I love London, and we live here, but we’ve hardly ever written about it. I’ve been meaning to change that for a while, and I think I shall start here. After I nearly lost all the pictures on my phone the other day, which go back to November 2015, I thought I’d go through and pick a few cool ones to start showing off my favourite city in the world.
Random things are happening, everywhere, all the time
This is my favourite part about London: everywhere you go, you’ll always be able to find something entertaining going on. Pop-up events, buskers, street entertainment, the Queen being driven the wrong way around Trafalgar Square in her Bentley…
Unexplained events: why was there a Spitfire plane sitting in the Horse Guards Parade one morning, as I walked to work? No idea, and I never did find out why. But there it was, sitting next to a Eurofighter and an old bi-wing plane I suspect once may have been flown by Snoopy, and I loved getting to see them all.
Art: From the huge murals in Shoreditch to the man who paints tiny pictures on pieces of old chewing gum stuck to the sidewalk – art is everywhere in London. The photo below was from an event called Lumiere London, which was stunning – essentially it was a bunch of light installations all around the central city, in a vague path you could follow along at night. Be warned though, if you don’t like crowds – this was probably the busiest thing I’ve been to since coming to London, and that statement means a lot from someone who rides the tube in rush hour every day.
Fun things on the street: for me, the best things are those you just happen to come across while walking around the town. Once I was walking through Trafalgar Square for a coffee (Notes – nice in an area which is mostly terrible chain stores), got chatting to a man with a large parrot, and ended up with said large parrot on my shoulder for a selfie. Why not?
London is an epic place to be for a sports fan (which I am). Here are just a couple of my favourites from the last few months:
ATP Finals: The top eight guys in world tennis, playing a tournament just down the road? Sign me up. London is best known for Wimbledon when it comes to tennis, of course, but each year it also plays host to the ATP Finals, where the top eight players face off in the last tournament of the year. This means you’re guaranteed to see two of the best play, and it is awesome. We went twice.
NBA: one of the things I find quite cool is that you can see just about any sport here. I kind of love American sports, and so the chance to see NBA or NFL just down the road is neat (that’s an American word, right?). This was the Orlando Magic playing the Toronto Raptors, at the O2.
Football: I couldn’t go past a post about sport in London without mentioning football, of course. I love football. London has Wembley (the home of English football), 5 or 6 Premier League clubs (depending on whether you think Watford is part of London, which I do not), and a heap of smaller clubs, so you really are spoilt for choice. The game below was England v France, the day after the Paris attacks in November 2015. Just a friendly, but I’ve probably never been to a game with a better atmosphere.
And, as an honourable mention: darts. I don’t have photos on this phone, so you don’t get a picture, but if you’re imagining a few big old blokes down at the pub – you’re totally wrong. Well, at least about the pub bit anyway. These guys were playing in front of something like 20,000 people packed into the O2, and competing for £250,000. It was like being at a rock concert. It was a weird night.
Fun places for a drink:
Pubs come standard as part of London life, of course. Love ’em, not talking about them here. These are a couple places you can have a beer in a bit of a different setting than what most people might find on a visit here.
One New Change: there is a mall across the road from St Paul’s, and in the mall there is an elevator which takes you up to the roof (it doesn’t cost anything). The views from the top are excellent, and when you pair it with a nice wine from the bar up there – pretty hard to beat.
Brewdog: craft beer is all the rage at the moment (which is ideal, as someone who quite likes craft beer). Brewdog is part of this scene, and they have a great bar/beer hall right in the middle of Soho which is definitely worth a visit. 20 different beer taps, excellent food, and it is also just quite a nice place to hang out as well.
Sky Garden: on top of the ‘walkie talkie’ building in central London (which once made headlines for melting a car) is the Sky Garden. Free to visit (though you have to book ahead of time), this offers amazing views of the city, and, once you’ve had enough of that, a rather nice environment for a drink. Sunset is the best time to go, by far. Book your tickets here.
Catch a show:
Everyone knows about the West End, but on any given day of the week you can catch some sort of live entertainment somewhere around London. Here’s a couple I happen to have photos from, which are coincidently both circuses.
Cirque du Solei: world-famous, and it deserves to be. The most recent one to visit, ‘Amaluna‘, was at the Royal Albert Hall for a couple of months, and so we saw it there. The Royal Albert is actually a seriously impressive old building in its own right, but nothing next to the show. It was amazing, and I thoroughly recommend you go see it if it every comes to your town.
Pub shows: a lot of pubs around London have little mini-circus shows a couple days a week. We saw one for the first time at The Aeronaut in Acton a month or two back, and despite my initial scepticism it was actually really good. In fact, in terms of a good evening’s entertainment with a few mates at a reasonable price, I’d say it might be hard to beat.
Cool old stuff:
London is a city where you can walk through history. From the Guildhall, finished in 1440, to the sphinx sitting on Embankment still showing the scars of a World War One bomb, to the futuristic Shard – if you love the past, you’ll like it here.
St Paul’s: B currently works by St Paul’s, and I meet her there sometimes after work. I’ll wait on the same corner whenever I do, and below is the view I get from my spot. Pretty epic. Coming from little ol’ New Zealand, I’m still slightly in awe of the fact that buildings like this can just be scattered all throughout town like this.
Admiralty Arch: just around the corner from my work, between Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, this is a building I’ve decided I really like the look of. Not sure why, I just do. Fun piece of trivia about it: 7 feet up on the right-hand side of the gap heading into the square, there is a tiny little sculpture of a nose. Keep an eye out for it.
Trafalgar Square: if you stand in the middle and spin around, you’ll see Nelson’s column, the National Gallery, Canada house, a heap of statues, a weird skeletal horse sculpture keeping you up-to-date with the stock markets, and Big Ben off in the distance (though technically it is the Elizabeth Tower – Big Ben is the bell inside). It is a great place.
That’s all for now. Hopefully this marks the start of many more posts about London, in amongst all the other travel we do, because there is a lot of fun to be had in this city.
Until next time, B & A.