Not many people know this about me but I am a book nerd with an unhealthy (I am told) passion for books. Nothing gives me more joy than holding a book with its yellowing pages, taking in its rustic aroma and mentally traveling to a “place” where I have never been before. I have maintained in this blog that I have too many alter-egos; to many voices in my head (in a good way) and it does not surprise me when the book lover wins the match and comes out strong. I can easily make more space in my humble abode; give away my stylish clothes only to make more room for my beloved books. Even in this age of Kindle, tablets, Amazon and big-chain bookshops nothing gives me more joy than discovering and getting lost inside an old bookshop.

From Samuel Johnson to Charles Dickens to Geoffrey Chaucer (who was buried at the Poets’ Corner; Westminster Abbey) London has been home to many writers. Hence, it is no surprise that London is also the city where past and present, real life and fiction collide with each other giving it an upbeat, eclectic and ever-changing kaleidoscope. Here, I will share some of my favourite book havens. It is a humble list but then I am in no hurry to discover London’s best literary spots because discovering a book shop is like reading a great piece of work and I would rather savour the whole experience than rushing and spoiling the journey.

Southbank Book Market:

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Okay, I am a bit partial to this London spot. If I have to choose one favourite place in London; I would promptly say Southbank. I don’t know why this place seems so special perhaps it is the incessant buzz of people, perhaps it the calming sight of River Thames or perhaps it is this Book Market itself; Southbank never fails to cheer me up. I accidently stumbled upon this market whilst waiting for a friend, some moons ago and even today I can easily spend hours browsing through this market.

Tucked under Waterloo Bridge, you’ll find the Southbank Centre Book Market: a place brimming with students, tourists, aspiring photographers, wanderers and book nerds like me. This Book Market is not exactly a book shop but a book space (when have I cared for definitions!!) The place has an eclectic collection of books from Maya Angelou’s poetry to Encyclopedias from dog-eared copies of Dickens and Enid Blyton to mass-market copies of contemporary writers from Jane Austen to Fifty Shades of Grey (yes, sadly!) It is a spot where you will find Sylvia Plath and Meera Syal happily living together with Calvin and Hobbes and Wodehouse. What’s more? You can buy books from as less as 99 pence—no deal can be sweeter, don’t you think?

Books for Cooks, Notting Hill:

Image via Books for Cooks

Image via Books for Cooks

Whilst I find every day cooking to be a monotonous task; some days when inspiration strikes I actually love meddling in the kitchen and trying out new dishes.  I can make a decent meal but I must confess I am not a seasoned cook, I ALWAYS need the help of cook books or videos. When exploring Notting Hill on a lazy afternoon with a friend; we stumbled upon this little cookery haven. You will find cook books from floor to ceiling.

Books for Cooks was founded in 1983 by Heidi Lascelles, a nurse who understood the importance a well-cooked meal but was stunned to find that not many bookshops stocked cook books. This place was thus born. There are over 8,000 titles from simple recipe books to foodie fiction from books on nutrition to food history, sociology and chemistry. The place is like never-ending food porn that can make even the most determined dieter salivate and hungry. The only piece of caution: try to go with a full-stomach browsing through their rich collection will definitely make your stomach grumble.

Brick Lane Bookshop:

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The Brick Lane market is one of the wildest and quirkiest markets in London that refuses to give up its originality and character.  The same is true for this beautiful, independent bookshop. Go through its narrow door and you will be instantly transported into a world that has an unmistakable old charm about it, a place full of warmth and unique character.

This bookshop is definitely a place where you need to forget time, the at times irritating ring of the phone and devour its every nook and cranny slowly as if in a meditation. This bookshop has an enviable collection of poetry, fiction, sci-fi, comic books and graphic novels—a never ending list really. You will find Kafka, Tolstoy, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to East London literature. The collection, hence, is varied, diverse and most importantly top-notch. They also have a buzzing book group and conduct writing workshops.

The Brick Lane Bookshop also strikes a good balance when it comes to pricing. Whilst books on the shelves are sold at full retail price; on the ground you will find boxes where you can get some true treasures for as less as £3! The place is filled with little seats and two comfy lounge chairs and a plethora of cushions—a perfect atmosphere to enjoy some solitude; snuggled up with your favourite read.

