What's New in Swinging London
Back to London we headed, as it’s one of our favourite places. I loved all the incredible museums, and my husband loved that they’re free! Grandma loved that there are Pret a Manger restaurants everywhere for tasty takeout sandwiches. Simon loved the planes in the Imperial War Museum.
There have been some good new upper elementary novels published since last we visited. The London Eye Mystery by is about a brother and sister who are trying to figure out how their cousin disappears on the London Eye observation wheel. The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale is about a cat who befriends a mouse at the historic pub.
The big news in London this summer is the Queen’s 60 years in power (we bought a corgi stuffy in her honour) and the summer Olympics. But for us, the best new development was the opening of the Harry Potter studios for touring. (See the previous Early Boarding post for some photos). I also enjoyed a London Walks Harry Potter tour- they have a huge selection of walks to choose from. The nice thing is that you don’t have to book in advance, but just show up at the one you’re interested in. London Walks hires actors as tour guides, so they’re entertaining speakers.
Since eating is our number one shared interest, let’s start with the food. Our favourite restaurant experience was Dans Le Noir, in which you eat dinner in complete pitch black. This is designed so that you concentrate on your other senses, and to provide employment for the blind waiters. First you pick one of four set menus: vegetarian, meat lovers, seafood or chef’s surprise. You are led into a dark restaurant by putting your hand on your waiter’s shoulder. Then you are given a three course meal, but not told what you are eating. The darkness concentrates your attention to the taste and sound, and also makes the group really bond as you feel around for the water glasses. Simon was a bit shocked that the chicken he was enjoying turned out to be a pigeon!
Our other favourite meal was an expensive but enchanting Alice in Wonderland tea at the Sanderson Hotel in Marylebone. A three tiered tea tray delivered a small “drink me” bottle with 3 layers of flavours, a red “eat me” heart shaped cake, a hot/cold lollipop, an ice cream lollipop, scones, and colourful sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
Now that we’re full, we can continue to the non edible highlights. The Wallace Collection is a former house with a large collection of armor, including tiny pistols. It was just the right size for a visit, and not as overwhelming as the incredible amount of objects in the British Museum. The Museum of London was also remarkable, a chronological collection of artifacts pleasingly displayed.
There are newspaper articles about all the foxes in London. They’re considered a nuisance, but for Simon spotting a wild red fox in Regent’s Park was cool. I also rode a horse from a cobbled mews into Hyde Park with the Hyde Park Stables. The horses were quite bombproof, not even flinching when skateboarders zip by.
A short boat ride between the Tate Britain and Tate Modern galleries gives you a good view of the incredible buildings both old and new along the Thames. It’s free to drop in and see Damian Hirst’s jeweled skull at the Tate Modern.
Artist Dennis Severs bought a house in the East End and furnished it with historical objects. He also furnished it with a story, told by the objects, and decorated as if the inhabitants just let. An apple sits with a bite out of it. Toys are left on the floor where children have abandoned them. You are to walk in quiet, piecing together your impressions. This was a bit expensive, and perplexing to Simon, but we were deeply moved by the imaginative exercise.
For an adult evening out, my husband and I dressed up in our 20s outfits to dance at the Candlelight Club. This is a moveable pop up club whose secret location is emailed to you just before the event. You find the address by looking for a door with a candle in it (plus following the stream of women in flapper dresses!) There were vintage martinis and a band playing music from the 1920s. No electricity as it’s all lit by candles. Although we were among the oldest people there, it was all very fun, and we snapped some photos of my husband with a Catherine Middleton lookalike hired for the party. What a strange job she has.
My coworker asked where I learned about these interesting things to do. Why, in a book at the library in fact! It’s Time Out London, and there’s even an ebook version to take with you on your tablet.