Friday was my birthday. We had a team meeting in the AM at our offices, and then those of us who felt like braving the ongoing terrorist threat that has become London went into the city for the night. I'd say only two or three people didn't go because of bomb threats. There were 18 of us in total. We had lunch at a fancy hotel, did a quick scavenger hunt, and then had dinner and drinks and nightclubbing to fill our evening. I realized I was truly old when I passed off a chance to go to Heaven, a happening gay dance club in Charing Cross, because it was late and I had blisters on my feet from walking around the city with inappropriate footwear. How pathetic is it to stay in on your birthday when you have a choice? ("In" still meant socializing until 130 at the hotel, but you know what I mean....I really just wanted to rest my aching feet and to get a good night's sleep. My youth has officially gone.)
On Saturday, my colleague Anna and I left the hotel around noon and wandered along the embankment from our hotel, past the London Eye, and on to the Tate Modern to meet my friend Patricia. Patricia has recently moved here from Minneapolis, and though she lives on the other side of London it is still pretty easy to meet in town for dinner and whatnot. She's a museum type, so she loves going to the same sorts of places I do. Our plan was the Frida Kahlo show I've been talking about.
The walk along the river was absolutely wonderful. The city of London has done/is doing a load of work to make the South Bank an arts corridor, and they've done really well. When you're near the Eye, the walk is crowded with tourists. The Saatchi Gallery is in County Hall, and there is a great Salvador Dali museum, as well. If you pause to stand and look across the river you get a great view of the houses of parliament and the Golden Jubilee pedestrian bridge to Charing Cross.
Once you've passed the Eye, things break into a more leisurely pace. There's a busker or a street acrobat every few yards. There seems to be an unofficial gallery of living sculptures there...you know, those people who paint themselves with grey or metallic paint, dress in some costume and sit perfectly still? Never really understood it...He's sitting still! Well done!...but they seem to be making some money doing it, so good for them. On Saturday we got there early enough to see a few of them putting their makeup on and getting dressed on the nearby lawn. Odd to watch someone totally cover themselves in a solid color that gradually obscures their individuality.
As you get closer to the National Film Theatre, you hear more music and spoken word. Every time I've been there, there is also a used book sale with thousands of titles under the Waterloo Bridge. Saw a great handbook to 1910 etiquette for ladies, not to mention a scary comic book about a boys' school that revolts into anarchy. Would have spent a lot more time browsing here if I'd had time, so I'll go back next weekend. There is a bit of an impromptu stage in front of the National Theatre for actors. Further on there are restaurants and boutiques, including an amazing array of custom design jewelry, textiles, furniture, and other items in the Oxo Design Galleries. Saw some wonderful gifts for next Christmas. Once you're a bit further on, you hit the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre. It's great.
The Tate Modern is an unbelievable building. It's built in an old power plant, and there is a phenomenal atrium that soars five stories above the entry. Its exhibits are sorted by subject matter, not time period. I really like this, because it challenges you to compare subject matter between disparate artists.
Didn't spend time in the main galleries on Saturday, just went to the Kahlo show. It was everything I wanted it to be. I've always found Frida Kahlo's work to be strong and independent and raw. Grouped together, it is extremely powerful stuff. I think I'll be going back on a weekday, because time with each work was limited by the crowd.
In the late afternoon, Patricia and Anna and I stopped for lunch at a nice little Italian place along the riverwalk. We sat on the patio on this sunny/cloudy, slightly cool day, and ate delicious antipasti. I had a ribeye steak that was perfectly done, and a rocket/parmesan salad.
I highly recommend a day along the Thames in the heart of London. The people watching is great (even saw a GINGER balancing a soccer ball on the end of a wooden spoon he was holding in his mouth!) People go there to relax and stroll and enjoy their day. You should, too.