Time off: I'm taking this week off work, for no particularly good reason other than it's been a while, and I can. My office colleagues immediate response on hearing of my imminent break was to ask "Where are you going?". They seemed especially disconcerted by my response - "London". When they have time off they like to travel - Euro city breaks, transatlantic jaunts, adventurous equatorial treks or even Antipodean long hauls. They don't stay in town unless they have something meaningful to do around the house, like decorating the kitchen or replumbing the bathroom. My proposed aimless week in the capital therefore somehow disappointed them, as if time off work were somehow wasted unless something substantial were planned. But I don't view my content-free London break like that. Huge numbers of tourists spend a fortune on holidays in my hometown, whereas I get to live here full time with zero additional accommodation costs. So I shall spend my week off enjoying some of London's finer delights, hopefully visiting some choice locations I've not sampled before. And not a repainted ceiling in sight. Now, where shall I go first...?
Excursion 1: Bow Tesco This delightful retail outlet nestles on the banks of the picturesque Lea brook, a modern brick cathedral with easy access from the nearby Blackwall Tunnel approach road. Several rows of brightly coloured market stalls line the interior, bedecked with all manner of fine comestibles from all around the world. Venture inside on a weekday morning and the smiling staff will outnumber the visiting shoppers, making for an especially pleasurable customer-focused experience. Cruise the aisles with your 4-wheel racing trolley, snapping up haute cuisine bargains whilst dodging nimbly between the screaming toddlers. Favourites amongst the local clientele include scavenging the 'reduced' section for cut price discounts, queueing for that alluring lottery scratchcard and stockpiling value lager (4 cans for 88p) to sip delicately on the bench outside in the car park. The perfect start to any London vacation. by tube: Bromley-by-Bow by bus: 108, S2
Excursion 2: Imperial War Museum It's not the most enticing name for a museum, smacking of Empire and murder, but the Imperial War Museum makes a good job of presenting the last century of world warfare. The entrance hall is filled with tanks and planes (and also, this afternoon, with several school parties in various states of disinterest). There's an extensive basement charting the first and second world wars in comprehensive detail, with an impressive collection of memorabilia and ephemera including Chamberlain's famous 'piece of paper'. I learnt about Franz Ferdinand and the real Kaiser chiefs, wandered through a shadowy WWI trench and experienced the aftermath of an East End Blitz bombing. Most striking, however, was the two-storey Holocaust Exhibition - a chilling exhibit complete with discarded shoes from the concentration camps of Eastern Europe. There's plenty worth seeing here, and plenty to reflect on. by tube: Lambeth North
Excursion 3: Design Museum After such weighty concerns, the Design Museum seemed almost frivolous and trivial by comparison. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my opportunity to review several decades of cutting edge British design. Where else can you sit back in an Erno Goldfinger chair and watch a 1960s black and white film about London's Transport's iconic designs, or review the state of album cover design from David Bowie to Spiritualized? I was particularly engrossed by the latest exhibition on "the design of information" (closes 15 May), but then I would be engrossed by a display of maps, road signs, calendars and timetables, wouldn't I? All fascinating, but I was expecting more than two floors of limited galleries for my £6 entrance fee. by bus: 47, 188, 381, RV1