This month we chatted with illustrator and animator Monika Forsberg about her hometown, good old London Town. She's picked some of her favourite things to share with us, from pubs to al fresco swimming, we can’t wait to take up her tips and dive in.
Monika Forsberg hails from Lulea, a coastal city in Swedish Lapland. This is Sweden’s most Northerly destination, a place where winter feels never ending and summer lasts forever. Having spent her early life in such a place of weather extremes and natural beauty, what led her to settle down in a city that has a population of nearly 9 million people?
“I never felt the need to leave my hometown but I couldn't see how I could live there and thrive doing art. I didn't get into the art school I'd applied to (in Stockholm) and my then boyfriend lived in London. I applied to Camberwell College of Arts and got in. I moved a couple of weeks later.”
Parliament Hill Lido
When you think of a city the size of London, it’s hard to imagine getting a real connection with the great outdoors and the wild thrill of the elements but even in this city Londoners have been taking a dip for centuries. From the Romans to the Victorians, swimming in the Thames has a long history in the city. It is no longer a popular pastime to go swimming in the capital’s river and since 2012 it has been illegal to swim in a large swathe of it. Luckily London boasts several Lidos and one of them is Monika’s favourite building in the city.
“I do love the Parliament Hill Lido. It is a beautiful building and not many things beats swimming there at night.”
Kenwood Ladies’ Pond
Built in 1938 and Grade II-listed, this is the only stainless steel lined outdoor pool in the country. A great spot to catch the thrill of cold water and fresh air without risking the pollutants and boats on the River Thames. If this still feels a little urban and enclosed, Monika recommends The Kenwood Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath. Women of London have been swimming in this pond since the 1920s surrounded by weeping willows and wildlife. This pond is for women only and is a tranquil haven from hectic city life.
All that bracing cold water and exertion must make a girl famished. Where does Monika like to eat when she’s out and about?
“Al Parco at the edge of the Hampstead Heath. It's not fancy food but it's cosy and it feels like you're on holiday when you sit outside.The restaurant is one of them places perfect to go with the whole family on a sunny Thursday when you fancy a meal out as well as going for a snack and a glass of wine after swimming at the Ladies pond. Also I tend to take out of town friends there for a meal and catch up when they’re visiting. It’s one of them places with a lovely atmosphere friendly staff. A relaxed place for talking and eating.”
Monika is a big fan of the British pub.
“I like pubs that are pubs, not too fancy and I like pubs that you can meet friends and chat or simply stop off and have a drink at after a cycle ride around London. I don't go out much in the evenings these days, work and family life has a bigger part in my life but when going out at night the same rules apply, I like a place where you can meet friends talk and laugh and have a good time.
“I’ve not lived in Sweden for 22 years so most of my memories are of going out Boxing day (in my hometown Lulea). We would go to a few bars and freeze half to death whilst waiting for the nightbus home. Also it's a lot drunker way of socialising in Sweden.”
She couldn’t choose just one favourite, there are so many good drinking holes in London so she took us on a virtual pub crawl.
Places to drink
First stop is the Gipsy Queen in Belsize Park. Dating back to the 1860s this is a traditional English pub with a ‘Cuban inspired beer garden’.
Drink up, next stop is the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town.
Originally known as the ‘Bologne Gate’ in honour of Henry VIII’s victory in France in 1544, this pub was once a coaching Inn, before becoming a gin palace in 1871 when the name was changed by a signwriter probably sozzled on the stuff. The pub also has a fine musical heritage as its ‘Timebox’ music night helped launch the careers of Blur and Coldplay.
The last pub on Monika’s list is steeped in history. Story has it that during the 18th Century it was a drinking den for a drinking club called The Corporation of Stroud Green. They even had an official enamel badge made for members which was recently discovered in the archives at the V&A.
They now serve great british food, real ales in a traditional setting with a modern decorative twist.
Although British history is pickled in liquor, London is a fantastic city for museums and galleries, many dating back to the victorian era. "I love the British Museum, but I prefer to make art rather than look at it."
Not all art is of such a traditional nature and places like the Camden Arts Centre seek to engage, inspire and educate current and future artists. They do show world class contemporary exhibitions but also boast studios that schools can use free of charge.”
Like a sketch or painting, cities are made up of finer details, parts that when joined together give character to the whole. Lamp posts, fonts engraved on stone, the fabric covering the seats on public transport. Sometimes it takes someone seeing a city for the first time to see what makes the place unique and Monika remembers quite clearly what made an impression on her when she first arrived.
“I think I fell in love with London aged 19 when we travelled on the train from Gatwick to Victoria and I saw all the houses with their irregular extensions at the back of the houses. None looked the same. In Sweden there are so many rules and regulation, everything is well thought out, measured and...grown up. I fell in love with the British childish, slap dash attitude to authority and rules that day.”
The Last Word
We cherish words as well as pictures, and the languages spoken in cities really add to the music of the place.
We asked Monika what are her favourite English words (cover your ears if you are offended by saucy language).
“Pretty much all swear words are great, bollocks, wanker, twat also...But I also like the word Wildflower. Or is that two words; wild flower? I do love the English language it has so many layers and is playful and has a nice rhythm.”
Hometown looks at where our designers live and work. This month we chatted with artist and designer Tom Froese about his hometown of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. He's picked some of his favourite things to share with us; tasty fresh food, natural beauty and the Canadian word for the Beanie hat.
At the foot of the Skagit Range of the Cascade Mountains on the Vedder River, sits the small, rural town of Yarrow. Situated in a valley, this is a raw and beautiful place surrounded by farms, forests, rivers and lakes.
