Saturday, 30 September 2017

Open House London 2017

Last weekend was beyond busy! It all started at a gig on Friday night and ended with my being dressed as a chav on Sunday night. Somehow, in between, time was found to make a visit to some of the buildings open for this year's Open House in London.

In the end, it was agreed that we book-ended our visits rather well as the first and last were by far our favourites, but there were definitely some points of interest in between, too.

Saturday morning began nice and early with a Dishoom breakfast. I've been wanting to try one ever since I heard the words naan and bacon in the same phrase, and my goodness I was not disappointed. We sat on the Terrace at the Shoreditch branch where the decor caught our attention almost as much as some of the buildings later on in the day. I went for the sausage and egg naan with bottomless chai and was more than ready for the day.

Our first port of call was Barbican, where a Mews house was open for the day. All huge fans of everything Barbican has to offer, we were incredibly excited to see inside a place of residence and were not disappointed. Many of the original features were still in tact; exposed concrete in the living room, sliding doors concealing cupboards and additional bedrooms, and a wrought iron balustrade along the mezzanine level. What really surprised me about the home was how light it was. There was one floor to ceiling window looking out onto the communal garden through which the light flooded. Bookshelves lined almost every room, and in each we found the perfect balance between original features and contemporary design. Leaving was definitely a struggle.

While at Barbican, we decided to make the most of our visit and wandered through the Centre (obviously via the gift shop) on our way to the next place on our list, Llyods Register.

Now a little later in the day, the length of the queue was slightly concerning but as we were treated to tales of Llyod himself by a Register old timer, time passed pleasantly and we were in. Bigger fans of self-exploration than guided tours, we snuck through to find the main event and were met with a grand meeting room, decorated in the style of William Morris with a nautical theme. 

Our final stop of the day was St Botolph without Bishopsgate, a short walk from the register and right by Aldgate station where my journey would continue. A pleasant church with a welcoming community feel, we stopped a while before going our separate ways. From Aldgate I then headed off to Marylebone station (which I loved, by the way) and on to Aylesbury to warm a house.

I'm always a big fan of London's old & new.

Sunday morning and we were off again. This time, we met at Liverpool Street station and joined the biggest queue yet to see inside a Masonic Temple uncovered in the restoration of the Andaz Hotel. Definitely a wow moment as we stepped inside. Once inside many of the buildings on offer for Open House, it's hard to imagine you're in London, let alone right in the centre. We sat a while on a fancy chair, pondering the goings on that would have once taken place in this building, and admiring yet another fascinating ceiling. Before we knew it, time was up and we were being ushered out and on to the next destination.

Regent Street Cinema is definitely somewhere I'd like to go back and actually view a film. As we arrived we were informed that we'd just missed a tour (fine by us) but that we could make our own way into the auditorium via this door, or that. Make our own way we did. And then spent an awkward few moments wondering whether we'd actually just walked into a screening of something and thus would see nothing in the darkness. Fortunately, the lights came up just at the right moment, signifying that we were safe and that the tour had obviously begun with a preview of the screen. Suddenly it lifted, revealing an original (name of organ) behind which visitors were then invited to play.

As cinema seats go, I'd say they're quite plush.

Not yet having had lunch (and not this time filled up on breakfast), we decided we'd make a move to eat something on our way to our final destination of the weekend, the BT Tower.

Another absolute highlight, we were so mesmerised for our hour-long stay. Upon arrival, having finally found the way in, we were armed with official-looking badges and spent some time looking at old advertising and information on the tower back from when it was first built. Soon our time came to go up to the viewing platform and the lift whizzed us up to the 34th floor.

As we stepped out, my eyes did all sorts of funny things. I'd totally forgotten that the whole platform revolves, but of course the centre (where the lift was) stays still which made for a dizzying experience for a moment or two. After wandering once or twice, we helped ourselves to refreshment and found a seat to rest on as we revolved. For me, there's not much that beats birds-eye views of London. It was pretty special to see it all from a different perspective to those offered by the Shard and Heron Tower. I don't feel like I've really admired London's parks from up high before, and we made a fun game of spotting places visited on past Open House weekends, too.

Another fantastic weekend. Yet again, I'm already full of anticipation for what next year might bring.