London: Paper + Design Shopping in Marylebone

Marylebone, London by Natalie ParkerMarylebone, London by Natalie ParkerMarylebone, London by Natalie Parker

On my second weekend in London, I took a walk around Marylebone!  Here are the highlights so you can plan a visit yourself!  Make sure to visit the map to see all my stops with links to the store websites.

Start your walk at the intersection of Marylebone Road and Marylebone High Street.  Walk down Marylebone High Street toward Oxford Street — that way you end up at Selfridges plus a lot of central tube and bus lines.

I started at the top of Marylebone High Street and stopped at any cute shops on the main road.  There’s a map on the left side of the street near the start that shows all the shops along the street so you don’t miss any.

Marylebone, London by Natalie Parker

How do you pronounce that?

Marylebone.  There isn’t exact agreement on how to pronounce it.  I’ve heard “Mary-la-bone” and “Mar-lee-bone.”  When in doubt with British place names, subtract syllables and run the rest together.  I say Marley-bone (no one laughed at me).

Highlights from My Walk

I popped into Oliver Bonas to make sure I didn’t miss anything after I stopped at their other location on my Shoreditch Walk.  One can never be too careful.

Caroline Gardner made me consider stuffing throw pillows in my suitcase.  I settled for some cards and a cute gift instead.

Daunt Books.  Enough said.

Marylebone, London by Natalie ParkerMarylebone, London by Natalie Parker

I could not get enough of the neon at Designers Guild.  Give me one of everything please!  Such lovely home goods as well.

Lots of neato Scandinavian style at Skandium.  Cute gifts too!

Cath Kidston: pattern exploding everywhere!  I picked up a polka dot neon pouch to hold travel stuff and some gifts for my niece and nephew.  They sell the prints they use in their products by the yard!

Marylebone, London by Natalie Parker

Afterward, I had a snack at Roti Chai and then hit Selfridges.

A perfect ending to the day would be this: picking out cards at Selfridges, sampling chocolate, then heading to the manicure stand.  Alas, I was in a hurry to get to a pub and catch the Manchester Derby and couldn’t stay.  I’m totally getting my nails done there next time.

What are your favorite shops in Marylebone?

If you go

Click here for a map of all the locations I visited.

Click here to see a photo index for all my posts on London

I traveled solo to London for the month of April on a business trip and kept myself entertained on the weekends exploring new places.

Good Eats in London

London Eats by Natalie Parker

Here’s a roundup of places I’ve liked from my last few trips to London.  When I’m in London, I’m always working, but I try hard to fit in good food!

Roti Chai

This is a trendy Indian place located just up the street from Selfridge’s.  I popped in here for a quick afternoon snack since I accidentally skipped lunch.  I ate upstairs in the “Street Kitchen,” which serves food all day.  There is also a restaurant downstairs that serves dinner.

London Eats by Natalie Parker

My favorite thing I ordered was the bhel puri — puffed rice mixed with tamarind and spices.  The samosas were huge, but not quite as good as the bhel puri.  I wish I could have ordered more dishes but I was by myself!

Leon

Leon is a healthy fast food chain with around 20 of locations throughout London.  There was one on my commute home in the Victoria Train Station so I decided to give it a try.  I got a chicken superfood salad that included grilled chicken, quinoa, and peas.  It was pretty good for a quick weeknight dinner.  My only issue with it were the huge chunks of parsley stems mixed in.

London Eats by Natalie Parker

Leon serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and it’s a great option to get quick and healthy fresh food when you’re on the go.  I really recommend this if you’re looking for a quick bite on a long day of sightseeing.

Chotto Matte

Chotto Matte is a restaurant in Soho that serves Nikkei cuisine, or Japanese-Peruvian fusion.  I have to admit I was very skeptical, especially since I don’t care for sushi or nigiri.   I was totally blown away — the food was that good.

London Eats by Natalie Parker

In addition to my finickiness about sushi, we had a vegetarian with us.  The menu is vast and we had no problem finding something for everyone to share.  My favorite was the pollo del miso, pictured above (split by the omnivores at the table).

Little Social

Little Social is designed as an upscale diner serving British food with a French influence.  Got that?  It’s well done and delicious.  My coworker took Mr. P and I out and it was the perfect combination of a beautiful restaurant with fantastic food that wasn’t too pretentious.  Mr. P and I split the cottage pie for two and it was to die for!

