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10 Things I’ve Been Grateful For Locally in St. Albans in 2020

By Emma McNamee – 31st December 2020
Before we say “good riddance” to 2020…

Let me take a moment.  We will all be pleased to see the back of 2020 and look forward to 2021 with new hope.   But has it been all bad in 2020?

Despite the challenging times we’ve all faced, I felt it was also important to acknowledge everything I’ve been grateful for this past year in my fabulous home town of St. Albans, without which 2020 would have been much harder.

  1. Verulamium Park

How lucky are we to have this on our doorstep?  It’s such a beautiful park with open green space in abundance to run wild or walk.  A playground for younger kids – and a brand new one at that just this year too.  Basketball, beach volleyball and outdoor gym equipment for older kids and adults.  Both my kids have regularly met their friends in Verulamium Park throughout 2020 – it’s been a safe haven for them too.  A beautiful lake to walk around with plenty bird-watching opportunities.  A stream with stepping stones.  Roman history dating back 1800 years.  It’s no wonder I need to get my daily dose of Verulamium Park.  It’s my absolute ‘go-to’ for a local walk with plenty to look at every day when you’re there.


  1. St. Albans Cathedral

She’s a beaut.  Such an impressive building to admire through the changing of the seasons.   I’ve seen her encased in mist, surrounded by fog or autumnal leaves, and with the sun shining down on her.  So many different views, at different times of the day, all mesmerising.  I can never get enough glimpses of our stunning Cathedral.


  1. The Clock Tower

Not only is the Clock Tower one of the landmark buildings of St. Albans and the only remaining medieval belfry in England, but the tower is also located at a central point in town where everyone gathers, albeit with 2m between us all this year.   There’s always a hub of activity around the tower from buskers to food stalls.  It’s been lovely to soak in the outdoors atmosphere around the Clock Tower during 2020.


  1. The Market

St. Albans is, after all, a market town with the market’s history dating back to the 9th century.  Market days are traditionally Saturdays and Wednesdays, and ordinarily there would be up to 160 market traders selling their goods, from fruit and veg to clothes, jewellery and homewares.  There’s also many specialist stalls from watch fixers to picture framers.   The market traders are just as much cornerstones of our community in St. Albans as are the high street retailers.  With our kids’ weekend activities frequently cancelled in 2020, our new norm was to walk in to town for brunch on the go and a browse around the market stalls, often picking up food to take back home for the rest of the weekend.    We’ve also enjoyed browsing the farmer’s monthly market and the charter markets throughout the week with small local businesses selling their goods.


  1. Our independent retailers

I love shopping in St. Albans.  We have so many incredible independent retailers that spoil us with choice and make browsing their shops a really enjoyable experience.

And most of them have adapted so well and swiftly to the constantly changing restrictions due to Covid offering virtual shopping experiences, window shopping, online shopping or click and collect.    Gift Shops such as Raindrops on Roses and Cositas.  Homewares such as Raft Furniture and Emma’s House.  Clothing stores like The Dressing Room, Simply French and Chloe James Lifestyle.  Florists such as The Flower Box and Kendalls Florist.  Delicatessens like Fleetville Larder and Buongiorno Italia.  I could go on for ages.    So much choice and such friendly service.  And when we’ve not been able to go inside due to restriction, we’ve still been able to admire their beautiful window and door displays.  They’ve put so much effort in to keeping the spirit of St. Albans alive.


  1. The Odyssey Cinema

As cinema’s go, The Odyssey must be up there with the best.  A beautiful historic building dating back to 1908 that underwent a complete renovation returning it to its former 1930s art deco glory days with monies raised through a local fundraising campaign.  The cinema eventually reopened in 2014.  Split over 2 levels and with 2 licensed bars, sofas and tables it’s more than just a movie night and makes for the perfect night out.  The cinema is always a great escape from the every day too, and you’re really transported in to another era here.


  1. Our many local pubs, cocktail and wine bars

My heart has really gone out to all our hospitality outlets this year.  It’s not been easy for them but they’ve been so resourceful and quick to adapt.  We’ve had Must Wine Bar serving mulled wine on their door step, Sucker Punch delivering cocktails to homes, and The Snug serving cocktails beside the Clock Tower from their hatch.    Many with outdoors space have put gazebos up and got in outdoor heaters so people can still gather outdoors respecting Covid safety rules.  They’ve adapted to table service, started serving substantial meals and offered takeaway services when that became the only option for them.    We have so many pubs in St. Albans and they’ve really upped their game over the years, this year more than ever.  The atmosphere, the charm, the historic buildings, the gastropub food.  They are fundamental to the charm of St. Albans.  And I can’t wait to go on a proper pub crawl again to support as many of them as possible!  St. Albans is a great town for a pub crawl.  Their time will come again.


  1. Our many local restaurants

Whilst we’ve not been able to wine and dine out as freely as we’d like this year, we have been able to enjoy our many local restaurants on and off in small groups or within our household bubble.  And when that’s not been possible, most restaurants have been open for takeaways.  And we’ve never been disappointed.  We’ve enjoyed pasta from Per Tutti and Valentina’s.  Pizzas from Sapore d’Italia.  Chinese and Thai from Paya. Indian from the Viceroy.  Turkish from Ayos.  And the kids have had frequent deliveries from their 2 favourites – Nandos and Wagamamas.

We’ve eaten well this year, and that’s thanks to the fabulous choice of restaurants we have locally.   With the kid’s evening activities frequently cancelled and more time at home together, we’ve really welcomed more takeaways as a family this year, which has given me personally a break from the kitchen too and added variety to our days and cuisine.

And when we have been allowed to dine out with friends this year, we’ve appreciated our local restaurants so much more.   We’re big fans of Italian food, and enjoyed several evenings out at Locanda Bagutta, Bellacinos and Alloro.  We’ve had fabulous Sunday lunches at Dylans Kings Arms and Prae Wood Arms.  We had to check out the new Turkish kitchen Havin and that was great too. And I had a girls’ night at Saute Grill.  Truly yummy and lovely to be out!

There are even some fabulous home start-ups that began to offer collection from their home kitchens in lockdown such as Taste of Vietnam and My Backyard Kitchen – both excellent.

And Lussman’s incredible burgers served outside in Waxhouse Gate with the Cathedral and Vintry Gardens as its back drop were well worth the walk in to town on a weekend.

Spoilt for choice doesn’t even cut it when it comes to the restaurants of St. Albans and I hope through the support of so many in our local community and their own resourcefulness they can ride the storm to brighter days on the other side of the pandemic.


  1. Our local cafés and dessert stops

Sometimes you just want a drink on the go, a small bite to keep you going, a hearty brunch or a sweet treat, and St. Albans caters so well on all of these.  Cafés such as George Street Canteen, where I get my regular hot chocolate or biscoff milkshake fix, Waddington Road Coffee and Nkora coffee have been open throughout 2020 offering take outs and freshly baked goods daily.  For a heartier bite to eat The Waffle House or Hatch won’t disappoint either.  For those meanwhile with a sweet tooth The Pudding Stop and Room for Dessert offer pure indulgent delights that are just too good to deny and have been offering home delivery too.  How lucky are we to have so much choice readily available to us?!


  1. The many local walking opportunities

And after all these far too tempting eating outlets in St. Albans, you’ve got to walk some calories off right?  Thankfully in St. Albans we’re surrounded by countryside and walks to enjoy.  Aside from Verulamium, there are plenty of other parks to enjoy – Clarence Park, the Wick, Greenwood Park, Highfield Park.  We’ve got the Alban Way that runs from Hatfield to St. Albans.  Gorhambury Estate.  Ver Riverside walks.  And we don’t have to go far in the car to access many more of Hertfordshire’s beautiful countryside and woodland walks.  From the National Trust Ashridge Estate to Aldenham Park, the Grand Union Canal to the Hertfordshire Way, Whippendell Woods to Stanborough Lakes – take your pick and explore our wonderful open green spaces, river and lakeside walks and surrounding countryside.


Without all of the above, 2020 would have been harder.  From the walks to the views, the shops to the restaurants, you’ve all played a role in helping me get through 2020 with my family.  Thank you.  It’s a true privilege to be part of this community and stunning county.


Emma xoxo


This is a Girl About recommendation. This means that it was not gifted in return for a review but paid in full by our writer and the venue had no idea that I was there. We only recommend places we absolutely love, and places that we know you’ll love too!


Emma McNamee
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