Yarrow is the place that Tom Froese calls home and where he creates his designs. He lives in a house locally described as a BC (British Columbian) Box style house - a 1970s style split level house. With a tight-knit community of only 2800 residents and a scattering of working farms, the life here is laidback, and Tom often ventures into the city of Vancouver for work and urban leisure. He's chosen some of his favourite things and places to visit.
Tom's Favourite Building
Vancouver is a relatively new city, and this is reflected in its architecture most of which is less than 100 years old. Many of the buildings were constructed after WW2, and they used lots of glass. The Marine building however, is something else. An Art Deco building with a stunning entrance a "time capsule" that encapsulates all the style and glamour of the 1930s. The small lobby boasts five elevators with brass, intricately designed doors.
The Lobby of the Marine Building in Vancouver
Situated by the harbour, the Marine Building draws heavily on the nautical theme, the flat relief is carved with pufferfish, seahorses and boats. It's quite subdued and a perfect expression of Canadian Art Deco.
The Marine building 355 Burrard St #1000, Vancouver, BC V6C 2G8, Canada
Favourite Places to Grab a Bite to Eat
Vancouver is famous for its mountains, but it's also located right by the Pacific Ocean and is one of the best places in the world for seafood. By the Ocean on Granville Island in one of Vancouver's hidden treasures. Go Fish, Fish and Chips for diners who like their fish n chips fresh and wild. Tom said,
"Go Fish is amazing! It's open all year round. They serve the food in the open air whatever the weather; salmon, halibut cod & chips in a wicker basket with coleslaw and tartare sauce on the side."
Go Fish Granville Island,1505 1st Ave W, Vancouver, British Columbia V6J 1E8, Canada.
For something a little spicier, Vancouver has a whole host of Good quality Mexican restaurants that make good use of the abundance of fresh fish.
"Taco Fino serves fresh fish Tacos. It's small and groovy, Vancouver is full of smaller independent restaurants."
Taco Fino Commissary, 2327 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V5L 1V6 .
Unlike London, Vancouver has no real "Proper Pubs", and Tom describes himself as a "Beer guy" so where does he go for a drink?
Craft Beer made at 33 acres Brewery
There may not be places to sup warm beer standing at a bar with a sticky carpet in Vancouver, but it's certainly a great place to visit if you like craft beer. As Tom explained,
"Craft beer probably originates in California, but Vancouver shares the heritage by virtue of sharing the same coast. Culture tends to travel north and south along the Pacific coast. 33 Acres is one of my favourite places to have a sociable drink. My favourite beer has to be 33 Acres of Nirvana (IPA is my go-to beer style).They brew lovely beer, and it's always packed. The space is clean and modern. Cafes are very social places in Vancouver, we work and socialise in them."
They serve beer brewed at their small-batch brewery with evocative names such as 33 Acres of Ocean and 33 Acres of Life. Their regularly updated menu includes dishes such as pulled Mushroom Banh Mi and Two Rivers Steak Sandwich: Two Rivers tri-tip sirloin steak, spicy roasted corn cream cheese, jalepeño crema, arugula, red pepper, onion on a brioche bun.
Another place Tom likes to sup is the Field House Brewing Co.
"If one ever makes it east out to the Fraser Valley, where I live, I also highly recommend Field House Brewing Co., another perfect example of a west coast craft brewery. Try their East Coast IPA or Salted Black porter, which you can use to wash down their delicious food truck-style food: wood-fired pizzas, German pretzels, and mouth-watering tacos. "I regularly collaborate with Field House on creative ventures. Every now and then I host a Drink and Draw, a social gathering of beer drinking and doodling there, and I’ve even designed a beer label and suite of products for them."
Field House Brewing Co. 2281 W.Railway St — East Abby, 604-776-Brew (2739)
Tom's favourite Museum - MOV
"Small, quirky and eclectic, The Museum of Vancouver has a comprehensive permanent collection of objects and ephemera from Vancouver’s history."
Tom has a neat connection to this museum as his wife designed the logo. It's not the only reason he loves it though. Like any good museum, it's a fabulous collection of random things. There's currently a neon signs exhibition, lots of local history and a lone Egyptian mummy!
1100 Chestnut Street, Vanier Park, Kitsilano, Vancouver BC, V6J 3J9
Finer detail - Vancouver Specials
Despite globalisation, most cities and towns have their own unique feel which is often created by the vernacular architecture. Buildings that are designed to suit the populations and climate of the area. The Vancouver special is British Columbia's equivalent to the British terraced house.
A typical Vancouver Special. Vancouver Heritage Foundation.
The 'Special' is a two-story home with a balcony and a low pitched roof. Built using Modernist design, they are considered Mid Century Chic. They were developed to accommodate European immigrants and the need for affordable housing. Once known as 'Monster Houses' and built for the poor, these houses are now being taken on as renovation projects, and Vancouverites are creating modern vintage homes; there's even a website dedicated to it.
For further history and database of Vancouver Specials - visit
From everything Tom has said, Vancouver sounds like a very happy place indeed, but what is his personal happy place?
Tom's Happy Place
Harrison Hot Springs
"I Don't tie any particular place to happiness. I'm a homebody, we love it so much here; there is so much to take in, the mountains, the lakes. We love going to Harrison Hot Springs. It's by a giant lake surrounded by mountains the springs warm you up her winter.
And finally, Tom's guilty pleasures
IKEA - There's always something you need there, it's our guilty pleasure. We love going on a rainy Saturday, to send the kids off to Smalland and have one hour to ourselves to walk around. Then we all go for meatballs at lunchtime. We feel like we shouldn’t like it as much as we do, for reasons including how shallow it might be to like a big box store and how many much more beautiful things there are to see in our corner of the world! "
Don't worry Tom, we all love our Ikea fix from time to time. To view Tom’s collection for Lagom Design - pop over to our online storeShop the collection