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THIS IS MY CITY | Jessica's London

London has always been the place of Australian dreams - the land of opportunity, and beer, and boys, that you kick back to after slugging it away at home for a few years. London is where you can go to find a fashion scene more vivid and out of control than anywhere else, a music scene that is so vibrant and fiercely individual, and all this thriving alongside one of the oldest metropolitan cities in the world. We've always loved London for this combination of history and modernity - but modernity as it seems in books and poetry and movies, it's not quite the modernity of, say, Tokyo or Hong Kong. And we love that Jessica agrees with us. A Melburnian relocated to London, Jessica is an incredible freelance writer and strategist with a fantastic blog, and we are so pleased to have her writing a travel guide for us. This is London, by Jessica.

All photos by Jessica Stanley

one. Best thing about London? The best thing about London is that it's the physical manifestation of the world in which so many of my favourite books are set. I had visited just twice before I moved here, but because of Conan Doyle, Woolf, Murdoch, I felt like I knew it.

two. Worst thing about London? When I lived in Australia I used to say winter was my favourite season. But the winters in London go on for months, and they're not just cold, they're grey. It's takes some getting used to, and careful holiday planning too.

three. Favourite secret spot? I have two. The best walk in London is from Bethnal Green to Islington along the canal. You can stay by the water and look for baby swans, have a coffee at the Towpath Cafe, or nip up the stairs and do some shopping as you pass by Broadway Market or Dalston. My second secret favourite place is Hackney City Farm, especially during lambing season. It's open to the public and there is nothing more relaxing than looking at some farm animals/dodging hens then retiring to the cute cafe for a jam tart. Plus they have a children's menu of dishes that are only £5 but are big enough for an adult's lunch - bargain.

four. Favourite everyone-knows-it-but-it's-still-good spot? East London owns my weekends. There's nowhere better. On Saturday: Broadway Market for a egg and cheese roll, a Climpsons coffee, vegetable shopping and a browse. On Sunday: a walk through the Goldsmith's Row book market down to Rospo for vintage clothes and furniture, on to Columbia Road flower market then a late brunch of buttery, bubbling baked eggs at Leila's Shop. If you look on a map, everything I just mentioned is in a straight line probably less than a kilometre long. It's magic! 

five. What is your newest discovery in London? My newest discovery is probably Toppers of Hackney in Wilton Way, where I get my hair done. It's a walk through London Fields from my place, and they are just lovely in there. They don't use any specific line of products, so they've got Morrocan Oil, dry shampoo from Boots, MOP volumiser, beautiful smelling shampoo - whatever they love the most. They always have the newest Vogues and Elles - and also a small salon dog called Scout. What about somewhere you've been going forever but can't quite give up? A place I've been going forever is the London Buddhist Centre's charity shop, Jambala. My boyfriend used to live down the road in Bethnal Green and when I first moved to London in deep winter it was about as far as I could walk without getting too cold. Their selection of art books and fiction is excellent, and the staff are very kind.  

six. Where is the best place for.... morning coffee/pick-me-up? meal with friends? romantic rendez-vous? late night drink? even later-night boogie? The best coffee is definitely Climpsons in Broadway Market. Nothing else comes close. The most beautiful food in the entire city is at Railroad Hackney in Morning Lane. How can I describe it? They have three entrees, three mains and 2 desserts on every night, each is locally sourced and freshly made in their small kitchen… I don't know what else to say except they are the best dinners I've ever had. The chef is a very talented woman called Lizzie Parle. I can't recommend it more highly. If you'd like a pub meal I love the Coach and Horses in Clerkenwell. For drinks I like Off Broadway in Broadway Market: well-mixed cocktails, an aperol spritz with both a wedge of orange and a green olive, and Mexican food if you get hungry. 

Railroad cafe - source

seven. Where are London's style spots? Where is the best shopping? The best book and record shopping is Dalston Oxfam. Books are only 99p so if you're on holidays and need to restock, drop off your old ones and pick up new ones for almost nothing. Then continue up Kingsland High Street: go to Pelican and Parrots for tightly-curated vintage, and Beyond Retro for vintage that's completely unedited but lots of fun. Otherwise - and I'm almost embarrassed to say this because it's so unlike me! - I've developed a strange love for the huge new Westfield in Stratford. Imagine Westfield Bondi Junction but with English shops. It's really fun and very convenient. Even though it's not very cool.

eight. What is something you can get/read/experience/eat that you can only do in London? England definitely do the best newspapers. A perfect Sunday experience would be to buy the Observer and then take it to Violet Cakes in Wilton Way; order a cinnamon roll or slice of Victoria sponge and get a big pot of tea for reading with. Hopefully someone will have left their Elle UK or copy of The Gentlewoman up there. It's a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

nine. You can tell a lot about a city from their airport. Describe London's. London's airport is completely nondescript. Apparently one of the terminals has been recently tricked out to be very posh but I can't recall seeing it. One nice thing about Heathrow though is that even though they take security very seriously, the passport men and women are always ready to laugh a bit meanly at you if, after a 24 hour journey, you say something silly. That's very English, and very nice.

ten. How would you describe London to someone who has never been there before? Lots of warm, exciting little villages inside an immensely old and sometimes cold city.

Cacti for sale at Colombia Rd Flower Markets

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