London-Sussex Express

Spring!

Spring!

I am just back from Sussex and London (an annual trip) and will do a little roundup.

It was Spring! With all the attendant cloudy skies and showers, but also daffodils, primroses and magnolia blossoms, with bluebells and tulips on the rise. Everyone seemed to be wearing quilted nylon jackets as if it were still winter. Meanwhile I had happily left my winter gear at home, where it was still snowing.

Out on the heath

Out on the heath

Gorse in bloom

Gorse in bloom

An everyday department store with a selection of fascinators!

An everyday department store with a selection of fascinators!

We spent four lovely days on the Ashdown Forest, visiting Rom’s parents. His mom has made a full recovery from last year and what a difference! We did our usual things – family meals, walks on the heath, watching that powerhouse 12-year-old singer on Britain’s Got Talent, and shopping in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Outside the O2 Arena

Outside the O2 Arena

Rom at the O2 Arena

Rom at the O2

From there we spent 5 days in and around London, our longest stretch yet in the city.

Day 1, we had tickets to see Muse at the O2 (click on tiny photos to enlarge). I have always wanted to see them because they do a big stadium show with lots of techno glitz and no affectations of modesty. It was spectacular! If you have heard their latest album, Drones, don’t you think they sound more like Queen all the time? (a good thing). I highly recommend their show.

At Camden Locks

At Camden Locks

Stables Market at Camden

Stables Market at Camden

Day 2, we returned to Camden – our last stop there was 7 years ago. Back then, the street stalls were filled with rock, punk, emo and goth fashions. I was fascinated to find it hadn’t changed! It is a mecca for rock-influenced looks. I especially loved the little shops dedicated to ska/rude boy, mod, teddy boy, rockabilly and retro fashions. And of course I had to visit Cyber Dog which has a chaotic mix of cyberpunk and rave-inspired clubwear. I left with no purchases, though!

Top of Primrose Hill. Those British skies!

Top of Primrose Hill. Those British skies!

THAT crosswalk

THAT crosswalk

Rom at Manna

Rom at Manna

Feathered friend at Regent's Park

Feathered friend at Regent’s Park

From Camden Town, we trekked up Primrose Hill. For my local readers, it was about the same height as Citadel Hill in Halifax! i.e. gentle, but had panoramic views of the city. From there, we made a little pilgrimage to Abbey Road. You can’t go into the studio itself, but there is a gift shop. You can stop traffic and cross the road as often as you like 🙂 We strolled through Regent’s Park, and finally had dinner at London’s longest-established veggie spot, Manna, arriving just before it filled up. The menu is a pastiche of “ethnic” foods and it was affordable, comfortable and unpretentious.

Inside at Old Thatch Tavern

Inside at Old Thatch Tavern

Shakespeare House, back garden

Shakespeare House, back garden

Room where Shakespeare was born

Room where Shakespeare was born

Day 3, we made a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. It is 100 miles from London which seems like nothing, but the transportation was awkward (to be addressed further in another post). The town has numerous Elizabethan buildings. We lunched at the impressive Old Thatch Tavern and took a turn around Shakespeare’s birth house, his daughter’s house, and the church in which he is buried. Due to train time tables, we couldn’t go to a play or see all the sights, but it was a nice overview of the Bard’s life and times!

Shakespeare exhibit at British Library (Vivian Leigh as Titania)

Shakespeare exhibit at British Library (Vivian Leigh as Titania)

Day 4, in the driving rain, we did a museum blitz. We started at the British Library which had a new exhibit of artifacts from significant Shakespearean productions through the centuries. I loved it! It made me want to be a dramaturge. There was also a collection of manuscripts of Alice in Wonderland, and the Library’s permanent display, which includes illuminated manuscripts, a First Folio of Shakespeare, and one of four original copies of the Magna Carta. A librarian’s dream! I could have spent days there.

