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.

Small boutiques/shops
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


Jess said…
Aren't the Ampersand's bathrooms amazing? That's something that really struck me when I stayed there, haha. I've stayed at about a billion hotels in London now (I try to get to London almost every weekend, and often stay down there Saturday nights) and the Ampersand has by far and away the loveliest bathrooms. Although the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch does give it a run for its money to some extent, heh.

And oh, you've just incidentally reminded me that I have gift vouchers for La Fromagerie that I need to get around to using, which I'm sure will be a very enjoyable endeavour...
hannah-rose said…
I'm going to keep Ampersand in mind the next time I'm in London it sounds like exactly what I always look for in a hotel: no frills, but without losing any style or charm. I'm so glad you had a good time! I travel a lot solo too and I agree with you completely, there are some things that are harder to do by yourself. It's nice to take it easy and recharge.. So glad you had such a good trip can't wait to see more pictures! xxx
Amanda said…
Ooh, definitely planning a stay at the Ampersand next. I've read so many good things about it. There's always something new to look forward to in London. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip.
Ammu said…
Oh, it sounds like bliss. I am off to London this summer and I cannot wait to wander around my old neighbourhood - south Kensington - and discover new favourites. Already have a list of books I want to buy, so expect to spend some time at Daunt books in Marylebone :)
Kali said…
It sounds like a very enjoyable trip! I agree with you on this smaller approach. When traveling alone, it feels calmer, slower, maybe easier to enjoy in a way. It feels more special, too, no?
Really enjoyed spending the two days with you. Hubby couldn't understand why there was so much to chat about when I got in the door really late after our dinner. I haven't heard of Persephone Books so will definitely check the store out.
Eileen said…
You sound rested and contented. Its always interesting to read what you have to say about the world.
lin said…
Jess: The heated bathroom floor was kind of the bomb -- it wasn't especially cold when I was there but still chilly for sure so it felt like the height of indulgence to step onto a nice, floor in the mornings.

I was actually quite keen on giving the Ace Hotel a try but in the Ampersand was a much more convenient option for me. Till next time...

hannah-rose: it's got plenty of frills to keep me happy - miller harris bathroom products that smelt so good, free paper of my choice in the mornings. And it's walking distance of a branch of Fernandez and Wells...

Amanda: It was's impossible to be bored in London.

Ammu: No doubt you'll have an awesome time!

Kali: It does! Very liberating and indulgent as well, because you do exactly what you want, no need to think of anyone else.

Marlene: Time flew!

Eileen: I'm right back to feeling tired again! Wish I could hold on to the holiday zen a little longer.
Aïssa said…
This post is the perfect incentive to take a solo break. I've been trying to coax my mum to join me on a trip to no avail. Her loss! Haha!
I'm keeping the Ampersand's in mind for my next London stay.
miss sophie said…
i love this piece :) my first trip to London was so-so, but next time i'm definitely planning around some of your recommendations and favorite stops!

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