Tips on Surviving London for Students on a Budget

 
Kensington

London

My undergraduate days may be long behind me (perhaps longer than I’d like to admit!), but I feel for you students out there. Studying in London, whether you’re coming from abroad or another part of the UK, is super super super exciting.

There’s just one problem: London is also happens to be super super super expensive.

It’s a tough enough place to afford as a working professional, so I can only imagine how daunting it is as a student.

But there’s no need to fear future scholars, Girl in London is here to help.

Here is a pretty comprehensive collection of cash-saving tips for living (and enjoying!) London that I’ve picked up over the last five years:

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A Side Trip to Camden Market

 

Camden Market is huge. No, I take that back. It’s GINORMOUS. Take the Tube to Camden Town station on any given weekend and you’ll see what I mean.

Once you fight your way through the crowds on Camden High Street (below), you’ll find that the popular shopping district is actually a messy amalgamation of a handful of markets, each one featuring a more dizzying array of stalls than the next. Camden Lock Market, Camden Lock Village, Camden Stables Market, and Camden Market are the most notable, and where one market ends and another begins is anyone’s guess. I’ve been here about a dozen times myself and still get lost!

Camden High Street

Busy much?

Sure, Camden High Street is photo worthy and decidedly funky, but I could take it or leave it. The alternative clothing outlets, bargain basement souvenir emporiums and fish-out-of-water brand name shops don’t appeal to me much now that I’ve reached my mid-to-late-20s. If I were 16 or 17, however, this high street would be heaven.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I can’t turn the clock back 10 years. That’s alright though. There’s a little something in Camden for everyone. These days, on the odd weekend when I find myself in this northwesterly section of London, I find myself drawn to the Stables Market.

Camden Stables Market

Camden Stables Market

Taking its name from its former stint a horse stable (no surprise there), this part of the market descends deep into the ground. It’s dark. It’s just a touch edgy. And it’s got some really cool vintage stuff. If you like old books, bottles, wooden boxes and the like, then I highly encourage you to do some subterranean rummaging at Stables Market. Prices are (mostly) reasonable, though you’ll be hard pressed to find anything steeply undervalued.

Back topside there are dozens upon dozens of different food stalls to sample from as well as a few decent vintage furniture and home ware stores. If you’re visiting London and only have time to visit one market, go to Borough Market if you love food and to Camden Market if you love shopping for clothes, accessories, vintage stuff, and other knick knacks.

Amy Winehouse statue Camden

A recent addition to the market – A statue of the late Amy Winehouse

Camden Stables Market

Camden Stables Market

Camden Market

Camden Market

Camden Market

Camden Market

What’s a girl to do after sifting her way through Camden’s Markets? My advice would be to take a break from the crowds and breathe in some fresh air at Regent’s Park. Hike up to Primrose Hill and enjoy the view :)

Regent’s Park/Primrose Hill

Enjoy London for Less: Introducing Bespoke Offers and Beat My Price

 

londonforless

I’ve written a lot in the past about making the most of living in London. This is a city full of amazing attractions, restaurants, and things to do. The only downside is that all this doesn’t come cheap…unless you know where to look.

Introducing: Bespoke Offers

Bespoke Offers is a new service that is one-part daily deal site, one-part personal shopping site.

For those of us who live in London, Bespoke Offers has lots and lots of deals to help us really get the most out of living in this great city. You could save on everything from fitness classes and haircuts, to walking tours, spas days, and meals for two at one of any number of fabulous restaurants.

Bespoke Offers

With my boyfriend’s birthday around the corner, I personally have my eye on the Marco Pierre White three-course dining experience and cocktail for two. At £49, we can enjoy a special night out for essentially the same price as dinner and a drinks at a regular chain restaurant.

Beat my Price

My favourite part of Bespoke Offers is its handy Beat My Price feature, which essential acts as your very own personal digital shopping assistant.

Bespoke Offers - Beat my Price

All you have to do is find a product you like from a major retailer (e.g. John Lewis, Amazon, Argos, etc.) and insert the product URL into the field provided. Through a bit of magic and digital wizardry, Bespoke Offers will search high and wide for a better deal and e-mail you within 48 with a better offer.

