Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m sure you’re sick of seeing all of your friends lovey-dovey Facebook statuses and Instagram photos of the dozen roses they got with an antique filter on it…so I’m going to change it up a bit. Do something a little unconventional, I’ll tell you about the place I love.
Every time people talk about London, they’re always waxing lyrical about east London.
“It’s so cool – it’s like the East Village of Europe!”
“The street art is awesome!”
“The bars – they’re so creative!”
I’m always very skeptical of superlatives: you know, “the best” this, “the most amazing” that. I blame Buzzfeed. So let’s talk about the place I’ve called home for the past few months: north London.
From N6 to N7 to N4, I’ve been in an N post code since I arrived and I wouldn’t trade it for an EC or E if I didn’t have to.
So, why is north London so good?
The Great Outdoors
I mean, we’ve got Hampstead Heath, Finsbury Park, I was within walking distance from Highgate Woods, Alexandra Palace… It shouldn’t be a surprise that three of the five places I mentioned in my post about seeing the London skyline were in north London.
Alexandra Palace has easily become become one of my homes away from home. I’ve been there more than a few times for a number of different reasons. Ally Pally, as it’s affectionately called, is an event space, the backdrop to a great park and farmer’s market, as well as the home of the Haringey Greyhounds (they have an ice hockey team – who woulda thunk it?!).
My first trip up to Ally Pally was on Guy Fawkes Night for the annual 5 November fireworks. Shortly after, I went there to work at the Vans Warped Tour where I re-lived my teen years as the punk I never was. Surrounded by pimple-faced adolescents with heavy eyeliner, spiky hair and ripped t-shirts, I listened to Rise Against, head banged (a little) to Canadian band Billy Talent (I actually did like their music back in the day), and was called a motherf*cker more times than I felt was appropriate.
Seriously, a little respect people…
There are some pretty good farmer’s markets too
My good friend Brenna talked about her beloved Broadway Market – which admittedly is quite great. Of course, Brick Lane (I accidentally typed ‘Brick Lame’ and I think if Freud was alive I’m sure he would have a name for that) also gets a lot of attention.
Hampstead Heath has one every Saturday on Parliament Hill. My local was – again – Ally Pally. I’m still trying to find my “new local” – if anyone knows what’s good on Holloway Road, give me a shout!
I went to Ally Pally market first in search of one thing: bokits. I know, you’re like “What’s a bokit?” Lucky for you, I wrote a really great explanation about these delicious Guadeloupeen sandwiches for my friend Waegook Tom that you should absolutely eat if you ever get the chance. It’s a revelation.
The market has fresh produce from Kent, pressed juices, meat, South African smoked meat, cakes, biscuits, Moroccan and Indian food… You know, market stuff – and bokits.
People walk their dogs in the area, plenty of joggers, couples holding hands – on a sunny day in London it’s a really relaxing place to hang out. When I was there, I overheard this young boy say to his dad “I love Sundays!” It brought a smile to my face because I remember the days when I didn’t spend all of Sunday feeling anxious about Monday…
The bokit stall is pretty unique, I mean, I never thought I would ever eat one again after leaving Martinique. Bokit-La is run by a pair of Guadeloupeens, who Tom and I had a lively conversation with in French (maybe some Creole, but it’s rusty). I had the chicken bokit, and Tom the salted cod. They also have grilled aubergine for those that swing the vegetarian way.
The only fault of Ally Pally is that if you don’t live in north London or have a car (and I mean Tom must be the only twenty-something with a ride in London) then it’s actually quite hard to access.
Theatres and Cinemas
I was destined to love north London. It was the site of my very first foray into London theatre – and you all know how much I LOVE the theatre. I went to see Chimerica in June at the Almeida, which is in Islington and about a 20 minute walk from my flat.
Also, before my full-time employment I was doing a lot of my freelance work at the historical cinema called the East Finchley Phoenix. I loved the vibe and they let me sit there all day using their wifi and drink only one tea. They were even *gasp* friendly!
Overall, I love north London because it has the qualities you think of when you think of London, but it’s not as cramped as central London or irritatingly trendy as east London. Don’t move here if you want a comfortable Tube journey (being on the Piccadilly Line makes me so much happier. Though I’ve started walking to work – yay!); however, if you’re looking for a chilled out part of London and you don’t mind soccer moms and organic food shops, north London is the place.
If you’re not ready to make the commitment, come over on a Sunday, explore the market, take a walk around Hampstead Heath, mangez péyi, or get yourself some Georgian food at Tbilisi. Invite me if you do that last one.