As seems to be the trend with some restaurants in London, when we booked we were told there was a time limit and we had to finish our dinner by a certain time (I think two hours?).  Due to service that was a tad slow, we ended up leaving about 15 minutes after the deadline but no one said anything.

Muriel’s Kitchen

I popped into Muriel’s Kitchen in South Kensington for tea while I was waiting for my AirBNB host to let me into my flat.  Muriel’s has three locations in London — the one I sat at in South Ken is right outside the tube station.  The staff were super nice and helped me wheel my 50-pound suitcase into a side room so it wouldn’t get in the way.

London Eats by Natalie Parker

I ordered a cup of tea and a scone — the waiter looked at me a bit weird because I wasn’t ordering more.  Then I noticed everyone around me was digging into huge desserts!  Muriel’s also serves lunch and other savory foods — it all looked fresh and delicious.  My scone was huge and it and the tea were excellent!

If you’re looking for a place to try proper tea and scones without having to commit to an afternoon tea or high tea, put this on your list.

The Kati Roll Co.

With locations in Soho in London and New York City, this place is excellent for quick, delicious Indian food.  Mr. P and I stopped here for dinner last December.  They serve various kati rolls, both vegetarian and non.  I thought they would be small but one was quite enough for a light dinner.  I had the chicken tikka roll and it was fantastic!

Morada Brindisa Asador

London has a love affair with Spanish tapas.  I loved this place because it was Spanish food but actually not tapas!  My coworker and I split some cava and dinner.  What we didn’t realize:  even though it is not a tapas restaurant, the dishes are still served family style.  We ordered a tad too much food!

London Eats by Natalie Parker

I’m still having dreams about the jamón ibérico (hand carved right in front of us) and the roast pork.  The pork was absurdly expensive (but makes sense when one realizes it’s to be shared) but totally worth it — it was charcoal-fired and crispy on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside.  I’m taking Mr. P here next time we’re in town.

Dosa World

Dosa World is just off Brick Lane in East London and specializes in, yep, Dosas.  Tourists tend to associate Brick Lane with Indian food.  Actually, the restaurants tend to be Bangladeshi and while you can get a Bangladeshi curry, the curries tend to be a bit fruitier and sweeter.

Dosas are southern Indian, so a bit outside of the majority in the area.  Mr. P and I ordered two dosas plus a lamb dish to split and it was fantastic.  The restaurant was pretty empty, but they sure did a robust take out business (kind of feels like a Chinese food place in the US that does more take out than dine in).

My coworkers tell me that if I want “proper Indian food” I have to venture outside central London to Wembley.  I still haven’t had time to do that, so I’m glad we were at least able to get southern Indian at Dosa World!

If You Go

Roti Chai | Leon | Chotto Matte | Little Social | Muriel’s Kitchen | The Kati Roll Co.Morada Brindisa Asador | Dosa World

Click here for a map of all the locations I visited in London

Click here to see a photo index for all my posts on London

London: Visiting Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace, London by Natalie ParkerKensington Palace, London by Natalie ParkerKensington Palace, London by Natalie Parker

On one of my days off during my long work trip to London, I decided to check out Kensington Palace.

Kensington Palace is for You if

You’re a royal watcher (like me).  If you are at all interested in monarchy generally or the British royal family, you’ll love this.

You are interested at all in Queen Victoria or Princess Diana.  Queen Victoria lived in Kensington Palace before she became queen and had her first privy council meeting in one of the rooms available to visit.  Princess Diana also lived in Kensington Palace.

You’re interested in what’s on the rotating exhibition.  Exhibitions rotate at the palace.  What drew me there was actually a fashion exhibition of the Queen’s, Princess Margaret’s, and Princess Diana’s dresses.  The exhibition on Queen Victoria’s life, Victoria Revealed, was also on when I visited.

Kensington Palace, London by Natalie ParkerKensington Palace, London by Natalie Parker

Tips for Your Visit

Tickets aren’t free.  But I had no problem walking up and buying them on the spot.  Click here for pricing information.  Tickets purchased online in advance are slightly cheaper.

There are real guides, not audio guides.  Real guides are available throughout the exhibits to answer any questions you may have.  They are incredibly knowledgeable and really love their jobs.  I overheard one say that they decided to dump audio guides a few years ago in favor of the more personal touch.  Still . . .

. . . that means things aren’t labeled.  I find that kind of annoying.  In the Queen Victoria rooms, there was one small booklet at the entrance to each room that you could grab and flip through to see what a painting was or whose doll house that was.  One.  Other than that, you had to ask the guide.  I’m glad they’re there, don’t get me wrong, but I wish stuff was labeled.