Starting tomorrow some of the most beautiful people from around the world will be swarming in London as the London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014 would start at Somerset House. While the big-wigs of fashion industry and bloggers would be a definite fix in the LFW shows; the rest of us need not feel so left out—it is London after all and there is plenty to do this week that will keep the fashionistas happy whilst fueling curiosity among non-fashionistas. Remember—fashion is not just in dresses. Fashion has to do with ideas. Here are some of the things that I hope to go to in the coming weeks.

Fashion is Fake Art Show:

Credit: Indra and Samia Blog

Credit: Indra and Samia Blog

The project is started by artist and women’s wear designer Samia Malik. The project started out as an activism related to ethical trade in the fashion industry; which later on branched out into questioning general aesthetics of the fashion industry. Since 2011, Fashion is Fake project has developed into artwork, street art, performances in public areas, and art show performances. The thought-provoking art show opens tomorrow and will go till May at the Indra and Samia Gallery (E1 1NB).

The story of textiles:

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jack Mitchell

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jack Mitchell

Fashion and style for me above all is a form of art. Artist Textiles Picasso to Warhol at the Fashion and Textile Museum (SE1 3XF) traces the history of 20th century art in textiles. It will explore the works of some prominent artists like Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Sonia Delaunay, Ben Nicholson and Andy Warhol. The exhibition will feature examples of key European and American art movements like Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Abstraction, Surrealism and Pop Art. The show will also explore how ordinary people were once able to connect with modern art in a personal and intimate way through their clothing and home furnishings. Intriguing isn’t it? Open till 17th May.

London Fashion Weekend:

Credit: London Fashion Weekend

Credit: London Fashion Weekend

After the fashionable frenzy of LFW has died down explore the heady mix of fashion and style up, close and personal at the London Fashion Weekend. This event allows people to get a taste of London Fashion Week with catwalk shows, discount designer shopping and my favourite– trend spotting. The event runs from February 20 to 23 and tickets start from £20.

People-watching:

Credits: Wikimedia Commons/ Danny Robinson

Credits: Wikimedia Commons/ Danny Robinson

Fashion or not, nothing is more interesting or inspiring than people watching (yes, there is a great way to do it but that’s a post for another day). Head towards King’s Road in Chelsea to see some of the most affluent people going about their everyday life in style (because apparently that’s the only way to live here). You might go green with envy but you will have a better perspective of human nature, I guarantee that. Check in one of the cafes or if you are lucky head towards any of the intimate, leafy gardens and see life in action.

As a style-lover and a compulsive people watcher, I love exploring a city’s markets.

 

The famous London Eye

 London Eye

For me, they are the ultimate representation of a city’s personality. Away from the comforts of fancy ad gimmick and stripped of any artificial airs, markets are where you see the city in its true colours while indulging in some shameless people watching. Exploring a market is not just about shopping it’s about experiencing a city’s raw character, coming in touch with its rugged personality and getting acquainted with its many shades. Markets unlike malls also have uniqueness to them that can never be matched up. Of course, the fashionista in me is always beaming after getting her hands on that one unique piece.

London, as we all know, is one of the best shopping places. Whilst names like Harrods and Selfridges have put London as a shopping paradise for the swish set; there’s definitely more to London’s shopping landscape than the glittery malls. I bring to you three of the best shopping and people watching haunts of London—the Brick Lane Market, the Camden Market and Spitalfields Market.

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Brick Lane Market: A study in culture and contradictions, this market is located on the northern end of Brick Lane along Cheshire Street in East London. In Brick Lane, posh boutiques stand in sharp contrast with rickety stalls selling a plethora of eclectic goods from old books, antique cameras, and vintage clothes to cutesy bric-a-brac. This place is popularized by bargain hunters, art students and curry houses, It’s unpolished, little wild, rough around the edges and definitely unafraid. And true to London’s multicultural fabric, Brick Lane is a place where people from all different cultures, backgrounds come together to clash and cherish. Brick Lane’s vibe can be summed up in two words—wild and eclectic.

