I open the window to a beautiful blue-sky day and excitedly put on my sandals. Normally, I would put on sensible walking shoes, but I’ve come from my first winter in Melbourne and am desperate for some warm sun and open toed shoes. Plus I plan to take it pretty easy and apart from starting the day with a walk, I plan to public transport my way around London. Armed with a map and a couple of old Oyster Cards from previous trips of mine and my parents, I step outside to make the most of my only full day in London.
Strolling around Hyde Park on a Sunday is a great way to start. Cyclists mingle with walkers, joggers, horseriders and lines of cars trailing inside the park to do any number of things from boating to exercising to enjoying the weather. Its a big plot, fields and trees unending to the eye – and of course home to Kensington Palace and the Princess Diana Memorial as well as a number of galleries.
I do enjoy finding cool contemporary galleries on my travels. London’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery is hosting an exhibition by American sculptor Duane Hanson. Throughout his forty year career, Duane created numerous life-like poly-resin sculptures portraying ordinary Americans as well as those that are often considered to be on the edge of society. His works are damn realistic, right down to skin tones, wrinkles and age-spots. You feel as though you are being watched. Which makes their messages all the more confronting.
The figures were cast from live models in Duane’s studio, meticulously completing the details including veins and bruises.
Leaving Hyde Park, it’s time to make my way to another source of water – the canals of Little Venice. I’m boarding a London waterbus to take a leisurely ride down Regent’s Canal from Little Venice to Camden Lock..
Regent’s Canal (named after Prince Regent, who later became George IV) is part of London’s Grand Union Canal and was originally built to link Grand Junction Canal’s Paddington tributary with the River Thames. Now it’s a place of leisure for Londoners and visitors. I’m boarding a London waterbus to take a leisurely ride down Regent’s Canal from Little Venice to Camden Lock.
Camden, or Camden Town, has been a residential area of North London since the 1790’s. This lively area has been home to Dylan Thomas (who you’ll hear more about later) and Amy Winehouse and is also home to a great live music scene, housing the notable Electric Ballroom which has played host to an amazing and varied array of artists such as The Vaccines, Snow Patrol, The Killers, Stereophonics, Sir Paul McCartney, Alt-J, Megadeth, Kaiser Chiefs, U2, Prince, The Clash, The Boomtown Rats, Joy Division, The Smiths, Madness, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Public Enemy, Blur, Supergrass, Garbage…too many to name.
And right next door are the Camden Markets, which are made up of three separate markets (not all in the same spot) – Union Street, The Lock and The Stables. The Lock is the set of markets which first greet you when you disembark from the waterbus and straight away the smell of food hits you. Good smells. Almost immediately, I spot (or maybe more likely smell)a Polish food stall and am unable to resist a serving of pierogi – I really need to learn to make these myself. There are all sorts of different foods here though from Mexican through to donuts. The hardest part is deciding what to have, a close second would be trying to find somewhere to eat it!
In and around the grounds are all sorts of stalls selling everything from orange juice to fashion. It’s a great place to be on a nice day like to day, with almost a carnival vibe. Being a Sunday though, it’s absolutely crowded here, something I’m not very tolerant of. So I’m in and out pretty quickly before jumping on a bus to head to my next destination. But this is where it all seems to unravel. The London Bike Ride is on today, and along with underground works to pretty much any station I need to get to, it’s a recipe for disaster (well, sore feet anyway). The bus can’t go the whole way of its route and terminates early leaving me in Oxford Circus. I need to go to Hyde Park Corner, but end up having to walk it because it’s easier, normally a great option, except for my choice of footwear, which now seems to be feeling the vibrations of every single step on the pavement as if it were a shockwave. When I finally arrive at the Hard Rock Café, where I’d planned to have a nice drink – there is a queue a mile long out the door. Not doing that, my feet say. No buses are running in this area, so I walk to the Hyde Park Corner underground stop to head to the Victoria & Albert Gallery (V&A). I’m going to be way too early to get into my timed exhibitions, but perhaps they’ll let me in earlier.
Last time I visited London, I popped into the Victoria & Albert Museum hoping to grab a ticket to the David Bowie Is exhibition. Unfortunately seven million people also had the same idea that day, the event was sold out and I missed out (but thankfully I moved to Melbourne and got to see the exhibit a couple years later anyway!). I started to have a quick wonder through the gallery, but I immediately knew this was a place that deserved a whole lot of time to do it any justice and I really wanted to fit in the incredibly awesome Saatchi Gallery, so I headed over there and vowed to do the V&A next time.
As luck would have it, the V&A is currently hosting another amazing exhibition – Savage Beauty, the fashion creations of the late Alexander McQueen. And I’m right on time for the last day of the show. McQueen was a British fashion designer and couturier best known for bringing drama and extravagance to the catwalk runways. His works are exquisite, but unfortunately no photography allowed so you’ll just have to use your imagination or GTS (Google that s#%&).
But that’s not all, there’s also Shoes – Pleasure & Pain. Something I am very familiar with at this point. Even though it’s a timed entry, the exhibition is crowded. Clusters of people stand in front of glass windows housing exquisite shoes, including Cinderella’s glass slipper and the Judy Garland’s glittery red shoes from the Wizard of Oz – I could seriously use those right now to get myself home because all of the underground stops I want to get to are closed.
The closest I can get is back to Hyde Park Corner and I am not relishing the walk back across the park, but I’m also not willing enough to pay for a cab, so my feet lose out. Just as well its such a beautiful day.
I am totally Londoned out and am in desperate need of dinner before I hit the hay for the night. I was planning to head downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner, but somehow during my nice hot shower, my feet seem to have forgotten how to walk, so a call to room service is the way to go.
Day in London – done.