London: A City of Contrasts
Updated: Feb 25
Every so often Matt and I decide to go and explore somewhere in the UK. We’ve had a lot on our plates lately, completing the sale of our flat and (almost) finalising the purchase of a house, and so a change of scenery was much needed and appreciated. This weekend was a trip to the Big City, which, since the recent improvements to the train service, takes you from Bath to London in under 1h30mins.
We agreed to have a relatively spontaneous day, going with the flow and making our way from Paddington where we arrived in the morning, to Brixton, where we would be seeing some music in the evening, with some culture and plenty of food and drink stops in between.
The first part of our day took us to Kensington. We arrived around midday and decided to grab some food - a delicious brunch at Bills, before making our way to the Natural History Museum, which never fails to amaze me.
Following this, we took a leisurely stroll around Kensington, exploring the back streets and enjoying the beautiful houses. Oh my! Some of the houses and streets are to die for. Seeing all the beautiful terraced houses with pretty front gardens and gorgeous boundary treatments bought out my inner architecture geek for sure.
After our wandering and general flaneur-type exploring, we took ourselves to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I’ve been a few times but never get bored. There is so much to see and such a fantastic collection here that I doubt I have even seen half of it. However, my favourite part of our visit was a stop for tea in the stunning coffee shop (half term madness and half an hour cue for a cup of peppermint tea aside!). We were treated to some live piano music and a chance to bring out the sketch pads and do a little drawing.
After our rather civilised trip to Kensington and the museums we headed over to Brixton: a contrast to Kensington! I had never been to Brixton before and was curious! It immediately felt different to where we had come from: so full of life and community. Tourists were replaced by locals; streets were chaotic and noisy, but more so from random music and chatter than from cars; and cute terraced homes with perfect railings were replaced by Electric Avenue and an eclectic mix of retail outlets, eateries, markets and people.
Dinner was pizza, wine and lots of people watching! Italians making pizza is a wonderful sight, whether you’re in London or Italy!
The day culminated in some nu-jazz - electronic music at the O2 Academy. The intention was to see the Cinematic Orchestra, but we had decided to do London in a day rather than weekend and so had to head off before they came on stage. We were treated to a couple of supporting acts however and so didn’t feel we had missed out. In all honesty, I hadn’t expected the supporting acts to last for over 2 hours! And the thought of missing the last train home wasn’t appealing! Matt absolutely loved the music though - he is more the electronic fan than I am, but give me a good beat and bass any day and I’m happy. Plus, the O2 Academy is a fantastic venue and I would return for sure, if not for the amazing interior which feels like it’s outside, then for the vibe and great mix of people.
I have spent a fair bit of time in London yet it always provides. The scale of the city is incredible. You could truly never get bored. It is a fascinating and wonderful place, abuzz with endless energy and life. It is a city of contrasts; eclectic, unique and all-embracing. Spending the day in two very different environments demonstrated just how diverse a city it is and reaffirmed my love and fascination with our relationship with the urban environment. We shape the world in which we live in such a way that it reflects our personalities and lifestyle choices. Some of us choose to live our lives behind closed doors, with beautiful exteriors, yet life-less streets, whilst some of us choose to spill out into the street and share our lives more openly with those around us. Most of us are somewhere in between. The urban designer in me loves both extremes; appreciates both the positives and negatives of both affluent Kensington and buzzing Brixton. At the end of the day, a city without differences and variation would be far more dull, far less diverse, and far less of an experience to visit.
London truly is a city of contrast.