Shopping for Nirvana in London

Birthday Trip to London

Quick Trip to London 2019

My birthday bucket-list trip to Ireland and Scotland wrapped up in London, where Will and I met up with Max (his oldest brother and my nephew.) Max was doing a summer internship in London and as we found out over those days visiting, he was loving it.

my birthday portrait at the Andaz – Max and Will with graffiti

Now, I have been to London many times before and each visit was mostly about catching up with close friends who live there. I have stayed all over the city, and each location offers its own unique viewpoint of the city. This time, I chose the Andaz Hotel near Bricklane, Shoreditch, and Spitafields.

Bricklane is the area with the best Indian restaurants. This is where I would go for curry and nan bread. This time I was amazed at all the graffiti murals. Some of the best street artists got their fame up on those walls.

Sweet Toof mural on far right

Brick Lane was originally called Whitechapel Lane. Thought to be renamed because local earth was used by brick and tile manufacturers who set up shop in the street in the 15th century. By the 17th century, the street had also become a popular location for breweries.

Within walking distance to another favorite area of mine was Shoreditch, an arty and hip neighborhood of Hoxton. This is where the ultra trendy new Box Car is located. I had no clue what it was, but there was a line to get in so I grabbed the nephews and we lined up too. It’s a pop-up space built from shipping containers. Ground level has shops and upstairs are kiosk-type food stalls, loud pulsating music feeling more like an exterior nightclub than a food court.

nephews meeting new people at Box Car and my dinner

Spitafields is another district in the East End of London with three historic markets; Old Spitafields Market, Bricklane Market, and Petticoat Lane Market. They sure fixed up Spitafields Market since my first visit in the 1970s. Known for its antiques, I took some of my favorite photos of vintage decor and bought a fuzzy hippie sweater I still wear when LA gets cold. Now the market sells everything from indie designer clothes to designer coffee. Also located nearby is where the famous and grisly Jack the Ripper murders took place in 1888.

For my birthday afternoon with the nephews I got to pick the activities. We took a boat cruise along the London canals, which ended up not being as exciting as I thought. Nevertheless, it was a unique point-of-view of the city. We started in Little Venice and floated down to the crazy crowded tourist-infused area of Camden. Our boat driver got the entire cruise boat to sing happy birthday and that made my day!

Camden after the river cruise (left and right photos) – Thames River (middle photo)

Next stop was Notting Hill which always makes me feel like I am in a Hugh Grant movie. Portobello Road is the commercial and more touristy street lined with antique shops. We were there on a Saturday so the street was blocked off for vendors. It was crazy crowded and not as much fun as I remembered.

When our Uber dropped us off on Westbourne Grove, near Portobello Road I had never been to this area and was excited to window shop at the posh stores. This is where all the cute and expensive real estate is located. What a sweet neighborhood. If I wasn’t with two teenage boys I would have shopped ’til I dropped and tried on everything!

me with Shermay in Chinatown

My visits to London are always about visiting my dear friends. I met Shermay in Monaco and now she lives in England so we planned to meet in Chinatown. “Our thing” is dim sum and catching up no matter where we are in the world. Plus, she always orders the best dumplings.

And then I met one of my BFF’s, Pete, for High Tea at Browns. It is a hoity-toity spot, but there is something so special about the ceremony of tea when in London. It’s almost a religion. The little cakes and sandwiches with crusts cut off are the best.

High Tea at Browns

Wrapping up the Ireland/Scotland trip with a few days in London with my nephews was special. I really hadn’t noticed before the intriguing and complex juxtaposition of modern hi-rise architecture with centuries old buildings. Probably because I never stayed in this area before. The city is growing and expanding.

in the middle is the famous lipstick or The Gherkin building

On my last day, trying to find my way to the city’s oldest synagogue Bevis Marks Temple, hidden among the skyscrapers, was challenging. I wanted to end my birthday bucket list adventure with a few prayers at the 1701 Sephardic Temple. I am grateful every day for my family and dear friends and another year around the sun. I hope you enjoyed my blogs from this trip to Ireland, Scotland, York, and London.

birthday dinner with nephews, the Freilichs, and Jan – sneaked a photo at the Bevis Marks Temple