Another visit to Ye Olde Londinium – day three

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Did you miss day one or two? they’re right here and here. Day three was going to be our day of culture and high sophistication. This made perfect sense, as Easter Sunday is one of the very few days of the year that the commerce in London takes a day off. Usually everything is open all through the year. As it turned out, the prediction of everything being closed wasn’t entirely accurate, but we set off in the knowledge that today was to be mainly about museums and art. And London does this very well.

I noticed this piece by French street artist “Invader” and had to include it!

First stop was the Victoria and Albert museum, which was just a pleasant walk away from the hotel. Walking through the streets early Sunday morning is quite eerie as there are not many people around. It reminded me of 3 years ago when I found myself on Regent Street early on a Saturday morning and there was not another person to be seen. A true “28 days later” moment and considering the usual bustle of people there it was a moment to be cherished. In this case though, we had a nice walk in the early morning sun and arrived a bit before the rush.

In my experience the museums of London are immense. You can easily spend a day just covering the floorspace of the larger museums, let alone really stopping to appreciate all the exhibits. We hadn’t been to the V&A before and were stunned at the size of it all. Religious art isn’t really my cup of tea, but I was gamely tagging along. What struck me again, as many times before, is how incredibly accomplished much of it was. We tend to think we’re so immensely clever these days, that our tech is so advanced, our craft so exact, yet when looking at things that were made hundreds of years ago, a lot of it eclipses things made today. It’s a pretty humbling experience. Heck, even their selfies were pretty awesome.

What really captured my interest though were the garments on display, and there were several reasons why. Firstly, were they made for elves? The male garments appeared made for men notably shorter and very much slimmer than today’s men and the ladies pieces had waists you could fit your hands around. We got talking to a curator and she told us that even ladies with tiny waists today, such as Dita von Teese and her surgically slimmed waist, would be hard pressed (literally) to fit into a dress like this. Again, people were a lot smaller then, and where today’s humans are large because of poor nutrition, the folks of old were also smaller due to poor nutrition. Somewhat simplified, but there is an irony there.

The second point that struck me was the level of craftsmanship, and this without even considering how these garments had survived hundreds of years. Finely woven fabrics, super neat stitching, interesting cuts and designs. Granted, these were not the outfits of the poor peasant, but the grand garments of the elite, but you’d still need to be in the upper echelons of society to find anything similar today. You’ll certainly not see anything as well made coming from the cut price fast fashion outlets. A fine way to spend a few hours and highly recommended.

Step two was to be the British Museum, which is always a pleasure with the stunning collections and the fact that it has yet to succumb to modernisation. Given that you don’t need to stand in line to read screens and press buttons, but can browse at will, it handles a large amount of visitors in a grand manner. Today though they couldn’t even get people through the door and there was line half a mile along the street. Not how we’d planned to spend the day.

I had noted in my Google Maps though that Thomas Farthing was just round the corner, so I saw the opportunity to at least get a peek in through the window there. Lo and behold, it was actually open! A charming shop, friendly staff and lots of nice garments. Heavy on the vintage styles, lots of tweed, hats and accessories. I ended up buying a navy blue Harris Tweed waistcoat which will be most welcome to wear once Summer passes. Definitely a shop for the recommended list!

Always on the lookout for the unusual and different we next made our way to The Attendant in Fitzrovia for a coffee. If you were thinking of opening a nice coffee place in central London, I think the premises we visited would most likely have been right at the bottom of your list, right around where “Plague pit” was listed. Converting a Victorian gentleman’s convenience into a cafe? Possibly the most bizarre idea I’ve come across in a long time, and probably also one of the coolest and most successful! This underground toilet was originally constructed around 1890 and was left to fester around 1960, and has now found new life after a thorough cleanup. I can only applaud the tenacity, it’s awesome! The coffee is decent as well.

The day of culture having been somewhat thwarted by the British Museum we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering round parks and just enjoying the nice weather. The quiet back streets of London can be quite remarkably nice and serene, even when the parallel street is packed solid. Passing by Soho again we were struck by hunger again and decided to venture something new. Dozo Sushi proved to be a very pleasant experience indeed and definitely out of the ordinary for us. Sitting round a very low slung table with three couples that obviously had an infinitely greater understanding of the menu proved very entertaining, though our own tonkatsu ramen noodles was super tasty and energising.

In the evening I had arranged to meet a friend for dinner, at a venue of his choice. All I knew was that it was called Brasserie Zédel, had an art deco bar and served French cuisine. I’d passed by earlier in the day and noticed what looked like a pretty mediocre restaurant, just off Piccadilly Circus, so expectations weren’t sky high. Imagine my surprise when I got there later and discovered the entrance was mere camouflage. Once inside there is a grand staircase going down, deep down, into the cellars beneath. And it’s massive! The art deco bare was both wonderful and roomy, the restaurant itself was immense. And all of it in such a grand and splendid style. I can hardly remember what I ate (meat of some description), but I’d love to go back there just to savour the atmosphere and take it all in again. And make sure I dress appropriately. Very much recommended!

And that was pretty much the end of this visit to London. Next morning it was up at the crack of dawn to cross London by Tube to reach Stansted in time for the flight home. After a strenuous train, wait, flight and drive, there’s just time to think “Phew, it’s good to be home again!” before the thought is followed by “I’d love to go to London soon…”. And thus the cycle repeats. There is definite truth in the old quote of Samuel Johnson “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

Did you miss day one or two? they’re right here and here.

 

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1 Comment

  • Gunnar Helliesen 29/06/2017 at 19:18

    Love this, especially the Thomas Farthing store. Looks like something straight out of Harry Potter.

    Reply

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