Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Weekend in London

the festival crowd, originally uploaded by supafly.

Our first weekend in London was a busy one. Well, after sleeping in and waking up around 11am it was. We joined the free guided nature walk that was a part of the Camberwell Arts Festival. It met at the Peckham Library which was just across the street from the cheap grocery store (Lidl) that I found and the fancy Burger King. We got there early so we checked out the modern architecture of the Peckham Library. It had many colored glass panels and was a career center as well as a library.

After finding our tour guide amongst a group of petitioners - Marshall just looked for the person without a clipboard in their hands - we set off down the Canal Road. This was a path that started at the library and had once been a shipping canal, bring lumber to Camberwell Green where it was treated and stored until it was needed elsewhere.

The walk took a couple of hours and we saw many interesting sights along the way. A long line of bicyclists passed near the beginning of our journey. One had a boombox mounted onto a recumbent bicycle with a roof. He blasted music for everyone on the ride. We also passed an old house that now housed a retired work horse as well as some chickens. As we crossed the street into Burgess Park (twice as large as St. James Park) we came upon an outdoor punk rock concert. There were lots of people there and I even recognized one of them - an overweight guy with a fluorescent green mohawk that I had seen yesterday in Camden town.

We stopped to enjoy the lake at Burgess Park. The little girl on our walk would run towards every group of pigeons we saw to get them to fly off. After the lake, we stopped at a beautiful set of walled gardens called Chumleigh Gardens. It was previously "the friendly female asylum for aged persons who have seen better days." What a great description! There was a cafe there so we stopped for snacks and a walk or sit in the garden. It was beautifully overgrown and reminded me of the Secret Garden and all the unkempt gardens that they found hidden away.

After a nice break, we walked to "the bridge to nowhere." This was a bridge that used to provide a way to get across the canal but was now just a bridge over a walking path. It was fun to cross despite it leading nowhere! We exited Burgess park and took some back streets towards Camberwell Green. On the way, we passed an allotment, an open lot that had become a community garden. Apparently, you have to live within a mile of the garden to have a plot and there is a long waiting list to get in. It wass nice to see that people are so eager for some land to grow things in. I wish America had fewer big lawns and more gardens. Our walk ended at the community orchard by Camberwell Green. There were some berries ready to be eaten on one of the bushes (I can't remember what kind) so we all picked some before we left the tour.

After the walk, we went to Southwark Park for the Carnival de Cuba. It was a big festival with row after row of food stalls. Most of them sold jerk chicken. The longest line was for the stall making mojitos. I got a fried plantain as soon as we got there and then we opted for a cuban meal of red beans, rice, chorizo, and hot sauce. I enjoyed their more environmentally conscious eating utensils - sporks and knives made out of wood. I ended up seeing those at a lot of the festivals this weekend.

After listening to some reggaeton and watching salsa dancers (as well as the East End Elvises - these two old guys dressed like Elvis who apparently go to every outdoor music festival), we crossed over to the quieter part of Southwark park and then went to Brick Lane. (After accidentally taking the bus from Canada Water in the wrong direction and finding Surrey Quays - a suburban like area with a movie theatre, bowling, and big chain restaurants.)

I had been to Brick Lane before but had forgotten. It's a bit overwhelming because every Indian restaurant on the street has people in front of it that very aggressively try to get you to eat at their restaurant. They offer you things like free drinks or 15% off of your bill. We went down to Whitechapel trying to find a less intrusive place to eat and found a new restaurant that was quiet and filled with mostly indian people and, most importantly, noone was out front trying to make us eat there.

Sunday we had another leisurely morning. Marshall made a delicious breakfast of fried egg and pepper sandwiches and we ate as an artist put up an art installation across the street. It was a car he had jacked up and had replaced one of the wheels with a resin wheel that played a cello as it spun around.

After breakfast, we went down to Trafalgar Square for the Dano Korean Festival. There they had lots of traditional entertainment like fan and sword dancers and traditional Korean music, but our favorite act were the Korean breakdancers battling with UK b-boys (from Ireland). There was also lots of delicious Korean food and a tent where you could decorate a paper fan (in celebration of summer). The crowd was big and it was the largest concentration of asians I had seen since I'd gotten to London. (I've also seen quite a few language schools where students from Korea go to learn English in London.) We also noticed several Korean girls (from Korea) with English boyfriends and we speculated how many of them were just in the relationship to have someone to practice their English with.

After watching the b-boy battle, we walked down to the South Bank of the Thames for the Coin Festival. This was a festival to honor refugee week and they had many different performers. We listened to African music and watched traditional Indian dancing as well as Serbian dancing. While we sat listening to the music, a group of people next to us passed around a joint. We also saw the East End Elvises again, this time gyrating to African music. I also discovered they have their own flickr group - how hilarious!

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