Busy busy Sunday 

It’s gonna be even busier towards Christmas, I sighed as I squeezed myself into a crowded tube carriage at Euston. Generally, I avoided Oxford Street and its vicinity in weekend like the plague. However, my routine had altered significantly ever since Bella joined our family. And having to travel to the area during the busiest (and probably most unpleasant) time had become one of those changes I had to contend with.

Just before noon at Regent Street…

Shoppers were already milling around in front of the stores and waiting for the doors to open. The largest crowd-puller seemed to be the recently re-opened Apple Store as they were to launch a new MacBook that afternoon. There were two prominent queues already established from both directions, north and south. Apple do know how to make money, don’t they?

The reason why I had to visit the extra busy west end on Sunday was because I had to have a monthly maintenance of hair and nail done at the salon off Regent Street. As Bella the Puppy couldn’t be left on her own for too long, I needed Hubbie to be at home and babysitting Bella, therefore, the trip had to be done during weekend.

Since the worry about Bella was out of the way, maybe I could run a few errands, that was what I was thinking as my fingers flicked through the pages of the magazine resting on my knee. I wanted to try on a new pair of jeans and a Nars lipstick at Liberty. No matter how sophisticated and detailed web browsers and smartphone apps may become, nothing can surpass visiting the real shops, can’t it?

Eventually, I emerged from the salon around three o’clock with shorter hair and my nails spick and span. Chilly air smacked my cheeks as I made my way towards Regent Street, and I stopped at the junction. Gee, am I really going through this? The crowd on the street were decidedly larger than the last time I saw them a few hours ago. All the plans I made at the salon were soon elbowed out of my head as I started to imagine how it would be like, like having to wait in a queue for a changing room, being frustrated by the lack of attention from busy shop assistants and enduring a tube journey even busier than a weekday’s rush hour, etc… Oh, I can’t be arsed! So, I headed home empty-handed.

When I got home, Hubbie was watching a football match on TV, and Bella was having a nap. ‘Was she a good girl?’ ‘Yup, she was.’ He answered half-heartedly as his gaze was firmly fixed to the TV. I scratched Bella’s plump tummy and felt glad that I was home. Oh well, I will have to shop locally and online until Christmas and Boxing Day Sale are over…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bahhhhh!!!

Martin the electrician’s assistant brought a replacement extractor for one of my loos which was out of action for sometimes and I was overjoyed. However, the initial euphoria was quickly extinguished as I found the new unit remained silent. ‘Well, it must be to do with a transformer then’. He sighed as he climbed down the ladder. There was nothing we could do other than commiserating each other. He promised he would come back with appropriate parts ASAP and off he went. Bah!

Then I was off to West End to run a few errands. A light shower came down but it did not last very long….

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The blueness of the cloud-free sky against the redness of the brick walls along South Molton Street.

Then I grabbed a quick lunch at Benugo on Hanover Street. In my opinion, Benugo serves the only flat white worth paying money for amongst all the fast-food outlets in London.
Inside the deli counter, a guy was carving a great looking chunk of roasted pork belly and I was smitten…

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Mmmmm… DEEEEELICIOUS!!
The hunk was juicy and the fat melted on my tongue like butter. The apple sauce enhanced the flavour without being too tangy.
A perfect fuel stop for an increasingly wintery afternoon!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Benugo @ Hanover Street

I was just about to have a large bite out of toasted sandwich at Benugo, off Regent Street.
Next to me, a trio of Italian ladies were seated, chatting animatedly and having a hearty laugh. I wished if I understood Italian so I could participate in their fun!
West End seemed to have calmed down. People on the street were pushing suitcases which must be stuffed with the gifts for loved ones or sauntering with smiles on their faces. No longer, anyone was zooming around with a sense of urgency edged on its forehead. Just quiet expectation and satisfaction were sailing in the air.
My final task in London, apart from packing a suitcase for Japan trip, was a visit to a hair salon. My hair was to be highlighted, tinted & cut, therefore, I must have a proper sustenance before sitting down in front of the mirror or my stomach would ramble like a roaring lion!

Amongst many chain sandwich places in London, I single out Benugo for their more than passable coffee and good quality food. And today, I had egg Florentine and latte…

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I love their toasted sandwiches…

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They are even more agreeable when the outside is cold and windy.

