More London – Hampstead, Battersea, Tate Modern, Barbican

During our short lived March heatwave I fancied an outdoor-sy day trip and my housemate enthusiastically recommended Hampstead Heath. I watched the movie with Diane Keaton a few years ago and the place seemed very pretty but rather snobbish. Early on Saturday morning I hopped on a train, and then took a Northern line from Tottenham Hale. It only took me an hour:

I grabbed a coffee from one of many uber-hipster organic cafes. It turned out to be quite a task (‘would you like one milk ? full milk?’ when I said I just wanted normal milk, not skimmed or soya or any of that c…p the smug tattooed bloke behind the counter looked at me like I was dirt…haha!), walked up and down Hampstead High Street, wandered around a lovely old churchyard where the English romantic painter John Constable is buried, and decided I wasn’t interested in designer shops or anything else there really…It’s very rare for me to come across a part of London I dislike, and Hampstead is lovely to look at, but I just felt completely out of my comfort zone. I spent the next couple of hours in Hampstead Heath, testing a Manfrotto monopod my work colleagues kindly gave me for my birthday. There were people bathing in one of the ponds already!

Disappointed and slightly bored I felt a strong urge to change the scenery completely and so the Northern Line took me to a place as different from Heath as possible:

I knew about the new shiny Battersea tube station and the whole area is being redeveloped, but I didn’t quite expect that it would become a visitor destination in its own right. It doesn’t have tons to offer yet, a few bars and restaurants, a cinema, a mini supermarket more expensive that M&S and Waitrose together, a small exhibition about the industrial past, but the vibe is pleasant, the views across Thames satisfying and the former power station itself looks pretty damn cool – all it needs now are inflatable pigs ­čÖé

As I was strolling down Southbank I thought I’d like to check out Tate Modern, which I visited many years ago and all I could recall from that visit were dreadful Soviet propaganda posters. I had an opportunity to go there yesterday – they require booking a free ticket prior to entry but it only takes a few minutes – and ended up spending 3 hours or so -at least 45 min in their excellent shop/bookstore alone. While I have no interest in modern art whatsoever, I like finding inspiration in unlikely places. Most paintings at Tate Modern were rather depressing colour-wise, with the exception of Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Whaaam’, which I remember from school, along with another famous painting by Henri Matisse. The cafe on level 6 was open, but the terrace was not, so took a photo through a dirty window.I liked the building itself, how spacious it was and really welcoming, despite being a concrete monstrosity.

Barbican Centre is an equally welcoming if a bit confusing concrete maze, and its cultural offer is second to none. By the way, if you ever try to locate its Cinema 2 & 3, they are outside the main building, across the street – I walked in circles endlessly trying to find it…I wanted to avoid Leicester Square cinemas on Satursday afternoon at all cost, and watching ‘Fantastic Beast: Dumbledore’s Secrets’ there was a lovely, almost intimate experience. They even organise Senior, parent & child ‘and pay as much as you can’ screenings. I’d love to go there for a live opera recital. A special place indeed.

A thought crossed my mind yesterday; even when I go back to working near home (if ever…), I will be still visiting London on a regular basis. A 2 or 2.5 hour train journey is nothing, and the benefits of seeing and experiencing so much are invaluable. It is costly coming here, yes, but so is going anywhere these days. London simply has most to offer – and that is that.

On my wish list for the next few months: IMAX screening at Science Museum – I’m thinking Antarctica 3D narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch; RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show at Saatchi Gallery, What’s On Record at The Photographer’s Gallery and Wildlife Photographer of the Year at Natural History Museum.

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