Urban Farmers

A farm in the middle of the city of London? That also features an Italian cafe? Now this I had to see.

On Friday, E and I hopped on the bus up toward Shoreditch to check out Hackney City Farm. It ended up being a little disappointing overall. It was very small, as I could have guessed, and E was dismayed that there weren’t any animals she could pet. I hadn’t promised her that, but I guess she’s been to too many places that let you pet the farm animals. (She’s especially fond of brushing the goats at the Maryland Zoo.) The whole thing could kill about half an hour, and I needed to entertain her for a lot longer than that.

When you keep chickens in the city, sometimes you end up with an imposter

There were chickens, pigs, a couple sheep and goats, and a donkey.

The cafe was really nice, actually, and the menu looked great, though I wasn’t yet hungry for lunch. We waited out the brief rain spell in there with a slice of banana bread, amidst all the other mums and their little ones. Then I dragged her to another furniture store nearby, ha.

On Saturday morning, the whole family headed over to our new house to meet the relocation agent and collect the keys and do a walk-through. I can’t wait to be moved in and getting settled. We spent the day exploring our new area a bit more, and it’s just such a better place for a family to live than where we are now. We spent some time at our local playground, walked along the high street checking out some shops and the Saturday market stalls, and had a delicious brunch. We then hit just one more furniture store before heading up to Battersea Park.

Battersea Park is a lovely place to spend a summer Saturday afternoon. I’m planning to take E back there soon for the children’s zoo. This time we rented bikes and rode around for an hour. We’re considering getting me one of these big tricycles with the kiddie bucket on the front, since I won’t have a car, and it would be a way I could get around a little faster with the kids than on foot. I am concerned about pedaling it up hills, though. I’ve tried them twice now, but both times the terrain was pretty flat. So I’m still undecided.

This morning we bussed back up to Shoreditch to check out the famous Columbia Road Flower Market, which is only on Sundays. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning to be outside and the flowers were stunning, and very reasonably priced! I lamented not being able to buy some of the enormous hydrangeas for my house yet.

But we did get a pretty little flower box and a couple potted violets to go in it, which I will now do my best to keep alive. There’s no quick or easy way to get from our house to the Columbia Road Flower Market, so it’s not someplace I will be hitting up often. We’re trying to take advantage of where we are now and do things that are more convenient to the City than to Clapham/Battersea.

After a stop at the Columbia Road-adjacent playground, we walked to the Pump Street Food Market for some lunch. It looked and felt exactly like a food cart pod in Portland. Fewer hipsters, though.

After E FINALLY finished her parent-mandated number of bites of lunch, she got her reward: an entire pineapple, freshly juiced, complete with twisty straws and umbrella-toothpick garnish.


Hot Child in the City

Our temporary flat is in the part of the city called, well, The City. It’s London’s busy business district, and mostly people come here to work and live in other areas. So all the shops and restaurants and so forth are geared toward 9-to-5ers, not families with young kids and dogs. It’s primarily coffee shops, lunch joints, and some shops that close by end of business day. Practically nothing at all was open on Sunday, except for Starbucks. (There’s that American business ethic, good on ya, Starbucks!)

The view out our sitting room window

I’ve had to do some research to find places to take E to play during the day. The closest playground is a 17-minute walk from here across London Bridge (pass your 14th Pret a Manger, turn right at the 12th Starbucks), and we’ve been there twice this week. They don’t allow dogs there, but I’ve brought Wren anyway because it’s got one of the few patches of grass I can find for her. Around 9 a.m. and again at 5 p.m., our street and the connecting ones are just a sea of people all walking to and from their offices. We step out of our apartment building—sandwiched between a coffee shop and a lunch place—and try to merge our wide load of stroller + dog + pregnant lady into the mass amoeba. (Psst, Americans are all at their desks well before 9 a.m., EUROPE.)

As we let the crowd carry us across London Bridge this morning, a street performer said to our dog, “You’re the only one who’s got a smile on ‘is face.” If I even could have stopped, I could have said, “That’s a look of sheer terror,” but alas, we were carried along.

Heading across London Bridge

She got her reward on our return trip, when we wandered through Borough Market and I surreptitiously slipped her every cheese and sausage sample I could find.

We’ve also taken the tube to other parts of the city for 3-year-old entertainment, returning to some places that were a hit when we were here last month. The Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens is the crème de la crème of playgrounds, and the Science Museum is E’s favorite place to go in London (she has now been four times), and both are free. However, I didn’t count on this now being school holidays for British kids, as well as peak tourist season. So those places were much, much more crowded than they were just a few weeks ago.


She calls this the “carwash” and it’s her favorite

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for kid play, you just have to do a little research in advance and plan to make a good half-day of it. Most of the time you need to allow at least half an hour for transit to get anywhere. M and I have been using the CityMapper app, which we highly recommend for figuring out how to get around.