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Islington - a lovely corner of London

atcamdenpassageI know London pretty well, I was born not a great distance away and lived in a slightly grotty bedsit in one of the lesser-appreciated parts at one time. Back in the day I would meet up with former travel companions in various pubs to reminisce about that beach, or that party before dashing through the rain to get the last public transport home. (A taxi fare was way beyond budget as we were always saving for the next trip!) These days we like to visit most years to do some tourist thing with the kids and take in a show.

Last year was the highlight with the Olympic buzz seeping into what can, on a bad day, feel like the smog of commuter doom.  Londoners aren't known for the un-necessary chatter with strangers which is why I was so delighted to find, this year, that Islington is refreshing in its village atmosphere. As I wondered the streets I was greeted with smiles and advise at every turn. Islington is currently my new favourtie corner of London. Here's what I found -

Ottolenghi's Restaurant - The window display is enough to entice you inside but once in there is no wish for escape. The nutritious but delicious salad bar can be bought as a mix of 3 takeaway box, with quiches or pesto muffins on the side. Eating in has to be even better.

Tierra Peru - Peruvian cuisine is the new thing so of course Islington has its own restaurant which is truely authentic. I got to eat the Cebiche (marinated raw fish) I had craved since my last trip to Peru some 15 years ago, and followed it up the Quinoa dish risotto style. This is food you wont find elsewhere - totally tantalising exotic flavours.

There are unique and quirky shops along Camden Passage. You'll find nice gift shops and an outdoor antiques market and vintage clothing stalls at the weekend too.

Off Upper Street there is the Almeida Threatre. It's a small place with amazing cafe and restaurant.

regentscanalAt Islington Green there is 'Screen on the Green'. An independent cinema in an old Art Deco building, showing new releases and old favourites too - not the Hollywood blockbusters generally. Big seats and a bar inside the auditorium make it even more appealing.

Just 2 minutes walk from the Main Street you can get to the Regents Canal to enjoy great walks and stop by some interesting cafes on barges and book shops along the way.

Have an award-winning Sunday roast or a pint at the Albion, which is dripping with wisteria, which can be enjoyed from the lovely beer garden.

There were enough known and independent clothes shops, even a funky, bargain, second-hand, designer shop (too many adjectives!!) tucked away under a hairdressers called Seconda Mano, so I decided to stay here rather than traipse around Oxford Street. Why leave Islington? All you need is here.

I couldn't find any really unusual places to stay in Islington itself but these 2 are nearby.

The Rookery - Sumptuous old style comfort with wood panelled walls, carved headboards and an honesty bar. For those who appreciate times gone by, you will find this beautiful hotel in Clerkenwell.

Clink 78 - A lively hostel in Kings Cross making the most of its Courthouse history. The 200 year old building has been restored with flair while the prices are cheap, the staff friendly and the bar a fun place to be. What more can you want from a hostel?