London. Capital of culture and pigeons. I grew up in London, and I feel that makes it inherently difficult for me to make the most of it. When you’re given one of the greatest cities in the world on a plate, can hop on the tube and be in the largest centre of freely accessible museums and galleries within half an hour, it’s an effort to actually make the effort (#firstworldproblems). But what I have found is that if I give myself short bursts of exposure to my capital I tend to cram in a lot more than I otherwise would have done.
Spent the morning doing very boring things like seeing the dentist and getting my hair cut, before visiting Hammersmith’s Polish Centre’s cafe for a beverage and a questionable piece of cake. Sometimes the joys of the suburban west need to be savoured too. My proper Londoning began at midday when my mum and I headed into town to check out the National Portrait Gallery’s Vivien Leigh exhibit, and lunch at a new favourite restaurant just off Trafalgar Square.
Les Deux Salons is by now right up there in the list of my top London eateries. The food is always delish (and not even that overpriced), the setting unpretentious, and the cocktails carry a kick and a half. This time round I had a fantastically smoky butternut squash and chorizo soup, followed by grilled chicken and delightfully nutmeggy gratin dauphinois. Perf.
After lunch we had a leisurely stroll through some of our favourite Covent Garden backstreets before heading towards the British Museum and our goal of the relatively new “Vikings: life and legend” exhibit. With a British membership card at hand we flounced right in, to be met by a crowd of such vastness that we instantly turned tail and ran, promising to return the next day at a more favourable hour.
At this point we went our separate ways, and I caught up with a friend over porn star martinis before fighting through the crowds at Leicester Square station. Literally the worst. Finished off my evening with a pint and a pal in a Chiswick pub that I had never tried before (we all have our regulars) but will certainly be patronising from now on. The Bollo is full of dusty paperbacks and pineapple shaped table lamps – the only things I look for in a drinking establishment.
We dragged ourselves out of the house at half 9 to avoid the same nightmare of tourists (surely the collective noun) that had plagued our afternoon the day before, and were rewarded with a slightly less crowded exhibit. Although inherently a little disappointing (I complain in full over here), I got to gawp at some objects I’d previously only seen in my books, and also acquired a longship necklace as accessorising is the sole way of expressing academic rigour. We went up to the members’ lounge to revel in the birds’ eye view of what remains one of my fave Norman Foster constructions (and that’s saying something), and discuss funding options for my summer internship over tea and scones. It was unashamedly middle class and I loved it. We then wandered off to Lincoln’s Inn Fields where my mum went and did something at the Royal College of Radiologists’ HQ and I went to look at things floating in jars at the Hunterian Museum. Things floating jars are my favourite sort of things.
Having stared at preserved bits and pieces for long enough we indulged ourselves in a wander around quiet Bloomsbury squares and then hit up Les Deux Salons for the second time in 24 hours (we are nothing if not creatures of habit); I had an amazing pea and mint soup and a killer burger and chips. Treating ourselves continued after eating with a viewing from a BOX of Jeeves and Wooster at the Duke of York – although much as I love P.G. Wodehouse and the episode of the cow creamer I was not particularly impressed. It was rather too slap-stick for my liking, and Stephen Mangan’s normally impeccable comedic timing was rather muted by the self-aware script, all the more obvious through a fantastic piece of improvised banter with an audience member halfway through. We did luxuriate in our fancy seating though, and followed it up with a cocktail at Joe’s Southern Bar and Grill. It’s a surprisingy fantastic underground affair off Covent Garden where we were met by a friend briefly in town from Berlin, before it was time to battle solo into Leicester Square again and head towards Caledonian Road for dinner.
My friend Rosie lives in a fab little house just off the Cally Road, almost always full of great housemates and loads of food. She cooked us a roast chicken with her trademark sweet potato wedges, and we discussed our travel plans around the US of A this summer and re-visited her stick and poke tattoo from a drunken evening with sk8er bois in Seattle on her gap yah. What a pleasure it is to have interesting friends. We finished off the evening by watching the whole of Beyonce’s new album videography, and then strapping on the house supply of roller skates to attempt her impossible choreography. A rare treat.
A morning spent enjoying my coveted double bed and then meeting some gal pals at a Mexican restaurant in Victoria for fajitas and sangria. A long weekend well spent; when I know I have such a limited time in my home town it really jump-starts me into seeking out everyone who’s around and enforcing my company upon them. It’s nice to live in an amazing city, and it’s nice to have nice friends, and it’s nice to take the time to appreciate all of these things all together.