Monday, 16 May 2011

Sauntering the South Bank

Having a full three weeks in London is a real treat.  In the past I have spent two or three days here and that has meant racing around to fit as many sights as possible into a day.  So this morning I have decided to take a long leisurely stroll along the South Bank.  It is a glorious sunny day, around 25 degrees.  I arrive at Waterloo Station and head straight towards the London Eye.  I've already riden it and enjoyed its stunning views of London so  it is a good feeling to walk past the hordes of children queuing up for a ride.The area around London Eye seems to be busker central...there are so many, some brilliant, some expecting coins for merely being in costume.  I loved the two young men from the carribean who did the limbo, twirled tin bowls and did acrobatics, all to a calypso beat.  They certainly earned their money and put a smile on everyones face. A bit further along a "seaside" has been set up in honour of the coming summer.  Far  from the real thing it is nevertheless a valiant attempt.  There are colourful beach huts, some set up as art installations, some as museums to english seaside life and some as craft shops, a long narrow sand pit filled with the finest golden sand, and a stretch of artificial grass laid out with deck chairs.  Two old ladies, complete with high heels and hand bags are reclining blissfully in the chairs as I pass, their faces turned resolutely towards the sun. The South Bank book seller stalls are doing their usual roaring trade with tourist eagerly sorting through their vast stock . The recreated Shakespeare's Globe Theatre looks enticing but I am not prepared to stand at the back of a queue of thousands of screeching, shouting and desperately annoying european school groups, the plague of London in summer, so I simply admire the exterior and walk on. I round a corner and there is Sir Walter Raleigh's Golden Hind, amazing, just sitting quietly and relatively unnoticed outside a pub, patrons happily sipping their pints with their backs to it. I'm aiming for Burough Market, an artisan food market with a good reputation, and I am not disappointed.  Tucked away down old cobbled lanes (images of Dickensian London spring to mind) and under the railway the market is a wonderful hive of activity.  Stalls are piled high with cheeses, meats, breads, cakes, wines, sauces from far flung countries, jams from the cotswolds.....how do you choose?  My son had told me that  a well known food writer has said the cheese and onion toasted sandwhiches were the best he had eaten anywhere so I make it my mission to find them.  Armed with a glass of sangria I scour the market and am on the point of giving up when I spot them, hidden in a corner and with an enormous queue....word has clearly got round!  I wait my turn and am served a thick sandwhich with a mountain of cheese inside which I eat in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral.  Next it is on to the Tate Modern Art Gallery.  The museum is set in the cavernous interior of what was once a power station and is crammed with riches.  I loved the gigantic Monet Waterlily pond, and was particularly taken with a vast Jackson Pollock and the Picasso room but there is so much to enjoy.  Two hours go by in no time. I stroll back to the train, drinking in all the sights along the river, St Pauls, The houses of parliament, Westminster Abbey etc.  It has been a perfect day, crammed with things to do and see.