London Calling

Even though I’ve been to London countless times, there’s always something left to see – be it a museum, a café, or just an iconic viewing spot of the capital. Since I live on the opposite side of the country to Laurence, it’s also the most convenient place to meet up when we’re both home (though we’ve now gone from living 236 miles apart in the same country to living 625 miles apart with the English Channel between us, so a new city may well take London’s place as most convenient meeting spot). Rambling aside, back in July we decided to have a day trip to London incorporating a few of our favourite things: a love of all things designed by Arup (that would be Laurence), admiring vintage cameras and lunching at the Camera Museum, and taking in London’s skyline from Hampstead Heath.

After what seemed like an eternity on a jam-packed tube, I arrived at South Kensington just before 11. Swarms of tourists were bustling through the barriers and heading off towards London’s most well-known museums – leaving Laurence and I with no choice but to join the tourist migration and hope they weren’t all headed for the same place! By the time we arrived at the V&A the crowds had cleared, so we made a beeline for the exhibition we had prebooked tickets for: Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design.

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This was the first time I’d paid to visit an exhibition (admittedly at Laurence’s request) and even though I have very little interest in engineering, this exhibition brought it to life with scale models of Arup’s most iconic projects, sketches and doodles by Ove Arup himself and page upon page of neat, handwritten calculations. Organised chronologically, the exhibition took us through the early stages of Arup’s life as an engineer (this is largely where the quirky doodles came in) and his involvement in world-renowned projects such as the Sydney Opera House all the way through to the present day. It was also rather exciting seeing a scale model of Hong Kong’s HSBC building, knowing we’d see the real deal in just a few weeks’ time! There was even a special room which uses software to ‘preview’ the noise impact a new project (such as HS2) will have on the surrounding area.

After an hour wandering around the exhibit and reading most of the accompanying information plaques, we headed up to Hyde Park to enjoy the summer sunshine. The south-east corner of the park was filled with blooms, from poppies and lilies to wildflowers and roses.

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We then took the tube over to Holborn to visit the Camera Museum, located a stone’s throw from the British Museum. The most convenient tube stops are Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, but when London is teeming with tourists the route with no changes wins – so Holborn it was. A short walk later, we arrived at the Camera Museum (44 Museum St.)

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Hunger got the better of us, so we decided to eat first and then explore the museum downstairs afterwards. The food is reasonably priced and tasty and we had the café almost entirely to ourselves – presumably because all the tourists were five minutes’ down the road at the British Museum. In the museum, cameras of all shapes, sizes and brands were screwed to the walls and displayed in glass cabinets. I’d probably be utterly hopeless at using one of them, but I always find them fascinating to look at!

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Leaving the vintage cameras behind, we took the tube north to Hampstead. Emerging from the tube, we saw alleys and side streets snaking away from the main thoroughfare, filled with boutique retailers and quaint cafés. Hampstead, with its maze of little streets and traditional terraces, felt a world away from the hectic centre of the nation’s capital. In reality, it’s merely four miles away from Charing Cross.

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Quarter of an hour later, we were standing knee-deep in grass atop Parliament Hill, taking in London’s skyline. All too soon, hayfever got the better of us, so we did what we knew best and scouted out a suitable gelato spot on Hampstead High Street. Enter, Venchi and a mango and 75% dark chocolate gelato combo to share.

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We ended the day with a wander round Regents Park, conveniently located close to tube connections for both of us to escape the capital at the end of the day.

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Tips:

  • Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Design is at the V&A until Sunday 6th November 2016. Information regarding ticket prices and viewing slots can be found here. Those in possession of a valid student card can save £2 on the entry price.
  • The Camera Museum, as its name suggests, houses a museum devoted to cameras. Resist the urge to eat first and drool at cameras after, as when we visited there were discount vouchers in the museum offering 15% off café purchases – here it (quite literally) pays to visit the museum first, and eat after. Entry is free.
  • If you don’t already use it, consider downloading the app ‘Tube Map’. It does what it says on the tin, and will help you avoid the ultimate tourist faux pas of taking the tube between Leicester Square and Covent Garden.
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8 thoughts on “London Calling

  1. Talking of tourist faux pas…I trust that you took the stairs when you arrived at Hampstead tube station?

    All 320-odd steps, I mean! I think that my heart was about to give out the last time I climbed them…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We didn’t actually, due to the fact it was roped off with a sign saying not to – perhaps to dissuade the tourists! That’s a heck of a lot of steps just to get out of a tube station though…

      Liked by 1 person

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