Once my quick bite was finished, I was off to my hairdresser’s.
Highlighting and tinting took ages. The time was spent with chatting, reading magazines and looking the world went by through the window…

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Then, off to home to change for dinner. London was winding down for Christmas at last…

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And people were heading home too…

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Are you ready for Christmas too?…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Anything Goes In London…

Ahhhhh, my heart is beating definitely faster than usual this morning!
Do you know why? Because Hubbie has just bought me an iPad Air!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am over the MARS \(^0^)/ So sorry but I can hardly contain my excitement!
I must make a cup of tea in builder’s strength to steady my nerve. My head is buzzing and my hands are shaking. OHHHH, I don’t know what to do with myself…

By the way, I encountered a bizarre but charming spectacle at Oxford Circus last tuesday.
A newlywed Chinese couple had their wedding photo taken in the middle of busy Oxford Street…

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While London buses and black cabs whizzing past them, the undaunted couple smiled and posed for their equally undeterred camera crew…

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Witnessing someone’s, even if it was complete stranger’s, their happiest day of their life was a magical moment for me. I could touch their feel-good aura by just looking at them…

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Then, I was off to DiGuardo for another delivery.
On the platform, I saw a London Underground staff with bright punk hairstyle…

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One thing I really admire and love about the Brits is their attitude towards eccentrics. They tolerate a fairly large amount of bizarre people and events with a good sense of humour. As the result, someone like him can enjoy a freedom of expression. I love it!

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On the way to the boutique, I had a latte & tart break at Kitchen & Pantry…

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I’ve just noticed that there are a lot of red objects in today’s post, don’t you agree?
And guess what colour my iPad Smart Cover is? It’s in RED too! OMG, I just can’t stop thinking about it. Do you know that I woke up more than half a dozen times last night because I was too excited about my iPad Air? Ever since Apple announced about its launch date as 1st of November, I was counting dates like a child with a Christmas advent calendar. The estimated delivery date is 7th and I can hardly wait…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Lunch @ Photographer’s Gallery Cafe

One lunchtime, I stepped off from No.55 bus at Great Titchfield Street near Oxford Circus and all the sudden felt a pang of hunger. I was on the way to my hairdresser’s and had a half un hour to kill until my appointment. Where should I go? What do I want to eat?
Then, a review of the Photographer Gallery done by one of my favourite bloggers, London Unveiled popped into my head. Yes, they have a cafe there!

The gallery is located at the corner of Ramillies Street and Ramillies Place.

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In order to access Ramillies Street from Oxford Street, pedestrians descend a substantial number of steps.
Because of this level change, the tonal landscape around the gallery is significantly calmer than forever busy Oxford Street’s.

The cafe was located on the ground floor with large windows which provided a 180 degree view…

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The interior was decidedly monotone like a crisp B+W photograph.

The predecessor of the cafe was on No.5 Great Newport Street near Leicester Square. It was opened in 1980 as an additional gallery space of the existing main gallery on No.8. The cafe was located in the back of the premises and relatively obscure, therefore, it was a little like a handy hideaway amongst the hustle & bustle of the West End.
Behind the entrance, there was a reception, a staircase to their office and a narrowish corridor leading up to the cafe. The cafe sported a double-height ceiling with translucent glazing which flooded the space with light and created an intimate & uplifting atmosphere. In the middle of this oblong space, there was a long table with backless benches.
I remember how good-naturely we all behaved when a guest or two wanted to squeeze in with drink & cake in hands. There was definitely a sort of comradely feeling between the guests. The surrounding walls were painted in white and used as exhibition space. While the diners sat at the table, the visitors for exhibition quietly circulated around the gallery. The ambience of the place was so perfect therefore I was understandably gutted when they announced the gallery’s relocation to Ramillies Street in 2008.

At the counter, I found the menu on offer was surprisingly similar to the one from the former cafe’s.
It made me feel much better already…

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I ordered tuna panini with sun-dried tomato and skinny latte…

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I sat at a counter by the window overlooking Ramillies Street,
The sandwich was toasted to perfection. The filling was generous and the bread was crisp on outside and fluffy in inside.

It was a fleeting visit for a quick bite at the cafe only.
Next time, I shall definitely allow much longer time to spend at this unique institution…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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