I happen to be on the hunt for a new camera, so I went ahead and tried the service out. I went on Amazon and found the model I’ve had my eye on – a Panasonic Lumix GF6.

Bespoke Offers Beat my Price

A few hours after I put in the Beat My Price request, Bespoke Offers found a better deal online for me:

Bespoke Offers

How easy was that? Shaving a few percent here and there off larger purchases really adds up. You can use Beat My Price for pretty much any item available at a big box retailer – from common household items to electronics, gadgets, films, and toys.

To check it out for yourself, head to Beat My Price and Bespoke Offers here.

This post has been sponsored by Bespoke Offers, but my views are all my own. 

Sitting Down with Notting Hill Native Charlie Marshall

 

Charlie Marshall

A few months back I had the opportunity to interview Charlie Marshall, founder of one of my favourite London-based furniture companies, Loaf.

The native Londoner shared with me his inspiration for creating Loaf, his design inspiration, and his personal tip for things to see and do in Notting Hill.

Where did the idea for ‘Loaf’ come from?

Frustration really! I once lost a whole Saturday trying to buy a bed so I decided to make the shopping experience as hassle free, affordable and speedy as possible. Two years, 187 mattress factories and some seriously comfy beds later, Loaf was born. The idea is that we’ve done all of the testing so that the customer doesn’t have to. We’re now a one-stop shop for the whole home offering characterful, handmade furniture and accessories that look darn good.

636737-crumpet-sofa-advert-cropped

Loaf’s “Crumpet” sofa

 

Loaf-Lou-Lou-bed-from-£895-high-res

Loaf’s “Lou Lou” bed

 

You’re a Notting Hill native. What do you love most about the neighbourhood? 

Yes, I’m a born and bred Londoner. I’ve got early memories of sitting with my Dad in his Mini Metro watching rioters make petrol bombs on All Saints Road for the Notting Hill Riots! Luckily the area has transformed into a well-integrated society with a real melting pot of cultures and characters which has resulted in interesting shops and a wicked vibe.

Are there any special spots around Notting Hill that you’d recommend to visitors?

I’d recommend heading off the tourist track a bit and visiting Golborne Road market instead of Portobello as its got really good antique shops and interesting market sellers to chat to. The streets are full of quirky coffee shops and artisan bakeries but Falafel King and Pizza East are two of our favourites. Or try sitting on plastic chairs and eating from the Moroccan fried fish stalls on Golborne Road itself. Make sure you swing by our Notting Hill showroom too, we’re tucked just off Ladbroke Grove so it’s a good way to escape the hustle and bustle.

Read the full interview on LondonPerfect’s blog.

Spring is in the Air at Columbia Road Flower Market

 
Columbia Road

Columbia Road

Waking up to sunshine is a pretty rare occurrence in London. Waking up to sunshine on a weekend morning in London is even rarer. So last Sunday when my alarmed managed to worm its way into my dreams at 8am, I was pleasantly surprised to see rays of bright yellow light flooding into the bedroom.

Within the hour I was out the door, excited to explore a bit of London I had never been to before. Columbia Road Flower Market has been on my to-visit list for quite a while, but the timing and the weather just never seemed to work out right.

Shops on Columbia Road

Shops on Columbia Road

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

The market only runs for half a day on Sunday in an interesting corner of East London. I made the short journey from my flat in Limehouse to Shadwell, then took the Overground a few stops from Hoxton. From there it was another 10 or 15 minutes until I caught my first glimpse of the market and heard the faint chatter of the flower vendors.

Upon arrival, it didn’t take long to figure out that Columbia Road is pretty special. The road was absolutely packed with people. Flower and plant vendors neatly lined each side of the road and behind them were dozens of independent shops specialising in antiques, home goods, and other little bits and bobs.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

The first thing that really struck me aside from the crowds were the flower vendors themselves. These guys (and gals) were a chatty and loud bunch, each shouting his or her best deals to would-be customers.

