the power of small
Persephone Books, London
Travelling alone makes me aware of time, space, limits. You can do more with less, in less. But you can also become overwhelmed more easily – no companion to break the long hours, figure out directions, conquer a menu.
On this trip, small felt made me feel more comfortable – and I was looking for comfortable. I wanted to recharge. Small was good.
Some of the “small” things on my trip I appreciated, in no particular order:
The Escher Museum in The Hague
It was a lovely interlude between work commitments. Like many good small museums, it was a concise introduction to Escher’s works and his mark on the art world. I left feeling like I learned something. In contrast, when I went to the British Museum in London to see its new exhibition on Vikings, I left feeling drained. The exhibit itself was great but I felt overwhelmed by the temptation of other shows on offer: something on Baselitz, a new section on Chinese jade, the feeling that I should check out the sections I hadn’t seen before.
Restaurants with small menus
When you dine alone you don’t want to feel like there are these amazing things on the menu that you won’t get to try because you don’t have four stomachs. So I enjoying going to places that specialised – burger places with perhaps 4, 5 options to choose from; cafes offering simple breakfasts meant to let you start the day without thinking too much.
My favourite shopping experiences of the whole trip were at Margaret Howell, Carven and Vanessa Bruno, because they reminded me that it can be a pleasure shopping a designer’s vision of a collection, rather than an edited selection at a department store or a multi-brand boutique or an online store. You see more of a singular vision. You notice the less showy items that hasn’t been seen everywhere. I also love seeing the shop staff wear the label’s clothes – you see how things really work on a person, in motion. At Margaret Howell, this was really cool because the staff wear her clothes so well, and it isn’t easy to pull off some of those silhouettes.
And there was Persephone Books, which publishes out-of-print books by mostly women writers. The selection is a small, which allows you to go through every title on the shelf. How often can you accomplish that in any book store?
(And Lamb Conduit Street is a really nice street to walk through.)
I enjoyed having a park near my hotel to run in - as opposed to dodging pedestrians on the street - but for a bit of greenery and a short walk to stretch my legs, gardens - often found in squares - are perfect in scale. Russell Square is a nice respite from the British Museum, and I came across a couple of nice ones in Mayfair - one near Mount Street, which really feels like a private garden, and Grosvenor Square.
A small hotel room
Perhaps for a longer stay I would appreciate a bigger room but for two nights, the Ampersand's tiniest room was perfect. It was a small room with a generously-sized bed from heaven and a spacious bathroom - I like small rooms but hate small bathrooms. There's no desk, no armchair, and only a sliver of wardrobe space but it feels cozy when you're just after 8 to 10 hours of sleep + lying in with a book - yes I was that lazy. And there is something comfortable about having everything within sight and reach.
Special thanks to:
Marlene, for the company and showing me to some of the delights of Marylebone, like this and this
Hannah-Rose, for her awesome list of recommendations on what to eat, see, do in London (like Persephone Books) - I didn't have time to check out everything but wished I did!
Amanda and Dead Fleurette for weighing on accommodation options