London Calling

It might seem from my last two posts that we didn't fit anything except food into our London adventure, but I assure you we did. (I also assure you this will be my last post about this particular London trip!)

Arriving on Friday afternoon - after a bit of a saga with the Gatwick Express - we headed into the centre of the city for a bit of a wander (and a few lost moments) around Seven Dials, Soho, Covent Garden, Neal's super pretty Yard and a festively-decorated China Town, before our epic dinner at Flesh and Buns and a trip to the Phoenix Theatre to see 'Once'.

A quirky musical about a Dublin busker and a Czech immigrant, the movie version of 'Once' has long been one of my favourites for its simplicity and incredible soundtrack, and I've been desperate to see the stage version since it opened in London in March 2013. If anything, the stage version was even better than the film and I was completely blown away. It's a refreshingly different take on the musical experience: the cast are already on stage performing a medley of songs before the show opens; there are opportunities for the audience to wander on stage and buy drinks from the scenery bar (on arrival and during the interval); and the whole show uses one simple stage set-up, relying on lighting and only a small number of props to convey the scene. The emphasis is placed firmly on the performance of the 12-piece cast, all of whom play an instrument and are on stage almost permanently throughout, acting as the 'orchestra' when not taking centre stage. It really is impressive and I can't recommend it highly enough!

Neal's Yard, Covent Garden

Blue plaque indicating the Animation, Editing and Recording Studios of Monty Python.

The Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.

China Town decorated for Chinese New Year.

Christy in China Town

The incredible 'Once' at the Phoenix Theatre. [iphone photo]

On Saturday morning, after our breakfast at the Good Life, we headed for Somerset House and the 'Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!' exhibition. Unlike Christy, I'm not particularly 'into fashion' and so was not at all sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable start to the day. A fashion editor for publications such as Tatler, Blow was renowned as much for her eccentric style and personality as her 'discovery' of designers such as Alexander McQueen and models like Sophie Dahl. The exhibition - a collection of her own clothing and pieces she inspired, interspersed with personal mementos and audio/visual material  -  is a celebration of not only her career and her wardrobe but of a life cut devastatingly short by suicide. It was quirky and fun, yet sombre and touching all at once!  (If you missed it, though, you've missed your chance as the exhibition closed last week.)

Leaving Somerset House we headed across Waterloo Bridge with the intention of taking a wander along the Southbank, but the weather had other plans and we ended up eating a light lunch  in Wahaca before making a run for the tube. The rest of the day was spent scouring the shops of Oxford and Carnaby Street, including my first visit to Liberty and a nose at the 'Festival of Imagination' displays in Selfridges windows, before we headed back to Kensington to finish the evening over dinner at Bumpkin.

Somerset House, where we visited the 'Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!' exhibition
From Somerset house, overlooking Waterloo Bridge to the London Eye and Big Ben.
Looking over the Thames from Waterloo Bridge.

Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Selfridges 'Festival of Imagination' [iphone photos]

Sunday - most of which I've already written about in separate posts - kicked off with an awesome brunch at The Breakfast Club followed by a lengthy wander around Spitalfields and Brick Lane, before heading for Paramount and a date with London's highest afternoon tea! After this came a visit to All Bar One for some "five o'cocktails" and then it was off to Shaftesbury Avenue and the Lyric Theatre to see 'Thriller Live'. This was a production I'd seen once before in Glasgow - mere days after Michael Jackson's death - and, though it was a very different experience second time around, it made for a fun evening filled with a huge medley of songs that reminded me just why I was so obsessed with MJ in my teens!

We finished off our last night in the city with burgers at Jamie's Diner, because what's one more meal in an otherwise food-filled day?!

Graffiti off Brick Lane.

Christy at Paramount.

On our last day in London we headed straight for the city centre to start the day with mountains of porridge at Bill's before heading to the National Portrait Gallery for 'Bailey's Stardust'.  With a catalog spanning some five decades, David Bailey is responsible for some of the most instantly-recognisable celebrity portraits: David Bowie, Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Kate Moss, Noel Gallagher... Carefully selected and put together by the artist himself, the exhibit consists of some 250 photographs including those famous faces as well as shots from Sudan and Papua New Guinea, some of London's hardest men, intimate family portraits, skull-themed still-lifes, and a section dedicated to photos taken only on a phone! All of this amounts to an incredible display of talent and history which is well worth a visit before it closes on June 1st.

From here, the underground whisked us off to South Kensington where we indulged my geeky side at the Science Museum viewing 'Mind Maps: Stories from Psychology'. This was less people-centred/story-based and more scientific than I expected (though the venue might have given me a clue) but pretty fascinating nonetheless and I for one am thankful for how far we've come in our understanding of mental health!

The sun was shining on London Town so we finished our visit taking in the beautiful architecture around Kensington and Chelsea before grabbing a final foodie fix at Tom's Kitchen.

And then it was off back to Gatwick for a speedy flight home to our beds and some rest for our weary bones!

Colourful side streets off Earls Court Road..

'Mind Maps' at the Science Museum. [iphone photo]
The V and A.
The Natural History Museum.
Architecture somewhere in the Borough of Chelsea.
And the compulsory shot of Boris' bikes to finish off!

Whew! There we have it: one very lengthy post about a not-so-lengthy weekend. If you've made it to the end of this, give yourself a pat on the back and call yourself my new best friend!

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  1. Ha ha! It sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing this with us.