I really should start a category on London’s South Bank because I mention it a great deal and it really is one of the most wonderful areas of London. If you’re a visitor to this great city you really must spend an afternoon walking the South Bank: start at Waterloo and the London Eye and head towards Tower Bridge (and beyond). when I first arrived here it was an area that had little to offer; it was dead and quiet but now it’s vibrant and alive.
Over the past few weeks PY and I have explored a little more of London on foot and I really do enjoy the place. On the Monday after New Year we wandered around High Holborn and Farringdon areas, near The Guardian’s central London base. It was a quiet Bank Holiday and yet it was – strangely – alive. We also crossed the bridge to the Tate Gallery which is probably the only gallery space I can truly say I enjoy. The Turbine Hall, which housed The Weather Project, is currently home to Bruce Nauman’s Raw Materials – which is a soundscape of 22 spoken texts. Some are clearly audible and some not so clear but as you walk through the hall you get this most amazing sense of sound. It works better if you keep moving (rather than stopping to listen) but you’d be wise to adjust to the sound first. It wasn’t as much of a communal event as The Weather Project but it was totally unexpected, thrilling and energizing. You can get a taste online at the Tate’s site.
Last weekend we went to City Hall but this time we were able to get inside and head to the top. It’s a building of unexpected contrasts: the building looks wonderful and they have revitalised the whole area but the office space inside looks cramped and uncomfortable. Given the climbing spirals of the building I would have expected the view from the top to be better. Unfortunately, the main viewing area looks the wrong way: great views over the south but you want to see London’s landmarks. It was late in the day when we arrived which meant there were no crowds and we were able to find our house on the satellite pictures on the floor of the basement. Sadly, however, I don’t think the lighting scheme is brilliant at all – they could do so much more with it.
While we were there I rode the snow slide at The Tate (basically a silly slide that you descend almost buried in an inflatable tyre-like object). Silly but cheap and amusing. Then we crossed Tower Bridge (always a stunning experience) to go and have a look at the stunning Swiss Re tower and walk around The City – which is, of course, almost dead on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a rather unnerving contrast to London’s West End which is full of people on a Saturday.
Yesterday, we went to Marble Arch and had a go on the ice rink that has been placed there for the winter. I haven’t been on skates for years and I really liked it – although there’s no chance I could go round the rink without holding onto the side at some point. PY was not quite so in love with the experience which is a great shame and I am going to have to find ways to convince him to come again. I’ll work on it.
Once again I can honestly say I love London.
On this day…
2005: Daily Links
2003: Hooked on LBC
2003: In News
2003: Low Low Cost
I’ve mentioned before that the South Bank is one of my favourite areas of London. Although I am not a big gallery goer (can I say that?) I do like the Tate Modern – basically because you can wander in and out as you wish and, for the most part, it’s free. I have always been a big fan of the exhibitions/installations in the turbine hall. There’s something about the sheer size of the art that is appealing. The turbine hall allows for some huge installtions or just a lot of space in which to interact (or lie on the floor as we did for the weather project). They are celebrating their fourth anniversary this year and BBC News has some great pictures from some of those bigger exhibitions.
On this day…
2003: Friday Five – Organisation
So, this is the 12th Valentine’s Day I will have spent with PY. We are spending much of this weekend with friends and exploring new parts of the city.
Last night we were in Balham at Dish Dash. We had previously visited the Goodge Street branch (PY had his 30th birthday party there) but had never been out this way. The evening was spent with plenty of little Persian dishes (Swordfish Kebabs & Spinach and Chick Pea Mazza being my favourite). If you are ever in the area you must go. There were, however, a large number of other, tempting, restaurants in the area Peter Sellars once called ‘Gateway To The South’. It’s an area we must visit more often. Recommendations welcome.
Today we rose early (for a Saturday) to visit the tempting delights of Borough Market. If you have never been this is a gourmet market to be found as you head eastwards. The market sells some top-quality fresh produce, and it’s a charity so it should be preserved. It is also a wholesale market at other times of the day/week. There are all types of breads, vegetables, meat and fish sold by proper market traders who, from what I can tell, know their products very well indeed. The Spanish Chorizo stall had the longest queue I have ever seen for a take-away food stall in London. It must have been superb. We bought Ostrich streaks for dinner this evening and they certainly look very tempting (and almost fat-free, apparently). Gym Buddy and I will appreciate that aspect of tonight’s meal.
Borough Market is in Southwark which must be one of my favourite parts of London. The South Bank from Waterloo and the London Eye via the Tate, Millennium Bridge and The Globe was a deserted riverside area when I first came to London. There was, more-or-less, no life between The National Theatre and Tower Bridge. Nowadays, it’s one of the most bustling areas for tourists and locals alike. I really think a Saturday walk down the south bank of the Thames is well worth it. This is the kind of place which makes all frustrations about living in a big city evaporate. It restores my faith in London.
Tomorrow, we head for Highgate to visit some of of those American friends I mentioned in a prevoius post. Certainly looking forward to Sunday Lunch.
On this day…
2005: Looking Good In The High Street
2004: Nicholas Nickleby
2004: Borough Market: Southwark's Great Food Home
2004: Paying A Quick Visit
Thank goodness that tonight I am going out with a group of friends. They are some of my oldest friends in London (by that I mean I have known them longest and not that they are all ancient). I’ve just decided that I am quite relived as I am having one of my “why do I stay here” days?
I love London. There is no doubt that it is one of the most vibrant and wonderful cities around. I love the dirt, the pollution and the travel chaos. I love the way the British put up with congestion with some quiet mutterings. There would be riots in some counties.
I don’t use London as much as I should. I work and I travel home to my little zone three house. Sometimes I go out with friends and visit a much larger range of bars than I ever would in a smaller town. I see films before they hit the screens in the rest of the UK and, even, get to see films and theatre that never make it outside the West End. Occasionally, I will visit a gallery or museum or wander the historic sites. I adore the view from The London Eye, think St Paul’s is a great place for quiet contemplation, the South Bank is a wonderful place to relax and believe the Thames Barrier is one of the finest structures around. Oxford Street, Covent Garden and surrounding areas have every shop you could ever dream of – and many you couldn’t (or wouldn’t). If I lived here for the rest of my life I probably wouldn’t have time to see and do everything I would like to.
Yet today I am having a “get me away from here” day. Take me somewhere were the pace is slower, people are friendlier (but not as pushy), where I can see the sky and not commute an hour each way on an over-crowded train. I think it started last night when I watched one of those programmes about people who give it all up and set up home in France or Italy or Spain. They seem to live off the land and suddenly develop gardening talents that would make Alan Titchmarsh proud. They rebuild old barns and turn them into holiday accommodation that pays for their entire existence. They spend all their days on the land with the one they love and are at peace. Wouldn’t it be idyllic?
I imagine I would be bored. It’s not really a life for me – yet. I would miss Theatreland and Soho but today I feel I want that stillness and peace and that de-stressing lifestyle. I know it’s a lie but I want the dream. And that’s why I am glad I am off to the bars of Soho tonight. It’s time for my friends to give me a quick injection of reality.
On this day…
2004: Graffiti Shop
2004: You Can’t Hear Yourself On The Tube
2004: Love Revolution
2003: Commercial Free
Despite some of my rants, I have great affection for this city. Amongst the many things that continues to delight me is the architecture. Today I wandered on the south bank to the Mayor’s new home which is, to put it mildly, stunning. Unfortunately, the inside was not open.
Inside City Hall
On this day…
2004: Another Day Gone