As London tourist traps go, the Southbank is way up there as one of the places I go out of my way to avoid. It’s a fantastic area of the city, crammed full of weird and wonderful sights and different things to do and explore, but this means it gets pretty busy and I just get a bit impatient with the crowds.
A couple of weekends ago I took the plunge into the last of the summer holiday hoards in order to spend the afternoon with my dear friend Ashley. She is actually responsible for me starting this blog, being one of the first friends I made in London and just so happening to be a blogger herself. She is side-splittingly funny, brutally honest and genuinely caring, and to be honest I just don’t see her enough because life is stupid. But she is one of those people that I can throw a random idea out to her and know she’ll be up for it, and that’s how we ended up at the Carston Höller exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.
You’ve probably seen photos of this all over the place even if you don’t know what it is, mainly because the exhibition included giant helter skelter slides coming out the side of the building for visitors to use as an alternative exit route. I won’t lie, this is pretty much the main reason that I wanted to go, so we coughed up £15 each and went for a wander. Our artistic expedition didn’t start well as we chose to quickly back out of the pitch black labyrinthine tunnels that led you into the heart of the building. If you read my review of dining in the dark restaurant Dans Le Noir, you’ll know I’m a tad claustrophobic, so about 10 feet in I started freaking out. Luckily Ashley did too so we did an about turn and took a side door into the next room instead, like total rock stars. The exhibition was called ‘Decision’ because of its interactive elements including taking sugar pills that drop from the ceiling and hang gliding over the top of the gallery roof. The queues were a bit insane and without much explanation or particularly helpful staff it got dull pretty quickly, so we made our way to the slides which were totally worth the entrance fee alone!
It seemed a shame to waste a surprisingly sunny day so we sought out food and a bench just beyond the wonderful second hand book market, and settled down for some quality gossip time. In between stories I managed to demolish a massive tub of chocolate frozen yoghurt with raspberries, banana and passionfruit from Snog‘s bright pink Routemaster parked up by the river bank, so the day truly was successful.
As we meandered down the river we saw bits and pieces that just prove why crowds are drawn here: the wonderful skate park, covered in graffiti; a mass wedding ceremony to celebrate the Festival of Love (!); hidden boutiques and tucked away bars, perfect for a final pint before heading home. It’s a genuine hive of London lifestyle; full of quirks but not all of them obvious. It is the perfect place to spend a lazy sunny afternoon, playing tourist in your own city.