There were one or two things about London that Justin and I spotted after spending a few days there. The first and foremost was its quick pace, especially in comparison to that of Montreal or Vancouver. As we made our way through its narrow streets and crowded subway stops, we could not help feeling rushed by those around us. The two of us also noticed how lucky we were to enjoy the cleaner air in Canada. And how did we measure this? By the most primitive way, of course: the degree to which dust particles in the air had blackened our snot.
(Gross, I know, but it’s true! And yes, it is kind of lame that snot and boogers are what Justin and I talk about.)
Victoria and Albert Museum and St. James’s Park were the two highlights of our fourth day in town. I had been yearning for a trip to the V&A, which I had not had the chance to see during my previous stay in London. Situated in the South Kensington neighbourhood, the museum is known for its collections of textiles, furniture, and jewellery. There, we browsed through two special exhibitions: “Blood on Paper” and “China Design Now.” In retrospect, I wonder why we did not go see its other exhibition on structural engineering, considering Justin’s training and interest in architecture.
Aside from its amusing exhibits, the V&A also has a charming courtyard known as the “John Madejski Garden.” We sat in the sun watching kids waddle in the garden’s oval reflective pool. I wished the city I lived in had an art and fashion museum with a fun public space like this one: I would definitely spend every other summer weekend just lying on the grass and grazing on tidbits of breads and spreads after seeing an exhibition or two. And if I was very lucky, I would get tickets to their annual Village Fete. Ugh, I am so jealous of Londoners!
Also worth mentioning was the museum’s gift shop, which sold a wide selection of design and fashion items. You can even buy “nothing” for that special someone who has everything. The inscription on the packaging reads:
You have received the gift of nothing. Absolutely nothing. This is the ultimate in minimalism. Less is more, more or less. Nothing is precious. Nothing is simple. Nothing is sacred. Open the pack and be enthralled when nothing happens. Allow nothing to flow through your mind and calm your soul. Savour the moment. Soon you’ll discover that nothing really is so much better than something.
Unfortunately, nothing isn’t free.
Leaving V&A, We rode the tube to St. James’s Park and had a light lunch at Inn the Park (insert awkward chuckle). We shared an order of Brixton crab and apple on toast and of whole roasted gurnard with lemon parsley butter. It had been a while since I had a whole fish, bones intact, served on a plate. I am a very lazy person and always just go straight for the skinned and boned salmon filets in the freezer aisle to satisfy my fish craving. Actually, a whole fish intimidates me.
The service at Inn the Park was not great: our server never smiled and did not seem to care. Nevertheless, the restaurant, overlooking the pond, did offer a good view of the park. It had a more casual self-serve section, so maybe you could try that instead and avoid paying for mediocre service.
After lunch, we took a stroll in the park and amused ourselves with the squirrels there. Some of you may recall my adventures with the squirrels in Montreal (just between you and me, I get along very well with the squirrels there). Now at the other side of the Atlantic, I wanted to test whether or not my “reputation” as a squirrel-charmer still holds true.
Much to my disappointment, I failed to captivate the creatures at this park. They even rejected my offerings of “gourmet” roasted cashews from the Borough Market (alright, I guess I should not feed “wild” animals to begin with). They walked up to it, smelled it, and then walked away in disdain. Quelle horreur! Well, I suppose it isn’t that easy to bribe your way through in the English rodent society with lavish presents. Shucks.
Or maybe the squirrels at St. James’s Park were just a weird bunch. I mean, have you seen a squirrel flat on its tummy crawling through the field like soldiers in military training? Or what about one poised motionless with its back arched? It was a lot of fun to observe these little fellows bustling around the bushes and doing all these strange things. So cute.
(kelly green door with matching mailboxes)
We ended our otherwise-perfect day with a shoddy meal at a not-so-perfect Indian restaurant. I will save a more detailed discussion of this, and other places to avoid, for a later post. For now, let’s just say: better luck next time!
Names & Addresses
Inn the Park
St James’s Park
London SW1A 2BJ
Victoria and Albert Museum
London SW7 2RL