Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Visit to London 30 July - 4 August 2009: opening days

Nearly 6 days in London to report on, so lots to get through!

Neil and I travelled down to London on Thursday 30th July straight from work. So the first challenge was getting out of work on time-ish. This was interesting to achieve for me as I had meetings from 9am straight through til 4pm when I had to aim to get room bookings into the system for the new academic year. I finished my task with 4 mins to spare before rushing for the bus.

As is our usual activity on arrival in London (once we've topped up our Oyster Cards), we headed straight for our favourite eating place Ristorante Olivelli Paradiso on Store Street. There is always at least one member of staff working on any shift that recognises us and we always get a nice welcome. The food is never less than excellent and wonderfully good value. After eating our fill - delicious fresh sardines followed by salad and risotto with leeks and asparagus for me - and having a nice bottle of white wine, we went for a stroll down to Trafalgar Square to watch the random plinth inhabitants at One & Other, Anthony Gormley's collaborative and community artwork for the Fourth Plinth. It was a fairly pleasant night in terms of weather so it was lovely to walk around.

Friday morning and we've already identified quite a bit of potential activity for the weekend withour copy of Time Out. As is traditional, breakfast on every day except Sunday is at Bar Bruno on Wardour Street. Friendly with good value food, their breakfasts are wonderful and I always feel I have truly arrived back in London once I have eaten at Store Street and here. It has a really honest atmosphere: there is no pretension or show. Everything about it is approachable and delicious. Eggs, bacon and tomatoes with toast for me, with a mug of tea of course. I feel better already.

We set off after breakfast toward Cambridge Circus as I'm keen to get hold of the 2nd edition of Volume 3 of About Time, the Mad Norwegian Press books on Doctor Who. These hilarious volumes have provided many happy hours of reading to me, but the Pertwee years volume 3 had been unavailable for quite a while. Now the 2nd edition has finally come out I'm looking forward to reading this afresh as its been rewritten with plenty of asides about the new series in the footnotes.

Still, en route to Forbidden Planet, we did a nice little re-route via the Denmark Street area. This involves us finally going into St Giles in the Fields. This has some very impressive memorials inside it and has been beautifully restored: we also picked up the wonderful memorial service address done for the previous Rector Gordon Taylor which is well worth reading as it gives a sense of how hard he worked for the church and its restoration. The visit to the Denmark Street area also included Neil lusting after a banjo in the music shop windows. Yes, not content with not playing his bongos he now wants to be not playing a banjo (am teasing, but he - and I truly - need to find our musical mojo before buying more instruments!) Ah well!

After doing my science fiction girl geek thing, we headed into Covent Garden and the next inevitable stop-off at Tabio. This always makes me feel good and before the weekend was out I was wearing some of my new purchases! We then continued meandering through the streets til my eyes were seduced by some very fetching purple flock Doc Marten shoes. Oh yes. We then headed round and through to the London Transport Museum to pick up a few postcards of the lovely old transport posters. Deciding that breakfast had been very salty and lethal to health, we went for some raspberries for our lunch which we ate outside the lovely St Paul's Church: the actor's church. Helen Lisette has been badgering us for ages to go inside this unassuming building, but the delay paid off as it was truly wonderful to see all the memorials to the actors and other creatives of theatre and film and television. By now it was gloriously sunny and we were quite hot! We then went off to St Martins in the Fields for the lunchtime concert featuring a Russian pianist Mikhail Trusechkin playing short pieces by Scriabin, plus Prokofiev, and Liszt's Mephisto waltz. This was excellent and after wandering downstairs to see some beautiful illuminated bible illustrations in the basement of St Martins, it was still sunny when we came out. We sat in the sunshine watching a bear-suited man on the plinth whilst writing postcards. We then wandered to the South Bank, having fun watching the 'Appearing Rooms' fountain once again drawing out the kids and adults into getting soaking wet. We also enjoyed some ice-cream and watching the free performance art of 'Waiting on You' by Fullstop Acrobatic Theatre (involving dancers climbing and performing from a 50 foot hanging sheet). * UPDATE ADDED AT END

After dropping our bags back at the hotel, we came back to the South Bank and headed to the Queen Elizabeth Hall for one of the Trouble Tune Tonic events involving Charlie Dark and Keir Vine creating and performing improvised electronic, piano and spoken word works. This was very good and finally means we've seen something performed inside the Festival hall complex!

We then decided, foolishly, that what we fancied was a curry for tea so we headed to Brick Lane. We had a nice walk through Spitalfields and located a restaurant we had previously enjoyed. And indeed the meal was lovely. What was less so was our failure to factor in that it was Friday night (we usually dine there on a Sunday if we go!) so the place was heaving. So much so that as a new table's worth of girls came to sit at the adjacent table my lemonade was sent straight over me drenching my skirt, scarf (which was resting on my lap) and seat. Still, as I say the meal was great and since it was such a balmy night we were able to walk me dry pretty easily. We walked from Brick Lane, through the City (holding my scarf between us in the warm breeze), heading over the river towards the FT building and then on past the Tate, and past the queuing fans of Helen Mirren exiting from her performance in Phedre at the National Theatre. We also caught the end of the behind-the-screens production on the National Theatre Square of Macbeth: Who Is That Bloodied Man? (it was a paying event so we only caught the fire and smoke and noise and general excitement). Still, Neil got a rather fetching T-shirt of Teatr Biuro Podròży (from Poland) which we wore over the weekend. We wish we had caught more of this stilts and motorbike event! We then wandered back across the bridge into the square before finally returning back to the hotel.

I think that was evening one and all of day two! [details updated 6 August]

Only just remembered but whilst loitering on the South Bank on Friday pm, we also hung out in the shop at the BFI Southbank. They were showing 'The Swimmer' on the screen in the shop and as it was with around 20 mins to go we stayed in the store and watched the end. It's a very odd film, bleak and utterly unexpected for a first-time watcher I think. The realisation that things are far from what they seem, and are the opposite of well, hit me like a bolt when I first saw this film many years ago on late night TV (remember when Moviedrome with Alex Cox gave sparky erudite intros to classy cult films?).


chrissie_allen said...

All sounds truly enjoyable and those flock docs look amazing!
Hope your scarf has to speak. :-)

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Chrissie, I know what you are thinking... ;)

chrissie_allen said...

Couldn't resist a giggle! ;)