Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dear Blog

I have a lot of things to catch you up on. Like, hey, I'm not homeless anymore! I managed to get a "studio apartment" in a dorm. It is costing me a bajillion dollars, and it's the size of a very, very small hotel room, and it FEELS like a hotel, but I can walk to class! I "moved" in yesterday, and I say "moved" in, because literally, I have a sheet on the bed, a comforter, and a few pairs of underwear in a drawer. 

Now I'm trying to deal with how to find dishes and pots and pans and hangers and all that other brilliant stuff.

It is SO tempting to just go to a giant Tesco and buy all of this stuff and have it done with. But, I'm not. At least, I'm not right now. Ask me again in six weeks when I'm still searching for knives. 

Instead, I've signed up on Freecycle. I'm scouring Gumtree, and I'll probably hit up my local Oxfam store when I figure out where my local Oxfam store is.

The thing that I've been missing the most lately is Trader Joes. Sniff. Because frankly, I have no idea where in London I can get my eco-Soaps, dishwashing detergent, etc. Trader Joes, why do you only exist in the US?! Okay, probably what keeps you awesome is that you are a relatively small non-multi-national company but still. 

Speaking of multi-national companies, the first day I arrived in Britain, I went to Tesco with my British relatives for groceries. And when I walked in, I was kinda amazed. Like here was this store with clothing, and books, and electronics and stuff, and it also had a FULL grocery section. "Wow," I thought, "This place is like a Super Target only BIGGER than Super Target!"

Heh. What I didn't realize until I started reading The End of Food by Paul Roberts is that Tesco is basically the UK's version of Walmart. Of course, I didn't think to compare Tesco to Walmart, because shockingly, I've never actually been inside a Walmart. (Once, on a trip in an RV, we slept in a Walmart parking lot, but I didn't venture in the store.) Sadly, that claim to fame is now ruined, since I've been to Tesco like 10 times in the past week. 

Anyway, I'll try and be back full time next week, though it's the first week of classes and I still have no clothes hangers, so I shouldn't make any promises. If anyone knows anywhere I can get eco-dishwashing detergent and such in London, please let me know! And those of you in the US, give your Trader Joe's a big fat kiss on the lips for me.


Eliane said...

Hi, Glad to hear you're settling in to London.

I use - our yellow pages, you should be able to find your nearest Oxfam shop by quickly searching by postcode. And there are lots of other charity shops to try too. Google maps is less reliable for businesses than it probably is in the US.

I agree about trying to avoid Tescos. There are other supermarkets - budget ones are Lidl, Aldi, Somerfield, Morrisons. More upmarket, Sainsbury's and Waitrose. There are also eco-ones now owned by your World Foods Market, called Fresh and Wild. But they are expensive and many of the brands they sell, like Ecover which is very widely sold, are available at lower prices in most other supermarkets and even in corner shops etc. Depends which bit of London you're living in!

One tip - re: cheap fresh fruit and veg. Try the street markets and I'm not talking about farmers markets which are also held around town. I mean places like Ridley Road market in Dalston, Hackney, or Chapel Street market in Islington.
If you want to give me a clue which bit of London you're in then I might be able to give more tips on local stuff, but my knowledge is best on N1, N16, E5, E8 and E9. The other place for good fruit and veg is local Turkish or Indian stores. Usually much better value than supermarkets.

Street markets are good places for other household stuff like tea towels, sponges and so forth. You could probably get pans and the rest there too but I've never done it. I guess as you're only in the UK for a year you not so bothered about lifetime guarantees. Fraid I got my pans from Divertimenti but I wasn't on a budget luckily!

ruchi said...

Eliane, thanks for all the advice!! I think there is an Aldis near me, so I'll look out for that. Whole Foods is notoriously expensive in the US, so I shudder to think about how expensive it would be here! I'm in the N1, and yeah, since I'm in school, on a budget, etc, I am not too concerned about having super high quality pots and pans. Just ones without holes!

Joyce said...

Glad to hear you aren't homeless! Wow, what a lot to navigate. You'll have a lot of blogging material, if you have time to write it all down.

Green Bean said...

Great to hear from you!! And hear how things are going. Actually, I'm jealous. It sounds like such an adventure. Keep the reports coming in. Hugs.

Spot-On said...

Haven't been in the UK for 8 years but when I was there all the major supermarkets sold eco friendly toiletries and household cleaners etc, you just had to look for them in the aisles.
A good health food store is Holland and Barrets, there may be others now too.
Also lots of charity shops in England so don't just limit your self to oxfam! And don't forget car boot sales, and jumble sales!

ruchi said...

Joyce, I know, I have SUCH a lot of material. Hopefully I have the time to write it all!!

GB, hugs back to you! I'll keep you updated.

Di, is there a way I can search for a listing of all charity shops in my area? Is there an aggregate list?

Anonymous said...

Good luck in the UK. Freecycle is amazing and given some time I think you will be able to find a lot of what you need.

Jessie said...

I am obsessed with Freecycle. I get about 157 emails a day from Freecycle.

