While London may not have the same reputation as a city like New York, that which never sleeps, it does have a long-standing reputation of being full of hustle and bustle, swarming with people who have no time to, or interest in, saying “good morning” to a passing stranger. For some, it can be quite an isolating place in the midst of all the busyness.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and those who take the time and have the opportunity to get to know London can uncover the charm of winding canals, luscious green spaces, and pockets of the city that encourage you to slow down and take in the wonders around you.
1. Escape the hustle and bustle
One such place is Columbia Road Flower Market, which inspired this piece after I visited following a hiatus that lasted far too long, and while I will offer by no means a definitive guide to being lazy in London, I hope it can provide you with some recommendations on how to enjoy a slow Sunday in the city – or spark some ideas for a weekend meander through your own neighbourhood.
Columbia Road Flower Market, captured by Lauren Powell.
For some, a lazy Sunday might mean a TV-show binge on the sofa eating snacks and pizza till bedtime, with no interest in seeing in the light of day. And no judgement.
But for me being lazy is more about living in the present, not thinking about a to-do list or work project or obligations to follow up on.
Often it’s about wanting to do things that bring me joy, and not feeling any guilt that there is no more of a point to them than that.
2. It’s not (only) the destination that counts
And so, instead of taking public transport to the Flower Market on my recent visit, I agreed to meet with a friend to take a walk there instead, braving a spring breeze to make the most of April sunshine. Early on route, we stopped to pick up a takeaway coffee – because what is a catch up without a cappuccino? And what, I ask, is a Sunday morning caffeine hit without a pastry in tow?
While London is not short of a good coffee shop recommendation, this time my fix came from Belle Epoque Patisserie, which, as the name suggests, also boasts divine pastries and cakes. As I walked in, the counter was filled with tempting treats – almost to the point of overwhelm. But, what a lovely reminder to really slow down right from this starting point of the day to consider what you want, what looks good? What kind of coffee and sweet – or savoury – treat are your tastebuds craving? I find it’s so easy to fall into the habit of entering and leaving a coffee shop on total autopilot not even questioning what you want, and sometimes barely even tasting the coffee as you drink it when it just becomes part of your routine. But if there is ever a time to break that habit, it is on your lazy Sunday in London – or wherever else you may be.
As the walk to the Market continued, we strolled through small parks, new streets of old Victorian houses, and commented on parts of the city we might never usually see, let alone take the time to acknowledge and appreciate.
Being on a walk with a destination in mind, but no rush to get there, I find is such a good way to engage with your surroundings and let your eyes work in new ways.
Often if on a walk that is solely for the purpose of stretching my legs and getting some fresh air, I find myself lost in thought about what I need to get done after the walk, what’s coming up for the rest of the day – especially if the walk is a quick break from work. But on a lazy Sunday there is no need for any of that – take your time, relax, and enjoy the journey your legs are taking your senses on.
3. Immerse yourself in your surroundings
Upon arriving at Columbia Road Flower Market, it can at first seem far too hectic for a lazy Sunday, as you see a street full of stalls and people and pets creating a chaotic scene. But by taking your time, not feeling a need to rush around or see everything at once, you can bypass any chaos, slow living in your own bubble. Don’t go on a day where you’re eager to get back home to finish an essay, or need to be at lunch for midday sharp. This is a lazy Sunday activity. Let it be the centre of your day. Enjoy it in all its glory.
Because glorious it is. With the street itself lined with small, independent shops full of hidden gems and unusual delights, the experience offers so much more than the opportunity to purchase some greenery.
Each boutique is a treasure trove of plant-related accessories, home-wear, fashion, art and more, and given the likelihood of giving in to temptations of buying something from the stalls outside, whether a pretty bouquet or a small tree, I’d recommend hunting around the little shops first with your hands free for rummaging. To also save your hands, and biceps, you could browse through the full row first and then go back to purchase anything that’s caught your eye, which is what I did recently for some cushions at Jump Like Alice.
