Sunday, 24 July 2011

A great British day out

Saturday. A day designed for hedonistic pursuits. A day cut free from the restraints of the morning alarm or commute to work. A day for adventure.

By gum, I think we’ve got it! After living in London for several months, we now seem to have got to grips with making the most of living in the big city. I’ll let you into the secret. You have to leave the immediate vicinity of where you live.

We’re very lucky to live within a stone’s throw of plenty of distractions with which to while away our weekends, so have to make a concerted effort to get out and about. This weekend, the excuse was made for us as I had booked us tickets to go and see Disney’s 1986 classic – Basil the Great Mouse detective at the South Bank cinema.

Arriving via Temple tube station, we were able to wander across Waterloo Bridge and take in many of London’s iconic landmarks: Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, London Eye etc. etc. This experience in itself lended a kind of majesty to our day trip, making us feel, as the Kiwis would say, we were ‘getting in amongst it’. Add to that the fact that we had accidently happened upon the Festival of Britain, a four-month celebration of British culture and creativity on the South Bank, and we were scoring double points.

Choc-full of live music performances (and rather an abundance of steel drum troupes), art installations in beach huts, a water fountain maze and roof top garden with cafe/bar, it was easy to while away a few hours after the film drinking in the carnival atmosphere.

The Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden was created by the Eden Project with help from the homeless, ex-prisoners, local schools, youth groups and neighbours. Designed by Eden’s landscape architect Jane Knight and designer Paul Stone, it’s a real British garden, with vegetable patches, herb gardens, immaculately groomed lawn and a rosebud ‘walk’. The fact that you can drink in nature, some of the best sights in London and a glass of your favourite vino whilst there makes it a clear winner in my eyes.

However, the highlight for us had to be the Real Food Market, around the side of the Royal Festival Hall. There was everything you would expect from real British food, from ‘biodynamic’ beef burgers, to cheese counters, Colchester oysters, and Cornish cider. We, of course, had to sample a little bit of everything and practically had to roll home. A great British day out if ever I had one.

The Festival of Britain at the South Bank Centre runs until 4 September 2011.

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