Way to avoid those mega-stores! I have personally seen Wal-mart put all kinds of independent businesses out of business, all while paying their employees next to nothing. It's always painful to pay a little more for things, but it's way better than the guilt that comes from supporting unethical mega-companies. I'm not familiar with Tescos, but if they are anything like Wal-mart, good for you for trying to avoid them.

If you are really into being cheap like me, you should look into planting some edible plants in your new place! Freecycle and craigslist are both great places to get cheap/free household items.

ScienceMama said...

I'm really glad that you're kinda sorta feeling settled. Hooray for walking to school! I miss being able to do that.

ruchi said...

Badhuman, I hope so!

Crickcracka, well don't pat me on the back just yet. Let's see if I manage to really avoid the mega-stores after a few weeks, first! ;)

Sciencemama, I know walking to school is awesome!

Eliane said...

Right. You're in N1 which is a big postcode area so I may not be covering your absolute locality. What follows is my subjective guide to good stuff in north-east London (mostly north N1, N16). (You have bought an A-Z haven't you? And don't worry about not knowing about bus routes. You should see the legions of lost Londoners whenever there's a tube strike!)

I've already mentioned Chapel Street market. It's at the bottom of Upper Street just up on the right from Liverpool Road junction. To get to Ridley Road market in Dalston you can walk up to Highbury Road station and take the north London line to Dalston (couple of stops). This is an overland train which also takes you to Camden Town and Hampstead in the other direction. It goes as far as Kew and Richmond which are lovely for a day out.

For Asian - as in Vietnamese/Chinese food, you will find quite a lot of shops in Hackney on Mare Street going south from the Town Hall which I suspect would be cheaper than Chinatown in Soho which is much more touristy.

For African, Afro-Caribbean, Indian and Turkish etc then Ridley Road market sells all sorts of food.

Can't recall the Islington Farmer's Market (there is one) but there's one in Stoke Newington at the far end of Church Street every Saturday morning 10-2pm. It's organic too which is unusual (but also a bit pricey). Stokie is a nice place to go to shop/potter about/eat. V. good Keralan/south Indian restaurants called Ruchi (!) and more famously Rasa. I also liked Yum Yums which is a large Thai place round the corner on the High Street. There are also good Turkish stores, a good fishmongers on the high street heading south.

Don't know if you eat fish. If you do you're near one of the best fishmongers in London - Steve Hatt on Essex Road - 73/38 and others bus route from Upper Street. I seem to remember there's a butchers next door. Another fabulous food place near you is La Fromagerie. Considered to be the best cheese shop in Britain. It's at the top of hill on Highbury Barn on a good parade of shops. Take the 4 or 19 on Upper Street heading north. There's also a good Italian deli up there and some other nice cafes/shops.

On Upper Street, I really like Gallipolli's the Turkish restaurants. But you will pay more if you're in Islington which is upmarket compared to Caledonian road area, or Stokie (though that is getting smarter) or Dalston or Hackney or Finsbury Park. On Blackstock road I used to (but we're talking a long time ago) love going to Il Cavaliere at no. 81 (4/19 bus from Upper Street, Piccadilly line/Victoria line to Finsbury park). It's a family run Italian restaurant that's been there for years.

You don't have a lot of green space in N1 - one of the most built up parts of London. But you are close to some good parks - Clissold Park - take the 393 from Highbury Corner towards Clapton or 73 on upper st or essex road. It's on Stoke Newington Church Street. There is also a lovely old cemetery called Abney Park Cemetery which is full of trees, wild plants, blackberries at this time of year and some reasonably famous dead people. If you stay on the 393 until you almost reach Clapton you are very close to the Walthamstow marshes nature reserve (wonderful blackberries, a river, a marina for barges, excellent greasy spoon near the rowing club and a nice caff at the top of Springfield Park for cake etc. I love Springfield Park, fab views looking East and it's quiet) Finsbury Park (4/19 or Victoria line north from Highbury) is bigger. And here's a sort of secret one. Gillespie Park on Drayton Park Road which is Highbury. It's hidden behind houses and has an ecology centre. It's a gem. Another nice green thing to do is cycle or walk up the disused rail track that heads from Finsbury Park all the way to Alexandra Palace. And Regent's Canal may be near you. Also an interesting way to see London - goes in a circle east/west.

I have gone on. And I could go on! If you've got any specific qs. just ask! I lived in N16 and E5 for nearly 20 years passing through N1 most of the time on the way to work so know that part of London well (I like to think!).

Oh - one last thing. Put a search for charity shops into in N1 and it'll give you a listing with addresses.

All the best.

ruchi said...

Oh my gosh, Eliane, I LOVE YOU!!!

Eliane said...

No problem! And as I say, any specific questions, just ask.

And enjoy yourself!


ruchi said...

Oops. I think I got my postcode wrong. I don't really understand them, but I think I'm very near the N1, but not actually in the N1. I am in Camden though.

Unknown said...

Actually my experience was that ASDA was closer to Walmart and it's owned by the same company. I see what you're saying about Tesco though.