Perhaps a little impromptu, my friend Silvia and I met, rather haphazardly (I got lost) outside of Oxford Circus station. We then decided to walk around without too much intention, and without a particular objective for the day, which I find are often some of the best kind of days. Soon we were being as Touristy as is possible and exploring various different districts within walking distance, hence why this blog post is called, rather generally, ‘A Whisper In Westminster’, because as big as Westminster is we visited too many places for me to call it anything else! A positive predicament to be in, if you ask me.
Once I had found my bearings after walking around Regent Street for a good 15 minutes trying to find out where I was and where I was going, we headed off to get food in Soho. Soho was one of the main places I wanted to visit on our trip, being that I’d always heard a lot about it but, being a previously timid country boy, had not myself visited. It was smaller than I imagined but packed to the brim with interesting shops and delicacies. Stomachs rumbling we found a Bills restaurant and set on lunch, which naturally with Bills, was delicious.
With our bellies full, we began to wander and I saw out the corner of my eye the bright colours of Chinatown, and could not resist myself. I’m not sure I ever had any specific preconceptions of it, unlike the other places I’ve been excited to visit, so I didn’t really know what to expect from it. The colour, more than anything, is outstanding, it drags you in and fixates you on its decoration. The patterns of the Chinese lanterns, and dragons and accessories draping down the sides of buildings, the local shops full of traditional, oriental dress, ornaments, scents etc, all just endlessly fascinating.
As the narrow alleyways of Chinatown, once again opened out, I realised just how close some of Londons biggest attractions are to each other. Again as a relative newcomer to London culture and geography, I was still so unaware of where everything was in relation to each other. Yet here we were, having walked from Oxford Circus, seen the infamous Regent Street, entered Soho, passing Carnaby Street, explored the wonders of Chinatown and then were standing beside the theatres hosting some of the most popular musicals in the world. I was looking, like a child to chocolate, at the adverts for Les Miserables and for Dreamgirls, all these monumental things that, for me at least, encapsulated everything I saw London as. We passed living statues, which still baffle me, and which I can’t help but mentally deconstruct how they could be doing it, trip wires? Foldable stools? ACTUAL MAGIC??.
These living statues welcomed us to Covent Garden Market. This hub of entertainment and, I guess, Londonness. There were live shows; one for children, and another for both children and adults. We found ourselves watching the latter, a danger show from so-called Canadian Stickman. Terrifying for someone with nerves like me, but truly impressive and though after that description it may seem odd, he was endearing and inspiring toward the children, encouraging them to be the best and to care not about socially constructed images of perfection. A refreshing mix of daring, thrillful danger and loving, care-filled advice. Once the excitement of the show had died down and we were safe in the knowledge that no-one was hurt, I was completely in awe as we walked around the rest of Covent Garden Market. The building in which stalls and shops are placed in is concrete and brick, with arches like an old train platform. You walk into the entrance feeling as if you are Harry Potter in the middle of Platform 9 3/4. It has this retro essence, and much of the stalls reflect this. Then, you come out of the other side, and lucky for us the spring had arrived and the sun was shining over blue skies onto the most wonderful view. Not a view in the countryside sense, with large fields and estuaries but high rise buildings, with architecture to be admired, a cobbled path with tables and chairs and so many happy people. London in full swing. London, full of people, a fact that before would have filled me with dreaded claustrophobia but now just made me appreciative of those around me and intrigued as to what they were making of these sights.
As if the beauty of the current sight wasn’t enough, we then made our way to the oh-so-famous Covent Garden park. We found a sweet life café and sat outside, on a lovely little patio area, eyes just shielded from the sun but open enough to be warmed by it. There were people all ages and races, couples, workers on their lunch breaks, writers with their laptops open and a cappuccino to the side of them, some on tables, some spread out on the comfort of the grass. The view and atmosphere were, finally, summery. I felt at peace, and enjoyed a delicious fruit and custard tart, with a coffee that, while only slightly remedying my state of tiredness at the time, was also rather tasty. We stayed here for a little while, resting our legs and discussing film projects, and ideas for the future, memories of the past.
The day was drawing to a close, and so were my eyes, so we walked past yet more typical London landmarks as we took a stroll alongside the River Thames. The London Eye, The Shard, Somerset House, The River Thames itself. At a time where Britain was finding more and more reasons to disappoint me (and at the time that this is being published, Britain has once again surpassed itself on that) I was reminded of all the great things we’ve built and discovered, too. I suddenly found myself a little patriotic, just without the incessant chanting, racism and occasional misogyny that dominates the minds of many of Britains self-proclaimed Patriots.
We saw St Pauls Cathedral and finally took the underground there and made our seperate ways home. We had achieved more than I imagined and seen a great many things. Some places also worth mentioning were Neals Yard, an incredible, characterful courtyard, once again, decorated with love and colour. Also just around the corner was a merchandise store (Unfortunately I’ve forgotten the name now) with lots of great TV/Film related merch, such as a Harry Potter House bookmark which I purchased myself.
Our trip to Soho, which inevitably became a trip around landmarks within Westminster districts, tired my restless legs, but lifted my spirits and inspired me in many ways. Take a trip yourself and take as little transport as possible, what you see on foot is so much more worth it!