For someone who has worked in London for coming up on a decade, I haven’t seen enough of our fair capital. With the daily drudgery it is hard to keep in mind that it is an exceptionally cool place, full of history and that I am lucky to live so close by. When Jaz told me she was going to start exploring more of London, I decided to ride her coattails. Our first trip was to Greenwich.
The first thing to note about Greenwich is that cute new places keep on popping up, since the exodus, it’s all getting gentrified (thanks Alex Turner). The place was hip (god I feel old using that word). There were a lot of bare ankles, oversized glasses and Lush tote bags. We took the DLR through the winding monoliths of Canary Wharf and came out in the refined air of Greenwich. We walked down towards the high street and off to the National Maritime Museum. I’ve recently been writing a piece about an Antarctic Research facility and was given a copy of Endurance, the book on Shackleton’s incredible mission to the south pole, by my friend George. I had been told there was a great exhibition on the subject and was not disappointed. There’s something very Wes Anderson about the museum. Jaz and I were in our element as we wandered around the massive space, dodging kamikaze children who run at you, regardless of how wide a berth you give them. The only disappointment I suffered all day was discovering the Ship Simulator was closed. It had been a while since I had been at sea, my understanding of maritime law was waning. We found the Polar Worlds exhibit and I floundered at the equipment on display. It is incredible to think of how those men survived those circumstances and where their minds must have gone during the time. There’s only so much penguin blubber any man should have to imbibe.
We also visited the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition (£10 entry) which was incredible. It reminded me of visiting desolate locations with no light pollution. In the deserts and mountains I got to see the stars in full. I saw the Milky Way over the Sahara. I watched shooting stars from the foothills of the Inca trail. There’s this incredible display above us every night and the exhibition was an opportunity to showcase that and the incredible work the photographers had undertaken to bring it to Earth.
We wandered through Greenwich Market and picked up some lunch. I found an Ethiopian food stall and was reminded of Bill Crystal’s joke in When Harry Met Sally. I got couscous, spinach, chickpeas, lentils, chilli and three samosas for £7. Jaz had cheesy gnocchi (from a different stall, obviously). We sat on a wall and I filled my stupid face with delicious food. I wanted to learn how to make it all.
We went to Grind for a coffee afterwards. As we were just ordering drinks our order was overlooked a couple of times before we got what we wanted. It was very, very cool in Grind and I felt like I didn’t belong. I think that’s kind of the point.
In the middle of last year, my friends, Elisa and George, were in Greenwich and found an art store that sold Wes Anderson inspired prints. Elisa sent me a picture of the Darjeeling Limited one and I immediately replied, asking her to pick it up for me. I knew it would only be a matter of time before I returned and bought more art. This time a print from Rushmore, Bill Murray’s character, Herman J Blume, is sat on the bottom of the pool. I love the bright colours in the print and could imagine placing it anywhere in my drab flat to brighten up the place.
We went back across the market and over to Crosstown doughnuts. As I’m doing Veganuary a number of people (including Jaz) had told me how good their vegan, sourdough doughnuts were, but I had never tried them. I had the Orange Blossom and sat at the counter with an Americano, trying to artfully cram it into my mouth.
We walked up to the Observatory. I wanted to stand with one foot on either side of the meridian line. You have to book tickets and pay to go into that area and to visit the only planetarium in London, so we made do with the free exhibits, which were full of children. We wandered back down the hill and made our way over to the pub where we were due to meet Laura, Darren and Darren’s mum, Monica, for dinner. She was visiting from Iowa (which I can definitely pronounce correctly). Jaz and I arrived early so propped up the bar until we could get a table. The pub faces the water and is a beautifully themed space, unless you live with my brain, which described it as “a maritime TGI Friday’s”.
The five of us sat down for dinner and I did my best to not swear and to seem like a nice person in front of Monica because I wanted to impress her and live up to the hype I was sure must have accumulated from Darren talking about me all the time. She regaled us with stories of what he was like as a kid and I did what I could for international relations by trying not to be too offensive. It was lovely to spend time with them and to catch up with Laura, who I no longer get to see on a daily basis.
We went back to their flat for a game of Obama Llama and some White Russians before getting the train home.
It made such a break from my usual weekends to go out and do something, to engage in a day out properly and to pretend that we were fancy tourists. London has a lot to offer and I can’t wait to get more from it.