“We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.” Maybe travelling helps us expand and define the landscape somehow. I was extremely lucky to be in sunny London and involve myself in numerous discussions about the weather (there’s no end to it), watch the sun set over snow capped mountains while I flew over the Arctic Circle, watch the Northern Lights two nights in a row, watch legendary musicians play my favourite song of all time and live in a house in Norkisa with two beautiful cats. There were too many influences through this trip that changed my perspective of culture, design, cuisine and living. I learnt from music- watching smaller bands as well as legends; visits to great design schools, art- street/ graffiti and classical contemporary, museums, food and people.
Walking through charming old central London streets and exploring museums with my darling sister who is a financial consultant, exploring record stores and hipster markets in Shoreditch with my friend Jordan-an architect like myself; eating my first proper English fish n’ chips meal with Maria, a friend I met after ten long years who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Physics, gave me such varied perspectives of London. Apart from people discussing the weather, standing on the right on escalators and sticking to a monochrome wardrobe- there is no stereotype I can think of for Londoners. My favourite experiences aren’t limited to the following.
– A coffee and walk through Neal Street in Covent Garden
Sipping on bitter, delectable Monmouth coffee from their tiny store while strolling through quaint, pretty streets until your feet start to hurt is always a great idea. Walk through Neal Street and Covent Garden towards Leicester Square to experience street artists and stores that range from upscale to quirky boutique. Lunch at Abeno Too- locally sourced, organic meat in something called an Okonomiyaki was fabulous. Another stand out was Inamo, which has a brilliant, digital table top that lets you play games, oversee your order or change your mind by picking something else on a drop down menu. All on the table. And they have a great sushi menu. What’s not to love?
– Spend a Sunday afternoon exploring Shoreditch
Eclectic, vibrant, urban Shoreditch in East London is a living canvas. Explore old warehouses reformed with interactive art exhibitions, vintage retail or food markets that extend onto the streets with graffiti in the background by Banksy and the lesser known Brazilian artist Luis Bueno, whose art I absolutely loved.
The Boxpark market caught my attention while I walked back from Brick Lane street to the subway station. It has shipping containers as pop-up shops that change periodically; uber cool, pedestrian friendly and a great example of revitalisation of an empty urban plot. Another must-do in Shoreditch if you like music is a visit to the Rough Trade record store. I read that it was previously a Stella Artois brewery (I’m unsure if it makes the store any cooler than it already is). The USP is that every vinyl record has a written description, making it easier for people to educate themselves and browsing fun. Proceed to The Blues Kitchen or the Old Blue Last (if you’re an Arctic Monkeys fan) for a meal and beers before heading out of this grunge scene.
– Walk, walk, walk.
To museums, art galleries, that hipster cafe you read about on your hipster friend’s blog, through Kensington/ Hyde Park, Tate, Canary Wharf, wherever. I ate at Borough market, at St. Katherine docks, visited the inside-out building against the fairly classical surrounding that I appreciated very much and experienced a beautiful sunset by the Tower Bridge after an interesting time at the Design Museum amongst other things. Another concept close to London Bridge that made for a unique experience was ‘Alcoholic Architecture‘ by architects Bombas and Parr set in an old Victorian building. You don’t get drunk in the cloudy room of breathable cocktail, and it makes for fun, unusual night out. The Design Museum will have to be my favourite in London. They say “someday other museums will be showing this stuff”, letting you know there are innovative and remarkable exhibits to experience or see. Exhibits from the Design of the Year competition included work by Alejandro Aravena (this year’s Pritzker prize winner) and an ‘air purifying billboard’ by the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru. Revolutionary, this.
– Experience live shows
I explored Camden Lock Market on a weeknight and watched The X Ambassadors at Dingwalls, a hole-in-the-wall performance venue. The small, intimate setting added to the effect songs like Unconsolable have had on me. I got a spot right in front of the stage and caught a copy of the set list. It was my first time hearing Hidden Charms, who opened for them. So so much great energy! Proper Brit Rock. Check them out on their Soundcloud page. I got my dose of the London underground live scene here.
On a much larger scale, I caught Odesza, who were phenomenal live- both visually and aurally. Koko, an old restored theatre seemed like the perfect venue for them. Loud, live drumming by the two, trumpet and trombone players over their dreamy digital tracks and absolutely fantastic visuals by Luke (@japanesedad on Instagram) made for an incredible night.
You know when you’re in the queue to get in to the venue and everybody seems close to your age, waiting to watch their favourite high school band that the night’s going to be special. Death Cab for Cutie was nostalgic and emotional. 24 songs made up the ultimate set list, my favourite being the piano solo beginning of Brothers on a Hotel Bed. The entire audience shed collective tears (everybody around me including myself). The progression of I Will Possess Your Heart and the audience singing along in unison to Transatlanticism were hauntingly beautiful. Forever memory right there with the few friends I made at the show.
Apart from looking forward to a natural phenomenon, I was counting down days until I watched Dave Matthews, Carter Beauford and Tim Reynolds slay it on stage to make the most diverse, seven piece band in performance existence seem like a dream. The Prudential Blues Fest had the Dave Matthews Band and the Tedeschi Trucks Band perform at the same time. Made of stardust. It was towards the end of my trip and considering this the culmination of nights of listening to their music for years, a tattoo and only dreaming of their live performance closer to home, the company of my sister and brother was ideal. Experiences like this are infinitely better when shared.From loose, jazzy blues and tons of sass, a heartwarming performance of Satellite, my all-time favourite thirteen minute rendition of Jimi Thing packed with extensive solos and a dream closing with Two Step, this was the best I’ve experienced. I looked around as Carter rolled on and couldn’t see the end of the space. It was like an infinite array of light and the most beautiful sound. At the O2, Dave Matthews Band made my world absolutely alive and magical.
There are delightful plays to watch, fireworks to see, absurd, interesting activities to be a part of and fine cuisine from anywhere in the world to indulge in. However, the most endearing character of this wonderful city is the scale. Beautiful juxtapositions of the built, the people and a constant factor of high relatability made it one of my favourite cities in the world.
Note: This was earlier 2/2, but is now part 2/4.