One city that has definitely grown old gracefully is London. Sure it’s sagging here and there (so would you at around 2000 years old) but it’s constantly reinventing itself, so this week’s top trip shows you a side to the city that you probably wouldn’t expect. Intrepid’s John Warland takes us to the backstreets of London on East End Uncovered…
“Most tourists arriving in London head straight for the iconic sites of Big Ben and the Millennium Eye, or the bright lights of the vibrant West End, but for those wanting to see why London is known as being on the cutting edge of art, fashion and design you have to head East to find the real action.
After meeting our local guide Padraig at ‘Silicon Roundabout’, where all the creative dotcom start-ups congregate, we explored a side of London rarely seen by most visitors. Strolling past converted warehouses hosting fashion houses and alongside quiet canals harking back to the industrial legacy of this area, Padraig laid out the historical context for this regenerated area.
We passed the studio where Alfred Hitchcock made his name before heading to Hollywood, and then lunchtime was provided in a real East End pie and mash shop. With sawdust on the floor and wooden benches crowded with locals, this shop has been in the family for generations and is one of the few remaining of its kind in London. The hot meat pie served with large dollops of potato mash and a fresh parsley sauce was heart warming fare. The jellied eels (another East End tradition) were less likeable to my palate, but still an authentic experience not easily forgotten! With our refuelling complete, we hit the streets again to see unexpectedly where the Gunpowder Plot was
uncovered miles from the Palace of Westminster.
Entering achingly cool Hoxton, we were invited into London’s first female-only sex shop, a circus school and the White Cube gallery hosting Damien Hirst’s most recent exhibition. An eclectic mix to say the least and before the end of the trip we had seen a real piece of graffiti art by Banksy, an amazing reclamation yard in a renovated church, wandered the streets that Ripper had roamed and ended up having afternoon tea on a converted red double-decker bus!
A bizarre and surreal trip, that showed me a side of London only seen by the people that live and work here, with a gentle mixture of history and quirky entertainment from Padraig it definitely showed me why ‘Cool Brittania’ is alive and kicking.”
You can check out this great Urban Adventure and many other unique day tours at www.urbanadventures.com.
* photo by John Mackean – Intrepid Photography Competition