Sunday, 27 March 2011

Living London Diaries - Day 2

In my previous lives in cities speckled throughout the UK, I've found myself guilty of not knowing my home town surroundings as well as I should. I moved to London early December 2010 and was determined not to have the same thing happen. I start this diary on day 2 as last week’s venture is not fresh in my mind like todays.

Borough Market, London Bridge

I have heard of Borough Market since I first arrived in London. It's only a short hop on the train to London Bridge from Lewisham (my closest main line train station) so it seemed a logical place to start. On arrival it seems a pleasant and bustling type of market full of funky smells, hordes of munchers and produce stands bragging their 'award winning' something or other. Of course it's tough to know how many of these are genuine in their credentials, nevertheless the market has an excellent reputation for variety, scale and a richness of experience due to its history and passion of the people involved. I scoffed a salami and cheese ciabatta with a glass of red before heading off for a walk along the South Bank. I loosely planned to visit the modern Tate gallery and everywhere in-between before finally arriving at Putney Bridge for around half four, ready for the annual Oxford/Cambridge boat race set for five.

South Bank and the Tate

It's around two to three kilometres from the London Bridge end of the South Bank all the way to the Millennium Wheel by Waterloo. It's a pleasant enough walk on a summer’s day with lots of regeneration work, modern walkways and grassy areas. Before long, you'll find opposite the millennium bridge the modern Tate, a gallery which has gained a reputation for abstract art which demands it's viewers to learn the artists thought process to extrude any relevance or meaning. Far from neoclassicism the Tate houses impressive, bold and sometimes nonsensical works which I find interesting in small doses.

Keep heading West along the bank and you'll reach Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The site is a modern replica opened in 1997 approx 750 feet away from the original location (fire and neglect spelt the downfall of the two previous constructions). Regular performances are held as well as guided tours for those who have the inclination.

The Oxford / Cambridge Boat Race

I had only heard of the boat race the day before. I vaguely remember watching the event on TV in previous years. It's never had the effect on me that it clearly has for millions around the world. I've not been brought up in wealth, nor have I a private education which would provoke and stir nostalgic feelings towards an event of this nature. However, on arrival at Putney Bridge underground station (or more accurately overground at this point) I found myself overcome with excitement and pride in this historic event. Lines of people queue and make their way across the bridge, along the embankment or across to a favourite viewing spot. Unless you get to the area early, almost every inch of the water bank is taken up by one of the quarter of a million spectators. The race starts and cheers can be heard in a Mexican wave fashion as the two boats progress along the river, screams of "Oxford!" generally win out in my particular spot. I had no loyalty to either side, only a desire to get caught up in the moment. After the boats passed, I raced a minute toward Bishops Park where the BBC had a large screen on display. Approx 15 minutes later Oxford recaptured the title by some length, out classing and performing Cambridge. Although perhaps not the close race we all wanted, there was enough of a sense of occasion and fun to make the event very enjoyable and a definite must to return.

South Kensington, Riots and Home

The bus home from the boat race was a long one, so I decided to escape by the natural history museum (note: must visit here soon, very impressive building!). There, I made my way up to the rim of Hyde Park just by the Royal Albert hall. Boris bikes (or Barclay’s bikes) have become a now publicly accessible means of travelling in London, and in many cases preferred; I was soon to understand why.

Heading back East I soon discovered that the "peaceful protest" which was happening throughout the centre had escalated. By the time I reached Hyde Park corner, fires and riots could be seen and Piccadilly shut off by the Police. This caused havoc with the roads and I found my bike by-passed cars and people far quicker than any other mode of transport. However after heading up Shaftesbury Avenue I found myself lost in the maze of boroughs of Islington, Hoxton, Hackney and Shoreditch. Somehow, after taking which ever turn felt most appropriate I ended up back at London Bridge. All that remained was to find a Bike port (5 minutes from London Bridge past London Dungeon and Winston Churchill's Britain at War museum.), weekly shop (M&S on the same road) and get on a train home.

At this point, I'm excited, elated and quite frankly spent! I have a zone 2 travel card but I managed to get through the day with only £10. I heart London.

By Si Davies

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