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Banbury’s Independent (Shop) Spirit

by nycdeb on April 21st, 2015 · 3 Comments ·

The weather was too nice to stay inside today so I went out along the canal into town – took some pics, made some purchases along the way.

One of the things we like best about Banbury is that while it is well-supplied with the usual big name chains, there are also a great many independent shops – and offering a wide range of goods. What this means is that yes, I can go and pick up my contacts at Boots, or check out the sales at Debenhams but I can also treat myself (and others) to “won’t see everywhere else” handbags, toys, gifts and books, etc.

One of the other things we love about where we live? The fact that I can follow the canal from very near home all the way into town.



One a day like today (it was gorgeous out – far too nice to stay indoors), the walk is delightful. Later on in the summer, the walk is also awash in blackberries so it is delightful AND delicious.

Town, once I arrived, was looking bright and crisp.


And the  bunting has gone up in prep for the Old Town Spring Party (May 2 for those who’d like to check it out).


One of the places I never miss during a stroll around town is White Lion Shopping Walk – home to two of my favourite shops, Books and Ink Bookstore and Frogabilia. It is also home, as one might guess from the name, a white lion.


The best thing about the white lion? The pink tongue.


But I was going to talk about shops wasn’t I? Specifically a couple of independents I tend to frequent and one brand-spanking new one where I scored some awesome scarves. First, there is Books and Ink Bookshop and there are few things in life that make me happier than a bookstore. As it happens, Banbury has a few but I am partial to used bookstores and this is a great one. Today what delighted me most was actually in the window.


Poor Tubby, my heart goes out to him. But he’ll show them. He’ll end up an internet billionaire, buy up all their businesses and have the last laugh. Go forth, Tubby and conquer.

The other shop with windows that are a frequent delight is (also delightfully named) Frogabilia, right across from Books and Ink. These are art deco, vintage finds that haven’t ever seen the inside of a big name chain shop. These are from a time when objects were expected to be useful and beautiful. Today, the object that stopped me dead in my tracks was this:


I’ve always adored Alice in Wonderland chess sets so when I saw this at Frogabilia I was WAY TOO EXCITED. Then I saw that it was reserved already and that was very sad.  Is it any surprise then that I needed something to cheer myself up? A little retail therapy, as it were. And so I went off to see the newest shop in town – BlueBird!  BlueBird is the new women’s accessories shop (from the same people who run Fifth Corner around – well, around the corner from BlueBird. In any case, now that BlueBird has opened, it’s going to tax my willpower a lot.


I am a scarf fanatic, the handbags are gorgeous and best of all, not the same ones you see just everywhere. There’s a real effort at curating a unique collection and it shows.


And in case you were wondering, I did manage to cheer myself up – I scored two fantastic scarves that I will doubtless wear so often during Spring and Summer that everyone in town will be sick of the sight of them. But tough. I love them!


Eventually I had to go home and get some work done – but as the weather improves and I can make my strolls along the canal more frequent (I used to walk along the East River and the Hudson 4 or 5 times a week all Spring and Summer when I lived in Manhattan), I’ll make sure to highlight some of the other shops and restaurants that contribute to Banbury’s independent (shops) spirit.

Related Links

  • Banbury’s Culinary Surroundings: (April 16th, 2015): Exploring the gastronomic pleasures – cookery schools, food festivals, artisan shops and food tours – found in Banbury itself or within no more than an hour’s travel time.
  • Spring has Sprung in Banbury!  (April 12th, 2015):  According to Tennyson, ‘In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’ – and that’s as may be but come Spring, this girl’s fancy turns to long walks, farmer’s markets, the garden and cheese.
  • Festive, Foodie Banbury (December 6th, 2014): It’s holiday time and a whole SLEW of new eateries have opened up in Banbury to keep everyone’s energy levels up for the last push to Christmas
  • Banbury’s Foodie Landscape (Nov 16 2014): One of the things we most love doing here in TransAtlantic Towers (as I always did back in NYC), is a bit of culinary exploring…
  • Grabbing a Bite in Banbury (April 14, 2015): In Banbury, a store front showing signs of activity is quite likely to be – well just about anything food related.
  • Bakergirl Bakehouse in Banbury:  Today’s culinary jaunt was to Bakergirl, an artisan bakehouse just outside Banbury.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Banbury · shopping

