The wealth of bank holidays in May leads to two things in London – an exodus of inhabitants (lucky friends of mine jetted off to France, Fiji and the rather less far-flung Flitwick), and influx of tourists. It’s therefore a different city to the usual and makes those of us left in London behave strangely. We meander slowly down roads previously marched along in haste. We stop for sugary snacks such as macaroons as if on holiday. We drink wine at lunch, fearless of the impending midday wine-induced headache. Yes, it’s a wild time for we Londoners left behind. Here’s how I have frolicked around town:
By Eating Everything, Everywhere /
I really mean that. I ate in so very many different places I almost struggle to recall them all. If I had to list those that made an impression…
– The Princess of Shoreditch. A good gastropub with a really nice atmosphere – i.e. dark lighting, shabby chic. I went with my girlfriends and we were lucky enough to have a waiter who sort of (after a glass of wine) looked like Ryan Gosling. Friends + wine + the Gosling obviously made for a good evening.
– The Orangery at Kensington Palace. The service at this place made me doubt the waitresses are hired by the same people who employ the palace staff (it took twenty minutes to give our order, a further twenty to receive some of it, a further prompt to receive the rest, and after all that we were charged twice). The food was also questionable. The surroundings, however, were stunning and exactly how I imagine those who’ve never visited England believe high tea must be – served in exquisite china in opulent surroundings.
– Hush. Tucked behind a little courtyard, I’ve always favoured a little pre-prandial tipple here when in Mayfair. Having tried the chips with truffle oil and tenderstem broccoli while peckish last week, I sense a more thorough investigation of the food on offer here may be in order.
By Behaving Like a Tourist /
The good thing about the absence of friends in town is that there is very little likelihood of one of them catching me marvelling at the size of Big Ben (it’s really, really big) or pretending to be Eliza Doolittle in Covent Garden (though I’m sure nobody noticed that I was up to this, it still would’ve been disconcerting to see a familiar face while mentally singing ”wouldn’t it be loverly?”). As well as doing those two, I also visited:
– The National Gallery / Not for any particular reason, mind. We Londoners are always going to galleries for particular reasons. This departure from form was refreshing. I elbowed others out the way to see the Titians and Turners on display before pottering around other impressive works.
– The Book of Mormon / The story of two young Mormon missionaries in Uganda, this isn’t one for the easily-offended. If you’re not easily-offended and like South Park, you’ll love this satirical musical. I thought parts of it were hilarious.
– The Radio Rooftop Bar at Me Melia. Londoners go to this bar on the Strand all the time, sure, but I still felt a little touristy here simply because as I sipped a nice glass of Banfi’s finest red, I could not help but crane my neck to catch the view. Nowhere will you find a better spot for enjoying wine and the sights of London from the sky. Oh, and if you can name all the landmarks on the horizon, I take my hat off to you – I couldn’t.
– Covent Garden, St. John’s Wood and Hyde Park. I do often pass through these places, but not with the luxury of having no plans. Having no plans is really a remarkable thing. Sights I was previously blind to were captivating. I’m not talking big, exciting things – my favourites were the trees of Hyde Park, eccentrics of Covent Garden and a cat in St. John’s Wood wearing a neon hat and vest while sitting on the knee of its owner.
And finally /
There are those moments in a city that beggar belief. Last week during a stroll from Baker Street to St. John’s Wood one pleasant evening, I found myself desperately in need of the loo. While I thought my bladder may make it when setting off, halfway down the road it became clear that abstaining would be a challenge.
The road was lined with embassy houses and those belonging to the ineffably wealthy. They have gates, security guards and automatic lights. Nevertheless, the call of nature is a hard one to ignore, and I set my sights on a large bush for relief.
In I went, only to see a figure lurking on the other side of the foliage. I retreated ever so slowly. ‘There’s a man in the bush’ I whispered to my husband, who was dutifully waiting on the road. ‘Don’t be so silly, you’re imagining it,’ came his answer.
On cue, the man emerged and walked towards us. And he was armed. Oh my was he armed – he held a machine gun across his chest and had handguns strapped to his legs. It was equal parts terrifying and hilarious. But he was a jolly nice chap who, it turns out, was a police man guarding a VIP staying in one of the houses.
Once we’d explained the reason for my foray into the bush, we were on our way. ‘Isn’t it funny,’ my husband said as we walked, ‘you might have been shot for needing the loo.’ Yes, I really might’ve. You’ve been warned.