Cafe culture in St John’s Wood: it’s not quite Paris

The following was written as an assignment at the recent travel blogging workshop I attended in London, organised by Paul Steele (aka Bald Hiker) and his team. We had 2 hours to go to our designated location, take pictures, come back and write the whole thing up, so a fair bit of time pressure! The article also appears as a guest post on his website.

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The NW8 postcode of St John’s Wood has recently been ranked by Forbes magazine as the fifth most expensive in London, with an average property price of £2 million. An hour spent meandering its streets one Saturday lunchtime made me see why it’s an ideal place to live for successful London families.

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It wasn’t until we came out of the Underground station and started wandering through the leafy suburbs, that I suddenly realised that the last time I’d been here was a frantic visit to see my dying father who’d been rushed to hospital during a Test Match at his beloved Lords Cricket Ground last summer. On that occasion, I had walked along these streets but hadn’t been able to take anything in. I shivered at the memory of hospitals and death that I couldn’t help associating with this part of London, but my attention was soon caught by other things.

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The cafe culture is in evidence everywhere, with an attempt at Parisian chic that, in spite of the grey gloom of a March morning in London, still somehow manages to almost pull it off. Well, the British are a hardy lot, and are generally happy to sit outside in coats and scarves. Especially when faced with tempting arrays of pastries in the shop windows.

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Families were out on the streets, and the cosmoplitan atmosphere is reinforced by the abundance of bicycles. Not just the Boris bikes which seem to be gradually permeating the city, but some more family-friendly options too.

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For a Saturday lunchtime, it was surprisingly quiet, emphasising perhaps the more village atmosphere. On the other hand, it’s not a typically English scene, with an international feel and the fact that it’s only a stone’s throw away from several tourist attractions and some beautiful architecture.

For some reason, everyone in St John’s Wood likes to buy flowers. I have no idea why, but everywhere you look, there’s a flowerstall, and they always seem to have customers.

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Even the pharmacy has its own flower stall, for reasons that are beyond me. Maybe they’re encouraging you to make your own natural remedies? Or maybe it’s so that while buying the medicines for your sick relative, you can also get them a bunch of flowers. Makes sense. In fact, why don’t more pharmacies sell flowers?

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