The Gayer-Anderson Cat

The Cat

We stopped at Gay’s the Word, an especially literary LGBTQ book store. I wanted to buy all the books. We had lunch at Eaton Square where they were flying hawks to keep the pigeons away. We visited the Cartoon Library which had a big show of Martin Honeysett’s work. It is a modest little place which recently received funding to start buying originals of British comic art. Next was the British Museum where I revisited the Rosetta Stone and my favourite, the Gayer-Anderson Cat! We had already seen a lot of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian stuff so we spend extra time looking at the Celtic and Norse collections. We ended the day with dinner at Mildred’s, a crowded and noisy but very fun veg spot.

Vivienne Westwood's World's End, King's Road, Chelsea

Vivienne Westwood’s World’s End, King’s Road, Chelsea

On Day 5, we had concert tickets to see Bernie Marsden in the evening so we worked toward that. We spent the day on King’s Road in Chelsea, shopping and eating. In contrast to other neighbourhoods I’ve visited (especially Camden Town), it had all the wealthy hipster parents with their luxury strollers, and the high-end brands that the wealthy think of as “everyday,” like J Crew and Eileen Fisher, and extra-large versions of stores like Zara’s and M&S (where I saw the new Alexa Chung line). Another music-related pilgrimage: we visited 430 King’s Road, the site of SEX in the mid-1970s, the punk boutique created by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. Today it is World’s End, a Vivienne Westwood shop. The music-culture, irreverent fashion line and accessories were gorgeous. Out of my league, but a pleasure to view, and the staff were friendly. For my own amusement I bought an ordinary toast rack at Peter Jones, which is actually a store in the John Lewis chain, but an impressive one.

The concert at Nell’s Jazz and Blues was excellent. It was a small venue and there weren’t more than 200 people. Mr. Marsden is a blues and classic rock guitarist who (way back when) played in Whitesnake and co-wrote a lot of their hits. He chats about his music between songs and is a really personable guy. Just about all the venues in London have early curfews because of potential noise complaints, so we got back to the hotel at a reasonable hour to pack for our departure the next morning.

That sums up my 9th trip to East Sussex and London! More next time.

12 comments

  1. Sounds – and looks – like you had a wonderful time and crammed lots in! I work in the Ashdown Forest 🙂

  2. Fiona

    It is such a pleasure to read your travel posts, Dar! I would like to do all of your ‘days’ – we didn’t get to Camden, or Stratford-Upon-Avon..I loved your museum blitz, Beatles history, restaurants – the lot. It must be amazing to visit London with such in-depth knowledge of the music scene. The O2 concert must have been amazing – looks like an incredible venue from the photos!

    • Thanks! There is one big music event we missed when we were in London, which I will talk about in an upcoming post. It is possible to sign up for a “Rock Walk” guided tour, but so far we have done well on our own. The stage setup for the Muse show (in the round, with two runways and 12 flying orbs) was really spectacular!

  3. I have a friend, a retired physician, that follows Muse around the world. She and other Musers all over the world get together regularly or are in communication, and she met her (now) husband at a Muse concert in London! She has also been able to meet members of the band on several occasions, and has some fantastic souvenirs from their meetings.

    Love all the pictures – England is on our bucket list!

    • Hi Laura, I didn’t know Muse had that kind of following! London is an awesome city for live shows of any kind. We plan our trips around them. Since I got back from the trip, I have been listening to Muse’s last 3 albums on heavy rotation.

  4. What a place London is!!! So much to see and experience. And so many different Londons. You make me want to go back and experience some of your London.

    I love the wall of music stuff behind Rom. Glorious.

    • Well, not to disillusion you, but the wall was a “prop wall” for photo purposes, like the ones they have at Hard Rock Cafes. They did a good job on it, though! I adore London. So much to see and do. A real culture hub. I love that it’s so multicultural and that so many cultural touchpoints from all over the world have been incorporated in British life. I noted that in New York and Paris too, but I expected it there – I guess I was especially happy to see that BNP-type attitudes are not winning, and joyous modern life is moving forward.

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