March 28, 2010
Mixtape: Here is London, giddy London...
Outside HMV, The Last Record Store. Pity it looks like a fucking Twilight store!
I am home. My trip to London was really quite epic. But it wasn't even the places we went, the things we saw, etc, that made it so. It was the people, some of whom I had been conversing with on the web for five years.
There is, of course, a view that the Internet is a faux world, that it cannot or will not translate into reality. And in some cases that may be true and wise. But my experience was buoyed by friends more than willing to give me their time. I got a chance to really talk to them about living in London, about music, about life in general. So my traveling companion (Joanna, who was - as always - puhfect) and I sincerely thank them for their graciousness, advice and good fun.
I did not say much about it beforehand, in case it went tear-shaped, but we had a bit of a "do" one night and it was great fun. These were primarily people I had really communicated with for years online, usually via "proper" email (otherwise I would have wanted to invite like 50 people). I admired everyone for showing up when they didn't really know anyone else. Perhaps these good folks will carry on these connections in some fashion? I also thought a lot that night about my American friends who I knew would have loved being there.
A bunch of fucking amazing people in a beautiful city, from start to finish. End of.
Some other details.
"Living" in London. I hit gold when I booked base2stay. Absolutely fantastic, and in a good location, just down from Earl's Court Road (and the tube). This place is completely modern, with excellent beds (which matters on an 11-night trip) and very cool bathrooms. If you travel with a friend, as I did, pick the twin bed room L6. It's the best in the hotel because we had our own sweet patio/garden. Amazing. If you know someone who books it, they should look for Tony and Ashley, who work there. The whole staff was lovely though.
Food in London. Much better this time than ever before. Among the places I went: Balans (3 times!) The best is in Earl's Court, but we also went to the big one in Soho - so gay - where I ran into Sam Taylor. Salmon cakes and omelets v v good. Canteen at Royal Festival Hall for fish and chips. Same with Geale's in Notting Hill, tucked behind the Gate cinema. Strada was easy and good for pizza. Bam-bou (nr Tottenham) was quite elegant Thai food, on four floors. Beautiful space with a bar at the very top. I had a lychee drink, I think? Carluccio's in Market Place (off Oxford Circus) was the scene of my first meeting with Phil and the aforementioned gathering I concocted Saturday night. And I DID get my "takeaway" Cornish pasty, which I ate on the aforementioned hotel room patio.
Tea etc. We went for a breakfast at Daylesford Organic in Notting Hill (at the posh end of Westbourne Grove). For lunchy/nibbly bits, we liked EAT (a good chain) and apostrophe (thanks Jams!). The old English lady in me loves tea at The Orangery in Hyde Park (Kensington Palace), but we also had good tea at a pretty room in the National Gallery. It's all about cassis jam (which is blackcurrant).
Record shopping in London. What were once multiple-hour orgies in the late Virgin Megastore are now but an afterthought. still the HMV on Oxford Circus is good, with a small singles section (!) and good amount of vinyl to fawn over. I really wanted the vinyl LP for Goldfrapp's Head First, but worried it'd get assed up on the plane. Also went to Fopp in Soho and briefly to Music And Video Exchange in Notting Hill. I bought some old music mags (80s issues of Record Mirror and Blitz) at the Vintage Magazine Shop on Brewer in Soho. Love that place - a new must-visit.
Shopping in London. If you go London, a great place to get little gifts is at the London Transport Museum shop - the UK has the best graphic design of anyplace in the world. Such care and artistry goes into it - I bought this and this for myself. I also loved going into places we don't have here, like Uniqlo, Topshop, Muji, but my favorite store was, by far, Liberty. Amazing goods, but the Tudor building is extraordinary. There ARE affordable things in Liberty, though all I bought were some fabulous pairs of Falke (err, not Fred Falke) socks. And did you know there is a Laduree in Harrods? Mmmm hmmmm... More on my jaunt to Paris soon.
I'll post again on the music of the trip. Thank you Dan H and Paul for the mixtapes! Amazeballs, as one says. xo