Splendid Sunday in London
When did I last spend Sunday in London? Too many to count after all, I once lived there – but not in many years! But as I woke up after a nice deep sleep at the Latvian Centre, I never felt more like a tourist than now. Did I mind? Not at all! Way to start the day, slurping a cup of Earl Grey before guzzling down a full cooked breakfast prepared by sprightly blond ladies in balloon caps.
Even before breakfast, I managed to cram all my treasures into the small backpack Ryanair permits if you are flying a cheapskate on the bare-bones tariff. This is my classic Macpac Kauri 30l backpack, all this went in with minimal crumpling, and it was still comfortable to carry.Yeah, I got a bit of everything. A trip to Marks and Spencers, Rococo chocolates, Liberty fabric and last not least, a supermarket trip for foodstuffs I have dearly missed in the past two years.
All packed up and breakfasted, I briefly considered a walk round my Bayswater neighbourhood, mostly whitewashed Victorian buildings in fairly good nick converted into hotels, but I did not want to rush later on, so I got straight on a bus. As I had to change buses in Victoria, I stopped off for a quick visit of Westminster Cathedral. And the nice apartment buildings of the neighbourhood with their red brick and stucco stripes
The cathedral blends right in! Built around the same time, at the end of the 19th Century in Neo-Byzantine style, it is a curious mix of red brick and playful stucco. It somewhat lacks the grandeur and severity of the George Gilber Scott Liverpool Cathedral, opened shortly after, but inside you are transported from the rich London boroughs to Sofia, Istanbul or Thessaloniki.
Just see for yourself. Mass had just ended, and I welcomed half an hour of quiet wandering.
Just a few of the ornate decorations, mosaics in Byzantine style. St Benedict, a very Italian Saint, guarding Wilfred of York and Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, both a good century younger.
But if you look up, the decorations are far from finished: the ceiling has room for plenty more, and the whole church is like a work in progress.
A half hour later, thanks to empty Sunday morning streets, I arrived in Liverpool Street Stations, and walked along the eerily empty Bishopsgate. I had given up on my plan to see some of Christopher Wren’s rebuilt churches, as most are no longer in regular use and would be shut on a Sunday, the churchiest of all church days, for lack of a congregation, not busy enough to warrant opening for the stray toursit, whoc would see much better entertainment in the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Thames, the Tate Modern, rather than to look down alleywayy in the City.
Down such an alleyway I went, into Folgate Street, but was immediately disappointed my the scaffolds that seemed to obscure views of the early Georgian brick terraces everywhere. Just a few streets later, I found the scene I was after, complete with a non-functional car.
Also, trappings of modern life everywhere. Bin bags, beer bottles. But after all, I found the Dennis Severs House, where a discreet queue had formed. The artist Dennis Severs bought the house in the 1970s and worked to keep it in a state as if a family of Huguenot silk weavers had been living there – sometimes using real anttiques, sometimes using very modern and inexpensive props, and sometimes opened it to visitors, exclaiming “you either get it, or you don’t”.
A place I have always wanted to visit. I love old houses but stately homes, the grander they are, bore me for their artificiality. So I approached the guy at the entrance, who said ” yeah just turn up after 14.00, we have plenty of space today”. My friend, who I was still due to meet, responded “YEAH” to my test, turns out he had been living nearly yet never gotten round to visit either.
But first, I had to check out a place for myself and spend a bit of the cash I had pulled from an ATM yesterday yet ended up paying everything by card. Where deep in the lanes of warehouses, shops, period terraces and dots of social housing is a small shop that has been around for a very long time, so cool and anachronistic, it doesn’t have a website or an Instagram. Not even the gros of sewing bloggers appears to have picked up on it.
It is called Crescent Trading, and it is fabric paradise. If you are into slightly more traditional, well, “British” fabrics. Run by an old gentleman who is, hard to believe, in his late eighties, in a sharp suit, and super sharp himself.
What can I say? Before you can count to three, I had dropped by supermarket-kaden backpack by his office and dove into the shelves of fabric, first ticking off my essentials boxes.
“Do you have Liberty Tana Lawn?”
Okay. Fair enough. He had Harris Tweed for 20 GBP a metre, though, and what looked very much like Linton Tweed, except I wasn’t looking to make a Chanel-y jacket. If you had wanted to make yourself a suit or formal dress, this is the place to be. Top quality fabrics. Lots of fancy brands, like Dormeuil, but then, I am not really into menswear. I found this post to help look for quality if you look for tailoring cloth. I walked out with Harris Tweed, of course, and another rusty red and white herringbone tweed fit to make a winter skirt or a cape.
