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Archive for October 13th, 2006

South Bank map

This entire week, I’ve been thinking of the British phrase: “roll on, Friday.” I’m pretty sure it’s the equivalent of “come on, Friday, dammit.”

After leaving work today, I took the tube to London Bridge and joined the crowds walking along the South Bank. Globe TheatreI relaxed as I walked past the tourists clustered around Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and on towards the even bigger crowds of tourists at the Tate Modern Museum, where I met Jon by the Millennium Bridge.

The Tate Modern used to be a power station, and regardless of which entrance you use to walk in, you’ll hit an enormous central space called the Turbine Hall (where I guess there used to be turbines!).

Slides at the Tate Modern, LondonStarting this week, in the Turbine Hall, you can see and experience an installation of giant slides by Carsten Holler. I mean, there are actually huge curly slides that people can speed down (see photo at left).

The longest slide is five stories tall, and because the slides are made of transparent plastic, you get to watch all these people winding through and shooting out at the bottom floor. It’s entertaining. I’m not sure what the “message” is (and I assume all art has a message to convey), but the idea is appealing. The BBC article I just linked in this paragraph mentions that the artist created one of these slides for Miuccia Prada (so she could slide down from her office to the car park?), which just made me laugh. I wonder if Miuccia Prada in her sleek black Prada outfits really goes popping down a slide to get to her car!

Preparing to go down the slide is a time-consuming process that involves putting on elbow pads and slipping into a cloth sack-type thing to reduce friction. Because of these lengthy, risk-reducing preliminaries, the museum distributes free tickets for a specific time to go down a specific slide, rather than creating endless lines of cranky people, I guess.

Jon and I tried to get tickets to go down one of the five slides in the Turbine Hall, but the only tickets left when we were there at 6 p.m. were for a 9 p.m. slot to go on the dinky 3-story slide. We passed, but we’ll have to try going back when it’s not as hot a ticket in town.

Members Lounge at Tate Modern museum, LondonWe dropped by the 6th floor “members lounge,” which isn’t fancy, but it serves good wines by the glass, snacks, and most importantly, has a pretty outdoor terrace overlooking the Thames and giving you views of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge.

After unwinding at the Tate Modern, we walked west along the South Bank because the weather was so mild and the Thames bank is beautiful when lit up at night. I felt so glad to live here. We crossed to the north bank of the Thames by walking across the ultra-snazzy, sleek Hungerford footbridge and then tubed over to Notting Hill Gate to feed the need for Thai food.

The Churchill Arms Pub is a five-minute walk from Notting Hill tube station, on Kensington Church Street. When you first walk in, it looks like yet another run-down, run-of-the-mill pub. You smell beer everywhere, and you see faded red carpeting and dark, heavy wood furniture and paneling. But what’s great about the Churchill Arms is that in the back, there’s a really delicious and cheap Thai restaurant. Walking into the Thai restaurant part of the pub feels like walking into an enchanted garden. There’s a riot of flowering plants hanging from the ceiling, a stone tiled floor, and the sound of water running from an indoor fountain. The restaurant is always crowded, but the wait is short, probably because the menu offers only twenty standard Thai dishes (and no appetizers). I got a prawn pad thai for £6. That’s about 2/3 the price of my lunch every day at Canary Wharf.

You might think the Thai-restaurant-in-a-pub concept is really unusual, but surprise, surprise, there are a lot of “Thai pubs” in London. I’m not sure how this phenomenon came about. Probably a Thai family took over a pub and when that place took off, other Thai families followed the pattern? Anyway, of the Thai pubs we’ve been to, the Churchill Arms is my favorite for the charm of its dining area, the freshness of the dishes, and the extremely low cost. My one complaint is that when the restaurant serves you something “spicy,” it never actually is.

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