loti does airbnb trips
Airbnb has given us the opportunity to discover something new with their Trips experiences, meaning you can dive into all sorts of interests and explore your inquisitiveness with the aid of a local expert. From samurai sword training in Tokyo to surfing in California, Airbnb Trips has made taking up something you have a vague interest in very accessible.
Working with Airbnb we set out a challenge to live out one of the London experiences, showcasing life outside of Zone One. After all London is not just about the landmarks, Oxford Street and Big Ben…there’s plenty to experience that will give visitors, tourists and even Londoners a whole new perspective on the city. Darren and Ben are botanical creators in their spare time and host Airbnb Experience Two Green Thumbs; a botanical voyage through the UK’s largest collection of wholesale flower suppliers, a workshop to build a self-sustainable succulent terrarium and a tour around a well-known, lively flower market.
It’s an early start for us being East London based…we’re up at 6am to get over to Vauxhall for the 8am start at New Covent Garden Market where we learn all about the bargains that await. It’s a huge space and a flower lover’s dream, from the zero maintenance of the fake-but-you-can’t-tell bushes and trees to the unpronounceable flowers and plants in every colour possible to the pots, baskets, barrels, stones and decorative accessories…whatever you might need for your garden, indoor or out, they’ve got it. Then it’s a bacon sarnie, a cup of tea and a chat in the market’s cafe.
It’s a bit of a trek to get over to Canary Wharf on the opposite side of the city, but forget about catching the tube. Two Green Thumbs go all James Bond and takes us on a river cruise along the Thames instead. The reason for the visit is to walk through what is essentially a giant terrarium, with the impressive building set amongst the skyscrapers. The Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a 300-metre space housing many plants that native to the countries who visited the West India Dock by ship many moons ago. They showcase a world of exotic and beautiful shapes and patterns from the ferns of the Americas to the bamboos of the Far East. It’s a magical garden surrounded by towering glass.
A break for lunch near the O2 gives us time to refuel before taking in London from above. The cable car ride looks out over the O2 dome, Docklands, London City airport and you can see as far as the weather will let you. Forming a full loop we are back in East London to check out The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, built on the old Eastern Curve railway line. The garden is a tranquil, community led space where you can grab a coffee and appreciate the stillness in an area of London that is often overwhelming.
During the visit to Darren and Ben’s home (our fave part of the trip) you get a real feel for their passion for plants. Their home is a mecca of green, from hanging baskets to pots of all shapes and sizes, bringing a sense of calm and offering some inspiration for your own home. With the two tasks for the afternoon we find ourselves making a concrete block to hold a dried-out succulent on some inserted copper wire. Then it’s building the terrarium, and Darren and Ben talk you through the design, placement and show you countless tricks and tips on how to achieve your very own botanical world. Both of these creations are yours to take home, and as we chat over a glass of wine asking questions about what plants can work in our bathroom and why our bonsai tree looks so sad, we draw day one to a close feeling pleased with ourselves for being all creative and crafty. We just made something with concrete for Pete’s sake.
Day two is has a slightly more casual start time and we meet outside Hackney City Farm for a trip to Columbia Road Flower Market. Ben takes us through some of the history, how it was destroyed in the Second World War and how the market used to actually be on a Saturday. Columbia Road Flower Market is something every London visitor and resident has to experience, not just for the amazing array of flowers and plants but for the atmosphere of the local traders. It’s real East London banter, you’ll be talked to, shouted at and definitely have a laugh. We met some of the traders, found out which stalls do what and took a mental note of what plants we wanted to purchase. The two hours flies by and with a cup of tea and a bagel we’re asking Darren and Ben our final questions. We then had the rest of the afternoon to explore on our own and have come away with an enthused attitude to really put what we’ve learned to use…and play around more with concrete.
Two Green Thumbs is a great way to immerse yourself into all things green; you will learn plenty and get to be creative with the benefit of experienced people at your side. This is just one example of how Airbnb Trips is opening up opportunities for people to experience what locals are good at, sharing interests, skills and meeting new people from all walks of life…and it’s bloody great.