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Local Treats and Treasures

posted 28 Apr 2012, 10:24 by I.D. Est   [ updated 29 Apr 2012, 01:15 ]
When visiting another country, going to a new town, or even when I pop by Hampstead for some coffee on a Friday afternoon, I always seek out the local shops and restaurants. You know, instead of defaulting to Caffe Nero or Starbucks. Why not try a unique, locally owned place? When in Rome and so on. 

I have to admit, in the fast-growing jungle of chain stores, it can be quite the challenge to find the quaint neighbourhood café. 

Hampstead High Street is no exception. Flanked on both sides of the road you will find big brand names and world wide chains. I do get that it's easy to fall back on the you-always-know-what-you-get-mentality, but I also get that it's the same mentality that drives corner shops and on of a kind places out of business. I don't find it one bit reassuring that you can grab a bite at Pizza Hut, weather you are in Beijing or London. I find it quite disturbing. 

I was recently in India. Our local guide wanted to take us to all the touristy places. We had to explain several times that we only wanted to go where the locals went. He finally gave in, and only then did I feel I got to experience
 a true slice of Indian culture. Witch was the whole point of going there in the first place. 
If I had wanted McDonald's and fancy malls, I could have stayed at the airport. 

The same mentality applies at home, right here in England. There are endless treasures in every town and city. You just have to search a bit and be willing to try new things.

A few weeks ago I went to Bath for the weekend. I practically sat up camp at this incredibly adorable coffee house called Same Same But Different. A part of me could almost wish it was a chain, but that's just the part of me that has grown accustomed to finding everything everywhere. 

Hampstead Village is a fantastic and  part of London. In between the relentless presence of chains you find small cafés, speciality shops, vegetable stands and street markets. There is a true feeling of community, not just a place to shop and order a skinny venti latte on the go. 

There is no avoiding the big names, the glamorous conglomerate stores, but if we don't watch out, that's all we'll be left with. 

Long live the differences, as the French would say. I couldn't agree more.