I met with my friend, had a restorative fancy alcohol-free cucumber seltzer, and after a little walk in the neighbourhood, cue more pictures, we entered the playground that is Dennis Severs House. Playground only in a theoretical sense, because of course, there is no touching or taking photos, hence, no photos except the one I secretly snapped with my mobile of a vertical puzzle of blue and white plates and egg cups, where my phone literally jumped out of my pocket, begging to make this snap, so that I could marvel at it in months to come. Also, for admiration, were a kitchen table full of freshly plucked vegetables, and what a mess must this be to clear all this up at the end of a day, a four poster bed made from pallets that the resident cat sometimes sleeps on, and some other things that clearly do not belong into a museum but are part of this weird but wonderful production.
And while we crept through the narrow, almost hokey-pokey little house, along with about fifteen other tourists, carefully watched by the invigilators who occasionally made shushing noises, I stil thought it was one of the best places I visited all along, well worth the 15GBP entry fee!
And, having come out amazed, I had just time to join the shorter queue of the bagel shops, stuff a dozen and two cram cheese bagels onto my fine fabrics, and sit down for a coffee with a fine view of the airport coach stop before a very long slog to Stansted along tiny roads, with half the passengers suffering nervous breakdowns for fear of missing their flight.
I crawled into bed in the suburbs at 1am, my husband freezing the culinary souvenirs of Brick Lane. “Did you have fun?” he asked. While in the dim light of the phone, I booked my next flight to London.
Which turned out totally different, because this time, I took my mother! But that is a whole different story. Another month, another place, and dare I say, a tightrope walk between mainstream fun and whimsy (with lots of raw fish).
The Small Print
This was a private trip, visited under my own steam, using my own money… no affiliate links here. All advertisement is a truthful and unbiased recommendation – or not 🙂
Places visited on Sunday in London
I have marked all places visited in the map below, where you can find addresses and opening hours as well! Some of these I visited on the Saturday, as detailed in my first post about this London trip.
A first time visit for me, this tiny 1930’s cafe (Established in 1900, the style is rooted in suburban Deco) on Bethnal Green Road is a legend among locals and tourists, and it’s that kind of mix you get when you visit. It is full to bursting pretty soon after opening at 8am. The fare is traditional “caff”, bacon butties, fried breakfasts, Anglo-Italian lunch dishes. Plenty for vegetarians. If you speak to locals, they praise it as one of the best, if not THE best traditional cafe in London. Also famous for being a daily haunt of the Kray gangsters (don’t worry they are dead). I had a “Have the Lot” veggie breakfast and coffee for about 17 GBP. Go at least once and plan not to eat much the rest of the day.
Arome Bakery London
A fine addition to the saturated Covent Garden gastronomic scene, this fancy bakery and cafe churn out French baked goods with an Asian touch. Think picture-pretty Danishes, croissants and the honey and cinnamon toast. I was going to pass because, well, the prices are a bit eyewatering at 3-5GBP a piece, but after I tried it, I was convinced this is a must-visit.
A classic by now and an old favourite of mine. This was the perfect time to come for their cute yet stylish Easter chocolates, eggs and boxed chocolates. Normally I am not a fan of English chocolate, Rococo is an exception. Prices are, as you may expect for a “luxury chocolate” brand rather high, but a bag of chocolate coffee beans or seagull eggs goes a long way.
Imagine you would like some Indian food in a classy ambiance – then Hoppers is your place. They belong to a chain of upmarket Indian subcontinent restaurants (Trishna’s, also very good is part of it) and serve Sri LAnkan and South Indian food which is still quite hefty and hot!
Goldhawk Road Fabric Shops
To forego a trip here would be a crime. So I wouldn’t. The whole street between Shepherd’s Bush Green and the Goldhawk Road Underground Stop is filled with fabric shops; the road has undergone a rather unsubtle gentrification, and some of the shops are now rather what you’d find in Soho, the old school cafes have shut and fancy little resturants, amongt them quite a few Far Eastern ones, have opened. My favourite fabric shop, Classic Textiles, is still standing strong. Other than that, there are some really nice shops with varying offers. For someone very much into Liberty prints, I always find something inC lassic Textiles.
The Hawks Nest, Shepherds Bush
Apparantly famous for “pizza nights” this bar, just nestled under the railway arches by Shepherds Bush Market, has a lovely outdoor patio and garden for a good weather day and an impressive list of cocktails, including many alcohol-free ones. Great place to sort through your haul from the Goldhawk Road fabric shops before heading home.
Having undergone many changes from a multilevel site in Piccadilly Circus to their current quarters in quieter Panton Street, this is now mostly a Japanese Delicatessen with some very high priced foods (spices, green tea) and a few stables along with an extensive food court. I do like the supermarket, althpough in recent years the “normal” foods had to give in favour of more food court and fancy teas.
Conveniently located across the road from the Japan Centre, this tiny restaurant is right in theatreland but offers quality Japanese food – more small meals and sharing plated rather than multi course dinner. The small dishes we had were great, but, well, very small, but the prices were about 6-10GBP per dish, which is fine given the quality of the food.
