Posts filed under expat

Hampstead | A Local's Neighborhood Guide

I’ll be honest- I don’t know Hampstead very well. I have had a few friends live there over the past few years in London, but it’s always *just* far enough out of my way that I don’t go there just for fun. And I got lost there at 35 weeks pregnant with twins.. which doesn’t sound terrible, unless you know how HILLY the neighbourhood is. It was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back… but the effort/calories burned that day may have helped me get back into my regular jeans a few weeks earlier than expected.

Fortunately, it’s not up to me to give you this area guide. Melissa has lived there for several years and has made her home there with her English husband and their two sons. Melissa is a cool, smart lady with an impressive corporate career. She’s got great taste and a friendly smile that make her easy to talk to and a fast friend. Enjoy taking a spin around one of London’s prettiest and most loved hoods with Melissa. Welcome to Hampstead!


Hampstead, NW3

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Imagine a delightful little English village complete with cobbled alleys, stone churches and heaps of willowy trees. Now plonk it down 10 minutes outside the centre of London and you’ve found yourself in Hampstead! Most famous for its rich history and ancient woodlands (called the Heath), Hampstead is a modern neighbourhood with great pubs, cafes and shopping. I really believe you have to experience its charm for yourself in order to wholly translate the unique feel of this area. Hampstead is also a hotbed for a lot of great private and state schools.

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

Even though it has an English countryside vibe Hampstead is really connected so I’d give it an 8. We are in Zone 2 and I can get to places like Kings Cross, Reagents Park and Leicester Square in 10 minutes. We’ve got two tube lines, the overground and buses. The Hampstead stop on the Northern line puts you right smack centre in the village. The jubilee line to Swiss Cottage is just a short walk away and the Hampstead Heath overground stop puts you right at the bottom of the Heath near the duck ponds.

 

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

Even after living in this area for 7 years, I still love to get lost with the kids in Hampstead’s little nooks. We find beautiful new alleys that would be a dream to live on all the time! My favourite is Downshire Hill for its beautiful single-family homes with huge yards. I also love the 5 story Georgian townhouses on Church Row and the terraced houses with brightly coloured doors on Flask Walk.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

All the greenery and brick mansions in Hampstead definitely come with a premium price tag; I’d say a 5. Hampstead is one of the most expensive areas to live in London just behind Kensington and Westminster. However, the house prices are consistently rising so it’s a good investment if you are buying. We bought our 4-story maisonette (fixer upper!) four years ago and it’s still rising even after Brexit! I’m sure the great schools in the area have something to do with this. I also think the slower pace, sense of community and lush greenery in Hampstead really give back to your well-being and overall sanity living with a young family in a big city.

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Hampstead is very quiet with a bohemian and creative flair. The three type of people you will meet on Hampstead are celebrities, Hampstonians and young families. I think celebs like it here because they aren’t bothered by anyone. I’m always running into Josh Hartnett, Ricky Gervais and Isla Fisher. Hampstonians are the locals, born and raised in Hampstead. I think it says a lot that they send their children to the same schools they attended, which is hard to find in a transient place like London. Mostly, you will find families in Hampstead. We’ve got a solid expat community from all over the world but definitely a lot of Frenchies and Americans.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

You definitely have plenty of options for a nice cuppa. My favourite is Melrose & Morgan because I’ve gotten to know the staff well and they have picnic tables big enough for lots of moms and buggies to crowd around. On weekends the whole family heads to a casual little café called Mani’s for a well-priced full English breakfast and Monmouth Coffee. There are two more traditional spots for coffee in Hampstead called The Coffee Cup and Louis. The Coffee Cup is a Hampstead institution and Louis is a cool Hungarian bakery and tea room with the most delicious cakes.

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

My husband and I had our first date in Hampstead so we like to relive the night! If you drink or eat at one place in Hampstead, it must be The Holly Bush. Full of charm, fireplaces and dark panelled walls, it is supposedly one of the oldest pubs in Hampstead and it certainly is my favourite in all of London. 28 Church Row is also a favourite. It’s a small romantic spot nestled in a cellar complete with brilliant tapas and wine. La Cage Imaginaire is cute too.

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN HAMPSTEAD AS A LOCAL?

Our Saturday routine is as follows: First up we head to a farmers' market that is just next to our house for coffee, produce and weekend treats. We usually meet up with friends for a nice pub lunch at either the Wells Tavern or the Freemasons Arms (also really great spots for dinner!). We walk off our lunch on the Heath, usually starting behind the Wells Tavern and then walking up to Kenwood House. In the evenings we catch a film on the comfy red couches at the Everyman Cinema

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

£10-13 -- but I usually just take the tube as it’s only 20 minutes. 


Looking for the right London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides: 

SHEPHERD'S BUSH | CHELSEA | DULWICH



*images courtesy of Melissa Reeve

Chelsea | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

Following on as the first contributor to my new neighbourhood series is my friend Regina. Regina is part of the expat circle here, but not in the normal way- she’s actually Danish, married to an Aussie, previously living in NYC and now raising her three little babes here in London. As all Scandinavians seem to be, she’s stunning and she writes/cooks healthy food that even gets me (the biggest sweet tooth ever) hungry for virtuous dishes dressed with tahini and sprinkled with quinoa. Best of all… she’s incredibly kind. She lives in Chelsea, and she’s generously spared a portion of her rare free time not taking care of little babies to share a glimpse of her life in Chelsea here with us. 


