Picture Perfect

Simon and Jen are the Australian husband-and-wife duo behind the blog and Instagram account The September Chronicles, a much-consulted source of inspiration for Londoners looking to go out for the evening and head off for the weekend.

Having originally left home on a one-way ticket honeymoon taking in 37 countries, Simon and Jen spend most of their time these days exploring their adopted home of London and travelling the UK, sharing their experiences of seeking out boutique hotels, gorgeous glamping, beautiful architecture and great food. Here are their reflections on their story so far.

Simon and Jen September Chronicles. Hampstead Heath pond.

The honeymoon period

Jen: Full disclosure, at the start of our three-month honeymoon we didn’t actually have plans to stay in London. But Simon had a stepbrother who lived here who I had never met, so we thought it was time we should say ‘hello.’

Simon: Staying with him, we realised that not only was London an extraordinary city, but a gateway to Europe and the East Coast USA. As Australians accustomed to having to cover vast distances to get halfway to anywhere vaguely interesting, the travel time from London to everywhere we wanted to explore seemed like nothing. As with most things in our life we ended up just rolling with things and staying the full two years allowed, instead of the three months we had planned our honeymoon to last. We left on the day our visa expired.

The Chronicles

Simon: The one thing we knew as we returned to Australia was that we wanted to come back to London. It had left an indelible mark on our thinking. I was eligible for an ancestry visa, giving us five years. When we returned, we at first stayed in some eclectic places, cat-sitting for three months at a time. One place was above a vintage shop in Chapel Market, Islington. Everything in our apartment migrated up from the antique shop below and it was like living on a Harry Potter set. Light switches were inside cupboards and the floor was all wonky. It was great.

  Hampstead in fog, photo Ó The September Chronicles.

Jen: Our first proper London home that we rented was on Bromfield Street in Angel. It’s a great area, very lively and with all those back streets of beautiful Georgian houses. I’m a freelance illustrator and if I was lacking inspiration, I’d go for long walks and take photos. On the weekends, we would travel out of town and take photos and share them.

Simon: The reason we started The September Chronicles has its roots in the fact that when we got home from the initial honeymoon trip the year before, we realised that we hadn’t taken many photos. We didn’t want to make that mistake again, and we also wanted our family to know that we were alive and where we were. But suddenly sharing these images of our trips took off and I had become a hand model! Making coffee in West Sussex, cutting cheese in The Lake District, holding a broadsheet in Cheltenham, my range is extensive.

Jen: We could never have envisaged what the Instagram account would grow into. For us, it was always and remains a simple offering arising out of our love of exploring new places, taking photographs, staying in amazing settings and enjoying good food. The extent to which The September Chronicles has become so popular and used as a resource that people find useful is something we feel incredibly happy about. From Central London spots such as L’Oscar, The Prince Akatoki Hotel, and The Rookery to the foggy beauty of Hampstead or a rooftop ice rink in Tobacco Docks, our love of London is one half of what we love. The other is our trips out of town, from a digital detox in West Sussex, to a winter stay on the Northumberland Moors, to an outdoor bath in Norfolk and springtime in Seaton (and not to mention when we occasionally spill over the border and find ourselves in Marrakech, Paris, Tallinn, The Faroe Islands, Ljubljana, Amsterdam…).

The Ned. Photo Ó The September Chronicles.

Train of thought

Simon: A number of people have said to us they want to get on top of having weekends away from London, but don’t quite know how to crack it. We’ll look for a destination purely on the basis of wanting to experience that place, regardless of the transport connections, and then we’ll say, “Okay, we’ll get the train to the nearest spot and work out the last bit.” Sometimes that’s a walk away, but if not we’ll get a taxi.

Jen: Not using taxis is a mind block. We certainly had it, coming from a backpacking mentality. A taxi outside of town seems extravagant, but after so much travelling we realised that time is important. Your taxi fare is buying you time in the place you want to be in, not heading towards. We pick a specific area we want to see and then in-depth it. We don’t attempt to cover all the ground or do too much because the travel time taken up cramming it all in means you miss a lot of detail and quality in a place.

The Cricketers Pub Richmond. Photo Ó The September Chronicles.

The art of avoiding inclines

Jen: The more we explored London and the UK, the more I would come back home and think, “I’d love to live somewhere greener.” That’s how we came to our present London home, which we absolutely adore, in Belsize Park.

Simon: England’s Lane is my go-to area here. Jen goes up to Hampstead, but I really do not like walking up the hill. The great thing about living between two tube stations on the same line is that I can walk downhill to my favourite haunts in Primrose Hill like Sam’s Café and Melrose and Morgan and then catch the tube back up to Belsize Park from Chalk Farm or Camden and stroll downhill back to our place. You’re constantly walking downhill and that is how I like it!

Jen: We have a particular spot on the Heath that we spent a lot of time at during lockdown and we have a favorite tree, and it has a name. Whenever we’re making plans for our trips and the blog, we visit our tree and sit there in peace. We’re crazy tree huggers, if truth be told.

Blyford Manor, Suffolk. Photo Ó The September Chronicles.

The lady in the van

Simon: When we lived above the antique shop, the lady who ran it would open for business when she felt like it and she made up prices. If she liked you, she’d give you good prices, and if she didn’t, they’d be extortionate.

Jen: She took me out exploring. At that stage, I was still looking for work whereas Simon had a job. She adopted me a little bit. She had a big white van and her driving style was pretty interesting. She would zoom me over to Brick Lane and fill me up with her favourite bagels or curry and then drive me to an antiques market or a car boot sale. It seemed crazy at the time, but I owe a great deal of my knowledge of London to her. I got work doing fashion illustration and then it pivoted to food illustration, and I started working with restaurants and hotels. Our first hotel stays were because the hotel had invited me to do illustrations for them. So, as well as sharing our travels on Instagram, I started to share things from the hotels, and from there hotels started approaching us and asking us if we wanted to come and stay. We have always said the same thing in response, we would love to, but what we write about you will be our own words, experiences and opinions – and our photographs. It has all been a very happy accident.

Simon and Jen’s mouthwatering travels and staycations can be enjoyed on Instagram @theseptemberchronicles and https://www.theseptemberchronicles.com/