Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Swanning About: Londontown

Ah London.  Land of efficient airport transport and soaring train stations.  Hello dear friend.

a light-filled Paddington Station

After a reasonably relaxing overnight flight I was in central London in practically no time, hauling my bits of luggage through Paddington Station en route to what was to be our apartment for the next few days.  Luckily, a dear friend of Paul's had recently moved in with his girlfriend well in advance of his lease expiration, so we had a furnished apartment just off of Hyde Park to ourselves during our stay in the city.

The location could not have been better, as it was quite literally in the middle of it all.  Greenery on one side, a thrilling urban maze on the other.

the view from the flat

But paradoxically, one of our first moves once we were both in town was to head to the outskirts for a barbecue at the offices of Paul's very favorite record label.  We met up with his favorite band and an old friend at Vauxhall and continued onward to the lovely neighborhood of Wandsworth.  

Back behind the label's offices preparations for a barbecue were occurring.  Tables were being set up, and a man who went by the name Smokey Joe was firing up the grill.  Now I have to admit that my enthusiasm for barbecue has always been middling at best, and the inordinate popularity of the cuisine in New York in recent years has done nothing to improve my attitude.  So I was skeptical of Mr. Joe and his smoke, despite the tales of him having cooked for Bob Marley back in the day that were circulating through the gathering crowd.   

But I have to say, the man won me over.  Easily some of the best meat I've ever eaten.  EVER.  His mustardy brisket was my favorite, and I don't even particularly like brisket.  Who knew?  Best barbecue in the world is apparently British.

After a bit too much food and one too many Peronis, Paul and I laid back to contemplate life for a moment.  And I marveled at the incredible frequency of the planes overhead.  At least one every three minutes.   Insane.

one of many

Both of us were too tired to be particularly interesting that evening so after a quick drink at Soho House, it was off to our borrowed bed.

I awoke the next morning to sunlight streaming through the wall of windows in our adopted bedroom.  Thrilled at the prospect of a largely free day in one of my favorite cities, after a late breakfast with Paul I set off for a wander.  

Feeling in a posh mood, I headed in the direction of Belgravia, stopping off in Harvey Nicks along the way, where I was deeply tempted by some Alexander McQueen sale items.  My bank account was saved by the simple fact that everything I had my eye on was wool, which I just could not bear to try on in warm weather.  Thank goodness for small favors!

With Nigella on the brain, I headed down to her husband's namesake, the Saatchi Gallery.  Everything here is either beautiful (the building), stylish (the patio umbrellas),

witty (the art),

or free (the admission).  All the characteristics of the ideal friend, or at least the ideal party guest.

From the expansive grounds to the series of minimalist galleries

to the art that I found to be far more engrossing than average

speakers playing strains from a piano and from a vacuum cleaner

to the Phillips de Pury space on the top floor, I simply could not get enough.  The Saatchi Gallery may just become a regular London stop for me now.

But sadly I had a schedule to keep, so eventually had to pry myself away from my new crush.  Up through the verdant streets 

towards Hyde Park I went,  

stopping to admire small vignettes as I passed by.  One of my favorite things about London are the multitude of small scale parks and squares that are interspersed about the city.  How great would it be as a child to have such access as these little ones do?

Presently I was back up by Hyde Park to meet Paul for our evening activities.  You see, in the summer this park becomes host to lots and lots of music, and that night we were lucky enough to see some of the best.

In the early evening Paul's boys played a fantastic show to an enthusiastic crowd.  Afterwards we took a breather to enjoy some cold cider and then it was off to see Pearl Jam.

my arm, adorned

Ten was the first cool album I ever owned, so I always get a bit sentimental when I see this band play.  But it is not just the sentiment that keeps me coming back...they are quite simply incredible live, far better than 95% of their peers.  The crowd was so enthusiastic that we opted to act our age and stay far back from the stage, but the show was overwhelmingly great nonetheless.

After a bit of chill time backstage with a few old friends, we trotted home to the apartment to rest up for the drive that lay ahead of us the next day.


Jane said...

What a great day. I have heard Pearl Jam are amazing live too, and after all these years who would have thought. I love wondering around London, its very walkable I think, and you were so lucky to be in such a great spot xoxo

Sneaky Magpie said...

You were in my neighborhood for the bbq! And Charles Saatchi gave his whole art collection to the nation only last week, it is such a great gallery.

The Townhouselady said...

Woah, Pearl Jam. That takes me back...

Listen, I know I haven't been around in a while but make sure you stop by and enter my giveaway. It's a real goodie. A $70.00 gift certificate to use at ANY of the over 200 CSN stores!

They have some really awesome cookware sights.

The Townhouselady
A Townhouselady's Life

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

What a great sounding trip, Laura! I have to admit, though, the words London and barbecue don't exactly seem to go together. I'm glad Mr. Joe proved me wrong.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin