This Christmas I thought I would combine my passion for interiors with a bit of exploration. Faced with the long holidays, I decided to divide London Into postcodes and research the more unusual things to do in each area, many of them with an interiors or architectural link, then explore them with my 12 year old son Iggy.
First off, London SE1 – the day started early, 5am to be precise, with a trip to Bermondsey antiques market. I’ve always wanted to go there, and whilst it was the last Friday before Christmas and a bit quiet, we still saw exactly why it was that this dealers market is famed throughout the industry and one of the longest running in london. Situated in Bermondsey Square, it starts at about 6am and the real dealing is done before it gets light. Whilst it is clearly smaller than it used to be, the spirit of the stall holders shines through, and I have to say they were the friendliest bunch I have met in a long time and there were some real characters, one who drove his stock to market in a hearse. Iggy and I browsed at our leisure – silver, glass, bric a brac and some great vintage clothes. When it got a little too cold we dived into the adjacent and very accommodating hotel and played a brilliant game of air hockey. My star buys from the market were a deco style glass jug from the 50s in my favourite amber glass, and a most unusual pair of 30s umbrella handles in the shape of dodos (all I have to do is attach the umbrellas!). Total spend £32 including two fabulous sausage sandwiches and coffee. Star rating **** Air Hockey *****
Next stop was the Shard – whilst I quite like the architecture of this futuristic building, and think that the ‘unfinished’ top works, Iggy wasn’t so convinced by the design, But he did love the trip to the view at the top, and the panoramic views of London, including the now pin prick that was Bermondsey market in the distance.cost £35 for me, free for Iggy. Star rating *** (it’s all about the view and not much else).
On our way to the Shard we passed the Old Operating Theatre, which is the oldest surviving example of an original operating theatre complete with viewing gallery, from the days when people liked to observe operations as they were happening – gruesome but a brilliant bit of social history. Star rating ****
Moving swiftly along we walked through Borough Market, snacking as we went, and through to Southwark Cathedral. This architectural gem has one of the most beautiful vaulted ceilings I have ever seen, and it was a peaceful half hour sitting contemplating the lofty splendor of this underrated place of worship. Free to enter. £1 to take photos. Star rating ****
We then followed our noses along the embankment for a while and picked up a cab to our next venue – the Elephant and Castle shopping center. Why you ask? Because it also houses a huge retro bowling arcade and bingo hall, and I fancied capturing the psychedelic decor for interior posterity. A couple of hours later, and after what was easily the best afternoon’s bowling ever, aided and abetted by the setting sun wall murals and flock carpets, we emerged back into the light. £10 for two games. Star rating ****
At this point we needed to eat and what better place than the oldest pie and mash shop in London – Manze’s. Based on Tower Bridge Road, and decorated in the original green and white tiling, it serves pie, mash and liquor for £4 – best home cooked lunch in town. Star rating ****£4 for lunch.
Next stop – the Tate Modern. A temple to modern art, the Tate never ceases to make an impact with its monolithic and brooding architecture, never mind the often challenging but always thought provoking exhibits inside. On the outside it reminds me of a factory. Inside, the soaring ceilings provide the perfect backdrop to the soaring works of art. I think there could be more to attract kids to the subject and a more original and better priced shop, but still a great place. Free to enter. Star rating ****
Last stop of the evening, the Globe Theatre for a performance of All the Angels. The Sam Wanamaker theatre is a study in theatrical intimacy. Built in the Jacobean Style and entirely lit with candlelight, it is completely magical to behold. A perfect end to a long day full of wonderful surprises. Various ticket prices. Star rating *****
A brilliant day.