This is London: Lo’s Noodle Factory.

los-noodle-factoryLondon has that ever sought after quality: mystery. I love discovering her best kept secrets and hidden gems. Those truly local spots that make me feel like a real Londoner.

I want to share more of these with you. My favourite haunts. My daily life here. The adventures I go on. You’ve been asking for more of these posts and I’m committed to writing them.

One of my favourite places that feels like a real secret is Lo’s Noodle Factory.

Nestled along one of the back alleys in Chinatown, from the outside it just looks like a grotty back door, with nothing but a tiny sign jutting from the wall to announce its presence.

Many afternoons there’s a line up of patrons waiting patiently for their bounty. But when it’s quiet, you might have to pluck up a bit of courage to step into what seems like an abandoned entranceway.

Inside you’ll find a smiling man, churning out bag after bag of fresh rice noodles that he’ll sell to you for a pound apiece.

And I know what you’re thinking: how spectacular can rice noodles really be? I had my doubts as well, but let yourself be surprised.

These soft, pillowy tendrils will transform any stir fry or Asian noodle dish you want to whip up. Those in the know say they’re absolutely authentic Ho Fun noodles. I love using them to make vegan pad thai or my favourite spicy noodles.

Buying them feels like a mini adventure in and of itself, and you’ll feel like a true blue Londoner knowing about these back alley noodles. Plus, I think you’ll have a hard time going back to packaged noodles after trying these fresh ones. Just be sure to cook them the day you buy your noodles or else they’ll dry out and get stuck together.

Lo’s Noodle Facory is located at 6 Dansey Place (W1D 6EZ). Have you ever checked it out? What are your favourite hidden gems in London, or your own home town?

Love, spicy noodle bowls, and lemonade cocktails,

The Birthday List: Go to Harry Potter Studios.

harry-potter-studio-tour02I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books since I was 11 and waiting for my Hogwarts letter ever since. Growing up, when one of the new books would come out, we’d always have to preorder two copies and pick them up the day they came out so neither my brother or I had to wait to read it.

Naturally I’ve been wanting to visit the Harry Potter studio tour since moving to London but I wasn’t sure it would be worth the expense (tickets are £33) and it requires a whole day as it’s out in Leavesden. But my dad bought me a ticket for Christmas so a couple of weeks ago, Colette came into town and we made the journey.

harry-potter-studio-tour01 harry-potter-studio-tour03You can take one train from Euston to Watford Junction and then there’s a shuttle bus that will take you directly to the studio. It was an easy journey and we had fun drinking pink cava and gossiping on the way.

I was looking forward to the day but had no idea what to expect but the entire experience far exceeded what I could have dreamed up. From the second we entered the studio doors until we stumbled out the gift shop doors over five hours later, we were squealing giddily and running around in nerdy glee. Whether you’ve reread every book obsessively or just watched the films, I’d recommend a visit to any Harry Potter Fan.

harry-potter-studio-tour05 harry-potter-studio-tour04You have to buy a time-specific ticket in advance and there is a bit of queuing when you arrive and then you enter as a group, first watching a short introductory film and exploring the Great Hall together. After that you’re free to explore the rest of the studios at your own pace and to stay as long as you’d like (they told us the record was 13 hours!).

Our approach to the day was to do it all. Get the audio guide. Ride the broom (and fly the car!) in front of the green screen. Drink butterbeer. Take pictures in front of every photo op worthy set piece (there are a lot). Stamp pieces of paper at the stamping stations because we didn’t have passports. If it was on offer, we gave it a try.

harry-potter-studio-tour06 harry-potter-studio-tour08I think soaking up every part of the day really enhanced our experience. Looking back, you’re not going to regret standing in one extra queue and it sure is fun to have a giggle thinking about how silly we looked swinging around on those broomsticks.

There’s so much to see and do and we didn’t want to miss a second of it. You get to look at fully laid out sets, interactive exhibits, costumes, props, the creature studio, the conceptual models for the films, and a to-scale model of Hogwarts that they used with a green screen for filming all of the flying scenes. They’ve done such a wonderful job making it both visually stunning and really informative. We watched the Deathly Hallow films over the weekend and kept exclaiming that “We saw that!” or “We know how they did that!”

harry-potter-studio-tour07 harry-potter-studio-tour09Plus they’re adding and changing the tour all of the time. The Hogwarts Express is arriving in March and depending on the time of year, they have different seasonal exhibits.

We’re already planning a return visit for next year!

harry-potter-studio-tour10harry-potter-studio-tour11If you’re planning visit, be sure to put on your witchiest costume and wear a comfortable pair of shoes. I generally don’t have a long attention span for exhibitions but we were there for over five hours. And if it had been warmer out or we’d started earlier in the day, I think we’d easily have been there longer. There’s so much to see and do and when you get to the end of it all, there’s an amazing gift shop. I could have emptied my bank account in there but made due with a black “Witch” mug.

In the end, it actually felt like fantastic value for the cost of the ticket. The entire experience created a real sense of child-like wonder and it was absolutely amazing to see one of my favourite fantasy worlds brought to life!

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Have you been on the studio tour?

Love, chocolate frogs, and butterbeer moustaches,

This is London: Brixton Market

brixton-market3brixton-market2I’d never been to Brixton Market until recently, but having spent the last two Sundays there, I can attest to it being a great place to mooch around for the afternoon.

Brixton is an interesting neighbourhood and very much feels like a transitional space. It’s undergone a lot of gentrification over the past few years, but seems to maintain much of its original vibe. Trendy coffee shops and boutiques stand beside traditional fish mongers and tiny food shops selling ingredients from around the world.

In some way the multicultural atmosphere and vibrant, eclectic mood reminds me of Toronto. And Brixton Market is definitely worth a visit, whether you live in the city or are just visiting.

brixton-market1brixton-market6When we were there last weekend, Matthew and I planned to just eat our way around the market. There are so many restaurants and food stalls, featuring cuisines from all over the world, so it’s great to just get a little something at a few places and sample the selection.

The dumplings above were from Mama Lan – they’re stuffed with wood ear mushrooms, spinach, and vermicelli. So much yum!

And vegan bakery Ms. Cupcake is just around the corner. They boast “the naughtiest vegan cakes in town” but I taken by the vegan nanaimo bars. This Canadian girl’s day was made!

The weekend before I had brunch at Senzala Creperie and it was amazing.

If you’re visiting the market, be sure to go hungry.

brixton-market4brixton-market5There are so many cute shops to poke around in, so even if you’re not in the mood to shop, you’ll still find lots of interesting things to look at. You’ll find lots of homewares, vintage clothing, knickknacks, unique gifts, handmade goods, and original artworks. I picked up some beautiful rose-scented soap from France and a handmade, coconut-scented candle.

brixton-market7brixton-market8Brixton is a colourful neighbourhood and the surrounding area is full of interesting things to look at. So after you’ve strolled around the market, be sure to go for a wander to rock on to Electric Avenue (yep, the one in the song) and then check out the great street art, independent shops, and speciality food stores.

Do you have a favourite spot in Brixton? I’d love to get tips of more places to eat and shops to check out on my next visit.

Love, disco balls, & neon spray paint,

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