Don’t expect to run into Will and Kate (Kensington Palace is their London residence). But I swear, I swear, I saw an assistant and a security guard walking Lupo one morning when I was running through Kensington Gardens.  Just sayin’.

If you don’t have time to go in consider taking a walk (or run) through Kensington Gardens.  The outside of the palace is lovely and can be really peaceful in the mornings.  I ran through the gardens three times a week during my month in London and loved it.

If You Go

Click here for a map of all the locations I visited in London

Click here to see a photo index for all my posts on London

Have you visited Kensington Palace?  What did you think?  Did you know the grounds can be rented for weddings?

I traveled solo to London for the month of April on a business trip and kept myself entertained on the weekends exploring new places.  

Playing with the New Google Photos: Animations

Dead Sea Sunset by Natalie Parker

I took the plunge and decided to try the new Google Photos.  I’ll put comprehensive thoughts in a future post, but I wanted to share one cool thing today: animations.

As Google ingests all 30,000 photos in my collection, every so often it will take similar photos and animate them!

You must enable this feature by clicking on Settings and turning on Suggest New Creations.

I love seeing this surprises pop up.  At the top of this post is the sun setting over the Dead Sea.

Or, perhaps you like baby monkeys?  These two are from a national park in China:

Monkeys in China by Natalie Parker

It handles sports pictures really well:

Cal Football at Northwestern by Natalie Parker

And pictures of koalas:

Koala at Taronga Zoo in Sydney by Natalie Parker

One of my favorites is from our wedding day.  Our photographer took a bunch of pictures of us on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, trying to get the effect of people zooming by us.  I don’t think the pictures were that successful by themselves, but the animation really shows the effect:

Wedding Day on Telegraph Avenue Berkeley

I see just a few nit picky downsides:

I can’t control what is animated and what isn’t.  Sometimes it splits items into two animations when really everything could have gone together.  EDIT: I’ve learned I can create my own animations using the Photos mobile app.  I haven’t found that option on the web version.

I can’t edit for brightness and color.  If I haven’t edited some of the photos (often they are dark), the animation will use unedited photos.  Once the animation is created, I can’t edit to punch up the color.  If I really wanted an A+ looking animation, I’d have to delete, edit, and reupload the pictures then hope Google selects and animates them again.

For example, I really really want to fix the brightness so this little penguin looks like he did in real life (on bright white snow!):

Penguin moving by Natalie Parker

Or fix the brightness on this set of me sliding down the snow in Antarctica:

Sledding in Antarctica by Natalie Parker

But, all in all, I love these!  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them since I can’t exactly put animations in a scrapbook.  We’ll see!  What would you do with these?

How We Use Money Abroad

Money Abroad by Natalie Parker

One question we always get from people is how we use money abroad.  Or, how do we get money, exactly?  Using money is one of those small little facets that makes people nervous and can contribute to not wanting to bother with international travel.

It’s really very simple (most of the time).  This isn’t different from what we do at home:

Use credit cards as much as possible (get tips on how to do that here).  If we can use a credit card, we do.  It’s easier than carrying around cash, we get points, we have fraud protection, and get a good exchange rate.  Credit cards aren’t as ubiquitous outside the US, so we always have cash on hand just in case.  Sometimes using a credit card abroad can be tricky, so check in next week for a separate post with some tips.

Get cash from ATMs.  We use a CapitalOne 360 Checking ATM card*, which doesn’t charge fees for using foreign ATMs.  We try to stick to large bank ATMs (HSBC, BNP Paribas, Barclays, China Construction, etc.) avoid places like Travelex if we can.  If we have to use a shady-looking ATM, we try to withdraw as little as possible until we can get to a better one.  Always call your bank to let them know you are traveling!

On rare occasions, we’ll order a bit of cash ahead of time from our bank.  It’s usually when we go to new places where we aren’t sure about the ATM situation or it’s a cash-heavy culture (China, Turkey).  We never order Euros or Pounds Sterling ahead of time.

There are exceptions to every rule.  In some countries it’s actually advantageous to use cash (Argentina).  Before you head to a new country, check out a guidebook or some online forums.  People are always eager to help!

If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them!  Happy spending!

*We used to use our Bank of America ATM card, but they started charging a percentage of each cash withdrawal, so it got voted off the island.