When I booked our Notting Hill AirBnB, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had been tempted to spend a little extra to go back to the Pimlico area, which I missed living in. But it turns out that exploring new neighborhoods can pay off. (Who knew?)
Notting Hill – at the risk of being cliche – was picturesque and quirky in the most vintage-hipster of ways. It also didn’t hurt that the weather was perfectly overcast and in the 70’s and 80’s (Fahrenheit!) for most of the week.
Kate and I spent a few hours getting lost, found, and lost again in the neighborhood. As soon as we left the busy main roads, everything was residential and quiet. Of course, we were on the edge of Zone 2 which will usually decrease the noise and activity level of a general area. I decided that the facades in Notting Hill were my favorite when it came to London residences. The side streets were narrow and full of crooked cobblestones, and the main roads were lined with sidewalks wide enough for pram-pushing mothers to pass each other going opposite directions. But even with the tranquility, the buildings were impressive enough to keep reminding you that you were in London.
I found Farm Girl Cafe on Instagram (during pre-trip research) and decided it was a must-see. So we trekked the 8 minutes down to Portobello Road and ducked into a little, covered courtyard. It was the most hipster cafe I had ever seen, and I absolutely loved it. (If you’re ever near Notting Hill, you need to try their blueberry pancakes, granola, and lavender lattes!) We loved it so much we went back a second time. It was relatively quiet on a Wednesday morning… And definitely popular on Saturday.
I was surprised at some of the great local pubs I found within a 5- or 10-minute walk from our flat. (While living in Pimlico, which was quieter than Notting Hill in general, one of my flatmates and I would take the 3-minute walk around the corner to a pub for dinner every Sunday evening. While I loved the slightly mismatched furniture, worn carpet, and plentiful flowers hung up outside, it was still a chain pub and I didn’t really notice regular patrons or staff.)
I’m a people-watcher, which means I love to find a good corner seat in a pub and observe for awhile. I’m also a chip-lover, with or without the fish, so pub food is always alright by me. I found two great truly local pubs that week.
The food and drinks were good, but what made them feel homey was how the patrons called the staff by name, and the staff would call the customers by name right back. The big match was on all the TVs, and everyone would interact with each other while watching.
I spent a good hour sitting by myself, watching both the game and the people. The owner of the pub was a friendly-looking lady who offered to go get a sandwich for her employee to eat on her dinner break. Not for the first time that week, I’m pretty sure I was the only American in the room, which is an interesting feeling after being surrounded by tourists all day.
I learned a lot about the lives of the women at the table next to me, who switched between conversation topics with each round of drinks. I had heard about the looming Brexit vote in the papers earlier that week, but I really got interested after one of the women went on a very passionate 10-minute rant. They noticed me half listening to them and the match at the same time – after which I provided them with occasional score updates and they asked what I was doing in London when they recognized my accent. That had been our last night in London, and I was happy it ended with a relaxed night in the Uxbridge Arms. (Also football/soccer/whatever you wish to call it is enjoyable and not at all stressful when you’re not invested in either team. Unlike that USA-Belgium game during the World Cup…)