Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Riviera Style & Hidden gems in the City

Today has been a busy day! BBC Weather informed me that it would be rainy so I figured it was the right time for a museum trip. So far this summer, I've been avoiding them like the plague, secure in the knowledge that they will be heaving with tourists and - heaven forbid - children! I figured the Fashion & Textile Museum would be less popular with those categories though, so I braved it.

So keen to beat the crowds, I arrived before the museum even opened. I waited in Southerden (still not entirely sure how it should be pronounced), a quirky patisserie & café opposite. My Earl Grey tea was served in the most unusual pot, more akin to a cafetiere than a teapot and although this amused me, I must say I wasn't impressed by the taste of 'Joe's Tea Co.'; I think coffee must be their thing (it was Bermondsey Street after all).

By the time I'd drunk my tea, it was almost 10 past 11 so at least I didn't look like an eager puppy at the door ready for opening! There were already a few people milling about but not so many that I was put off going in. I paid my £8.80 (I think. The lady made a mistake with the card machine, thought it went through twice so gave me a refund. It's quite possible that I made an inadvertently free visit to the museum today) and received the sweetest ticket (it's the little things) for my entry. 

The exhibition was of Riviera style, right through from the 1920's to the modern day. I'm rubbish at voicing an educated opinion on these things, but there was plenty for the eye to behold. I particularly admired the way the ground floor had been laid out to look like a Lido and I always really love old rail posters which in this instance were of course advertising various seaside resorts both at home and abroad. 

A well curated, incredibly aesthetic exhibition, I really enjoyed my morning's pootle. I was, I admit, a little disappointed at the size of the collection but the gift shop at the end kept me plenty entertained for another quarter of an hour. And hey, if I got free entry then who am I to complain? 

Having expected my museum visit to fill a little more of my day, I wasn't quite sure what to do next. So I took to my To Do list and Google Maps to ascertain how far away I was from various locations. I discovered that the Red Cross Gardens were only a 13 minute walk away (oh yes, I love to be precise) so that's where I went next seeing as BBC Weather seemed to have been mistaken thus far... 

En route to the Red Cross Gardens, I passed another garden which I initially thought was the one I was looking for but was then grateful that it was not. Crossbones Garden looked a little creepy to me. When I eventually reached the gardens I was in search of, I was much happier to find beautiful beds full of colour, a pond teeming with lily pads and plenty of benches to rest on, one near a fountain which is where I decided I'd park myself. 

Major proud moment - I finished my book! Wahooey! Turns out a little rain (ok, BBC Weather was right) doesn't put my British self off sitting in a quiet outdoor space and reading, even when raindrops start to appear on the pages. I'm not scared. I was slightly scared though of the 'community gardener' who was having some issues with a water source for his hose. By some form of a miracle he sprayed it literally either side of me but I came out unscathed. Unlike him, who had clearly used his entire body to block the path of the uncontrollable water as when he emerged from the bushes, he was drenched. One debacle over, he then proceeded to prune low growing plants and when I looked up again I was faced with an entire bottom. I think maybe my finishing my book might have had something to do with my want to look anywhere but up!

When an over-friendly homeless man started inviting unsuspecting office workers to share a drink with him while they ate their lunch, I decided it was probably time to move on. An eventful half an hour to say the least!

Another destination on the To Do list that I knew wasn't far was St Dunstan in the East, a Wren church tower and its ruins by Monument. I can't remember where I first read about the church but it's been on my radar for a while. I walked via a Pret a Manger for my favourite chicken & avocado sandwich and an iced peach green tea as I figured this was going to be the kind of spot one lunches at.

I was right. It was like I'd walked into an outdoor office cafeteria. I was met with the surreal but beautiful sight of suited and booted types sharing benches to enjoy their lunch, the newspaper, a 'book' on their Kindle (or a real one to be fair to some) or just some space away from work. It was busy but quiet as most people were there without a companion. Again, it tried to rain, but in true British form we all continued to sit there regardless. I loved it and I decided I shall return on a Sunday, or better still, a cold, rainy day. It was incredibly photogenic!

With the tube strike this evening looming over me, I knew I wanted to be home before TfL had advised the trains would be getting busy, but it was still only around 2 o'clock when I left St Dunstan in the East so I wasn't done with the day.  

Where do I go when I'm 'in the area'? Well, Barbican of course. I'm not even entirely sure why. I'm just drawn to it. It's definitely one of my favourite places in London, if not my actual favourite! So I walked the distance to Barbican for another cup of tea (loose peppermint this time), a nosey in the gift shop and to pay a visit to the music shop nearby which is almost always closed whenever I go past.

My tea was still hot while I was in there and I felt awfully guilty carrying it in one hand, my other occupied by my handbag and purchases from the Fashion & Textile Museum, so I asked a shop assistant if there was somewhere I could put it (noticing on the side their own cafetiere and coffee cups) while I browsed. He willingly took it from me... then just held it!? I tried to take it back from him, feeling rather too important, but he refused and said he wasn't doing much else. I then continued to feel guilty (probably worse at this point), especially when I didn't end up buying anything. 

Tea retrieved, I wandered on until I came to Lamb's Passage. I couldn't remember what was down there, but I knew it was somewhere I'd read about in my Quiet London book so I thought I'd investigate on my way to the station and home. I was slightly unnerved when the road suddenly started to feel like a dead end but then I rounded a corner and realised that it did go on. A little way ahead I spotted greenery protruding through a fence and knew I must have happened upon a place of interest. 

It was a tiny garden in memory of Basil Hume (a monk who became the Archbishop of Wesminster in the 70's. I had no idea until I got home and looked him up). So I sat with my tea on a bench sheltered by vines, admiring the mix of what can only be described as very 'Zen' plants and feeling a bit sneaky in the knowledge that there were plenty of people dashing past who had no idea of my existence but who I could see and hear all too clearly. Another incredibly surreal spot.

So turns out I managed to cover a lot of ground today and the list is being gradually worked through. Still holding out for actual sunshine so my poor legs can stop looking so out of place but I'm grateful for now to be finding so much to do whatever the weather!