08 December, 2011

A Few More of My Favorite Things

Earlier this week I began a list of London favorites of the food-and-drink persuasion.  Today, we're talking places, views, rambles, etc!

PARKS
Canary Wharf & the City seen from Greenwich
  • St James's Park - Small compared to Hyde Park or Green Park, but incredibly romantic. 
  • Greenwich Park - I climbed to the top one windy day and perched on a bench to watch ramblers and their dogs; birds and squirrels bickering over the prime tree real estate; Asian women harvesting chestnuts; and tourists on pilgrimage up the hill to the Observatory.  Queen of the Mountain, I took in the panorama before me: all of London, but a quiet and distant London seen from a safe green corner. 
  • Russia Dock Woodland - Formerly a dock which received imports of timber from Russia, Norway, and Sweden, it was filled in during the 1980s as the Rotherhithe docks were closed for the area's redevelopment.  Stave Hill is a prime sunbathing spot and provides a great view of Canary Wharf.
MARKETS
  • Borough Market - How do I love thee?  I can't begin to count the ways...You are an emporium of culinary wonders, from perfect bread to delicate macarons to exotic ostrich eggs.  I love to explore you while munching a roast duck sandwich or sipping a mulled wine.  I love to go on a weekday when the vendors actually have time to talk about what they sell.  I love to see their eyes so full of satisfaction and adoration as they linger over the fruits of their labor.  Even when I don't buy anything, I feel the better for having been there; I don't think you can ever be immersed in excellence without going away at least a little bit changed.
  • Greenwich Market - Beautiful, quirky, classic, and kitschy things...and did I mention it's in Greenwich?
  • Covent Garden - This is definitely more of a "look, don't touch, because you can't afford any of it" kind of place for me, but there are so many beautiful things and so much history here that I love to go!  There's usually some kind of busker or magician providing entertainment, and good street food to be had.  With the Royal Opera House adjacent, I always think of Eliza Doolittle and end up with "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" stuck in my head.
MUSEUMS
The Fighting Temeraire, JMW Turner, 1839
  • National Gallery of Art - At times I feel unworthy of my art history degree because I really haven't had that many epiphanies or life-changing experiences in front of a canvas.  However, I'll never forget the first time I saw JMW Turner's "The Fighting Temeraire" in person at the National Gallery in 2007.  Before then I had only ever seen poor replications in textbooks and on Powerpoint slides, none of which can convey - or prepare you for - the astounding gold-leaf quality of that sky.  It actually took my breath away. 
  • Victoria & Albert Museum - The design junkie's mecca, and the reason I am rather fond of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert.  One of many public service projects they undertook together, the V&A was intended to make access to good and beautiful design available to all, educating and inspiring people of every class and industry.  I think it shows a recognition that beauty and design have an integral role in overall quality of life, and shouldn't be forgotten about even in these austere times.  I especially love the Asian collections and the 20th century collection.
VIEWS
  • London from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
  • London from Waterloo Bridge at night - I once asked an Englishman what some of his London "favorites" were.  Without hesitation, he said, "The view from Waterloo Bridge at night is the best view in the world."  I took his advice when I was here last December and couldn't deny that it was indeed beautiful.
  • London from the London Eye -- I know, I know.  I caved.  I did the ultimate touristy thing (short of going to Madame Tussaud's) and rode the London Eye.  But you know what?  On a clear sunny day, it's actually stunning.  This entire city of distinct borough and villages which can take hours to cross is suddenly all within your view, spreading out in one big sparkling panorama.  
RAMBLES
Brompton Cemetery
  • Brompton Cemetery - I know it sounds dark and creepy, but it's fascinating.  There are so many interesting names and epitaphs that leave you wanting to know the stories behind them.  And if you go at dusk, the light falling through the unkempt growth and across the old stones is marvelous. 




1 comment:

Peter said...

You really should take a wooden stake with you when you're wandering around cemeteries. Just sayin'.