Unless you are in search of mass or into Victorian iteration of Byzantine Architecture, you might give this a miss. The cathedral is undoubtedly pretty, very large, offers regular mass services but is otherwise squeezed into a generic neighbourhood of 1970s architecture and chain shops.
Why this hasn’t featured heavily in the tons and tons of London sewing blogs I do not know. Anyway, astounded about this fabulous place and its presence metres from hipster Shoreditch High Street, I could barely believe my eyes. Great British made fabrics, a lot of wool, tweed, boucle… all offerings were mor eon the wooly side, what you need for a trip to a country house, really.
The owner is nearly 90 years old, but agile and lightning fast. I bought some great Harris Tweed for 20 GBP a metre. Enough said. They close on Saturdays, and take cash only. Not going to mak e too much of a song and dance about it before it gets overrun with self-proclaimed designers asking for 100 samples.
Don’t know much about this friendly and airy pub other than that it’s spacious and prtty empty in the day time and a great place for a civilised drink. The choice of alcohol-free drinks is, like at the Hawk’s Nest, pretty impressive.
Dennis Severs House
Artist Dennis Severs bought a dilapidated Early Georgian terraced house near Spitalfields Market in the late 1970s and, while living in it, imagined a Huguenot silk weaver family living there, creating a middle-class Georgian phantasy. While a lot of the items are authentic, others aren’t and it is less of a museum than an art installation. I went with a friend after we both decided we’d rather see this marvel than eat lunch, and although the self-guided tour is a bit strange and there are no explanations inside the house, it is a pretty bizarre but cool experience. No picutres are allowed in the house, which is a great shame, because it is very photogenic, but as much as my hands were itching… there are plenty pictures online to take a peek before you part with your 15 quid-plus
Brick Lane Bagel Shops: Beigel Bake and Beigel Shop
While Germany used to be well-known for its bread and cakes, you cannot get a decent bagel there, which is why I occasionally import them from London. A Sainsbury’s bagel will have to do at a push, but whenever I can, I buy them in a bakery in Brick Lane. There is much discussion about which Brick Lane bagel bakery is better, the “yellow” one (Beigel Shop) or the “white one” (Beigel Bake). The white one is more famous and has the longer lines, and apparently the monopoly on the “salt beef bagel” and they also do simple but good cake. The yellow one has countered by offering rainbow bagels and being slightly cheaper. As far as the humble bagel goes, plain or with cream cheese, I have not noticed much of a difference. Every time I asked for a dozen bagels or two, I received some freshly baked, still warm bagels, and if you fed me one from either bakery I probably could not tell the difference.
Things you need to know
Pandemic? Which Pandemic??
If you are uncomfortable with a totally slack approach to infection control, may I suggest you do not travel to the UK and especially London while the incidence is still quite high. Here in Germany, we jokingly say Putin ended the pandemic, but the truth is, there are still infections, and you can still get sick, but since no one is checking, you may catch COVID, pass it on, etc. Plenty of even triple-vaccinated people in my social circle got sick, plenty people I know got vaccinated AND got long COVID, but well, just saying. I used a mask in indoor places, and didn’t catch it.
You can find up to date numbers here.
At the time of writing there are no COVID-related entry restrictions to the UK and no mask mandates.
Prices are a bit bonkers right now
Where I stayed
I stayed at the London Latvian Centre London in Bayswater. While I did book mine on the bus home, they do prefer direct bookings. Nope, I am not Latvian, doesn’t matter, they are a small guesthouse, although a lot of Latvian-speaking people stayed there. And I am going to stay there again, too, because you cannot do much better for a really central guesthouse, with a decent breakfast included, that is clean, quiet and has good beds and lets you have a good nights sleep! They even have a garden and a Latvian bar. There was absolutely nothing to criticise, not for that price. It is a simple place, but clean and comfortable, most rooms have shared bathrooms, which are usually located right next to the room and are immaculate. The prices do tend to be higher at busy periods, but when prices are low, there is no better place to stay.
Getting to the Airport
From London Stansted, which is where most of the cheapies fly, you have two options: train or bus, both serve Liverpool Street day and night, with some buses also going to Victoria, Baker Street and some other places in town, but you might be far better off to just go to Stratford or Liverpool Street then hop on the underground or train – it’s faster.
TheStansted Express is a train shuttle to Liverpool Street Station that is by far the fastest. Unfortunately it is also quite expensive. Best to book far in advance, and unlike most UK trains, your dates of travel are fixed, but the trains aren’t, giving you some flexibility. There are often closures and repairs, in which cases it’s a bit pointless to spend all that money on a train ticket.
The National Express Airport Coach is great in principle, running at least every half hour, to various destinations in London. If booked well ahead, you pay as little as 12GBP for a return and although tickets are in theory flexible, more than often I got quite flustery because buses did not turn up, did not let passengers board if they were booked onto another departure, or were stuck in traffic for two hours. What is good is that some of its stops are walking distance to Brick Lane bagel bakeries and E. Pellicci, though.
Map of all places visited
Things you need to know