Sunday, 5 June 2011
Things To Do In London When You're Skint
We wanted to go to the National Gallery as we'd not been for years and, of course, it is free. Other than that, we didn't really know. We had 7 hours in London and £20 between us.
We arrived around 10am and strolled along Buckingham Palace Road til we reached the place itself. What greeted us was rather intriguing - the roads were closed, crowds were forming and there were hundreds of armed policemen lining the barriers. James approached one of them to ask what was happening and was told that it was the second rehearsal for the Queen's upcoming birthday celebrations. Right.
What followed was a couple of hours of bands and marching and horses; endless pomp and ceremony. It was quite nice and interesting - certainly not something you see every day, and with far fewer crowds than the real deal, so we could actually see what was going on. It was mildly annoying to have the mall cut off for so long, particularly as we wanted to get to Trafalgar Square; we had also planned to picnic in St. James' Park, but the parts that weren't cut off were already packed. When we were finally allowed to cross the road and head up to the Gallery, we (and about 200 other people) were stopped by police so that one guard could continue marching. Now that really did bug me.
Trafalgar Square was busy but not over-crowded. It is always an interesting place to be, ever-changing like the city itself. There was a new addition to the 4th plinth (well, one we'd not seen before anyhow) in the form of a giant ship in a bottle, which was aesthetically pleasing and quite clever. There was also a protest going on in one corner, a clock counting down to the 2012 Olympics, three human "statues" and an interesting piece of live artwork made from countless plants, flowers and shrubs.
Next, we toured the National Gallery. Previously, I had been once and not progressed further than the first three rooms due to a cough that made me very self-conscious in a place where everyone else was being exceptionally quiet. This time, there were far more people, a lot more noise and I had no cough, so we set about exploring the place. We managed a few rooms before succumbing to the call of the espresso bar. In the same room as the cafe, were several terminals through which you can design and print a customised tour of the gallery, adding specific paintings that you want to see. We finished our coffee and headed back towards the paintings with 16 must-sees on our list. We weren't disappointed and actually saw many more brilliant works of art. The National Gallery is definitely worth visiting, and woule be even if it wasn't free.
Later in the day, we explored the streets of London, penniless and happy in the baking heat and crazy crowds. We marvelled at the intricate displays in the windows of Libertys, wandered up Carnaby Street, got lost in Hamleys and couldn't afford anything in Selfridges. We actually found so many interesting things to see that we were late for our train and had to get a slightly later one.
So if you don't mind a long walk, there are plenty of things to see and do in London when you're skint.