Banner
E-mail Print PDF

London

A cultural immersion in London - Londoners, with their umbrellas always on hand, will tell you without hesitation that September and October are the most beautiful months of the year, with lots of sun and little rain.  A very useful hint: if you travel to London for cultural immersion in museums, art galleries, concert halls, pubs or restaurants, walking or riding the Tube are the best ways to discover or rediscover London.

Even if you prepare your itinerary with the greatest care using the very useful weekly and seasonal Time Out guides to make sure that you will be able to do and see the best – or almost best - of every kind (whether it’s a bit of traditional tourism, a lot of contemporary sights or some underground options), chances are you will still feel dizzy with the choice and won’t know where to start.

But what entices London into such a plethora of creation and artistic consumption?  Of course it is all the better for us, however much one might feel a bit like a child in a candy factory.

 

“In London, do as Londoners do”

Once we have chosen a play, no need to be stopped by a Sold out sign.  If  “In Rome, do as the Romans do," in London, we should do as the Londoners:  just go to the theatre one hour prior to the show, wait in line, and you are almost guaranteed to be able to buy seats from someone unable to attend at the last minute, sometimes for a fairly reduced price. We were successful in doing so at the Old Vic, whose new artistic director is the well-known American actor Kevin Spacey, who will even share the stage sometimes. 

This tip should work for most well-known traditional, contemporary and fringe theatres, such as The Chocolate Factory, The Almeida, The National, The Royal Court, The Hampstead, The Bush, The Trafalgar Studios, The Coliseum, The Cockpit and the Globe, a replica of Shakespeare’s original theatre.

Powerful and eloquent visual arts

Visual arts are everywhere and make big statements in London.  For example, Marc Quinn uses his own blood to fill a transparent mold made from his head every five years and exhibits this piece called  “Self” in a refrigerated showcase at the National Portrait Gallery.

The Saatchi Gallery and Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu shocked many people last year with their installation showing religious and political leaders at death’s door, strolling without control in electric chairs, just like bumper cars colliding at an amusement park.  Most adults were staring, astounded, at the installation while keeping a distance on the mezzanine, while young students were enjoying themselves, running between the caricatures of the state leaders shown “out of service.” But enough shocking images!

A need for contemporary visual arts should be able to be fulfilled at the White Cube, the White Chapel Gallery, and the Serpentine Gallery, as well as at the entertaining Rickshaw Gallery, located on the corner of an alley where the incongruous sound of a saxophone has guided us.

Is it necessary to mention the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern as must-sees?

Art gallery crawl

The choice is yours!  Discover step-by-step a bubbling visual art life by taking the Street Art Tours offered in East London. Or to go from one exhibition opening to another, champagne galore, in a tour of the art galleries that are open side by side on Cork, Clifford, Bond and Green Park streets.

A flurry of films and concerts

The programs at the British Film Institute and in the independent cinemas, The Barbican and Riverside Studios are stunning and the same could be said about the sometimes free classical concerts given at the Cadogan Hall, St. John’s, Smith Square, and at the church St. Martin in the Fields.

A pub or tea house?

One can’t go wrong when choosing to eat fish & chips at the classic Washington Pub or by experiencing some tasting & corresponding beer and snacks at the White Horse on Parsons Greene.

Pub quizzes, such as “Let’s get quizzical” at the Social, and “Sounds familiar” at the Concrete Space are also very entertaining.

Looking for the latest trend?  Try pop-up bars, such as Frank’s Campari Bar. Those bars open in huge public spaces, such as a multi level parking garage.  They run for a whole summer, then close and disappear, while others open elsewhere to attract other clientele.

Afternoon tea? Go for the authentic experience where the tradition was created 140 years ago: The Palm Court at the Langham Hotel.

Originality, for carnivore and vegetarian palates alike

Will the Thames air exhilarate you enough to bring you to the Archipelago to taste crocodile, zebra, peacock, kangaroo and why not a few scorpions dipped in chocolate?

Vegetarians will be staggered by the fig soup at the Manna, and by the Indian food served at the Sagar.

Visual pleasures

Let’s enjoy a long stroll, eating a “pastie”-  a meat, cheese or vegetable turnover- in Little Venice with its barges and weeping willows, in Camden Market for its fauna and its second-hand and colorful shops, or in Covent Garden for its very chic flee market and upscale boutiques.

Should you happen to walk by the Gherkin, this surprising skyscraper built in a pickle shape, Swiss Re headquarters, you will be stunned. But you have to see the movie made about this architectural statement. “Building the Gherkin” is an unexpectedly suspenseful film, showing all of the human, technological and artistic challenges that confronted the architect and the builders. A real “tour de force!”

An old fan never dies!

Just before leaving, a final nostalgia-filled tour at 8 in the morning leads us to Abbey Road.   Crossing the street just like the Beatles did 40 years ago and, of course, having your photograph taken to prove it, is necessary.  Thousands of fans of all ages and from all over the world do it, after all!

This was a quick trip covering a part of London’s culture.  An extraordinary city for creative minds,  if there ever was one! 

Sylvie Berthiaume

Translation: Christiane Théberge

With the cooperation of Nancy Petry, painter, and David Francis, theatre actor


 

The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre


The White Horse


Tea time at the Langham


The Little Venice


Manna Restaurant


Abbey Road

 

Back