Saturday, June 24, 2017

London Life

After my return from Bristol, I spent the weekend conducting new student orientation for a girl who would be studying shoe design at London College of Fashion. I was really excited that I was assigned that orientation since I quite enjoy fashion. I did our normal routine of airport pick-up, health/safety/cultural/academic orientation, but since there was only one student, I had time on my hands, and it was her first time in London (and abroad, I think!), I wanted to show her some places I thought she would enjoy. On Saturday I took her to Camden so we could explore the shops and market. I wanted to take her to Irregular Choice, which is a really interesting women's shoe store but after talking to her I found out she is more interesting in street/athletic shoes, so we went into a bunch of shops that catered more to that. She said she wanted to cry from all the options and styles, so I take that as a good sign.

We grabbed lunch at Kerb food market at Camden and enjoyed some time people watching at Regent's Canal.

On Sunday our scheduled activity was the British Museum, then I took her around Oxford Street to see all the shops she had talked of wanting to visit and we checked out the M&M store at Leicester Square since we had seen people with shopping bags the day before and she really wanted to check it out. For dinner, she wanted to go back to Kerb at Camden Market, so we tried the place with the largest line at the time, Arepazo Bros, figuring it must be good. My arepa had black beans, avocado, plantains, cheese, and pico de gallo. Pretty tasty!

On Monday I showed her how to get to her campus for orientation, then went to a few stores while I waited for my colleague to get to the office to open it up so we could meet about a few things. I popped into Fortnum & Mason, a very luxurious shop founded in 1707. William Fortnum was a footman for Queen Anne and had a side hustle of selling her half used candle wax, going into business with a man named Hugh Mason. The store has a long and interesting history, including being where the Scotch egg was invented. It also holds a royal warrant as grocer to the Queen. It is very fancy, indeed, with interesting and beautiful window displays. Unfortunately with the glare, the photos do not do them justice.

Things are fairly pricey, but I decided on getting a cupcake from the counter as it was only £3.90. Then! I noticed a couple of boxes on the bakery counter with discounted labels. A box of 4 day old cupcakes discounted to £5.50? Sold! And they put it in a massive bag so that the box could lay flat so as not to mess up the frosting, so then I was walking around London looking like a big spender. Haha! 

While not the best cupcakes I've ever had, they were tasty and I think my colleague enjoyed the surprise of getting one after some long days of work. 

In the evening I had dinner at Saucy Chip, located in basement bar Jerusalem Bar and Kitchen. I had read that these were supposed to be the best chips (with fans such as Noel Gallagher, Prince Harry, and Cara Delevinge) and that they had a large selection of sauces to eat them with. 

Look who was on their sauce cart! A little bit of ATX in London
Of course I had to help myself to dessert

 On Tuesday I started my day at Newport Street Gallery, which displays art from the collection of Damien Hirst. Before checking out the galleries, I had lunch at Hirst's restaurant, Pharmacy2. Everything in the restaurant was on theme, from the pill wall paper, to the beaker candle holders, the embroidered seats, to the bar itself.

Is it trying to say that food can be medicine? I did eat pretty healthy and tasty things.
That we self-medicate with alcohol? It was 11:30am, so I didn't have any of that.

After eating, I walked around the gallery itself which currently has an exhibit on the art of Ashley Bickerton. Bickerton was born in Barbados and has mostly lived an island life - Caribbean, Hawaii, and currently Bali, but he also spent time in NYC. A lot of his work is "tropical surrealism" and he incorporates a lot of detritus found on the beaches into his work. 

Me, after all the food I've been eating over here
After the Newport Street Gallery, I met up with Cat at the nearby underground station and we headed over to the Saatchi Gallery which currently has an exhibit on selfies - From Selfie to Self-Expression. The artwork ranges from self-portraits by famous artists throughout history, to viral online selfies, to interactive exhibits that encourage you to take your own selfies. It was right up our alley.

Wall of selfies   photo courtesy of Cat
photo courtesy of Cat
 This was a panel with fuzzy pieces and a camera on top that would view you and rotate the fuzzies to their black side to reflect you.
A photo of someone taking a selfie of a photo of someone taking a selfie. Meta.  photo courtesy of Cat

Next we took a bus over to the Ampersand Hotel because we had reservations for their science themed afternoon tea. 
This guy sat above our table and kept us company

 Photos above courtesy of Cat

The tea included the typical sandwiches and scones, but the real treat was the desserts - lychee, raspberry & rose beaker, mint & chocolate planet mousse with chocolate spaceman and rocket ship, sesame macaroon, Lemon crescent moon fondant fancy, mini dino biscuit & milk chocolate fossil hidden within chocolate "soil", and toppings in test tubes, presented with fog from dry ice.

From there we headed to Soho and walked to a bar called Cahoots, which is 1940s/London Underground themed, and were met by Cat's partner and his work colleague. At Cahoots all of the staff wear period clothing and you can tell a lot of thought was put into the decor. One section of the bar is made to look like a vintage Tube carriage. In the bathroom, they play a recording that teaches you cockney rhyming slang.

The menu was made to look like a newspaper

One of several syphilis warning signs in the ladies' room
From there we went to a hidden bar/restaurant called La Bodega Negra, whose front made you expect it to be something completely different. 
When you enter, there is a woman at a counter with vintage Playboy magazines behind her and once she confirms there is space below, you head downstairs. Inside there is nothing really risque, apart from these luchadors

The restaurant serves good Mexican food (excellent guacamole!) and good tequila drinks. 
You never know what kind of unexpected places you'll find in London!

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