Camden Lock

 

Camden Market

 

 

Camden Market

 

Camden Market: One of the oldest markets of London, it has been the home ground for musical legends like Ian Drury and Amy Winehouse. Situated between Camden Town and Chalk farm, the Camden Markets give you a sneak peek to the city’s vibrant street culture. Saunter around its narrow pathways and you will soon realise that this is a place where alternative culture could have born. You will see an array of shops selling everything from Goth, Punk to vintage lifestyles.

 

Via: Wikimedia Commons

Via: Wikimedia Commons

Spitalfield Market: The Old Spitalfield Market (pictured above) located in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, closest to Liverpool Street tube station, is home to an old-fashioned community of over 30 independent and large traders and a plethora of chic bohemian businesses. The market is a treasure trove of eclectic interiors and design, scrumptious street food and quirky art.Nothing represents the consumer’s diversity and individuality like this market and at the same time it is a cultural and entrepreneurial melting pot.  If you love antiques – especially  Victorian ones then this market should not be missed. But a word of caution: the real antiques market is open only on Thursdays and like every other market in the world, there are numerous vendors who will try to fool you with their “iconic” finds. So have a discerning eye. If you are tired of rummaging through retro finds, then give your taste buds some exercise by digging into some farmers’ cheese and other delicious delights.

Overhead on the streets of London, a slightly agitated child, “Mom, why can’t we stay in London??” I had to smile as I realised the magic of this city which charms and pulls in the young and the old alike. English fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood once famously said, “There’s nowhere else like London. Nothing at all, anywhere.” Here’s why:-

 

The famous London Eye

The famous London Eye

 

Southbank

South bank

 

Inside the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Inside the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

 

Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre

 

Royal Observatory

Royal Observatory

River Thames

River Thames

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark

Clearly, the city is a smorgasbord of history, culture and variety in all forms and yes, you CAN never be bored here.

 

 

 

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Hiding behind mighty walls opposite the Embankment on the Royal hospital road just off the busy King’s Road is one of London’s best kept secrets—the Chelsea Physic Garden. A perfect spot to relax that overworked mind and enjoy some tranquility. The Garden is one of the oldest botanical gardens of London. It was started by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for the purpose of training apprentices in identifying plants in 1673.

From 1722 to 1770, chief gardener Philip Miller obtained plants from all over the world, many of which were cultivated first in the Garden. Today, the Physic Garden proves that gardens are more than plants and flowers. It remains an important centre of education. Here, you will find more than 5,000 different useful, medicinal and historical plants and a new half-acre bed of edible plants, which opened only this May. It is one of the oldest of its type in the world, preceded only by the Physic Garden in Pisa, Italy and the Oxford Botanic Garden. Hence, it is of little wonder that this bountiful garden continues to entice botany experts, artists and nature lovers alike.

On entering the Garden, a rather imposing statue of Sir Hans Sloane welcomes you. A businessman, physician and philanthropist but his greatest contribution to society could well be bringing the art of drinking chocolate and its secret recipe to Europe.

Sloane chanced upon cocoa whilst in Jamaica, where the locals drank it mixed with water. But he found cocoa nauseating. Sloane devised the idea of mixing it with milk to make it more appetising. When he returned to Chelsea, the recipe was initially manufactured and sold by apothecaries as a medicine for children. By the 19th century, Cadbury brothers brought the recipe. The garden still houses this original recipe.

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With its long narrow beds separated by grassy ribbons and flowering plants, this Grade II structure looks similar to a monastery garden. In the centre is the oldest rock garden in England, made with basalt from erupted volcanoes in Iceland, bricks, flint and stones from the Tower of London. The rock garden was built in 1771 when apothecaries discovered that plants thrived in stony soil. However, they could only afford to get builder’s rubble. This assortment became the rock garden.

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The garden offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of London. Walk along its many paths, indulge in the in-house Tangerine café or get lost in your favourite book. Alternatively, do nothing but cherish the serene atmosphere that surrounds you.