Anniversary in Amsterdam

Finally, after nearly 2 years on this soggy little island, we were able to ride the rails 4 hours to Amsterdam.  The ride via Eurostar (with a stop in Belgium) costs about GBP130 and, given it goes from city-centre in London to city-centre in Amsterdam, is about as easy as intercontinental travel can get.

We took a 3-day long weekend, and given the small size of the city (about 1 million people with a famously compact pedestrian-friendly core), it was just enough time.  Hotels are a touch expensive (not much choice under EUR100) but the beer was cheap and the food was great!

We stayed in the Jordann, a gentrified neighbourhood just outside the old central area.  In Amsterdam the old centre is the capital of vice (reminded me a but of Queen & Bathurst) but the Jordann is more grown-up, less pott-y, more quiet, and filled with gorgeous shops and cafes.

We’ll be back.


My 30th Birthday!

What to expect if you visit us in London

We’ve had our 4th group of visitors through these parts in the past 5 weeks, and our Londonology is down to a science.  If you think you’re in for fannypacks, C$8 bottles of water or 4 hour lineups to see the changing of the guard, guess again!  Here’s how the typical schedule works out:


What’s the better story? Reply in comment section

1)  After a vigorous work-related celebration, a guy comes home on his bike drunk; dismounts while still moving; falls off and irreparably damages new trousers.  Casualties: knee, trousers.

2) After a vigorous work-related celebration, a guy comes home and breaks key off in lock; sleeps in lobby; neighbours provide pillow and blanket; breaks in the next morning via broomstick.  Casualties: Pride, respect from neighbours.

I really hope this is making your day.

Business models that should come to Toronto – I

When the conservative Financial Times starts writing about a trend you know it’s serious mainstream.

There are more than 5 bike cafes in my area of London, most of which have sprung up in the last year.  Two more are expected by end of summer.  I’ve written about my favorite one a few times and have visited two others.

The concept:

Combination of bike workshop and cafe.   The workshop can be staffed or DIY.  Cafe can offer just coffee and sweets, or also include beer and wine.  Pitchfork-approved soundtrack and skinny jeans required.

Why it works:

Has anyone ever gotten wealthy from operating an indie bike shop?  Doubt it.  I get the impression they’re run as labours of love and almost always hemmorage cash.  Owning one is more a lifestyle choice than a financial decision.  Similarily, coffee shops are run in much the same way – they need a good location which means sky high rent, and you make your money back a few dollars at a time.  Successful ones with staying power and multiple locations, such as the Dark Horse and possibly Red Rocket Coffee in Toronto, are the exception rather than the rule.

Combined, they use the same space which decreases overhead.  One part of the business can cross-sell the other.  The demographic for a bike shop and a cafe are very similar – urban, environmentally aware,  hip young professionals (this is me except for the hip part).  The neighbourhood these cafes are in has a lot in common with Cabbagetown or Riverdale – it’s a small-l liberal stronghold that begat Tony Blair/New Labour and loves the BBC.

My favorite spot, LMNH, also serves beer and while it’s a cafe I favor beer/coffee at a 4/1 ratio, dropping GBP3 per pint every time I go.  I can only assume it’s making money because it’s full morning to night even on weekdays.

The risk with this kind of business is that while it’s hard enough to do one thing really well, doing two things well is much harder.  

 Toronto Examples:

Dark Horse + Urbane.  For more attitude, Mercury + Jet Fuel.

Around London – SW4

Great weather lately in London (about 25-28C as a high, and sunny) and it hasn’t really rained in a month.  Great day for a bike trip to South London.

Here’s a better picture of the eye taken from the banks of the Thames.

There are many of these sets of stairs along the river that were used by dockworkers.

As I made my way south of the river, lo and behold, the blue lanes os CS7 (Cycle Superhighway 7).  In case the pictures don’t show it, these lanes are super bright – freakishly bright.  The color must be “electric smurf”.

Now is this a cycle lane, or what?

Who needs more cowbell when you can have more astronaut?

No sleep till…

Canadian connection

And the reason for the trip in the first place, Battersea Power Station, most famously seen here: