Began the day again at Sapori, the alternate breakfast spots on Horseferry Road were not open on the weekend.
Had settled on a visit to Kew Gardens as the first thing to do in the morning, and that required another dip into the municipal traffic. Picked up Oyster cards at the closes underground station and found them useful indeed in traipsing around the city. And cheap, using cash is almost double the cost of using the Oyster.
The Kew Gardens was a big area. And unlike, say the tightly-packed Montreal Botanic Gardens, the sights were rather far apart from each other. Most of the greenhouses were ancient, the Princess of Wales memorial the only truly modern environment amongst them. The plantlife varied from commonplace trees to plants that have already vanished from nature. Unsurprisingly a lot of the content originates from the former colonies of the british empire.
A definite highlight of the Kew visit was the canopy walk – about 200 meters long platform that allowed walking on treetop level. While the view was rather the same all the time (chestnut trees, mainly), the height of twenty-ish metres allowed for a good lookout point – London Eye was no longer visible, being hidden behind the bends of the meandering river.
Ate a quick lunch at the Pavillion restaurant and noted that it’s under protection from New York’s most beloved superhero. Someone had forgotten a Spiderman toy on the premises and it had ended up in a vantage position in a fence.
The last greenhouse of the day contained multiple biomes – moving from deserts (a very nice collection of living stones of Lithops-genus) to orchids and waterlilies from quite a but wetter climes. A lot of the plants were protected by glass – otherwise the likes of small cacti and carnivorous plants could have proven irresistible for nimble-fingered visitors.
The garden shop sold insta-gardens – plastic bags that just needed to be torn open and kept watered. I was tempted by the prospect of harvesting mint and strawberries on my balcony, but settled on chili seeds instead.
The next target was Tate Modern, a museum built into an old power station on Bankside. Took a side tour via St. Paul’s Cathedral (imposing, didn’t pay to enter) and walked across the no longer wobbly Millennium Bridge after picking up yet another cache (Monument, below the bridge proper).
A brief visit into the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe proved serendipitous indeed: picked up a truly cool hoodie from the shop as well as a long overdue copy of Bill Bryson’s book on the bard.
Rambling around the area revealed yet another old theatre (Rose, almost next door), a hen party (surprisingly well-behaved), and an on-the-wall mosaic Bub (from Bubble Bobble, obviously). Whether this is the work of the Invader or a local copycat remains to be investigated.
Decided on a dinner before entering the museum. Leon, just south of the building proved to be disappointing over multiple axis. Despite being billed as “future of fast food”, the service was extremely slow. Our order seemed to fall into a crack somewhere and only after multiple queries the food arrived. And even then the extras (fried halloumi) and drinks (portuguese beer) had to be requested separately once again.
Skipped the Thorium Box cache on the Tate yard due to milling crowds and headed inside. Walked through the public galleries only – time was running out and so was the endurance. Didn’t see a single Damien Hirst, but other modern artists were well-represented. The museum shop was as big as expected, but unable to deliver the one book I was looking for. Thankfully the very helpful assistant verified that the tome on the design of the London underground map would be available at Tate Britain instead. Inspired by the on the wall Bub, picked up a book on Banksy‘s work.
Along the way back to the hotel stopped in a semi-posh restaurant for a refresher. Northbank served a very passable selection of drinks, even though their mint storage had run dry so that no mojitos were available.
The Big Ben had an odd greenish tint to its face, well visible in the evening darkness.