This is the second part of my list of things that I was looking forward to getting home to when we left the States and which I’ve spent nearly a year crossing off.
Things to enjoy in London:
I love the river. We live next to it and we spend our weekends walking up and down it. We even got on the water recently to come back from Kew Gardens. The riverside is also a feature in many parts of London. By the Southbank Centre (a lovely place to hang out in its own right) you can enjoy Waterloo sunsets with a glass of something from one of the many pop-up bars associated with the Festival Hall, the British Film Institute and the National Theatre. Further down, between London Bridge and Tower Bridge we have the Scoop amphitheatre, which features theatre and music in the summer, a big-screen during major sporting events, and a general holiday feeling.
Though this market has become very busy on a Saturday, with tourists attracted to its huge variety of street food, it’s still a great place to buy good produce. We love the fish stall and have cooked mussels, scallops and squid as well as fish from here. And an afternoon spent tasting cheese from Europe and the UK makes for a good day – Neal’s Yard is just around the corner too. We’ve also enjoyed Maltby Street market, although they put their prices up recently – £8 for a sandwich might be pushing it, even in post-Brexit London.
We found high-end dining in DC either a little disappointing or hugely expensive. Getting back to our favourite modern European restaurant Magdalen was the perfect homecoming. Sadly it recently closed, but at least we got to go a couple more times. I’ve also enjoyed Spanish food at Pizarro and a little Spanish place my sister recommended (I’m keeping that our secret). And Polish/Baltic food at Baltic – which is also great for its huge selection of vodka and vodka-based cocktails. This is just scratching the surface of London’s restaurant scene – we have a very long list of places we still want to try when we can afford it.
In DC there were not many theatres. High culture was highly expensive – the only way I could get my fix was by going to the free Millennium Stage stuff at the Kennedy Centre at 6pm on an evening.
Since coming back to London I’ve been like a kid in a sweetshop. R came back from a trip once to find I’d booked for us to go and see not one, but two productions of King Lear (Glena Jackson at the Old Vic and the Royal Shakespeare Company version at the Barbican). We’ve actually seen three Shakespeare productions this year, as we also saw Tamsin Grieg in the National’s production of Twelfth Night. Also at the National we saw Brecht’s Threepenny Opera
In terms of classical music, we’ve seen a production of Haydn’s Creation at the Southbank Centre’s excellent, comfortable and purpose-built concert hall, and spent a highly enjoyable evening of Gilbert and Sullivan at the ENO’s Pirates of Penzance.
And there’s been comedy and fringe theatre too. Backyard Comedy in Bethnal Green was a lot of fun. I went to an evening of 11 short 10-minute plays, each written and directed by a different person and each featuring 3 actors. And we went to what I can only call an immersive theatrical event, where we travelled with Alice into wonderland and each had different adventures as the play unfolded around us: I had to peel potatoes, while R got to join the QGP (Queen’s Garden Patrol)!
There’s always something going on in London. While in the States we spent money on travelling, here I save for nice meals out and the theatre. Some things remain on my list as I’m waiting to find the right opportunity. For example, we’ve not gone to a proper opera since we’ve been back, and I’ve yet to go to anything at the Royal Opera House. And as we’ve been watching BBC’s Masterchef, the list of restaurants to go to has been growing. So, to misquote Samuel Johnson, I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of London.