a day of art and markets
After my introduction to London Landmarks, Inc., it was time for a little something with more local flavor. I would like to insert here that the Oyster card system is much more confusing for guests than the MetroCard of NYC. Let me explain: the MetroCard offers the lovely option of buying a week's worth of unlimited travel, regardless of where in the city you travel, including on buses. All bus trips and subway trips cost the same (except for express buses which cost a little more). So, even if you decided on a pay-as-you-go card, the fare deductions are fairly simple. Fares in London aren't nearly so simple. Like a toll road, fares vary based on what zones you travel through: more zones mean higher fare. Now, a Day Travelcard is offered. But trying to figure out whether it's cheaper to pay for a Travelcard or just load money on an Oyster card gets complicated since it all depends on where you might be going and how many trips you might be taking. Granted, there is also a daily fare cap that kicks in on the Oyster card to try and prevent users from spending more than they would with a Travelcard. But again, the fare cap varies based on the zones you travel through as you make your many Underground trips. So...complicated. In the end, for the sake of simplicity and on the rather vague recommendation of a Transit worker, I went with a regular old Oyster card. I will say the top-up system is very smooth and pleasant to use. Following the purchase of a card and addition of monies to said card, we headed northeast to Camden Town.
Camden Town is quite an interesting place, really. Firstly, it is home to Camden Market, a collection of several markets that carry a variety of products: food (incidentally, the only Mexican food I saw in London was here. haha), vintage clothing and accessories, t-shirts of every type, artisan products, and your average flea market-style items. Also, it's really, really big. What's quite intriguing is how each market within the whole has a different ambience, exhibits a different aesthetic, carries a different style. I quite enjoyed the meander through the markets. I also found a t-shirt for my brother than I'd been scouring shops for. When I say they have just about every t-shirt you'll ever want (and some you'll cringe at the tackiness of), I mean it. Unfortunately for all of you, I didn't take any pictures there. So sad. Secondly, Camden is home to an interesting variety of resident. It is possibly the most various group of people I've seen: artists, hippies, goths, punk--you name it. It's definitely the artistic side of town. For dinner, we went to frankly the best burger joint I've ever been to. Actually, calling Haché a burger joint is a bit of a disservice, but "hamburger restaurant" sounds rather silly. Not only were the burgers amazingly good, the atmosphere was just beautiful--like having just the right sea-side cottage for your weekend of novel writing. It was delightful. (they also had wifi which I took some advantage of :-P) After dinner, there was a bit of walking about and enjoying Camden, followed by drinks at a very mod bar, Then it was back to the riverfront to find an art club/theatre experience called Shunt. In between was a detour through the Hays Galleria and The Horniman at Hay's, a very atmospheric pub. There was a game of Pétanque (rather like bocce, but on sand) going on while we were there. What was great were that the participants were all very well-dressed business, standing in sand in their expensive, tailored pants and even more expensive shoes to play a game of bowls. It was fabulous.
Shunt was, without a doubt, an incredibly interesting experience. Besides the mere fact that it takes place in underground vaults, the convergence of theatre arts was quite stunning. Visual art combined with film segments combined with really innovative performance art, it was definitely something worth experiencing. At least to me. haha. One area had several tables set up with cardboard, paper, scissors, hot glue guns, and various pictures of fish. Patrons gathered around the tables and used the supplies and pictures (or just the supplies) to create their own cardboard and paper sea creatures. This was fun. More fun than I expected despite my adoration of scissors and glue. :-P There were two performance art pieces that we enjoyed. The first was a noire throwback play with a couple of twists. It played like a silent film with the text running on a screen behind the action. The actors had completely reversed roles: male noir detective played by a female, femme fatale played by a male. And the entire thing was interspersed with incredibly well choreographed aerial silk routines to express the give and take of the interaction. It was really very well done. The second performance was quite different. In the second performance, a cellist played through a composition while the composer himself offered a physical interpretation of the piece. This one, to me, lacked a slight bit. While the emotional interpretation and reaction of the composer was in line with the musical tone and expression, as an audience member, I felt a lack of connection to him. I wanted to understand why he was experiencing the emotions he was attempting to communicate. I couldn't empathize as I had nothing with which to try and grasp his motivation. At the very least a title if not a concise intro--phrase or sentence--that would give me an anchor to his emotional progression. I wanted to empathize rather than just observe as his emotional interpretation was very convincing and quite well developed, but I was lacking something crucial: a context. That said, the composition was nicely developed, and the interpretive performance was thoughtful and well-executed. A small piece of context would have made it stellar. At any rate, the entire Shunt experience was completely worthwhile. Even when it turned out that our return would be convoluted and slightly harried as it was just late enough. Actually, it was a late return due to a walk back up and across the Thames before catching a train rather than catching the one nearest to Shunt. This was fine as the walk was lovely, but it did make for a complex way back. Here's what happens: in London, there are a high number of lines and trains; because of this, lesser used/necessary lines close for certain periods of the night in order to save money, etc. This is a bit different from NYC where there are fewer lines, but they run throughout the night. It was an interesting experience. We ended up missing the last switch, having to decipher bus maps in the semi-dark, walking a decent bit to the proper bus stop, and standing in the unreasonable cold until it arrived. It was certainly a transit adventure. Then, to top it off, I couldn't find the hotel room key in my bag. Yipee! The night clerk made a new one, though. Of course, as soon as I got into the room and dumped my bag, there it was. Classic. Arsty District: explored; Interesting Markets: shopped; British Beef: consumed; Fantastic Art Evening: experienced--Day Two: Complete.
These are photos of both Day 2 and 3, so you'll get to see them again when I do the next entry. :-P