Four Days in London

Kimberly Taylor shares her experiencing touring London.

On a recent trip to England we stayed in Richmond-upon-Thames, one of the most attractive of the outer London boroughs. We walked along the river, up to the Petersham Hotel, which stands high on Richmond Hill overlooking the Thames. The hotel’s Victorian Gothic exterior is well lit at night and we imagined Mick Jagger, who lives in the neighborhood, seeing this every time he comes home.

In the center of Richmond we walked the high street and window-shopped at the many small stores. We stumbled upon Habitat (www.habitat.net) which grew into a worldwide home furnishings giant after Sir Terence Conran founded it in 1964 (See “Bridging the Market”, May 2000).

At Habitat we experienced a deja vu moment as we spied some sleek designs by Harry Allen who designed the Metropolis offices some years back.

We then hopped on the tube. Our first stop in London was the Tate Modern, which is entered through the former Turbine Hall where Anish Kapoor’s enormous sculpture, Marsyas, can be walked under, around, over, and practically inside of. This seemingly unending walk made us feel minute.

After a whole room of Rothkos, we paid a few more pounds to see the exhibit on Eva Hesse. Here we also found out more about the artist in books and an interactive CD-ROM. Her use of materials—fiberglass, rubber tubing on a metal grid, net bags filled with plastic, rope dipped in latex, and cord wrapped objects—responds to more than a few art historical schools, including Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism, Conceptual art, Pop art and most importantly, Minimalism. As we walked away from the Tate Modern we felt that modern art got the space it deserved—spectacular.

We crossed the Millennium Footbridge, a 325-meter, steel structure that links the Tate Modern to the rest of London at St. Paul’s Cathedral. From the bridge we caught a glimpse of the new sustainable London landmark, the Swiss Re Building, still under construction (see “Sustainable Skyscraper”, August/September 2002).

Then we hopped on another train to the Natural History Museum, an enormous cathedral to science. Then on to the science museum where we revisited a bit of our childhood, with overwhelming urges to touch everything! And we caught “Metamorphing”, an exhibition that shows how science and art meet. As we left the show we wondered what certainties in scientific thought today will be overturned at some future time.

It was 6 p.m. and we found that the trains were so packed with crowds from the anti-war march that they shut down the Piccadilly line. So we decided to walk; and what a walk we had!

We went past Harrods (which was closed) and passed the glam of Burberry and Armani, then around Hyde Park and up to Piccadilly Circus where we met the anti-war rallies—mothers, fathers, children, as well as your usual punks and hippies, carrying protest signs. We remembered the many marchers we saw earlier as we left Richmond. Police were everywhere, but the crowds were well organized and friendly. (see BBC News)

It took some time to get seated for dinner at the “Asian fusion” Asia De Cuba, so we waited at the bar and took in the scene. Here in this high-energy room, the design and the food helped us relax after a long and full day. We then got the last tube back to Richmond at 1 a.m.

The rest of our trip was spent shopping. We found MUJI, for whom everything—housewares, clothing, stationery, organizers, and even cardboard sound speakers—is about packaging and use of new and reusable materials, with style, flexibility, and practicality as the guiding standard.

While in Richmond we took in a pub and had a traditional English roast, before heading back to London. It was Sunday and we decided to go to Covent Garden where we stumbled on LUSH, a store filled with handmade skincare products and soaps we love. As we headed into London’s Soho, we fell right into Magma Books, a bookstore very hip to design.

On Monday, we were driven around the city and taken to Harrod’s to shop some more. Lunch was at Nobu and was as fabulous as they say, then we were off to the town of Weybridge for our last evening in England to stay in the luxurious home that once belonged to John and Cynthia Lennon.

Our trip was coming to close with threats of canceled flights back to New York because of the blizzard of February 17, but we lucked out at Heathrow, where we gave up our early morning flight for the one at noon. For this “inconvenience” we received free round-trip flight vouchers and got upgraded to First Class! We’re now looking forward to going back to a place that gave us so much in four short days.

Categories: Cities

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