Once you’re ready to take on the array of outside stalls, be prepared to be swept away in a sea of colours, smells, sounds – and imagination, that you could successfully grow an orange tree / turn your home’s tiny outdoor space into a tropics-themed oasis / give up your corporate job to plant a rose garden / insert plant-themed-fantasy here. It really is a sensational scene for your mind to wander in many different directions – even if that’s calculating how many bouquets you could legitimately afford to buy – and I challenge anyone to not be living in the moment while you walk that spectacular trail of green leaves and rainbow petals.
After much pondering over what I might buy, I left that recent wander with a sunny bunch of bright orange tulips, still fairly closed which meant they lasted over a week, opening up gradually and filling my desk with brightness. The perfect backdrop to my laptop.
4. Recharge and replenish
And so, my lazy reader, after taking in all that Columbia Road has to offer, or whatever local market you’re spending your Sunday at, you may be in need of a rest.
A chance to sit down and recharge after a morning of mindful walking that’s transcended into the afternoon of mindful browsing.
Instead of rushing to the first place offering caffeine/sugar/sandwiches, try to take a moment and think about what you want the next part of your lazy Sunday to look like.
For me, it often depends on the weather and time of year. If it’s sunny, even if not especially warm, I’ll want to spend as much time taking in the free vitamin D as possible, which might mean looking for a pub or café with outdoor seating or picking up some treats to take to a nearby park. If it’s chilly or rainy, however, I’m much more likely to want to get inside somewhere cosy. This haven might be the corner of a coffee shop or next to the fireplace of a pub, or it might be on the sofa at home. If you’re at Columbia Road, the Birdcage pub can offer a solution to your indoor/outdoor/refreshments needs. If you’re feeling a bit more of a walk, and fancy some street food on undercover picnic benches, you could stroll down to Spitalfields which offers an overwhelming array of food options (make the most of the free tasters!) as well as the opportunity for more stall-browsing.
If this is enough of an outing for one Sunday, and you’re keen to head home, perhaps consider picking up some lunch to take back so that you don’t have to prepare anything, or maybe a sweet treat to enjoy with your mid-afternoon tea. Or perhaps you’re someone who enjoys cooking and can build that into a Sunday of mindful activities that hopefully encourage relaxation. If that’s the case, head home and prepare a snack while you revel in arranging your flower/plant purchases. Then take a recipe book or bring up a food blogger you follow, and flick through to see what tickles your tastebuds and encourages you to head to a local shop and pick up ingredients. If you can make something that serves more than one (or two if you’re cooking for a friend/partner), you can save leftovers for the next few lunches or dinners, freeing up more time for laziness. Something like this soup by Emma Hatcher does just the job.
Whether you choose a café, the park, or your living room, try to continue through your lazy Sunday doing things you enjoy, that let you take it easy, and that ward off any stressful thoughts of the week ahead.
For me this will always include reading time; I carry a book wherever I go. I recently finished Writers and Lovers by Lily King, and before that, I could not put down Roxane Gay’s Hunger. A note on buying books if you’re looking for a new read: it’s great to support your local independent sellers as much as possible, but I also love rummaging through the bookshelves of charity shops to see what’s on offer and often find some hidden gems. Both of the aforementioned reads were charity shop finds! Reading is not as enjoyable for everyone though, but any TV recommendations I can offer are probably at least five years old as I’m always behind the times with the latest series. I am however currently enjoying the third series of the TV adaptation of My Brilliant Friend, based on Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, though I would urge you to read the books first if you haven’t already because nothing can replace the emotional rollercoaster of the author’s prose through those stories.
Whatever activity you choose for the remainder of your Sunday, whether in London or your own city, as you start to wind down through the evening, perhaps with the help of Yoga with Adriene, reflect on your day and what you enjoyed, what was the best part, and feel grateful for the opportunity to wander. Perhaps consider what you can take from the day and do more often, to build more laziness (which might be more mindfulness or relaxation or activities that are not typically ‘productive’) into your week. After a trip to Columbia Road your new flowers can offer a kind reminder to do this, but even after the petals have wilted, don’t forget that you deserve to be lazy, whatever that means for you.
Written by Lauren Powell. Check out her most recent pieces here!
Illustration by Franciska Panda.