next-door Brighton. Brighton can be a bit of a love it and hate it place for me, as I do like the place, and it has great shops, bars and restaurants, but I'm not so keen on just how busy and crowded it gets. Staying in Hove was a great solution, as we could easily walk or get the bus in to Brighton, but other times we had the much less busy, while still very enjoyable bars and restaurants of Hove.

As well as lots of food and drink, we came across a great shop where the owner, Alistair sits inside at his sewing machine making the handbags that he sells. In case you're wondering, yes, he is much better at it than me. He picks some lovely and interesting fabrics to work with, and because he makes all of his bags individually, even though some are similar, they are still all unique. We spent quite a while chatting to Alistair, and whilst I was very tempted by a number of bags, I restricted myself to one big one and one little one. If you are in Brighton, you can visit his shop at 47 Upper North Street, but if not, you can check out his bags on facebook and Etsy, both under McCreadybags.

Back in London, another place that we stayed was in Walthamstow. We stayed with a couple guys and their two gorgeous cats. Walthamstow really is one of those places that highlights the diversity of London, with the upmarket village area, and the more down to earth main area. It is also home to the L Manze pie and mash shop.

For those who don't know, pie, mash and liquor is a real London institution. And in the pie and mash world, Manze's is definitely an important name. Michaele Manze, was an Italian - not obviously the most likely source of traditional London pie and mash. In fact he married into it, when he married Ada Poole, the daughter of his friend Robert Cooke, who was the top pie and mash shop man. Manze opened a string of stores, starting in Tower Bridge Road in 1902. The shop in Walthamstow was the 1th store, and opened by his brother Luigi in 1929. It was designed by Herbert Wright, and was kept in the Manze family until 1970. It is a lovely traditional building and is a Grade II Listed Heritage Site.

To be fair, these traditional pies often aren't the best quality compared with some around these days, but they are a true part of our heritage. And there is no need to be scared of that green liquor - it is just a parsley sauce. Of course if you want to be really traditional, you may have to go beyond the pie and mash, and try the jellied eels. As a non-seafood eater, that isn't for me, but Nic has given it a try here and in other places, and his verdict was "quite tasty".

Aside from the pies and eels though, Walthamstow has some decent restaurants and bars, and an excellent local brewery, The Wild Card Brewery only has a few types of beer but they are good, and the (small) industrial park location makes an interesting place to sit out in the evening.

But before you start on the beers, you should check out the next door God's Own Junkyard. Established by the late Chris Bracey, a leading creator of neon signs for businesses, Hollywood and anyone else that wanted them, this is a fabulously crazy haven of neon. I found myself desperately wanting to buy five or six pieces.

So, having had a quick springtime jaunt around London, we finally moved into our new Greenwich flat in July. We had to buy all new furniture, which involved a long battle with Ikea when they first said they would deliver and then said they wouldn't. Grrr. But we worked it all out in the end. So for the next six months, we were installed in Greenwich, having our own stuff around us for a change, and taking the opportunity to cook and to have a few friends and family around.

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