Spring has Sprung in Banbury!

by nycdeb on April 12th, 2015 · 2 Comments ·

According to Tennyson, ‘In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’ – and that’s as may be but come Spring, this girl’s fancy turns to long walks, farmer’s markets, the garden and cheese.  At TransAtlantic Towers, we can tell that Spring has sprung because we have been replanting beds in the garden. Behold!


Between that, the fruit trees – we now have five! – and the “herb potting” marathon we have planned for next weekend, I feel very seasonal. Spring planting in NYC was more a case of sweeping the balcony off, cleaning the chairs and moving the jade plants back outside. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it was a lovely spot, as you can see below, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.


I do miss having jade plants but we just do not have the right window for them here for wintering.

Another thing I miss about NYC in Spring – the ‘long walks’ season along the river. And when I say long, I mean long. It was not unknown for me to go from 72nd & 1st over to 110 & West End then turn down along the River to the Village all in one go. Still, plenty of walks around here – more rural than urban, of course but no complaints there.  I have a lovely canal to walk along here in Banbury.


In theory, I could follow the canal and walk from here in Banbury to Oxford though I think that’s a bit far even for me. I’ll break it into sections, thanks very much and tackle it that way. Luckily, walking is a bit thing around here and the local council even produces a set of scenic walk brochure/maps for some of the more popular ones. So does the Walking in Oxfordshire website. All downloadable and free!

Spring is also when I once more became a frequenter of those staples of the Manhattan street scene – I love  the ‘one of a kind’ or ‘not often seen’ items you get at the outdoor markets. One of my favorite regular days out when in NYC is the Union Square market – the best place to get apples in all of Manhattan – or (if I can’t be bothered to go that far) the St. Stephen’s Market up on 82nd.


Luckily, Banbury comes up trumps for me there as well.  The canal walk will wait until we’ve had a few more days of good weather so the footpath can dry out a bit more but the weekly markets are only a short, dry stroll away.

Banbury has two markets – the Banbury charter market on Thursdays and Saturdays then the farmer’s market on the first Friday of every month. Both markets take place in – wait for it – the Market Place. There’s also an additional antiques market that runs along side the charter market on the 2nd Thursday of each month.  I’d also seen news that an artisan cheesemonger would have a stall for the first time. I love living in a place where the word cheese monger in in common usage. And so as this past Thursday was a 2nd Thursday and the weather was fine, I figured it was worth a wander in.

And I was right! I mean look at that fruit and veg!




I also scored the most amazing pair of cheeses from Curds & Whey, the cheesemongers. Well, they were amazing and so are these cheese: a black truffle cheese and an extremely mature gouda. That black truffle cheese is going to be made into an extra special risotto tonight.


Rather than rush immediately home with my score, I also decided to check out the antiques market and see what the percentage of antique to junktique they had. And by saying so – I am in NO WAY dismissing junktique items as worthy. Some of my favorite things are such things. “Junktique’ – by my definition – is that which is old, vintage-y and/or perhaps something someone else would have just tossed. Not garbage by any means – just not ACTUALLY antiques. And I have to say, I saw quite a lot of things I might have picked up if I wasn’t walking home with two ENORMOUS wedges of cheese and a tiger bread baguette (and let me give a two thumbs up to Isla Jane Bakery for that AMAZING bread) .



There will more on the delights of Spring in Banbury to come but that will have to wait – for I have some cheese to indulge in.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Banbury · Life in the UK · shopping · walks

New York City World Fairs

by nycdeb on April 7th, 2015 · 1 Comment ·

New York City has hosted two (well, three if you are fussy) World’s Fairs – an April historical highlight in both cases.


