Friday, January 30, 2015

Cheers To The Freakin' Weekend (Plus, Where To Buy Flowers In London)

Am I right?

It seems like this week has dragged. What are you doing this weekend? I wanted to visit the new Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street (AKA The Walkie-Talkie AKA 90s Cell Phone), but apparently, I missed the boat when it came to booking tickets because you have to reserve waayyy, wa-hayyy in advance. I even tried to book a table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at one of the building's three restaurants and was sniffily rejected by the online booking system. Fail.

That's one of my frustrations about living in a city like London. There are amazing opportunities for things to do and see on the weekends, but high demand means that you have to plan early. And sometimes, I just feel like being spontaneous. Londonist is great for last minute suggestions, though. Maybe I'll go to this Lego exhibition instead (can't believe I just typed that - I am so sad) and see if John wants to go on a Westfield shopping spree while we're out there (bo-ring).

But anyway.

This was the week of ... flowers.

Like many Londoners, I have my little London secrets: shops, restaurants, coffee shops that I like to keep to myself. Stems on Sicilian Avenue in Holborn is one of these secrets (but oops! I just told you.). I don't know what your experience of buying fresh flowers in London has been, but mine are almost always heinous. Options are:

1) Walk into dark shop with fancy lettering on a black marquee. Smile at shopkeeper who looks up from the glow of her Macbook Air just long enough to scowl at you. Browse selection of "artisan" bouquets priced at upwards of £35. Laugh nervously as your eyes dart around for "cheaper" alternatives, such as daisies, tulips, anything that will keep you from having to use your Boots points for lunch this week. Leave shop and walk into Tesco across the street, purchasing a selection of gerber daisies while ripping off the £10 price tag from the cellophane after you've swiped it through the self-scanning machine.


2) Walk past flower stand outside tube station. Consider the sad, drooping roses which have clearly suffered from fuel-poisoning after sucking up the exhaust pipes of passing London traffic. Avoid making eye contact with the stallholder so he doesn't start pointing out hastily-tied bouquets for "Only £25, darling. It's a bargain." Bargain my ass. Weakly request a bunch of five tulips instead, which will set you back £10. The arrangement looks lame, so you ask for another five, and you're suddenly down £20. Stallholder takes your money and wraps your pink and purple in brown butcher paper. You leave feeling slightly triumphant, but your face falls when your tulips die practically as soon as the sun sets.

To avoid either scenario, I usually head to one of my favorite markets in London on Sundays: Columbia Road Flower Market, where beautiful, ginormous bouquets of all persuasions can be purchased for ridiculously low prices (especially near closing time, which is when I typically go to get the best deal).

Aside from Columbia Road, however, Stems in Holborn is terrific for bouquets that you want to give as a gift. Their beautiful little shop on Sicilian Avenue always has a unique, thoughtfully arranged selection outside and the vibe is incredibly friendly and warm. The bouquets - whether large or small - always evoke a sense of the rustic countryside for me. Definitely not Tesco.

I bought the sweet little purple and yellow arrangement (GO HUSKIES!!! I mean, what?) above for a friend who needed cheering up on Monday (which she loved) and they were only £5! Cheaper than a nice block of chocolate (and flowers last longer, in my experience).

Yesterday, a dear co-worker of mine was retiring after 45 years (yes, really!) and I sent him off with some blue roses from Stems.

So, you see? It *is* possible to find pretty, reasonably-priced flowers in central London. But let's just keep this to ourselves, okay?

Oh, and have a great weekend.


  1. Personally I hope you get to the Lego exhibition, as I'm planning on taking The Boy Child and two of his cousins during half-term and could do with a real-life review!
    Columbia Road Flower Market is one of those places I keep meaning to visit.

    1. I'll definitely take photos and let you know if I go, Ruth! I bet The Boy Child would love it. And Columbia Road is fantastic ... lots of great shops and cafes as well. It does get really busy though - I prefer to visit either first thing or at the very last minute.

  2. I'm such a Lego nerd, I think that exhibition looks really cool haha.

    I still haven't been to Columbia Road Flower Market but everyone raves about it, I definitely have to check it out at some point.

    1. It does, doesn't it, Stacey? I'm definitely thinking about it!

      If you go to Columbia Road, say, an hour or half an hour before it closes, vendors practically give away their bouquets ... I walked away with a huge stash of roses and peonies for £5 last time, which was crazy!

  3. THANK YOU! I always struggle to find somewhere to buy flowers. Not only is Columbia Road right across London from where I am in the west, I wasn't super impressed by it when I went there. I think it's fun if you're nearby, but it was too much of an effort to travel across London for such a tiny market.

    I will be heading definitely be checking out Stems!

    Sorcha x Bright Field Notes

    1. Columbia Road is definitely not worth trekking across London for, Sorcha! In fact, I'm only a 25 minute walk away, but even that makes me too lazy to go every weekend. But if you're ever in Central London and find yourself in need of some beautiful bouquets, Stems is a good bet! xo

  4. Ooh thanks for the tip!
    To be fair, I bought some flowers from the lady in Paddington station once and they were both reasonably priced and turned out lovely!

    1. Great, Charlotte! Paddington has a wide selection.

  5. I don't tend to keep flowers (b/c I always get sad when they die and end up keeping bunches of dried flowers for eons b/c throwing them away makes me feel like a bad person), but being here makes me want to start buying them! I definitely plan to check out the Columbia Road Flower Market sometime soon and make myself a nice bouquet to sit in the middle of my kitchen table :D

    1. Yes, you should make a trip out to Columbia Road, Gianni - lots of fun cafes and shops there too!

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