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Ah, lovely leafy Clapham Common. Land of nippy sports cars, muddy Sunday morning rugby and expensive beer. Clapham Common is south London's answer to Hampstead. It's a mix of middle class families and young trendies and ever so civil. If it was a colour, Clapham Common would be beige. However there are a few bright spots to brighten it up - suppose I'd better mention them! WHAT'S COMMON ABOUT IT? Clapham's most well known feature (apart from the massive train station down the road a bit at the Junction) is Clapham Common. 220 acres of wide open space, complete with a couple of ponds, pubs, playparks and of, course a bandstand. At the weekends it becomes a giant playing field with junior football and rugby matches vying for space with their grown up compatriots. It's a great place for a brisk walk or a relaxing picnic in the summer and there's a gently worn footpath all the way round if you fancy a jog or a leisurely cycle. There are often open air events on the common. This summer Paul Oakenfold played a free concert to thousands of people and regular summer events include a free open air cinema and the Urban Games (showcasing the best in British skateboarding, DJing, and graffiti art). There's also a great little vegetarian cafe near the Clapham Common tube end of the Common. It's pretty scruffy but has great, wholesome snacks and lots of toys for kids - it's really popular with young families on a Sunday morning. The Windmill on the Common pub, at the southern end of the Common, is also a bit of an institution. There has been a pub on this site since 1655! I NEED TO SHOP! Clapham High Street has the usual array of high street stores (Sainsburys, Woolworths, Victoria Wine, Superdrug etc). It never seems to get that busy (although Sainsbury's on a Saturday afternoon is HELL). However local independent retailers still do well - there's a good local bookshop, music shop and a couple of great florists. Around the Clapham Old Town end of the street there are also several lovely, unique gift shops. Kitschen Sync has the most fantastic range of kitsch goodies. Ever wanted some Elvis candles, a Chairman Mao mug or some American diner stools for your kit(s)chen? This shop sells the most fun, outrageous gifts and cards - it's the perfect place to buy original, funky presents. You can also shop online or at their newer Covent Garden branch if you don't want to make the trip south. Round the corner, towards Clapham Old Town, there are also another couple of delis and stylish shops such as Oliver Bonas which sell little gorgeous things and gifts. If you're into retro furniture, there's a little shop on Venn Street, opposite Clapham Picture House, which sells very cool sixties and seventies furniture. I'd recommend having a look around it for some Wallpaper* style inspiration. I NEED TO EAT! One of the best reasons to visit Clapham Common has got to be the food. Given that it's a reasonably affluent area, there are plenty of places to enjoy a nice meal. And in terms of choice, you name it and there's probably a restaurant in this street that's got it! There's an abundance of good pizza places for a start. The trendy Eco is always busy as is the tiny Alba pizzeria near Clapham North tube station. My ultimate favourite though is San Marcos. It's a traditional Italian restaurant run by an Italian family. It has a huge menu with innovative, well priced pizzas and pasta. San Marco's garlic bread is to die for and I dare you to resist when the dessert trolley comes round. If you're a Tapas fan there are also a couple of places to eat. The best one has to be La Rueda. It's a huge place on the high street with a Tapas bar and a separate restaurant. It's very popular with local Spanish families and the food is great. Venn Street, home of Clapham Picture House, is also home to several great eating places. There's the swanky Sequel - which has suede banquettes and prices to match its hip decor. Gastro is a slightly pricey but authentic French favourite (although the vegetarian choices are usually minimal). There are also many many decent Thai, Indian and Chinese restaurants and a couple of Moroccan ones thrown in for good measure. I NEED TO DRINK! Clapham Common has lots of pubs and bars but it's not much of a late night drinking place. Long-established modern pubs like the Falcon (near Clapham North station) and the Sun (opposite the Common) are popular all year round with locals and have heated terraces for toasty al fresco drinking in the winter. The new Bierodrome has also been a big hit. It offers the same massive selection of beers as its sister Belgo restaurants but has a smaller dining menu. It's also of the few places you can go to later as it's open to 2am at the weekends. At about 11.30pm on a Saturday night you may also notice a queue outside the Mexican restaurant Cafe Sol on the high street. No its not people queuing for late night fajitas, it's another late night drinking haunt. It gets pretty rowdy but can be fun. The huge bright Fine Line near Clapham Common tube is one of a chain of bland bars in London. It's huge and pretty soulless. It only opened just over two years ago but it's looking pretty shabby already. The food here is expensive but it's not a bad place to relax during the day for a quiet drink. The Bread And Roses, hidden a 5 minute walk down Clapham Manor Street, is another locals favourite. This bright, modern, trade-union owned pub welcomes children and holds a variety of weekend afternoon events including drumming classes and poetry workshops. I NEED TO DANCE! Erm, tough. There's not much in the way of clubbing i n Clapham Common. There's the Kasbah - a very busy, commercial gay bar/club and the Clapham Grand (which is currently called 'Suede') which I guess is the local tacky nightclub no-one goes to. Nope, I'm afraid you'll have to venture down the road to Brixton if you want to shake your booty. I'M STILL BORED! Well take yourself off down to the Clapham Picture House then. Despite being utterly teeny, this place still manages to show most of the big blockbusters and some great arthouse flicks. It also has a great bar and a nice shop selling videos and screenplays. If you feel the need to get fit, you could visit the Clapham Leisure Centre. It's an oldish council run centre with an old fashioned pool and a well equipped gym. There is a new private health club opening on the High Street in the New Year. It looks like it's going to be very glam! I NEED WEB! Clapham High Street http://www.claphamhighstreet.com Kitschen Sync http://www.kitschensync.co.uk I NEED MORE! Well drop me a line and I'll try to answer any questions you have. I've lived in the area for years and know it well. Come visit!