The first opened on April 30, 1939 and the other one on April 22, 1964. Both took place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park (can I get a big whoop whoop for the borough of Queens!). There was a third fair – earlier than both of these and held before the whole “World’s Fair” moniker came into common usage. It kicked off in July 1853 and was held in what these days is Bryant Park in Manhattan. Much smaller and not really in the same league at all.

This gives you an idea of the look and feel they were going for in 1939


It was in 1964 that the iconic globe went up


Each World’s Fair has a theme and the theme in 1964 was “Peace Through Understanding” – and the flag of many nations were everywhere as were visitors from all over the globe. Lots of opportunity for cross border understanding. The exhibits themselves however were dominated by American corporations showing off their latest and greatest which was less about peace and more about “LOOK AT WHAT WE’VE GOT TO SELL YOU” – which you could convince yourself was in line with the dedication of the fair, “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”


As of right now, there are no more World’s Fairs (now called Expos) scheduled for New York. But you never know … they come up every five years or so and no decision has been made for the ones post-2020.

→ 1 CommentTags: historical gotham

Take Note of Americans Abroad

by nycdeb on April 2nd, 2015 · No Comments ·

I’ve often observed that people of different nations and cultures vacation VERY differently. The word vacation is one way – Europeans “holiday” and “go on holiday.” Americans go “on vacation” and almost always as a noun, less so as a verb. But never mind. We can overcome these minor cultural differences and learn from each others.

This was the idea behind my latest piece “We think… we could learn a thing or two from American tourists” – it’s part of the We think …  opinion series in The Club, a monthly digital magazine sent to British Airways’ Executive Club members.


So take note of the Americans abroad. If you look beyond the cliches (and aren’t there cliches about all sorts of tourists?) and you might learn something about maximizing your vacation experience.

→ No CommentsTags: And beyond · holidays · sight seeing

Festive, Foodie Banbury

by nycdeb on December 6th, 2014 · 2 Comments ·

While I was just back to NYC for a visit, it was a bit too early for a tour of the annual 5th Avenue Christmas windows.  That’s OK, I did the NYC Christmas windows from a distance last year and I can do it again this year, thanks this time to Time Out New York who have done a lovely round up of these annual holiday spectaculars. But it IS holiday time once more and I’m at home in Banbury and Banbury is all dolled up for the festivities. True, we don’t have anything like the windows at Barneys in NYC. But we have windows. Behold!


And not to be left out of the holiday fun, our new local Mexican eatery has Christmas burritos on offer. How can you say no to that? Can you get a Christmas burrito in NYC? I’ve never seen one.


In any case, it’s holiday time and a whole SLEW of new places have opened up in Banbury – some to keep everyone’s energy levels up for the last push to Christmas like Little Amsterdam (pictured below) and some to make finding gifts for even the hard to buy for, like Pink Pig, a recently reopened record shop- yes, RECORDS! The round vinyl things we use to have to slip in and out of cases. More on all these soon. Right now, I’ve got some gift wrap to organize. And maybe a pancake in the near future.


Other places I’ll be checking out or checking in with over the next few weeks (especially that almost two weeks I’ve got off work at the end of the month). Some new, some established favs:

  • Books & Ink – because I can’t NOT stop in this store every time I am in town.
  • Naomi’s Cafe Bar – a cafe, art space, reading nook and performance venue all in one.
  • The Whistling Kettle – my favourite kind of coffee shop, a local one and one that tweets things like, “Writing a book? Our cafe has a cosy corner for creative customers.” How could I not love that?
  • Fresh Air Junkie – an outdoor store just opened relatively recently on Parsons Street, because a girl can never have too much fleece this time of year.
  • Buzzy’s Emporium – ’cause I saw an old tin advertising sign that REALLY spoke to me.
  • Abraxas Cookshop – because this baking thing is apparently not JUST a phase and I might as well do it right if I’m going to do it.

There are tons of other places too – many independents, well-stocked representatives of chains and – that’s even BEFORE we mention the whole mall thing.

Yes, I miss New York City this time of year – but I’ve got all new holiday habits and ‘go to’ spots here now.  And these days – with new places to try all the time – I’ll have more choices than ever.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Banbury · holidays