Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Bloomsbury & Fitzrovia: re-discovering love for London

It was great to be back to London several days ago, not just for work but for leisure, and of course some walking. The reason for that was a conference about media and image of Africa at the University of London. For some it may sound like work but for me it was relaxing and took me away from daily routine. Such time always gives me space to breath and helps to look at everyday life from another perspective. It shows me another way of thinking, opens different opportunities and reminds me about a need to go out of a comfort zone.
Leaving the conference a bit earlier was a great excuse to go for a walk around Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia. I was only able to experience them on the surface but it still gave me a better idea about both areas and a much needed boost of energy. As they are so close to Oxford Street I am still wondering why I haven’t explored them before.

Bloomsbury is located east of and Fitzrovia west of wide Tottenham Court Road. At the sound of this name, I can only picture tube station with the same name and an old sky-scraper that is grey and boring. But actually as you further along Tottenham Court Road (towards Euston Rd) it becomes much more enjoyable. I like its wide pavements, plenty of furniture shops and, of course Tap Coffee. There are also some other food places worth visiting – Franco Manca with its sourdough pizza, Raw Loaf and Japanese Canteen and one of my favourite chain bakeries Kamps. Tottenham Court Road links together Oxford Street and Marylebone Road/Euston Road and that’s like being a bridge between two different worlds – hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and seriousness of Euston.

Entrance to Tap Coffee
The secret, however, is in the backstage. Even if the front looks interesting and wants to tempt you to stay, it is at the backstage that things are happening. And so, east from TCR there is Bloomsbury with its famous houses. None of them go higher than 3-4 storeys, I believe, and they are all finished with dark graphite bricks with creamy additions. Among them there is (not so) hidden University of London (with its massive senate building), British Museum and lots of hotels. Once you enter the area it seems to be another world from the rest of the city. It’s a very touristic area but definitely worth visiting in your spare time – gardens around Bloomsbury are open to the public and there are also free walks offered from time to time. Bloomsbury Festival that takes place in the Autumn is a great way to explore the area and get to know its history.

Gower Street in Bloomsbury with characteristic buildings
If you go to the other direction of TCR you will find yourself in Fitzrovia. This name has always been attracting me – the reason for that is that it probably doesn’t sound very English to me (much like its other –via sister – Belgravia). And the area itself has been to me a bit of a mystery.
It’s much more eclectic than Bloomsbury and more concentrated on the business than learning. The historically bohemian area was once home to such writers as Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Rimbaud.
You’ll see quite a few of business buildings - old and new, and you can have sneak peek into some of them, like I did at the one below...

Mortimer Street seems to be the main one but this time I didn’t actually have a chance to explore it, but I will be back. I love the fact that you can stroll around narrow streets and feel a bit like in a labyrinth. You can be sure that no matter which way you turn you will find something if not a toy museum than a great newspaper kiosk with lots of interesting magazines you cannot get anywhere else.

Fitzrovia boasts with a lot of art galleries and food places. I tried butternut squash and sweet potato soup with amazing sourdough bread at The Black Sheep Coffee - absolutely loved the place after spending their only few minutes. Two girls that were serving me and other customers were friendly and chatty and even appreciated my new ‘friend’ who now goes with me for walks (aka my DSLR). Their coffee and menu of sandwiches, cocktails and quiches looked very tempting as well and I am a fan of the claim they put on the paper cups - "Leave the herd behind". Weather permitting you can enjoy food and coffee outside sitting by the window sills. Next door, for those in more carnivorous mood, is the Wild Game Co, once very well reviewed by Time Out

Entrance to Black Sheep Coffee
This walk was special in different ways. For those who don’t know, a few weeks ago I and my husband moved to Reading. I still come to London for work but don’t get that many chances to breathe in the atmosphere of the capital. So this walk gave me a new energy. It also came in a right moment – probably a few days earlier, being still a bit anxious and rushing everywhere, I wouldn’t have time for it or wouldn’t appreciate it that much. But that day God granted me with peace and acceptance for the things around. That morning I prayed and I’ve been thinking on what thoughts I let in to my mind (“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Thanks to the influence of these words I looked at everyday situations in more realistic way. I was able to slow down and appreciate more. Since moving out from London I’ve been feeling a bit anxious with all new places around me and things to get used to, so going back to what I love was a perfect remedy.

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