Then, there were, of course, the flowers. White, red, yellow, purple, orange – pretty much every colour of the rainbow was represented here. Amongst the familiar roses and tulips, I ran into all kinds of exotic and colourful plant life. Though Columbia Road Flower Market is probably best known for its cut flowers, you can also buy potted plants, flowers, bulbs, fruit trees, ornamental trees, succulents, and cacti here.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

After enduring another wet and chilly winter, the bright pops of colour at Columbia Road were just what the doctored ordered. In fact, I couldn’t help but indulge myself in a little flower shopping after my first pass through the market. The good news is that the flowers and plants here are much cheaper than what you would find at any florist in Central London. I’ve seen a dozen roses on sale for more than £40 over in Canary Wharf. At Columbia Road, you can get an assortment of 30 small roses for £5 or 20 large roses for £10.

I went with the latter of the two options and went home after brunch to put my flower arrangement skills to the test. The results are below…what do you think? 😉

Roses from the market

Bouquet of roses

Columbia Road Flower Market is open every Sunday, rain or shine, from 8am to about 3pm. 

Exploring Marylebone

 
Marylebone

Chiltern Street, Marylebone

If you asked me a month ago about Marylebone my response would have included mentions of Baker Street, Regent’s Park, Sherlock Holmes, my beloved Chipotle, and … not much else. It wasn’t until I really explored the neighbourhood with the fabulous welovetobrunch Instagram crew that I really gained an appreciation for marvellous Marylebone.

Just two blocks from tourist-laden Baker Street, we sauntered over to Chiltern Street. Yes, that Chiltern Street of Chiltern Firehouse fame. It was Sunday afternoon and pedestrians (besides our merry gang of snap-happy photogs) were hard to come by.

Chiltern Street

Chiltern Street, Marylebone

The sheer adorableness of this trendy thoroughfare really took me by surprise. Period buildings clad in deep red bricks populated each side of the street. As a pedestrian your eyes are immediately drawn to the ground floor, which featured a neat row of tiny, brightly painted boutiques.

At the end of the road stood the Chiltern Firehouse. If you’ve ever taken a gander at the Daily Mail (oh admit it, you do) or any other celebrity gossip rag, you probably already know that the Firehouse is something of a celebrity hotspot. While we must have looked like a herd of paparazzi with our cameras, there were no celebs in sight during our stroll.

Chiltern Firehouse

Chiltern Firehouse

Marylebone

Pretty door in Marylebone

Marylebone Farmers' Market

Marylebone Farmers’ Market

Past Chiltern Street we meandered a bit further, eventually making our way to Marylebone Farmers’ Market. The market runs every Sunday from 10am to 2pm and features all sorts of scrumptious looking goodies, including organic produce, handmade baked goods, flowers, cheeses, freshly squeezed juices, and a whole lot more.

After a quick stroll straight through the market we turned the corner onto Marylebone High Street. I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that I had actually never been here before. The street is occupied by a range of boutiques, name brands, and British-based brands – it’s probably the best overall mix of shops and cafes I’ve come across so far and I’ll definitely be back.

Marylebone

The Marylebone

Marylebone High Street

Marylebone High Street

Our little Marylebone excursion really opened my eyes to a part of London I thought I already knew. I suppose that’s one of the many things that makes this city so special. It’s not a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of place. Everything in London is layers deep. The more you dig, the more you’re rewarded, and after almost five years I don’t even think I’ve scratched the surface.

A Lesson in Loafing: Exploring London’s Plushest Furniture Showroom

 

Interior design is a hobby of mind, so I’m always on the lookout for furniture and home shops in London. It can be quite a challenge since London tends lend itself more towards luxury home furnishings that are way beyond my budget. However, every once in a while I run into a gem.

Loaf is one of these gems. Their furniture, which is oh-so-plush and snuggly, is simultaneously attainable (not cheap, mind you) and high quality — a rare find indeed!

A few weeks ago, on assignment for London Perfect, I took a tour of Loaf’s showroom. Take a look at what I found!