Chelsea, SW3

1. Tell us about your neighbourhood.

Chelsea is beautiful and full of white Victorian houses. Historically known as a village and the centre for alternative culture in the 60s, Chelsea was once London’s bohemian quarter, full of artists, writers and musicians. It’s pretty well gentrified now, but in certain areas the bohemia vibe still exists. Once frequented by the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and London’s bohemia, Chelsea is now home to a lot of expats and holds the largest communities of Americans living outside of the United States.

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

Pretty connected. It's a mile or a mile and a half to four different tube stations: South Kensington, Earls Court, Fulham Broadway and Sloane Square. Between all of them you can get pretty much anywhere.

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

It's hard to narrow that down to a specific street… I really like our street, and the nearby streets around our current flat (just in between Fulham Road and Kings Road in the west end of Chelsea), and a lot of them open up to hidden-away private gardens, which would be such a dream so my kids could run wiiild all day.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

Chelsea definitely isn’t a bargain to live in (sadly). In other words, you do pay premium to live here and even just south of the river in Battersea, you get much better value for your money. 

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

It is full of gorgeous streets with white houses and hidden-away private gardens you'd never know about unless you live here. Although the main streets gets busy, it's not super busy or all that touristy, and I love the village-y vibe you get as soon as you go one street away from the main shopping streets. You'll see the mother getting her kids to school, black shades, coffee in hand and in her athleisure wear (obviously, duh), celebrities getting their morning coffee (or international expat guy in a nice suit on his way to/from work), and the beautifully glamorous elderly lady who has lived here long before it was a cool place to live and who go buy a real newspaper and a fresh loaf of baguette at the local bakery every morning.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

The very BEST coffee I’ve had around here is Tomtom Coffee House, which is actually technically in Belgravia (but a short walk from Sloane Square).  Much closer to our end of Chelsea is the espresso canteen, A Wanted Man, which has a great vibe and good breakfast menu too. And theres a brow bar upstairs - win? Last spot I’ll mention is Muni Coffee Co. on Fulham road, which is a fusion of Fillipino-European influences with a mission to bring coffee beans from the Philippines back into the speciality coffee industry. Read more about their story on their website

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? 

For a fun night out with friends, Kurobuta on King's Road is one of our absolute favourites, and is a fusion of Japanese cuisine. But if it looks more like a intimate dinner just me and my husband, I'd go to Bandol, a beautiful French restaurant with the flavours and style of south France and delicious sharing plates and, of course, a great wine list! They have a great selection of vegetarian dishes too, which I love.

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN CHELSEA AS A LOCAL?

It would look like breakfast at Beaufort House or Ivy Chelsea Garden with the kids, followed by a walk up to Duke of York Square Market. This market is full of amazing food stalls with a great variety of cuisines. From oysters + bubbles, to vegan burgers (my fave!), and of course delicious sweets, this market is so fun and is surrounded by good shopping (always a win). After that we'd stop in at one of our local pubs for a drink. The Sporting Page, Bluebird Terrace & GOAT are a few favourites and all have great outdoor seating, which is amazing during the summer. Then it would end either with a date night out, or a night in where we’d cook something together, in between running back and forth to convince our kids to stay in bed, of course. 

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

Around £20.


Trying to find the right London neighbourhood for you? Check out my previous neighbourhood guide to Shepherds Bush.



*images courtesy of Regina Barker

An English/British/Aussie/South African Accent

Our first year in Oxford, Tyler and I loved the accents all around us. When we would have interactions with people- from the grocery clerk, a nurse or one of his Oxford classmates- we often would repeat phrases back to each other later. It was so fun to hear the new accent of those around us. 

After a few months, it got to this weird confusing point where you are familiar with the words and your start to want to speak in an accent back. But you don't because you actually sound like a wacko. A few of the expats I've asked about this laugh and can recount hilarious stories of when their pseudo English accents slipped out mid-converstation. It's a  awkward moment when you go to buy something at the GAP and when the clerk speaks to you, you blurt out a response that would make Elize Doolittle sound profound before you can think twice. The shock on both parties faces is one that doesn't leave your mind for a long time.

But now... well, now, we don't hear accents. I know that sounds crazy- but when I meet someone, I have a hard time telling where they are from by how they speak. It's more what they speak about- rather than how they say it- that tells me if they live in England. Maybe it's because there are so many expats in our lives that we get immune to the difference or perhaps its because those once once peculiar words and phrases now seem everyday... but either way, now everyone- Irish, English, South African, or whatever- just kind of sounds the same.

When people ask me what Viola's accent is like, I'm honestly not sure how to answer. She just sounds like a little girl to me. Mainly American, I think... but with some British seasoned in it.

Anyway... just something that I noticed today when we were with some Oxford friends that we hadn't seen in a while. They are from New Zealand and I was thinking about when we first met. I think I understood about 1 out of every 6 sentences they said. Weird, right? Has anyone else ever melted into a place where things that once sound strange suddenly sound.... normal?

 



 

*image by Noah Darnell for Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 8, 2015 and filed under life, expat.