If you tuned in to London 2012, chances are you’ll have caught a glimpse of a cherry-red, spaghetti-like structure in the corner of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is a fusion of design and engineering; an icon of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
From afar, the Barbican Estate looks like a concrete jungle: a bleak mass of grey blocks, columns and towers. Cast aside your opinion of brutalist architecture for a moment, and venture inside. Greenery spills over the balconies; water features create an oasis of calm. But the best is yet to come.
I don’t travel down to London for fun all that often – mostly because after a week commuting into the city, my ideal weekend is one that doesn’t involve a train journey – but on the rare occasions that I do, I make sure to cover as much ground as possible. Yesterday, we notched up a whopping 28,000-odd steps, taking in Chinatown and Canary Wharf and several places in-between (and beyond).
I’ve fallen in love with a few places in London, but none so quickly as Global Generation’s Skip Garden in the heart of King’s Cross. Coal Drops Yard, Granary Square and Gasholders may be the epitome of industrial chic, but if it’s a taste of rural bliss you’re after, look no further than this thriving community garden.
January usually has little going for it (unless you’re a pluviophile, that is), so I was naturally rather excited when I spotted a column in Time Out heralding the return of Lumiere London. (We’ll gloss over the fact that they’ve nabbed a French word so as to have an alliterative event name and then butchered the spelling of it.) Commissioned by the Mayor of London, this city-wide event sees installations of all shapes and sizes illuminate the capital in glorious technicolour. Clusters of projections, neons and suspended sculptures bring a new dimension to the capital’s iconic buildings, streets and landmarks (and a fair number of lesser-frequented spots, too).
If you take the crowds out of the equation, London is truly magical at Christmas. It sparkles, glitters and gleams with festive cheer from Winterville to Winter Wonderland. Christmas, Yuletide, Noël, call it what you will – the festive season is my favourite time of the year, and I couldn’t resist pulling together a seasonal edition of this series. Last week, Laurence and I headed down to London for a day full of touristy goodness; we hit the streets instead of the sweaty underground trains, and clocked up a whopping 30,000 steps in the process. (More than enough to justify all the mince pies we ate later in the day.) Here’s what we got up to . . .
London is pillar-box red telephone boxes, black cabs and beefeaters. London is world-class museums, theatres and landmarks. London is, quite simply, a treasure trove for tourists. Over the years, I’ve come to know London rather well, though I’d never claim to know it like the back of my hand like the candidates on The Apprentice so often do. If I don’t have my nose in a book or a crossword, I’ll be scouring the pages of Time Out, keeping my eyes peeled for new things to do in the capital. Beyond the blinding lights of Piccadilly Circus, there’s a bounty of lesser-known gems, just waiting to be explored – and that’s where this series comes in. Just as I did for Paris, I’ll be using this series as a means of documenting some old favourites and newly-discovered gems in the Big Smoke.