This photo I took in the pouring rain sums up London for me
I had to work in Paris recently, it was stressful, but productive. I got the Eurostar back late Sunday night. On this train I met some Canadians and they ended up staying at my house for three days. It was lots of fun, a bit of a gamble on all of our parts I guess, but I'm trusting my judgement more these days.
It led me to the question
'what should I recommend to my new house guests to do in London'.
I love London, but I don't know that London. I don't know, for example, what train station to get off to go to Buckingham Palace [Yeah ok I have now looked it up, but the point stands].
I hypocritically always apply pressure to anyone I know who has been somewhere, or even done a geography GCSE, to give me advice on what I should do in when I go somewhere new.
Considering I've lived within a 20 mile radius of London for 24 of my 27 years, I should probably be able to offer someone an opinion on what they should do in my city.
Anyway. That's a long winded way of saying, I like London, here are the things to do that represent the London I like.
1] 'I need to get me some falafel' - Hoxton Beach falafel - it's not really a thing to do, it's some food; but this little stand pops up every day on Goodge Place in Goodge Street as well as various other locations across East London. If they gave monkeys access to this falafel in some kind of experiment, they would probably eat it constantly until they died. You can take that as a compliment. Hoxton Beach - please use this in your publicity materials, I will do this in exchange for free cauliflower in my next wrap.
2] 'I really want to eat a plate' - Ethiopian Food @ Queen of Sheba - Kentish Town - Probably Ethiopian food is better placed on a blog about things to do in Addis Ababa. BUT one of the things I love about London is the whole, 'all bits of the world have some space here', thing. This place is great, food comes on a pancake, and you share it, and you get to eat your plate because it's a pancake.
3] 'I would like to adopt some platypi reproductive organs' - Grant Zoological Museum - They have a Killer Whale Foetus, and a collection of moles, in a jar. It's a beautiful little natural history museum, free entry, right in the heart of Euston. Slightly odd opening hours, but really worth a visit.
4] 'I've literally never seen anyone not on heroin in a bandstand' - Bandstand Busking - YES I'M BIASED, as I occasionally direct films for them, but I only got involved by attending first as a fan. I love music, but can't hack big gigs, standing at the back whilst people talk. nightmare. This is music the way it's supposed to be played, plus it's free and all the bands are great. Fall in love with this London.
5] 'I am a non-believer, but I wanna have me some church time' - Gig at the Union Chapel - Probably my favourite venue in London. They needed to pay for repairs to the roof, so started holding events there and it's grown into a massive thing. They do loads of amazing charity work, so it's really a cause worth supporting. I've seen Bombay Bicycle Club, Alessi's Ark, Stewart Lee, and Peter Serafinowicz all perform there. They also do free gigs called Daylight Music most Saturday lunchtimes from 12-2pm, always really interesting. They serve good value food upstairs in the bar area, and tea and coffee on Saturdays.
6] 'I'd like to watch the new Herzhog, or attend a masked ball like the one in Labyrinth, and then watch Labyrinth' - Prince CharlesCinema - I got a membership here for around £10, massive bargain, it's a way to see films reasonably priced in London's Leicester Square. You don't need to be a member to go there. They do loads of great events, I recently went to Schwing Along with Wayne's World. It was cool, people dressed up like their favourite character, really nice silly fun. They also do cool documentaries and non-mainstream stuff.
7] 'I need to work off all the falafel I ate during point #1]' - Ride a bike around - best way to see London, if you wobble around on a Boris Bike like a drunk tourist then motorists usually give you a bit of room, so don't be too scared. If roads are not your friend then I'd advise cycling along Regent's Canal. You could do my 40 mile fun route if you are keen [as described in a previous post], otherwise cycle from Angel to East London, maybe stop for lunch at Broadway market that'd be nice!
8] 'Most Londoners have a mattress in the road as their garden' -Have a potter round Hampstead Heath. I live in London and only have a poorly tended window ledge to call an outdoor space. When I need to get into some greenery, I head to the Heath. There is a beautiful thing called a Pagoda, I don't know what that means, but it's insane. Golder's Hill Park is a park within Hampstead Heath. I like it there too, there's a little zoo. I went there and my ex girlfriend adopted me a kookaburra. One day I went to visit it, it was smashing a baby chick to death against a pole. Elton John never sang about that.
9] 'Gah I'm somereason in central London at night and I need another drink' - Player's piano bar, it's a bar where a guy sits and plays piano and everyone sings along, it's kind of weird and nuts, It's definitely not 'cool' but it's pretty fun.
10] 'I want to dance with somebody, I want to feel the heat with somebody, yes I wanna dance with somebody, with somebody who probably didn't know me before and likes old stuff' - London Swing Dance Society does great classes and sessions where you can do a bit of a class, learn some moves, then dance with people, maybe in front of a wicked swing band! No excuses, beginners class will leave you with enough moves to have a go. Good way to meet nice people and I will often make visitors come and have a go.
11] 'I want to be someone else for a bit' - Improv classes... I love a good improv session. Hoopla improv runs classes every Saturday, each has a different theme, but if you are interested in performance, writing, or just messing around it's a really good no pressure, fun place to do it.
12] 'I need a pint, that's not awful, in Camden' - This is getting an easier dilemma to solve, my best tips are the Black Heart [lovely], near the World's End [not for me]. And the recently opened Brew Dog is a great shout for Independent craft beers.
13] 'I want to see a play in a room the size of that board meeting where the new design of the USB drives were announced' - Pentameter's Theatre - I've seen three great plays out of three here, and the theatre only fits about 30, it's really ace, you could get a crepe from the little famous crepe place beforehand. You can grab a nice pint from the pub underneath and take it up to the play - Perfect.
14] 'I want to do a laugh' - Some of my friends did a stand up comedy course, at the The Comedy School in Camden and they got all good at it, so I've been to a lot of stand up shows across London. Best FREE open mic night in my humble opinion is The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, nice audience, good MCing and smart set up.
15] 'I want to do a laugh and I don't mind paying' - always great acts, good mix of circuit pros, and exciting newbies! Hooting Broadway, in Tooting Broadway [see what they did there] [[See what I did there]].
16] 'Well I like music, and I like films... but which do I like best?' - See Hear Club. Great, special nights at the Roof Gardens in Dalston, a band plays a show, and they you nestle down and watch a film picked by the band. A really great way to spend a summer's evening out East. Curated by @AnikainLondon #ff
17] 'I LIKE OLD STUFF' Go and see something at Wilton's Music Hall - Europe's oldest working music hall, and an incredible venue, really magic, take a look at the listings and go and go and check it out, I've had some great nights here.
18] 'I like having a reason to drink all day' Day at Lords. Beautiful venue, you can go and watch a nice game of cricket, have a drink and a chat. It can be a bit pricey, but it is a whole days entertainment. My tips are to use 'LateGate' where you can go after tea, for a few good hours cricket for around £10. Also if a test goes to a fifth day, you can sometime get cheaper tickets. Even if you don't like cricket, this is the place to grow to love it. Follow @HomeOfCricket for details on ticket price and whatnot.
I have probably left some things I like out, please feel free to add your own, I love to hear about cool stuff going down.
London's alright isn't it!